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Shakespeare Sonnet 75: "So are you to my thoughts as food to life"

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 75, "So are you to my thoughts as food to life"

In sonnet 75 from the thematic group, "The Muse Sonnets," in the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence, the speaker has been mourning the inevitable demise of his physical encasement and the possible waning of his talent. He was also broaching this subject in sonnet 73 and sonnet 74.

In sonnet 75, the speaker returns to his favorite complex subject: his muse, his talent, and his ability to enshrine his deepest love in his sonnets as he battles the world of maya, whose dual nature always inserts negativity along with positivity.

The speaker notes that his muse comes and goes. At times he remains thoroughly nourished by his talent muse. But other times, he finds himself starving for inspiration. The writer is always hoping for continued inspiration for creativity.

However, this speaker also remains realistic as he bemoans the lack every time it occurs. He differs from other writers in that he is able to create fine dramas out of the very annoying subject that is goading him.

Sonnet 75: "So are you to my thoughts as food to life"

So are you to my thoughts as food to life
Or as sweet-season’d showers are to the ground;
And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As ’twixt a miser and his wealth is found;
Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Now counting best to be with you alone,
Then better’d that the world may see my pleasure:
Sometime, all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starved for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight,
Save what is had or must from you be took.
Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away.

Reading of Sonnet 75

Commentary

The speaker is noting that the presence of his talent-muse waxes and wanes. Sometimes, he can remain nourished by his considerable talent, while other times, he finds himself starving for inspiration during periods of dryness.

First Quatrain: Food of the Mind

So are you to my thoughts as food to life
Or as sweet-season’d showers are to the ground;
And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As ’twixt a miser and his wealth is found;

In the first quatrain, the speaker is addressing his muse as he avers that she nourishes his "thoughts" as "food" nourishes human "life." Furthermore, this speaker's muse enlivens him as the rain does the dry, parched earth. Such a useful analogy lends itself perfectly to the speaker’s purpose, which remains before him as a shining goal—he must continue to create his masterful little dramas.

The talented speaker says that he is so dependent on his muse that he must make a mighty effort to calm himself in the presence of this belovèd inspirer. He knows how profound his life has remained simply because of his considerable talent. He also has become aware of his great debt to the Giver of all talents.

If this speaker fails to engage productively with his God-given talent, he fears ultimate failure. The center of his life is his writing, his ability to produce significant, substantial art that will become and remain important to generations hence. The musing speaker likens his relationship with his muse to that of a "miser and his wealth."

The speaker, thus, humbly deprecates himself to show that he knows he is not entirely responsible for his considerable gifts. However, despite those gifts, the speaker still has to strive to remain evenminded in his passion for creating. He could become so flustered by doubt and fear of failure that he could disgrace himself. Thus, he reminds himself from time to time that he must maintain his equilibrium.

A too nearly perfect life would distill a dullness in this speaker; thus, while showing gratitude for his talent, he must constantly strive to overcome his flaws. On the one hand, he does comprehend that his life is hardly perfect, but on the other hand, he knows that his talent places his stature well above other artists. He must constantly strive for balance and harmony to produce the peace of mind allowing him to create.

Second Quatrain: The Art of Precision

Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure;
Now counting best to be with you alone,
Then better’d that the world may see my pleasure:

The speaker then avers that he is proud to be able to enjoy his ability to commune with his fecund muse, but he admits that he still suffers doubts that his ability will always remain as strong and vibrant as he is now experiencing.

The speaker’s humanness always demonstrates that he never becomes so self-important as to think he is more than a striving artist, despite the unique muse he has attracted. This speaker's ability to remain humble while castigating himself for over-weaning pride actually infuses his art with precision.

The striving speaker badly needs to be precise in pursuing the qualities he most admires—truth, beauty, and love. Those three attributes have has become a virtual holy trinity for this practicing artist-poet.

As an artist, this speaker remains steadfast in his zeal to portray those qualities in an honest but colorful array of works. Without doubt, he is thinking of his sonnets as he muses on such issues, but also there is no doubt that he includes in his thoughts his plays and other long poems.

Third Quatrain: Opposing States of Mind

Sometime, all full with feasting on your sight,
And by and by clean starved for a look;
Possessing or pursuing no delight,
Save what is had or must from you be took.

In the third quatrain, the speaker reports his opposing states of mind: sometimes he is able to "feast" on the muse’s bounty, and other times he is "starved" for her sight. All artists experience such states. Creativity may seem to flow unfettered at certain unplanned times.

But then the dreaded dry periods arrives as nothing seems to avail. During the dry periods, the artist feels he has to strain for inspiration, feeling that he has to try to take whatever he can get from the unyielding muse.

Interestingly, the muse of this speaker never remains absent for long, as he is able to create his fine little songs even in the face of a dry spell. He is so determined that he has become capable of creating colorful pieces that take for their subject his carping and complaining. Even as he is showing his contradictory nature, he is able provoke that muse into action and that action always results in first rate work.

The Couplet: Two Mental Dramas

Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,
Or gluttoning on all, or all away.

The speaker ends his musing on a plaintive note, saying that from day to day, he is tossed between those two states of mind: inspiration and lack thereof. The speaker remains at times like a glutton and at other times like a man starving. The dualities of life are ever present, even for a divinely inspired artist whose talent is considerable.

The artist who has become aware that life is composed of dualities will always have a leg up on those who have not entertained thoughts on the workings of that dual fact of living.

The mayic world of delusion cannot hem round the deep thinking individual, and if an artist is not as deep thinking as he is creatively skillful, his talent will appear to remain meager despite the size and scope of his output.

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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