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Shakespeare Sonnet 33: “Full many a glorious morning have I seen”

Updated on October 7, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

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.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford



Sonnet 33 extends a metaphor of the sun and clouds, dramatizing the natural phenomenon of clouds as they hide the sun.

It follows then that the sun represents the metaphoric equivalent of the speaker’s writing talent or muse, while the clouds stand for the periods of spells of dryness causing lulls in the writer's inspiration.

Writers refer to this period of dryness, this period in which they suffer the inability to create, as writer's block.

Yes, even the great poet of the "Shakespeare" brand did suffer such an indignity. Should give hope to all who struggle to spread words across a page!

Reading of Shakespeare Sonnet 33

First Quatrain: “Full many a glorious morning have I seen"

In the first quatrain of sonnet 33, the speaker reports having seen the sun on a “glorious morning” when they “Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye.” The morning is made glorious by the golden-rich light of the life-giving star.

The speaker has also watched as the sun “kiss[es] with golden face the meadows green.” The kiss of the sun literally turns the meadows green.

And on “pale streams,” the speaker has observed the sun light “gilding [the streams] with heavenly alchemy.” The sun’s rays seem to magically transform the water of a common brook into a celestial vision.

Second Quatrain: “Anon permit the basest clouds to ride”

However, as soon as the speaker has seen the wondrous marvels that the sun performs on earthly things, that same heroic orb allows “the basest clouds” to hide the glorious rays.

The sun allows those ugly clouds to keep its beautiful face hidden as it continues its movement across the day from east to west.

The speaker adamantly compares the clouds negatively with the sun and even deems the fact the sun permits itself to be hidden by such “ugly rack” to be a “disgrace.”

Third Quatrain: “Even so my sun one early morn did shine”

In the third quatrain, the speaker asserts that one morning quite early the sun was shining all-gloriously on his very “brow,” and the first thing you know, another cloud came along and “mask’d” the wonderful rays from his face.

The speaker was allowed the glory of the sun on his face “but one hour.”

The Couplet: “Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth”

But the speaker vows that despite its so easily giving in to hiding behind clouds, he loves the bright star no less and avers, “Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.”

The speaker is punning "suns" for "sons." Sons of the earth "stain" with ink on a page, if they are possessed of the talent with which the speaker is so abundantly possessed.

Therefore, those with talent enough are like the sun; even as they suffer blocks, they continue to be as inspired as the sun does continue to shine despite the clouds.

Regardless of whether the rays are visible to those on earth, the sun continues to influence all living creatures and all phenomena such as mountain-tops, meadows, and streams.

The Sun as Metaphor

Sonnet 33 is highly metaphorical; it is, in fact, an extended metaphor. The sun is metaphorically compared to the artist’s talent or muse. Clouds dramatize the periods of dryness in inspiration to compose.

The poet then is able to realize that in spite of the lulls, his talent, like the sun, remains always with him and is always motivating him to keep that being in him, recognized as the artist, and the artist’s love alive and well functioning.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes


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