Sonnet 64

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Sonnet 64

When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate,
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.

–William Shakespeare

Sonnet 64 is one of 154 sonnets written by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare. It's a member of the Fair Youth sequence, in which the poet expresses his love towards a young man.

History and the Content of the Sonnet[edit]

A Shakespearean sonnet is a poem written in iambic pentameter, meaning that it is written in lines ten syllables long and with accents falling on every second syllable. The sonnet is fourteen lines, the final two being called the couplet, in which the last words of these final two lines rhyme. The Shakespearean Sonnets were written during the Elizabethan Era in England. They consist of four parts: the first three are each four lines long and are known as quatrains, and the final part is the couplet, as previously discussed. Each quatrain develops its own idea or imagery, concluding with final thoughts to the previous three in the couplet. The first 126 sonnets are addressed to an unknown young man, and the others are dedicated to a mysterious woman, both of whom Shakespeare praises, loves, and scrutinizes repetitively. Shakespeare’s sonnets were all written during the 1590s, though they weren’t published until after the dawn of the new century.

Shakespeare divides the sonnet into three quatrains. The opening quatrain begins with the personification of time. In this quatrain the speaker emphasizes that he will never win against time, time is destroyer of great things built by man and man will always be inferior to it. The second quatrain is written in a rhyme scheme of cdcd. Using this rhyme scheme the sonnet portrays an almost "battle" between the ocean waves and the shore. These lines foreshadow the feeling of helplessness within the speaker as time as the ultimate destroyer, "store with loss and loss with store", time will always be victorious. The last quatrain deals with the speakers realization that death is inevitable and time will come and take his love away.

Analysis and Criticism of Sonnet 64[edit]

The critic T. W. Baldwin explains that Sonnet 64 deals with Shakespeare’s struggle against time, which he “cannot withstand”.[1] He also presents the idea of the revolution of sea and land, although not many other critics agree.[2] Sonnet 64 “catalogues instances of inevitable destruction so as to provide a consolation for death and places “emphasis on the inescapable fact of mutability”.[3] Because of the inevitability and finality of death, Shakespeare’s lover is not choosing to leave him. On the contrary, his lover could not do anything about it. In this way, Shakespeare is able to feel better about himself, because the love of his life was taken from him involuntarily.[3] However, Sonnet 64 does not specify whether Shakespeare is more upset over the loss of life or the loss of love.[3]

Most critics place Sonnet 64 in a chronological sequence or group with Sonnets 62-74. Both T. W. Baldwin and Emily Stockard agree that these sonnets are similar in subject and tone.[1][4] However, another critic, Brents Stirling, disagrees. He places Sonnet 64 in a sonnet group containing only Sonnets 63-68.[5] He argues that these sonnets should be grouped together because they are the only ones to refer to the subject of the poem in the third person rather than second person.[6] Sonnet 64 is very similar to Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60 where both sonnet's focus on a central idolizing of “ time as the destroyer.”.[7] In Helen Vendler’s, The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets”, Vendler describes Sonnet 64 to be written in a state of horror and “unprotected vulnerability.”[8] The speaker’s horror is manifested in the line, Increasing store with loss, and loss with store. Vendler argues that in this line “ Loss wins in both cases. It is of course impossible to increase abundance with loss, and equally impossible to increase loss by adding abundance to it.”[9] Atkins is also in agreement that sonnet 64 especially in line 12, the speaker expresses a state of fear: That Time will come and take my love away. In the “Shakespeare’s Sonnets” Atkins argues the meaning of this line is clear that “ after seeing all these other ruins, I think about your eventual ruin.”[7] Vendler calls line 12 a “collapse into monosyllabic truth”, “ and its dismayed adolescent simplicity of rhythm, this line feels like a death.”[10] Booth claims that in line 13 is unclear: “ death, the nearest potential antecedent, cannot choose, but it cannot weep or fear either; thought makes better sense, but it is the thinker who does the weeping and fearing.” Vendler argues that in the last three lines of the sonnet a “ “natural” pattern of unreversed ruin “defeats” the intellectual mastery-by-chiasmus, as the concept of gradual leakage comes to represent personal loss. Time takes love away, a thought is like a death, one weeps to have what one fears to lose.... Having while fearing to lose is already a form of losing.”[9] Overall, both Booth and Vendler agree in the last three lines of the sonnet the speaker weeps at the fear of losing his love, ultimately realizing that he cannot escape time and time will come and take his love away.

