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The amazing web site of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Commentary. A Lover's Complaint.Part II.

 

HAKESPEARE'S   ONNETS

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Boy blowing bubbles.      William Russell at the Age of 10.

By John Russell R. A.      1794.
 

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OMMENTARY

A LOVER'S COMPLAINT (cont.)

 

'So on the tip of his subduing tongue

All kind of arguments and question deep,

All replication prompt, and reason strong,

For his advantage still did wake and sleep:

To make the weeper laugh, the laugher weep,

He had the dialect and different skill,

Catching all passions in his craft of will;                       126

  subduing tongue - gifted speech that was able to subdue all in argument.
replication- replies.
still - always.
did wake and sleep - i.e. his tongue was always ready to aid him when necessary, or silent if the occasion demanded.
To make the weeper laugh etc. - His speech (the dialect and different skill) was able to change people's moods.
different - varied.
catching all passions - responding to all moods (?); diverting all anger (?).
craft of will - skill in implementing his desires. will (see Sonnets 135 &6) and here, following the ambiguous phrase catching all passions the suggestions range from skilful manipulation of social situations to simple seduction. Despite the maid's admiration of the youth's qualities, they come across as being rather unpleasant.
     
   

'That he did in the general bosom reign

Of young, of old; and sexes both enchanted,

To dwell with him in thoughts, or to remain

In personal duty, following where he haunted:

Consents bewitched, ere he desire, have granted;

And dialogued for him what he would say,

Asked their own wills, and made their wills obey.                     133

   That - as a result of which.
in the general bosom - in the mind's of most.
sexes both - both sexes. Although both could also be applied to what follows.
where he haunted - wherever he frequented.
Consents bewitched etc. - These three lines 131-3 are complex, but generally convey the message that the youth bewitched everyone to the extent that they asked of him what he himslef desired, believing that it was what they themselves desired most. The maid is in fact recounting the reasons why he seduced so many, including herself.
Consents - Those who gave consent. The action stands for the person agreeing.
ere he desire - even before he has shown what he wanted.
have granted - sc. have granted his request.
dialogued - spoken. A somewhat strange use of the word which perhaps is intended to suggest a two way traffic, the young man with silent influence proposing what his admirers should speak for him, and they themselves uttering it as if it were their own desire. Or, they put words into his mouth, words which they want to hear.
wills see the note to l.126 in the previous stanza. The reference is mainly to sexual desire, since they were all madly infatuated with him. Although the second wills suggests more a moral imperative (not to be seduced) since it has to be overcome and forced to obey, though not offering much resistance.
     
   

'Many there were that did his picture get,

To serve their eyes, and in it put their mind;

Like fools that in the imagination set

The goodly objects which abroad they find

Of lands and mansions, theirs in thought assigned;

And labouring in mo pleasures to bestow them,

Than the true gouty landlord which doth owe them:                140

   his picture - probably a miniature, which they could carry around as a keepsake.
to serve their eyes - as a feast for their eyes.
in it put their mind - imagined that he was of the mind that they desired him to have, i.e. that he loved them. Like fools etc. - like those foolish people who imagine that the things their eyes alight on and desire they also actually posess.
goodly - pleasant.
abroad - here and there; in their travels.
theirs in thought assigned - which they like so much that they dream of possessing them.
mo - more.
to bestow them - either refers to the fools who arrogate objects to themselves (in which case them = themselves, as in 142 below), or to the objects, which in their imaginations the fools endow with even more assets and goodliness than they actually possess.
gouty landlord - evidently a figure of fun long before the 18th. century. Gout was a disease of the wealthy, often associated with too much drinking.
owe - own.
     
   

'So many have, that never touched his hand,

Sweetly supposed them mistress of his heart.

My woeful self, that did in freedom stand,

And was my own fee-simple, not in part,

What with his art in youth, and youth in art,

Threw my affections in his charmed power,

Reserved the stalk, and gave him all my flower.                   147

  never touched his hand - suggesting that physical contact is the final  decider in a love match. Lermontov claimed that the touch of a hand was always the most irresistible part of the conquest in a seduction. Here it is the maidens who have not even touched the youth's hand who still imagine that they have triumphed over him.
Sweetly supposed them - in fond and sweet self- delusion thought themselves to be.
in freedom stand - was free.
was my own fee-simple - was in absolute possession of myself. A legal term used to describe tenure of land or estates. not in part emphasises the totality of her self-possession.
What with - So that given etc.; bearing in mind. The line is more or less parenthetic, apart justification, part explanation.
art - skill, duplicity.
youth in art - inexperience; youthful charm displayed in his techniques of seduction.
charmed - that has the ability to charm; enchanted. Reserved the stalk etc. - Kept the worthless part (of myself).
gave him all my flower - surrendered my virginity.
     
