Updated date:

Shakespeare Sonnet 98

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"

Introduction and Sonnet 98

Sonnet 98 finds the speaker still wallowing in the sorrow of separation from his muse. Still the speaker continues to find ways to outsmart that separation. He explores every knock and cranny of his brain to create his little dramas. This speaker's intensity never fails him, despite his very human problem that all writer's must face. Even though he is complaining that his muse has abandoned him, he seems to be able to create anyway.

This talented speaker retains the ability to employ the season in ways that other poets have left untouched. On the one hand, he can observed the beauty of the season while on the other he can admit that that beauty is somehow escaping his deepest observation. Whatever he chooses to focus on, this clever speaker can be counted on to provide not only a well-structured sonnet, but one that will make a truthful statement about the human heart, mind, and soul.

Sonnet 98

From you have I been absent in the spring
When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

Reading of Sonnet 98

Commentary

The speaker in sonnet 98 again addresses his muse, who is again absent. The speaker explores the nature of this absence in spring, which seems like winter without her.

First Quatrain: Absence in April

From you have I been absent in the spring
When proud-pied April, dress’d in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.

In the first quatrain of sonnet 98, the speaker remarks, "From you have I been absent in the spring"; as he did in sonnet 97, he first begins by claiming that he is the one absent from the muse, reversing what comes later in each poem. The speaker paints his absence in April, who is "dress’d in all his trim" and who "Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing."

The mythologically gloomy god Saturn even responds to the glories of April by "laugh[ing] and leap[ing] with him." April is a time when young things begin to appear and grow, and the speaker associates his budding creativity with this season; therefore, it is an especially inopportune time for the muse to be absent, but such is life.

Second Quatrain: Flowers and Birds Not Enough

Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:

Somehow even the joy that usually arises from the birds and flowers is not enough to bring the usual inspiration to the speaker nor to elevate his mood to creativity. The speaker does not seem to be able to create any "summer's" tale. Regardless of his contemplation of all the surrounding beauty, he does not find it possible to alter his mood to a more sunny disposition. Even as the speaker is motivated by the loveliness of the flowers, he remains unable to "pluck them where they grew." That is, his mental facility seems incapable of appreciating the fertile materials offered him by April and the beautiful season of spring.

Third Quatrain: Reminders of the One

Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.

The speaker’s deep admiration for "the lily’s white" and "the deep vermillion in the rose" are, nevertheless, reminders of the One who creates and sustains them—the muse is, after all, a spark of the Divine that the speaker has come to rely on for his very life. The speaker detects the pattern of the Divine in all creation, and that pattern is especially manifest during the spring season when nature begins to bloom and grow.

The speaker calls these natural phenomena "figures of delight." And he avers that they are, indeed, "drawn after you," that is, the muse. The pattern or design of the Divine is inherent in the muse. Although the speaker is aware that he is also a spark of the Divine, he separates himself from the concept in order to explore its nature and value.

The Couplet: Get Away from Me, You Silly Thing

Yet seem’d it winter still, and you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

The speaker reveals that while the muse is "away," it seems like winter even in spring. The "shadow[s]" of the muse detected in the birds, lilies, and roses are not sufficient. The speaker is inviting his muse to return by advancing his sorrow coupled with clear discernment. He has been able to demonstrate his solid understanding of how nature and the human mind may be employed to shed light on unexplored areas of thought. This speaker/thinker has no fear of treading where others have feared to go.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The real "Shakespeare"

The real "Shakespeare"

Michael Dudley Bard Identity: Becoming an Oxfordian

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on September 28, 2017:

Hi, Louise! No problem about repeating yourself. You are correct that hearing the poems does help so much with better and deeper understanding. As pleasant as reading these sonnets is, hearing them adds to that pleasure.

I always try to find a good reading for every poem I comment on. And there are a lot of good readers to choose from. In that we are fortunate . . . Have a great day!

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on September 28, 2017:

I know I keep repeating myself when I read your articles, but I do enjoy reading them, and always glad you add a video so I can listen to the sonnets and poems too. I always get a better understanding of them once I've read your articles.

Related Articles