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ConnieAnnKirk
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Shakespeare's Sonnets

[ Edited ]

Maybe we can begin our month-long consideration of Shakespeare's sonnets with the first one. 

 

Sonnet #1:

 

From fairest creatures we desire increase,

That thereby beauty's rose might never die,

But, as the riper should by time decease,

His tender heir might bear his memory.

But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes

Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,

Making a famine where abundance lies,

thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.

Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament

And only herald to the gaudy spring

Within thine own bud buriest thy content

And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding.

   Pity the world, or else this glutton be--

   To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee. 

 

 

***

 

 

There is a shift in the poem after the opening 4 lines.

 

What is the shift, as you read it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Message Edited by ConnieK on 03-30-2009 11:36 AM
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la_rose
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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

The tone turns from praise to scorn.  What is the object of his praise does appear disinterested, seeking affection in their vainity than rather with him.
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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets


la_rose wrote:
The tone turns from praise to scorn.  What is the object of his praise does appear disinterested, seeking affection in their vainity than rather with him.

 

Welcome, la_rose!  I agree that the object seems more interested in his/her own beauty.  The opening lines of the poem seem to say something about beauty that will be passed down to heirs.

 

Anyone--what is the speaker uptight about in the shift?  Is he warning the person in the poem about something?

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Laurel
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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

There is a shift in the poem after the opening 4 lines.

 

What is the shift, as you read it?

 

The poem shifts from general to specific and from positive to negative.

 

The general principle is that we want beautiful things to reproduce so that they will live on in the memory of their offspring and in the memory of them that their offspring brings to our minds. This is, of course, a positive desire.

 

The specific example spoken of in lines 5-14 is of a beautiful person who spends all his time admiring himself in the mirror rather than going about with what is needed to reproduce himself for the world's admiration and betterment for years to come. This the speaker sees as a negative.


ConnieK wrote:

Maybe we can begin our month-long consideration of Shakespeare's sonnets with the first one. 

 

Sonnet #1:

 

From fairest creatures we desire increase,

That thereby beauty's rose might never die,

But, as the riper should by time decease,

His tender heir might bear his memory.

But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes

Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,

Making a famine where abundance lies,

thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.

Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament

And only herald to the gaudy spring

Within thine own bud buriest thy content

And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding.

   Pity the world, or else this glutton be--

   To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee. 

 

 

***

 

 

There is a shift in the poem after the opening 4 lines.

 

What is the shift, as you read it?

 


 

 

 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Benedict3
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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

What a sad poem.

We naturally see beauty in things around us.  Once we see the beauty, we often like to share and describe the beauty that we see and experience with our offspring.  But the vehicle that we use to describe the beauty that we experience as individuals is intellectual communication; which is transferred from one persons memory of what beauty is to another persons memory and understanding of what was communicated.

Once this, good intentioned information is communicated; a ‘concept’ of beauty is now intellectualized within the heir.  In this way, all the nature around the heir is compared to the concept of what beauty is, instead of simply experiencing Nature and being aware of what generates the sensation of witnessing beauty directly.

With the concept of what beauty is, we starve ourselves of the beauty of Nature that is around us.

The shift that I see within this poem is from witnessing beauty for the first time and in the moment within Nature, to holding a memory of a concept of what beauty is, then comparing all subsequent experiences to that memory.  And worse, when the memory and concept is created through communication and not through ones own experiences, and that delivered concept is what prevents us from experiencing the sensation of the beauty of Nature.

What a sad poem, written about a man who only wants to share his view of what is beautiful to his son.

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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

An interesting reading, Benedict.  So, you take the "heir" to be a metaphor and not a literal heir of a beautiful person?  What makes you read it that way?
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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

Sonnet 2:

 

 

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow

And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,

Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,

Will be a tattered weed of small worth held.

Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,

Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,

To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes

Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.

How much more praise deserved thy beauty's use

If thou couldst answer "This fair child of mine

Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,"

Proving his beauty by succession thine.

