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Sonnets > Sonnet 125, Week 128, August 6

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message 1: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
Were't aught to me I bore the canopy,
With my extern the outward honouring,
Or laid great bases for eternity,
Which proves more short than waste or ruining?
Have I not seen dwellers on form and favour
Lose all and more by paying too much rent
For compound sweet, forgoing simple savour,
Pitiful thrivers, in their gazing spent?
No; let me be obsequious in thy heart,
And take thou my oblation, poor but free,
Which is not mixed with seconds, knows no art,
But mutual render, only me for thee.
Hence, thou suborned informer! a true soul
When most impeached stands least in thy control.


message 2: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments I'm sorry the sonnet posts don't get more traction. When I began the series, I think I underestimated the struggle people would have in getting their basic sense. Looking at it now, after over two years running, I do see that it is harder to understand each sonnet when taken out of context of the ones surrounding it, but it is certainly not impossible. S is often obscure, but never as maddeningly so as many of the great poets of the 20th century.

This one, on first reading, does seem rather opaque does it not? One sees the broad meaning, that the later slanders of the person loved do not hurt the love itself when it was real, but the detail is difficult. I do find the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) always useful. So "obsequious" does not mean "sycophantic", but showing a pious duty to the dead, coming from "obsequies", as in "Keep the obsequy so strict" of the phoenix & turtle.

More important is "canopy", whic started off meaning a bed covering to keep off the mosquitoes ("konops" is Greek for mosquito), and now means any sort of covering, but in S's time meant the covering for a religous object. Similar to the word "baldacchino".

For example,



The love, or the person loved, is the religious object, the poet is the canopy-bearer who shows it off. He is like a religious devotee. The lines

Or laid great bases for eternity,
Which proves more short than waste or ruining

suggests to me the loss of religious faith. Religious faith gives the sense of linking to God's eternity: if faith evaporates the eternity shrinks to the time span of discarded rubbish.


message 3: by Candy (new)

Candy | 2557 comments Mod
This exploration of canopy is amazing Martin. So good to see you here.

And it's so funny a few weeks ago I went down a rabbit hole of "pitchy mantle" in Henry VI.

The mantle is a sort of canopy and the night sky was considered a mantle or canopy in Shakespeares time. This canopy also is related to Mithra cults in my inion where one can still see underground spaces with stars painted in fresco on the curved ceilings.

I can't answer to the idea that reading the sonnets in order versus out of order is good or bad.

I believe most people only become familiar or read just one or two sonnets in their whole lives. A classroom might pull one sonnet to get young students to read. Is it not possible the general approach is always out of order?

For me....this has been a very successful exercise. I read them one by one....sometimes stopping to analyze in writing here sometimes not. But over all I have been slowly reading these sonnets....and I am not sure I would have read them at all if it weren't for this exercise or experiment we have conducted here....under and responding to your initial inspiration.

For me no experiment is a failure. There is always something to be learned.

For all we know...we might after this experiment is "completed" and we read or post the last out of order sonnet....maybe we will turn around and post each one IN ORDER week by week


Who knows?


message 4: by Martin (new)

Martin | 16 comments I do agree. I have had the experience of reading the sonnets right through, and also reading a large sample in random order with S fans, picking up on the many and varied comments of the other readers, and I have no doubt that I got so much more from the second approach. It is worth looking again at Meres' sentence out of Palladis Tamia, the first ever reference to the sonnets, and as far as I know the only one made in S's lifetime.

"As the soul of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras: so the sweet witty soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous and honey-tongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his Lucrece, his sugared sonnets among his private friends."

Meres certainly deserves credit for seeing the link from Ovid to S, so much so that he suggests S is Ovid reincarnated, but especially interesting is the insight it gives us as to how the sonnets were first read. Meres was writing long before the sonnets were published. And the sonnets are thought to have been written over a long period. We get the picture of S writing them singly or in small groups and handing them out to be read inside an intimate circle. Meres himself must either have been part of this circle, or close enough to it to know of its existence. Its members could not have known then, and some probably never did know, that the sonnets would eventually find their way into a formally arranged publication as a numbered sequence.

If members of this circle met to talk about the sonnets then S fans has been trying to do what they were doing 450 years ago, which is not a bad example to follow.


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