Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sonnet CIII (103)

Alack! what poverty my Muse brings forth,
That having such a scope to show her pride,
The argument all bare is of more worth
Than when it hath my added praise beside!
O, blame me not, if I no more can write!
Look in your glass, and there appears a face
That over-goes my blunt invention quite,
Dulling my lines and doing me disgrace.
Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?
For to no other pass my verses tend
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell;
   And more, much more, than in my verse can sit,
   Your own glass shows you when you look in it. 

1. What poverty. What poor compositions. 

2. To show her pride. To display the powers in which she exults. 

3. The argument. The subject, i.e., the excellences of Mr. W. H. 

7. Over-goes. Transcends. Blunt. Dull and crass, unable to deal with a subject so exalted. 

8. Dulling my lines, &c. Through the conscious lack of adequate power. 

9, 10. Malone quotes from King Lear (Act i. sc. 4, line 369), "Striving to better, oft we mar what's well." 

11. To no other pass. To no other issue. The word here is probably figurative, the metaphor being perhaps derived from the pass in fencing. 

13. Sit. Be comprised. 

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