Here are more of Shakespeare’s sonnets, once again, these responses are from selected readings from my British Literature course.
The first half of this rather dismal sonnet is quite melancholy and possesses an air of hopelessness. It seems as if the life or love of the speaker is almost extinguished or just barely hanging on: “When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang/Upon those boughs which shake against the cold”. There is also the imagery of twilight and death in lines 5-8. Yet as I think about the image of fall, I am reminded that even though all seems dead or dying, that is not the real situation. Fall is merely a part of the year where everything sleeps for a while, a long sleep through the harshness of winter. Yet there is always spring to revive everything. Even this is evidenced in the sonnet in the 9th line, “ In me thou seest the glowing of such a fire/That on the ashes of his youth doth lie”. This reminds me of a poem by Tolkien where he says, “ From the ashes a fire shall be woken,/A light from the shadows shall spring”. It’s the same idea.
This sonnet is perhaps the oddest love poem I’ve ever read; it might even be called an anti-love poem. Yet I tip my hat to Shakespeare for going beyond expectations and writing something revolutionary in the realm of love poetry. While there are countless poems comparing their lovers to natural beauty and things such as that, this poem is comparing his mistress to them but elevating the natural beauty over the mistress. There are many metaphors in this poem but all seem be rather hilarious since they are unexpectedly contrasted with the mistress. These metaphors give the reader the idea that the mistress is rather ugly and begins to wonder why the writer is in love with her anyway. Yet in the end, it is her difference from the rest of the beautiful women that defines their love for one another.
If one were to summarize this poem with cliché, it could be summarized with, “Ignorance is bliss”. The scene is that of an unfaithful wife or mistress whom the writer knows is unfaithful but lies to her and believes her lies so that their marriage or relationship will not split. It seems both parties know the other is lying but yet they still carry on as if nothing is happening. I’m not sure I agree with Shakespeare’s comment, “Oh, love’s best habit is in seeming trust”. I think the key to a strong marriage is the faithfulness and truth that is between the man and the woman; this comes from a Christian perspective of course.