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Shakespeare Sonnet 69: "Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view"

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

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 69: "Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view"

The speaker in Sonnet 69 from the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence is expressing his interest in the differences between the mind's ability to distinguish truth on the physical and spiritual levels. While the physical level may show outward beauty that the mind may perceive, the spiritual level possesses the true eternal nature of beauty, which the soul understands.

This deep-thinking speaker suggests that while each human being is bestowed an outer and inner level of being, those who aspire to access the inner qualities of the heart and mind live and think profoundly and thus acquire the ability to create true art. This industrious speaker is ever focused on creating art, and thus he continues to explore and elucidate all aspects of art from creation to criticism.

Sonnet 69: "Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view"

Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view
Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend;
All tongues—the voice of souls—give thee that due,
Uttering bare truth, even so as foes commend.
Thy outward thus with outward praise is crown’d;
But those same tongues, that give thee so thine own,
In other accents do this praise confound
By seeing farther than the eye hath shown.
They look into the beauty of thy mind,
And that, in guess, they measure by thy deeds;
Then,—churls,—their thoughts, although their eyes were kind,
To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds:
But why thy odour matcheth not thy show,
The soil is this, that thou dost common grow.

Reading of Sonnet 69

Commentary

The speaker is focusing on and dramatizing the difference between inner and outer qualities of the human personality. As always, he is elucidating these qualities with implications for the healing nature of art and for his own ability to create.

First Quatrain: Inner vs Outer Personality

Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view
Want nothing that the thought of hearts can mend;
All tongues—the voice of souls—give thee that due,
Uttering bare truth, even so as foes commend.

In the first quatrain, the speaker determines that the inner person may not be the same as the outer physical appearance. The "heart" can "mend" any deficiency that exists in the beauty and grace of the physical body. The "voice of souls" uplifts the person who might be rebuked by "foes."

Critics who may be "[u]ttering bare truth" are more important than those who seek to mollify it. The heart represents love, while the "voice of souls" represents wisdom; although neither is detectible by outward senses, both do contend and accomplish without fanfare.

The speaker is confronting issues that remain part of his wheelhouse for the generation of themes and subjects on which he will continue to focus. He is thus encouraging his creative process to remain steadily aware of the nature of healing that comes from within the artist’s own heart and soul.

The physical makeup of a sonnet may be personified and thus reflect a similar growth pattern that an individual human being might possess. This talented speaker is capable of intuiting the inner dwelling of power that resides in the heart and soul; therefore he is able to create his dramas featuring the profound knowledge about which he is cognizant.

Second Quatrain: Outward Praise Nothing Special

Thy outward thus with outward praise is crown’d;
But those same tongues, that give thee so thine own,
In other accents do this praise confound
By seeing farther than the eye hath shown.

After the outward façade of any piece of art is awarded undeserved accolades, nothing of substance is gained by either the artist or the audience. Outward beauty degenerates with time, but inner beauty can grow and become even more beautiful over time.

All the wagging "tongues" cannot add or detract from inner soul beauty. This speaker has always been more interested and intrigued by the spiritual (inner) level of being. He is appalled at the degeneration of the physical level.

The physical eye is capable of detecting only the outward, mutable appearance, but the heart and soul are more significant than the physical eye because they are capable of "seeing farther than the eye." This speaker believes that the human personality blossoms through creativity.

The nature of the blossoming of the human personality depends upon individual levels of awareness. For example, a child will be only minimally cognizant of his/her potential for growth and change. An adult, however, will have gone through various stages of growth and change.

The adult then will have become aware that there is more to each individual’s maturing nature than at first may be observed with the physical eye. This speaker always remains more interested in the unseen than the seen, for he knows that scientifically the permanent is energy rather than visible matter.

Third Quatrain: Unworthy Praise

They look into the beauty of thy mind,
And that, in guess, they measure by thy deeds;
Then,—churls,—their thoughts, although their eyes were kind,
To thy fair flower add the rank smell of weeds:
But why thy odour matcheth not thy show,
The soil is this, that thou dost common grow.

The heart and soul are capable of observing and concentrating on inner, mental loveliness, and thus is capable of estimating the value of actions. The unreliable adulation of popular criticism based on outward appearance is unworthy and offers no truth. And churlish critics can even distort what they see outwardly and "[t]o [a] fair flower add the rank smell of weeds."

This speaker realizes that mere opinion even while sounding reasonable and logic can be dead wrong; thus, opinion based on the outward garb of art may focus on elements that add nothing substantial to the success of the art.

Superficial critics may turn a lovely flower into a stinking weed with their false notions. Lacking the ability to see into the heart and soul of a poem or any piece of art, the surface-searching critic remains hide-bound and mentally ossified by the outward, the façade, and the decoration instead of the inner qualities that render art meaningful and profound.

The Couplet: Comprehending Truth

But why thy odour matcheth not thy show,
The soil is this, that thou dost common grow.

Those who fail to grasp the spiritual level of the human personality, especially in the artist, do not "matcheth" or understand the level of truth revealed in the creative works of spiritual artists. Instead of offering true growth, the superficial viewers negate all art to dirt.

Those surface thinking charlatans engage in a level of blather from which an erroneous common denominator blights the understanding of human personality. That misconception arising from that blighted thinking keeps the mind bound to the physical level filled with the pain of the temporary.

Only at the soul level can consciousness reach infinity. The human personality is capable of reaching that level but remains rigid and intolerant as it continues to engage in too much reliance on the physical senses. This speaker has engaged his high level thinking power and is able to intuit that his spiritual energy far outpaces his physical power; thus, he can write and describe the landscape from the metaphorical mountaintop instead of inside the figurative cave.

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© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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