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Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did

O know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent :

For, as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.—76.

Thou by thy dial's shady stealth mayst know
Time's thievish progress to eternity.
Look, what thy memory cannot contain,
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt

find Those children nurs'd, deliver'd from thy

To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.

These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
Shall profit thee, and much enrich thy

book.-77. The 76th to the 87th Sonnets (omitting the 77th and 81st) have been held to refer to a particular event in the poetical career of Shakspere. He expresses something like jealousy of a rival poet-a“ better spirit.” By some, Spenser is supposed to be alluded to; by others, Daniel. But we do not accept these stanzas as a proof that William Herbert is the person always addressed in these Sonnets, for the alleged reason that Daniel was patronised by the Pembroke family, and that, in 1601, he dedicated a book to William Herbert, to which Shakspere is held to allude in the 82nd Sonnet, by the expression “dedicated words.” This is Mr. Boaden's theory. One of the Sonnets, supposed also to refer to William Herbert as a man right fair," was published in 1599, when the young nobleman was only nineteen years of age. But in the stanzas which relate to some poetical rivalry, real or imaginary, the person addressed has

“added feathers to the learned's wing, And given grace a double majesty." He is

"as fair in knowledge as in huc." The praises of the “ lovely boy,” be he William Herbert or not, are always confined to his personal appearance and his good nature. There is a quiet tone about the following which separates them from the Sonnets addressed to that “unknown youth ;” and yet they may be as unreal as we believe most of those to be :

Why is my verse so barren of new pride ?
So far from variation or quick change?
Why, with the time, do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds

So oft have I invok'd thee for my muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse,
As every alien pen hath got my use,
And under thee their poesy disperse.
Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to

And heavy ignorance aloft to fly,
Have added feathers to the learned's wing,
And given grace a double majesty.
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is thine, and born of thee :
In others' works thou dost but mend the

style, And arts with thy sweet graces graced be;

But thou art all my art, and dost advance As high as learning my rude ignorance.


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Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,
My verse alone had all thy gentle grace;
But now my gracious numbers are decay'd,
And my sick muse doth give another place.
I grant, sweet love, thy lovely argument
Deserves the travail of a worthier pen;
Yet what of thee thy poet doth invent,
He robs thee of, and pays it thee again.
He lends thee virtue, and he stole that word
From thy behaviour; beauty doth he give,
And found it in thy cheek; he can afford
No praise to thee but what in thee doth live.
Then thank him not for that which he doth

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say, Since what he owes thee thou thyself dost


0, how I faint when I of you do write,
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied, speaking of your

But since your worth (wide, as the ocean is,)
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,

My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
On your broad main doth wilfully appear.
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth

Or, being wreck d, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building, and of goodly pride :

Then if he thrive, and I be cast away,
The worst was this ;-my love was my


I grant thou wert not married to my muse,
And therefore mayst without attaint o'erlook
The dedicated words which writers use
Of their fair subject, blessing every book.
Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue,
Finding thy worth a limit past my praise ;
And therefore art enforced to seek anew
Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days.
And do so, love ; yet when they have devis'd
What strained touches rhetoric can lend,
Thou truly fair wert truly sympathiz'd
In true plain words, by thy true-telling

friend; And their gross painting might be better

us'd Where cheeks need blood; in thee it is


Lean penury within that pen doth dwell,
That to his subject lends not some small glory;
But he that writes of you, if he can tell
That you are you, so dignifies his story,
Let him but copy what in you is writ,
Not making worse what nature made so clear,
And such a counterpart shall fame his wit,
Making his style admired everywhere,

You to your beauteous blessings add a curse,
Being fond on praise, which makes your

praises worse.—84. My tongue-tied muse in manners holds her

still, While comments of your praise, richly com

pild, Reserve their character with golden quill, And precious phrase by all the muses fild. I think good thoughts, while others write good

words, And, like unletter'd clerk, still cry “ Amen" To every hymn that able spirit affords, In polish'd form of well-refined pen. Hearing you prais'd, I say, “T is so, 't is

true," And to the most of praise add something

more; But that is in my thought, whose love to you, Though words come hindmost, holds his rank

before. Then others for the breath of words respect, Me for my dumb thoughts speaking in


I never saw that you did painting need,
And therefore to your fair no painting set.
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
The barren tender of a poet's debt:
And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself, being extant, well might

show How far a modern quill doth come too short, Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth

grow. This silence for my sin you did impute, Which shall be most my glory, being dumb; For I impair not beauty being mute, When others would give life, and bring a

tomb. There lives more life in one of your fair

eyes Than both your poets can in praise devise.


Was it the proud full sail of his great verse, Bound for the prize of all-too-precious you, That did my ripe thoughts in my brain in

hearse, Making their tomb the womb wherein they

grew? Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead! No, neither he, nor his compeers by night Giving him aid, my verse astonished. He, nor that affable familiar ghost Which nightly gulls him with intelligence, As victors, of my silence cannot boast; I was not sick of any fear from thence.

But, when your countenance fil'd up his line, Then lack'd I matter : that enfeebled mine.

-86. Farewell ! thou art too dear for my possess

ing, And like enough thou know'st thy estimate :

Who is it that says most? which can say more Than this rich praise,--that you alone are

you? In whose confine immured is the store Which should example where your equal grew.

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The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting ?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thyself thou gav'st, thy own worth then not

Or me, to whom thou gav'st it, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment mak-

Thus have I had thee, as a dream doth

In sleep a king, but waking no such matter.


Why dost thou pine within, and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend ?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body's end ?
Then, soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross ;
Within be fed, without be rich no more ;
So shalt thou feed on death, that feeds on

And, death once dead, there's no more

dying then.-146.

