“The Living Record” – The Execution of Southampton Draws Near – Sonnet 58 – “The Imprisoned Absence of Your Liberty” – Chapter Fifty-Three

DAY THIRTY-TWO IN THE TOWER
EXECUTION OF SOUTHAMPTON DRAWS NEAR

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604)Sonnet 58
Imprisoned Absence
Your Self to Pardon
11 March 1601

Speaking as a “vassal” or subject of a king, Edward de Vere Earl of Oxford tells Southampton that the bargain being made for his life includes gaining a royal pardon for him.  He introduces the younger earl’s “charter” or royal privilege as so “strong” that he will be able to gain this “pardon” – the same “charter” of Sonnet 87, line 3, that will give him “releasing” from prison by King James.  As a practical matter, Southampton holds his fate in his own hands, since he must decide to give up any claim to the throne.  Has he agreed to this ransom for his life or is he resisting it?  Meanwhile the Queen is still (officially) in charge and Oxford continues to suffer the “hell” of “waiting” for her either to execute their son or spare him.

Sonnet 58

1- That God forbid, that made me first your slave,
2- I should in thought control your times of pleasure,
3- Or at your hand th’account of hours to crave,
4- Being your vassal bound to stay your leisure.
5- Oh let me suffer (being at your beck)
6- Th’imprisoned absence of your liberty,
7- And patience tame to sufferance bide each check,
8- Without accusing you of injury.
9- Be where you list, your charter is so strong,
10- That you yourself may privilege your time
11- To what you will; to you it doth belong
12- Yourself to pardon of self-doing crime.
13- I am to wait, though waiting so be hell,
14- Not blame your pleasure, be it ill or well.

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton (1573-1624) - Actual Birth Date 1574 - Unacknowledged Son of Oxford and Queen Elizabeth,

1 THAT GOD FORBID, THAT MADE ME FIRST YOUR SLAVE,
That God, who made me your “slave” or servant from the beginning, forbids or forbade; (“But God forbid that I should rejoice, but in the cross of our Lord” – Galatians, 6:14); an image of Oxford serving his son as one who serves a god, i.e., as “a God in love” of Sonnet 110, line 12 or as “the little Love-God” of Sonnet 154, line 1; FIRST = a term referring to a general period of time in the past, as in, “Since first I saw you fresh, which yet are green” – Sonnet 104, line 8; SLAVE = servant; “a person who is absolutely subject to the will of another” – Schmidt; carried over from the previous verse: “Being your slave, what should I do but tend/ Upon the hours and times of your desire?” – Sonnet 57, lines 1-2

2 I SHOULD IN THOUGHT CONTROL YOUR TIMES OF PLEASURE,
IN THOUGHT = have it in my mind, i.e., that I should think I can determine how you spend your time, or when I may visit according to your royal pleasure; CONTROL = have power over; i.e., God forbid I should have power over you, my prince; Southampton is a prince or king with all “in his controlling” in Sonnet 20, line 7; “Can yet the lease of my true love control” – Sonnet 107, line 3; “A true soul/ When most impeached stands least in thy control” – Sonnet 125, line 14, admitting that Southampton has lost all claim to be king or have control, just before Oxford ends his diary; PLEASURE = your Majesty’s pleasure or royal will; YOUR TIMES OF PLEASURE = the times when you command me (or allow me) to visit you in the Tower

3 OR AT YOUR HAND TH’ACCOUNT OF HOURS TO CRAVE,
Or to ask you to give me an accounting, by your royal hand, of how you spend your hours; AT YOUR HAND = at your royal command; “Yet shall you have all kindness at my hand” – King Lewis in Henry VI, 3.3.149; “And if thy poor devoted servant may but beg one favor at thy gracious hand” – Richard III, 1.2.210-211; as when Oxford writes of the Queen having refused to acknowledge their son as her natural heir by recording that the boy “Was sleepling by a Virgin hand disarmed” – Sonnet 154, line 8; “A dearer merit … have I deserved at Your Highness’ hands” – Richard II, 1.3.156-158

Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533-1603)

TH’ACCOUNT OF HOURS = record of time with you; (also possibly a play on “ours,” referring to these sonnets as this “account of ours”); the “account” is also the “sum” or “store” or “treasure” or “Audit” of Southampton’s royal blood; CRAVE = beg, as to a king or superior; “Then I crave pardon of Your Majesty” – 3 Henry VI, 4.6.6-8; “Till time and vantage crave my company” – Northumberland in 2 Henry IV, 2.3.68

4 BEING YOUR VASSAL BOUND TO STAY YOUR LEISURE.
YOUR VASSAL = your servant; “That lift your vassal hands against my head and threat the glory of my precious crown” – Richard II, 3.3.89-90; “Your Majesty’s humblest vassal, Essex” – the Earl of Essex to Queen Elizabeth, 1600; “Lord of my love, to whom in vassalage” – Oxford to Southampton, Sonnet 26, line 1; BOUND = tied to; obliged; imprisoned; “My duty … is bound to your Lordship” – dedication of Lucrece to Southampton; STAY = wait upon; restrict; STAY YOUR LEISURE = wait until you have time to listen; wait upon your royal time; the time of which you may freely dispose; “I will attend upon your lordship’s leisure” – 1 Henry VI, 5.1.55; “the adverse winds, whose leisure I have stay’d” – King John, 2.1.57-58; “We will stay your leisure” – to Hotspur in 1 Henry IV, 1.3.254

