Shakespeare Sonnet 107

Updated on January 23, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The real "Shakespeare"
The real "Shakespeare" | Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 107

The speaker in sonnet 107 is once again affirming that spiritual immortality remains possible through his poems. The poem will stand as a monument to the speaker's love. His ability to erect such a monument remains steadfast.

The speaker insists that the poet's monuments will outlast all the sculpted stones of political leaders and war heroes. He is blessed with vision and the talent to place his love of beauty and truth in little dramas that, he is convinced, will stand the test of time.

Sonnet 107

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,
Suppos’d as forfeit to a confin’d doom.
The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur’d,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assur’d,
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 rime,
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.

(Please note: In the original Shakespeare sonnets, the spelling of the poetic device is always "rime," as the first published edition in 1609 attests. The Shakespeare writer was composing his sonnets two centuries before Dr. Samuel Johnson erroneously introduced the spelling "rhyme" into English. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Reading of Sonnet 107 from the original text

Commentary

Addressing his sonnet, the speaker again affirms that despite the ravages of time and wrong thinking that may obliterate and denigrate art, his sonnet will live on.

First Quatrain: No Stopping Progress

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,
Suppos’d as forfeit to a confin’d doom.

In the first quatrain of sonnet 107, the speaker declares that nothing can halt the progress of his creations, not his "own fears," nor the fears of "the wide world." That world tries to prognosticate the future while it keeps freedom of thought and wisdom of talent in check.

A "dreaming" world holds in its imagination a source of squalor that would limit and denigrate the enlightened, talented artist. Historically, submission to false ideals limits art and thereby causes "forfeit to a confin’d doom." But this speaker takes a strong stance against such negativity and conformity, as he asserts aggressively that none of this doomsaying will affect his art. Even his "own fears" he determines to rouse and dominate for the good of his art.

Second Quatrain: Nature and Adversity

The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur’d,
And the sad augurs mock their own presage;
Incertainties now crown themselves assur’d,
And peace proclaims olives of endless age.

The speaker then demonstrates that even nature provides examples of entities overcoming their own adversities; for example, the "eclipse" of the moon is an insult to that glowing body, but the moon remains steadfast, returning again despite temporarily having its light put out. Soothsayers reporting future calamities often exhibit behavior that limits their credibility. Many of those "world dreaming" folks like to pretend to be prophets, even though they spout "incertainties." Their portentousness becomes a blemish, when their many claims are rendered false by time.

During times of supposed "peace," citizens fail to remember that there has never really been a time of peace on earth. There are, in fact, no "olives of endless age," to which the peaceniks like to refer. The fog of imagination continuously hides the reality of earth life, except to the poet of talent and vision who strives to cut through it.

Third Quatrain: Creative Interludes

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 rime,
While he insults o’er dull and speechless tribes:

The speaker has enjoyed a period of creativity which he calls "drops of the most balmy time." It is useful to remember all the times when the speaker has complained mightily about this lack of creativity, even as he continues to create. But now this talented speaker is celebrating a wealth of inspiration, and his love "looks fresh." Nevertheless, he is always aware that "Death" still looms in the future for him, but his art affords him a place to reside eternally, "I’ll live in this poor rime." He rationalizes that Death will accost those who are "dull and speechless," but not those who enforce a permanent vessel for their spiritual remains.

The Couplet: The Poet's Monument

And thou in this shalt find thy monument,
When tyrants’ crests and tombs of brass are spent.

The sonnet will, in fact, stand as a monument to the poet, who has lovingly molded his affection in his poetry. The poetry will remain even after the monuments erected to despotic rulers have been toppled.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Source

A Brief Overview: The 154-Sonnet Sequence

Scholars and critics of Elizabethan literature have determined that the sequence of 154 Shakespeare sonnets may be classified into three thematic categories: (1) Marriage Sonnets 1-17; (2) Muse Sonnets 18-126, traditionally identified as the "Fair Youth"; and (3) Dark Lady Sonnets 127-154.

Marriage Sonnets 1-17

The speaker in the Shakespeare “Marriage Sonnets” pursues a single goal: to persuade a young man to marry and produce beautiful offspring. It is likely that the young man is Henry Wriothesley, the third earl of Southampton, who is being urged to marry Elizabeth de Vere, the oldest daughter of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Many scholars and critics now argue persuasively that Edward de Vere is the writer of the works attributed to the nom de plume, "William Shakespeare." For example, Walt Whitman, one of America's greatest poets has opined:

Conceiv'd out of the fullest heat and pulse of European feudalism — personifying in unparalleled ways the medieval aristocracy, its towering spirit of ruthless and gigantic caste, with its own peculiar air and arrogance (no mere imitation) — only one of the "wolfish earls" so plenteous in the plays themselves, or some born descendant and knower, might seem to be the true author of those amazing works — works in some respects greater than anything else in recorded literature.

