Monday, November 25, 2013

Sonnet LIII (53)

What is your substance, whereof are you made, 
That millions of strange shadows on you tend? 
Since every one hath, every one, one shade, 
And you, but one, can every shadow lend. 
Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit 
Is poorly imitated after you; 
On Helen's cheek all art of beauty set,
And you in Grecian tires are painted new: 
Speak of the spring and foison of the year; 
The one doth shadow of your beauty show, 
The other as your bounty doth appear, 
And you in every blessed shape we know. 
   In all external grace you have some part, 
   But you like none, none you, for constant heart.

2. Strange shadows. Images of other persons and objects. Shadows and images are taken as identical.

3. Each individually has one shadow. The expression in the text is emphatic, to contrast with the multitudinous shadows caused by, or connected with, the single Mr. W. H. (line 4). 

5. The counterfeit. The description, as possibly also in Hamlet (Act iii. sc. 4, line 54), "the counterfeit presentment of two brothers." 

7. Depict Helen with all the skill of pictorial art. 

8. Grecian tires. Grecian head-dress properly, though here the word "tires" would seem to be used more generally. Notice, however, from the comparison with Helen, the feminine character of Mr. W. H.'s youthful beauty. 

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