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Why write I still all one, ever the same,
For, as the sun is daily new and old,
Thou by thy dial's shady stealth mayst know
find Those children nurs'd, deliver'd from thy
These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
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 oft have I invok'd thee for my muse,
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.
Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,
say, Since what he owes thee thou thyself dost
0, how I faint when I of you do write,
My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
Then if he thrive, and I be cast away,
I grant thou wert not married to my muse,
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,
You to your beauteous blessings add a curse,
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,
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.
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
Why dost thou pine within, and suffer dearth,
We cannot trace the connexion of the
what has been supposed to be the “ leading
idea” which prevails throughout the collec-
tion. It has been said, with great eloquence,
the fictions of early ages, we find a more
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
pours forth to some unknown youth in the
accomplished critic further speaks of the
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
But we believe that these impressions have
been, in a great degree, produced by regard-
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.
in many instances they might shadow forth | cellence at which they aimed consisted in
Spenser's ' Amoretti' are entirely and phrases, so that not only each part
From fairest creatures we desire increase,
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.
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gaz'd on now,
Will be a tatter'd weed, of small worth held :
* Biographia Literaria,' vol.ii. p. 27.