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Since my disgrace, I had of them no list,
The sonnets of Robert Tofte are in three parts of 40 sonnets each. In form they are not true sonnets, but alternate with twelve and ten lines. The odd numbers all have twelve lines, while the even numbers have ten lines throughout. The title is Laura, the same as Petrarch's.
If, Laura, thou dost turn 'gainst me in hate;
Whilst I do kiss that lovely lip of thine. This sonnet as compared with those of Petrarchists which are in the same vein, sounds quite boorish. And yet, if the Petrarchists intended theirs to apply to a woman's love, there is in meaning no difference between the two. How often is the reader required to wonder why a lover being granted indulgence should, threfore, be cast down into despair? or as Tofte expresses it, why should kissing breed his smart? and make him content to lose his life? Any less expression of substance than is contained in the foregoing sonnet, would not be a true paraphrase of that which was sought to be imitated. So, it is evident, that in a homely way Tofte has faithfully expressed the meaning of the sonnet or sonnets which it was his purpose to imitate.
Rocked in a cradle, like as infants be,
Two dainty dugs did nourish life in me;
Now, in my youth, doth death unto me give. Here, again, the two expressions are strictly parallel, and yet apparently incongruous. That which should nourish (and no reason given why it should not) proves to be a "poisoned sugared bait.” This anomaly is met throughout the Petrarchists' sonnets. Tofte's error, if he was in error, lies in taking their words at their face value, when in fact they were spurious.
My Laura wonders that, in visage pale,