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59th, and closes appropriately with the 60th. But there is a short poem which stands completely alone in the original edition, the 126th; and it is remarkable for being of a different metrical character, wanting the distinguishing feature of the Sonnet in its number of lines. Its general tendency, however, connects it with those which we have just given :
O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power Dost hold Time's fickle glass, his sickle, hour; Who hast by waning grown, and therein show'st
Thy lovers withering, as thy sweet self grow'st !
If Nature, sovereign mistress over wrack,
As thou goest onwards, still will pluck thee back,
She keeps thee to this purpose, that her skill May Time disgrace, and wretched minutes kill.
Yet fear her, O thou minion of her pleasure; She may detain, but not still keep, her treasure:
Her audit, though delay'd, answer'd must be,
There is an enemy as potent as Time, who cuts down the pride of youth as the flower of the field. That enemy is Death; and the poet most skilfully presents the images of mortality to his "lovely boy" in connexion with the decay of the elder friend. In this portion of the poem there is a touching simplicity, which, however, is intermingled with passages which, denoting that the Poet is still speaking in character, take the stanzas, in some degree, out of the range of the real:
My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain;
Thou gav 'st me thine, not to give back again.-22.
Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye,
"T is thee (myself) that for myself I praise. Painting my age with beauty of thy days. -62
Against my love shall be, as I am now, With Time's injurious hand crush'd and o'erworn;
When hours have drain'd his blood, and fill'd his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful
Hath travell'd on to age's steepy night;
His beauty shall in these black lines be
And they shall live, and he in them, still green.-63.
When I have seen by Time's fell hand defae'd,
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.-64.
Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
But sad mortality o'ersways their power,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid? Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
O none, unless this miracle have might,
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,-
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.-66.
Ah! wherefore with infection should he live,
Why should false painting imitate his cheek,
In days long since, before these last so bad.-67.
Thus is his cheek the map of days outworn,
Those parts of thee that the world's eye doth view
Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend:
All tongues (the voice of souls) give thee that due,
Uttering bare truth, even so as foes commend, Thine outward thus with outward praise is crown'd;
But those same tongues that give thee so
In other accents do this praise confound,
To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds:
But why thy odour matcheth not thy show, The solve is this, that thou dost common grow.-69.
That thou art blam'd shall not be thy defect,
A crow that flies in heaven's sweetest air.
If some suspect of ill mask'd not thy show, Then thou alone kingdoms of hearts shouldst owe.-70.
No longer mourn for me when I am dead
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
If thinking on me then should make you
O, if (I say) you look upon this verse,
And mock you with me after I am gone.
O, lest the world should task you to recite
And so should you, to love things nothing
That time of year thou mayst in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
But be contented: when that fell arrest
The earth can have but earth, which is his due;
The worth of that, is that which it contains, And that is this, and this with thee remains.-74.
Or I shall live your epitaph to make,
Thirteen of these stanzas, the 62nd to the 74th, follow in their original order. first of the fifteen, the 22nd Sonnet, stands quite alone, although its idea is continued in the 62nd. The last of the series, the 81st, not only stands alone, but actually cuts off the undoubted connexion between the 80th and the 82nd Sonnets. The 71st to the 74th | Sonnets seem bursting from a heart oppressed with a sense of its own unworthiness, and surrendered to some overwhelming misery. There is a line in the 74th which points at suicide. We cling to the belief that the sentiments here expressed are essentially dramatic. In the 32nd Sonnet, where we recognise the man Shakspere speaking in his own modest and cheerful spirit, death is to come across his "well-contented day."
The opinion which we have endeavoured
To love that well which thou must leave to sustain of the probable admixture of the ere long.-73.
artificial and the real in the Sonnets, arising
from their supposed original fragmentary | in a poem, or poems, of fifty stanzas, written state, necessarily leads to the belief that upon a plan by which it is obviously presome are accurate illustrations of the poet's sented as a work of fiction, in which the poet situation and feelings. It is collected from displays his art in a style accordant with the these Sonnets, for example, that his pro- existing fashion and the example of other fession as a player was disagreeable to him; poets. The theme is the personal beauty of and this complaint is found amongst those a wonderful youth, and the strong affection portions which we have separated from the of a poet. Beauty is to be perpetuated series of verses which appear to us to be written in an artificial character; it might be addressed to any one of his family, or some honoured friend, such as Lord Southampton :
"O, for my sake do you with Fortune chide, The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds, That did not better for my life provide Than public means, which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a
And almost thence my nature is subdued
But if from his professional occupation his nature was felt by him to be subdued to what it worked in,-if thence his name re
ceived a brand,—if vulgar scandal sometimes assailed him,—he had high thoughts to console him, such as were never before imparted to mortal. This was probably written in some period of dejection, when his heart was ill at ease, and he looked upon the world with a slight tinge of indifference, if not of dislike. Every man of high genius has felt something of this. It was reserved for the highest to throw it off, "like dewdrops from the lion's mane. But the profound self-abasement and despondency of the 74th Sonnet, exquisite as the diction is, appear to us unreal, as a representation of the mental state of William Shakspere; written, as it most probably was, at a period of his life when he revels and luxuriates (in the comedies which belong to the close of the sixteenth century) in the spirit of enjoyment, gushing from a heart full of love for his species, at peace with itself and with all the world.
