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beautiful glass imprisons it! Break the prison and let the water take his own course, doth it not embrace dust, and lose all his former sweetness and fairness ? Truly so are we, if we have not the stay, rather than the restraint of Crystalline marriage (v.). . . . And is a solitary life as good as this ? Then, can one string make as good music as a consort. (VIII.) ”1
In like manner Shakspere urges the youth to perpetuate his beauty in offspring (1.-XVII.). But if Will refuses, then his poet will make war against Time and Decay, and confer immortality upon his beloved one by Verse (XV.-xIx.) Will is the pattern and exemplar of human beauty (xIx.), so uniting in himself the perfections of man and woman (xx.). This is no extravagant praise, but simple truth (xxi.). And such a being has exchanged love with Shakspere (xxII.), who must needs be silent with excess of passion (XXIII.), cherishing in his heart the image of his friend's beauty (xxiv.), but holding still more dear the love from which no unkind fortune can ever separate him (xxv.). Here affairs of his own compel Shakspere to a journey which removes him from Will (XXVI., XXVII.). Sleepless at night, and toiling by day, he thinks of the absent one (XXVII., XXVIII.); grieving for his own poor estate (xxix.), and the death of friends, but finding in the one beloved amends for all (xxx., XXXI.); and so Shakspere commends to his friend his poor verses as a token of affection which may survive if he himself should die (XXXII.). At this point the mood changes—in his absence his friend has been false to friendship (xXXIII.); now, indeed, Will would let the sunshine of his favour beam out again, but that will not cure the disgrace; tears and penitence are fitter (xxxiv.); and for sake of such tears Will shall be forgiven (xxxv.); but henceforth their lives must run apart (XXXVI.); Shakspere, separated from Will, can look on and rejoice in his friend's happiness and honour (XXXVII.), singing his praise in verse (XXXVIII.), which he could not do if they were so united that to praise his friend were self-praise (xxxIx.) ; separated they must be, and even their loves be no longer one; Shakspere can now give his love, even her he loved, to the gentle thief; wronged though he is, he will still hold Will dear (XL.); what is he but a boy whom a woman has beguiled (XLI.) ? and for both, for friend and mistress, in the midst of his pain, he will try to feign excuses (XLII.). Here there seems to be a gap of time. The Sonnets begin again in absence, and some students have called this, perhaps rightly, the Second Absence (XLIII., sqq.). His friend continues as dear as ever, but confidence is shaken, and a deep distrust begins to grow (XLVIII.). What right indeed has a poor player to claim constancy and love (XLIX.)? He is on a journey which removes him from Will (L., LI.). His friend perhaps professes unshaken loyalty, for Shakspere now takes heart, and praises Will's truth (LIII., LIV.)—takes heart, and believes that his own verse will for ever keep that truth in mind. He will endure the pain of absence, and have no jealous thoughts (LVII., LVIII.); striving to honour his friend in song better than ever man was honoured before (Lix.); in song which shall outlast the revolutions of time (Lx.). Still he cannot quite get rid of jealous fears (LXI.); and yet, what right has one so worn by years and care to claim a young man's love (LXII.)? Will, too, in his turn must fade, but his beauty will survive in verse (LXIII.). Alas! to think that death will take away the beloved one (LXIV.); nothing but Verse can defeat time and decay (Lxv.). For his own part Shakspere would willingly die, were it not that, dying, he would leave his friend alone in an evil world (LXVI.). Why should one so beautiful live to grace this ill world (LXVII.), except as a survival of the genuine beauty of the good old times (LXVIII.); yet beautiful as he is, he is blamed for careless living (Lix.); but surely this must be slander (Lxx.). Shakspere here returns to the thought of his own death When I leave this vile world let me be forgotten (LXXI., LXXII.); and my death is not very far off (LXXIII.); but when I die my spirit still lives in my verse (Lxxiv.). A new group seems to begin with Lxxv. Shakspere loves his friend as a miser loves his gold, fearing it may be stolen (fearing a rival poet?). His verse is monotonous and old-fashioned (not like the rival's verse ?) (LXXVI.); so he sends Will his manuscript book unfilled, which Will may fill, if he please, with verse of his own; Shakspere chooses to sing no more of Beauty and of Time; Will's glass and dial may
*For additional parallels from Sidney, see the article by Fritz Krauss, “Die schwarze Schöne der Shakespeare-Sonette,” in Shakespeare Jahrbuch, 1881.
