Sunday, 4 June 2017

Sonnet 26

Sonnet 26 is often considered to be a culmination or catharsis of sorts of the preceding five Sonnets. However, it could also be looked at as the beginning of a different phase in the relationship between the persona and the Fair Youth. It appears there is to be some sort of separation in the near future with no apparent reason for this except that the persona wills it so. Rather strange for someone supposedly deeply in love.

The poem starts off with Shakespeare assuming the humble role of a 'servant', a servant to love, a servant to his love. Use of words like " duty, vassalage and embassage" seem to augment the previously explored notion that the Fair Youth is some sort of aristocrat and yet this could just be an illustration of how much respect the Fair Youth commands. A mismatch in fortune, class or even beauty is strongly implied by such reverence which sort of explains why Shakespeare is putting so much effort into the maintenance of this interaction.

The second quatrain is laden with irony as Shakespeare claims  " ... in wanting words to show it" his words, his poetry, more so its quality would not adequately express his love and yet if ever there was a writer who could express undying love, it his him. We are left to decide whether the persona is being fashionably humble this particular 'love' is truly beyond words. Could it also be that there existed a rival suitor whose penmanship was considerably better?

Regardless, the persona implores the Fair Youth to use his own imagination, "... in thy soul's thought," to be able to properly fathom the gravity of attraction on offer. In the strictest sense, it is a bit of a gamble as instead of the Youth imagining a bed of roses, he could so easily picture a relationship on the rocks especially as Shakespeare is announcing an impending absence. It is interesting to note that in line 11, Shakespeare sways the yet to be orchestrated imagination towards a flawed image almost as if to water down any thoughts of a rosy affair or maybe just to help paint a realistic picture of the whole situation.

The final couplet officially announces the poet's future absence attributing it to a lack of proficiency in expressing love through writing. So is this some sort of writing sabbatical? Is Shakespeare going to learn how to write or perhaps how to love or is he simply hoping absence with make the heart grow fonder?