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in many instances they might shadow forth | cellence at which they aimed consisted in real feelings, and be outpourings of the in- the exquisite polish of the diction, commost heart, were presented to the world as bined with perfect simplicity.”* This, we exercises of fancy, and were received by the apprehend, is the characteristic excellence of world as such. The most usual form which Shakspere's Sonnets; displaying, to the caresuch compositions assumed was that of love- ful reader “the studied position of words
Spenser's “ Amoretti’ are entirely and phrases, so that not only each part of this character, as their name implies; should be melodious in itself, but contribute Daniel's, which are fifty-seven in number, to the harmony of the whole.” He sought are all addressed “To Delia ;” Drayton's, for a canvas in which this elaborate colourwhich he calls “ Ideas,” are somewhat more ing, this skilful management of light and miscellaneous in their character. These were shade, might be attempted, in an address to the three great poets of Shakspere's days. a young man, instead of a scornful Delia or Spenser’s ‘Amoretti’ was first printed in 1595; a proud Daphne; and he commenced with Daniel's Delia' in 1592; Drayton's 'Ideas' an exhortation to that young man to marry. in 1594. In 1593 was also published ‘Licia, To allow of that energy of language which or Poems of Love, in honour of the admirable would result from the assumption of strong and singular virtues of his Lady.' This book feeling, THE POET links himself with the contains fifty-two Sonnets, all conceived in young man's happiness by the strongest the language of passionate affection and expressions of friendship—in the common extravagant praise. And yet the author, language of that day, love. We say, adin his Address to the Reader, says—“If visedly, the poet; for it is in this character thou muse what my Licia is, take her to that the connexion between the two friends be some Diana, at the least chaste, or some is preserved throughout; and it is in this Minerva, no Venus, fairer far. It may be character that the personal beauty of the she is Lea g's image, or some heavenly young man is made a constantly recurring wonder, which the precisest may not mislike: theme. With these imperfect observations, perhaps under that name I have shadowed we present the continuous poem which apDiscipline.” This fashion of Sonnet-writing pears in the first nineteen Sonnets:upon a continuous subject prevailed, thus,
From fairest creatures we desire increase, about the period of the publication of the · Venus and Adonis' and the 'Lucrece,'
That thereby beauty's rose might never die, when Shakspere had taken his rank amongst
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory: the poets of his time-independent of his
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes, dramatic rank. He chose a new subject for
Feed'st thy light's fame with self-substantial a series of Sonnets ; he addressed them to
fuel, some youth, some imaginary person, as we
Making a famine where abundance lies, conceive; he made this fiction the vehicle
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel. for stringing together a succession of brilliant
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament, images, exhausting every artifice of language
And only herald to the gaudy spring, to present one idea under a thousand different
Within thine own bud buriest thy content, forms
And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding. “ varying to other words ;
Pity the world, or else this glutton be, And in this change is my invention spent.” To eat the world's due, by the grave and Coleridge, with his usual critical discri
thee.-1. mination, speaking of the Italian poets of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and
When forty winters shall besiege thy brow, glancing also at our own of the same period,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field, “In opposition to the present age, and
Thy youth's proud livery, so gaz'd on now, says, perbaps in as faulty an extreme, they placed
Will be a tatter'd weed, of small worth held : the essence of poetry in the art.
* Biographia Literaria,' vol. ii. p. 27.
Then being ask'd where all thy beauty lies,
If thou couldst answer—" This fair child of
mine Shall sum my count, and make my old ex
For never-resting time leads summer on
winter meet, Leese but their show; their substance still
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
old, And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st
Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou
viewest, Now is the time that face should form another; Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest, Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some
mother. For where is she so fair, whose unear'd womb Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry? Or who is he so fond will be the tomb Of his self-love, to stop posterity ? Thou art thy mother's glass, and she in thee Calls back the love April of her prime: So thou through windows of thine age shalt
Then let not winter's ragged hand deface
depart, Leaving the living in posterity?
Be not self-wili'd for thou art much too fair To be Death's conquest, and make worms
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
But, if thou live remember'd not to be,
Lo, in the orient when the gracious light
So thou, thyself outgoing in thy noon,
thee, Which, used, lives thy executor to be.—4.
Those hours, that with gentle work did frame
Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly? Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy, Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not
gladly? Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
ing one, Sings this to thee, " Thou single wilt prove
Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye,
mind. Look, what an unthrift in the world doth
spend, Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys
it: But beauty's waste hath in the world an end, And kept unus'd, the user so destroys it.
No love toward others in that bosom sits, That on himself such murderous shame
And that fresh blood which youngly thou
bestow'st, Thou mayst call thine, when thou from youth
convertest. Herein lives wisdom, beauty, and increase ; Without this, folly, age, and cold decay: If all were minded so, the times should cease, And threescore years would make the world
away. Let those whom Nature hath not made for
store, Harsh, featureless, and rude, barrenly perish : Look, whom she best endow'd, she gave thee
more; Which bounteous gift thou shouldst in bounty
cherish : She carv'd thee for her seal, and meant
thereby Thou shouldst print more, nor let that copy
For shame! deny that thou bear’st love to any
Make thee another self, for love of me,
As fast as thou shalt wane, so fast thou grow'st In one of thine, from that which thou de
know You had a father; let your son say so.—13.
Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate,
When I coi der everything that grows
shows Whereon the stars in secret in uence com
ment; When I perceive that men as plants increase, Cheer'd and check'd ever by the selfsame sky; Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease, And wear their brave state out of memory; Then the conceit of this inconstant stay Sets you most rich in youth before my sight, Where wasteful time debateth with decay, To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with time, for love of you, As he takes from you, I engraft you new.
Though yet Heaven knows it is but as a tomb Which hides your life, and shows not half
your parts. If I could write the beauty of your eyes, And in fresh numbers number all your graces, The age to come would say, This poet lies, Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly
faces. So should my papers, yellowd with their age, Be scorn'd, like old men of less truth than
tongue; And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage, And stretched metre of an antique song: But were some child of yours alive that
time, You should live twice ;-in it, and in my
rhyme.-17. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day! Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of
May, And summer's lease hath all too short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, And often is his gold complexion dimm'd; And every fair from fair sometime declines, By chance, or nature's changing course, un
trimm'd; But thy eternal summer shall not fade, Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest: Nor shall Death brag thou wanderst in his
shade, When in eternal lines to time thou growest :
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
But wherefore do not you a mightier way
flowers, Much liker than your painted counterfeit: So should the lines of life that life repair, Which this, Time's pencil, or my pupil pen, Neither in inward worth, nor outward fair, Can make you live yourself in eyes of men.
To give away yourself, keeps yourself still; And you must live, drawn by your own
Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion's paws, And make the earth devour her own sweet
brood; Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger's
jaws, And burn the long-liv'd phenix in her blood; Make glad and sorry seasons, as thou fleets, And do whate'er thou wilt, swift-footed Time, To the wide world, and all her fading sweets; But I forbid thee one most heinous crime: O carve not with thy hours my love's fair brow, Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen; Him in thy course untainted do allow, For beauty's pattern to succeeding men. Yet, do thy worst, old Time: despite thy
wrong, My love shall in my verse ever live young.
Who will believe my verse in time to come, If it were fill'd with your most high deserts ?
That this series of Sonnets, powerful as A man in hue, all hues in his controlling, they are, displaying not only the most Which steals men's eyes, and women's souls abundant variety of imagery, but the greatest amazeth. felicity in making the whole harmonious, And for a woman wert thou first created ; constitutes a poem ambitious only of the
Till Nature, as she wrought thee, fell a honours of a work of Art, is, we think,
doting, manifest. If it had been addressed to a real
And by addition me of thee defeated,
By adding one thing to my purpose nothing. person, no other object could have been pro
But since she prick'd thee out for women's posed than a display of the most brilliant
pleasure, ingenuity. In the next age it would have
Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their been called an exquisite “copy of verses.”
treasure.-20. But in the next age, probably—certainly in our own—the author would have been pro- What is mour substance, whereof are you nounced arrogant beyond measure in the an- made, ticipation of the immortality of his rhymes. That millions of strange shadows on you There is a show of modesty, indeed, in the tend? expressions “barren rhyme” and “pupil Since every one hath, every one, one's shade, pen;" but that is speedily cast off, and And you, but one, can every shadow lend. “eternal summer” is promised through Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit “eternal lines ;" and
Is poorly imitated after you;
On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set, “So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
And you in Grecian tires are painted new : So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
Speak of the spring and foizon of the year; Regarding these nineteen Sonnets as a con
The one doth shadow of your beauty show,
The other as your bounty doth appear, tinuous poem, wound up to the climax of a
And you in every blessed shape we know. hyperbolical promise of immortality to the
In all external grace you have some part, object whom it addresses, we receive the 20th
But you like none, none you, for constant Sonnet as the commencement of another
heart.-53. poem in which the same idea is retained. The poet is bound to the youth by ties of Between the 20th Sonnet and the 53rd ocstrong affection ; but nature has called upon cur, as it appears to us, a number of fragthe possessor of that beauty
ments which we have variously classified.
and which seem to have no relation to the “Which steals men's eyes, and women's souls amazeth,"
praises of that “unknown youth ” who has
been supposed to preside over five-sixths of to cultivate closer ties. This Sonnet, through the entire series of verses. We have little an utter misconception of the language of doubt that the “begetter" of the Sonnets Shakspere's time, has produced a comment was not able to beget, or obtain, all; and sufficiently odious to throw an unpleasant that there is a considerable hiatus between shade over much which follows. The idea the 20th Sonnet and the second hyperbolical which it contains is continued in the 53rd close, which he filled up as well as he could, Sonnet; and we give the two in connexion :- from other “sugared sonnets amongst pri
vate friends :"A woman's face, with nature's own hand painted,
O how much more doth beauty beauteous Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion ;
seem, A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted By that sweet ornament which truth doth With shifting change, as is false women's give! fashion ;
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem An eye more bright than theirs, less false in For that sweet odour which doth in it live. rolling,
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth; As the perfumed tincture of the roses,