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Shakespeare Sonnet 67: "Ah! wherefore with infection should he live"

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"

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford—the Real "Shakespeare"

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 67: “Ah! wherefore with infection should he live”

The speaker in Shakespeare sonnet 67 addresses the Cosmic Presence, the Divine Belovèd, or God. He wants to underscore the incongruity of such a perfect talent as his existing in such a flawed world. This creative and talented speaker may seem somewhat arrogant, yet he knows that his talent comes from the Perfect Eternal. Arrogance and truth may sometimes seem to remain in the eye of the beholder, but the outcome always justifies the one on the side of genuine truth.

Poets in every age have decried the presence of their inferiors. While true poets delight in those of equal or superior talent, they cringe at the poetasters who offer only a "shadow" art. In four rhetorical questions, the speaker offers a spate of lucid criticism that describes vividly the annoyance rendered by the presence of the inferior spewings of literary charlatans and poetasters.

Sonnet 67: “Ah! wherefore with infection should he live”

Ah! wherefore with infection should he live
And with his presence grace impiety,
That sin by him advantage should achieve,
And lace itself with his society?
Why should false painting imitate his cheek,
And steel dead seeming of his living hue?
Why should poor beauty indirectly seek
Roses of shadow, since his rose is true?
Why should he live, now Nature bankrupt is,
Beggar’d of blood to blush through lively veins?
For she hath no exchequer now but his,
And, proud of many, lives upon his gains.
O! him she stores, to show what wealth she had
In days long since, before these last so bad.

Reading of Shakespeare Sonnet 67

Commentary

The speaker in sonnet 67 bases his little drama on four rhetorical questions, as explores the curiosity of the inferior, the phony, and the merely mediocre .

First Quatrain: Why Are Poetasters Permitted a Voice?

Ah! wherefore with infection should he live
And with his presence grace impiety,
That sin by him advantage should achieve,
And lace itself with his society?

The speaker poses his initial question: why should it be that this perfect being exist in a flawed, degenerate world? The presence of this talent "grace[s] impiety," and when "sin" associates itself with that talent, it gains "advantage." The speaker likely feels that such co-existence causes imbalance and disharmony in a world material depravity backed by spiritual strivings.

Within this question, the reader can infer a range of possible reasons that poetasters are permitted by the Vast Cosmic Artist. Without the contrast of skillful vs clumsy, good art would not be visible or appreciated. Also, the competitive spirit winnows out the wheat from the shaft. Still, the question remains until gloriously fulfilled by the Creator Himself.

Second Quatrain: Reckoning with the Dualities

Why should false painting imitate his cheek,
And steel dead seeming of his living hue?
Why should poor beauty indirectly seek
Roses of shadow, since his rose is true?

The speaker then asks, why are those with less talent able to copy from him? Why should lesser poets be able to emulate his style, when he alone has the authentic style? Although the speaker is annoyed that lesser lights are able to spark a flicker because of him, his question still reveals the drama that ensues from the dualities.

On the earth plane of existence, the dualities are always a fact to be reckoned with. Despite knowing intuitively the answers to his questions, the speaker asserts the human inclination and desire to know and understand completely all that the human heart and mind encounters on its earthly journey.

Third Quatrain: The Result of Dead Parroting

Why should he live, now Nature bankrupt is,
Beggar’d of blood to blush through lively veins?
For she hath no exchequer now but his,
And, proud of many, lives upon his gains.

The speaker then asks the question, why should this speaker even bother to care that others cause cataclysm with their dead parroting? The speaker understands well that the poetasters and fakers will ever remain with us, spewing out their doggerel and dreck. But the irksomeness of their plodding continues to annoy, distract, and even belittle at times. And even as this talented speaker remains justifiably pleased and proud of his own creations and the talent that has helped him create them, he sculpts his criticism with an eye on the fact that he is actually injured by these charlatans and poetasters.

The Couplet: True Art Will Always Conquer Bad Art

O! him she stores, to show what wealth she had
In days long since, before these last so bad.

In the couplet, the speaker offers his answer: Nature depends on the true poet, the one of talent, and as long as the genuinely talented offer plenty of their creations, nature can encompass the non-talented as well. Nature will always be able to point to the true poet to "show what wealth she had." Even though art may degenerate through the activity of poetasters, true art will always be available as long as the true poet creates. While the speaker undoubtedly believes he understands the necessity for both good and bad poets, he wants to make it abundantly clear that those of lesser talent who usually tend to be those of arrogant, loud, haughty demeanor, will always remain an annoyance as well as a point of contrast to the genuine, truth-filled poet.

The Shakespeare Mystery

© 2020 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on May 31, 2020:

Thank you, Sankhajit Bhattacharjee. I am in the process of revamping my Shakespeare sonnet commentaries. I appreciate your kind words. These sonnets are very important to me, and thus I continue to curate them in hopes of improving my rendering of their importance.

Blessings to you and yours! & welcome to HubPages . . .

Sankhajit Bhattacharjee from MILWAUKEE on May 30, 2020:

marvelous explanation

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