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Shakespeare Sonnet 62: "Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye"

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

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 62: "Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye"

The Shakespeare speaker employs the thematic group, "The Muse Sonnets" (18-126), to examine, explore, analyze, praise, and, from time to time, even to complain about his own predilection for creating art. He finds himself in an amazing yet precarious position as a poet, a sonneteer, and of course, also as a playwright. Thus, in order to perfect his art, he studies his own mind and heart assiduously and then produces these little dramas that stage his findings.

Sonnet 62 from the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence is considered one of the "young man" poems that scholars have thematically identified. However, it is quite obvious that there is no person, no young man, in this poem. The only subject in this sonnet is the speaker himself. This poem further supports the claim that this section of the sonnets has been misidentified: the sonnets do not address or immortalize any young man; they are all about the speaker, his muse, his talent, and his own self-confidence.

Sonnet 62: "Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye"

Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
And all my soul, and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart.
Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,
No shape so true, no truth of such account;
And for myself mine own worth do define,
As I all other in all worths surmount.
But when my glass shows me myself indeed
Beated and chopp'd with tanned antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;
Self so self-loving were iniquity.
'Tis thee, myself, that for myself I praise,
Painting my age with beauty of thy days.

Reading of Sonnet 62

Commentary

The speaker in sonnet 62—taking a critical look at his obsession with his own self but then concluding that that love is really for his soul, a spark of the Divine—desires to face his physical condition and understand its relationship to his mental and spiritual encasements.

First Quatrain: Admission of Guilt

Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
And all my soul, and all my every part;
And for this sin there is no remedy,
It is so grounded inward in my heart.

In the opening quatrain, the speaker admits that he is guilty of the "[sin] of self-love." That sin has power over every part of him, all of his senses, his heart, and his very soul, and he feels helpless to alter the situation because "[i]t is so grounded inward in my heart."

Such a love, however, should be directed only toward the Divine Creator, and the speaker seems to be condemning his self-love as he begins his confession. While this speaker is consumed with the issue of his ability to compose literature, he often must face his physical condition and understand its relationship to his mental and spiritual encasements.

The speaker realizes that each of the three body forms must become and remain in harmony in order for true creativity to thrive. His desire for establishing the immortality of his art influences his constant study and push to attain the best possible knowledge that leads to bliss in life as well as art.

Second Quatrain: More Interested in Self than in Others

Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,
No shape so true, no truth of such account;
And for myself mine own worth do define,
As I all other in all worths surmount.

The speaker of this poem might remind the reader of the TV sitcom character, Murphy Brown, who once said, "I am the most interesting person I know." In the second quatrain, the speaker admits as much: "Methinks no face so gracious is as mine, / No shape so true, no truth of such account; / And for myself mine own worth do define, / As I all other in all worths surmount."

The speaker is, therefore, more obsessed with himself even than Ms Brown was. He is worth more than all other people. He finds his appearance more "gracious." His own ideas about truth are superior to others. He confesses a total absorption in his own self-interests.

Third Quatrain: True Self is the Soul

But when my glass shows me myself indeed
Beated and chopp'd with tanned antiquity,
Mine own self-love quite contrary I read;
Self so self-loving were iniquity.

When the speaker looks into his mirror and sees that he looks haggard and aging, it seems that his love for such an appearance defies all logic: "Self so self-loving were iniquity." Nevertheless, the speaker realizes that that is only his physical self; his true self is his soul, and he recognizes through intuition the permanence of the soul’s youth and beauty.

The Couplet: Only the Soul Gives Praise

'Tis thee, myself, that for myself I praise,
Painting my age with beauty of thy days.

The speaker's obsession with the physical level of existence leads him to a deep understanding of the nature of life as a fading proposition. He is enjoined to overcome the dissonance that such knowledge engenders in the hearts and minds of each human sufferer.

Thus, it is the speaker's soul that gives praise, not his physical encasement, which operates only as an instrument for "[p]ainting [his] age with beauty of [the soul’s] days." Therefore, the speaker's sin is transmuted into a virtue because he is simply confessing love for his own soul, which is truly only love for the Divine Reality or Over-Soul.

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

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