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aggerated friendship, in the complaints of an abused confidence, in the pictures of an unhallowed and unhappy love; sometimes speaking with the real earnestness of true friendship and a modest estimation of his own merits; sometimes employing the language of an extravagant eulogy, and a more extravagant estimation of the powers of the man who was writing that eulogy? Suppose, for example, that in the leisure hours, we will say, of William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, and William Shakspere, the poet should have undertaken to address to the youth an argument why he should marry. Without believing the Earl to be the W. H. of the Dedication, we know that he was a friend of Shakspere. There is nothing in the first seventeen Sonnets which might not have been written in the artificial tone of the Italian poetry, in the working out of this scheme. Suppose, again, that in other Sonnets the poet, in the same artificial spirit, complains that the friend has robbed him of his mistress, and avows that he forgives the falsehood. There is nothing in all this which might not have been written essentially as a work of fiction,-received as a work of fiction,-handed about amongst "private friends" without the slightest apprehension that it would be regarded as an exposition of the private relations of two persons separated in rank as they probably were in their habitual intimacies,-of very different ages, the one an avowedly profligate boy, the other a matured man. But this supposition does not exclude the idea that the poet had also, at various times, composed, in the same measure, other poems, truly expressing his personal feelings,—with nothing inflated in their tone, perfectly simple and natural, offering praise, expressing love to his actual friends (in the language of the time "lovers"), showing regret in separation, dreading unkindness, hopeful of continued affection. These are also circulated amongst "private friends." Some "W. H." collects them together, ten, or twelve, or fifteen years after they have been written; and a publisher, of course, is found to give to the world any productions of a man so eminent as Shakspere. But who

arranged them? Certainly not the poet himself for those who believe in their continuity must admit that there are portions which it is impossible to regard as continuous. In the same volume with these Sonnets was published a most exquisite narrative poem, 'A Lover's Complaint.' The form of it entirely prevents any attempts to consider it autobiographical. The Sonnets, on the contrary, are personal in their form; but it is not therefore to be assumed that they are all personal in their relation to the author. It is impossible to be assumed that they could have been printed with the consent of the author as they now stand. If he had meant in all of them to express his actual feelings and position, the very slightest labour on his part-a few words of introduction either in prose or verse-would have taken those parts which he would have naturally desired to appear like fiction, and which to us even now look like fiction, out of the possible range of reality. The same slight labour would, on the other hand, have classed amongst the real, apart from the artificial, those Sonnets which he would have desired to stand apart, and which appear to us to stand apart, as the result of genuine moods of the poet's own mind.

It is our intention, without at all presuming to think that we have discovered any real order in which these extraordinary productions may be arranged, to offer them to the reader upon a principle of classification, which, on the one hand, does not attempt to reject the idea that a continuous poem, or rather several continuous poems, may be traced throughout the series, nor adopt the belief that the whole can be broken up into fragments; but which, on the other hand, does no violence to the meaning of the author by a pertinacious adherence to a principle of continuity, sometimes obvious enough, but at other times maintained by links as fragile as the harness of Queen Mab's chariot :

"Her traces of the smallest spider's web,

Her collars of the moonshine's watery beams."

The reader will have the ordinary text before him in every modern edition of Shak

spere containing 'The Poems;' and he will be enabled at every step to judge whether the original arrangement, to which we must constantly refer, was a systematic or an arbitrary one.


The earliest productions of a youthful poet are commonly Love-Sonnets, or Elegies as they were termed in Shakspere's time. The next age to that of the school-boy is that of

"the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow."

We commence our series with three Sonnets which certainly bear the marks of juvenility, when compared with others in this collection, as distinctly impressed upon them as the character of the poet's mind at different periods of his life is impressed upon 'Love's Labour's Lost' and 'Macbeth:'—

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy will,
And will to boot, and will in over-plus;
More than enough am I that vex thee still,
To thy sweet will making addition thus.
Wilt thou, whose will is large and spacious,
Not once vouchsafe to hide my will in thine?
Shall will in others seem right gracious,
And in my will no fair acceptance shine?
The sea, all water, yet receives rain still,
And in abundance addeth to his store;
So thou, being rich in will, add to thy will
One will of mine, to make thy large will more.
Let no unkind, no fair beseechers kill;
Think all but one, and me in that one Will.

If thy soul check thee that I come so near,
Swear to thy blind soul that I was thy Will,
And will, thy soul knows, is admitted there;
Thus far for love, my love-suit, sweet, fulfil.
Will will fulfil the treasure of thy love,
Ay, fill it full with wills, and my will one,
In things of great receipt with ease we prove;
Among a number one is reckoned none.
Then in the number let me pass untold,
Though in thy stores' account I one must be;
For nothing hold me, so it please thee hold
That nothing me, a something sweet to thee:

Make but my name thy love, and love that still,

And then thou lov'st me,-for my name is Will.-136.

