Why is my verse so barren of new pride?
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth and where they did proceed?
O, know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.
May be regarded as an answer to objections which the poet imagined as made against his Sonnets, or which possibly
had been really made by a rival, that they contained no brilliant novelties, and that their mode of expression displayed, not versatility, but a monotonous repetition which proclaimed the author in almost every word. The poet does not deny the charge, but replies that he is always descanting on the same old theme his friend,
and the constant affection he bears towards him.
1. So barren of new pride. -- So destitute of novel imagery, diction, &c.
2-4. These lines may allude to Shakespeare's unwillingness to adopt the mode of expression and the poetical form employed by his rivals.
4. The new-found methods and the compounds strange may very well
refer to the novel compound words employed by Chapman to express
Homeric epithets. In the Address "To the Understander" prefixed to the Shield of Achilles (1598), Chapman defends himself against the charge of introducing new words without propriety, and cites the example of Chaucer. Chapman's critics are like a brood of frogs from a ditch, desiring "to have the ceaseless flowing river of our tongue turned into their frog-pool."
6. Keep invention in a noted weed. -- Express and clothe my thoughts in
the same familiar dress.
7. Tell -- Q. has "fel."
11. My best is dressing old words new. -- Making but a slight difference in
the expressions. The poet, no doubt, means thus to imply the constancy
of his affection.
How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/76.html >.
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