Monday, November 25, 2013

Sonnet LIV (54)

O how much more doth beauty beauteous seem, 
By that sweet ornament which truth doth give!
The rose looks fair, but fairer we it deem 
For that sweet odour which doth in it live. 
The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye 
As the perfumed tincture of the roses, 
Hang on such thorns and play as wantonly 
When summer's breath their masked buds discloses:
But, for their virtue only is their show, 
They live unwoo'd and unrespected fade, 
Die to themselves. Sweet roses do not so; 
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
   And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth,
   When that shall fade, my verse distills your truth. 

8. The canker-blooms have full as deep a dye. If, as seems to be the case, the "canker-bloom" is the dog-rose, then, as Steevens remarks, there is an inconsistency in the statement of the text, since the dog-rose is of a pale colour, and, moreover, is not entirely without odour. 

6. Perfumed tincture of the roses. The roses, with their perfume and colour. "Tincture" is equivalent to the "dye" of the previous line. 

11. Die to themselves. The "canker-blooms" die neglected and unregarded. 

14. Vade. So Q. Dowden, adopting this form, refers to Passionate Pilgrim, x. i, "Sweet rose, fair flower, untimely pluck'd, soon vaded."

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