Lo, as a careful housewife runs to catch
One of her feather'd creatures broke away,
Sets down her babe, and makes all swift

In pursuit of the thing she would have stay;
Whilst her neglected child holds her in chace,
Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent
To follow that which flies before her face,
Not prizing her poor infant's discontent;
So runn'st thou after that which flies from

Whilst I thy babe chase thee afar behind;
But, if thou catch thy hope, turn back to me,
And play the mother's part, kiss me, be kind:
So will I pray that thou mayst have thy

If thou turn back, and my loud crying still.


The figures which we subjoin to each Sonnet show the place which it occupies in the collection of 1609. If the reader will turn to the reprints of that text, he will see where these Sonnets, through each of which the same play upon the poet's name is kept up with a boyish vivacity, are found. The first two follow one of those from which Mr. Brown derives the title of what he calls 'The Sixth Poem,' being 'To his Mistress, on her Infidelity.'* Mr. Brown, however, qualifies the dissimilarity of tone by the following admission:-"All the stanzas in the preceding poems (to Stanza 126) are retained in their original order; the printers, without disturbing the links, having done no worse than the joining together of five chains into


But I suspect the same attention has not been paid to this address to his mistress. Indeed, I farther suspect that some stanzas, irrelevant to the subject, have been introduced into the body of it." The stanzas to which Mr. Brown objects are the 135th and 136th, just given. But let us proceed. The poet now sings the praise of those eyes which so took his brother-poet, Phineas Fletcher:

* 'Shakspeare's Autobiographical Poems,' p. 96.

"But most I wonder how that jetty ray, Which those two blackest suns do fair display, Should shine so bright, and night should make so sweet a day."

We know not the colour of Anne Hathaway's eyes; but how can we affirm that the following three Sonnets were not addressed to her?

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or, if it were, it bore not beauty's name;
But now is black beauty's successive heir,
And beauty slander'd with a bastard shame :
For since each hand hath put on nature's

Fairing the foul with art's false borrow'd face,

Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy hour, But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace. Therefore my mistress' eyes are raven black, Her eyes so suited; and they mourners seem At such, who, not born fair, no beauty lack, Slandering creation with a false esteem:

Yet so they mourn, becoming of their woe, That every tongue says beauty should look 80.-127.

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Thou art the fairest and most precious jewel.
Yet, in good faith, some say that thee behold,
Thy face hath not the power to make love

To say they err, I dare not be so bold,
Although I swear it to myself alone.
And, to be sure that is not false I swear,
A thousand groans, but thinking on thy face,
One on another's neck, do witness bear
Thy black is fairest in my judgment's place.
In nothing art thou black, save in thy

And thence this slander, as I think, proceeds.-131.

Thine eyes I love, and they, as pitying me, Knowing thy heart, torment me with dis


Have put on black, and loving mourners be, Looking with pretty ruth upon my pain. And truly not the morning sun of heaven Better becomes the gray cheeks of the east,

Nor that full star that ushers in the even,
Doth half that glory to the sober west,
As those two mourning eyes become thy face:
O, let it then as well beseem thy heart

To mourn for me, since mourning doth thee grace,

And suit thy pity like in every part.

Then will I swear beauty herself is black, And all they foul that thy complexion lack. -132.

But the last two immediately precede the Sonnet beginning

"Beshrew that heart that makes my heart to


For that deep wound it gives my friend and me:"

and so the lady of the "mourning eyes is associated with a tale of treachery and sin. The line of the 131st Sonnet,

"In nothing art thou black, save in thy deeds," may be held to imply something atrocious. The first two lines, however, show of what the poet-lover complains:

"Thou art as tyrannous, so as thou art,

As those whose beauties proudly make them cruel."

The 128th Sonnet has never been exceeded in airy elegance, even by the professed writers of amatory poems:

How oft, when thou, my music, music play'st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks, that nimble leap
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips, which should that harvest


At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more bless'd than living

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss. -128.

The 130th, too, is one of the prettiest vers de société that a Suckling, or a Moore, could have produced:

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips' red;

If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;

If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.

I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;

And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.

I love to hear her speak,-yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go,—

My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as


As any she belied with false compare.130.

And of what character is the 129th Sonnet, which separates these two playful compositions? It is a solemn denunciation against unlicensed gratifications-a warning

"To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell."

