“The Living Record” – 17 – Love & Time

How could I have overlooked LOVE and TIME, undoubtedly the two most important words in the Sonnets?  I already knew that TIME appears 78 times in the sequence, all within the long opening Fair Youth series (1-126) to Southampton but appearing neither in the Dark Lady series (127-152) to Elizabeth nor in the Bath epilogue (153-154).

And of course LOVE is used a lot in each of these segments, some 200 times in total!

Other commentators have observed that the Sonnets appear to be recording a dramatic struggle of LOVE versus TIME:

And all in war with TIME for LOVE of you!
Sonnet 15

So how would these two crucial words fit into the “special language” revolving around Oxford’s royal son (Southampton) and his son’s mother (Elizabeth)?

He writes to Southampton:

O know, sweet LOVE, I always write of you,
And YOU and LOVE are still my argument…

Sonnet 76

On one level LOVE means what it usually means; Oxford is writing as a father about his unswerving LOVE for Southampton, whom he calls LOVE.

But on the other, more important level, he’s recording his commitment to his son’s royal blood inherited from the Queen and his son’s blood right to succeed her. Therefore the “argument” (topic) of the Sonnets must be SOUTHAMPTON and HIS ROYAL BLOOD.

Oxford’s son is:

A God in LOVE, to whom I am confined.
Sonnet 110

He writes of him as a “child of state” (prince) whom “fortune” (the Queen) would turn into a royal bastard:

If my dear LOVE were but the child of state,
It might for fortune’s bastard be unfathered,
As subject to TIME’S LOVE, or to TIME’S HATE…

Sonnet 124

O Thou my LOVE-LY Boy who in thy power
Dost hold TIME’S fickle glass, his sickle hour…

Sonnet 126

A syllogism emerges:

The Sonnets = Southampton versus Elizabeth

The Sonnets = Love verses Time


Southampton = LOVE
Elizabeth = TIME

I recall the shock of a simple realization:

TIME in the Sonnets must refer not only to time in general, but, also, the  specific, measurable, ever-dwindling calendar time of Queen Elizabeth’s life, leading inexorably and inevitably to her death and the moment of succession to her on the throne, when the fate of Southampton’s royal blood and claim as well as that of the Tudor Rose dynasty will be determined.

And a thought that quickly followed:

So this constant onrush of TIME according to Elizabeth’s waning life must be the actual TIME LINE of Oxford’s poetical diary.

To be continued…

Published in: Uncategorized on January 25, 2009 at 5:00 am  Leave a Comment  

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