Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sonnet LXXXVI (86)

Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
Bound for the prize of all too precious you,
That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?
Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?
No, neither he, nor his compeers by night
Giving him aid, my verse astonished.
He, nor that affable familiar ghost
Which nightly gulls him with intelligence
As victors of my silence cannot boast;
I was not sick of any fear from thence:
But when your countenance fill'd up his line,
Then lack'd I matter; that enfeebled mine.


1. The proud full sail of his great verse. Suiting well the grand fourteen-syllable lines of Chapman's Iliad, as pointed out by Professor Minto. 

3. Inhearse. Entomb, so that Shakespeare could say nothing. 

5, 6. By spirits taught to write, &c. Cf. the quotation given below, line 9. 

7. His compeers by night. Cf. Chapman's Shadow of Night, quoted by Professor Minto,Characteristics of English Poets, p. 291:
"All you possessed with indepressed spirits,
Endued with nimble and aspiring wits,
Come consecrate with me to sacred Night
Your whole endeavours and detest the light."
9. Nor that affable familiar ghost, &c. Cf. Dedication to Shadow of Night, also quoted by Minto:
"Now what a supererogation in wit this is, to think Skill so mightily pierced with their loves that she should prostitutely show them her secrets, when she will scarcely be looked upon by others but with invocation, fasting, watching, yea, not without having drops of their souls like a heavenly familiar."
13. Fil'd. is perhaps doubtful whether the "fild" of Q. should be represented by "til'd" or "fill'd." The latter would suit very well the "lacking matter" of line 14. 14. Then lack'd I matter. Cf. Troilus and Cressida, Act ii. sc. 3, lines 103, 104, "Then will Ajax lack matter, if he have lost his argument."

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