   

'Yet did I not, as some my equals did,

Demand of him, nor being desired yielded;

Finding myself in honour so forbid,

With safest distance I mine honour shielded:

Experience for me many bulwarks builded

Of proofs new-bleeding, which remained the foil

Of this false jewel, and his amorous spoil.                           154

  some my equals - some of my equals.
Demand of him - make demands of him; tempt him to make love to me.
nor being desired yielded - and even though not being desired by him, gave myself to him.
in honour so forbid - so much prevented from doing so by consciousness of my own honour.
With safest distance by keeping at a sufficient distance from him, which provided safety.
Experience - i.e. the experience of what she had seen happened to others. (Amplified in the next line).
bulwarks - defensive earthworks.
proofs - actual events; persons (maids who had been seduced by him).
new-bleeding - wounded; ruined. The imagery of these few lines is mostly military, with shielded, bulwarks, new-bleeding, and spoil all suggesting warfare. Compare for example the ballad Beauty's Fort given with the commentary to
141.
foil - the backing to a jewel which enhanced its appearance.
spoil - the waste and destruction of war; trophies and gains won through conquest.
     

   

'But ah! who ever shunned by precedent

The destined ill she must herself assay?

Or forced examples, 'gainst her own content,

To put the by-passed perils in her way?

Counsel may stop awhile what will not stay;

For when we rage, advice is often seen

By blunting us to make our wills more keen.                         161

   by precedent - using former examples of similar situations.
the destined ill - the evil that is is ordained to her by fate.
assay - make trial of; experience.
forced examples - forced herself to take not of previous examples.
content - desires, happiness, peace of mind.
by-passed perils dangers which were in the past (in the sense that they had already been suffered by others in the past, and did not apply to her).
in her way - as obstacles in her path.
Counsel - (good) advice.
what will not stay - what will not be halted in its progress.
wills - desires, volition, stubbornness.
     
   

 'Nor gives it satisfaction to our blood,

That we must curb it upon others' proof,

To be forbod the sweets that seems so good,

For fear of harms that preach in our behoof.

O appetite, from judgement stand aloof!

The one a palate hath that needs will taste,

Though reason weep, and cry 'It is thy last'.                         168

   blood - appetite, desires. Compare
For why should others false adulterate eyes
Give salutation to my sportive blood?
121.
it - our blood, our appetities.
other's proof - the experience of other similarly deceived women.
forbod - forbidden. Probably an echo here of the forbidden fruits of paradise, which seemed good when tasted.
in our behoof - on our behalf, for our advantage. It is presumably the good counsel which preaches that harms will befall us if we follow our lusts, rather than the harms themselves that preach. However the foretold harms (of ruin and abandonement) in a sense act like preachers of the path that we should follow to avoid them.
appetite - sexual desire, lust.
judgement - good sense, reason.
stand aloof - keep far away from, have no contact with.
The one - one of the two, i.e. appetite.
needs will - must, will not be restrained from.
It is thy last - One has to expand the thought here to 'It is your last hour of happiness' or something similar. Reason is too shocked to be explicit.
     
   

 'For further I could say, This man's untrue,

And knew the patterns of his foul beguiling;

Heard where his plants in others' orchards grew,

Saw how deceits were gilded in his smiling;

Knew vows were ever brokers to defiling;

Thought characters and words, merely but art,

And bastards of his foul adulterate heart.                         175

  For further I could say - Icould add further to what I have already said, by saying 'This man's untrue'. Or untrue could be equivalent to untruthfulness. Hence, 'I could tell in addition of his deceitful conduct'.
knew - I knew.
the patterns of his foul beguilings - the typical way he went about his seductions.
his plants in other's orchards grew i.e. he had sown his wild oats liberally. The implication is that he had fathered bastard children on other men's wives.
vows - love vows.
brokers arrangers of contracts; go-betweens. I.e. vows only paved the way to seduction, they were not meant.
defiling - in the context this = sexual debasement, robbing of virginity.
Thought character and words - Either 'I thought his letters (written characters) and his words etc.'; or, with a comma after Thought, the whole is governed by knew in the line above, i.e. 'I knew his thoughts, his letters, and his speech were merely artifice.'
bastards - generally a term of reproach, but in the sense that the youth did not acknowledge any of his actions or words as being true to what he thought, they were alein to him and merely his bastard creations.
adulterate - the meaning is often given as 'impure', but given the context here it must have the meaning of 'prone to commit adultery'.
     

   

 'And long upon these terms I held my city,

Till thus he 'gan besiege me: Gentle maid,

Have of my suffering youth some feeling pity,


And be not of my holy vows afraid:

That's to you sworn, to none was ever said;

For feasts of love I have been called unto,

Till now did ne'er invite, nor never woo.                      182

  these terms - these conditions, i.e. by deciding to distrust him.
held my city - See the note to line 153 above for the military imagery.
'gan - began.
That's - That which is.
did ne'er invite - never tempted me.
     
