“The Living Record” – 21 – Final Days

If Sonnets 1-126 as a sequence happened to be a well-constructed play, then Sonnet 107 would be its dramatic climax — the moment when Southampton walked freely out of the Tower after being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.”  And starting with this high point of Sonnet 107 are the final twenty verses proceeding to 126.

So Oxford’s record of Southampton’s life continues past the death of Queen Elizabeth and the succession of King James. She died on March 24, 1603 and Southampton gained his freedom on April 10, 1603, but the story goes on — to where?  Well, I think the numerical structure leads to the inescapable conclusion that Sonnet 125 marks Elizabeth’s funeral procession on April 28, 1603, when the “canopy” of state was borne over her effigy and coffin on the way to Westminster Abbey:

Wer’t ought to me I bore the canopy,
With my extern the outward honoring,
Or laid great bases for eternity…
Sonnet 125


Elizabeth’s funeral procession on April 28, 1603

(Artist unknown; British Library ms. Add. 35 324, fol.37v)

Oxford began his chronicle hoping in Sonnet 1 that “beauty’s Rose might never die” — that Elizabeth’s dynasty of the Tudor Rose might not die when she did.  This hope ended when the House of Tudor collapsed upon her death and the Stuart dynasty began; but for her passing to be “official” she had to be buried:

“No monarch was officially dead until the day of burial when the great officers of state broke their white wands of office and hurled them into the grave.  So for over a month the old Queen’s court [had gone on] as though she were not dead but walking, as she was wont to in the early springtime, in the alleys of her gardens … At last, on 28 April 1603, a funeral procession of some fifteen hundred persons made its way to Westminster Abbey.  Nothing quite like it had ever been seen before…”
Roy Strong, The Cult of Elizabeth

So the time line of Elizabeth’s ever-waning life extends beyond her physical death to her burial and the extinction of her dynasty; and it turns out that,  just as there are nineteen verses from Sonnet 107 to 125, so there are nineteen days from April 10th to 28th — nineteen verses matching nineteen days, followed by Sonnet 126, when Oxford bids farewell to his royal son:

O Thou my lovely Boy who in thy power
Dost hold time’s fickle glass his sickle hour,
Who hast by waning grown…
Sonnet 126

The match-up of sonnets and days could not be accidental; no, I thought, this is Oxford’s careful architecture using numbers, events and dates; and when I lined them up on a yellow legal pad, they looked this way:

Sonnet 107 – April 10, 1603 – Southampton’s liberation
Sonnet 108 – April 11, 1603
Sonnet 109 – April 12, 1603
Sonnet 110 – April 13, 1603
Sonnet 111 – April 14, 1603
Sonnet 112 – April 15, 1603
Sonnet 113 – April 16, 1603
Sonnet 114 – April 17, 1603
Sonnet 115 – April 18, 1603
Sonnet 116 – April 19, 1603
Sonnet 117 – April 20, 1603
Sonnet 118 – April 21, 1603
Sonnet 119 – April 22, 1603
Sonnet 120 – April 23, 1603
Sonnet 121 – April 24, 1603
Sonnet 122 – April 25, 1603
Sonnet 123 – April 26, 1603
Sonnet 124 – April 27, 1603
Sonnet 125 – April 28, 1603 – Queen Elizabeth’s funeral
Sonnet 126

In this context the final sequence of twenty sonnets becomes Oxford’s own solemn march to the end of his recorded story.  I did not see this match-up until later; but I include it now, before going on, because I believe it not only supports but even proves that the time line of the Sonnets is tied to the withering of Elizabeth’s life until her death and funeral and the end of her dynasty.

Now, back to that “ladder” and the climb downward…

Published in: Uncategorized on February 7, 2009 at 5:58 am  Leave a Comment  

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