Analysis and Criticism of the Couplet[edit]

"This thought is as a death, which cannot choose

But weep to have that which it fears to lose."

William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 64 scrutinizes the idea of losing his loved one to Time, and views Time as an agent of Death.[11] Shakespeare’s reference to ‘outworn buried age’ demonstrates the idea of his loved one being consumed or worn out by time and age.[12] According to Helen Vendler, it seems that “the first twelve lines [are] a long defense – by thinking about the end of inanimate things – against thinking about the death of a living person” (.[13] Interestingly enough, as James Grimshaw analyzes the final two lines, Shakespeare substitutes the word which for death in the couplet, adding more emphasis on the sonnet’s theme of death as an overpowering force.[11] The love he is losing could have one of two meanings: it could either be the true death of his beloved, or in fact simply the love he has for his beloved.[12] Vendler interprets this death as the death of his beloved, in which the couplet justly displays this as Shakespeare’s genuine concern, thus distinctly separating itself from the previous twelve lines.[14] Shakespeare’s dread of time and age taking away his praised beloved seems to alarm him above all of the other entities he observes throughout his Sonnet 64, though he despairs in the idea that losing him is beyond his control.

Analysis on the Phonetic play of "Ruin hath taught me to ruminate"[edit]

Sonnet 64 is a great example of why people always say "You should never let your past interfere with your present". Barret argues that sonnet 64 "provides an example of past-oriented natural habitats that might interfere with the productive considerations of the future".[15] In other words because the speaker is letting the past overwhelm his thoughts, he therefore cannot think positively about the future due to past habits or tendencies. Unlike some of the other sonnets addressed to the young man, sonnet 64 moves toward a feeling of the lover's exposure to the risk of being destroyed. Barret also argues that the phonetic play between ruminate and ruinate is as she says an "underscore a relationship inherent in the poem’s logic", "Each quatrain of the sonnet open with the same construction—“ When I have seen”—yet these statements are never met with a summational “then,” so the temporal ambiguity the phrase creates the remains unresolved: Does the speaker gesture toward repeated past actions (‘in the instances that I have seen’) or forward to a causational limit point (‘once I have seen’)?".[16] When we read the lines that pertain to the waves and the shore,"at times the waves are winning against the shore, and then at times the shore is winning against the waves", the speaker almost speaks in a tone of confidence and determination to not let time control his life. Although when he goes to say Time will take my love away we begin to get a sense of uncertainty within the speaker. This uncertainty within the speaker is described by Barret when she argues "The sonnet registers temporal matters in personal terms; the couplet never corrects the poem’s grammatically obscured engagement with time, but instead introduces a paralyzing temporal collapse: the present moment becomes overwhelmed by an anticipation of future loss—an extreme version of ‘I miss you already.’.... The ruin/ruminate pairing bespeaks a suspicion of an imagined time spent looking back".[17]

Line by Line Analysis[edit]

From "Shakespeare's Sonnets." Oxquarry Books Ltd. 2009.[18]