   

 'All my offences that abroad you see

Are errors of the blood, none of the mind;

Love made them not; with acture they may be,

Where neither party is nor true nor kind:

They sought their shame that so their shame did find;

And so much less of shame in me remains,

By how much of me their reproach contains.                         189

   errors - sins.
blood - unrestrained passion, appetite, lust.
acture - OED gives no other example of the word and defines it as 'The process of acting'. The meaning of this half line is however uncertain, other than that it implies some form of moral doublespeak. Perhaps 'These things may be done where neither party is sincere'.
They sought their shame - i.e. the girls whom I seduced. The general sense of the line seems to be 'They deserved what they got, because they chased me in the first place'.
and so much less etc. Two difficult lines, mainly because of the syntax of the second line. It is uncertain how the reproach the betrayed girl hurls at him contains him, or his or her shame. The youth seems to think that the more shamed the girl is, the less blame attaches to him, as if rape were only the fault of the victim. I leave readers to puzzle out the meaning as best they can. Clearly the youth is not portrayed in a favourable light.
     
   

 'Among the many that mine eyes have seen,

Not one whose flame my heart so much as warmed,

Or my affection put to the smallest teen,

Or any of my leisures ever charmed:

Harm have I done to them, but ne'er was harmed;

Kept hearts in liveries, but mine own was free,

And reigned, commanding in his monarchy.                             196

  many - i.e. many maidens.
flame - love, passion.
affection - desires, inclination.
teen - distress, sorrow.
Kept hearts in liveries - i.e. made their hearts my servants. A livery was the uniform worn by a servant. It was of a particular design which showed to whose house they belonged.
reigned - I reigned.
in his monarchy - with my heart's absolute power over them.
     
   

 'Look here what tributes wounded fancies sent me,

Of pallid pearls and rubies red as blood;

Figuring that they their passions likewise lent me

Of grief and blushes, aptly understood

In bloodless white and the encrimsoned mood;

Effects of terror and dear modesty,

Encamped in hearts, but fighting outwardly.                         203

   Look here - The young maid tells how the youth showed her the various offerings from his lovers.
tributes
- love letters, trinkets etc.
wounded fancies - hearts smitten with love for him. pallid - Q gives palyd, which could signify 'having turned pale'.
199-203.
Figuring - The meaning of the next four lines is dependent on the interpretation of this word, on the referent of they which follows, and on the meaning of lent at the end of the line. OED and Onions give several Shakespearian meanings for figure, of which the most probable here is OED 4, 'to portray or represent by speech or action'. E.g.
Anne. I would I knew thy heart.
Glo. 'Tis figured in my tongue. R3 I.2.194.
The subject of figuring could be either the wounded fancies or the pearls and rubies. If the former then the more likely meaning of figuring is 'imagining', (OED 3), and a paraphrase would be 'they imagined that, in the same way that they gave me pearls and rubies, they communicated their passions of sorrow (at not possessing me) and blushes (desire to have me), passions which were aptly displayed and symbolised by the pearls and rubies'. However the meaning is not easy to pin down, although the general sense is conveyed that the maidens were totally infatuated with him to their cost. Other suggestions are present such as loss of virginity, (the encrimsoned mood), rape (effects of terror), futile resistance (fighting outwardly), and the baneful presence of the love goddess encamped in their hearts like an invading power in the citadel (encamped in hearts).
I have not found other editions very helpful in providing explanations for this stanza.
     
   

 'And, lo! behold these talents of their hair,

With twisted metal amorously empleached,

I have received from many a several fair,

Their kind acceptance weepingly beseeched,

With the annexions of fair gems enriched,

And deep-brained sonnets that did amplify

Each stone's dear nature, worth, and quality.                       210

   talents - treasures, tokens. Since the biblical sense of talent was that of 'inward gift or mental faculty', the implication here is that the locks of hair were tokens of the maidens' inward disposition, and this sense is further amplified by the amorous empleachment which follows.
empleached - intricately woven.
many a several fair - many different girls.
Their kind acceptance etc. - i.e. the maids weepingly begged me to accept their locks of hair.
annexions - additions, attachments.
deep-brained - intricately thought out.
amplify - enlarge, expatiate, dilate upon. OED 7.
JK says that it was a rhetorical term much used in that period.
dear - precious, costly.
     
