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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Edward de Vere's Memorial For His Son, Who Died at Birth May 1583. (p. 4)

The strength of the traditional interpretation remains what it has always been.  We have virtually no biographical information about William Shaksper of Stratford so who can possibly say that any sonnet does not fit his life?  Every bit as creative as the Bard himself, generations of scholars have collectively composed a story in which Shakespeare is deeply smitten with Henry Wriothesley, the “Fair Youth”.  What sonnets do not seem to fit the story well must be bent to fit.  In spite of the son/sun imagery and the clear statement that the sun was the poet’s joy for but one hour, this is said to be a sonnet about the poet’s disappointment with some flaw in the “Fair Youth”.   Thus fitted, all is gratifyingly consistent.

On the other hand, reading the text as written presents its own issue.  The use of the word “disdaineth” suggests an insensitivity from which the modern mind draws back offended.  While here it is chosen for its manifold play on words with the multiple meanings of the word “disgrace” from line 8, such wordplay itself feels cavalier.  For all Anne is not at all a good poet, we sympathize with the unmitigated pain her poems display.  For all Edward is a great poet, on the other hand, and this one of the greatest sonnets in the English language, the modern reader is bound to be disappointed that he was not less a poet and more devastated.  Might wish that there had been no question as to whether the poet might react with disdain toward a son so weak as to be defeated in the battle to live.

The rest of the poems written by the Countess of Oxford on the death of her son follow:

In doleful ways I spend the wealth of my time:
Feeding on my heart, that ever comes again.
Since the ordinance, of the Destins, hath been,
To end of the Seasons, of my years the prime.
With my Son, my Gold, my Nightingale, and Rose,
Is gone; for 'twas in him and no other where:
And well though my eyes run down like fountains here,
The stone will not speak yet, that doth it inclose,
And Destins and Gods, you might rather have ta'en,
My twentie years: than the two days of my son.
And of this world what shall I hope, once I know,
That in this respect, it can yield me but moss:
Or what should I consume any more in woe,
When Destins, God, and worlds, are all in my loss.

The heavens, death, and life have conjured my ill:
For death hath take away the breath of my son:
The heavens receive, and consent, that he hath done:
And my life doth keep me here against my will.
But if our life be caused with moisture and heat,
I care neither for the death, the life, nor skies:
For I'll sigh him warmth, and wet him with my eyes:
(And thus I shall be thought a second Promet)
And as for life, let it do me all despite:
For if it leave me, I shall go to my child:
And it in the heavens, there is all my delight.
And if I live, my vertue is immortal.
"So that the heavens, death and life, when they do all
Their force: by sorrowful vertue th'are beguiled."

Idal for Adon never shed so many tears,
Nor Thet for Pelid, nor Phoebus for Hyacinthus,
Nor for Atis, the mother of prophetesses,
as for the death of Bulbeck the gods have cares.
At the brute of it, the Aphroditan queen
Cause more silver to to distil from her eyes
Than when the drops of her cheeks raises daisies;
And to die with him, mortal she would have been;
The Charits for it break their perukes of gold,
The Muses and the nymphs of caves; I behold
All the gods under Olympus are constraint
On Laches, Clothon and Atropos to plain.
And yet Beauty for it doth make no complaint,
For it lived with him, and died with him again.

My son is gone and with it death end my sorrow;
But death makes me answer: ‘Madam, cease these moans,
My force is but on bodies and bones;
And that of yours is no more now, but a shadow.

Amphion’s wife was turned to a rock.
How well I had been had I had such adventure,
For then I might, gain have been the sepulchre
Of him that bear in me, so long ago.

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