Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sonnet XXIX

I'm always a little suspicious of sonnets. They tend to follow a similar pattern of admiring nature and then mourning one's rejection by one's lady-love. Furthermore, the said lady-love was very often not someone the poet cared for in the least, though, of course, many earnest lovers must have written sonnets as well.

However, despite all of these stains upon the reputation of the sonnet, I do believe that Shakespeare has very nearly managed to redeem it with his many contributions to the world of sonnets. Here is one of my favorites:

SONNET XXIX
“When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply, I think on thee, -- and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my place with kings.”
-William Shakespeare

Seize The Day!
-StrongJoy

3 comments:

Peter said...

"From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate; For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings That then I scorn to change my place with kings"

The setting is one of solititude and reflection. One can easily imagine the speaker, sitting alone on a hill, isolated from humanity and casting his anguished cries to the heavens. But in the wake of his pain comes revelation. He realizes that others may have wealth, power, and position, but those things do not satisfy the soul. His thoughts turn to his beloved and his heart then sings for joy; he is no longer envious of anything anyone else may have, for he loves and is loved.

The setting of Sonnet 29 is ambiguous, but nonetheless carries heavy connotation. First, consider the religious connotation established in lines 1 - 3:

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state, And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries

The speaker is in "disgrace" and is an "outcast". This allusion calls to mind Adam and Eve, and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. In this situation, the setting is appropriate because the speaker is outside of paradise. He call only "trouble deaf Heaven with ... cries". Original Sin, according the Bible, is the cause of human's unhappiness.

It is significant, then, that the human on Earth, outisde of heaven, is able to overcome the sorrow of disgrace and sing happily at "Heaven's gate" (line 12). The speaker might as well be saying "in your face" to the heavenly host. The message is "I've been outcasted but I am happy."

In a more tangible way, the setting of the poem is appropriate for the use of metaphors. The speaker describes himself as a lark that sings happily at heaven's gate. In order to achieve the sense of lifting spirits, in order to demonstrate that the speaker is overcoming his disgrace and feeling happy, the author uses the metaphorical lark, the epitome of songbirds. The lark flies up from the earth as the speaker's spirits soar:

Haply I think on thee,--and then my state (Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate;

Therefore, the setting of the Earth is appropriate for creating this comparison.

Peter

Chris said...

Wow, If someone had asked me an hour ago what a sonnet was...I would have been like: Sonwha? :)

Well at least I know now.

Thanx for the comment!

~Bryant said...

Hello!
I love reading Shakespeare! Thanks for posting this!

I have enjoyed browsing your blog, and will visit again soon!
Blessings!