   

 'The diamond, why 'twas beautiful and hard,

Whereto his invised properties did tend;

The deep-green emerald, in whose fresh regard

Weak sights their sickly radiance do amend;

The heaven-hued sapphire and the opal blend

With objects manifold; each several stone,

With wit well blazoned, smiled, or made some moan.              217

   Whereto - to which.
invised - unseen, invisible.
in whose fresh regard - by looking at which, or, through the process of being looked upon by (the emeralds). The emerald was believed to have the medicinal property of healing sick and feeble eyesight. sights - eyes.
sickly radiance - ill and feeble light.
blend - possibly a verb here, meaning that among all the gems given to him sapphires and opals were blended with numerous other objects. Possibly its force is adjectival, meaning perhaps 'with blended colours'. With wit well blazoned - well decorated with witty phrases (in the accompanying deep-brained sonnets). To blazon is a term from heraldry.
smiled or made some moan - (each gem), according to the conceit of the sonneteer, appeared to smile or moan. Moaning was of course the familiar condition of the star crossed lover. Here the roles are reversed, and it is the woman neither loved or emblazoned to the skies who is moaning, rather than her passionate admirer. No doubt the irony is intentional, and is a further underlining of the unconventional nature of the sonnets.
     
   

 'Lo! all these trophies of affections hot,

Of pensived and subdued desires the tender,

Nature hath charged me that I hoard them not,

But yield them up where I myself must render,

That is, to you, my origin and ender:

For these, of force, must your oblations be,

Since I their altar, you enpatron me.                                      224

 

 trophies - i.e. the gems, love letters, locks of hair etc. But the word also implies sexual conquest, the maidens being the trophies won by the youth in the battle of the sexes.
affections hot - passionate love.
pensived - persistently thought on.
tender offering. The word order is reversed. The trophies symbolised offerings of undying love made by the girls.
charged me - ordered me.
yield them up - give them, surrender them. The imagery is both military and sexual, and ironically suggests that the youth is yielding his virginity, just as those others yielded theirs to him.
origin and ender -alpha and omega. For this and the following two lines see the notes on And take thou my oblation, poor but free, of Sonnet
125, the penultimate sonnet to the youth.
these the trophies collected by the youth.
of force - perforce, of necessity.
oblations - offerings, gifts. See notes to 125. The echo is from the Anglican Communion Service, of which the relevant part is given below left.
I their altar - I am the altar on which all these gifts are laid.
you empatron me - you are the presiding deity whose altar this is. You are my patron saint.

This stanza has many points of contact with Sonnet 31, as well as 125, not only in the thought that love and love's trophies are transferable from previous loves to the current one, but also in the phrase my origin and ender, which is paralleled by And thou, all they, hast all the all of me. The significance of the quasi-religious declaration here is both in itself, (for the speaker and listener know it to be false), and in its contrast with the similar avowal made in 125,
And take thou my oblation, poor but free,
Which is not mixed with seconds, knows no art,
But mutual render, only me for thee.

which is absolute in its commitment.

 The relevant passage from the Communion Service.
ALMIGHTY God our heavenly Father, which of thy tender mercy didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ, to suffer death upon the cross for our redemption; who made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world; and did institute, and in his holy gospel command us to continue, a perpetual memory of that his precious death, until his coming again.
   
   

 'O then advance of yours that phraseless hand,

Whose white weighs down the airy scale of praise;

Take all these similes to your own command,

Hallowed with sighs that burning lungs did raise;

What me your minister, for you obeys,

Works under you; and to your audit comes

Their distract parcels in combined sums.                                231

   phraseless hand - hand which beggars all description. weighs down the airy scale of praise - the imagery is that of a scales or balance, with the white of her hand placed in one pan, and praise placed in the other. The praise is not sufficient to outweigh the beauty of her hand. At the same time it seems to convey the wrong meaning, in that the whiteness of her hand is almost characterised as being dull and lumpish. The contrast unconsciously helps to register the artificiality and treachery of the praise that is offered.
all these similes - Either the similes of praise that he has just offered. Or the gems and the sonnets about them, the trophies of affections hot of the previous stanzas. Hallowed with sighs - a throwback to the religious imagery of the previous stanza, and also to Sonnet 108, Even as when first I hallowed thy fair name
with its echo of the Our Father.
burning lungs - lungs aflame with love's passion.
What me, your minister etc. - Whatever obeys me, your minister, on your behalf, works for you as a subject. The use of minister continues the the religious imagery.
to your audit comes - to the hearing and presentation of your accounts. The subject is their distract parcels of the following line. But initially it is taken to be 'all those things that obey you' of the preceding line. The phrase echoes the finality of the last sonnet to the youth:
Her audit, though delayed, answered must be,
And her quietus is to render thee.
126.
Their distract parcels - the separate bundles (of love tokens). But probably also with a suggestion of things torn asunder, such as hearts. The usual meaning of parcel in Shakespeare is 'portion, part', as in
And I will die a hundred thousand deaths
Ere break the smallest parcel of this vow.
1H4.III.2.158-9
To paraphrase, albeit inadequately, 'To the final settling of your account is brought in the summation of all these other separate and distracted parcels of loves and lover's tokens, which add up to one enormous heap of love for you'.
     