   This were to be new made when thou art old

   And see thy blood warm when thous feel'st it cold.

 

 

 

***

 

Do you sense a yearning or longing in this poem?  Is the speaker admonishing the person of beauty for something?

 

~ConnieAnnKirk




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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

An interesting reading, Benedict.  So, you take the "heir" to be a metaphor and not a literal heir of a beautiful person?  What makes you read it that way?
 
~ConnieK

Heir:  One who inherits or is entitled to inherit another’s property, title, etc

What makes me read it that way you ask?   My comments stem simply from the way that I feel as I read it, as any poem may do; words transgressing intellectualization touching the emotions.  Well at least that would be an ideal.

With respect to the poem, I don’t think of the word ‘heir’ as a metaphor, but the property being handed down is the concept of what beauty is.  As though ‘beauty’ itself is a noun.

I do not want to inherit someone else’s ideas of what beauty is, however I like it when others share their ideas of what makes them experience the witnessing of beauty.  I don’t want an intellectual concept to supplant my visceral experience during my own witnessing of beauty.

To be blind to my humanism by the blockage of a concept is a bummer.

When we feel an experience of something beautiful, we have a tendency to want to share that experience with loved ones.  When that desire to describe that good experience changes from a description of the experience of the witnessing of beauty to a description of a concept of what beauty is, the information moves from subjective sharing to dogmatic imposing.  But the line can be so thin between the two.  It is odd, but the more we consider this concept the more we see that the thinner the line is, the deeper it separates visceral experience of beauty from living through a concept of what beauty is.

There is no more beautiful thing besides the humanistic joy of a man sharing his observations of beauty with his son.  Unfortunately, that fathers desire to share, creates the blindness of the child to his own experience.  A very good mouse trap.  Can’t think of building a better one.

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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets


Benedict3 wrote:

Heir:  One who inherits or is entitled to inherit another’s property, title, etc

What makes me read it that way you ask?   My comments stem simply from the way that I feel as I read it, as any poem may do; words transgressing intellectualization touching the emotions.  Well at least that would be an ideal.

With respect to the poem, I don’t think of the word ‘heir’ as a metaphor, but the property being handed down is the concept of what beauty is.  As though ‘beauty’ itself is a noun.


But you're not reading 'heir' as meaning the son or daughter of the addressee, right?  A literal heir? 

 

Also:  Does the poem itself not have its own beauty that can be experienced firsthand, in the here and now? 

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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

[ Edited ]

Sonnet 2:

 

 

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow

And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,

Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,

Will be a tattered weed of small worth held.

Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,

Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,

To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes

Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.

How much more praise deserved thy beauty's use

If thou couldst answer "This fair child of mine

Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,"

Proving his beauty by succession thine.

   This were to be new made when thou art old

   And see thy blood warm when thous feel'st it cold.

 

 

 

***

 

Do you sense a yearning or longing in this poem?  Is the speaker admonishing the person of beauty for something?

 


Sonnet #2 seems to me to be another plea by the speaker to this person of beauty to have a child and pass that beauty on.  It's almost as though the speaker longs for the beauty to continue in a youthful state, not to get wrinkled and old.  I have to say, though, that I've seen some beautiful faces that were lined and crinkled with age, laugh lines, experience, and survival.  I'm sure we've all seen them.

 

Must beauty only be for the young?  Is that what Shakespeare's saying?

Message Edited by ConnieK on 04-03-2009 09:30 AM
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friery
Posts: 209
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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets


ConnieK wrote:

Maybe we can begin our month-long consideration of Shakespeare's sonnets with the first one. 

 

Sonnet #1:

 

From fairest creatures we desire increase,

That thereby beauty's rose might never die,

But, as the riper should by time decease,

His tender heir might bear his memory.

But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes

Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,

Making a famine where abundance lies,

thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.

Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament

And only herald to the gaudy spring

Within thine own bud buriest thy content

And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding.

