I am happy to report that Bill has moved on a bit from his preoccupation with procreation. Not completely, but at least he is testing out some new ideas. In fact, one of the sonnets this time had some fairly forward-thinking social ideas in it. At least the way I read it, but we will get into that shortly. I was truly relieved to have some new subject matter to dig into and a couple of the sonnets here today had a lot going on.
Sonnet 16 was a return to our previous subject with the speaker telling his young friend that he will only live on through his progeny and in a reversal from #15 says that preservation through art is thin and unreliable. Only having kids will ensure you live on.
#17 is a continuation of this idea, with the speaker telling the young man that were he to write a poem to his beauty, nobody would believe it and would assume the artist was employing hyperbole. However, if the young man were to have children, everyone could see how beautiful he truly was by looking at subsequent generations of his family.
Sonnet 18 was exciting because the first line is, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”, a famous line that I already knew, but had no idea where it was from. Turns out the poem is more arch than earnest, with the speaker answering his own question by saying in essence naw, you’re really great and sometimes summer sucks, so… In yet another reversal, the speaker says that regardless of the fleeting and sometimes crummy nature of summer is, his love will live forever as preserved in this very poem. I think Billy might have had a complicated relationship with his own art and legacy.
This theme is furthered in Sonnet 19 as the speaker tells Time to lay off his love, because she is going to be preserved for eternity in this poem. So don’t even try to make her old, ya hear?
Sonnet 20 was very interesting, because my reading of it is the speaker has fallen in love with a man and as the poem goes on, he figures what the heck. I love the person, not the gender. Seems to me this is a very modern take on romantic love from an Elizabethan poet. But after doing some admittedly surface-level internet sleuthing, I learned that my reading is not the only one out there and that a lot of people believe this has nothing to do with homoeroticism or a man coming to terms with his feelings for another man. I will let you be the judge, if you are so inclined.
I am all-in once again on Shakespearean poetry. I’m enjoying picking these sonnets up and considering them nearly as much as I’m liking the plays with all their high drama and wacky characters. An added bonus would be if the next crop of poems did not have anything about procreation in them.