ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • Poems & Poetry

Shakespeare Sonnet 49: "Against that time, if ever that time come"

Updated on January 29, 2018
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

The real Shakespeare
The real Shakespeare | Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 49

Sonnet 49 is structured by the phrase, "Against that time," meaning to guard against the time when certain events may occur. The first two quatrains reveal the events, while the third along with the couplet reveal what the poet intends to do about it.

The speaker addresses his muse in sonnet 49. The speaker is aware and somewhat fearful that at any time and especially likely in future his muse might abandon him. Thus, he fears losing inspiration for writing. But this speaker is equal to any occurrence and therefore lets his muse know that he is equal to the task of carrying on without the muse's promptings.

Shakespeare Sonnet 49

Against that time, if ever that time come
When I shall see thee frown on my defects,
When as thy love hath cast his utmost sum,
Call’d to that audit by advis’d respects;
Against that time when thou shalt strangely pass,
And scarcely greet me with that sun, thine eye,
When love, converted from the thing it was,
Shall reasons find of settled gravity;
Against that time do I ensconce me here
Within the knowledge of mine own desert,
And this my hand against myself uprear,
To guard the lawful reasons on thy part:
To leave poor me thou hast the strength of laws,
Since why to love I can allege no cause.

Reading of Sonnet 49

Commentary

Addressing his muse, the poet/speaker warns that he will do whatever it takes to secure himself from any possible future loss of inspiration.

First Quatrain: Hesitation Before Prediction

Against that time, if ever that time come
When I shall see thee frown on my defects,
When as thy love hath cast his utmost sum,
Call’d to that audit by advis’d respects;

In the first quatrain, the speaker hesitates by adding, "if ever that time come," because he does not want to predict that such losses will definitely occur. He is covering himself: if they occur, he will be prepared, and, of course, if they do not occur, he has lost nothing by being prepared. But if that undesirable time comes to pass, it will be that his muse looks on him with a "frown" instead of the smile to which the poet/speaker has grown accustomed.

When or if the muse is "[c]all’d to that audit by advis’d respects," that love will have "cast his utmost sum," and the speaker will no longer feel that his muse bestows favors upon him.

Second Quatrain: Hypothetically, Without Inspiration

Against that time when thou shalt strangely pass,
And scarcely greet me with that sun, thine eye,
When love, converted from the thing it was,
Shall reasons find of settled gravity;

That future cursed time would reveal itself if the muse would "strangely pass" and "scarcely greet" the poet as he tries to create. Instead of the "sun, thine eye," he would see "settled gravity." The former love that the muse bestowed would be "converted from the thing it was." It would no longer offer him the inspiration and guidance that he has formerly enjoyed.

The reader needs to remember that the speaker is still verbalizing hypothetically and also that the speaker is holding in abeyance his plan to overcome the possible negativity that might be in store with the loss of his muse’s affection.

Third Quatrain: Intention Combating Dryness

Against that time do I ensconce me here
Within the knowledge of mine own desert,
And this my hand against myself uprear,
To guard the lawful reasons on thy part:

The third quatrain reveals the speaker’s intention: "Against that time do I ensconce me here / Within the knowledge of mine own desert." He will entrench himself in his own self (soul).

Even the dry barrenness of the speaker's own soul is superior to all the laws or reasons that anything outside himself can perpetrate upon him, including the subtle separateness from his own muse.

The Couplet: The Poet Keeps the Upper Hand

To leave poor me thou hast the strength of laws,
Since why to love I can allege no cause.

The poet/speaker acknowledges that the muse has "the strength of laws" to "leave [him] poor," that is, without the inspiration to continue his craft, but the poet/speaker still has the upper hand because he has not designated reasons or causes for his love. The speaker understands that he causeless cannot be contained nor denied.

Muse vs Soul

In several earlier sonnets, the speaker has been exploring the delicate divergence of his muse from his soul, and in this one, he has continued with a slight variation on that theme. One might successfully argue that the entire sequence of sonnets addresses the issue of the classic struggle between mind and soul, or more colorfully between muse and soul.

A Brief Overview of the 154-Sonnet Sequence

Marriage Sonnets 1-17

The speaker in the Shakespeare “Marriage Sonnets” pursues a single goal: to persuade a young man to marry and produce beautiful offspring. It is likely that the young man is Henry Wriothesley, the third earl of Southampton, who is being urged to marry Elizabeth de Vere, the oldest daughter of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford.

Many scholars and critics now argue persuasively that Edward de Vere is the writer of the works attributed to the nom de plume, "William Shakespeare."

For more information regarding Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as the real writer of the Shakespearean canon, please visit The De Vere Society, an organization that is "dedicated to the proposition that the works of Shakespeare were written by Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford."

Muse Sonnets 18-126 (Erroneously "Fair Youth")

The speaker in this section of sonnets is exploring his talent, his dedication to his art, and his own soul power. In some sonnets, the speaker addresses his muse, in others he addresses himself, and in others he even addresses the poem itself.

Even though many scholars and critics have traditionally categorized this group of sonnets as the "Fair Youth Sonnets," there is no "fair youth," that is "young man," in these sonnets. There is no person at all in this sequence, with exception of the two problematic sonnets, 108 and 126.

Dark Lady Sonnets 127-154

The final sequence targets an adulterous romance with a woman of questionable character; the term “dark” likely modifies the woman’s character flaws, not her skin tone.

Two Problematic Sonnets: 108 and 126

Sonnet 108 and 126 present a problem in categorization. While most of the sonnets in the "Muse Sonnets" do focus on the poet's musings about his writing talent and do not focus on a human being, sonnets 108 and 126 are speaking to a young man, respectively calling him "sweet boy" and "lovely boy."

Sonnet 126 presents an additional problem: it is not technically a "sonnet," because it features six couplets, instead of the traditional three quatrains and a couplet.

The themes of sonnets 108 and 126 would better categorize with the "Marriage Sonnets" because they do address a "young man." It is likely that sonnets 108 and 126 are at least partially responsible for the erroneous labeling of the "Muse Sonnets" as the "Fair Youth Sonnets" along with the claim that those sonnets address a young man.

While most scholars and critics tend to categorize the sonnets into the three-themed schema, others combine the "Marriage Sonnets" and the "Fair Youth Sonnets" into one group of "Young Man Sonnets." This categorization strategy would be accurate if the "Muse Sonnets" actually addressed a young man, as only the "Marriage Sonnets" do.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)