Anticipating the Execution of Southampton – Sonnet 54 – “Sweet Deaths” – The Living Record: Chapter 49

Again from THE MONUMENT, my 900-page edition of The Sonnets:

THE PRISON YEARS
DAY TWENTY-EIGHT IN THE TOWER

The dynasty of the Tudors was symbolised by the Tudor Rose, emblem of the Tudors representing the fusion of the noble factions of Lancaster and York. This fusion was symbolised by the White rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster.

Sonnet 54
Sweet Deaths
7 March 1601

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford mournfully anticipates the execution of his royal son Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton and his death as heir to the Tudor Rose dynasty.  Southampton is the flower of the Tudor Rose, living and dying in this sonnet.

OH how much more doth beauty beauteous seem,
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give.
The Rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem
For that sweet odor which doth in it live!

The Canker blooms have full as deep a dye
As the perfumed tincture of the Roses,
Hang on such thorns, and play as wantonly,
When summer’s breath their masked buds discloses:

But for their virtue only is their show,
They live unwooed, and unrespected fade,
Die to themselves.  Sweet Roses do not so;
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odors made.

And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
When that shall vade, by verse distils your truth.

Robert Cecil -- after the failed Essex Rebellion of 8 February 1601, he had full power and control of Elizabeth and her government

Robert Cecil to George Carew, after March 5, 1601:

“It remaineth now that I let you know what is like to become of the poor young Earl of Southampton, who, merely for the love of the Earl [Essex] hath been drawn into this action, who, in respect that most of the conspiracies were at Drury House, where he [Southampton] was always chief … those that would deal [plead] for him (of which number I protest to God I am one, as far as I dare) are much disadvantaged of arguments to save him…”

– Stopes, 224; i.e., Cecil, dealing with Oxford behind the scenes, is now putting it on record that he hopes the best for Southampton, but that saving him won’t be easy because all evidence goes against him; perhaps to build up the difficulty in anticipation of taking credit for interceding with the Queen on Southampton’s behalf.

1 OH HOW MUCH MORE DOTH BEAUTY BEAUTEOUS SEEM

BEAUTY = Southampton’s blood from Elizabeth; (“That thereby beauty’s Rose might never die” – Sonnet 1, line 2; “thy beauty’s legacy” – Sonnet 4, line 2; BEAUTEOUS = royal, Tudor; (“Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate” – Sonnet 10, line 7, referring to the House of Tudor)

2 BY THAT SWEET ORNAMENT WHICH TRUTH DOTH GIVE!

SWEET ORNAMENT = royal prince; “Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament” – Sonnet 1, line 9; “Which like a jewel hung in ghastly night” – Sonnet 27, line 11

For princes are
A model which heaven makes like to itself:
As jewels lose their glory if neglected,
So princes their renowns if not respected.     Pericles, 2.2.10-13

TRUTH = the truth of his Tudor blood; Oxford’s motto Nothing Truer than Truth; in his role as father

Southampton as he appeared at 20 in 1594, eager for military action and fame

3 THE ROSE LOOKS FAIR, BUT FAIRER WE IT DEEM

THE ROSE = the Tudor Rose; FAIR = royal; “From fairest creatures we desire increase,/ That thereby beauty’s Rose might never die” – Sonnet 1, lines 1-2; FAIRER = more royal; with a greater claim to the throne; “But thou art fair, and at thy birth, dear boy, nature and fortune joined to make thee great” – King John, 2.2.51-52

4 FOR THAT SWEET ODOR WHICH DOTH IN IT LIVE.

SWEET ODOR = the royal presence of Southampton within the Rose; “What doth avail the rose unless another took pleasure in the smell? … Why should this rose be better esteemed than that rose, unless in pleasantness of smell it far surpassed the other rose?” – Oxford’s Prefatory Letter to Cardanus’ Comfort, 1573

5 THE CANKER BLOOMS HAVE FULL AS DEEP A DYE

CANKER BLOOMS = Southampton’s disgrace; (blossoms of the dog-rose)

Hath not thy rose a canker, Somerset?
Hath not thy rose a thorn, Plantagenet?        1 Henry VI, 2.4.68-69

To put down Richard, that sweet lovely rose,
And plant this thorn, this canker Bolinbroke?    1 Henry IV, 1.3.173-174

Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) - having no known heir of her blood, and refusing to name her son Southampton as successor, she was leaving England on the edge of possible civil war over the throne

FULL AS DEEP A DYE = just as much filled with royal blood; “And almost thence my nature is subdued/ To what it works in, like the Dyer’s hand” – Sonnet 111, lines 6-7; “dye” echoing “die” in the circumstances by which Southampton may be executed

6 AS THE PERFUMED TINCTURE OF THE ROSES,

As the external show of royalty by Tudor Rose heirs, i.e., Oxford is using the plural to refer to the singular, Southampton, who is Elizabeth’s heir by blood; also, the “Roses” or past heirs of the Tudor dynasty, from Henry VII in 1485.

