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Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Edward de Vere's Memorial For His Son, Who Died at Birth May 1583. (p. 3)

sonnets (33-36) in which Shakespeare feels betrayed by the “Fair Youth”.  In its imagery it is a bit of a one off.  Being presumably a “Fair Youth” sonnet it is said to be about the young Henry Wriothesley.

The sonnet is not in itself so unquestionably about the particular short-lived son of Edward de Vere that it can identify De Vere as Shakespeare, or the child as Bulbeck, solely on its own merits.  It is only one of the dozens of sonnets, that I have presented in my books Edward de Vere was Shakespeare: at long last the truth and Was ShakespeareGay?  And Just Who Was He Anyway?, that perfectly match the known biographical facts of De Vere’s life.  The pattern is striking.  In that context, the sonnet can only be De Vere’s memorial to his son who died at birth.

The sonnet is numbered 33.


Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine
With all triumphant splendor on my brow;
But out! alack! he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now.
Yet him for this, my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.

The poet’s eager anticipation is palpable.  His joy that the child is a male bathes majestic landscapes in glorious sunshine as in his finest memories, unleashes the dominant sun/son imagery.  But, then, “he was but one hour mine “.  He was swallowed up by clouds (the meaning here of “stain”[1]) and disappeared like the sun “unseen to west with this disgrace”. 

I would suggest that the only reason that the meaning has denied analysis for centuries is because interpretations that might fit badly with the myth created around William Shakespeare were never permitted to come to mind.  Freed of that restraint, I would suggest that the meaning of this sonnet is actually quite clear.

If I may venture a gloss on what the poem says: I felt at that moment like I have felt before majestic, sun-drenched landscapes I have viewed with wonder, then was suddenly surprised, without warning (like the transition between these two quatrains), the sun being swallowed up in clouds “stealing unseen to west” toward the disgrace, the unpleasantness of death.[2]  That’s just what that moment was like when my sun/son was for one hour with me and then disappeared behind the clouds to be seen no more as he stole away toward the west (i.e. death).  Yet I do not love him less for this.  Who can love him less for his eclipse when the sun itself cannot prevent its own eclipse?

[1] Or with our sighs we'll breathe the welkin dim,
And stain the sun with fog, as sometime clouds
When they do hug him in their melting bosoms.
Titus Andronicus, III. i.

She’s dead as earth. Lend me a looking-glass.
If that her breath will mist or stain the stone,
Why then, she lives.
King Lear, V. iii

Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,…
"Sonnet 35"

Stain, v. …to eclipse.  obs. (Very common in the 16th century)
Oxford English Dictionary

[2] Let fame, that all hunt after in their lives,
Live register'd upon our brazen tombs
And then grace us in the disgrace of death;…
Love’s Labours Lost, I. i.

Disgrace, [n.]... 2.b.  A misfortune obs.  7.  Want of grace.  a. of person: ill-favouredness obs.
Oxford English Dictionary

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Connie Beane said...

The OED cites the usage of "stain" in this sonnet under sense 2 of the verb, meaning "lose color or luster," which makes more sense than "disgrace" or "blemish," if it's about de Vere's infant son's death.

Gilbert Wesley Purdy said...

Interesting. I will have to take a close look. Thanks, Connie.