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(1592), which, I believe, supplied Shakspere with a model for this form of verse; and though I can allege no strong evidence for the opinion, I should not be disposed to place any later than 1605.
Various attempts have been made by English, French, and German students to place the Sonnets in a new and better order, of which attempts no two agree between themselves. That the Sonnets are not printed in the Quarto, 1609, at haphazard, is evident from the fact that the Envoy (CXXVI.) is rightly placed ; that poems addressed to a mistress follow those addressed to a friend; and that the two Cupid and Dian Sonnets stand together at the close. A nearer view makes it apparent that in the first series, I.-CXXVI., a continuous story is conducted through various stages to its termination; a more minute inspection discovers points of contact or connection between sonnet and sonnet, and a natural sequence of thought, passion and imagery. We are in the end convinced that no arrangement which has been proposed is as good as that of the Quarto. But the force of this remark seems to me to apply with certainty only to Sonnets I.-CXXVI. The second series, CXXVII.-CLIV., although some of its pieces are evidently connected with those which stand near them, does not exhibit a like intelligible sequence; a better arrangement may perhaps be found ; or, it may be, no possible arrangement can educe order out of the struggles between will and judgment, between blood and reason ; tumult and chaos are perhaps a portion of their life and being.
A piece of evidence confirming the opinion here advanced will be found in the use of thou and you by
Shakspere as a mode of address to his friend. Why thou or you is chosen, is not always explicable. Sometimes the choice seems to be determined by considerations of euphony, sometimes of rhyme; sometimes intimate affection seems to indicate the use of you, and respectful homage that of thou ; but this is by no means invariable. What I would call attention to, however, as exhibiting something like order and progress in the arrangement of 1609, is this: that in the first fifty sonnets you is of extremely rare occurrence; in the second fifty you and thou alternate in little groups of sonnets, thou having still a preponderance, but now only a slight preponderance; in the remaining twenty-six you becomes the ordinary mode of address, and thou the exception. In the sonnets to a mistress, thou is invariably employed. A few sonnets of the first series, as LXIII.-LXVIII., have “my love," and the third person throughout.
The table on next page presents the facts. Thou and you are considered only when addressing friend or lover, not Time, the Muse, etc. Five sets of sonnets may then be distinguished, as in the table. I had hoped that this investigation was left to form one of my gleanings. But Professor Goedeke in the Deutsche Rundschau, March 1877, looked into the matter. His results seem to me vitiated by an arbitrary division of the sonnets using neither thou nor you into groups of eleven and twelve, and by a fantastic theory that Shakspere wrote his sonnets in books or groups of fourteen each.
100-101 102-104 105
125-126 A.-Sonnets using thou. B.—Sonnets using neither thou nor you, but belonging to a thou group. C.-Sonnets using you. D.—Sonnets using neither thou nor you, but belonging to a you group.
E.—Sonnet using both thou and you.
All Sonnets after the Envoy, 126, i.e., all the Sonnets to a Mistress, use thou.
Whether idealising reality or wholly fanciful, an Elizabethan book of sonnets was not always, but in many instances-made up of a chain or series of poems, in a designed or natural sequence, viewing in various aspects a single theme, or carrying on a love story to its issue, prosperous or the reverse. Sometimes advance is made through the need of discovering new points of view, and the movement, always delayed, is rather in a circuit than straight forward.
In Spenser's Amoretti we read the progress of love from humility through hope to conquest. In Astrophel and Stella, we read the story of passion struggling with untoward fate, yet at last mastered by the resolve to do high deeds.
Sweet! for a while give respite to my heart,
To this great Cause. In Parthenophil and Parthenophe the story is of a new love supplanting an old, of hot and cold fevers, of despair, and, as last effort of the desperate lover, of an imagined attempt to subdue the affections of his cruel lady by magic art. But in reading Sidney, Spenser, Barnes, and still more Watson, Constable, Drayton, and others, although a large element of the art-poetry of the Renascence is common to them and Shakspere, the student of Shakspere's Sonnets does not feel at home. It is when we open Daniel's Delia that we recognize close kinship. The manner is the same, though the master proves himself of tardier imagination and less ardent temper. Diction, imagery, rhymes, and, in sonnets of like form, versification, distinctly resemble those of Shakspere. Malone was surely right when he recognized in Daniel the master of Shakspere as a writer of sonnets—a master quickly excelled by his pupil. And it is in Daniel that we find sonnet starting from sonnet almost in Shakspere's manner, only that Daniel often links poem with more formal wise, the last or the penultimate line of one poem supplying the first line of that which immediately follows.
Let us attempt to trace briefly the sequence of in
cidents and feelings in the Sonnets I.-CXXVI. A young man, beautiful, brilliant, and accomplished, is the heir of a great house: he is exposed to temptations of youth and wealth and rank. Possibly his mother desires to see him married ; certainly it is the desire of his friend. “I should be glad if you were caught,” writes Languet to Philip Sidney, “ that so you might give to your country sons like yourself.” “If you marry a wife, and if you beget children like yourself, you will be doing better service to your country than if you were to cut the throats of a thousand Spaniards and Frenchmen.” “Sir,' said Croesus to Cambyses,' Languet writes to Sidney, now aged twenty-four, 'I consider your father must be held your better, because he was the father of an admirable prince, whereas you have as yet no son like yourself.' It is in the manner of Sidney's own Cecropia that Shakspere urges marriage upon his friend. “Nature, when you were first born, vowed you a woman, and as she made you child of a mother, so to do your best to be mother of a child ” (Sonnet XIII. 14); "she gave you beauty to move love; she gave you wit to know love; she gave you an excellent body to reward love; which kind of liberal rewarding is crowned with an unspeakable felicity. For this as it bindeth the receiver, so it makes happy the bestower; this doth not impoverish, but enrich the giver (VI. 6) O the comfort of comforts, to see your chil
you are as it were eternized!... Have you ever seen a pure Rose-water kept in a crystal glass ? how fine it looks, how sweet it smells, while that
dren grow up,
Arcadia, lib. iii. Noticed by Mr. Massey in his Shakespeare's Sonnets and his Private Friends, pp. 36, 37.