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Shakespeare Sonnet 25: "Let Those Who Are in Favour With Their Stars"

The Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence remains essential in my poetry tool kit. Masterfully crafted, they dramatize love, beauty, and truth.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford - The real "Shakespeare"

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford - The real "Shakespeare"

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 25: "Let those who are in favour with their stars"

Once again, the speaker is honoring his talent because the love he speaks of is not limited to that of another human being. Many of these poems in this group 18-126, from the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence, address the poem directly, or speak about the happiness and enrichment the speaker derives from being able to compose such poems.

This speaker sincerely loves and cherishes his amazing talent, and he considers his achievement more important than the approval of any other human being. The speaker in Sonnet 25 is asserting that only unconditional love is worthy of one's attention because fame and status are nothing but fleeting favors, while love will continue to give joy and gladness, along with the sustenance each human heart craves.

Sonnet 25: "Let those who are in favour with their stars"

Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlook’d for joy in that I honour most.
Great princes’ favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.
The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil’d,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:
Then happy I, that love and am belov’d,
Where I may not remove nor be remov’d.

Reading of Sonnet 25

Commentary

In Sonnet 25, the speaker is exploring the nature of unconditional love, admonishing his own true self of the flighty and fickle nature of fame and status in the eyes of humanity. He cherishes the true and the permanent, and he has become aware that his talent remains the font from which flow much joy, gladness, and contentment.

First Quatrain: High Regard Personally

Let those who are in favour with their stars
Of public honour and proud titles boast,
Whilst I, whom fortune of such triumph bars,
Unlook’d for joy in that I honour most.

In the first quatrain, the speaker states that those famously honored by the public may "boast" of their accomplishments, while he, who has attained no such exalted status, will remain inconspicuous as he continues to enjoy that which he personally holds in high regard. At this point, readers will understand that they are not yet made privy to what the speaker treasures above name and fame and they may suspect that they must wait until the couplet to find out what it is.

One might argue that the speaker is also "boasting" as he makes his own humble situation sound more attractive than those famous ones who garner public attention. They have their "proud titles" while he delights in what he implies is something more substantial.

This versatile artist/speaker, even as he seems to elevating his own status, has the remarkable ability to make his claims so substantial that they transpire to truthfulness and that truth erases the possibility of mere hubris. This speaker, unlike poetasters and other charlatans, can express his abilities without sounding like an exaggerating mannequin.

Second Quatrain: Humility Wins

Great princes’ favourites their fair leaves spread
But as the marigold at the sun’s eye,
And in themselves their pride lies buried,
For at a frown they in their glory die.

Even favored celebrities rewarded and regaled by royalty hold a position no higher than a simple flower such as the marigold, which has the attention of the sun, but without that attention, the flower shrivels up and dies. And when the fame wears off and the "princes" no longer look favorably upon those famed individuals, their "glory" simply dies, as the glory and beauty of the marigold does.

The true poet, who captures the experiences of genuine relationships and colorfully and faithfully dramatizes them in his little poems, will always find an audience who will cherish the insights of the genuine that accurately gives them back their experiences. Only dullard, doltish minds will continue to follow the poetasters and fakes; only those who are divorced from their own reality will glom onto that which will eventually dry up and blow away.

Third Quatrain: Twin Fickle Partners—Fame and Favor

The painful warrior famoused for fight,
After a thousand victories once foil’d,
Is from the book of honour razed quite,
And all the rest forgot for which he toil’d:

The third quatrain finds the speaker offering yet a further description of those twin fickle partners—fame and favor. Even battle-scarred formerly winning warriors continue to be afforded high regard only if they keep on winning. If a loss comes to these hero-warriors, they lose their accolades and are "from the book of honour" deleted. The poor warrior's "thousand victories" then are not enough to keep him in high regard, so he has toiled in vain in this speaker's opinion. The speaker wants the reader/listener to see that trying to elevate one’s self by deeds that win the attention of others is a vain activity.

The fact that widespread favorable attention remains an illusion is a fundamental principle that every artist of any stripe—poet, playwright, photographer, painter, sculptor—needs to take to heart. Fooling the public has never been more than a fool’s errand, even if at first that fooling seems to be taking hold. Only the true, the genuine, and the real have any hopes of becoming classics in their fields.

The Couplet: Vain Strivings

Then happy I, that love and am belov’d,
Where I may not remove nor be remov’d.

The speaker says that the great warriors, politicians, and others who rely on the good will of authorities and the public can have their vain strivings. For him, he is happy because of love: he is made happy by being able to love and to be loved. He honors unconditional love, which "may not remove or be remov’d." And the place where this speaker's unconditional love finds its ground and movement is in his art. His poems receive his love and reflect it back permanently and without condition.

This speaker’s art remains his primary focus, as he continues to muse, to analyze, and to consider the world and all the players who enter and exist the stage of life. His focus is less a philosophy than a way of life. He practices his art faithfully, and as some of his sonnets also attest, when he fails to live up to his own notion of what devotion means, he suffers mightily until he has corrected that failure. Such dedication can arise out of and progress only through unconditional love.

Shakespeare Identified Lecture, Mike A'Dair And William J. Ray

© 2020 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on November 14, 2020:

Thank you, Audrey, for your comment. Yes, the Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence offers a great read. The mastercraftmanship of this set of poems is unparalleled. The staging of each sonnet remains a superb example of poetry creation at its best.

The universal themes plus the deeply personal revelations perform the very essence of poetry's purpose, to give life's experiences back to the reader. We can alway identify with the sonneteer's place in the world, his feelings, and how he plans to deal with joy as well as adversity.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on November 13, 2020:

I enjoyed this and thank you for sharing. I now have a better understanding of these sonnets.