“The Living Record” – 14 – Sonnet 76 (B)

The second quatrain of Sonnet 76 is the key to the special language; and its opening line is the most important one:

Why write I still all one, ever the same,

I decided to accept the hypothesis that Oxford is telling us directly that in this poetical sequence he “still” or always writes about Lord Southampton (One for All, All for One) in relation to Queen Elizabeth (Ever the Same) — that these two individuals, identified by just five words (“all one, ever the same”), are the constant subjects of his ongoing chronicle of real events occurring in real time.  Putting it another way, I thought, he seems to say that throughout the Sonnets he’s deliberately restricting his subject matter to this single topic.

(He’s also glancing at himself with “ever” for E. Ver or Edward Vere.  He’s the third member of the family triangle:  “Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords” – Sonnet 105)

And keep invention in a noted weed,

Okay … he’s continuing to instruct us.  He’s just told us in the first quatrain that he never uses any “methods” other than the one he’s been using all along.  And now he identifies this method as his “invention,” which he weaves within the “noted weed” or familiar costume of Elizabethan poetry.

This “invention” or special language is made possible by the words themselves (commonly used words such as bright, dark, day, night, love, hate, beauty, nature, sun, etc.),  which serve as a disguise that is actually transparent.  His “invention” is hiding in plain sight!

That every word doth almost tell my name,

Of course “every word” suggests “Edward” and echoes “ever” for E. Ver, but I also took him to mean that he literally uses every word to “almost” reveal his own “name” or identity.   And this single line serves as an example of just what he says he’s doing; it “almost” (but not quite) reveals that his “name” is Edward de Vere!

By using “every word” he employs the trick of the artist who creates a “double image” by drawing every line in service of both images at once — like the picture that shows a flock of birds in the sky and simultaneously a school of fish in the water.  So “every word” of these sonnets conveys a universal and timeless fictional image while simultaneously recording the very specific non-fictional story that he’s recording and trying to preserve for posterity.

Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?

The simple word “birth” hooks us back up to the first line of this sonnet, where Oxford wonders why his verse is so “barren” – as a womb is said to be barren – and confirms that he’s trying to give birth or rebirth to his royal son by means of this “living record” within the glorious poetry.  The chronicle of the Sonnets is a womb within which his son can “proceed” or issue and grow.

The final two lines of this quatrain – with “every word” and “proceed” – are deliberate echoes of the Gospel of Mathew, 4.4: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

(David and Ben Crystal in Shakespeare’s Words observe that Shakespeare uses “proceedings” to refer to “lines of descent.”)

The next quatrain will bring all the elements together, showing how to recognize the other side of the double image and, finally, how to read the story that’s been right in front of us all along.

Published in: Uncategorized on January 17, 2009 at 12:32 am  Leave a Comment  

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