Sunday, November 24, 2013

Sonnet XXXIV (34)

Why didst thou promise such a beauteous day,
And make me travel forth without my cloak, 
To let base clouds o'ertake me in my way, 
Hiding thy bravery in their rotten smoke? 
'Tis not enough that through the cloud thou break,
To dry the rain on my storm-beaten face, 
For no man well of such a salve can speak 
That heals the wound and cures not the disgrace:
Nor can thy shame give physic to my grief; 
Though thou repent, yet I have still the loss: 
The offender's sorrow lends but weak relief 
To him that bears the strong offence's [cross]. 
   Ah! but those tears are pearl which thy love sheds,
   And they are rich and ransom all ill deeds.

3. Base clouds. The clouds are "base" on account of their dampness defacing and obscuring the glory of the heavens. 

4. Bravery. Glory and splendour. Rotten smoke. Meaning possibly damp, unwholesome vapour. Steevens compares "the reek o' the rotten fins." Coriolanus, Act iii. sc. 3, line 121. "Rotten," however, may here mean "loose," "wanting in coherence." 

6. To dry the rain, &c. Continuing the imagery of the last Sonnet, according to which the poet had been overtaken by a storm. 

12. [Cross]. Q. has "losse," which may possibly have remained by oversight on a revision of the MS. 

13. Sheds. Q. "sheeds." 

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