Shakespeare Sonnet 107: "Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul"

Updated on December 24, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

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

Shakespeare Sonnet Titles

The Shakespeare Sonnet sequence does not feature titles for each sonnet; therefore, each sonnet's first line becomes the title. According to the MLA Style Manuel:

"When the first line of a poem serves as the title of the poem, reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the text."

APA does not address this issue.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 107, "Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul"

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.

Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul

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: The Shakespeare writer did not make a mistake in the eleventh line of this sonnet. The spelling, "rhyme," was not used until the 18th century when Dr. Samuel Johnson erroneously introduced that spelling 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

First Quatrain: "Not mine own fears, nor the prophetic soul"

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: "The mortal moon hath her eclipse endur’d"

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: "Now with the drops of this most balmy time"

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: "And thou in this shalt find thy monument"

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.

(Note: Readers who are interested in experiencing more works by this poet called "William Shakespeare" may find this site useful: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare)

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments, Questions, Suggestions

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  • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
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    Linda Sue Grimes 2 months ago from Spring Hill, TN

    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 image
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    Linda Sue Grimes 2 months ago from Spring Hill, TN

    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 2 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.

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    Louise Powles 2 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. =)