Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Sonnet XIII (13)

O, that you were yourself! but, love, you are 
No longer yours than you yourself here live: 
Against this coming end you should prepare, 
And your sweet semblance to some other give. 
So should that beauty which you hold in lease 
Find no determination: then you were 
Yourself again after yourself's decease, 
When your sweet issue your sweet form should bear.
Who lets so fair a house fall to decay, 
Which husbandry in honour might uphold 
Against the stormy gusts of winter's day 
And barren rage of death's eternal cold? 
   O, none but unthrifts: -- Dear my love, you know 
   You had a father; let your son say so.

1. Yourself. The Quarto of 1609, in accordance with the usage of the time, gives "your selfe" as two words. This allows of an emphasis being thrown on the "your," which seems here required; the sense in all probability being, "O that you were truly your own possession!" Cf. "another self,"Sonnet X; "next self," Sonnet CXXXIII 6. 
5. Lease. Mr. W. H. is a leaseholder of his comely form, not a freeholder. 
6. Determination. In accordance with common legal phraseology. 
7. Yourself. Q. has "You selfe." 
8. Sweet issue -- sweet form. The employment of "sweet," here and elsewhere in these Sonnets, however much out of harmony with present usage, was in accord with the custom of the times. The same word, for example, is used of the Earl of Pembroke (W. H.) by John Davies of Hereford in his Witte's Pilgrimage: "So so (sweete Lord) so should it bee," &c. 
9. So fair a house must be referred to Mr. W. H.'s ancestry, not to the bodily house ("beauteous roof" of Sonnet X). The words might be very well used of an eldest son and heir, even though he might not be an only son. 
10-12. Due care and attention might preserve the house against the storms of winter, the cold blasts of death.

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