When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night:
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls o’er-silver’d all with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard:
Then of thy beauty do I question make
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake,
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
save breed to brave him when he takes thee hence.
This is an enjoyable sonnet that uses nature imagery, found extensively in Petrarca, that Shakespeare uses to get his point across. Not much explication is needed, aside the sustained images of nature, to fully understand its intent, but I would like to point out a peculiar allusion. When reading line 3, “the violet past prime” has made me think of Venus and Adonis. In the end, Adonis melts into the earth and a violet sprouts where his body was, which Venus then places in her heart, signifying the love she has for him. Reading this into the poem makes the few following lines more significant. Having Adonis portrayed as the handsome youth, Shakespeare is alluding to the death of youth (in general and to the young man) through the sonnet. In the next line, it is not certain if “sable” is an adjective or a noun and if “curls” is a noun, referring to hair (which is plausible) or a verb modifying “sable.” Invoking the allusion to Adonis here, Shakespeare portends that if Adonis did live longer, he too would have greying hair; thus, Shakespeare sees [“behold”] an Adonis figure, the young man, past his youth.
Free Essays On Shakespeare’s Sonnet 118
Analysis of Sonnet 118
Like as, to make our appetites more keen,
With eager compounds we our palate urge;
As to prevent our maladies unseen
We sicken to shun sickness when we purge:
Even so, being full of your ne’er cloying sweetness,
To bitter sauces did I frame my feeding;
And, sick of welfare, found a kind of meetness
To be diseas’d ere that there was true needing.j
Thus policy in love, to anticipate
The ills that were not, grew to faults assur’d,
And brought to medicine a healthful state
Which, rank of goodness, would by ill be cur’d:
But thence I learn, and find the lesson true,
Drugs poison him that so fell sick of you.
This is another sonnet that Hieatt found to share certain similarities with Spencer’s _Ruines of Rome: “In Sonnets 118 the conceit of health ‘rank in goodness’ anticipating and thus precipitatin sickness mirrors, first, Ruines 10–the ‘rank seed’ who destroy themselves–and, second, Ruines23–the Roman people ‘impatient of pleasure’s faint desires,’ becoming the matter of their own fimes, ‘as in a vicious body gross disease / Soon grows through humor’s superfluity’.”
Having a possible source for this sonnet, we will now move to a paraphrasing of the sonnet. 1-2: ‘In order to make our appetites more aware (of taste), we convince our palate by ingesting stimulating dishes’; 3-4: ‘In order to prevent unforeseen sickness, we purge ourselves [Ingram/jRedpath note, “The old-fashioned purges were very powerful, and could indeed make people feel extremely ill”], to make that sickness feign, yet become sick by doing so’; 5-6: ‘As this is, I apportioned my diet to unsavory dishes [base company] from being (so) full of your substantial sweetness’; 7-8: ‘And, overindulged in happiness, I found a [requisite] jusxtaposition of becoming diseased (from the purging) because I was in need of, 1) the sickness, or 2) your love [or both]’; 9-10: ‘Thus, it is a sly [almost overly-sly] strategy in love, to anticipate the malefactors that are not always thought of, which grow into affirmed faults’; 11-12: ‘And make a “healthful state” of me available to medicine which, gross [almost with a sense of glutton] with goodness, would be cured by the malefactors:’ 13-14: ‘But from this I learn, and find the lesson [moral] true, that the drugs that poisoned him [identity unknown; possibly in general] are the same ones that made me fall (love) sick for you’.