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If we read these three stanzas without any impression of their connexion with something that has gone before, we shall irresistibly feel that they are addressed to a female. They point at repeated absences; and why may they not then be addressed to the poet's first love? The Earl of Southampton, or the Earl of Pembroke, to whom the series of Sonnets are held all to refer, except when they specially address a dark-haired lady of questionable character, would not have been greatly pleased to have been complimented on the sweetness of his breath, or the whiteness of his hand. The Sonnets which are unquestionably addressed to a male, although they employ the term “beauty" in a way which we cannot easily comprehend in our own days, have always reference to manly beauty. The comparisons in the above Sonnets as clearly relate to female beauty. They are precisely the same as Spenser uses in one of his Amoretti,—the 64th; which thus concludes:
“ Such fragrant flowers do give most odorous smell,
But her sweet odour did them all excel."
us that in both the poems ou Absence, in the stanzas which anticipate neglect and coldness, and in others which we have given and are about to give, we must not be too ready to connect their images with the person who is addressed in the first seventeen Sonnets; or be always prepared to " seize a clue which innumerable passages give us,” according to Mr. Hallam," and suppose that they allude to a youth of high rank as well as personal beauty and accomplishment."* The chief characteristic of those passages which clearly apply to that “unknown youth" is, as it appears to us, extravagance of admiration conveyed in very hyperbolical language. Much that we have quoted offers no example of the justice of Mr. Hallam's complaint against these productions:“There is a weakness and folly in all excessive and misplaced affection, wbich is not redeemed by the touches of nobler sentiments that abound in this long series of Sonnets.” It would be difficult, we think, to find more forcible thoughts expressed in more simple, and therefore touching language, than in the following continuous verses. They comprise all the Sonnets numbered from 109 to 125, with the exception of 118, 119, 120, 121, three of which we have already printed as belonging to another subject than the poet's constancy of affection; and one of which we shall give as an isolated fragment :
O, never say that I was false of heart,
Though absence seem'd my flame to qualify!
As easy might I from myself depart,
As from my soul which in thy breast doth lie:
That is my home of love: if I have rang’d,
Like bim that travels, I return again;
Just to the time, not with the time exchang’d, -
So that myself bring water for my stain.
Never believe, though in my nature reign'd
All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,
That it could so preposterously be stain’d,
To leave for nothing all thy sum of good;
For nothing this wide universe I call,
Save thou, my rose ; in it thou art my all.—109.
* Literature of Europe, vol. iii., p. 503.
Alas, 't is true, I have gone here and there,
And made myself a motley to the view,
Gor'd mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,
Made old offences of affections new.
Most true it is that I have look'd on truth
Askance and strangely; but, by all above,
These blenches gave my heart another youth,
And worse essays prov'd thee my best of love.
Now all is done, save what shall have no end :
Mine appetite I never more will grind
On newer proof, to try an older friend,
A God in love, to whom I am confin'd.
Then give me welcome, next my heaven the best,
Even to thy pure and most most loving breast.–110.
O, for my sake do you with fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide,
Than public means, which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it tbat my name receives a brand,
And almost thence my nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer's hand :
Pity me then, and wish I were renewd;
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eysell, 'gainst my strong infection;
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance, to correct correction.
Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye,
Even that your pity is enough to cure me.-111.
Your love and pity doth the impression fill
Which vulgar scandal stamp'd upon my brow;
For what care I who calls me well or ill,
So you o'er-green my bad, my good allow?
You are my all-the-world, and I must strive
To know my shames and praises from your tongue;
None else to me, nor I to none alive,
That my steel'd sense or changes, right or wrong.
In so profound abysm I throw all care
Of other's voices, that my adder's sense
To critic and to flatterer stopped are.
Mark how with my neglect I do dispense :--
You are so strongly in my purpose bred,
That all the world besides methinks are dead.-112.
Since I left you, mine eye is in my mind;
And that which governs me to go about
Doth part his function, and is partly blind,
Seems seeing, but effectually is out;
For it no form delivers to the heart
Of bird, of flower, or shape, which it doth latch;
Of his quick objects hath the mind no part,
Nor his own vision holds what it doth catch;
For if it see the rud'st or gentlest sight,
The most sweet favour, or deformed'st creature,
The mountain or the sea, the day or night,
The crow, or dove, it shapes them to your feature.
Incapable of more, replete with you,
My most true mind thus maketh mine untrue.-113.
Or whether doth my mind, being crown'd with you,
Drink up the monarch's plague, this flattery,
Or whether shall I say mine eye saith true,
And that your love taught it this alchymy,
To make of monsters and things indigest
Such cherubims as your sweet self resemble,
Creating every bad a perfect best,
As fast as objects to his beams assemble?
O, 't is the first; 't is flattery in my seeing,
And my great mind most kingly drinks it up:
Mine eye well knows what with his gust is 'greeing,
And to his palate doth prepare the cup:
If it be poison'd, 't is the lesser sin
That mine eye loves it, and doth first begin.-114.
