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Shakespeare Sonnet 52: "So am I as the rich, whose blessed key"

Updated on December 12, 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.

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: Making the Heart Grow Fond

In sonnet 52, the speaker is making a quaint observation. He has noted that pleasure is best enjoyed infrequently.

The speaker cites traditionally celebrated occasions as an example of such infrequent enjoyment. If pageantry were held daily, its force for pleasure would wear thin.

Thus, the speaker is reporting that he visits his own creation only on rare occasions. His constant indulgence in such enjoyment would also wear thin the pleasure he takes from visiting his creations only on occasion.

This speaker continues to find new ways to demonstrate his unique talent for discovering fascinating conceits from which he can dramatized and showcase his creative abilities.

Reading of Sonnet 52

First Quatrain: “So am I as the rich, whose blessed key”

The speaker, in the first quatrain of sonnet 52, is likening his circumstances to that of a rich man who can afford to keep “up-locked treasure.”

And as the rich man would not “every hour survey” his possessions, the speaker likes to gaze on his creations sparingly, lest he lose interest in them.

The speaker possesses a “blessed key” that opens for him the locked treasure of his soul.

That blessed key is his talent, his ability to compose, and his poetic creations are the treasure. He has discovered that he disdains “blunting the fine point” of his pleasure by overindulgence.

Second Quatrain: “Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare”

In the second quatrain, the speaker again dramatizes the act of forbearance in the enjoyment of pleasure: “Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare, / Since, seldom coming in the long year set.”

The speaker observes that by tradition “feasts” are “so rare.” Celebrations are “solemn” and “seldom,” just as the jewels that decorate a necklace or tiara are “thinly placed.”

The speaker is celebrating and emphasizing the fact that pleasure is best when mildly and infrequently indulged.

It is a human predilection to desire overindulgence in those things, people, and events found favorable. Yet this speaker has discerned that intemperance ultimately devalues the delight found in their enjoyment.

Third Quatrain: “So is the time that keeps you as my chest”

Because only occasional enjoyment provides superior zest, the speaker keeps his poetic creations locked away and infrequently takes them out for purview.

The speaker likens his ceremony to the wardrobe that keeps the robe hidden from view, when the owner takes the dress out only on special occasions.

The speaker avers that his schema promotes his intent “[t]o make some special instant special-blest.”

When the talented speaker takes his poem out to review it, it is as if it is a “new unfolding.” He experiences the pride of accomplishment that is “imprison’d” in the work

Because only occasional enjoyment provides superior zest, the speaker keeps his poetic creations locked away and infrequently takes them out for purview.

The speaker likens his ceremony to the wardrobe that keeps the robe hidden from view, when the owner takes the dress out only on special occasions.

The speaker avers that his schema promotes his intent “[t]o make some special instant special-blest.”

When the talented speaker takes his poem out to review it, it is as if it is a “new unfolding.” He experiences the pride of accomplishment that is “imprison’d” in the work.

The Couplet: “Blessed are you whose worthiness gives scope”

The couplet addresses his poem: “Blessed are you whose worthiness gives scope, / Being had, to triumph; being lacked, to hope.”

The speaker notes that through the blessedness of his talent, his pleasure finds “scope” for “worthiness.”

That the speaker possesses the poem and all it holds leads him “to triumph,” and between the times of enjoyment, or “being lacked,” he retains the virtue of “hope.”

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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