   

 'Lo! this device was sent me from a nun,

Or sister sanctified of holiest note;

Which late her noble suit in court did shun,

Whose rarest havings made the blossoms dote;

For she was sought by spirits of richest coat,

But kept cold distance, and did thence remove

To spend her living in eternal love.                                       238

   this device - presumably the youth points to some object. (See the note below left). A device was an intricate decorative design, often on a shield. In this case it probably refers to a curiously wrought lock of hair, or letter, or gem decorated with a sonnet. The other meaning of device, 'a cunning plan or scheme', is evidently also hinted at.
or sister sanctified -
this amplifies a nun of the previous line, perhaps suggesting that she had taken vows. of holiest note - having a reputation for holiness. late - recently.
her noble suit
- the pursuit of a noble career (?). Given the conditions of the time, the most she could have hoped for would have been an advantageous marriage, which she rejects. Perhaps suit in court has the less loaded connotation of 'attendance at court', as JK glosses it.
rarest havings
- special and precious qualities.
spirits of richest coat
- wealthy noblemen.
remove
- move away (from court).
in eternal love
- ie. in loving God.

 

 

 this device - presumably the youth points to some object. Because of the length of the maid's story it is easy to forget that she is talking and giving an account of what the youth said. It reads as if the youth himself was speaking. In many ways this resembles the 'device' Plato uses in some of his dialogues, such as the Parmenides, whereby the dialogue is reported through the ears of a bystander who recounts the tale as told by someone else. The reality therefore is often thrice removed from the final audience, the reader. In this case the maiden tells the story of her betrayal to an old shepherd, but her words are those of the beautiful youth, and the tale is overheard by the poet as eavesdropper, and we the readers do our own bit of surreptitious eavesdropping on the spicy tale. We therefore hear what the poet says, repeating what the maid told the shepherd, herself repeating what the youth said to her. Paradoxically the effect of this distancing of the reader from the original object is to give it a greater certainty, for we cannot doubt but that a tale which has survived so much transmission at second hand must be substantively true. Or, if we wish, we may dismiss it as being another's pain, far removed (by a couple of dimensions of reality at least), and something which may be clinically observed from afar.

   

   

 'But O, my sweet, what labour is't to leave

The thing we have not, mastering what not strives?

Paling the place which did no form receive,

Playing patient sports in unconstrained gyves:

She that her fame so to herself contrives,

The scars of battle 'scapeth by the flight,

And makes her absence valiant, not her might.                       245

   my sweet - the youth is addressing the maiden. Or he could be retrospectively speaking in a condescending manner to the foolish nun (as he sees her).
what labour is't to leave etc. - is it really a labour at all to leave that which in fact we do not have? The youth is belittling the nun, suggesting that her vocation was false, and that she was not fleeing from any passionate encounters in the world, but merely playing at rejecting fleshly desires.
mastering what not strives - overcoming non-existent passions which put up no resistance.
Paling - fencing in.
the place which did no form receive - the part of herself (her heart) which had not in any case been afflicted by love. To receive a form was said of wax which received an impression made by a seal.
Playing patient sports - following idle pastimes of etc. Patient in this case is adverbial - 'patiently playing the pretend game of being fettered.
unconstrained gyves - fetters which were put on willingly, fetters which do not constrain. The reference is either to the willingness of the nun to shut herself up in a convent, or to her pretended flight from the constraints of imposed love, which in reality she had never suffered.
her fame so to herself contrives - makes her reputation by contrived means.
the scars of battle - i.e. the scars of being in love, or being loved.
makes her absence valiant - maintains that by flight from battle she is valiant.
not her might - not her courage or prowess in battle. I.e. there is no bravery involved in fleeing from love, rahter than standing to fight and conquer in love's wars.
     
   

 'O pardon me, in that my boast is true:

The accident which brought me to her eye,

Upon the moment did her force subdue,

And now she would the caged cloister fly:

Religious love put out religion's eye:

Not to be tempted, would she be immured,

And now, to tempt all, liberty procured.                                  252

   O pardon me etc. - The youth now affects modesty for the conquest he made of the nun.
accident - chance.
Upon the moment - in that very instant.
now she would - (having set eyes on me) she then desired etc. The youth gives the narrative dramatic effect by setting it in the present tense.
caged cloister - the imprisoning cloister of the nunnery.
Religious love - the phrase is used in 131:
How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stol'n from mine eye.
put out religion's eye
- pushed religious consideration aside, thwarted all her religious fervour, made her look no longer with the eye of religion.
Not to be tempted- referrring back to her former decision to avoid love at court. 'In order not to be tempted'.
would she be immured - she deliberately chose to shut herself away. immured is an emendation of Q's enur'd, which means 'hardened'.
to tempt all - to try her hand at everything; to risk all her modesty and virtue. The suggestion is that she gave herself to him and lost her virginity.
liberty procured
- i.e. she obtained release from the nunnery.
     
