Page images
PDF
EPUB

CLIII.

Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep:
A maid of Dian's this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrow'd from this holy fire of Love
A dateless lively heat, -till to endure,
And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.
But at my mistress' eye Love's brand new-fired,
The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
And thither hied, a sad distemper'd guest,

But found no cure : the bath for my help lies
Where Cupid got new fire, my mistress' eyes.

CLIV.

The little Love-god lying once asleep
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vow'd chaste life to keep
Came tripping by ; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warm’d;
And so the general of hot desire
Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm’d.
This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from Love's fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy
For men diseased; but I, my mistress' thrall,

Came there for cure, and this by that I prove,
Love's fire heats water, water cools not love.

NOTES.

I. The theme of this and other early sonnets is similarly treated in Venus and Adonis, ll. 162-174:

Torches are made to light, jewels to wear,
Dainties to taste, fresh beauty for the use,
Herbs for their smell, and sappy plants to bear :
Things growing to themselves are growth's abuse :

Seeds spring from seeds and beauty breedeth beauty ;
Thou wast begot; to get it is thy duty.

Upon the earth's increase why shouldst thou feed,
Unless the earth with thy increase be fed ?
By law of nature thou art bound to breed,
That thine may live when thou thyself art dead :

And so, in spite of death, thou dost survive,
In that thy likeness still is left alive.

Herr Krauss (Shakespeare-Jahrbuch, 1881) cites, as a parallel to the arguments in favour of marriage in these sonnets, the versified dialogue between Geron and Histor at the close of Sidney's Arcadia, lib. iii.

6. Self-substantial fuel, fuel of the substance of the flame itself.

12. Makest waste in niggarding. Compare Romeo and Juliet, Act I. sc. 1, 1. 223 :

BEN. Then she hath sworn that she will still live chaste? Rom. She hath, and in that sparing makes huge waste.

13, 14. Pity the world, or else be a glutton devouring the world's due, by means of the grave (which will swallow your beauty—compare Sonnet LXXVII. 6, and note), and of yourself, who refuse to beget offspring. Compare All's Well, Act I. sc. 1, Parolles speaking, “ Virginity consumes itself to the very paring, and so dies with feeding his own stomach.” Steevens proposed " be thy grave and thee,” i.e., be at once thyself and thy grave.

II. Perhaps in anticipating a time when his friend's child may represent that friend's lost beauty and the warm blood of youth (1. 14), Shakspere pictures the son as of like years with Shakspere's friend when the sonnet was written. If the friend were now about twenty, in twenty years more, when he should be forty, his son might be twenty. Shakspere fixes on so early an age as forty because, had he said fifty, it might have allowed time for his friend's son to pass beyond the point of youthful perfection to which Shakspere's friend has now attained, and this is forbidden by the idea of the sonnet.

Perhaps the forty years are counted from the present age of the young friend, bringing him thus to about sixty years of age.

It has, however, been shown by Prof. Elze (ShakespearcJahrbuch, Bd. xi. pp. 288–294) that Elizabethan writers » the

often use four, forty, and forty thousand to express an indefinite number. The usage is also common in German. Krauss cites from Sidney's Arcadia two examples of " forty winters."

In Sonnet 1. the Friend is “contracted to his own bright eyes; such a marriage is fruitless, and at forty the eyes will be “ deep-sunken.” The “glutton" of I. reappears here in the phrase "all-eating shame; "makest waste ” of 1. reappears in the “ thriftless praise ” of II. Hazlitt reads whole excuse.

8. Thriftless praise, unprofitable praise. “What thriftless sighs shall poor Olivia breathe!” Twelfth Night, Act II. sc. 2, 1. 40.

11. Shall sum my count and make my old excuse, shall complete my account, and serve as the excuse of my oldness.

III. A proof by example of the truth set forth in II. Here is a parent finding in a child the excuse for age and wrinkles. But here that parent is the mother. Were the father of Shakspere's friend living, it would have been natural to mention him ; XIII. 14 “you had a father” confirms our impression that he was dead.

There are two kinds of mirrors—first, that of glass ; secondly, a child who reflects his parent's beauty.

5. Unear'd, unploughed. Compare the Dedication of Venus and Adonis, “ I shall ... never after ear so barren a land, for fear it yield me still so bad a harvest.”

5, 6. Compare Measure for Measure, Act 1. sc. 4, 11. 43, 44:

Her plenteous womb
Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry.

« PreviousContinue »