Friday, February 27, 2015

Sonnet CXIX (119)

What potions have I drunk of Siren tears,
Distill'd from lymbecks foul as hell within,
Applying fears to hopes, and hopes to fears, 
Still losing when I saw myself to win!
What wretched errors hath my heart committed,
Whilst it hath thought itself so blessed never!
How have mine eyes out of their spheres been fitted
In the distraction of this madding fever!
O benefit of ill! now I find true
That better is by evil still made better;
And ruin'd love, when it is built anew,
Grows fairer than at first, more strong, far greater.
   So I return rebuk'd to my content, 
   And gain by ills thrice more than I have spent.

1. Drunk. The tears had influenced him so thoroughly, that they had been, as it were, imbibed. 

2. Lymbecks. Alembics or stills. Foul as hell within. Cf. what is said of the poet's dark mistress in the second series of Sonnets, "In nothing art thou black, save in thy deeds" (CXXXI.13); "Who art as black as hell, as dark as night" (CXLVII.14)

3. Now letting fear give way to hope, and now hope to fear. 

4. Still losing, &c. Probably on account of the unworthiness of the objects won. 

7. Fitted. "Worked and vexed by paroxysms." SCHMIDT. Comparison has been made of Pericles, Act ii. so. i, line 58, "If it be a day fits you," &c. But there appears to be in our passage the idea of strange surprises. 

8. This madding fever. Cf. "My love is as a fever," &c., and,
"Past cure I am, now reason is past cure,
And frantic mad with evermore unrest," &c. (CXLVII)
10. That better, &c. The better love is manifestly the love to his friend. 

13. To my content. With a feeling of contentment and satisfaction. 

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