   

 'How mighty then you are, O hear me tell!

The broken bosoms that to me belong

Have emptied all their fountains in my well,

And mine I pour your ocean all among:

I strong o'er them, and you o'er me being strong,

Must for your victory us all congest,

As compound love to physic your cold breast.                      259

   The youth now turns again to praise the maiden.
The broken bosoms - all the hearts I have broken; the women I have ravaged.
that to me belong - they belong to him by right of conquest.
their fountains - the fountains of their flowing love. mine - my fountain of love. Compare
The sea all water, yet receives rain still
And in abundance addeth to his store;
135
us all congest - heap us all together. Similar to the thought expressed in 31:
Thy bosom is endered with all hearts
compound love
- i.e. made out of the ingredients of individual other loves. Compare 125
For compound sweet forgoing simple savour,
physic - act as a curative for.
     
   

 'My parts had power to charm a sacred nun,

Who, disciplined and dieted in grace,

Believed her eyes when they to assail begun,

All vows and consecrations giving place.

O most potential love! vow, bond, nor space,

In thee hath neither sting, knot, nor confine,

For thou art all, and all things else are thine.                     266

   parts - qualities, graces, sex appeal. As also in 31, to which these few stanzas are all closely related:
And there reigns love and all love's loving parts,
dieted in grace
- trained in piety and God's love. Q gives Who disciplind I dieted which KDJ retains with the insertion of commas. JK changes I to ay.
assail - assault (her heart). The image of the youth in her eyes convinced her heart that she should love him. Compare Sonns 46 & 47.
vows and consecrations - vows refers to sacred promises the nun would have made, consecrations perhaps to the ceremonies at which those vows were made.
giving place - yielding (to the onslaught of love).
potential - powerful.
vow, bond, space, .... sting, knot, confine. This is a rhetorical trope in which each item has its character attached to it in due sequence. Thus vow goes with sting, bond with knot, and space with confine. The meaning is complex, but in essence it is that 'the sting of conscience is powerless in enforcing vows of love, bonds and agreements equally do not tie the agreer, and the space or limitations set upon the participants are powerless to confine them if love choses to overrule them.
For thou art all etc. - This recalls
And thou, all they, hast all the all of me. 31
and
For nothing this wide universe I call,
Save thou, my rose; in it thou art my all.
109
But the reference is also blasphemous, suggesting the omnipotence of the Almighty. It is perhaps worth mentioning that in the Ancient world the God of Love was acknowledged to be at times more powerful than Jupiter (or Zeus).
     
   

 'When thou impressest, what are precepts worth

Of stale example? When thou wilt inflame,

How coldly those impediments stand forth,

Of wealth, of filial fear, law, kindred, fame!

Love's arms are peace, 'gainst rule, 'gainst sense, 'gainst
                                                                                shame.

And sweetens, in the suffering pangs it bears,

The aloes of all forces, shocks and fears.                          273

  impressest - make an impression, (in the heart, as a seal impresses wax). But other meanings are present, mainly that of the forced conscription of soldiers, to impress.
precepts ... of stale example - cautionary tales which moralise in stale old-fashioned ways.
those impediments - i.e. as listed in the following line. They are such things as one might expect to deter the doer from rashness.
filial fear - the child's respect of the parent.
Love's arms are peace - Love conquers, paradoxically, not with weapons of war, but with arms which bring sweetness and peace.
And sweetens - i.e. Love sweetens ...(the aloes etc.).
bears - endures; gives birth to.
aloes - a bitter juice from a plant, used medicinally.
forces, shocks and fears - military terms, especially shocks, which is used of the clashing together of armies. fears - alarums.
     

   

 'Now all these hearts that do on mine depend,

Feeling it break, with bleeding groans they pine,

And, supplicant, their sighs to you extend,

To leave the battery that you make 'gainst mine,

Lending soft audience to my sweet design,

And credent soul to that strong-bonded oath,

That shall prefer and undertake my troth.                         280

   all these hearts - all the girls who have loved him.
Feeling it break - i.e. being aware that my heart is breaking.
their sighs to you extend - offer to you their sighs as a plea (that you should love me). The youth's conceit is that all his former loves join with him in beseeching her to relent and caress him. He assumes (possibly correctly) that they all still love him.
To leave - to abandon.
battery - another military term. 'An assault, or bombardment'.
'gainst mine - against my heart.
Lending soft audience- graciously listening to.
my sweet design - i.e. to make love to you.
credent soul - a soul which believes (my promises). Compare Laertes' advice to Ophelia in Hamlet.
But weigh what loss your honour may sustain
If with too credent ear you list his songs.
Ham.I.3.29-30. strong-bonded - strongly binding.
That shall prefer - that will offer to you (my troth). undertake - guarantee to fulfil.
troth - pledge, promise (of love and marriage).
     
