Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sonnet LXXVI (76)

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth and where they did proceed?
O, know, sweet love, I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.

1. So barren of new pride. -- So destitute of novel imagery, diction, &c. 

2-4. These lines may allude to Shakespeare's unwillingness to adopt the mode of expression and the poetical form employed by his rivals. 

4. The new-found methods and the compounds strange may very well refer to the novel compound words employed by Chapman to express Homeric epithets. In the Address "To the Understander" prefixed to the Shield of Achilles (1598), Chapman defends himself against the charge of introducing new words without propriety, and cites the example of Chaucer. Chapman's critics are like a brood of frogs from a ditch, desiring "to have the ceaseless flowing river of our tongue turned into their frog-pool." 

6. Keep invention in a noted weed. -- Express and clothe my thoughts in the same familiar dress.

7. Tell -- Q. has "fel." 

11. My best is dressing old words new. -- Making but a slight difference in the expressions. The poet, no doubt, means thus to imply the constancy of his affection. 

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