Friday, February 27, 2015

Sonnet CXVII (117)

Accuse me thus: that I have scanted all
Wherein I should your great deserts repay;
Forgot upon your dearest love to call,
Whereto all bonds do tie me day by day;
That I have frequent been with unknown minds,
And given to time your own dear-purchas'd right
That I have hoisted sail to all the winds
Which should transport me farthest from your sight.
Book both my wilfulness and errors down
And on just proof surmise accumulate;
Bring me within the level of your frown,
But shoot not at me in your waken'd hate;
   Since my appeal says I did strive to prove
   The constancy and virtue of your love. 

CXVII. The poet admits that he had neglected to pay due regard to his friend, and had allowed new companions to engross too much of his attention. He is willing that his friend should consider his conduct as not without blame; but he palliates the fault, by asserting that he wished to prove the reality and constancy of his friend's affection. 

1. That I have scanted all. That I have been negligent in all particulars, &c. 

6. Given to time, according to Dowden, means, "given to society, to the world," or "given away to temporary occasion what is your property, and therefore an heirloom for eternity." But the emendation which Staunton suggests, "given to them," seems not improbable. Your own dear purchas'd right. Though it is not pleasant to attach a material signification to these words, yet, taking into account what is recorded of Lord Pembroke's liberality towards men of genius, it seems not unlikely that there is an allusion to previous presents. 

7. Hoisted sail, &c. Availed myself of every occasion, &c. 

9. My wilfulness. My self-willed and unreasonable conduct, as alluded to in previous lines. 

10. The meaning may be, "Add reasonable conjecture to what you can prove." 

11. Within the level of your frown. Within the scope or reach of your frown. Malone compares,
"The harlot king
Is quite beyond my arm: out of the blank
And level of my brain" (Winter's Tale, Act ii. sc. 3, lines 4-6).

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