For more information regarding Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as the real writer of the Shakespearean canon, please visit The De Vere Society, an organization that is "dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford."

Muse Sonnets 18-126 (Traditionally classified as "Fair Youth")

The speaker in this section of sonnets is exploring his talent, his dedication to his art, and his own soul power. In some sonnets, the speaker addresses his muse, in others he addresses himself, and in others he even addresses the poem itself.

Even though many scholars and critics have traditionally categorized this group of sonnets as the "Fair Youth Sonnets," there is no "fair youth," that is "young man," in these sonnets. There is no person at all in this sequence, with exception of the two problematic sonnets, 108 and 126.

Dark Lady Sonnets 127-154

The final sequence targets an adulterous romance with a woman of questionable character; the term “dark” likely modifies the woman’s character flaws, not her skin tone.

Three Problematic Sonnets: 108, 126, 99

Sonnet 108 and 126 present a problem in categorization. While most of the sonnets in the "Muse Sonnets" do focus on the poet's musings about his writing talent and do not focus on a human being, sonnets 108 and 126 are speaking to a young man, respectively calling him "sweet boy" and "lovely boy." Sonnet 126 presents an additional problem: it is not technically a "sonnet," because it features six couplets, instead of the traditional three quatrains and a couplet.

The themes of sonnets 108 and 126 would better categorize with the "Marriage Sonnets" because they do address a "young man." It is likely that sonnets 108 and 126 are at least partially responsible for the erroneous labeling of the "Muse Sonnets" as the "Fair Youth Sonnets" along with the claim that those sonnets address a young man.

While most scholars and critics tend to categorize the sonnets into the three-themed schema, others combine the "Marriage Sonnets" and the "Fair Youth Sonnets" into one group of "Young Man Sonnets." This categorization strategy would be accurate if the "Muse Sonnets" actually addressed a young man, as only the "Marriage Sonnets" do.

Sonnet 99 might be considered somewhat problematic: it features 15 lines instead of the traditional 14 sonnet lines. It accomplishes this task by converting the opening quatrain into a cinquain, with an altered rime scheme from ABAB to ABABA. The rest of the sonnet follows the regular rime, rhythm, and function of the traditional sonnet.

The Two Final Sonnets

Sonnets 153 and 154 are also somewhat problematic. They are classified with the Dark Lady Sonnets, but they function quite differently from the bulk of those poems.

Sonnet 154 is a paraphrase of Sonnet 153; thus, they carry the same message. The two final sonnets dramatize the same theme, a complaint of unrequited love, while outfitting the complaint with the dress of mythological allusion. The speaker employs the services of the Roman god Cupid and the goddess Diana. The speaker thus achieves a distance from his feelings, which he, no doubt, hopes will finally liberate him from the clutches of his lust/love and bring him equanimity of mind and heart.

In the bulk of the "dark lady" sonnets, the speaker has a been addressing the woman directly, or making it clear that what he is saying is intended for her ears. In the final two sonnets, the speaker is not directly addressing the mistress. He does mention her, but he is speaking now about her instead of directly to her. He is now making it quite clear that he is withdrawing from the drama with her.

Readers may sense that he has grown battle-weary from his struggle for the woman’s respect and affection, and now he has finally decided to make a philosophical drama that heralds the end of that disastrous relationship, announcing essentially, "I’m through."

"Shakespeare" revealed as Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

    Comments, Questions, Suggestions

    Submit a Comment
    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      15 months ago from U.S.A.

      Hi, Nell! Thanks for the comment. And I think you should just go right ahead and use those old, Shakespearean phrases. Maybe you can help bring them back into modern parlance. The works of Shakespeare actually stand like a beacon at the beginning of what we today call Modern English, as opposed to the Old English of Beowulf and the Middle English of Chaucer.

      Language is a fascinating subject for study, and our English language offers a wide stage for deep research and exposition. We are certainly indebted to the Shakespearean writer for his skill and attention to his creations in dramatic truth.

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      15 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thanks, Louise! Yes, I'm so enthralled with the new series of Shakespeare sonnet readings that I recently found. The inclusion of the text as the Shakespeare writer experienced it adds a profound level of meaning for the modern reader.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      15 months ago from England

      I love the saying 'The drops of the most balmy time!' oh I wish we still used those words and such today! This is really useful for anyone wanting to know the what's and hows of Shakespeare and his words.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 

      15 months ago from Norfolk, England

      I'm glad you posted the video, and I find some of them words difficult to pronounce. Thankyou for another great article. =)

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