Line Analysis
1. When I have seen by Time's fell hand defaced 1. fell = savage, fierce;defac'd = disfigured, smashed. Probably a reference to the defacement of idols - the destruction of any images of saints or divinity, which were a special target of Puritan and Reformist zeal. There are many defaced statues on the continent. In this country the destruction was more effective and very little evidence remains.
2. The rich proud cost of outworn buried age; 2. This probably refers to monuments in churches and graveyards, which expressed the pride and grandeur of wealth. Many monuments and sepulchres were from ages long since gone, outworn buried age, and were subject to ruin and decay, as well as human vandalism.
3. When sometime lofty towers I see down-razed, 3. sometime = sometimes; Alternatively sometime = formerly, which would refer to the lofty towers, and this would then give the meaning 'when I see towers which were formerly lofty now razed to the ground'.down-raz'd = razed to the ground, ruined. The destruction of the monasteries was a comparatively recent event, and fresh in memory.
4. And brass eternal slave to mortal rage; 4. eternal can refer either to brass, or to slave, probably both. mortal rage = deadly rage. Being a slave to mortal rage would imply being under its power, rather than being merely its servant. The latter meaning is difficult and does not entirely make sense, as it is not clear what services brass could perform as the minion of mortal rage, other than to be molested by it. mortal rage could also mean 'destruction caused by mortals'.
5. When I have seen the hungry ocean gain 5. The imagery is that of an advancing army, gaining land by pushing its forces forward.
6. Advantage on the kingdom of the shore, 6. The army secures a foothold on the land, an advantage over the enemy.
7. And the firm soil win of the watery main, 7. the watery main = the ocean, the open sea.
8. Increasing store with loss, and loss with store; 8. Increasing store with loss - can be the object of win in the line above, increasing being adjectival, in that the land wins an increasing store of territory from the ocean, with some losses. Then it receives further losses, with some gains. Or increasing can be a present participle referring to the firm soil, giving the meaning 'the firm soil triumphs in its battle against the sea, increasing its holdings, albeit with some loss, then increasing its losses with some compensatory gains (not as much as the losses)'. With either grammatical interpretation the meaning is fairly evident. Perhaps more important is the fact that the sound of the line is like the sound of a wave approaching and then receding, approaching and receding. Store = a holding, something kept, something reserved to be put aside.
9. When I have seen such interchange of state, 9. This takes up the idea of kingdom from line 6. States and governments are subject to change and ruin, and especially to changes in the power structures.
10. Or state itself confounded to decay; 10. Confounded has the meaning of being brought to ruin as well as the meaning of thwarted and blocked.
11. Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate 11. ruminate to consider, speculate, ponder. Its closeness in sound to ruin and ruinate is no doubt deliberate. Introduces phonetic play of ruin and ruminate.
12. That Time will come and take my love away. 12. The contrast here is between the complex latinate words of the previous lines - interchange, confounded, ruminate - with the simple mono-syllabic Anglo-Saxon words of this line, underlining the brutal harshness of the reality. Time's classical destructive powers have the immediate non-literary effect of taking away all that is dearest to us, over and above its capacity to operate in the historical world with temples, monasteries, monuments, bronzes, kings and vast empires.
13. This thought is as a death which cannot choose 13. This thought is as painful as the thought of death, which seems to refer to thought rather than to death. (See below for link to further discussion).
14. But weep to have that which it fears to lose. 14. The thought (or the poet himself) must weep for his beloved's mortality, even though, through love, he possesses him and holds him in his thoughts.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b (T. W. Baldwin, On the Literary Genetics of Shakespeare’s Poems and Sonnets, p. 279)
  2. ^ (T. W. Baldwin, On the Literary Genetics of Shakespeare’s Poems and Sonnets, p. 353)
  3. ^ a b c (Emily Stockard, “Patterns of Consolation in Shakespeare’s Sonnets 1-126,” Studies in Philology, Vol. 94, No. 4 (1997): p. 480)
  4. ^ (Emily Stockard, “Patterns of Consolation in Shakespeare’s Sonnets 1-126,” Studies in Philology, Vol. 94, No. 4 (1997): p. 479)
  5. ^ (Brents Stirling, “A Shakespeare Sonnet Group,” PMLA, Vol. 75, No. 4 (1960): p. 347)
  6. ^ (Brents Stirling, “A Shakespeare Sonnet Group,” PMLA, Vol. 75, No. 4 (1960): p. 348)
  7. ^ a b (Atkins CD, editor. Shakespeare’s Sonnets With Three Hundred Years of Commentary. Cranbury (NJ): Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp.; 2007. P 175-177. )
  8. ^ (Vendler H. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Cambridge(MA): Harvard University Press; 1997. P 300-302. )
  9. ^ a b (Vendler H. The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Cambridge(MA): Harvard University Press; 1997. P 300-302.)
  10. ^ (Atkins CD, editor. Shakespeare’s Sonnets With Three Hundred Years of Commentary. Cranbury (NJ): Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp.; 2007. P 175-177.)
  11. ^ a b (Grimshaw, James. “Amphibiology in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 64.” Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 25 No. 1 (Winter 1974), pp. 127-129)
  12. ^ a b (Hecht, Anthony; Evans, Gwynne Blakemore. The Sonnets. Cambridge University Press, April 2006)
  13. ^ Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1 November 1999. p. 299-302)
  14. ^ (Vendler, Helen. The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1 November 1999. p. 299-302)
  15. ^ (Barret J.K. 'So written to aftertimes': Renaissance England's Poetics of Futurity. Annarbor(MI): ProQuest LLC.; 2008. 13-16 p.)
  16. ^ (Barret J.K. 'So written to aftertimes': Renaissance England's Poetics of Futurity. Annarbor(MI): ProQuest LLC.; 2008. 13-16 p.)
  17. ^ (Barret J.K. 'So written to aftertimes': Renaissance England's Poetics of Futurity. Annarbor(MI): ProQuest LLC.; 2008. 13-16 p.)
  18. ^ http://www.shakespeares-sonnets.com/64comm.htm

