What potions have I drunk of Siren tears,
Distill'd from lymbecks foul as hell within,
Applying fears to hopes, and hopes to fears,
Still losing when I saw myself to win!
What wretched errors hath my heart committed,
Whilst it hath thought itself so blessed never!
How have mine eyes out of their spheres been fitted
In the distraction of this madding fever!
O benefit of ill! now I find true
That better is by evil still made better;
And ruin'd love, when it is built anew,
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.
So I return rebuk'd to my content,
And gain by ills thrice more than I have spent.
CXIX. Manifestly in connection with what precedes. The poet, it would seem, had been deceived and ensnared by woman's tears. Entangled by such wiles, he had committed one error after another,
and had proved the truth of his own words (cxxix.) --
"Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and prov'd, a very woe;
Before, a joy propos'd; behind, a dream."
The details alluded to seem hopelessly obscure; but it is probable that we are here brought close to the causes of the scandal to which cxii. and cxxi. relate. In the end the poet learned to prize more highly than ever before the love of his friend.
1. Drunk. The tears had influenced him so thoroughly, that they had
been, as it were, imbibed.
2. Lymbecks. Alembics or stills. Foul as hell within. Cf. what is
said of the poet's dark mistress in the second series of Sonnets, "In nothing art thou black, save in thy deeds" (cxxxi. 13); "Who art as black as hell, as dark as night" (cxlvii. 14).
3. Now letting fear give way to hope, and now hope to fear.
4. Still losing, &c. Probably on account of the unworthiness of the
7. Fitted. "Worked and vexed by paroxysms." SCHMIDT. Comparison
has been made of Pericles, Act ii. so. i, line 58, "If it be a day fits you," &c. But there appears to be in our passage the idea of strange surprises.
8. This madding fever. Cf. "My love is as a fever," &c., and,
"Past cure I am, now reason is past cure,
And frantic mad with evermore unrest," &c. (cxlvii.)
10. That better, &c. The better love is manifestly the love to his friend.
13. To my content. With a feeling of contentment and satisfaction.
How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Dec. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/119.html >.
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