Слике страница
[ocr errors]

4. Being your slave, what should I do but tend,
5. How like a winter hath my absence been,

6. When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
7. O never say that I was false of heart,
18. To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
23. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day,




When in the chronicle of wasted time,

[ocr errors]

Let me not to the marriage of true minds, -
That time of year thou mayst in me behold,
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought,
11. Like as the waves make towards the pebbled









[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]




[blocks in formation]

2. Farewell! thou art too dear for my possessing,
3. They that have power to hurt, and will do none,
O me! what eyes hath Love put in my head,
57. If Thou survive my well-contented day,
58. No longer mourn for me when I am dead,
8. Poor Soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
2. Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,

[blocks in formation]

“Wordsworth, thinking probably of the Venus and Lucrece, said finely of Shakespeare: Shakespeare could have written an Epic; he would have died of plethora hought.' This prodigality of nature is exemplified equally is sonnets. The copious selection here given (which, from wealth of the material, required greater consideration than other portion of the Editor's task),-contains many that will be fully felt and understood without some earnestness of thou on the reader's part. But he is not likely to regret the labou F.T.P.)

It would be difficult to improve Mr. Palgrave's select naterially. The degrees of merit in the sonnets are m listinct than in most poems written in sequence-more disti or example, than in the case of Mrs. Browning's Sonnets f he Portuguese or Tennyson's In Memoriam. I am inclined hink that every one of the twenty sonnets here given belong he first class (and no poems in the whole history of English v ake higher rank for sweetness and power), and that only sonnets are omitted which belong equally to that class-CII., leeply tender "My love is strengthened, though more weal seeming," and cXXIX., the most terrible utterance of remo perhaps, in the language, "The expense of Spirit in a waste hame." Several others are to be placed only a little be hese: XXXIII., "Full many a glorious morning have I see

[ocr errors]

on an idle curiosity to search out the events and persons th asioned their writing. Many have been tempted to suppo t the sonnets supply the personal revelation which eludes the plays of the myriad-souled' poet. The mystery of t lication to the first edition (1609)-"To the onlie begetter se insuing sonnets, Mr. W. H., all happinesse and th rnitie promised by our ever-living poet wisheth the well-wishi enturer in setting forth, T.T." [I.e. Thomas Thorpe, t atical publisher]—has seemed to invite guesses. References actor's art, as in sonnets XXIII., CX., CXI., and to rival poe in sonnets XXI. and LXXXVI., have added stimulus to t uiry. Yet if Wordsworth was, in a sense, right in sayin With this key Shakespeare unlocked his heart," Browning w › justified in answering: "Did Shakespeare? If so, the le kespeare he!" The sonnets, as being the most perfect expr 1 of devoted love-they are many other things as well, but th ne of their aspects-could only have been written by one w lerstood the meaning of devotion in love: but they are n refore necessarily the expression of a particular man's feelin n a particular occasion. The poet transcends the person perience. Indeed, we may say that his poetry is only valual so far as it is universal-in so far as, whether suggested by ticular experience or not, it has a truth and a meani ogether independent of that experience.

t is important to insist upon this because vain biographi culations have continually led readers of the sonnets aw -n a false scent. The dedication does not even profess to kespeare's. We have no means of deciding whether M H.' was William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, or Hen iothesly, Earl of Southampton, or another. Some sonnets a ressed to a man, and some to a woman, so that the te lie begetter' is manifestly misleading. But neither do w that the order in which the sonnets stand was Shakespear er, since they were printed without his consent; nor have warrant for piecing together a story out of the sequence ch they are found. Nor, again, do we know the dates ch they were written, though the evidence of style, on a co ison with the dramas, points to some time between 1590 a 7.

In these years the fashion of sonneteering was at ght, and recent study of Elizabethan sonnets has shown clear t they must not be interpreted as chapters of biograph ey were a favourite literary exercise in which almost eve t aspired to excel, and for which all drew upon a comm


o out of many, and even the opening

Care-charmer sleep curs repeatedly. Shakespeare's references to astrology (No and 41) and law (Nos. 6, 39, 42), his girdings at rival poet s predictions of immortality for his verse (Nos. 23 and 41), h atonic abstractions, his wars between Time and Love (Nos. d 6), have many parallels. Again, we must remember t lian origin of the sonnet. Through the Italian poets of th enaissance the Elizabethans inherited the classical traditio ich had been accustomed to use for the devotion of friendsh in Virgil's lines to Gallus, Eclogue x. 73-4) language that rears seems extravagant. Yet to discover here the full e nation of Shakespeare's sonnets, to find them as artificial ar nventional as a set of modern Latin verses, to detect in the ost passionate tones only the extravagant adulation of althy patron, is to dishonour poetry. It is a truer instinc the whole, that has led men to find in them the real Shak eare-his personal humility, his pride in his art, his unde nding of the deeps of passion-though the attempts to wea personal story out of them and attach it to the poet, a ppily foredoomed to failure.

