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Shakespeare Sonnet 31

Updated on May 3, 2020
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 31

The notion of keeping loved ones alive is an old one. Many folks believe that they keep them alive only in their memory or in relics that belonged to beloved ones who have passed on. The poetic conceit of keeping ones love alive in poetry is also an old one. Poets have long argued that the poem is not merely a piece of discourse, but it is a place where abstract qualities can become concrete realities.

Emotions can be personified and walk as talk as a man or a woman. The limit to such dramatic creation is only the sky and the poet's ability to fashion those dramas. This speaker happens to be one of those rare poets who has been gifted with the mental and spiritual power to create the kind of poetry in which he can keep his loved ones alive and continues to enjoy communing with them as long as he lives.

In sonnet 31, the speaker/poet is dramatizing this important function of his poetry. He is able to place his friends and lovers in his poems and thereby keep them alive. As the reader has discovered before in this sonnet sequence, the speaker is once again touting the power and magic that being able to compose brings into his life.

Sonnet 31

Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts
Which I by lacking have supposed dead;
And there reigns Love, and all Love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.
How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye,
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things remov’d that hidden in thee lie!
Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did give,
That due of many now is thine alone:
Their images I lov’d I view in thee,
And thou—all they—hast all the all of me.

Reading of Sonnet 31

Commentary

The speaker/poet is dramatizing the importance and function of his poetry: through his talent, his friends and lovers whom he thought dead remain alive in his poems.

First Quatrain: Addressing His Poems

Thy bosom is endeared with all hearts
Which I by lacking have supposed dead;
And there reigns Love, and all Love’s loving parts,
And all those friends which I thought buried.

In the first quatrain, the speaker is addressing his art, his poetry, telling the poem that it holds all of the former loves of his life, and even though he has thought them gone, they indeed continue to live on in his poems.

All of his friends whom he has cherished continue to live because "there reigns Love, and all Love’s loving parts." In his poems, he can create a special place where his dear ones will remain forever. He has found charm in his own ability to create his little dramas. And his sonnet sequence shines forth from the poet's ability to remain focused and dedicated to creating insightful art.

Second Quatrain: Tears Over False Notions

How many a holy and obsequious tear
Hath dear religious love stol’n from mine eye,
As interest of the dead, which now appear
But things remov’d that hidden in thee lie!

The speaker has shed many tears because of the false notion that his dear ones had disappeared. He is now emphasizing the importance of the tears by labeling them "holy and obsequious."

The speaker had cried, out of duty as much as out of sorrow because the dead seem to call forth from hearts passion and intensity. But the speaker now realizes that the passion and intensity are only "hidden in thee," that is, they are immortalized in his poetry.

The speaker/poet with ability to create will never find a limit to his talent, and that talent could not be better employed than in developing a permanent locus where he can return repeatedly to enjoy the company of those beloved souls. He also is projecting into the future at a time when after his own demise, other souls may have the advantage of his experience.

Third Quatrain: A Metaphorical Grave

Thou art the grave where buried love doth live,
Hung with the trophies of my lovers gone,
Who all their parts of me to thee did give,
That due of many now is thine alone:
Their images I lov’d I view in thee,
And thou—all they—hast all the all of me.

The speaker is metaphorically comparing his poetry to a grave, "where buried love doth live." However, ironically, instead of simply reclining forever in the cold ground that seemingly buried love instead "doth live." The speaker's talent has the magical ability to keep his love alive in his poetry. He cherishes this function of his talent. He once again is showing how his blessed talent for composing sonnets has the power to give life to his most precious attributes.

Everything the speaker has gained from his lovers he continues to retain by capturing it all in his poems. The poems are like a shelf that holds "the trophies of [his] lovers gone." And now what he once owned of his former lovers belongs solely to the poems. The speaker's ability to create pieces of art enhances his life, and instead of bragging about his talent, he demonstrates his joy and passion by creating places that display the loves of his life.

The Couplet: Repository of Love

Their images I lov’d I view in thee,
And thou—all they—hast all the all of me.

The couplet completes the thought and makes it even more abundantly clear: the speaker's poems contain images of his lovers, and he can see them clearly anytime he chooses. He has given his whole heart, mind, and soul to this art as he creates his poems to serve as the repository of his love.

This speaker makes his intentions clear that he remains dedicated to truth, beauty, and love. He insists in drama after drama that his interests keep his art informed and his own heart and mind on a steady beat of a lively rhythm of life.

Source

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford: The Real "Shakespeare"

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

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  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    3 years ago from U.S.A.

    Thank you, Louise. I have started a book of my commentaries: of the Shakespeare sonnets and others; don't know if I'll actually try to publish them though. Have a great & blessed day!

  • Coffeequeeen profile image

    Louise Powles 

    3 years ago from Norfolk, England

    I enjoy reading your analysis of sonnets and poems. You should write a book!

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