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We cannot trace the connexion of the

121st Sonnet with what precedes and what
follows it. It may stand alone—a somewhat We have thus, with a labour which we fear
impatient expression of contempt for the may be disproportionate to the results, se-
opinion of the world, which too often galls parated those parts of this series of poems
those most who, in the consciousness of right, which appeared to be manifestly complete in
ought to be best prepared to be indifferent themselves, or not essentially connected with

what has been supposed to be the “ leading

idea” which prevails throughout the collec-
'T is better to be vile, than vile esteemid,

tion. It has been said, with great eloquence,
When not to be receives reproach of being,
And the just pleasure lost, which is so deema “It is true that, in the poetry as well as in
Not by our feeling, but by others' seeing.

the fictions of early ages, we find a more
For why should others' false adulterate eyes

ardent tone of affection in the language of Give salutation to my sportive blood ?

friendship than has since been usual; and Or on my frailties why are frailer spies, yet no instance has been adduced of such Which in their wills count bad what I think rapturous devotedness, such an idolatry of good ?

admiring love, as the greatest being whom
No.-I am that I am; and they that level nature ever produced in the human form
At my abuses, reckon up their own :

pours forth to some unknown youth in the
I may be straight though they themselves be majority of these Sonnets.”*

accomplished critic further speaks of the
By their rank thoughts my deeds must not be strangeness of “Shakspere’s humiliation in

addressing him (the youth) as a being beUnless this general evil they maintain,–

fore whose feet he crouched, whose frown he All men are bad, and in their badness feared, whose injuries, and those of the most reign.-121.

insulting kind—the seduction of the mistress

to whom we have alluded-he felt and beLastly, of the Sonnets entirely independent wailed without resenting.” We should agree of the other portions of the series, the fol

with Mr. Hallam, if these circumstances were lowing, already mentioned, furnishes one of

manifest, that, notwithstanding the frequent the many proofs which we have endeavoured

beauties of these Sonnets, the pleasure of
to produce that the original arrangement their perusal would be much diminished.
was in many respects an arbitrary one :-

But we believe that these impressions have
Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,

been, in a great degree, produced by regard-
Fool'd by those rebel powers that thee array, * Hallam, 'Literature of Europe,' vol. iii. p. 502.

The same

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Black eyes


I hate not you .


ing the original arrangement as the natural have therefore left us no regret that he had and proper one—as one suggested by the written them. If we are to regard a few of dependence of one part upon another, in a these as real disclosures, with reference to a poem essentially continuous. Mr. Hallam, “dark-haired lady whom the poet loved, but with these impressions, adds, somewhat over whose relations to him there is thron strongly, “it is impossible not to wish a veil of mystery, allowing us to see little that Shakspere had never written them.” except the feeling of the parties—that their Let us, however, analyze what we have love was guilt,”—

-we are to consider, what is presented to the reader in a different order so justly added by the writer from whom we than that of the original edition :

quote, that “much that is most unpleasing in the circumstances connected with those magnificent lyrics is removed by the air of

despondency and remorse which breatbes Will


through those which come most closely en 3

the facts.' But it must not be forgotten The virginal

that, in an age when the Italian models False compare .


of poetry were so diligently cultivated, Tyranny


imaginary loves and imaginary jealousies Slavery


were freely admitted into verses which apColdness.


peared to address themselves to the reader 1

in the personal character of the poet. The little love-god (not reprinted) 2

Regarding a poem, whether a sonnet or an Love and hatred


epic, essentially as a work of art, the artist Infidelity


was not careful to separate his own identity Injury


from the sentiments and situations which A friend's faults


he delineated-any more than the pastoral Forgiveness


poets of the next century were solicitous to 43

tell their readers that their Corydons and Phyllises were not absolutely themselves

and their mistresses. The 'Amoretti' of

Sonnets. Spenser, for example, consisting of eightyConfiding friendship


eight Sonnets, is also a puzzle to all those Humility


who regard such productions as necessarily Absence


autobiographical. These poems were pubEstrangement


lished in 1596; in several passages a date A second absence


is somewhat distinctly marked, for there are Fidelity


lines which refer to the completion of the Dedications


first six Books of the 'Fairy Queen,' and to The picture


Spenser's appointment to the laureatshipThe note-book


“the badge which I do bear.” And yet they Rivalry


are full of the complaints of an unrequited Reputation


love, and of a disdainful mistress, at a period The soul.


when Spenser was married, and settled with 61

his family in Ireland. Chalmers is here again

ready with his solution of the difficulty. We have thus as many as 104 Sonnets which, They were addressed, as well as Shakspere's if they had been differently arranged upon Sonnets, to Queen Elizabeth. We believe their original publication, might have been that, taken as works of art, having a certain read with undiminished pleasure, as far as degree of continuity, the Sonnets of Spenser, regards the strangeness of their author's of Daniel, of Drayton, of Shakspere, although humiliation before one unknown youth; and * 'Edinburgh Review,' vol. Ixxi. p. 466.


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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, com-
most 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 care-
such 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 colour-
which 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, ad-
in 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 Learning'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 ap-
Discipline.” This fashion of Sonnet-writing pears in the first nineteen Sonnets :-
upon a continuous subject prevailed, thus,
about the period of the publication of the

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
• Venus and Adonis' and the ‘Lucrece,

That thereby beauty's rose might never die,

But as the riper should by time decease, when Shakspere had taken his rank amongst

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,

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-

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,
perhaps in as faulty an extreme, they placed

Will be a tatter'd weed, of small worth held :
the essence of poetry in the art.

The ex

* Biographia Literaria,' vol.ii. p. 27.

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