“The Living Record” – 5

In both Sonnets 76 and 105 the author speaks of “my verse,” referring directly to his sequence of consecutively numbered poems.  I made the tentative assumption that in fact he’s using these two verses to explain not only how he’s writing the Sonnets, but also, in the same breath, to give us the means of reading them.

In both 76 and 105 we learn that he’s writing solely to/about the beloved younger man known to us as the fair youth.  In 76 he asks rhetorically:  “Why write I still all one, ever the same” — he writes “still” or eternally “all” about “one” topic which is “ever” or always “the same.”

I hypothesized that he meant us to take him literally; that the special young man (whose name he never mentions) is the reason for the existence of the entire masterwork:  “O know, sweet love, I always write of you,” he tells him in 76, and it could not be stated any clearer.  And while writing to the fair youth, of course, the poet is indirectly informing us about what he’s doing.

In 105 he’s even more insistent:  “Since all alike my songs and praises be/ To one, of one, still such, and ever so … one thing expressing, leaves out difference.”

Given our earlier hypothesis that the entire sequence amounts to one unified literary work, now we must also assume (for the time being) that the younger man is the focus not only of the Fair Youth series 1-126 but, also, of the Dark Lady series 127-152 and the Bath epilogue 153-154.  All the verses, from 1 to 154 throughout, are written because of him and only with him in mind.

(“Wait a minute,” you may ask.  “You’re saying the Dark Lady series is not about the Dark Lady?”  Well, sure, it’s about her — but only in terms of her relation to the fair youth.  He writes to/about his treacherous dark Mistress solely because of her effect upon the younger man.)

I considered this an important “instruction” from the author, who is creating “the living record” of the fair youth within a “monument” of verse for “eyes not yet created” in the distant future — that is, for those of us here and now, even four hundred years later.  It’s all to him and for him.  And the  question to be answered, of course, is why.

Published in: Uncategorized on December 12, 2008 at 2:12 am  Leave a Comment  

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