Shakespeare Sonnet 153 - Owlcation - Education
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Shakespeare Sonnet 153

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

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 153

The two final sonnets 153 and 154 are nearly identical; 154 is essentially a paraphrase of 153. They differ from the other "dark lady" poems in two main ways: they do not address the lady directly as most of the others do, and they employ use of Roman mythology for purposes of analogy.

Sonnet 153

Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep
A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrow’d from this holy fire of Love
A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.
But at my mistress’ eye Love’s brand new-fired,
The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
And thither hied, a sad distemper’d guest,
But found no cure: the bath for my help lies
Where Cupid got new fire, my mistress’ eyes.

Reading of Sonnet 153

Commentary

Sonnet 153 alludes to Roman mythology through the characters of Cupid, god of love, and Diana, goddess of the hunt.

First Quatrain: Carrying a Torch

Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep
A maid of Dian’s this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;

In the first quatrain of Sonnet 153, the speaker, who is still the same speaker smarting from his unsatisfactory love affair with the dark mistress, dramatically alludes to the Roman god of love, Cupid. In this little drama, Cupid falls asleep leaving his torch unattended. One of Diana’s handmaidens sees Cupid asleep and steals off with his torch, which she tries to extinguish by dipping in a cold-spring pool of water.

The speaker, in addition to exposing yet again his suffering at the hands of his dark mistress, dramatizes a myth wherein medicinal hot springs is created. His clever portrayal also employs an analogy between the Cupid torch and his own physical and mental torch of love. The expression "to carry a torch" for someone after the breakup of a romance comes from the mythological Cupid with his torch.

Second Quatrain: From Cold to Hot Springs

Which borrow’d from this holy fire of Love
A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.

The Dianian nymph, however, was unsuccessful in extinguishing the torch’s flame, but the spring takes on the heat, transforming its cold waters into a hot-springs bath that people henceforth would use for curing physical ailments. The waters are heated by the powerful "holy fire of Love," and a "seething bath" continued in perpetuity, "which yet men prove / Against" all manner of physical illness; they come to the baths to seek "sovereign cure."

Third Quatrain: Allusion to Explicate Delusion

But at my mistress’ eye Love’s brand new-fired,
The boy for trial needs would touch my breast;
I, sick withal, the help of bath desired,
And thither hied, a sad distemper’d guest,

In the third quatrain, the purpose of the little Cupid-Diana drama becomes apparent. The speaker is dramatizing his own "holy fire of Love," that is, his passion for his mistress. When he sees his mistress, or even just "[his] mistress’ eyes," his own "Love brand," that is, male member becomes "new-fired" or aroused to sensual desire.

If the little god of love were to touch the speaker’s breast with his torch, the speaker would again become love sick, as he always does, and he would hurry to the hot springs that Cupid’s torched had created to try to be cured of his love-sickness. However, the speaker asserts that he would be "a sad distemper’d guest" at the baths resort because he is always in a melancholy funk through the ill-treatment he suffers at the hands of the dark lady.

The Couplet: No Help

But found no cure: the bath for my help lies
Where Cupid got new fire, my mistress’ eyes.

Unlike others who might have experienced a cure at the medicinal hot springs, this speaker, unfortunately, "found no cure." Referring to his male appendage as "Cupid" now, he claims that he could get help only from his "mistress’ eyes," those same pools that always stimulate him to the passion of coital arousal.

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

The Mystery of Shakespeare

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

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