Bibliography[edit]

Atkins C D. Shakespeare's Sonnets With Three Hundred Years of Commentary. Cranbury (NJ): Rosemont Publishing & Printing Corp.; 2007. 175-177 p.

Baldwin, T. W. On the Literary Genetics of Shakespeare's Poems and Sonnets. Urbana (IL): University of Illinois Press; 1950. p. 279, 353.

Barret J.K. 'So written to aftertimes': Renaissance England's Poetics of Futurity. Annarbor(MI): ProQuest LLC.; 2008. 13-16 p.

Booth S. Shakespeare's Sonnets Edited with analytic commentary by Stephen Booth. London: Yale University; 1977. 245-246 p.

Fontana, E. "Shakespeare's Sonnet 55." The Explicator v. 45 (Spring 1987) p. 6-8http://ezp.slu.edu/login?url=http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/hww/jumpstart.jhtml?recid=0bc05f7a67b1790e666334661c6e44dcc2d7d6bec6ef2c8a95456c9c119eb5a34bc199ea0adfc32e&fmt=C

Grimshaw, James. "Amphibiology in Shakespeare's Sonnet 64." Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 25, No. 1 (Winter, 1974), pp. 127-129. http://libraries.slu.edu/databases/dbdesc/jstor.cfm=http://www.jstor.org.ezp.slu.edu/stable/2868891?&Search=yes&term=Criticism&term=64&term=Sonnet&term=Shakespeare&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3DShakespeare%2BSonnet% 2B64%2BCriticism%26gw%3Djtx%26prq%3DShakespeare%2BSonnet%2BCriticism%26Search%3DSearch%26 hp%3D25%26wc%3Don&item=1&ttl=1748& returnArticleService=showArticle

Hecht, Anthony; Evans, Gwynne Blakemore. "The Sonnets." http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=S6U6qp4xJMQC&oi=fnd&pg=PR8&dq=Shakespeare+Sonnet+64+criticism&ots=XtEl5gbiq6&sig=uSTARKKLfOmXgGvq5iV_20csUqk#v=onepage&q=Sonnet%2064&f=false

Helen Vendler, The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets (p. 299-302)http://books.google.com/books?id=TlCaxUoazrgC&dq=Helen+Vendler+%22The+Art+of+Shakespeare's+Sonnets%22&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=6vumIxEe7Y&sig=PTtVdKV0VO2EvwIkNoG60bqfhxo&hl=en&ei=bgfNSojYNoeANp_1tDo&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#v=onepage&q=Sonnet%2064&f=false

Stirling, Brents. "A Shakespeare Sonnet Group." PMLA, Vol. 75, No. 4 (1960). p. 340-349. http://www.jstor.org.ezp.slu.edu/stable/4174591?seq=16&Search=yes&term=stockard&term=emily&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Demily%2Bstockard%26gw%3Djtx%26prq%3Dshakespeare%2BAND%2Bsonnet%2B64%26Search%3DSearch%26hp%3D25%26wc%3Don&item=1&ttl=175&returnArticleService=showArticle&resultsServiceName=doBasicResultsFromArticle

Stockard, Emily. Patterns of Consolation in Shakespeare's Sonnets 1-126. Studies in Philology, Vol. 94, No. 4 (1997). p. 465-493. http://www.jstor.org.ezp.slu.edu/stable/460595?seq=8&Search=yes&term=sonnet&term=64&term=shakespeare&list=hide&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dsonnet%2B64%2Band%2Bshakespeare%26gw%3Djtx%26prq%3Dsonnet%2B64%26Search%3DSearch%26hp%3D25%26wc%3Don&item=2&ttl=2407&returnArticleService=showArticle&resultsServiceName=doBasicResultsFromArticle

See also[edit]

Shakespeare's sonnets