Saturday, November 5, 2011

"Death to me subscribes"

Thanks to my favorite twitter bot Willy Shakes, I discovered this Shakespeare sonnet, which I don't even remember having read before (though I must have) but now like very much indeed:


 Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul
Of the wide world dreaming on things to come,
Can yet the lease of my true love control,
Supposed as forfeit to a confined doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endured,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assured,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.
Now with the drops of this most balmy time,
My love looks fresh, and Death to me subscribes,
Since, spite of him, I'll live in this poor rhyme,
While he insults o'er dull and speechless tribes:
   And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
   When tyrants' crests and tombs of brass are spent.

The last line is uncharacteristically good for a Shakespeare sonnet. I like the messing around with choriambs in the first two lines -- a stretch to call it a conscious rhythmical echo of "Exegi monumentum aere perennius," which the sonnet generally evokes, but it's very effective on its own terms. The second quatrain definitely refers -- to my mind -- to James I's peace with Spain ca. 1604, but there's some controversy about when exactly the poem was written. NB there is a very closely parallel passage by Drayton, who is more explicit about the events (Idea, LI):
Lastly mine eyes amazedly have seen
Essex's great fall, Tyrone his peace to gain;
The quiet end of that long-living Queen;
This King's fair entrance; and our peace with Spain,
We and the Dutch at length ourselves to sever.

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