Critiquing the Critique – 4

The Oxfordian team of Kosistky-Stritmatter, challenging the “Monument” theory of the Sonnets, continues to comment on Sonnet 27:

Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,
The dear repose for limbs with travail tired,
But then begins a journey in my head
To work my mind, when body’s work’s expired.
For then my thoughts (from far where I abide)
Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,
And keep my drooping eye-lids open wide,
Looking on darkness, which the blind do see.
Save that my soul’s imaginary sight
Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,
Which like a jewel (hung in ghastly night)
Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.
Lo thus by day my limbs, by night my mind,
For thee, and for my self, no quiet find.

The critique continues:

“The significant point here is that it is the poet who is or has been away. The addressee has neither been removed nor arrested.”

Such has been the traditional assumption.  From these lines alone it’s not really possible to tell which person is “away” from the other; but once we view the eighty sonnets from 27 to 106 as written to Southampton while he’s in the Tower, we see phrases such as:

“Absence of your liberty … where thou art [twice] … where thou dost stay … where you may be … where you are … the imprisoned absence of your liberty … where you list … thou dost wake elsewhere … all away … thou away … you away.”

Sounds to me like the younger man is away!  Also sounds like his liberty has been removed and he’s imprisoned!

“And although it may be true that the image of the jewel ‘hung in ghastly night’ (27.11) is, in the most general sense, consistent with the charged emotional atmosphere of the events Whittemore describes, mere consistency is hardly enough to confirm his interpretation, unless other, more compelling, corroborative evidence can be cited.”

In that regard I have produced THE MONUMENT, an edition of the Sonnets demonstrating such compelling, corroborative evidence throughout the sequence.

“Establishing a break at Sonnet 27 produces the illusion of structural coherence, but the division, alas, is arbitrary.  Sonnet 26 begins to develop the theme of the poet’s absence, referring to the ‘written ambassage’ that the poet has sent to the fair youth.  In fact, Vendler calls 26 ‘the first epistolary sonnet’ (148), suggesting that the poet may already be traveling.”

In the Stratfordian tradition the poet is a busy actor who travels with a company of players, so his reference to “whatsoever star that guides my moving” may seem to suggest such traveling.  But once Oxford is viewed as the poet, the “star” is first of all the one adopted by the Veres as a badge in their coat of arms.   And within the Monument theory the “star” is also Southampton’s royal eye, as in Sonnet 49:  “And scarcely greet me with that sunne thine eye” or in Sonnet 14:  “But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,/ And, constant stars, in them I read such art…”

In any case Sonnet 26 is clearly an “envoy” to the opening sequence (1-26) in the same way that Sonnet 126 is the “envoy” ending the entire Fair Youth series.

Sonnets 26 and 126 are prominent “markers” along the string of sonnets, creating the structure of one hundred verses (27-126) in between two smaller sequences of twenty-six sonnets apiece (1-26 and 127-152), followed by the two Bath sonnets as epilogue.  I marvel that this elegant structure wasn’t seen generations before now.

“In Sonnet 27, it is the poet’s thoughts that ‘intend a zealous pilgrimage’ to the addressee. The thematic continuity [linking Sonnets 26 and 27] is obvious, calling into question the basis for identifying Sonnet 27 as a break of any kind, let alone one marking an event as dramatic as the imprisonment of the Earl of Southampton.”

The “thematic continuity” from Sonnet 26 to Sonnet 27 is only “obvious” if one chooses to think it so.  Otherwise it’s imaginary.

When we look at the two sonnets, what’s obvious is the dramatic change of mood from 26 to 27.  The former is a “written ambassage” or secret message intended only for a monarch; an ambassador of the Court memorizes the message and delivers it to a king or queen in person, orally.  Oxford, writing to Southampton as a subject speaking “in vassalage” to his prince, can only use words on the page, so his “ambassage” must be a “written” one.

I suggest that Sonnet 27 represents an abrupt change of mood and the most fitting response to Southampton’s tragic situation that we might imagine, that is, Oxford now plunges into the darkness of Southampton’s crime and disgrace and virtually certain death.

Published in: Uncategorized on August 15, 2009 at 4:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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