Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Sonnet 19

Arguably the most notable feature of this Sonnet is that it is not directly addressing the Fair Youth or just a narrative of the former's beauty, but a decidedly desperate plea levelled at Time to spare the Youth. A Sonnet that is at least a tad contradictory considering that thus far that decadence brought about by the ravages of time was the epitome of inevitability. Surely not even Shakespeare can protect the Fair Youth from 'Time' or can he?

At this point it is well worth noting that this Sonnet hinges on the efficiency and exuberance  of Time's predatory characteristics hence the symbols, diction and metaphors used stem mainly from predatory animals or their traits.

Shakespeare generates a list of sorts of 'heinous' acts 'Time' is allowed to perform instead of ravaging the Fair Youth. Firstly is the "blunting of Lion's paws," an image in keeping with the predatory theme pervading the Sonnet. However, the true relevance of this particular request would emanate from the fact that a lion's claws are in fact quite nearly indestructible and exist for all of the lion's lifetime without so much as a tinge of degeneration. As if that is not enough of an unachievable task, the persona suggests that Time see to the implementation of an apocalyptic purge, one facilitated by Mother Nature herself. Sacrificing just about all of the World to spare the Youth seems just about right for Shakespeare as augmented in Line 7. If ever there was even the slightest doubt pertaining to how much love is borne by the poet for this individual, it is clear now Shakespeare will go to all lengths to save his beloved. Could a love so deep really exist?

The first quatrain finishes with the most impossible command-cum-request  yet; to "burn a phoenix in her blood." A quite impossible feat according to Greek Mythology as the Phoenix  is said to regenerate from its own ashes after its 1 400 year periodic fiery death. The true significance of the use of this motif is probably that it symbolises the mystical, the unknown, the other realm. Juxtaposing this with known images like lions and tigers then serves to cater for the call to sacrifice all that exists in place of the Fair Youth.

In the second quatrain, he persona, in no uncertain terms gives Time free reign over the whole World, "And do whate'er thou wilt swift-footed time." Whilst of course this is only a metaphorical representation of what Shakespeare would do for the Fair Youth; in the spirit of analysis one should note that this 'love' is exceedingly looking like an obsession, an obsession so strong and so vile that nothing else matters. A bit uncharacteristic of Shakespeare as in other writings most notably those involving love ( Romeo and Juliet, As You Like It and Merchant Of Venice) he seems to satirise the ideology of people being controlled by love. Why has he succumbed?

As in every other Shakespearean Sonnet, the third quatrain concludes the argument. Time's tools of destruction are all given special mention as if as reminder as to what exactly is to be done. The most interest part of this quatrain is that Shakespeare points only to old age, "... my love's fair brow... nor draw lines with thine antique pen," and not death. Is it that his main concern is for the beauty of the Fair Youth and not the actual person. Is this some sort of superficial love?

Just as in the previous Sonnet, the poet provides a bit of insurance should his pleas fail. His love is to live forever through his writing if Time refuses to grant his wishes. Some critics have gone on to perceive the last line," My love in my verse shall ever live young," as a valediction meant to indicate that the first group of Sonnets ends here whilst to some it's a proclamation of victory against "devouring" Time.

A copy of this analysis is available for download at https://independent.academia.edu/KudzaiMahwite