If we are to bring those Sonnets in apposition where the "leading idea" is repeated, we shall have to go far back to find one that will accord with the 130th:

So is it not with me as with that muse,
Stirr'd by a painted beauty to his verse;
Who heaven itself for ornament doth use,
And every fair with his fair doth rehearse;
Making a couplement of proud compare,
With sun and moon, with earth and sea's rich

With April's first-born flowers, and all things


That heaven's air in his huge rondure hems.
O let me, true in love, but truly write,
And then believe me, my love is as fair
As any mother's child, though not so bright
As those gold candles fixed in heaven's air:
Let them say more that like of hearsay

I will not praise, that purpose not to sell.

This is the 21st Sonnet; and it has as much the character of a love-sonnet as any we have just given.

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Is more than my o'erpress'd defence can 'bide?
Let me excuse thee: ah! my love well knows
Her pretty looks have been my enemies;
And therefore from my face she turns my

That they elsewhere might dart their injuries:
Yet do not so; but, since I am near slain,
Kill me outright with looks, and rid my

Be wise as thou art cruel: do not press My tongue-tied patience with too much disdain;

Lest sorrow lend me words, and words express

The manner of my pity-wanting pain.
If I might teach thee wit, better it were,
Though not to love, yet, love, to tell me so;
(As testy sick men, when their deaths be


No news but health from their physicians know ;)

For, if I should despair, I should grow mad, And in my madness might speak ill of thee: Now this ill-wresting world is grown so bad, Mad slanderers by mad ears believed be.

That I may not be so, nor thou belied,
Bear thine eyes straight, though thy proud
heart go wide.-140.

Canst thou, O cruel! say I love thee not,
When I, against myself, with thee partake?
Do I not think on thee, when I forgot
Am of myself, all tyrant, for thy sake?
Who hateth thee that I do call my friend?
On whom frown'st thou that I do fawn upon?
Nay, if thou low'rst on me, do I not spend
Revenge upon myself with present moan?
What merit do I in myself respect,
That is so proud thy service to despise,

When all my best doth worship thy defect, Commanded by the motion of thine eyes? But, love, hate on, for now I know thy mind;

Those that can see thou lov'st, and I am blind.-149.

the same time, with more kindness, in their strained humility, than it would have been by direct expostulation." The reproach, according to Mr. Brown, is for the "coldness" which the noble youth had evinced towards his friend. The "coldness" is im

And yet the tyranny is meekly borne by the plied in these stanzas, and in that which


Being your slave, what should I do but tend
Upon the hours and times of your desire?
I have no precious time at all to spend,
Nor services to do, till you require.

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour, Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,

Nor think the bitterness of absence sour, When you have bid your servant once adieu; Nor dare I question with my jealous thought Where you may be, or your affairs suppose, But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought,

Save, where you are how happy you make those :

So true a fool is love, that in your will (Though you do anything) he thinks no


That God forbid, that made me first your slave,

I should in thought control your times of pleasure,

Or at your hand the account of hours to crave,

Being your vassal, bound to stay your leisure!
O, let me suffer (being at your beck)
The imprison'd absence of your liberty,
And patience, tame to sufferance, bide each

Without accusing you of injury.

Be where you list; your charter is so strong, That you yourself may privilege your time: Do what you will, to you it doth belong Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime.

I am to wait, though waiting so be hell; Not blame your pleasure, be it ill or well.


The Sonnets last given are the 57th and 58th. These are especially noticed by Mr. Brown as evidence that the person to whom he considers the Sonnets are addressed-W. H. was "a man of rank." He adds, "Reproach is conveyed more forcibly, and, at

precedes them :

"Sweet love, renew thy force; be it not said
Thy edge should blunter be than appetite,
Which but to-day by feeding is allay'd,
To-morrow sharpen'd in his former might:
So, love, be thou: although to-day thou fill
The hungry eyes, even till they wink with

To-morrow see again, and do not kill
The spirit of love with a perpetual dulness.
Let this sad interim like the ocean be
Which parts the shore, where two contracted-


Come daily to the banks, that, when they see Return of love, more bless'd may be the view; Or call it winter, which, being full of care, Makes summer's welcome thrice more wish'd, more rare.-56.

We believe, on the contrary, that the three Sonnets are addressed to a female. It appears to us that a line in the 57th is decisive upon this:

"When you have bid your servant once adieu." The lady was the mistress, the lover the servant, in the gallantry of Shakspere's time. In Beaumont and Fletcher's 'Scornful Lady' we have, "Was I not once your mistress, and you my servant?" The three stanzas, 56, 57, 58, are completely isolated from what precedes and what follows them; and therefore we have no hesitation in transposing them to this class.

We are about to give a Sonnet which Mr. Brown thinks "should be expunged from the poem." We should regret to lose so pretty and playful a love-verse :

Those lips that Love's own hand did make
Breathed forth the sound that said I hate,
To me that languish'd for her sake:
But, when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue, that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet:

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