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Sonnets > #150 O, from what power hast thou this powerful might

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message 1: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments Sonnet 150

O, from what power hast thou this powerful might
With insufficiency my heart to sway?
To make me give the lie to my true sight,
And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?
Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of thy deeds
There is such strength and warrantize of skill
That in my mind thy worst all best exceeds?
Who taught thee how to make me love thee more,
The more I hear and see just cause of hate?
O, though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou shouldst not abhor my state.
If thy unworthiness raised love in me,
More worthy I to be beloved of thee.


message 2: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) "Whence hast thou this becoming of things ill,
That in the very refuse of thy deeds
There is such strength and warrantize of skill
That in my mind thy worst all best exceeds?"

The key word phrase clue in this poem (for me) is "strength and warrantize of skill." I was trying to figure out why S would love someone hateful, but with this line I get the impression whoever he is talking about (and possibly himself) is someone who thinks and acts out of the box, outside the rules of manners and tradition, etc. A rebel maybe. Hated by others because they fear the new and unknown, but loved by S for those very reasons.

The obsolete definition of "warrantize" from one google source means "to guarantee," which makes sense in this sentence.


message 3: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Henry Woudhuysen reading Sonnet 150 (again from the iPad app).

https://vimeo.com/44740073


message 4: by Martin (last edited Jun 09, 2017 06:12AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments Of course, we're not told what the deeds of the loved person are that provoked this reaction: we can't form a judgement of our own, but only hear the one in the poem.

"warrantize" is puzzling certainly. Does it not suggest a granted power to some official? An officer with an arrest warrant might be called "warrantized". To sway is to rule. But what is "insufficiency"?

With insufficiency my heart to sway --

Insufficient in not having received the necessary warrant perhaps? There is the idea of someone under state control challenging the state's right to act against him.

But the chain of words lie -- ill -- refuse (as a noun) --worst -- hate -- abhor to me suugest accusations of bad behaviour that go well beyond rebelliousness.

"To make me give the lie to my true sight,
And swear that brightness doth not grace the day?"

There is something of the old saying that "love is blind" here. But also, light is from God, and so is part of God's grace. ("Hail holy light, offspring of heaven first born"), although "brightness" may remind us more of the Koran (Surah 93). It is not just that the loved one may be dark, the lover is also being taken away from God.


message 5: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Martin wrote: "But the chain of words lie -- ill -- refuse (as a noun) --worst -- hate -- abhor to me suugest accusations of bad behaviour that go well beyond rebelliousness...."

Yes, there is that possibility, he seems to hint at some real darkness. But then why does he say:

"O, though I love what others do abhor,
With others thou shouldst not abhor my state.
If thy unworthiness raised love in me,
More worthy I to be beloved of thee. "

... as if the unworthy act itself engendered the love. This last bit, however, is more about S asking why his love is unrequited.


message 6: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments I see a certain bitter ambiguity in the last line, which might be saying "You and me, we really do deserve each other."

Some speculation:

Isn't it interesting how, in reading a sonnet, we try to construct for ourselves a background narrative that will fit the feelings that are being expressed? I do it all the time. Is it because we are so used to reading novels? I've often thought that the main problem for modern readers in tackling one of the plays is the constant need to give explanations of motive and descriptions of character that are part of the novel, because they are revealed in the narrative, but which don't exist in drama at all.

Example from a novel: in Proust, we see M's love for Albertine entirely through M's eyes. Just occasionally we're shown how she's seen by others. Francoise the maid hates her with a vengeance. M shows her photograph to Saint-Loup. Saint-Loup is obviously astonished that someone of M's character can fall for such an insignificant creature. These are small details in an "internalised" narrative of several hundred pages, but they make concrete the way others see the M-Albertine relationship. In the sonnet we have,

"I love what others do abhor"

"others" could be just two people, one a friend, the other a servant, or they could be a whole crowd. Perhaps it is this need for context that led to the endless spinning of theories to create a real "story", involving S and others who must have existed as real people in the London of the late 16th century. (Even the identity of "rival poet", an obvious invention, has been the subject of endless speculation.)

It leads to the question, is this part of S's plan? Are the sonnets intended to give us this sense of a tantalising mystery of what was really going on, so that in reading them we might be expected to create a background story about them?


message 7: by Janice (JG) (new)

Janice (JG) Martin wrote: "It leads to the question, is this part of S's plan? Are the sonnets intended to give us this sense of a tantalising mystery of what was really going on, so that in reading them we might be expected to create a background story about them? ..."

For me, poetry - even if it is entirely personal and subjective to the poet (as many of S's sonnets seem to be) - has to have some sense of the universal, and that usually means that I, as a reader, am able to imagine a scenario where the emotions evoked in the poem seem valid.

That means I have to fall back on my own experience, because of course I can't possibly know what was in S's mind when he wrote anything, including the sonnets. But if I am able to find something in my own experience that evokes some of the same responses, reactions, and feelings as are in the poem, then as far as I'm concerned this is a successful poem.

