Monday, November 25, 2013

Sonnet LI (51)


Thus can my love excuse the slow offence 
Of my dull bearer, when from thee I speed:
From where thou art why should I haste me thence?
Till I return, of posting is no need. 
O, what excuse will my poor beast then find,
When swift extremity can seem but slow? 
Then should I spur, though mounted on the wind;
In winged speed no motion shall I know: 
Then can no horse with my desire keep pace; 
Therefore Desire (of perfect'st love being made), 
Shall neigh, no dull flesh, in his fiery race; 
But love, for love, thus shall excuse my jade; 
   Since from thee going he went wilful slow,
   Towards thee I'll run, and give him leave to go. 

1. Thus can my love excuse, &c. In accordance with lines 3, 4. 

6. Swift extremity. The extreme of swiftness. 

8. In winged speed no motion shall I know. A swift gliding motion is imagined. In the opinion of Mr. G. Bernard Shaw, the word "motion" is used in the sense of "progression," implying that, even with "winged speed," the poet, in his extreme eagerness, will seem to make no advance towards his friend. 

10, 11. The poet apparently conceives of himself as mounted on Desire, a winged fiery steed, which neighs with ardour, pursuing his impetuous course. 

12. Love, for love. A difficult expression, of which, perhaps, neither of the following interpretations may seem quite satisfactory: (1) The words "for love" may be taken as meaning "from love to the poor beast," the speed required by the poet's love for his friend being far beyond the powers of such a creature. (2) "For love" may mean "for the sake of the love awaiting me on my return." (3) Dr. Furnivall has made the suggestion that the "love" first spoken of is Love personified. AVe shall thus have "Love, on account of my affection," &c. (4) According to Mr. Shaw, "for love" means "on account of the love shown by the horse." This love will have been shown in the "plodding dully on" of 1. 6. "Wilful" of line 13 must then signify "purposely on account of affection." I incline to (4). This view agrees also with the "since" of line 13. 

14. Give him leave to go. Dismiss him, or, let him go at his pleasure.

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