More Evidence that the Southampton Tower Poem to Queen Elizabeth was Influenced by Manuscript Copies of the Sonnets…

The recently discovered 74-line poem written by Henry Wriothesley third earl of Southampton to Queen Elizabeth during February-March 1601, when he was in the Tower of London facing execution, has even more extensive and profound links to the Shakespeare sonnets than previously reported.

Southampton in the Tower 1601-1603

It should be noted up front that the Southampton poem (begging for the royal mercy) offers no proof that Edward de Vere earl of Oxford wrote the Sonnets; and neither does it prove that Southampton was the son of Oxford and Elizabeth.

On the other hand, it does provide convincing evidence that Sonnets 27 to 66 were written during the tense time between the younger earl’s imprisonment on February 8 until March 19, by which time the Queen (and Robert Cecil) agreed to spare his life while keeping him in perpetual confinement.  And that evidence, of course, further supports the view that Oxford wrote those sonnets to Southampton and that the central “story” he recorded involved events during the younger earl’s imprisonment.

The evidence makes it extremely likely that during those first forty days and nights Southampton had manuscripts copies of some or many of those forty sonnets with him in his Tower prison room.

Southampton uses more than twenty key words that appear no less than sixty times (in one form or another) within twenty-three of those sonnets, which consistently express the author’s grief and fear leading to Sonnet 66, wherein he lists reasons he’d prefer to die:  “Tired with all these, for restful death I cry.”

(Defenders of the Stratford man’s authorship have never found anything in his life that would prompt him to write such a virtual suicide note; but if we view Oxford as a father writing to his son – his royal son by the Queen – during these dark days, the words come alive with new meaning and power.)

Elizabeth the First (1533-1603)

Twenty-one key words used by Oxford in Sonnets 27-66 and by Southampton in the Tower Poem are:  blood, buried, cancel, crimes, dead, die, faults, grave, grief, groans, ill, liberty, loss, offences, pardon, power, prison, religious, sorrow, stain and tears.

An impressive list, I’d say – reflecting the fate that Southampton was facing and that Oxford must have dreaded.  Moreover it appears that Southampton was influenced not only by the words, but by some of the concepts, expressed in the sonnets.  For example, Oxford writes in Sonnet 30:

Then can I drown an eye (un-used to flow)

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night

And in Sonnet 31:

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live

In the first two lines Oxford appears to be referring to Southampton (and perhaps Essex), who, in effect, is  a “dead man walking,” as the saying goes.  And Southampton writes in his poem to Elizabeth begging for her mercy:

 While I yet breathe, 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 I am buried quick… 

In an upcoming blog I’ll print out a near-complete list of lines from Shakespeare sonnets and from the Southampton poem that contain the same words in various forms.

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