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Duty so great, which wit so poor as mine
May make seem bare, in wanting words to show it;
In thy soul's thought, all naked, will bestow it:
Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
To work my mind, when body's work's expir'd:
honourable disposition, not the worth of my untutor'd lines, makes it assured of acceptance. What I have done is yours; what I have to do is yours; being part in all I have, devoted yours. Were my worth greater, my duty should show greater; meantime, as it is, it is bound to your lordship." C.
This note, I imagine, suggested to Dr. Drake his theory, that the Sonnets were addressed to Lord Southampton. BOSWELL. Till WHATSOEVER STAR THAT GUIDES my moving,
Points on me GRACIOUSLY WITH FAIR ASPECT,] So, Coriolanus:
"As if that whatsoever God who leads him,
Again, in Antony and Cleopatra:
he hath fought to-day,
"As if a god in hate of mankind had
2 To show me worthy of THY sweet respect:] The old copy
It is evidently a misprint. For the correction I am answerable. The same mistake has several times happened in these Sonnets, owing probably to abbreviations having been formerly used for the words their and thy, so nearly resembling each other as not to be easily distinguished. I have observed the same error in some of the old English plays. MALONE.
For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)"
And keep my drooping eye-lids open wide,
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view*,
How can I then return in happy plight,
When sparkling stars twire not, thou gild'st the even 7.
3 For then my thoughts (FROM FAR where I abide)] We might better read:
-far from where I abide)."
The old reading is, however, sense. For then my thoughts, setting out from my place of residence, which is far distant from thee, intend, &c. MALONE.
4 Presents THY shadow to my sightless view,] The quarto reads corruptly-Presents their shadow. See n. 2, in preceding page. MALOne.
Which, like a JEWEL hung in ghastly NIGHT,
Makes black night BEAUTEOUS, and her old face new.] So, in Romeo and Juliet:
"Her beauty hangs upon the cheek of night,
SWART-Complexion'd night;] Swart is dark, approaching
to black. So, in King Henry VI. Part I.:
But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer,
"And where I was black and swart before-." The word is common in the North of England. MALONE. 7 When sparkling stars TWIRE not, thou GILD'ST the even.] The quarto reads corruptedly: thou guil'st the even." Gild'st was formerly written-guild'st.-Perhaps we should read :
"When sparkling stars twirl not-" MALONE.
The word twire occurs in Chaucer. See Boethius, b. iii. met. 2: "The bird twireth, desiring the wode with her swete voice." Twireth (says Mr. Tyrwhitt) seems to be the translation of susurrat. In The Merchant of Venice, our author, speaking of the stars, has the following passage:
Look how the floor of heaven
"Is thick inlaid with pattens of bright gold:
"There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st,
"Still quiring to the young-ey'd cherubins."
Twire may perhaps have the same signification as quire. The poet's meaning will then amount to this:- "When the sparkling stars sing not in concert, (as when they all appear he supposes them to do), thou mak'st the evening bright and cheerful." Still, however, twire may be a corruption. If it is, we may read twink for twinkle. Thus, in The Taming of the Shrew: "That in a twink she won me to her love."
Again, in The Two Gentlemen of Verona :
"At first I did adore a twinkling star."
So much for guess-work.
A passage in our author's Rape of Lucrece may add some support to Mr. Steevens's conjecture:
"Her [Diana's] twinkling handmaids too, by him defil'd-." But I believe the original reading is the true one.
In Ben Jonson's Sad Shepherd, this word occurs:
"Which maids will twire at 'tween their fingers thus." Mr. Gifford, in a note on that passage, Jonson's Works, vol. vi. p. 280, produces several instances of the word in our ancient writers, and explains the expression in the text thus: "When the stars do not gleam or appear at intervals." To twire seems to have much the same signification as to peep: when sparkling stars peep not through the blanket of the dark. BoswELL.
8 But day doth daily draw my sorrows longer,
And night doth nightly make grief's length seem STRONGER.] An anonymous correspondent, whose favours are distinguished
When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes",
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
by the letter C, proposes to make the two concluding words of this couplet change places. But I believe the old copy to be right. Stronger cannot well apply to drawn out or protracted sorrow. The poet, in the first line, seems to allude to the operation of spinning. The day at each return draws out my sorrow to an immeasurable length, and every revolving night renders my protracted grief still more intense and painful.' MALONE.
9 When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, &c.] These nervous and animated lines, in which such an assemblage of thoughts, cloathed in the most glowing expressions, is compressed into the narrow compass of fourteen lines, might, I think, have saved the whole of this collection from the general and indiscriminate censure thrown out against them by Mr. Steevens, p. 226. MALONE.
-and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate:] The same image is presented in Cymbeline:
"Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,
"And Phoebus 'gins to rise."
Again, in Romeo and Juliet :
the lark, whose notes do beat
"The vaulty heavens so high above our heads."
Perhaps, as Mr. Reed has observed, Shakspeare remembered Lilly's Compaspe, printed in 1584:
who is't now we hear?
"None but the lark so shrill and clear;
"How at heaven's gate she claps her wings,
"The morn not waking till she sings."
For thy sweet love remember'd, such wealth
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
Milton certainly had Shakspeare in his thoughts, when he
"That singing up to heaven's gate ascend."
Paradise Lost, book i. Malone.
2 When to the SESSIONS of sweet silent THOUGHT
I summon up, &c.] So, in Othello:
who has a breast so pure
"But some uncleanly apprehensions
Keep leets and law-days, and in session sit
"With meditations lawful?" MALONE.
3 Then can I drown an EYE, UNUS'D TO FLOW,] So, in Othello:
whose subdu'd eyes,
"Albeit unused to the melting mood,
Drop tears as fast as the Arabian trees
"Their med'cinable gum." MALONE.
in death's DATELESS night,] Shakspeare generally uses the word dateless for endless; having no certain time of expiration. So, in Romeo and Juliet:
seal with a righteous kiss
"A dateless bargain to engrossing death." MALOne.
5 And moan the expence of many a vanish'd SIGHT.] Sight seems to be here used for sigh, by the same licence which Shakspeare has already employed in his Rape of Lucrece; writing hild instead of held, than, instead of then, &c.; and which Spenser takes throughout his great poem; where we have adore for adorn, sterve for starve, skyen for sky, &c. He has in his Fairy Queene, b. vi. c. xi. taken the same liberty with the word now before us,