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Shakespeare Sonnet 105: "Let not my love be call’d idolatry"

The Shakespeare sonnets play an essential rôle in my poetry world. Those 154 classic sonnets masterfully dramatize truth, beauty, and love.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford - the real "Shakespeare"

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford - the real "Shakespeare"

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 105: "Let not my love be call’d idolatry"

In sonnet 105 from the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence, the speaker creates a new trinity, an artist's trinity perhaps, consisting of the three qualities, "fair, kind, and true." He begins by railing against the blasphemy of "idolatry," as he demonstrates that his devotion is dedicated to only One Being.

As the speaker declares that he will not have his beloved thought of as "an idol show," he is employing a pun on the term "idol." In his usage, he is working the term to mean both "idol" and "idle." Thus, he is warning against interpreting his love as "idolatry" and his beloved as a graven image or a meaningless demonstration.

Sonnet 105: "Let not my love be call’d idolatry"

Let not my love be call’d idolatry
Nor my beloved as an idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.
Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse, to constancy confin’d,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference.
‘Fair, kind, and true,’ is all my argument,
‘Fair, kind, and true,’ varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.
‘Fair, kind, and true,’ have often liv’d alone,
Which three till now never kept seat in one.

Reading of Sonnet 105

Commentary

The speaker in sonnet 105 is enshrining an artist’s holy trinity of "fair, kind, and true," a reflection of his beloved subjects of beauty, love, and truth.

First Quatrain: No Mere Idol Worship

Let not my love be call’d idolatry
Nor my beloved as an idol show,
Since all alike my songs and praises be
To one, of one, still such, and ever so.

In the first quatrain of sonnet 105, the speaker exhorts his listener/reader not to interpret his reverence to his beloved as idol worship and by extension not to think of the object of his passion as a trivial target. He does not put on display his discourse for the purpose of pomp and glitter. His poetry not only reflects his considerable talent, but it also engages the world with respect and love for its subject matter.

The speaker insists that his entire canon speaks with a unity that no one can denigrate or deny. He praises only one and that one is the spiritual reality that creates and upholds all creation. Nevertheless, this speaker time and time again demonstrates that his particular interest and talent lay in creating poems about love, beauty, and truth. All of his "songs and praises" pay homage to the reality he calls, "my beloved."

Second Quatrain: Reality Stabilized

Kind is my love to-day, to-morrow kind,
Still constant in a wondrous excellence;
Therefore my verse, to constancy confin’d,
One thing expressing, leaves out difference.

The consistency of this speaker's love stabilizes his reality, and his poetry reflects this stability. His love is "kind" "to-day" and "to-morrow." It is by grace and "a wondrous excellence" that he has the ability to devote himself so single-mindedly to his preoccupation. His poetry shines as a monument to "constancy."

Because of this dedication, this devoted speaker is committed to conveying a single message, which "leaves out difference." Without such a focused heart and mind, "difference" would sever his grasp and break the concentration required to remain integrated with his soul power.

Third Quatrain: A Holy Trinity of Art

‘Fair, kind, and true,’ is all my argument,
‘Fair, kind, and true,’ varying to other words;
And in this change is my invention spent,
Three themes in one, which wondrous scope affords.

The speaker then spells out his stance; he argues only for what is "fair, kind, and true." These seemingly three qualities become a trinity for his invention: "three themes in one." The speaker alludes to the mystery of the holy trinity, wherein abide three Gods in one. And as the holy trinity upholds and explains the nature of spirit, this speaker/poet’s trinity offers "wondrous scope."

The Couplet: Chanting Its Name

‘Fair, kind, and true,’ have often liv’d alone,
Which three till now never kept seat in one.

The speaker repeats the three names that compose his artist's trinity: "Fair, kind, and true." This trinity is so important that he has now chanted its name a third time. The speaker then reveals that the ordinary usage of these terms would define each separately.

However, in this speaker/artist's cosmogony, these three when taken together create a fresh reality that until he had thought them into existence had never combined to create the one that he now maintains. He regards his position as a king reigns over a kingdom or as the Great Spirit Creator reigns over His creation.

The real "Shakespeare"

The De Vere Society is dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The De Vere Society is dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Did Shakespeare Really Write Shakespeare? – Tom Regnier

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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