Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sonnet LXXXIII (83)

I never saw that you did painting need
And therefore to your fair no painting set;
I found, or thought I found, you did exceed
The barren tender of a poet's debt;
And therefore have I slept in your report,
That you yourself being extant well might show
How far a modern quill doth come too short,
Speaking of worth, what worth in you doth grow.
This silence for my sin you did impute,
Which shall be most my glory, being dumb;
For I impair not beauty being mute,
When others would give life and bring a tomb.
There lives more life in one of your fair eyes
Than both your poets can in praise devise.

2. Your fair. Your beauty. 

4. The barren tender of a poet's debt. Whatever a poet might offer to pay in the way of praise would be "barren," as not coming up to your deserts. 

5. Therefore have I slept in your report. So that you might speak therein for yourself, or, rather, that your beauty might speak. 

6. Being extant. Being present in person to manifest your beauty. 

7. A modern quill. The pen, most probably, of the rival-poet, the "fresher stamp of the time-bettering days" of lxxxii. To take "modern" in the sense of "trivial" seems to me unsatisfactory both in this place and in Antony and Cleopatra, Act v. sc. 2, lines 166, 167,
"Immoment toys, things of such dignity
As we greet modern friends withal."
The idea, as I take it, is that Mr. W. H. himself, being extant in Shakespeare's verse, proved how unsuitable and injurious was the "gross painting" of his rival. 
8. Grow. This word may possibly mean "doth grow as a poet contemplates, and attempts to describe your worth," or the word may allude to Mr. W. H.'s still immature youth. The punctuation I have given is perhaps, on the whole, most probable. 

9. Did impute. Probably, by showing favour to the rival-poet. 

12. Bring a tomb. Concealing you from view by their lavish eulogies. 

14. Both your poets may be taken to imply that Shakespeare had two rivals. But this is perhaps doubtful. More probably the two poets are Shakespeare and his rival.

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