No longer mourn for me when I am dead
Then you shall hear the surly sullen bell
Give warning to the world that I am fled
From this vile world, with vilest worms to dwell:
Nay, if you read this line, remember not
The hand that writ it; for I love you so
That I in your sweet thoughts would be forgot
If thinking on me then should make you woe.
O, if, I say, you look upon this verse
When I perhaps compounded am with clay,
Do not so much as my poor name rehearse.
But let your love even with my life decay,
Lest the wise world should look into your moan
And mock you with me after I am gone.
Paraphrase and Analysis of Sonnet 71
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The fatal bellman ... In Renaissance England the hoot of an owl flying over one's house was an evil omen, and meant impending death for someone inside. In Macbeth, Shakespeare refers to the owl as the "fatal bellman" because it was the bellman's job to ring the parish bell when a person in the town was near death. I am reminded of the famous line by Shakespeare's contemporary, John Donne, who wrote: "never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee" (Devotions upon Emergent Occasions).
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Sonnet Theories ... "All now agree that the Sonnets are a collection of almost matchless interest, a legacy from Shakespeare at once strange and precious, -- nothing less, in fact, than a preserved series of metrical condensations, weighty and compact as so many gold nuggets, of thoughts and feelings that were once in his mind. The interpretations of them collectively, however, the theories of their nature and purport collectively, differ widely." David Masson. Read on...