Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sonnet LXXVII (77)

Thy glass will show thee how thy beauties wear,
Thy dial how thy precious minutes waste;
The vacant leaves thy mind's imprint will bear,
And of this book this learning mayst thou taste.
The wrinkles which thy glass will truly show
Of mouthed graves will give thee memory;
Thou by thy dial's shady stealth mayst know
Time's thievish progress to eternity.
Look, what thy memory can not contain
Commit to these waste blanks, and thou shalt find
Those children nursed, deliver'd from thy brain,
To take a new acquaintance of thy mind.
These offices, so oft as thou wilt look,
Shall profit thee and much enrich thy book.


1. Wear. Q. "were." 

3. The vacant leaves. That is, as I think, the whole of the leaves of the manuscript-book. I do not feel able to accept the view of Dowden that Shakespeare sent to Mr. W. H. a manuscript-bookpartially vacant, as an intimation of unwillingness to write any more Sonnets, on account of the favour shown to the rival-poet. 

4. This learning may'st thou taste. This lesson may'st thou derive. 

5-12. The lesson is, that while wrinkles seen in the mirror foretoken the approach of Death and the shadow stealing round the dial, the "thievish progress of Time," security against oblivion may be found by committing thought to writing. 

6. Mouthed graves. A stronger expression than the "lines," "parallels," and "trenches," which had been previously used of wrinkles; and this is in accordance with the deeper melancholy of these later Sonnets. 
10. Blanks. I have adopted the emendation of Theobald. Q. has "blacks," which could only be defended on the supposition of a note-book whose leaves were prepared with some black substance. Waste will equal the "vacant" of l.3. 

11. Notice that literary children, "children of the brain," have taken the place of the natural children of the first Sonnets. This is in accord with the deepened melancholy. 

12. To take a new acquaintance. They will become "objective," and objects of great interest. 

13. These offices. "The delivery from the brain," and "nursing" or moulding into due form of these literary children, will, as often as you look at them with parental care and affection.

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