   Pity the world, or else this glutton be--

   To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee. 

 

 

***

 

 

There is a shift in the poem after the opening 4 lines.

 

What is the shift, as you read it?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Message Edited by ConnieK on 03-30-2009 11:36 AM

It's interesting how the language itself changes in the second quatrain.  The first quatrain is filled with polysyllabic, sibilant words.  ("Fairest creatures we desire increase...")  The second quatrain is largely harsher monosyllables.  ("...thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel...")  The effect of the change is that the language suddenly becomes jarring and staccato.  This is most obvious in the first two words of the second quatrain: "But thou..."  After the first four lines, this almost feels as if the speaker is shouting.

 

About the use of the word "Thou."  I've read that, contrary to what we may think today, the word "thou" was the familiar use.  "You" was formal, used with your superiors.  So, this may indicate the relationship between the speaker and the person addressed.  My feeling--at least with this sonnet--is that the target was a well-to-do person (we usually assume it to be a man--but why?) and his mentor or teacher.

 

A couple of other comments.  Line one begins with life ("increase") and the last line ends with death ("the grave.") The rose is a predominant image--does it have mythological significance for Shakespeare?  And not allowing yourself to have an heir is narcissistic.  Why isn't having an heir also narcissistic?

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friery
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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets


ConnieK wrote:

Sonnet 2:

 

 

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow

And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,

Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,

Will be a tattered weed of small worth held.

Then being asked where all thy beauty lies,

Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,

To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes

Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.

How much more praise deserved thy beauty's use

If thou couldst answer "This fair child of mine

Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,"

Proving his beauty by succession thine.

   This were to be new made when thou art old

   And see thy blood warm when thous feel'st it cold.

 

 

 

***

 

Do you sense a yearning or longing in this poem?  Is the speaker admonishing the person of beauty for something?

 


 

I think the heart of the poem is in the line "...An all-eating shame and thriftless praise."  The beautiful youth is now ravaged by age, and has nothing left but shame--both personal and social.  That's an interesting theme--you basically owe it to society to pass on your beauty and youth.

 

The alliteration and assonance in this poem are terrific.  Notice the alliteration in the first two lines: forty-field, beseige-brow-beauty's, dig deep trenches.

 

Also notice the repetition of the words "thy," "thou," and "thine."  One of these words is in nearly every line of the poem.  I think it makes the language sound accusatory.  ("His" is in the third to last line.  Does this prove that the subject is a man?)

 

Finally, note the use of the word "fair" in line 10.  This echoes the word "fairest" in Sonnet No. 1, line 1.  It's a clear play on words--fair in aspect, and fair to the world.

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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

[ Edited ]
I'm glad we are reading Shakespeare's sonnets, because they have gotten me back into Helen Vendler's amazing book

The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets . She somehow gets inside each sonnet and shows me things that I would never see on my own but that make me exclaim, "You're right!" This is a book for a lifetime. Here is just a little sample of what she says about Sonnet 1:


 

There are two distinguishing features in this originating (but perhaps late-composed) sonnet, both of which we might not expect in such a brief poem: the first is the sheer abundance of values, images, and concepts important in the sequence which are called into play, and the second is the number of significant words brought to our attention. Such a wide sweep leads me to think that the sonnet may have been deliberately composed late, as a "preface" to the others. The sonnet can be seen, in sum, as an index to the rest of the sonnets, or as a diapason of the notes of the sequence. A quick enumeration of values considered by the speaker as axiomatic and self-evidently good would include beauty, increase, inheritance, memory, light, abundance, sweetness, freshness, ornament, springtime, tenderness, and the world's rights. The salient images include fair creatures, the rose, bright eyes, flame and light, fuel, famine, abundance, foe, ornament, herald, spring, bud, burial, and (the oxymoronic) tender churl. The concepts--because Shakespeare's mind works by contrastive taxonomy--tend to be summoned in pairs: increase and decease, ripening and dying, beauty and immortality versus memory and inheritance; expansion and contraction; inner spirit (eyes) and outward show (bud); self-consumption and dispersal, famine and abundance, hoarding and waste; gluttony, debt. This sonnet is unusual in bringing into play such a plethora of conceptual material; it seems a self-conscious groundwork laid for the rest of an edifice. Words appearing here which will take on special resonance in the sequence are numerous: fair, beauty, ripe, time, tender, heir, bear, memory, bright, eyes, feed, light, flame, self, substance, make, abundance, foe, sweet, cruel, world, fresh, ornament, spring, bud, bury, content, waste, pity, eat, due, and grave.

