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The Sonnet which precedes this has also the marked character of the same respectful affection; and, like the 26th, in all probability accompanied some offering of friendship :
Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlook'd for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread,
But as the marigold at the sun's eye ;
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil'd,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toild :
Then happy I, that love and am belov'd,
Where I may not remove, nor be remov d.-25. Again, the 23rd Sonnet is precisely of the same character. All these appear to us wholly unconnected with the poems which surround them-little gems, perfect in themselves, and wanting no setting to add to their beauty :
As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own heart;
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love's rite,
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharg'd with burthen of mine own love's might.
O let my books be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast ;
Who plead for love, and look for recompence,
More than that tongue that more hath more express'd.
O learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit.--23.
Between the 23rd and 25th Sonnets, which we have just given-remarkable as they are for the most exquisite simplicity of thought and diction-occurs the following conceit :
eye hath play'd the paiuter, and hath stelld
Thy beauty's form in table of my heart;
My body is the frame wherein 't is held,
And perspective it is best painter's art.
For through the painter must you see his skill,
To find where your true image pictur'd lies,
Which in my bosom's shop is hanging still,
That hath his windows glazed with thine eyes.
Now see what good turns eyes for eyes have done;
Mine eyes have drawn thy shape, and thine for me
Are windows to my breast, where-through the sun
Delights to peep, to gaze therein on thee;
Yet eyes this cunning want to grace their art,
They draw but what they see, know not the heart.—24.
But, separated by a long interval, we find two variations of the air, entirely out of place wbere they occur. Can we doubt that these three form one little poem of themselves!
Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war,
How to divide the conquest of thy sight;
Mine eye my heart thy picture's sight would bar,
My heart mine eye the freedom of that right.
My heart doth plead, that thou in him dost lie,
(A closet never pierc'd with crystal eyes,)
But the defendant doth that plea deny,
And says in him thy fair appearance lies.
To 'cide this title is impannelled
A quest of thoughts, all tenants to the heart;
And by their verdict is determined
The clear eye's moiety, and the dear heart's part :
As thus; mine eye's due is thine outward part,
And my heart's right thine inward love of heart.-46.
Betwixt mine eye and heart a league is took,
And each doth good turns now unto the other :
When that mine eye is famish'd for a look,
Or heart in love with sighs himself doth smother,
With my love's picture then my eye doth feast,
And to the painted banquet bids my
Another time mine eye is my heart's guest,
And in his thoughts of love doth share a part :
So, either by thy picture or my love,
Thyself away art present still with me;
For thou not farther than my thoughts canst move,
And I am still with them, and they with thee;
Or if they sleep, thy picture in my sight
Awakes my heart to heart's and eye's delight.—-47.
The 77th Sonnet interrupts
continuity of a poem which we shall presently give, in which the writer refers, with some appearance of jealousy, to an “alien pen." There can be no doubt that this Sonnet is completely isolated. It is clearly intended to accompany the present of a note-book :
Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,
Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste;
The vacant leaves thy mind's imprint will bear,
And of this book this learning mayst thou taste.
The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show,
Of moutbed graves will give thee memory ;
Thou by thy dial's shady stealth mayst know
Time's thievish progress to eternity.
Look, what thy memory cannot contain,
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find
Those children nurs'd, deliver'd from thy brain,
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.
These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
Shall profit thee, and much enrich thy book.—77.
The 76th to the 87th Sonnets (omitting the 77th and 8lst) have been held to refer to a particular event in the poetical career of Shakspere. He expresses something like jealousy of a rival poet--a “ better spirit.” By some, Spenser is sup. posed to be alluded to; by others, Daniel. But we do not accept these stanzas as a proof that William Herbert is the person always addressed in these Sonnets, for the alleged reason that Daniel was patronised by the Pembroke family, and that, in 1601, he dedicated a book to William Herbert, to which Shakspere is held to allude in the 82nd Sonnet, by the expression “ dedicated words." This is Mr. Boaden's theory. One of the Sonnets, supposed also to refer to William Herbert as “ a man right fair," was published in 1599, when the young nobleman was only nineteen years of age. But in the stanzas which relate to some poetical rivalry, real or imaginary, the person addressed has
" added feathers to the learned's wing, And given grace a double majesty."
as fair in knowledge as in hue."
The praises of the “lovely boy," be he William Herbert or not, are always confined to bis personal appearance and his good nature. There is a quiet tone about the following which separates them from the Sonnets addressed to that “unknown youth;" and yet they may be as unreal as we believe most of those to be :
Why is my verse so barren of new pride?
So far from variation or quick change ?
Why, with the time, do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent :
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.-76.
So oft have I invok'd thee for my muse,
And found such fair assistance in my verse,
As every alien pen hath got my use,
And under thee their poesy disperse.
Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing,
And heavy ignorance aloft to fly,
Have added feathers to the learned's wing,
And given grace a double majesty.
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is thine, and born of thee :
In others' works thou dost but mend the style,
And arts with thy sweet graces graced be;
But thou art all my art, and dost advance
As high as learning my rude ignorance.—78.
Whilst I alone did call upon thy aid,
My verse alone had all thy gentle grace;
But now my gracious numbers are decay'd,
And my sick muse doth give another place.
I grant, sweet love, thy lovely argument
Deserves the travail of a worthier pen ;
Yet what of thee thy poet doth invent,
He robs thee of, and pays it thee again.
He lends thee virtue, and he stole that word
From thy behaviour; beauty doth he give,
And found it in thy cheek; he can afford
No praise to thee but what in thee doth live.
Then thank him not for that which he doth say,
Since what he owes thee thou thyself dost pay.—79.
0, how I faint when I of you do write,
Knowing a better spirit doth use your name,
And in the praise thereof spends all his might,
To make me tongue-tied, speaking of your fame !
But since your worth (wide, as the ocean is)
The humble as the proudest sail doth bear,
My saucy bark, inferior far to his,
On your broad main doth wilfully appear.
Your shallowest help will hold me up afloat,
Whilst he upon your soundless deep doth ride;
Or, being wreck’d, I am a worthless boat,
He of tall building, and of goodly pride :
Then if he thrive, and I be cast away,
The worst was this ;-my love was my decay.-80.
I grant thou wert not married to my muse,
And therefore mayst without attaint o'erlook
The dedicated words which writers use
Of their fair subject, blessing every book.
Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue,
Finding thy worth a limit past my praise ;
And therefore art enforc'd to seek anew
Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days.
And do so, love ; yet when they have devis'd
What strained touches rhetoric can lend,
Thou truly fair wert truly sympathiz'd
In true plain words, by thy true-telling friend;
And their gross painting might be better us’d
Where cheeks need blood; in thee it is abus'd.--82.
I never saw that you did painting need,
And therefore to your fair no painting set.
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
The barren tender of a poet's debt:
And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself, being extant, well might show
How far a modern quill doth come too short,
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow.
This silence for my sin you did impute,
Which shall be most my glory, being dumb;
For I impair not beauty being mute,
When others would give life, and bring a tomb.
There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Tban both your poets can in praise devise.—83.
Who is it that says most? which can say more
Than this rich praise,--that you alone are you?
In whose confine immured is the store
Which should example where your equal grew.
Lean penury within that pen doth dwell,
That to his subject lends not some small glory;
But he that writes of you, if he can tell
That you are you, so dignifies his story,
Let him but copy what in you is writ,
Not making worse what nature inade so clear,
And such a counterpart shall fame his wit,
Making his style admired everywhere.
You to your beauteous blessings add a curse,
Being fond on praise, which makes your praises worse.—84. My tongue-tied muse in manners holds her still, While comments of your praise, richly compil'd, Reserve their character with golden quill, And precious phrase by all the muses fild. I think good thoughts, while others write good words, And, like unletter'd clerk, still cry “ Amen" To every hymn that able spirit affords, In polish'd form of well-refined pen. Hearing you prais'd, I say, “ 'T is so, 't is true," And to the most of praise add something more; But that is in my thought, whose love to you Though words come hindmost, holds bis rank before.
Then others for the breath of words respect,
Me for my dumb thoughts, speaking in effect.-85.
Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
Bound for the prize of all-too-precious you,
That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew ?
Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?
No, neither he, nor his compeers by night
Giving him aid, my verse astonished.
He, nor that affable familiar ghost
Which nightly gulls him with intelligence,