5 OH LET ME SUFFER (BEING AT YOUR BECK)
OH = O = Oxford; ME = Oxford; LET ME SUFFER = allow me to suffer by making this sacrifice on your behalf, to save your life and gain your freedom with honor; “To weigh how once I suffered in your crime” – Sonnet 121, line 8; BEING AT YOUR BECK = I, being your servant and at your command; “Egypt, thou knewst too well my heart was to thy rudder tied by th’strings and thou shouldst tow me after.  O’er my spirit thy full supremacy thou knewst, and that thy beck might from the bidding of the gods command me” – Antony and Cleopatra, 3.11.56-61

Tower of London, where Southampton awaits execution

6TH’IMPRISONED ABSENCE OF YOUR LIBERTY,
IMPRISONED = Southampton, imprisoned; ABSENCE OF YOUR LIBERTY = The “absence” of Southampton’s liberty is imprisoned within Oxford’s mind and heart; (it “also carries suggestions of ‘lack of the liberty of you,’ ‘lack of the privilege of unrestricted access to you” – Booth); “I cannot conceive in so short a time and in so small an absence how so great a change is happened to you” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, December 4, 1601; LIBERTY = Southampton’s freedom and even his life itself, the absence of which would mean his death (by execution); “Those pretty wrongs that liberty commits” – Sonnet 41, line 1; “Humbly complaining to her deity got my Lord Chamberlain his liberty” – Richard III, 1.1.76-77

“I am sorry to see you ta’an from liberty, to look on the business present.  ‘Tis His Highness’ pleasure you shall to th’Tower” – Henry VIII, 1.2.204-207

His liberty is full of threats to all.
Hamlet, 4.1.14

7 AND PATIENCE TAME TO SUFF’RANCE BIDE EACH CHECK,
PATIENCE TAME = make my patience tame; cure my impatience; be tamed by patience; SUFFERANCE = subjugation; also, related to suffering or misery; BIDE = follow; CHECK = restriction or hindrance (from being able to see you)

8 WITHOUT ACCUSING YOU OF INJURY.
ACCUSING = recalling the legal accusation of treason against Southampton; “Since that the truest issue of thy throne by his own interdiction stands accused” – Macbeth, 4.3.106-107; “Accuse me thus” – Sonnet 117, line 1, Oxford speaking after Southampton has been released and he, Oxford, has accepted all blame; INJURY = “injustice, wrong … offence … crime … anything contrary to a benefit … the wrong suffered by one” – Schmidt; “To bear love’s wrong than hate’s known injury” – Sonnet 40, line 12

9 BE WHERE YOU LIST, YOUR CHARTER IS SO STRONG
BE WHERE YOU LIST = wherever you want to be; wherever you are or happen to be; YOUR CHARTER = your royal privilege; “What he sets before us … is not the powers of a peer, but those peculiar to a king: power to grant charters of privilege and letters patent, power to pardon crimes – in short, the exclusively royal prerogative” – Leslie Hotson, referring to the poet addressing a king; “Charter – privilege, acknowledged right – a standard, nearly atrophied, metaphor from the written document by which a privilege, right, or pardon was legally granted” – Booth; “The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing” – Sonnet 87, line 3, related to the same kingly rights that will spare Southampton from execution and finally give him “releasing” from the Tower; SO STRONG = so royal; accompanied by such royal power; “You break no privilege nor charter there” – Richard III, 2.4.54); CHARTER = “A written document delivered by the sovereign or legislature; granting privileges to, or recognizing rights of; granting pardon, to receive a pardon” – OED, citing “Maister John Hume had his charter and was pardoned by the King” (1480); and “a charter of pardon” (Francis Bacon, 1626); (therefore Oxford is saying that James of Scotland, once he ascends as King of England, will grant Southampton a pardon; which, in fact, he will do); “Is not his heir a well-deserving son?  Take Hereford’s rights away, and take from Time his charters and his customary rights” – Richard II, 2.1.194-196

10 THAT YOU YOUR SELF MY PRIVILEGE YOUR TIME
YOU YOUR SELF = an emphasis on his royal identity; “This is I, Hamlet the Dane!” – Hamlet, 5.2.255-256; “But he that writes of you, if he can tell that you are you” – Sonnet 84, lines 7-8; PRIVILEGE YOUR TIME = related to the charter (or charter of privilege) of line 9; i.e., you are a king, so you may command yourself; “Such neighbor nearness to our sacred blood should nothing privilege him” – Richard II, 1.1.119-120