 

Sorry, Laurel--Edited for copyright considerations. ~ConnieK

Message Edited by ConnieK on 04-06-2009 01:55 PM
"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

#2

 

Unfortunately, I do not have any kids of my own, and all I see is the growth and re-growth of beautiful people through genetics.  The beauty of the old person is seen in the body of the offspring.  This is a very beautiful poem, but sad for me.

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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets


Laurel wrote:
I'm glad we are reading Shakespeare's sonnets, because they have gotten me back into Helen Vendler's amazing book

The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets . She somehow gets inside each sonnet and shows me things that I would never see on my own but that make me exclaim, "You're right!" This is a book for a lifetime. Here is just a little sample of what she says about Sonnet 1:


 

There are two distinguishing features in this originating (but perhaps late-composed) sonnet, both of which we might not expect in such a brief poem: the first is the sheer abundance of values, images, and concepts important in the sequence which are called into play, and the second is the number of significant words brought to our attention....


We also should mention that the hardcover edition of this book contains a CD of Vendler reciting 65 of the sonnets.  I now have them on my iPod.

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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

Good point, Jack. I just have the softcover edition.

friery wrote:

Laurel wrote:
I'm glad we are reading Shakespeare's sonnets, because they have gotten me back into Helen Vendler's amazing book

The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets . She somehow gets inside each sonnet and shows me things that I would never see on my own but that make me exclaim, "You're right!" This is a book for a lifetime. Here is just a little sample of what she says about Sonnet 1:


 

There are two distinguishing features in this originating (but perhaps late-composed) sonnet, both of which we might not expect in such a brief poem: the first is the sheer abundance of values, images, and concepts important in the sequence which are called into play, and the second is the number of significant words brought to our attention....


We also should mention that the hardcover edition of this book contains a CD of Vendler reciting 65 of the sonnets.  I now have them on my iPod.


 

"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

In these two poems, I see our deepest human passions distroying the thing that we are most passionate about....  Whats the point?  Shakespeare in his exactness, is difficult to read when in different moods.
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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets


friery wrote:
 And not allowing yourself to have an heir is narcissistic.  Why isn't having an heir also narcissistic?

Thinking on this question--holding oneself as a mirror up to oneself is perhaps seen as more narcissitic than holding a child that is the image of oneself up to oneself.  Maybe the first is more narcissitic because the beauty must be you and only you rather than an image of you, once removed.

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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets


 

Must beauty only be for the young?  Is that what Shakespeare's saying?


Returning to think about my own question--maybe he's saying not that there cannot be beauty in old age, but that beauty cannot be passed on to an heir except when one is young and procreative.

~ConnieAnnKirk




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Re: Shakespeare's Sonnets

[ Edited ]

Sonnet #3:

 

 

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest

Now is the time that face should form another,

Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,

Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.

For where is she so fair whose uneared womb

Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?

Or who is he so fond will be the tomb

Of his self-love, to stop posterity?

Thou are thy mother's glass, and she in thee

Calls back the lovely April of her prime;

So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,

Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.

   But if thou live remembered not to be,

   Die single, and thine image dies with thee.

 

 

***

There's a pattern with these first numbered sonnets, isn't there?  With this one, I'm beginning to sense more of the sadness that Benedict has been talking about.

Message Edited by ConnieK on 04-06-2009 03:39 PM
~ConnieAnnKirk




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