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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: October ::
Sonnet 125
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0892  Monday, 9 October 2006

From: 		Peter Farey <
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Date: 		Monday, 9 Oct 2006 13:25:34 +0100
Subject: 	Sonnet 125

The humanities.lit.authors.shakespeare newsgroup has been discussing 
Sonnet 125 recently, and I find myself ever more astonished at how few 
(if any?) commentators are prepared to accept that the canopy mentioned 
in the first line is more likely to be that carried over the host in an 
Eucharistic procession rather than one borne over the monarch.

In the course of our discussion, far more possible references to Holy 
Communion came to light than I have seen mentioned anywhere else, and I 
thought that some members of the Shakespeare Conference might find them 
interesting. My interpretation of the whole thing starts by assuming it 
carries on from Sonnet 124, in which he says that it's safer not to have 
beliefs which can become dangerous if not shared by those in power, and 
cites (as I think 125 shows) Catholic subversives as an example.

He says that it would not matter to him, as it clearly does to them, 
whether he carried the wholly catholic Eucharistic canopy or not. Here 
are the references, which I will leave others to apply as they wish.
                              125
  1  VVer't ought to me I bore the canopy,
  2  With my extern the outward honoring,
  3  Or layd great bases for eternity,
  4  Which proues more short then wast or ruining?
  5  Haue I not seene dwellers on forme and fauor
  6  Lose all,and more by paying too much rent
  7  For compound sweet;Forgoing simple sauor,
  8  Pittifull thriuors in their gazing spent.
  9  Noe,let me be obsequious in thy heart,
10  And take thou my oblacion,poore but free,
11  Which is not mixt with seconds,knows no art,
12  But mutuall render onely me for thee.
13     Hence,thou subborndInformer, a trew soule
14     When most impeacht,stands least in thy controule.

  1  VVer't ought to me I bore the canopy,

OED 1.b. spec. A covering over a shrine, or over the Host when borne in 
procession. 1556 Chron. Gr. Friars (1852) 94 The byshoppe bereynge the 
sacrament under a canapy.

  2  With my extern the outward honoring,

 From the 1604 Catechism:

"Question. How many parts be there in a Sacrament?
Answere. Two; the outward visible signe, and the inward spirituall grace."

"Question. What is the outward part or signe of the Lords Supper?
Answere. Bread and wine, which the Lord hath commanded to bee received."

  3  Or layd great bases for eternity,

 From the 1559 Book of Common Prayer, Holy Communion section (BCP,HC):
"Charge them whyche are ryche in thys worlde, that they be ready to 
give, and glade to distribute, laying up in store for them selves a good 
foundacion, against the time to come, that they may attayne eternal 
lyfe. i Tim. vi."

  7  For compound sweet;Forgoing simple sauor,

The phrase "sweet savour" appears in Genesis once, Exodus 3 times; 
Leviticus 16 times; Numbers 18 times; and Ezekiel 4 times, always 
concerning a sacrifice to God.

  8  Pittifull thriuors in their gazing spent.

from Article 25: "The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed 
upon or to be carried about...", and Article 28: "The Sacrament of the 
Lord's Supper was not by Christ's ordinance reserved, carried about, 
lifted up, or worshipped."

  9  Noe,let me be obsequious in thy heart,

"[T]ake and eate this in remembraunce that Christ died for thee, feede 
on him in thine heart by faith, with thankesgevynge." (BCP,HC)

10  And take thou my oblacion,poore but free,

Christ, on the cross, "made ther (by his one oblation of himself once 
offered) a ful, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and 
satisfaction for the synnes of the whole worlde". (BCP, HC)

11  Which is not mixt with seconds,knows no art,

OED 5. pl. Comm. A quality (of bricks, flour, etc.) second and inferior 
to the best.

"...[I]t shall suffice that the breade be suche as is usual to be eaten 
at the table, with other meates, but the beste and purest wheate breade, 
that conveniently may be gotten." (BCP,HC)

12  But mutuall render onely me for thee.

"And here we offer and presente unto the, O Lord, our selves, our 
soules, and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and lively sacrifice unto 
the". (BCP,HC)

"Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which 
are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's." (Matt. 22:21)

13     Hence,thou subborndInformer, a trew soule
14     When most impeacht,stands least in thy controule.

"...partakers of his moste blessed body and bloude, who in the same 
night that he was betraied, toke bread..." (BCP,HC)

"Therfore if any of you be a blasphemer of god, an hinderer or 
slaunderer of his worde, an adulterer, or be in malyce or envye, or in 
anye other grevous crime, bewaile your Sinnes, and come not to this holy 
table, lest after the taking of that holy sacrament, the devil enter 
into you, as he entred into Judas, and fil you full of al iniquities, 
and bring you to destruction both of bodye and soule." (BCP,HC)

Peter Farey
http://www2.prestel.co.uk/rey/index.htm

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