Striking New Evidence in the Southampton Tower Poem in Support of “The Monument”

The other night I was re-reading the recently discovered poem The Earle of Southampton prisoner, and condemned, to Queen Elizabeth, written by the earl in February or March 1601, while he was in the Tower as a condemned man awaiting execution; and unexpectedly several lines of the poem seemed to leap out, reminding me of a passage in Sonnet 31 of the Shakespeare sequence of 1609.  A comparison reveals that Southampton, in his “verse-letter” to her Majesty pleading for mercy, expresses virtually the same idea in the same language, as if he had Sonnet 31 with him in his prison room and was being influenced by it.

Southampton in the Tower

In my view this similarity provides additional support for the Monument theory, which holds that the Earl of Oxford used the Sonnets as a “chronicle” of Southampton’s ordeal in confinement.  This proposed diary of “verse letters” to Southampton in the Tower begins with Sonnet 27 upon the failed Essex Rebellion on February 8, 1601 and concludes with Sonnet 106 (which refers to “the Chronicle of wasted time”) on April 9, 1603, the night before the younger earl was liberated by King James from being “supposed as forfeit to a confined doom” (Sonnet 107).

In the Monument view Sonnet 31 corresponds with the fifth day of Southampton’s imprisonment, when it was already clear (to Oxford, at least) that both Essex and Southampton would be convicted of high treason and sentenced to death.   Two week later Oxford writes in Sonnet 45 of “those swift messengers returned from thee/ Who even now come back again assured/ Of thy fair health, recounting it to me” – referring not only to the leg ailment suffered by Southampton, who cites it in his poem to the Queen, but apparently to Oxford’s use of “messengers” riding to and from the Tower with (I suggest) copies of individual sonnets for him.

Here in modern English are the specific lines of Southampton’s poem that seemed to cry for attention, with certain key words emphasized:

Southampton to Queen Elizabeth:

While I yet breath and sense and motion have

(For this a prison differs from a grave),

Prisons are living men’s tombs, who there go

As one may sith say the dead walk so.

There am I buried quick: hence one may draw

I am religious [reverent; faithful] because dead in law.

The idea expressed above by Southampton is that prisons are different from graves because prisons contain men who are still alive whereas graves contain those who are dead.  On the other hand, he writes, prisons are the graves or tombs for the walking or living dead – for those who, like Southampton himself, are condemned to death by law (and  who, therefore, might as well be dead).

Here is Oxford’s verse-letter to Southampton, also with certain key words emphasized:

Sonnet 31

Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts,

Which I by lacking have supposed dead;

And there reigns love and all love’s loving parts,

And all those friends which I thought buried.

How many a holy and obsequious tear

Hath dear religious love stolen from mine eye,

As interest of the dead, which now appear

But things removed that hidden in thee lie.

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,

Hung with the trophies [memorials on graves] of my lovers gone,

Who all their parts of me to thee did give;

That due of many now is thine alone.

Their images I loved I view in thee,

And thou, all they, hast all the all of me.

Oxford’s idea in Sonnet 31 above is similar to Southampton’s theme, except he pictures the imprisoned younger earl himself as the grave.  Southampton is the living grave that contains his own “love” or the most important aspect or quality of his person.

The ideas are similar but different; many of the words are the same: grave, dead, buried, religious, living/live, tombs/trophies and so on – more evidence that Sonnet 31 is concerned with the same individual (Southampton) in relation to the same “dark lady” (Elizabeth) in the same situation (in the Tower, facing death) in the same time period (February-March 1601).

I offer it as striking new testimony that the Monument theory of the Sonnets is correct.

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://hankwhittemore.com/2012/04/03/striking-new-evidence-in-the-southampton-tower-poem-in-support-of-the-monument/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hank…I believe you may have raised this point before, but is it at all possible that Southampton’s poem may actually have been written by Edward DeVere and delivered to Southampton via the messengers? Or alternatively, perhaps he was at least guiding Southhampton in the writing of it, making suggestions that would present the case for pardon in the most favorable light. As your post makes clear, there’s a lot of DeVere influence in this poem from prison, maybe too much to be mere coincidence.

    Anyway…it’s a great discovery, adding much credence to the Monument theory.
    Gary

    • Gary – I raised the point in regard to Southampton’s letters to the Council and one to Cecil; it seems Oxford was guiding him in terms of how to plead — aimed, I think, at supporting the goal of “misprision” of treason, which would save his life and give him the possibility of obtaining a royal pardon. Southampton’s line would be “I didn’t know the law” or some such. You are right about that in relation to the poem; it would seem that Oxford-Shakespeare is over Southampton’s shoulder — especially with the observation that “mercy’s an antidote to justice.”

      I wonder, Gary, if the orthodox Shakespeare world knows about the Southampton Tower Poem (my name for it at the moment) and what they might think about it. Hmmm.

      Thanks for the comment, as always.


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: