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Sonnets > #152 In loving thee thou knowest I am forsworn

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message 1: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments Sonnet 152

In loving thee thou knowest I am forsworn,
But thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing:
In act thy bed-vow broke, and new faith torn
In vowing new hate after new love bearing.
But why of two oaths' breach do I accuse thee,
When I break twenty? I am perjured most,
For all my vows are oaths but to misuse thee,
And all my honest faith in thee is lost.
For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness,
Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy,
And to enlighten thee gave eyes to blindness,
Or made them swear against the thing they see.
For I have sworn thee fair: more perjured eye,
To swear against the truth so foul a lie!

message 2: by Martin (last edited May 25, 2017 12:53AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Am I going first again? Oh dear, this is a bad sign.

I will do as David used, and post the 1609 text, because the punctuation above is the Oxford editor's, and he arranges it to fix the two foreswearings of line 2. The original is more ambiguous,

The "eye" at the end of line 13, is often clumsily edited to "I".

Increasingly I find pairs of distinct meanings in each sonnet, especially when read out of context of the other sonnets.

The usual reading is of a man addressing a married woman of first breaking her vows to her husband, and then turning against the man. But it could be a man accusing his wife of being unfaithful to him, and then turning against her new lover.

message 3: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Martin, do you have any thoughts on Shakespeare's use of the words "forswear" and "forsworn." He seems to be very fond of these words (in his works generally, I mean, not just this poem).

Am I correct in thinking that we no longer use these words in the way Shakespeare did? The only time I ever use the words is in the sense of 'giving up' something.

Shakespeare clearly uses the words in a very different way, always (no?) suggesting a lie of some sort. At the same time, I'm often a little baffled--as if he has other things in mind as well. Some devious word play, maybe?

message 4: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments David, I think of you as the source of such wisdom . . . so I don't know why you ask me!

But the word is everywhere, isn't it? I'm not sure what it means today, but to S it meant "perjure" (lying on oath), and "perjure" is also used here -- line 6.

Running through the sonnets is the idea of the law court, where promises made between lovers might be judged. It can often slip by without you noticing it,

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past

This is very famous, but who realises that sessions means the sittings of courts of law. or summon up means the calling of witnesses?

I suppose the power of the law-court metaphor is that it reminded the 17th century Christian of the last judgement. There is similar use in Milton and Donne of course.

message 5: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Sorry Martin I'm fresh out of wisdom ㅋㅋ

Have you thought about posting the sonnets without their numbers? I ask because if the central idea is to consider the sonnets out of context, then the numbers can be a problem. In this sonnet, for example, readers might well know that 152 is the last sonnet of the group addressed to the so-called Dark Lady.

And when I think of this sonnet that way, and in light of all the court-room language, it's impossible not to put a lot of emphasis on the fact that this final sonnet comes to no sense of resolution. Or am I wrong? Do the last lines, in all their bitterness, suggest that the speaker is, at last, done with this love? Have the sessions of silent thought rendered a guilty verdict?

message 6: by Martin (last edited May 26, 2017 05:54AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments I think what is tending to happen now is that as we read more of the sonnets, the structure of the whole collection is becoming apparent, so that as well as seeing them as individual poems we can't ignore the relation of each one to the rest. And perhaps that is not a bad approach. Putting in the numbers really helps me organise the schedule, and of course the numbers have an interest of their own now (see sonnet 88).

As you say, 152 is the last of its group, and in a way, the last of the sonnets, since the "cupid" sonnets, 153 and 154, stand apart from the rest by their impersonal nature. And what a strange one to end with, since it gives no sense of an ending!

The only other sonnet sequence I have any familiarity with is Spenser's Amoretti. I looked at them again today, expecting a clear ending, but not finding one, in the last sonnet. Here it is ("culver" is an old name for a dove):

Like as the culver, on the barèd bough,
Sits mourning for the absence of her mate;
And, in her songs, sends many a wishful vow
For his return that seems to linger late:
So I alone, now left disconsolate,
Mourn to myself the absence of my love;
And, wandering here and there all desolate,
Seek with my plaints to match that mournful dove.
Ne joy of aught that under heaven doth hove,
Can comfort me, but her own joyous sight:
Whose sweet aspect both God and man can move,
In her unspotted pleasance to delight.
Dark is my day, whiles her fair light I miss,
And dead my life that wants such lively bliss.