We have thus, if we have not been led away by imaginary associations, connected the verses addressed to
"the world's fresh ornament, And only herald to the gaudy spring,"
by marriage, and to be immortalized in the poet's verses. Beauty is gradually to fade before Time, but is to be still immortalized. Beauty is to yield to Death, as the poet himself yields, but its memory is to endure in "eternal lines." Separating from this somewhat monotonous theme those portions of a hundred and fifty-four Sonnets which do not appear essentially to belong to it, we separate, as we believe, more or less, what has a personal interest in these compositions from what is meant to be dramatic-the real from the fictitious. Our theory, we well know, is liable to many objections; but it is based upon the unquestionable fact that these one hundred and fifty-four Sonnets cannot be received as a continuous poem upon any other principle than that the author had written them continuously. If there are some parts which are acknowledged interpolations, may there not be other parts that are open to the same belief? If there are parts entirely different in their tone from the bulk of these
Sonnets, may we not consider that one portion was meant to be artificial and another real,-that the poet sometimes spoke in an assumed character, sometimes in a natural one? This theory we know could not hold if the poet had himself arranged the sequence of these verses; but as it is manifest that two
stanzas have been introduced from a poem printed ten years earlier, that others are acknowledged to be out of order, and others positively dragged in without the slightest connexion,-may we not carry the separation still further, and, believing that the "begetter"-the getter-up-of these Sonnets had levied contributions upon all Shakspere's
"private friends,"-assume that he was indifferent to any arrangement which might make each portion of the poem tell its own history? There is one decided advantage in the separation which we have proposed—the
The poet says,
idea with which the series opens, and which | dulgence of his passions.
"chide thy beauty and thy straying youth,
There are three points connected with the opinion we have formed with regard to the entire series of Sonnets, which we must briefly notice before we leave the subject.
The first is, the inconsistencies which obviously present themselves in adopting the theory that the series of Sonnets-or at least the first hundred and twenty-six Sonnets are addressed to one person. It is not our intention to discuss the question to whom they were addressed, which question depends upon the adoption of the theory that they are addressed to one. Drake's opinion that they were addressed to Lord Southampton rests upon the belief that Shakspère looked up to some friend to whom they point, "with reverence and homage." The later theory, that William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, was their object, is supported by the facts, derived from Clarendon and others, that he was a man of noble and gallant character, though always of a licentious life." W. H. is held to be William Herbert; and Mr. Hallam says, "Proofs of the low moral character of 'W. H.' are continual." We venture to think that the term "continual" is somewhat loosely applied. The one "sensual fault," of which the poet complains, is obscurely hinted at in the 33rd, 34th, 35th, 40th, 41st, and 42nd stanzas; and the general faults of his friend's character, from which the injury proceeded, are summed up in the 94th, 95th, and 96th. We shall search in vain throughout the hundred and fifty-four Sonnets for any similar indications of the "low moral character " of the person addressed. But the supposed continuity of the poem implies arrangement, and therefore consistency, in the author. In the 41st stanza the one friend, according to this theory, is reproached for the treachery which is involved in the in
Again, in the 95th stanza we have these lines:
"How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame,
Which, like a canker in the fragrant rose, Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name!” And,
"O, what a mansion have those vices got, Which for their habitation chose out thee!"
Here are not only secret "vices," but "shame,” Tongues" make defacing the character.
on the story of his days. Is it to this person that in the 69th Sonnet we have these lines addressed ?—
"Those parts of thee that the world's eye doth view
Want nothing that the thought of hearts can' mend."
Is it to this person that the 70th Sonnet is devoted, in which are these remarkable words?—
"Thou present'st a pure unstained prime, Thou hast pass'd by the ambush of young days,
Either not assail'd, or victor being charg'd."
These lines, be it remembered, occur between ! the first reproof for licentiousness in the 41st stanza, and the repetition of the blame in the 95th. Surely, if the poem is to be taken as continuous, and as addressed to one person, such contradictions would make us believe that the whole is based on unreality, and that the poet was satisfied to utter the wildest inconsistencies, merely to produce verses of exquisite beauty, but of "true no-meaning."
The second point to which we would briefly request attention is the supposed date of the series of Sonnets. The date must, it is evi-, dent, be settled in some measure according to the presiding belief in the person to whom they are held to be addressed. Mr. Hallam, who thinks the hypothesis of William Herbert sufficiently proved to demand our assent,