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Shakespeare Sonnet 35 : "No more be griev’d at that which thou hast done"

The Shakespeare sonnets play an essential rôle in my poetry world. Those 154 classic sonnets masterfully dramatize truth, beauty, and love.

First Edition of Shakespeare Sonnets

First Edition of Shakespeare Sonnets

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 35: "No more be griev’d at that which thou hast done"

The Shakespeare sonnet speaker remains a fairly optimistic fellow. He seldom sinks into melancholy, no doubt, because of his confidence in his remarkable ability to compose despite those writer's block periods of dryness. In sonnet 35, the speaker is addressing the writer’s block blaming it colorfully on mere failure of his muse to inspire him, but he realizes that along with the positive, always comes the negative.

This speaker continues to battle his periods of dryness, but his battle remains a civl war, for it is internal. He does remain ever hopeful for he has realized that even his dry spells can serve him as a convenient and colorful writing topic.

Sonnet 35: "No more be griev’d at that which thou hast done"

No more be griev’d at that which thou hast done
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorising thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are;
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense,—
Thy adverse party is thy advocate,—
And 'gainst myself a lawful plea commence:
Such civil war is in my love and hate,
That I an accessary needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

Reading of Sonnet 35

Commentary

The speaker must weigh the pros and cons of having off days when nothing seems to work the way he would have it. As he remains hopeful even cheerful, he continues to employ colorful images to perform for him, assuring him a tranquil process.

First Quatrain: Chiding His Muse

N0 more be griev’d at that which thou hast done
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud;
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.

In the first stanza, the speaker is directly addressing his lazy muse, telling her not to worry about failing to inspire him. Then he reasons that, "Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud." Along with the beauty of the rose come the sharp, ugly thorns that protect it. Also, lovely flowing fountains contain their not-soolovely features. The speaker remains aware that this world will always turn upon the interactions of duality; the eternal pairs of opposites keep creation on its evolutionary march.

The speaker avers that the beauty of the "moon and sun" is often blotted out by "[c]louds and eclipses," and even the most adored flower may provide a home to a worm. Therefore, he reasons that although his muse has let him down on occasion, it goes with the territory that his talent should possess some dullness along with brilliance.

Second Quatrain: We All Make Mistakes

All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorising thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are;

The speaker claims that everyone makes mistakes, and everyone is guilty of failures from time to time. He is admitting that even he is at fault for chastising his muse. He admits to "[a]uthorising [the muse's] trespass with compare." By comparing the muse’s failure with her success, the confident speaker has legitimized the failure more than was needed. And therefore, he has continued to blame himself ultimately more than he should have. In blaming himself, the speaker has actually been "[e]xcusing [the muse's] sins more than [the muse's] sins are," yet paradoxically exaggerating their worth more than they deserve. He knows that when he chastises his muse, he is in reality chastising himself, and he admits that he is prone to overstating his case.

As he continues to brainstorm under the guise of critiquing his behavior and the behavior of the muse, this clever speaker is actually creating what he claims he is unable to create. To write creatively and poetically while creating a viable discourse is to be doing the opposite of what one does if one is afflicted with writer’s block. If the muse has abandoned him, yet he composes a brilliant sonnet dramatizing the abandonment, he is essentially rendering his complaint null and void. Such is the clever sleight-of-hand of which this speaker is capable!

Third Quatrain: Reasoning Oneself out of Difficulty

For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense,—
Thy adverse party is thy advocate,—
And 'gainst myself a lawful plea commence:
Such civil war is in my love and hate,
That I an accessary needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

In the third quatrain, the speaker continues to reason himself out of his difficulty. He avers that his muse has committed a "sensual fault," and the speaker will "bring in sense" or reason to correct it. The muse has given in to laziness perhaps, but even overzealousness could qualify as a "sensual fault" as well. Whatever the fault is, it has prevented the speaker’s talent from creating at the top of his ability, which he feels is a stain on his poetry and ultimately his reputation. The adversity that the muse’s flaw has brought against the speaker has caused him to experience thoughts about himself that are not constructive.

The speaker admits that, "[s]uch civil war is in my love and hate": his moods are filled with such tremendous highs and lows. First he loves and then he hates, and the muse shrinks from such violent emotions, favoring calm recollection. As Wordsworth realized two centuries later, "All good poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity."

The Couplet: Emotional Tug-of-War

That I an accessary needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

The couplet sums up the emotional tug-of-war the speaker is having with his muse. His internal "civil war" converts his muse into a "sweet thief" that robs him of his own better judgment. Losing his equanimity, the speaker returns to the backdrop that has plunged him into his combative behavior toward his muse. If he continues to whine about the behavior of his muse, he will continue to berate himself for experiences of the blame and shame that accompany those thoughts.

Although William Wordsworth was writing two centuries after the Shakespeare writer, the universality of the tenet of recollecting "powerful emotions" "in tranquillity" remains untethered to a time frame. The Shakespeare writer creating his complaining speaker was as much aware of that tranquillity tenant as Wordsworth will be. Universal ideas remain in the cosmos ready to unfold in the mind that is ready to open to them. Thus, even though the speaker in this poem seems to conclude on the negative side, his equilibrium allowing him to call the "thief" "sweet" demonstrates the tranquillity with which he has accepted his lot.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on April 08, 2017:

Thank you, Billie! Glad my Hub caught your eye. And yes, the Shakespeare canon is always a reliable place to go for well crafted writing that always makes abundant good sense as it informs, entertains, and at times even enlightens.

Have a blessed day? --lsg

Billie Kelpin from Newport Beach on April 08, 2017:

Love how you analyzed this sonnet by quatrains. It made me want to read the whole poem, but then you added the video and I didn't have to search good ole google!

I'm what you might call a very lazy Shakespeare lover. I have read very little of this genius, but I latch on to a few brilliant lines and keep them for a lifetime. ("Sleep, sleep, innocent sleep; sleep that KNITS UP the RAVELED SLEEVE of care.") Brilliant! Absolutely brilliant! And now I have more lovely words to remember: "Roses have thorns and silver fountains, mud"...."All men have faults, and even I in this".

(I can't wait for the right time to say the latter to my husband. He'll do a double take, and we'll both laugh, I'm sure.) Thanks for this great piece.

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