"Others abide our question.

Thou art free.

We ask, and ask-Thou smilest and art still,
Out-topping knowledge."

A brief consideration of some of their special excellences ma
helpful to the appreciation of these sonnets; but no analys
a define their charm, still less can it detect the secret of
e charm is a thing to be felt, not described, and it will be fe
anyone who reads them attentively and often. We may not


(1) The poetic power which reproduces for us the sight inds, and scents of Nature. There is no description: t hole impression is conveyed by a magical touch, often a sing ›rd: Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned yellow leaves," ‚” “Bare ruin'd choirs that shake against the cold The teeming autumn." It is the same skill which has given the plays such unforgettable lines as "Daffodils That con fore the swallow dares, and take The winds of March wi auty," or "As tunable as lark to shepherd s ear When wheat een and hawthorn buds appear." (It is to be observed the ordsworth's inner sympathy with the spirit of Nature, h ase of her educative and healing power--cp. G.T CCXXII. mething different from Shakespeare's artistic joy in the plen de of her might and beauty).

[ocr errors]

(2) Their monumental expression of self-forgetting devotio

inyson seems to acknowledge the debt when he writes moriam, LXI.): "Nor can The soul of Shakespeare love the re." The In Memoriam recalls the sonnets also by its Englis dscapes and its changing seasons.

3) The skilful blending of a diction generally simple wi condite expressions that add dignity and distinction. Many e finest lines are strikingly simple and almost monosyllabic (e. ». 23. 3-4, No. 38. 1-4, No. 68. 13-14, No. 78. 13-14), but expre ns from astrology or law have their advantage in requiring read with care and deliberation and in saving the verse fro er degenerating into commonplace.

(4) The musical quality of the verse. This is partly due iteration-not the repetition merely of the same initial lette device that is easily overdone, but the recurrence of two ore consonantal sounds subtly interwoven throughout a coupl stanza (see the notes to No. 31. 1). Partly it is due to a ceptionally rich modulation of vowels. In And mock y th me' (No. 68. 14) five successive monosyllables contain a e vowels. Instinct rather than design may have produced t e music of the sonnets, but the reality of it is undoubted. (5) Keats wrote of the sonnets (Nov. 22, 1817), "They seem full of fine things said unintentionally, in the intensity orking out conceits" [i.e. poetic ideas]. These 'fine things' a peculiar to Shakespeare. A phrase like "Death's etern ld," quoted in illustration by Keats, can be matched by Danie Shipwreck of my ill-adventured youth" (No. 46), or Drayton When faith is kneeling by his bed of death" (No. 49). Th long to an age to which it came easily to write in the gra yle. But they are far more abundant in Shakespeare th sewhere.



LEXANDER, WILLIAM (1580-1640), 29.

NONYMOUS, 8, 21, 22, 30, 33, 36, 53, 54, 57, 70.

ARNEFIELD, RICHARD (16th century), 45.

■MPION, THOMAS (c. 1567-1620), 25, 26, 50, 52, 55, 59, 76, 79.
NIEL, SAMUEL (1562-1619), 46.

[blocks in formation]

EVEREUX, ROBERT (1567-1601), 83.

ONNE, JOHN (1573-1631), 12.

RAYTON, MICHAEL (1563-1631), 49.

RUMMOND, WILLIAM (1585-1649), 4, 61, 63, 77, 80, 81, 84.
REENE, ROBERT (1561?-1592), 60.

EYWOOD, THOMAS (-1649?), 73.
ODGE, THOMAS (1556-1625), 19, 71.
FLYE, JOHN (1554-1600), 72.

ARLOWE, CHRISTOPHER (1562-1593), 7.

ASH, THOMAS (1567-1601), 1.

HAKESPEARE, WILLIAM (1564-1616), 2, 3, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, 14
15, 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 27, 31, 35, 37, 38, 39, 41, 42, 43
48, 51, 56, 62, 64, 65, 67, 68, 69, 78, 82.

DNEY, PHILIP (1554-1586), 13, 32, 40, 47, 58.
ENSER, EDMUND (1553-1598-9), 74.

LVESTER, JOSHUA (1563-1618), 34.


« ПретходнаНастави »