7 HANG ON SUCH THORNS, AND PLAY AS WANTONLY,

HANG = echoing the imminent execution of Southampton; “Which like a jewel hung in ghastly night” – Sonnet 27, line 11; THORNS = disgraces; another play on Elizabeth’s motto Rose Without a Thorn, indicating that Southampton has disgraced and doomed the Tudor Rose Dynasty; “Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,/ Clouds and eclipses stain both Moone and Sunne,/ And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud” – Sonnet 35, lines 2-4, referring to Southampton as “bud” of the Tudor Rose

8 WHEN SUMMER’S BREATH THEIR MASKED BUDS DISCLOSES:

SUMMER’S = golden, kingly; “Shall I compare thee to a Summer’s day?” – Sonnet 18, line 1; MASKED BUDS = hidden or unacknowledged Tudor Rose heirs, i.e., Southampton

MASKED = “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 [Elizabeth Regina] hath masked him from me now” – Sonnet 33, lines 9-12; “Masking the business from the common eye, for sundry weighty reasons” – Macbeth, 3.1.123-124; BUDS = “Within thine own bud buriest thy content” – Sonnet 1, line 11; “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May” – Sonnet 18, line 3; DISCLOSES = unfolds to view, opens, as in “The canker galls the infants of the spring too oft before their buttons be disclosed” – Hamlet, 1.3.40; but Southampton is not being “disclosed” as the royal son – except in these private sonnets and, less directly, in Oxford’s works attributed to Shakespeare

The Book of Sonnets, 1609 - with the space between the lines left blank, indicating the author is not being identified

9 BUT FOR THEIR VIRTUE ONLY IS THEIR SHOW,

Because their only virtue is their appearance

10 THEY LIVE UNWOOED, AND UNRESPECTED FADE,

UN-WOOED = unacknowledged as prince; without being named in succession; “And when a woman woos, what woman’s son/ Will sourly leave her till he have prevailed?” – Sonnet 41, lines 7-8, referring to Elizabeth having “wooed” or promised/tempted her son to hope or expect that she will name him to succeed her

UN-RESPECTED FADE = ignored, un-regarded, held in contempt; and, as such, fail to grow into rightful kingship; “For all the day they view things un-respected” – Sonnet 43, line 2, Oxford speaking of what is seen or perceived of his royal son by the rest of the world; (“un-respected” is used nowhere else in Shakespeare, aside from Sonnets 43 & 54)

If well-respected honor bid me on            1 Henry IV, 4.3.10

As jewels lose their glory if neglected,
So princes their renowns if not respected         Pericles, 2.2.12-13

Throw away respect,
Tradition, form and ceremonious duty         Richard II, 3.2.172-173

To tread down fair respect of sovereignty         King John, 2.2.58

To understand a law, to know the meaning
Of dangerous majesty, when perchance it frowns
More upon humour than advised respect         King John, 4.2.212-214

I come with gracious offers from the king,
If you vouchsafe me hearing and respect         1 Henry IV, 4.3.30-31

11 DIE TO THEMSELVES; SWEET ROSES DO NOT SO,

DIE TO THEMSELVES = as Southampton may die by execution; SWEET ROSES = royal Tudor Rose heirs, i.e., Southampton; “Earthlier happy is the rose distilled, than that which withering on the virgin thorn grows, lives and dies in single blessedness” – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, 1.1.76-78

12 OF THEIR SWEET DEATHS ARE SWEETEST ODORS MADE:

SWEET DEATHS = royal deaths; (again, the plural used for the singular); Southampton’s still-expected execution; also, the extinction of his chance to gain the throne; SWEETEST ODORS = most royal evidence

"Shakespeare and the Tudor Rose" by Elisabeth Sears, Meadow Geese Press, 2003 - a ground-breaking book!

13 AND SO OF YOU, BEAUTEOUS AND LOVELY YOUTH,

YOU = Southampton; “But he that writes of you, if he can tell/ That you are you, so dignifies his story” – Sonnet 84, lines 7-8; BEAUTEOUS AND LOVELY YOUTH = royal son of beauty, the Queen; BEAUTEOUS = related to the Queen by blood; (perhaps rather than “beautiful” because of the “E O” within “beauteous); LOVELY = filled with “love” or royal blood; “O Thou my lovely Boy” – Sonnet 126, line 1; “the little Love-God” – Sonnet 154, line 1

14 WHEN THAT SHALL VADE, BY VERSE DISTILLS YOUR TRUTH.

VADE = fade, depart; die; BY VERSE = by these sonnets; (“my” verse – Malone)

DISTILLS = recreates and preserves; “By means of verse your truth is preserved and transmitted to future generations” – Duncan-Jones. Arden Edition of the Sonnets); i.e., Oxford is using the Sonnets to preserve and perpetuate his son’s blood, as opposed to the “distillation” of his royal blood by the begetting of an heir, called for in an earlier time: “But flowers distilled, though they with winter meet,/ Leese but their show, their substance still lives sweet” – Sonnet 5, lines 13-14; and “Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface/ In thee thy summer ere thou be distilled” – Sonnet 6, lines 1-2; and much earlier, when Oxford was four years old, he began studying with Thomas Smith, his first tutor, an expert in distillation

The Tower of London, where Southampton was being held by Cecil until Elizabeth died and James of Scotland became King of England

TRUTH = the truth of your royal blood, which is related to Oxford, Nothing Truer than Truth; “And your true rights be termed a Poet’s rage” – Sonnet 17, line 11; “Thou truly fair wert truly sympathized/ In true plain words by thy true-telling friend” – Sonnet 82, lines 11-12

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://hankwhittemore.com/2009/12/05/anticipating-the-execution-of-southampton-sonnet-54-sweet-deaths-the-living-record-chapter-49/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this web site before but after browsing through a few of the articles I realized it’s
    new to me. Anyways, I’m definitely pleased I discovered it and I’ll
    be bookmarking it and checking back often!

    • Thanks … And feel free to ask any question and I’ll do my best


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: