Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sonnet LXXXV (85)

My tongue-tied Muse in manners holds her still,
While comments of your praise, richly compil'd,
[Rehearse thy] character with golden quill, 
And precious phrase by all the Muses fil'd.
I think good thoughts while others write good words,
And, like unletter'd clerk, still cry 'Amen'
To every hymn that able spirit affords
In polish'd form of well-refined pen.
Hearing you praised, I say "'Tis so, 'tis true,"
And to the most of praise add something more;
But that is in my thought, whose love to you,
Though words come hindmost, holds his rank before.
   Then others for the breath of words respect,
   Me for my dumb thoughts, speaking in effect. 


1. My tongue-tied Muse. The poet might be regarded as "tongue-tied," because his thoughts transcend the power of words (cf. lines 11-14). In manners. With decorous respect. Notice, however, the different explanation of the silence given in the next Sonnet (lines 3, 13, 14). 
3. [Rehearse thycharacter. Q. has "Reserue their character," which is unintelligible. Probably "their," as elsewhere, represents "thy." "Rehearse," suggested by an anonymous critic, is not an improbable emendation. With the spelling "reherse," it comes near to "reserve." "Character" must be taken, as in some other places, to denote "face," "appearance." Cf. Twelfth Night, Act i. so. 2, lines 50, 51: Reserve their.
"I will believe thou hast a mind that suits
With this thy fair and outward character"
a very good example. See also Coriolanus, Act ii. sc. i, lines 70, 71, "What harm can your bisson conspectuities glean out of this character?" 

4. Fil'd. Polished and elaborated. Cf. line 8. 

6. Unlettered clerk, &c. Fully admitting at once what is said. 

7. That able spirit. That great poet, though there is possibly an allusion to Chapman's special claim to inspiration. 

14. Speaking in effect. Speaking in thought and purpose. Cf. xxiii and notes. 

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