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Shakespeare Sonnet 37: "As a decrepit father takes delight"

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 37: "As a decrepit father takes delight"

The speaker in sonnet 37 from the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence is framing his discussion as a father to a child. As he addresses his poem, he is revealing that he feels for his poetic creations as he would for a child.

The poem, because it reflects so much of its writer's qualities, may be thought of as the offspring of its writer. The speaker finds his comfort and joy in his poems. He possesses through his art a pride of accomplishment.

The speaker may feel even more pride in a poem that he has created, knowing that he alone is responsible for its worth. As God has given humans the ability to procreate, the Blessèd Divine has also given them the power to create. Creating art is a significant way that the human mind can reflect itself in colorful and useful productions.

Sonnet 37: "As a decrepit father takes delight"

As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth;
For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
Or any of these all, or all, or more,
Entitled in thy parts do crowned sit,
I make my love engrafted to this store:
So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis’d,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am suffic’d,
And by a part of all thy glory live.
Look what is best, that best I wish in thee:
This wish I have; then ten times happy me!

Reading of Shakespeare Sonnet 37

Commentary

Addressing his sonnet as a father would a son, the speaker is dramatizing multifaceted ways by which his life is enhanced through his written creations. He is expressing his appreciation and love for his little dramas.

First Quatrain: An Aged Father

As a decrepit father takes delight
To see his active child do deeds of youth,
So I, made lame by Fortune’s dearest spite,
Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth;

In the first quatrain, the speaker compares his lot in life to an aged father who can take comfort primarily in his son’s life. The son’s achievements and ability continue to please the aged parent as the offspring’s life proceeds from youth and young adulthood. Regardless of how "lame" the speaker’s future might become, he will always have his works of art to remind him of his brilliant talent.

As he has done often before, the speaker is again addressing his poem; his sonnet is like his son because the speaker’s creativity gives the poetry life. So the speaker, because of his ability to create poetry, can say to his poem: "I // Take all my comfort of thy worth and truth." The speaker has often vowed that his creations will reflect truth; thus, they will remain a valuable asset for his life.

Second Quatrain: Creating from Fine Qualities

For whether beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit,
Or any of these all, or all, or more,
Entitled in thy parts do crowned sit,
I make my love engrafted to this store:

The speaker then asserts that regardless of whether the positive qualities of "beauty, birth, or wealth, or wit" actually garner accolades from others, he knows that he creates his art from these positive qualities. His determination to remain genuine motivates his best efforts; thus, he knows he can trust his works to reflect the interests that he will continue to engage, even as he advances in the natural aging process.

The speaker strives to create beauty in his poetry, and he remains convinced that his talent is equal to the effort. The speaker avers that he knows his own mind and heart, and whether his creations are held up like royalty or not, he has attached his love to his works. He can take comfort that he has produced to the best of his ability, despite what others may think of his efforts.

Third Quatrain: Great Talent

So then I am not lame, poor, nor despis’d,
Whilst that this shadow doth such substance give
That I in thy abundance am suffic’d,
And by a part of all thy glory live.

Because of his great talent, the speaker can remain assured that he is not "lame, poor, nor despis’d." In the "shadow" of his creations, he has learned that he can continue to live abundantly. The speaker is "suffic’d" by the glory of is works, but he claims only a part of that glory, giving much credit to the mystery that is talent.

The speaker is aware that any braggadocio would tarnish the truth of his expression. He knows that humility must remain part of his mindset, in order to continue to create what is truthful, fair, and honest.

The speaker has allowed this sonnet’s message and portrayal to harken back to his plea to the young man to marry and have children who would glorify the young man’s old age. The speaker in this group of poems shows how his poetry saves him from decrepitude, and he demonstrates how his love and essence are reflected in his poetic creations.

The Couplet: Enhanced Happiness

Look what is best, that best I wish in thee:
This wish I have; then ten times happy me!

The speaker recounts that he is ten times as happy as he would be without his talent in writing poetry. The speaker thus invites the poem to look at what is best and realize that all of the speaker’s wishes rest with the poem. Because the speaker is lucky enough to entertain such a wish, he is, in fact, blessed with many levels of happiness.

While the speaker has not personified the sonnet, he still makes clear that he looks upon his little dramas as holding the place of offspring. His sonnets spring off from his deep-thinking mind, are tempered spiritually by his abundant heart, and are set down by his skillful hand—thus, are his poems not only the result of the physical level being as a literal child would be, they are the product of all three levels of being—physical, mental, and spiritual. His own dedication to truth continues to lead him to produce his best works.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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