Friday, February 27, 2015

Sonnet CXVIII (118)

Like as, to make our appetites more keen,
With eager compounds we our palate urge, 
As, to prevent our maladies unseen, 
We sicken to shun sickness, when we purge, 
Even so, being tuff of your ne'er-cloying sweetness,
To bitter sauces did I frame my feeding, 
And, sick of welfare, found a kind of meetness
To be diseas'd, ere that there was true needing. 
Thus policy in love, to anticipate 
The ills that were not, grew to faults assured,
And brought to medicine a healthful state,
Which, rank of goodness, would by ill be cured:
   But thence I learn, and find the lesson true,
   Drugs poison him that so fell sick of you. 

CXVIII. The poet had previously (cx.) spoken of "grinding his appetite" during the period of absence. He now changes the figure. He had been taking a tonic to sharpen his appetite, or a prophylactic medicine to prevent disease. But he had learned that the expedient he had resorted to was premature and unnecessary, and that the drugs he had employed -- that is, the companions and pursuits which had engaged his time and attention -- were, under the circumstances, poisonous. 

2. Eager. Sharp, acid. Cf. Ham., Act i. sc. 5, line 69, "And curd, like eager droppings into milk." 

4. Sicken to shun sickness. Make ourselves ill with drugs. So "To be diseas'd," line 8. 

5. Ne'er cloying. Repels the supposition that he had been really satiated with his friend's society. So, in the next line but one, "sick of welfare," and in line 8, "ere that there was trueneeding." 

9, 10. The policy spoken of resulted in unquestionable faults, disorders of moral health. 

11. And had recourse to medicine, though in a state of health. 

12. Rank of goodness may be taken as equivalent to "sick of welfare" in line 7. 

14. That so fell sick. Being "full of your ne'er-cloying sweetness."

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