   

 'This said, his watery eyes he did dismount,

Whose sights till then were levelled on my face;

Each cheek a river running from a fount

With brinish current downward flowed apace:

O, how the channel to the stream gave grace!

Who, glazed with crystal, gate the glowing roses

That flame through water which their hue encloses.                287

  dismount - lower, cast downwards.
sights - aim, view. levelled - aimed at. The images are from gunnery. To dismount a gun is to remove it from its carriage.
brinish current - salty streams (of tears).
channel - his face, or cheeks (down which the tears were running).
Who - which (the channel).
glazed with crystal - covered with glassy water.
gate - fence in, enclose; restrain. gate may also mean 'begat'. JK takes 'stream' to be the antecedent of 'who', which is possible. It could be argued however that a stream is crystal, it is not glazed with itself.
the glowing roses - sc. of his cheeks.
hue - colour.
The youth's tears are presumably feigned. The girl is however bewitched by his appearance, even more so when he is weeping.
     
   

 'O father, what a hell of witchcraft lies

In the small orb of one particular tear!

But with the inundation of the eyes

What rocky heart to water will not wear?

What breast so cold that is not warmed here?

O cleft effect! cold modesty, hot wrath,

Both fire from hence and chill extincture hath.                        294

   O father - She is still speaking to the reverend old shepherd.
hell of witchcraft - world of evil enchantment and bewitchment.
orb - drop, sphere.
particular - single, individual.
inundation - overflowing, copious weeping.
to water will not wear - will not be worn away by water.
is not warmed here - is not moved by the sight of weeping.
O cleft effect - Perhaps referring to the double effect of the tears, being in themselves cold, but able to melt hearts. cleft - split, double.
cold modesty, hot wrath - perhaps referring to the typical qualities of a chaste beloved maid. Normally she was cold and distant, but occasionally hot with anger if her honour was challenged. Tears however could overcome both these states, the emotional fire of them melting cold modesty, or their chill liquidity extinguishing hot wrath.
from hence - from the inundation of tears.
extincture - extinguishing.
293-4
  Oh the dual power of tears!   Cold modesty is fired up by them, and hot wrath is extinguished by their chill.
     
   

 'For lo! his passion, but an art of craft,

Even there resolved my reason into tears;

There my white stole of chastity I daffed,

Shook off my sober guards, and civil fears;

Appear to him, as he to me appears,

All melting; though our drops this difference bore:

His poisoned me, and mine did him restore.                        301

   passion - sorrow; passionate speech and behaviour.
art of craft - a cunning trick; skill in deception.
resolved - loosened; dissolved.
my white stole of chastity - a figurative expression. Whiteness symbolises chastity. A stole is a long robe, the word being often used in a bibkical context. .
daffed - took off. Although the line is metaphoric, the suggestion clearly lurks in the background that she removed garments for him.
sober guards - guard of sobriety and self-restraint.
civil - polite, well-bred, sensible.
Appear to him - i.e. I appear to him.
All melting - presumably she also starts to weep pitying his pain.
drops - tears. A suggestion also of medicinal drops. See the notes by JK and KDJ. There is a possible reference to the transference of venereal disease. See also the reference to infected moisture in l. 323 below.
     
   

 'In him a plenitude of subtle matter,

Applied to cautels, all strange forms receives,

Of burning blushes or of weeping water,

Or swooning paleness; and he takes and leaves,

In either's aptness, as it best deceives,

To blush at speeches rank, to weep at woes,

Or to turn white and swoon at tragic shows;                        308

  This and the following stanza describe the youth as a consummate actor who has no belief at all in the things he declares, but woos only for the sake of conquest.
plenitude - fullness, great quantity.
subtle matter scheming ideas, thoughts, motives. cautels - trickery, false posturing.
all strange forms receives - converts him into all types (as described in the next lines).
he takes and leaves - he makes use of what he chooses.
In either's aptness - according to the need for each emotion (weeping or blushing), and its aptness to the situation.
as it best deceives - i.e. he chooses his behaviour on the basis of how effective it will be at seduction.
speeches rank - lustful talk.
woes - i.e a lover's woes caused by rejection.
at tragic shows - either the hysterical response of the woman, or his own pseudo-tragic performance.
     