Those lines that I before have writ, do lie,
Even those that said I could not love you dearer;
Yet then my judgment knew no reason why
My most full fame should afterwards burn clearer.
But reckoning time, wbose million d accidents
Creep in 'twixt vows, and change decrees of kings,
Tan sacred beauty, blunt the sharp'st intents,
Divert strong minds to the course of altering things;
Alas! why, fearing of time's tyranny,
Might I not then say, "Now I love you best,”
When I was certain o'er incertainty,
Crowning the present, doubting of the rest?
Love is a babe; then might I not say so,
To give full growth to that which still doth grow !-115. Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove : O no; it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests, and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth 's unknown, although his height be taken. Love 's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come; Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error, and upon me prov'd,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov'd.-116. Accuse me thus; that I have scanted all Wherein I should your great deserts repay ;
Forgot upon your dearest love to call,
Whereto all bonds do tie me day by day;
That I have frequent been with uukuown minds,
Aud given to time your own dear-purchas'd right;
That I have hoisted sail to all the winds
Which should transport me farthest from your sight.
Book botlı my wilsuluess and errors down,
And on just proof, surmise accumulate,
Bring me within the level of your frown,
But shoot not at me in your waken'd hate :
Since my appeal says, I did strive to prove
The constancy and virtue of your love.—117.
Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain
Full character'd with lasting memory,
Which shall above that idle rank remain,
Beyond all date, even to eternity :
Or at the least so long as brain and heart
Have faculty by nature to subsist;
Till each to raz d oblivion yield his part
Of thee, thy record never can be miss d.
That poor retention could not so much hold,
Nor need I tallies, thy dear love to score;
Therefore to give them from me was I bold,
To trust those tables that receive thee more;
To keep an adjunct to remember thee,
Were to import forgetfulness in me.-
No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change :
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight.
Our dates are bries, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old;
And rather make them boru to our desire,
Than think that we before have heard them told.
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wondering at the present nor the past;
For thy records and what we see du lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste :
This I do vow, and this shall ever be,
I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee:-123.
If my dear love were but the child of state,
It might for fortune's bastard be unfather'd,
As subject to time's love, or to time's bate,
Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gather'd.
No, it was builded far from accident;
It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
Under the blow of thralled discontent,
Whereto the inviting time our fashion calls :
It fears not policy, that heretic,
Which works on leases of short-number'd hours,
But all alone stands hugely politic,
That it nor grows with beat, nor drowns with showers.
To this I witness call the fools of time,
Which die for goodness, who have livid for crime.-124. -
Were it aught to me I bore the canopy,
With my extern the outward honouring,
Or laid great bases for eternity,
Which prove more short than waste or ruining ?
Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
Lose all, and more, by paying too much rent,
For compound sweet foregoing simple savour,
Pitiful thrivers, in their gazing spent ?
No ;-let me be obsequious in thy heart,
And take thou my oblation, poor but free,
Which is not mix'd with seconds, knows no art,
But mutual render, only me for thee.
Hence, thou suborn'd informer! a true soul,
When most impeach'd, stands least in thy control.—125. Dr. Drake, in maintaining that the Sonnets, from the 1st to the 126th, were addressed to Lord Southampton, has alleged, as “one of the most striking proofs of this position," the fact " that the language of the Dedication to the · Rape of Lucrece, and that of the 26th Sonnet, are almost precisely the same.” If the reader will turn to this Dedication, he will at once see the resemblance. “The love I dedicate to your lordship is without end," shows that, in the Sonnets as in the works of contemporary writers, the perpetually recurring terms of love and lover were meant to convey the most profound respect as well as the strongest affection. In that age friendship was not considered as a mere conventional intercourse for social gratification. There was depth and strength in it. It partook of the spiritual energy which belonged to a higher philosophy of the affections than now presides over clubs and dinner-parties. “My friend,” or “my lover," meant something more than one wbo is ordinarily civil, returns our calls, and shakes hands upon great occasions. Lord Southampton, in a letter of introduction to a grave Lord Chancellor, calls Shakspere “my especial friend." To Lord Southampton Shakspere dedicates “ love without end." This 26th Sonnet, we have little doubt, is also a dedication, accompanying some new production of the mighty dramatist, in accordance with his declaration, “ What I have done is yours, what I have to do is yours, being part in all I have devoted yours :"
Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage
Thy merit hath my duty strongly kuit,
To thee I send this written embassage,
To witness duty, not to show my wit.
Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it;
But that I hope some good conceit of thine
In thy soul's thought, all naked, will bestow it :
Till whatsoever star that guides by moving,
Points on me graciously with fair aspect,
Aud puts apparel on my tatter'd loving,
To show me worthy of thy sweet respect :
Then may I dare to boast how I do love thee,
Till then, not show my head where thou mayst prove me.-26.