11 TO WHAT YOU WILL; TO YOU IT DOTH BELONG
TO WHAT YOU WILL = according to what your Majesty desires, to what you command; to do the bidding of your royal will; TO YOU IT DOTH BELONG = the royal power belongs to you; BELONG = referring to what belongs to a king; “Disdaining duty that to us belongs” – Queen to King in 2 Henry VI, 3.1.17; “with all appertinents belonging to his honour” – Henry V, 2.2.87-88; “Doth not thy embassage belong to me” – the Queen in Richard II, 3.4.93

12 YOUR SELF TO PARDON OF SELF-DOING CRIME.
YOUR SELF TO PARDON = you, being a king, may pardon your royal self; (if and when Southampton’s life is spared, he will need a royal pardon or else he will remain at the monarch’s mercy; Oxford is working to gain promise of such a pardon from James, if it is arranged that he will succeed Elizabeth; CRIME = the treason of which you were convicted; “To weigh how once I suffered in your crime” – Sonnet 120, line 8

PARDON = “Say ‘pardon’, king … No word like ‘pardon’ for kings’ mouths so meet” – Richard II, 5.3.116, 118; “letters of the kings’ grace and pardon” – Henry VIII, 1.2.104; “your Grace’s pardon” – Richard II, 1.1.141); after releasing Southampton on April 10, 1603, King James will issue him a royal pardon, based on prior negotiations involving Oxford and Robert Cecil, by which Southampton agrees to give up any royal claim; at this point in time, of course, the condemned earl still hopes his mother the Queen might grant it to him: “O let her never suffer to be spilled the blood of him that desires to live but to do her service, nor lose the glory she shall gain in the world by pardoning one whose heart is without spot, though his cursed destiny hath made his acts to be condemned” – Southampton to the Council, after the trial (Stopes, 225); “A gracious king that pardons all offences” – Henry VIII, 2.2.66; “May one be pardoned and retain th’offence?” – Hamlet, 3.3.56; “You straight are on your knees for ‘Pardon, pardon!’ And I, unjustly too, must grant it to you” – Richard III, 2.2.125-126; “Subjects may challenge nothing of their sovereigns; but, if an humble prayer may prevail, then I crave pardon of Your Majesty” – 3 Henry VI, 4.6.6-8

Pardon me, God, I knew not what I did:
And pardon, father, for I knew not thee.
My tears shall wipe away these bloody marks
3 Henry VI, 2.5.69-71

“Thus in haste I crave Your Majesty’s pardon…”
– Oxford to Elizabeth, June 1599

13 I AM TO WAIT, THOUGH WAITING BE SO HELL
I AM = “I am that I am” – Sonnet 121, line 9; (William or Will-I-Am or I-Am-Will); WAIT = wait upon, as a servant waits upon the presence of his king; “And’t please your grace, the two great cardinals wait in the presence” – Henry VIII, 3.1.16-17; Oxford must wait for the chance to visit him in the Tower; WAITING BE SO HELL = also the agonizing wait for the Queen to decide whether Southampton will live or die; “y’have passed a hell of Time,/ And I, a tyrant, have no leisure taken/ To weigh how once I suffered in your crime” – Sonnet 121, lines 6-8; WAITING = “your waiting vassals” – Richard III, 2.1.122; “waiting in the Court” – 1 Henry IV, 1.2.67

14 NOT BLAME YOUR PLEASURE BE IT ILL OR WELL.
NOT BLAME YOUR PLEASURE = not blame your royal pleasure or will; “the pleasure of the fleeting year” – Sonnet 97, line 2, referring to the royal pleasure or will of Elizabeth, who has kept Southampton in the Tower at her pleasure; “But since she (nature, the Queen) pricked thee out for women’s (her own) pleasure” – Sonnet 20, line 13, referring to Elizabeth’s royal will; “Now the cause falling out to be good, and by course of law Her Majesty’s, it is justice that Her Majesty may bestow the same at her pleasure” – Oxford to Robert Cecil, December 4, 1601; BLAME = to blame for a crime or fault; to censure or find fault with; “Or will you blame and lay the fault on me?” – 1 Henry VI, 2.1.57; echoing the blame put upon Essex and Southampton at the trial; “I cannot blame thee … But yet be blamed” – Sonnet 40, lines 7-8

But who is this man???

Is he writing a sonnet? Thinking of a topic? Running out of ideas?

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. “To be or not to be…” Hamlet.
    “Esse aut non esse…” in Latin.
    If x marks the spot, then
    “Essex aut non essex…”

  2. To have great poets, there must be great audiences.
    Walt Whitman

    Or, why I am of the Lilian Winstanley school.

  3. Books Fatal to their Authors : CHAPTER VII.
    by P. H. Ditchfield

    see esp Trajano Boccalini (author of `Touchstone of Politics’). Boccalini is cited in Lilian Winstanley’s “`Othello’ as Tragedy of Italy.

    • Well I have gotten hold of her Hamlet and the Scottish Succession and yes, well worth it. Thank you for further suggestions.

  4. Hank,

    Please look at LWinstanley on the Casket Letters. It’s in her Othello book and relevant now to the Portuguese connection to Brazil, the war on the Real, resulting directly from Brazil’s tax on derivatives.

    sf

    • Will do, Sander. Thanks!


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