This is not meant to be love ending with a permanent separation, but rather a period apart. The "Epithalamion" which follows describes the wedding.

Now for some confusion: Wikipedia says there are 89 sonnets in the Amoretti, but in my edition this last sonnet is number 88, and I trust its numbering. It was in studying Spenser that T P Roche developed the idea that the sonnet numbers carry special meanings.

Something else of interest is that the Amoretti are followed by four "cupid" poems, just as 152 is followed by the two "cupid" sonnets. Here is the first of Spenser's four poems,

In youth before I waxèd old,
The blind boy, Venus' baby,
For want of cunning made me bold,
In bitter hive to grope for honey:
But when he saw me stung and cry,
He tooke his wings and away did fly.

After which, I suppose, the Epithalamion matches the Lover's Complaint. The Amoretti volume with all these poems came out in 1595, 14 years before S's sonnets.

message 7: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments I'd forgotten about the value of the numbers, at least for those who are finding the numbers symbolically significant.

I've never more than sampled Spenser's sonnet sequence, but I have to say that the one you quote certainly reminds me of Shakespeare in almost every line--not so much Sonnet 152 but the sonnets overall.

And how curious it is that the Amoretti are followed by Cupid poems--again, the one you quote greatly reminds me (in tone, at least) of the final two sonnets in Shakespeare's sequence.

Re your concluding remark, are you of the belief that Shakespeare's sonnets were WRITTEN shortly before they were published in 1609?

message 8: by Martin (last edited May 29, 2017 03:54AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments I think he must have started writing them early on. Proof: Francis Meres mentions the sonnets in 1598. These must be the same as the ones we know, because the pirated Passionate Pilgrim of 1599 contains no sonnets other than a couple of the 1609 ones and some from the plays. (In other words, Meres was not referring to lost sonnets, with the ones we have being composed later.) The ones to the woman seem much "easier" -- earlier. So one suspects a long period of composition.

Did I not quote the date estimates from Burrow's Oxford edition?

1-60: 1595-6 (possibly revised later)
61-103: 1594-5
104-26: 1598-1604
127-54: 1591-5

This is plausible. 104-26 are the hardest, and reading them sequentially I felt was like climbing a mountain. The sonnets after 127 are much easier. 145 seems very early; 113 late.

LC Knights guessed they were all written by about 1597. But the late publication does suggest time taken with editing and revision, and time enough for S to make adjustments to reflect, for example, the influence of Spenser.

I used to think S's sonnets were in answer to Spenser's. Spenser's are smooth, morally proper, carefully integrated, directed and even in texture. S seems (or seemed then) somewhat the opposite.

message 9: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments I've never seen anyone break down conjectured dates to specific sonnets, or specific groups of sonnets. Did Burrows come up with the dates you mention, or he is simply reporting a widely-held belief?

I'll have to keep that dating in mind the next time I read the sonnets straight through. I can't say I noticed any big differences the first time I read them in sequence--I was having much too much trouble understanding the things!

For some (now forgotten) reason I had it in my head that the majority of the sonnets had been written earlier, perhaps about the same time as "Venus and Adonis" (1593) and "Lucrece" (the following year?).

I do agree that those numbered 104 to 126 are the hardest, by far. Ever heard any theories as to why that might be?

I'm not familiar enough with Spenser to offer up any informed opinion, but as I mentioned the tone of the two poems you quoted seemed very much like the tone in many of Shakespeare's sonnets--almost a little too similar, truth to tell.

message 10: by Martin (last edited May 27, 2017 09:50AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Burrow's dates are based on "latest research", but he's a bit vague . . . the idea is to compare the sonnets with the plays and look for vocabulary overlap. If the sonnets get harder as S grows older (not an unreasonable assumption) it would explain why 104-126 are a struggle. Perhaps it's not all so important, but it did interest me that sonnet 1 was probably not written first.

Meanwhile, where is the gang?

The sonnet itelf we've barely touched . . .

Question: do "swear", "oath" carry a connotation of bad language, as well as the language appropriate to the most serious and solemn of occasions?

message 11: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
Spencer's sonnets are 89? That times 4 is a an older calendar measurement of a leap year.

message 12: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
My first impression on this Sonnet is somewhat like a Kafka feeling. Our potential for self-guilt It seems to me this poem is an excellent argument on why not to have an affair. If we thought we could be happier with a different person than we married...great. But the dirty truth is....we probably can't get happiness from changing marriages. Whatever was unhappy about a first marriage....would be taken into the next relationship.

Unless someone changed themselves.

This idea of a jury and court is so oppressive. It's as if we need the court in order to sort out the emotions involved involve. As if we crave someone to take our side....because love and broken hearts can never resolve themselves. There are people who still have feelings for relationships and people they may never ever see again. There really ins't any actual justice when it comes to love or the feelings invested in relationships. All logic is useless.

message 13: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
Please forgive me for being late to the discussion...I had a very distracting week and was not able to make time. And worse...found myself without focus or concentration so it was hard to focus on reading.

I think I am back on track now.

message 14: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments I think they are 88, which, like S's 154 and the master numbers is a multiple of 11 !


message 15: by Candy (last edited May 27, 2017 11:12AM) (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod

4 times in the sonnets (in sonnet 88 as well as this one)
17 times in LLL

message 16: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments It's not clear to me why we should read the sonnet as a comment on an extramarital affair. Why does the sonnet have anything necessarily to do with marriage?

Seems to me that the speaker is accusing the beloved (if that's the right word) of infidelity, and perhaps admitting infidelity on his (or her) own part. The end result is regret and bitterness, particularly bitterness at how easily we can deceive ourselves. Who hasn't been there? It is with folly we ignore, as ignore we do, the old Greek maxim γνῶθι σεαυτόν carved into Apollo's temple at Delphi.

message 17: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments PS I think there's little doubt Shakespeare intended a pun with that "more perjured eye" phrase in line 13.

message 18: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Those poems of Spenser's that you posted Martin are so much easier to understand than S's... and this poem is no exception. I really am starting to believe S isn't writing for an audience, but for either himself alone, or for the understanding of the one other, lover? They seem to be about events or occurrences that are invisible to us, but clearly must make sense to somebody, even if its only S himself (else why write them?).

message 19: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
Yes, David, good point about my focusing on marriage/ I don't see any reason to believe this poem is about marriage....I used to the term marriage to overreach and represent a relationship with a promised fidelity. I don't think it has to be marriage...I was just being politically correct LOL

message 20: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
Janice, I love your question. My answer is that the poems are written in a specific technical language....for anyone else who understands his technical language. He is writing with the confidence that someone else will understand and be fluent and be able to utilize these poems.

And...for those readers who like a love story, of course.

message 21: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments John Heffernan reading Sonnet 152 (from an iPad app, I think):

message 22: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod

message 23: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments I agree: heavy! I think the reader has well captured the tone of the sonnet, at least how I understand it. Most of the time, truth be told, I think Shakespeare has one eyebrow raised and is never as serious as the speaker (be that speaker a character in a play or the speaker of a sonnet). But in this sonnet (and a few others, I concede) there is not a single lighthearted note.

I wonder if Wordsworth (famous for calling the sonnets the key to Shakespeare's heart) ever commented on this specific sonnet.

message 24: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments Great posts everyone! meanwhile I am carving "γνῶθι σεαυτόν" on the garden bench . . .

message 25: by Martin (last edited May 29, 2017 03:59AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments The reason "forsworn" has seemed like a common word, although it comes only 4 times in just 3 sonnets, is that the three sonnets are among those we've read: -- 66, 88, 152. So . . . no more "forsworns" from here on!

Like Candy, loved Janice's question. It opens up so many avenues of thought. The sonnets are like letters*, some even describe themselves as letters. A letter from A to B will often contain things that only A and B understand. If B is a projection of A, then they will contain things private to A. Again like Finnegans Wake -- Joyce was always its best reader.

It is of course possible that S wrote the sonnets for all, but cast them into a shape where it would seem that they were intended for single readers.

* though not always: 66 for example.

message 26: by Candy (last edited May 29, 2017 05:22AM) (new)

Candy | 2604 comments Mod
I thought using "forsworn" four times in the Sonnets was more than enough! Once would have been plenty

And then to see how many times it is in LLL was quite a shock. Obviously this is a topic S really wanted to bring to the fore and examine.

message 27: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) David wrote: "John Heffernan reading Sonnet 152 (from an iPad app, I think):"

Well done. So, clearly (to me) this poem is about cheating and betrayal, the pot calling the kettle black, and great disappointment.

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