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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: January ::
Sonnet 116 and the Barque
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 6. Thursday, 9 Jan 1992.
 
 
(1)	Date: 	Wed, 08 Jan 92 10:20:55 EST
	From: 	Ronald Dwelle <
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	Subj: 	SHK 3.0004  Astral Metaphors and Wandering Barques
 
(2)	Date: 	Wed, 8 Jan 1992 22:22:04 -0500
	From: 	Ian F. MacInnes <
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	Subj:  	Comments on Sonnet 116
 
 
(1)-------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Wed, 08 Jan 92 10:20:55 EST
From: 		Ronald Dwelle <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
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Subject: Astral Metaphors and Wandering Barques
Comment: 	SHK 3.0004  Astral Metaphors and Wandering Barques
 
          A brief response to John Massa's spec on 116.
 
          It's unlikely "worth" and "height" refer to the barque,
          because of the masculine pronoun, "his." Not only was barque
          feminine then--in common use among sailors even today a
          barque would be referred to as "she."
 
(2)------------------------------------------------------------------------
 
Date: 		Wed, 8 Jan 1992 22:22:04 -0500
From: 		Ian F. MacInnes <
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Subject:  	Comments on Sonnet 116
 
RE: John Massa and Chet Vittitow's suggestions on Sonnet 116
 
The phrase "whose worth's unknown, although his highth be taken"
*should* (grammatically) refer to the wandering barque, but I don't
think it can, for a number of reasons.
 
1. The subject of the clause is masculine ("his highth") whereas
ships are traditionally feminine *even* when they have a male name.
Compare Merchant of Venice 1.1
 
        But I should think of shallows and of flats,
        And see my wealthy *Andrew* [dock'd] in sand,
        Vailing her high top lower than her ribs
        To kiss her burial.
 
Even if the barque is supposed to represent a male lover, the
demands of the conceit would weigh against a masculine pronoun.
 
2. The "height" of a ship usually (I think) refers to the height of
the masts rather than the amount of freeboard, although an unladen
vessel *is* said to be "riding high". In any case, the freeboard of
a vessel is not something that can be easily "taken". A boat may
appear to be unladen when in fact it just has high sides, hence the
ubiquity of loading lines on modern vessels. Also, if the metaphor
is to hold, the weight and quantity of the "cargo" would correspond
to the amount and value of the lover's love---but love itself is
supposed to be the fixed star above.
 
3. In other Renaissance "ship" poems (cf Wyatt, Petrarch) where the
ship is a metaphor for the lover, the ship is not mysterious. If
anything, it's worth is too well known as is its plight. From the
lover's point of view, love and the beloved are the radically
unknown.
 
The more I write about this, however, the more uncertain I become.
The proximity of "whose" to "barque" is certainly confusing.
 
Ian MacInnes
 

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