Colin Burrow (ed.), The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems
pg 576 pg 577 98
- Editor’s Note1From you have I been absent in the spring,
- Editor’s Note2When proud-pied April (dressed in all his trim)
- 3Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
- Editor’s Note4That heavy Saturn laughed and leapt with him.
- Editor’s Note5Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
- Editor’s Note6Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
- Editor’s Note7Could make me any summer's story tell,
- Editor’s Note8Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus9Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
- Editor’s Note10Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
- Editor’s NoteCritical Apparatus11They were but sweet, but figures of delight
- 12Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
- Editor’s Note13Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
- Editor’s Note14As with your shadow I with these did play.
1 spring draws out the absence described in 97 either forwards (to the spring which follows the autumn of 97) or backwards (to the spring preceding it). The inversion of the expected seasonal order of these two poems has the effect of imaginatively extending the absence to a whole year, spring to spring, as a reader tries out possibilities.
2 proud-pied proudly dressed in particoloured clothes. (The flashes of green and blossom in an April woodland are probably meant.)
trim adornment, array
4 That with the result that
heavy Saturn Saturn is the god of melancholy and old age, whose association with the slower, denser elements and humours makes him heavy in the senses of 'weighty' and 'gloomy'. To 'laugh and leap' is a set phrase for mirthful celebration (Dent L92a.1).
5 nor … nor neither … nor
lays songs. This was a poeticism even by 1600.
6 Of different … hue of flowers differing in their scent and colour
7 summer's story Since 'A sad tale's best for winter' (Winter's Tale 2.1.27) a summer's tale would be cheery. Cf. 'summer songs', Winter's Tale 4.3.11.
8 proud lap The lap of earth on which they grow is proud of its offspring.
9 lily's] q (Lillies)
9 lily's white Q reads 'Lillies white'. The apostrophe (not regularly used to mark the genitive in this period) is needed in order to point the similarity with the vermilion in the rose of the next line.
10 vermilion a strong bright red. The word occurs only here in Shakespeare.
11 were] q (weare)
13 you away with you away
14 shadow representation or ghost, as opposed to substance. See 27.10 n.
The fifteen lines of this sonnet have prompted much adverse commentary. Some find in them early work which was not subsequently revised; others present the poem as a deliberately unconvinced panegyric to the friend. For the latter view, see Gerald Hammond, The Reader and Shakespeare's Young Man Sonnets (1984), 144–9; for a refinement, which presents the poem as one which Shakespeare could not 'have wished to bring quite round', see Kerrigan, 32–3. It is close in subject to Petrarch's Rime Sparse 127, Henry Constable's Diana 1.9, and to Campion's lyric 'There is a garden in her face'. It treats a timeworn theme. Fifteen-line 'sonnets' are found in Barnabe Barnes's Parthenophil and Parthenophe (1593) and Bartholomew Griffin's Fidessa (1596). It confirms the effect of seasonal and stylistic regression established by the previous poem: thus did I chide points to a past spring, and, in its metrical awkwardness, perhaps too to an earlier period of composition. The final more flowers I noted suggests that the poem is reluctant to fit into even fifteen lines.