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the personified spirit of beauty might take all its gifts away, and thus make him “most wretched."
That this is the true interpretation is made still more plain by the two closing lines of the Sonnet, to wit :
142. If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide, &c.
That is, if thou dost seek to have from the poet the praise which can only be the product of your own light in the soul, and yet dost “hide” that light, then, as the poet infers :
By self-example thou may'st be denied.
That is, plainly, the poet, as if in argument with the high ideal he addresses, and which he personifies for poetic purposes, contends that he may claim to be excused for having neglected the performance of the duty of praise, when the light, by which alone he can properly praise, is withheld ; in which, as he urges, he but follows the self-example of his ideal Beauty, whose visitations he has now discovered to be transitory, illusive, or deceptive.
In all this, and in most of the Sonnets, the Spirit of Beauty is simply personified, and then the poet holds seeming intercourse and conferences with it.
Ile glories in it; he praises it; he reasons with it; he deprecates its supposed anger; he complains of it, or of himself in relation to it; and yet he submits absolutely to it, as in the 89th and other Sonnets:
89. For thee, against myself, I'll vow debate,
For I must ne'er love him whom thou dost hate.
When the poet speaks of “ sin,” or of “sinning,” therefore, we are not to inter a specific form of world
The Beauty the poet sees commands his love, and his entire love (see Sonnet 40); and it follows that to love any other object separated from that, in which he saw his “all ” (Sonnet 109), is sin, precisely in accordance with the doctrine of the Scripture, where it is treated in the broadest language possible, as may be seen in the 16th chapter of Ezekiel, and in many other places, though it is commonly called going after false gods, where the language would as accurately express the truth, if it had been called going after false loves, all loves being false when pursued in oblivion of the one true love; which is no other than the love of God: and this, when truly conceived, is that love which St. Jobn defines as God—the love and the object becoming one.
No ordinary metaphysics or dialectics can deal properly with this subject, not from any imperfection in reason itself, but from the absence in so many of us of the facts of the soul necessary to a complete view of the case, and hence it is that so many writers have, when treating of it, resorted to figurative and symbolical language—as in the Sonnets attributed to Shakespeare. It is doing but common justice to own that, in the composition of the Sonnets, the poet's imagination, or rather his whole soul, was so completely occupied with the pure ideal, that it never once occurred to him, that in his mode of treating it, he was making himself obnoxious to accusations the most damaging to his reputation as a man; and it is ligh time that the reader of the Sonnets should be confronted with the maxim, honi soit qui mal ? pense.
Before closing this chapter the author of the Remarks observes, that the 152d Sonnet must have been written when the poet was under the most painful sense of his liability to lose the influence of the ideal, as we may see in the 87th Sonnet. Several of the Remarks in this and the preceding chapter will readily suggest explanations of this 152d Sonnet. The poet, in the opening lines of the Sonnet, accuses his Muse of having been “twice forsworn.” This means that, after first raising high hopes in him, as we may see in the 22d Sonnet, it had so far withdrawn itself as to produce the distress indicated in several of the Sonnets preceding the 119th, in which he celebrates the renewal of his love.
119. O benefit of ill! [says he,] now I find true
That better is by evil still made better;
So I return rebuked to my content,
Another, a second departure of the ideal, after this renewal of love, furnished the ground of the second line of the 152d Sonnet:
152. Thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing, &c.
The allusion to the “bed-vow” in the third line, has the sense already given (in this chapter) to the eighth line of the 142d Sonnet, the poet himself being the bed in which the ideal, the Muse, had impressed upon him the conviction of her truth and power, and which he figuratively calls a vow-a “bed-vow”—which, in his new distress, he says, has been broken a second time: but then the poet accuses himself as the “most perjured,” feeling that all of his vows were but oaths to misuse the Rose, or the perfect Beauty which he contemplated; which can have no other meaning, than that all of his vows, in reference to his Muse, contained in them some attribute or element out of harmony with that singleness of devotion which, in principle, the pure ideal demands. The unparticipated nature of the Rose is such, that, in a strict sense, as it is above all praise, so it rejects all service, having in view any other object than itself; and especially does it reject a service contaminated with an “uncertain sickly ap petite to please ” the world (Sonnet 147).
The poet deeply laments his self-love; for whỉ his cor ception of the ideal required its destruction there was in him too much of the merely human, to permit his perfect success, in his effort to come into conformity with his theory. He says, in Sonnet 62, 62. Sin of self-love possesses all mine eye,
And all my soul, and all my every part;
It is so grounded inward in my heari.