Monday, November 18, 2013

Sonnet XXIII (23)

As an unperfect actor on the stage, 
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength's abundance weakens his own heart; 
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say 
The perfect ceremony of love's rite, 
And in mine own love's strength seem to decay,
O'ercharg'd with burden of mine own love's might. 
O let my books be then the eloquence 
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast, 
Who plead for love and look for recompense 
More than that tongue that more hath more express'd.
   O, learn to read what silent love hath writ: 
   To hear with eyes belongs to love's fine wit. 

2. Put besides his part. We now use the phrase "put out." 

3, 4. Or some fierce thing, &c. Or some fierce animal which has lost self-control. 

5. It seems doubtful whether "for fear of trust" is to be regarded as meaning "fearing that I shall not be trusted," or "fearing to trust myself." Dowden takes the words in the latter sense. I prefer the former. 

6. The perfect ceremony, &c. The full and due expression of love. Rite. Q. "right." 

7, 8. Cf. lines 3, 4.

9. My books. It has been supposed that the Sonnets were sent to Mr. W. H. in successive written books. 

10. Presagers. Meaning almost "interpreters," but also implying that the poet's love had not yetbeen altered. 

11, 12. Who plead, &c. Myself who plead for love, and a recompense greater (first "more" of line 12) than "that tongue" (the voice of my books) hath better (third "more ") expressed than my voice could do that greater love and recompense ("that more") which I plead for.

13, 14. Learn to read, &c. Learn to understand the full meaning of the love expressed in writing, and so "hear with eyes" the voice of the silent tongue. With eyes. Q. "wit eies." Wit. Q. "wiht." 

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