“The Living Record” – Chapter 29 – “I May Not Ever-More Acknowledge Thee…”

Starting with Sonnet 27 upon the failed Essex Rebellion of February 8, 1601, when Essex and Southampton were taken to the Tower of London, I began to lay down the numbered verses beside the calendar dates (one sonnet per day)…

Within this radically new context, the lines came freshly alive and finally making sense, intellectually and emotionally.  Here was the beginning of a private record of Southampton’s tragedy and its aftermath, as set down by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford…

I reached Sonnet 36 aligned with February 17, two days before Oxford would have to serve as senior judge at the treason trial and vote to convict both earls of high treason and condemn them to death…

But at the time it did not occur to me that this verse concludes an initial “chapter” of 10 consecutive and chronological sonnets…

Nor did it dawn on me that the entire post-Rebellion chronicle (27-126) contains 10 chapters of 10 sonnets each…

Nor did I realize that these chapters create a central sequence of exactly 100 sonnets leading to the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603, when James of Scotland became King of England and immediately ordered Southampton’s liberation…

Here’s the way the first “chapter” of 10 sonnets appeared:

(1) Sonnet 27 – Feb 8 – The rebellion and imprisonment of Essex & Southampton, when the younger earl is a “jewel hung in ghastly night” as a prince who had been “the world’s fresh ornament” (in Sonnet 1) but is now a suspect-traitor confined in the Tower.

The Tower where Southampton is Imprisoned

The Tower where Southampton is Imprisoned

(2) Sonnet 28 – Feb 9 – Oxford is “day by night and night by day oppressed” by the tragic turn of events, indicating that he is writing one sonnet per day.

(3) Sonnet 29 – Feb 10 – Oxford shares Southampton’s “disgrace with Fortune [the Queen] and men’s eyes,” as well as his “outcast state” as a presumed traitor.

(4) Sonnet 30 – Feb 11 – Oxford is officially “summoned” to serve as highest-ranking judge at the “Sessions” or treason trial; and he echoes this situation in writing, “When to the Sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past…”

(5) Sonnet 31 – Feb 12 – Fearing Southampton’s death, Oxford writes to him, “Thou art the grave where buried love doth live” — using “love” to refer to his royal blood that will be buried with him.

(6) Sonnet 32 – Feb 13 – Oxford sorrowfully wishes that Southampton, his royal son by the Queen, had been given “a dearer birth than this” — a birth that would have allowed him to “march in ranks of better equippage.” That is, he should have been named to succeed Elizabeth as King Henry IX.

(7) Sonnet 33 – Feb 14 – Oxford looks back at the birth of his “Sunne” (royal son) in 1574 and grieves that “the region cloud” (Elizabeth Regina and her dark cloud of shame and disgrace) took the infant prince from him after only one hour:  “Even so my Sunne one early morn did shine with all triumphant splendor on my brow, but out alack, he was but one hour mine, the region cloud hath masked him from me now.”

Southampton in the Tower

Southampton in the Tower

(8) Sonnet 34 – Feb 15 – Oxford tells Southampton, referring to his son’s act of treason and loss of the crown for England (and for Oxford himself, who would have been the father of a king):  “Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss; th’offender’s sorrow lends but weak relief to him that bears the strong offence’s loss [cross].”

(9) Sonnet 35 – Feb 16 – Anticipating his enforced adversarial role at the trial, Oxford also indicates he will work later behind the scenes as Southampton’s “Advocate” or lawyer, trying to bring in “sense” or rational arguments to counterbalance his son’s “sensual fault” or irrational crime.

Then he will try to strike a bargain with Secretary Robert Cecil to save his son’s life and ultimately gain his freedom with a royal pardon: “For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense; thy adverse party is thy Advocate, and ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence” — indicating his need to make a personal sacrifice.

(10) Sonnet 36 – Feb 17 – The bargain requires complete separation of father and son: “Let me confess that we two must be twain, although our undivided loves are one … I may not ever-more acknowledge thee…”

Let us pause at the conclusion of this initial 10-sonnet “chapter” at a time when it appears certain that Southampton will be executed.  Next we’ll look more closely at Sonnet 36 and also at the next “chapter,” which begins with Sonnet 37 on the eve of the trial at Westminster Hall on Feb 19, 1601…

Published in: Uncategorized on March 19, 2009 at 6:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

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