? In what follows, to avoid the confusion of he and him, I call Shakspere's friend, as he is called in cxxxv., Will.
inform him henceforth on these topics (LXXVII.). The rival poet has now won the first place in Will's esteem (LXXVIII.-LXXXVI.). Shakspere must bid his friend farewell (LXXXVII.) If Will should scorn him, Shakspere will side against himself (LXXXVIII., LXXXIX.). But if his friend is ever to hate him, let it be at once, that the bitterness of death may soon be past (xc.). He has dared to
say farewell, yet his friend's love is all the world to Shakspere, and the fear of losing him is misery (XCI.); but he cannot really lose his friend, for death would come quickly to save him from such grief; and yet Will may be false and Shakspere never know it (XCII.); so his friend, fair in seeming, false within, would be like Eve's apple (XCIII.); it is to such self-contained, passionless persons that nature entrusts her rarest gifts of grace and beauty ; yet vicious self-indulgence will spoil the fairest human soul (xciv.). So let Will beware of his youthful vices, already whispered by the lips of men (xcv.); true, he makes graces out of faults, yet this should be kept within bounds (XCVI.). Here again, perhaps, is a gap of time.1 Sonnets XCVII.-XCIX. are written in absence, which some students, perhaps rightly, call Third Absence. These three sonnets are full of tender affection, but at the close of xcix. allusion is made to Will's vices, the canker in the rose.
After this followed a period of silence. In C. love begins to renew itself, and song awakes. Shakspere excuses his silence (ci.); his love has
while he was silent (CII.); his friend's loveliness is better than all song (CIII.); three years have passed since first acquaintance; Will looks as young as ever, yet time must insensibly be altering his beauty (crv.). Shakspere sings with a monotony of love (cv.). All former singers praising knights and ladies only prophesied concerning Will
1 The last two lines of xcvI.—not very appropriate, I think, in that sonnet—are identical with the last two lines of xxxvI. It occurs to me as a possibility that the MS. in Thorpe's hands may here have been imperfect, and that he filled it up so far as to complete XCVI. with a couplet from an earlier sonnet.
(CVI.); grief and fear are past; the two friends are reconciled again; and both live for ever united in Shakspere's verse (CVII.). Love has conquered time and age, which destroy mere beauty of face (CVIII.). Shakspere confesses his errors, but now he has returned to his home of love (cix.), he will never wander again (cx.); and his past faults were caused by his temptations as a player (CXI.); he cares for no blame and no praise now except those of his friend (cXII.). Once more he is absent from his friend (Fourth Absence ?), but full of loving thought of him (CXIII., cxiv.). Love has grown, and will grow yet more (cxv.). Love is unconquered by Time (cxvi.). Shakspere confesses again his wanderings from his friend; they were tests of Will's constancy (CXVII.); and they quickened his own appetite for genuine love (CXVIII.). Ruined love rebuilt is stronger than at first (cxix.); there were wrongs on both sides, and must now be mutual forgiveness (cxx.). Shakspere is not to be judged by the report of malicious censors (cxxi.); he has given away his friend's present of a table-book, because he needed no remembrancer (cxx11.) ; records and registers of time are false; only a lover's memory is to be wholly trusted, recognizing old things in what seem new (CXXIII.); Shakspere's love is not based on self-interest, and therefore is uninfluenced by fortune (cxxiv.); nor is it founded on external beauty of form or face, but is simple love for love's sake (cxxv.). Will is still young and fair, yet he should remember that the end must come at last (CXXVI.).
Thus the series of poems addressed to his friend closes gravely with thoughts of love and death. The Sonnets may be divided at pleasure into many smaller groups, but