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That this series of Sonnets, powerful as they are, displaying not only the most abundant variety of imagery, but the greatest felicity in making the whole harmonious, constitutes a poem ambitious only of the honours of a work of Art, is, we think, manifest. If it had been addressed to a real person, no other object could have been proposed than a display of the most brilliant ingenuity. In the next age it would have been called an exquisite "copy of verses.' But in the next age, probably-certainly in our own-the author would have been pronounced arrogant beyond measure in the anticipation of the immortality of his rhymes. There is a show of modesty, indeed, in the expressions "barren rhyme" and "pupil pen;" but that is speedily cast off, and "eternal summer" is promised through "eternal lines ;" and
"So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
Regarding these nineteen Sonnets as a continuous poem, wound up to the climax of a hyperbolical promise of immortality to the object whom it addresses, we receive the 20th Sonnet as the commencement of another poem in which the same idea is retained. The poet is bound to the youth by ties of strong affection; but nature has called upon the possessor of that beauty
"Which steals men's eyes, and women's souls amazeth,"
to cultivate closer ties. This Sonnet, through an utter misconception of the language of Shakspere's time, has produced a comment sufficiently odious to throw an unpleasant shade over much which follows. The idea which it contains is continued in the 53rd Sonnet; and we give the two in connexion:
A woman's face, with nature's own hand painted,
Hast thou, the master-mistress of my passion; A woman's gentle heart, but not acquainted With shifting change, as is false women's fashion;
An eye more bright than theirs, less false in rolling,
Gilding the object whereupon it gazeth;
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling, Which steals men's eyes, and women's souls amazeth.
And for a woman wert thou first created;
And by addition me of thee defeated,
Mine be thy love, and thy love's use their treasure.-20.
What is your substance, whereof are you made,
That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
Since every one hath, every one, one's shade,
On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set,
In all external grace you have some part,
Between the 20th Sonnet and the 53rd occur, as it appears to us, a number of fragments which we have variously classified. and which seem to have no relation to the praises of that "unknown youth" who has been supposed to preside over five-sixths of the entire series of verses. We have little doubt that the "begetter" of the Sonnets was not able to beget, or obtain, all; and that there is a considerable hiatus between the 20th Sonnet and the second hyperbolical close, which he filled up as well as he could, from other "sugared sonnets amongst private friends:"
O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly
But, for their virtue only is their show,
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
Not marble, not the gilded monuments
'Jamque opus exegi quod nec Jovis ira, nee ignis,
Nec poterit ferrum, nec edax abolere vetustas ;'
and as Horace saith of his,
'Exegi monumentum ære perenniu &c.; so say I severally of Sir Philip Sidney's, Spenser's, Daniel's, Drayton's, Shakespeare's, and Warner's works." What Ovid and
Than unswept stone, besmear'd with sluttish Horace said is imitated in the 55th Sonnet.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
The living record of your memory.
Even in the eyes of all posterity
Wherever we meet with these magnificent promises of the immortality which the poet's verses are to bestow, we find them associated with that personage, the representative at once of "Adonis" and of "Helen," who presents himself to us as the unreal coinage of the fancy. In many of the lines which we have given in the second division of this inquiry, the reader will have noticed the affecting modesty, the humility without abasement, of the great poet comparing himself with others. Here Shakspere indeed speaks. For example, take the whole of the 32nd Sonnet. We should scarcely imagine, if the poem were continuous, as Mr. Brown believes, that the last stanza of the second portion of it in his classification would conIclude with these lines :
"Not marble, not the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme."
But we greatly doubt if what Meres would have said of Shakspere he would have said of himself, except in some assumed character, to which we have not the key. Ben Jonson, to whom a boastful spirit has with some justice been objected, never said anything so strong of his own writings; and he wrote with too much reliance, in this and other particulars, upon classical examples. But Jonson was not a writer of Sonnets, which, pitched in an artificial key, made this boastful tone a constituent part of the whole performance. The man, who never once speaks of his own merits in his dramas, the greatest productions of the human intellect, when he put on the imaginary character in which a poet is weaving a fiction out of his supposed personal relations, did not hesitate to conform himself to the practice of other masters of the art. Shakspere here adopted the tone which Spenser, Daniel, and Drayton had remarkable; and we must beg the indulgence adopted. The parallel appears to us very of our readers while we present them a few passages from each of these writers.