   

 'That not a heart which in his level came

Could scape the hail of his all-hurting aim,

Showing fair nature is both kind and tame;

And, veiled in them, did win whom he would maim:

Against the thing he sought he would exclaim;

When he most burned in heart-wished luxury,

He preached pure maid and praised cold chastity.                  315

   in his level came - was caught in his sights. The imagery is from gunnery once again.
scape - escape.
hail - bombardment. The suggestion is of overwhelming fire power, caused not only by the youth's glances, but by all his actions.
Showing fair nature etc. - a difficult line because it could refer either to the youth, or the betrayed maiden, or to human nature in general. Perhaps the easiest way to take it is as a further description of the youth's hypocrisy -'Displaying (falsely) a fair outward nature, which was both kind and docile'.
Veiled in them - i.e veiled in kindness and placidity. whom he would maim - those (girls) whom he intended to destroy.
the thing he sought - his desire to have sex with them. exclaim - protest, condemn.
in heart-wished luxury - with lust, deep-seated in the wishes of his heart.
preached pure maid - pretended to be as a pure maid; preached the virtues of modesty.
     
   

 'Thus merely with the garment of a Grace

The naked and concealed fiend he covered,

That the unexperienced gave the tempter place,

Which, like a cherubin, above them hovered.

Who, young and simple, would not be so lovered?

Ay me! I fell, and yet do question make

What I should do again for such a sake.                                322

  merely - absolutely, completely.
garment of a Grace - the outward covering of virtue (but not its inner self).
fiend - the Devil, Satan. naked implies 'brutish, stopping at nothing' as in expressions such as 'naked power'. concealed - disguised, hidden.
gave the tempter place - allowed the devil in. The tempter was another biblical term for Satan, who tempted Eve in the garden of Eden.
Which - i.e. the Devil.
cherubin - cherub, angel.
lovered - wooed, made love to.
Ay me! - The exclamation is used also in the sonnets, at a crucial point where the poet feels betrayed:
Ay me! but yet thou mightest my seat forbear,
And chide thy beauty and thy straying youth,
Who lead thee in their riot even there
Where thou art forced to break a twofold truth.
41.
for such a sake - in similar circumstances; for the sake of such a fair youth.
     
   

 'O, that infected moisture of his eye,

O, that false fire which in his cheek so glowed,

O, that forced thunder from his heart did fly,

O, that sad breath his spongy lungs bestowed,

O, all that borrowed motion, seeming owed,

Would yet again betray the fore-betrayed,

And new pervert a reconciled maid.'                                   329

 

infected moisture - the youth's tears, which infected her with their falseness. Possibly also a reference to disease, carrying on the suggestion from ll.300-1 above.
forced thunder - contrived and artificial passion.
sad breath - sighs.
spongy - moist and holding water, hence able to provide sighs and tears.
bestowed - offered, given freely.
borrowed motion - acted and studied performance. It is borrowed in the sense that it is not a part of the youth's true feelings, since he does not love her, but he adopts the behaviour that will convince her that he does.
owed - owned, belonging (to him).
fore-betrayed - previously betrayed.
pervert ... reconciled - The terminology is religious. OED 3b gives for 'pervert' To turn (any one) aside from a right to a false or erroneous religious belief or system (i.e. to what the speaker or writer holds to be such) and other similar meanings. To be reconciled was to be returned to the path of spiritual grace and duty. OED 5a gives To bring back, restore, or readmit to the Church, spec. the Church of Rome as a specific religious meaning. The maid however is only partially reconciled in the sense that she admits that she would fall again in similar circumstances.

 

 

 

The stanza summarises all the dramas and tricks of the youth that contributed to the young girl's downfall. There was never any means of knowing if they were genuine or not. As Malcolm protests in Macbeth:
That which you are my thoughts cannot transpose:
Angels are bright still, though the brightest fell;
Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace,
Yet grace must still look so.
Mac.IV.3.
This is a recurring theme in Shakespeare. Human relationships are based on trust, but they can be so easily undermined and subverted by hypocrisy, the actor's art, to the extent that nothing need ever be what it seems to be. The maid laments that, faced with the same choices and the same charm, she would fall once more. And perhaps this underlines also another imperative portrayed in the sonnets, that love is total and all consuming. She loved the youth, though her judgement of him was wrong, but having made that choice, or having been forced into it by her own fancy, she must play the drama through to the bitter end, even as the poet did for the beloved youth in the sonnets.

 
 The poem ends abrubtly at this point, and it is noticeable that the reverend man that grazed his cattle nigh, who had offered of his wisdom anything that might assuage her suffering ecstasy (l. 69), remains silent, or if he has anything to say it is not reported by the poet. One is left with the abiding impression that amor vincit omnia, love conquers all, and that there is nothing the fickle maid could have done or not done which would have saved her or would have altered her fate.

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