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Shakespeare Sonnet 110: "Alas! ’tis true I have gone here and there"

Updated on November 5, 2017
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After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Shakespeare Sonnet Titles

The Shakespeare Sonnet sequence does not feature titles for each sonnet; therefore, each sonnet's first line becomes the title. According to the MLA Style Manuel:

"When the first line of a poem serves as the title of the poem, reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the text."

APA does not address this issue.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The real "Shakespeare"
The real "Shakespeare" | Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 110

The speaker is reaffirming that he remains dedicated to truth and love. However, he also offers a confession that he has been behaving in an unseemly manner, and now he declares that he rejects that behavior and even detests it.

Alas! ’tis true I have gone here and there

Alas! ’tis true I have gone here and there
And made myself a motley to the view,
Gor’d mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,
Made old offences of affections new;
Most true it is that I have look’d on truth
Askance and strangely; but, by all above,
These blenches gave my heart another youth,
And worse essays prov’d thee my best of love.
Now all is done, save what shall have no end:
Mine appetite I never more will grind
On newer proof, to try an older friend,
A god in love, to whom I am confin’d.
Then give me welcome, next my heaven the best,
Even to thy pure and most most loving breast.

Reading of Sonnet 110

Commentary

First Quatrain: "Alas! ’tis true I have gone here and there"

In the first quatrain of sonnet 110, the speaker admits—"Alas! ‘tis true"—that he has "gone here and there" in debauchery that left himself looking disheveled and miserable. He has been guilty of acting against his own better judgment.

The speaker confesses that has "sold cheap what is most dear," causing himself to regret his indefensible choices. All of his wretched behavior "made old offences of affections news." He has made enemies of those who would have gladly been his friends, had he not selfishly spoiled the relationships.

Second Quatrain: "Most true it is that I have look’d on truth"

Still in the confession mode, the speaker then admits worse behavior when he "look’d on truth / Askance and strangely." In many sonnets, the speaker has avowed his allegiance to what is true and beautiful, so this admission takes a remarkable amount of courage.

The speaker is facing down demons, as he works to become closer to his ideals. He confesses to his muse as a religious devotee confesses to the Divine. Fortunately, he can report that his former confrontation and engagement with wickedness helped him return to an earlier innocence. The more he was tempted by evil the more he realized that his soul, his own spark of the Divine as represented by the muse, contained his "best of love."

Third Quatrain: "Now all is done, save what shall have no end"

The speaker then asserts that he has now experienced all that is necessary to make him understand that some behavior is unacceptable and that he is now pointing his attention solely to the eternal. He has no need to live by physical desires alone—"Mine appetite I never more will grind."

Instead of looking for satisfaction in physical endeavors, henceforth the speaker will remain focused on his "older friend / A god in love, to whom I am confin’d." He observes that his own muse—his talent, his own soul—represents what is infinite and eternal, not sense pleasures and the debauchery of the world.

The Couplet: "Then give me welcome, next my heaven the best"

The speaker, after his profound confession and realization, commands his muse to accept his declaration and hereafter keep him securely attached "to thy pure and most most loving breast." He repeats the superlative, "most," to emphasize his awareness of the trust he places in the love of his Divine Muse.

This deep-thinking speaker comprehends the superiority of the spiritual level of reality over the physical and mental, and he cherishes his relationship with the Eternal, demanding that that relationship remain a close one.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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