And first of Spenser. His 27th Sonnet will furnish an adequate notion of the general tone of his 'Amoretti,' and of the self-exaltation which appears to belong to this species of poem :
"Fair Proud! now tell me, why should fair be
Sith all world's glory is but dross unclean.
That goodly idol, now so gay beseen,
And the 69th Sonnet is still more like the
"The famous warriors of the antique world
In which they would the records have enroll'd
"Delia, these eyes, that so admire thine,
To check the world; how they entomb'd have
Within themselves, and on them ploughs have
Yet never found that barbarous hand attain'd
And therefore grieve not if thy beauties die;
And must enstar the needle and the rail.
Lives in my lines, and must eternal be." But Drayton, if he display not the energy of Shakspere, the fancy of Spenser, or the sweetness of Daniel, is not behind either in
Of my love's conquest, peerless beauty's prize, the extravagance of his admiration or his
Adorn'd with honour, love, and chastity?
Even this verse, vow'd to eternity,
That may admire such world's rare wonder-
The happy purchase of my glorious spoil, Gotten at last with labour and long toil." Spenser's 75th Sonnet also thus closes: "My verse your virtues rare shall eternize, And in the heavens write your glorious name. Where, when as Death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew." Of Daniel's Sonnets, the 41st and 42nd furnish examples of the same tone, though somewhat more subdued than in Shakspere or Spenser :
confidence in his own power. The 6th and the 44th 'Ideas' are sufficient examples:
"How many paltry, foolish, painted things,
When I to thee eternity shall give,
To have seen thee, their sex's only glory:
"Whilst thus my pen strives to eternize thee,
And murther'st virtue with thy coy disdain;
To keep thee from oblivion and the grave,
We now proceed to what appears another continuous poem amongst Shakspere's Sonnets, addressed to the same object as the
first nineteen stanzas were addressed to, and devoted to the same admiration of his personal beauty. The leading idea is now that of the spoils of Time, to be repaired only by the immortality of verse:
Where art thou, Muse, that thou forgett'st so long
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend'st thou thy fury on some worthless song, Darkening thy power, to lend base subjects light?
Return, forgetful Muse, and straight redeem
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
And make Time's spoils despised everywhere. Give my love fame, faster than Time wastes life;
So thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked knife.-100.
O truant Muse, what shall be thy amends,
Excuse not silence so; for it lies in thee
Then do thy office, Muse; I teach thee how To make him seem long hence as he shows now.-101.
My love is strengthen'd, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear; That love is merchandis'd whose rich esteeming
The owner's tongue doth publish everywhere. Our love was new, and then but in the spring, When I was wont to greet it with my lays; As Philomel in summer's front doth sing, And stops his pipe in growth of riper days:
Not that the summer is less pleasant now Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough, And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
Therefore, like her, I sometime hold my tongue,
Because I would not dull you with my song. -102.
Alack! what poverty my Muse brings forth,
Your own glass shows you when you look in it.-103.
To me, fair friend, you never can be old,
Have from the forest shook three summers pride;
Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turn'd,
In process of the seasons have I seen,
Since first I saw you fresh which yet are green.
Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceiv'd. For fear of which, hear this, thou age unbred,
Ere you were born, was beauty's summer dead.-104.
Let not my love be call'd idolatry,
Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Fair, kind, and true, have often liv'd alone, Which three, till now, never kept seat in one.-105.
When in the chronicle of wasted time
For we, which now behold these present days,
Have eyes to wonder, but lack tongues to praise.-106.
Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Since spite of him I'll live in this poor rhyme, While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes.
And thou in this shalt find thy monument, When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.-107.
Nothing, sweet boy; but yet, like prayers divine,
I must each day say o'er the very same';
Finding the first conceit of love there bred,
If there be nothing new, but that which is
To this composed wonder of your frame;
O! sure I am, the wits of former days
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;