Those lips that Love's own hand did make,
Breathed forth the sound that said 'I hate',
To me that languished for her sake:
But when she saw my woeful state,
Straight in her heart did mercy come,
Chiding that tongue that ever sweet
Was used in giving gentle doom;
And taught it thus anew to greet;
'I hate' she altered with an end,
That followed it as gentle day,
Doth follow night, who like a fiend
From heaven to hell is flown away.
'I hate', from hate away she threw,
And saved my life, saying 'not you'.
This is the only sonnet of the 154 which is not written in the usual iambic pentameter (verses of five feet consisting of a short followed by a long syllable) but of the more jerky iambic tetrameter, or octosyllabic verse, which is thought to be more appropriate for epigrammatic and comic verse. It is a sonnet that is not highly regarded, being thought of as rather trivial, and most commentators would prefer to discard it. It has been suggested** that it might be a piece of juvenilia, written in 1582, which Shakespeare subsequently adapted to fit in with the sonnets. This involves a pun on Anne Hathaway in line 13, and possibly another pun, (suggested by Booth) in line 14, 'Anne saved my life'. (SB.p.501).
Tempting though these suggestions are, I think they are overcome by the supreme difficulty of imagining how Shakespeare could have familiarized himself at this early stage with the sonnet tradition and its language and ideas. In 1582 he was only 18 years old, had just contracted what was probably a shotgun marriage with Anne Hathaway, was still living in Stratford, knew little of London and the literary set, and yet (we are asked to believe) was able to write a poem which anticipated the language of Sidney's Astrophel and Stella by at least nine years. For it is important to remember that the sonnet tradition did not really begin to flourish until after the posthumous publication of Sidney's work in 1591, which produced a flood of emulative literature.
I have listed in the notes similarities of idea and language of this sonnet with extracts from Sidney's Astrophel and Stella. Not that I insist that any of the echoes are based entirely or even partly on Sidney's work, but only that they reflect the perennial themes of the sonneteers of the day, i.e. of the 1590's, and show how deeply imbued Shakespeare was with that tradition. This sonnet in fact resembles more in tone one of the songs that Sidney interspersed among the sequence of 108 sonnets addressed to Stella. They are mostly of a light and skittish mood, and the lightness of this sonnet 145 is probably deliberate, placed here to offset the seriousness of 144, (or grossness as KDJ points out, referring to a pun on its number), and the weightiness of 146. I give an extract from one of the Stella songs below.
I also give in full at the bottom of the page two of the Astrophel and Stella sonnets which deal with the loved one's unkindness towards and hatred of the lover. They show a few parallels with this one, but are more significant in that they depict the traditional setting and rapport which subsists between lover and beloved, as it had been well defined by the Italian and French sonneteers. It is ultimately to that tradition which this Shakespearian sonnet appeals, and the probability is that Shakespeare absorbed the tradition mostly through the English sonnet writers of the 1590's from Sidney onwards, and not ten years earlier in the rural market town of Stratford.
If the puns are insisted upon, it is always possible that Shakespeare sent off this sonnet to his wife when he was writing the other ones, to assure her that all was well. The other sonnets were hardly such as to promote marital concord, and one wonders how she might have responded to their publication in 1609. The pun of line 14 'Anne saved my life' could equally apply to the dark lady, if her name was Anne.
The intimate knowledge Shakespeare had of Sidney's work may be gauged from the following, taken from Antony and Cleopatra, written by Shakespeare c.1606-7, a period when he might have been revising the sonnets. Cleopatra is anxious to be told anything and everything of Antony's whereabouts.
Where think'st thou he is now? Stands he, or sits he?
Or does he walk? or is he on his horse?
He's speaking now,
Or murmuring, 'Where's my serpent of old Nile?',
For so he calls me. AC.I.5.18-20.
Compare this with these lines from Sidney's sonnet 92.
I would know whether she did sit or walk,
How clothed , how waited on; sighed she or smiled ;
Whereof, with whom, how often she did talk,
With what pastime time's journey she beguiled,
If her lips deigned to sweeten my poor name.
Say all, and all well said, still say the same.
Sweet alas, why strive you thus?
Concord better fitteth us;
Leave to Mars the force of hands,
Your power in your beauty stands:
Take me to thee, and thee to me.
"No, no, no, no, my dear, let be."
Woe to me! And do you swear
Me to hate? But I forbear.
Cursed be my destinies all,
That brought me so high, to fall;
Soon with my death I will please thee.
"No, no, no, no, my dear, let be." A&S.4thSong.
Note that the poet foresees death as a result of the beloved's refusal and disdain. She could have saved his life by agreeing to lie with him.
** Andrew Gurr, Essays in Criticism, 21 (1971) Shakespeare's first poem: Sonnet 145. 221-6.
The 1609 Quarto Version
THoſe lips that Loues owne hand did make,
Breath'd forth the ſound that ſaid I hate,
To me that languiſht for her ſake:
But when ſhe ſaw my wofull ſtate,
Straight in her heart did mercie come,
Chiding that tongue that euer ſweet,
Was vſde in giuing gentle dome:
And tought it thus a new to greete:
I hate ſhe alterd with an end,
That follow'd it as gentle day,
Doth follow night who like a fiend
From heauen to hell is flowne away.
I hate,from hate away ſhe threw,
And ſau'd my life ſaying not you.