I think looking for a possible background story is how we can relate more deeply with our own experience. I would imagine that S understood that his responses to an event or circumstance were universal enough to justify a subjective piece of poetry. In fact, I'm sure of it, because when I read the plays, I can see clearly that S has a wonderful understanding of the human condition and how humans respond to the world and to each other... this is why we love reading the plays and enjoying their characters and plotlines 600 years later.


message 8: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Martin wrote: "I see a certain bitter ambiguity in the last line, which might be saying "You and me, we really do deserve each other.""

Yes, a very good way of summing it up.

As for your other point, about the possible influence of novels, it's a very intriguing idea. As far as I can tell, Shakespeare did not really intend for his plays to be read--only seen and heard. And the way we react to something on stage, something we hear only once and then it's straight on to another speech or another scene, well, we just don't react the way we do when we are sitting at home reading at a leisurely pace. Shakespeare, I grow more and more convinced, was intent on offering up the sound and the fury, or the sound and the delight--but not the backstory, not the biographies of his characters (the way so many novels, especially of the 18th and 19th centuries, did). As has been famously noted, we never learn how many children the Macbeths had.


message 9: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments Shakespeare seems to have been fond of the expression "give the lie to" (recall Hamlet's soliloquy in Act 2: " Gives me the lie i' th' throat
As deep as to the lungs? Who does me this?").

Does anyone know if the expression is still used in modern English?


message 10: by Martin (new)

Martin | 18 comments I have not heard it used. It is of course the refrain at the end of each stanza of Raleigh's "The Lie",

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem...


message 11: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments A very bold poem, wouldn't you say? Much more direct in its boldness than anything Shakespeare wrote, it seems to me. And I love the first line's calling the soul "the body's guest."

I wonder if the poem had anything to do with landing Raleigh in The Tower.


message 12: by Martin (last edited Jun 12, 2017 08:14AM) (new)

Martin | 18 comments The legend is that it was written while he was awaiting execution. I have the "Muse's library" edition of the Raleigh poems, and there seems to be a lot of uncertainty as to which poems he did and didn't write, and when and why he wrote them. Some are most mysterious (and very Elizabethan in that respect). "The Lie" is truly extraordinary.

"Say to the court, it glows
And shines like rotten wood"

Apparently rotting wood can glow in the dark - a phosphorous effect. see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foxfire


message 13: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments But I don't think Raleigh meant that glowing wood in any positive way. The lines that follow are priceless:

Say to the church, it shows
What’s good, and doth no good.
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie.

Small wonder that a legend sprung up that he wrote the thing on death row.


message 14: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2636 comments Mod
I don't think we apply meaning and seek to add more and more background info from within us because of novels and our novel reading.

I think we do this because we are "meaning machines." Our brains obsessively seek and create meaning. The reason poet is such an expert is because the poet capitalizes on ambiguity as a device to push the "power button" on the meaning machine.

It is probably not possible to take two different images and put them together as a diptych....and not find a connection between them. The brain is going to create polarities and create connections and meaning.


Great discussion in this thread!!!!!


message 15: by DavidE (new)

DavidE (shaxton) | 358 comments "Meaning machines"--I love it! And it's spot on, I'd say.


message 16: by JimF (new)

JimF | 207 comments The rain started on the 17th day of the second month, and Noah's ark rested on Ararat on the 17th day of the seventh month. The powerful flood lasted for 150 days.

"According to Leon Kass, 17 has some significant meaning (as yet not known exactly) in the book of Genesis." —
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/17_(num...

Shakespeare knew that significant meaning and applied it to sonnets (17, 150) and plays. In As You Like It, Touchstone tells William, "I will kill thee a hundred and fifty ways." The word Ark appears only once in Shakespeare by Jaques.

JAQUES.
There is sure another flood toward,
and these couples are coming to the Ark.

In the play, Frederick is the flood, Forest of Arden the Ark. The Ark protects only couples, so the play joins Rosalind and Orlando, Celia and Oliver, Audrey and Touchstone, Phoebe and Silvius.

The "powerful might" in line 1 of sonnet 150 is the flood. Poets must hide in some place like the Ark.

Sonnet 150

OH from what powre hast thou this powrefull might, [01]
With insufficiency my heart to sway,
To make me giue the lie to my true sight,
And swere that brightnesse doth not grace the day?

Whence hast thou this becomming of things il, [05]
That in the very refuse of thy deeds,
There is such strength and warrantise of skill,
That in my minde thy worst all best exceeds?

Who taught thee how to make me loue thee more, [09]
The more I heare and see iust cause of hate,
Oh though I loue what others doe abhor,
With others thou shouldst not abhor my state.

If thy vnworthinesse raisd loue in me, [13]
More worthy I to be belou’d of thee.


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