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Shakespeare Sonnet 82: "I grant thou wert not married to my Muse"

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 82: "I grant thou wert not married to my Muse"

From the classic Shakespeare 154-sonnet sequence, sonnet 82 finds the speaker doing what he does best: dramatizing the nature of his favorite subject and how it infuses his own craft with the delicious qualities of truth and beauty. This speaker continues to demonstrate his love for his own talent, his muse, and creations. He especially holds originality in high regard.

Sonnet 82: "I grant thou wert not married to my Muse"

I grant thou wert not married to my Muse
And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook
The dedicated words which writers use
Of their fair subject, blessing every book.
Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue,
Finding thy worth a limit past my praise;
And therefore art enforc’d to seek anew
Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days.
And do so, love; yet when they have devis’d
What strained touches rhetoric can lend,
Thou truly fair wert truly sympathized
In true plain words by thy true-telling friend;
And their gross painting might be better used
Where cheeks need blood; in thee it is abus’d.

Reading of Sonnet 82

Commentary

This speaker is demonstrating his love for his own talent, his Muse, and creations. He especially holds originality in high regard.

First Quatrain: Distinction Between Muse and Love

I grant thou wert not married to my Muse
And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook
The dedicated words which writers use
Of their fair subject, blessing every book.

In the first quatrain of sonnet 82, the speaker addresses again his favorite subject, "love," and tells love that he knows his favorite subject and his "Muse" are not the same or even closely linked as by marriage. Because the Muse does not align herself irrevocable with any particular subject, theme, or topic, the writer’s inspiration and subject matter do not taint each other.

If the writer praises one, he is not necessarily praising the other. Writers will, of course, always be "blessing every book." But their subject and their Muse are not always equal in their production and therefore cannot partake of equal appreciation. The writer alone decides to whom he will offer his gratitude for any particular piece of work.

Second Quatrain: The Beauty of Love

Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue,
Finding thy worth a limit past my praise;
And therefore art enforc’d to seek anew
Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days.

The speaker then alerts love that it is "as fair in knowledge as in hue." He asserts that the beauty of love lies not only in its outward expression but primarily in its knowledge. Love’s value exceeds the ability of the speaker/poet to praise it. The writer who falls in love with love will seek answers to earthly questions as he seeks, "Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days."

The original writer will not be satisfied by merely copying others but will be motivated by the ever-new inspiration that love continuously infuses into his vision. Such a writer does not wait for the Muse, and readers have noted this trait in this speaker’s method. He writes even when he feels he has nothing to write about except to complain that he cannot write.

Third Quatrain: Straining Rhetoric

And do so, love; yet when they have devis’d
What strained touches rhetoric can lend,
Thou truly fair wert truly sympathized
In true plain words by thy true-telling friend;

Love works in a similar fashion. Even as those who formulated the rules of "rhetoric" have warned against the "strained touches" that the art of rhetoric can offer, love remains true. The speaker then drives his claim home by using the rhetorical device called "incremental repetition" in the line, "Thou truly fair wert truly sympathized / In true plain words by thy true-telling friend."

This highly educated and perceptive speaker employs the term, "truly," twice and its root, "true," twice in the two lines. Through this rhetorical device of repetition, he emphasizes his stance that "love" and "truth" are, in fact, married, or unified for him.

The Couplet: Poetry and Painting

And their gross painting might be better used
Where cheeks need blood; in thee it is abus’d.

In the couplet, the speaker compares his sonnet to a painting, which has to use gross physical forms, where the painter must put blood in the cheek of his subject. But such grossness is not required for the written word, and this speaker avers that in the sonnet "it is abus’d." Too physical a subject abuses the spirituality with which the subjects, "love" and "truth," endow his art.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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