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Home :: Archive :: 2010 :: March ::
Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0149  Wednesday, 31 March 2010

[1]  From:      Martin Mueller < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      March 30, 2010 11:35:32 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

[2]  From:      Felix de Villiers < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      March 30, 2010 11:50:05 AM EDT
     Subj:      Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

[3]  From:      Andrew Fleck < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      March 30, 2010 12:37:55 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0139 Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

[4]  From:      William Godshalk < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      March 30, 2010 2:27:25 PM EDT
     Subj:      RE: SHK 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

[5]  From:      Markus Marti < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      March 30, 2010 6:21:54 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

[6]  From:      Mari Bonomi < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      March 30, 2010 6:39:55 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0139 Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

[7]  From:      Ira Zinman < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      March 30, 2010 10:46:23 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Martin Mueller < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 30, 2010 11:35:32 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

>When I started reading the notes I've made on Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
>for the book on it (and poetry in general) I hope to put together, I
>found I can't quite figure out its 12th line: "When in eternal lines
>to time thou grow'st." The line preceding this is, "Nor shall death
>brag thou wandr'st in his shade."
>
>I asked about the line at the poetry discussion group, New-Poetry, and
>got some good responses, but remain unsure about the line, so am repeating
>my question here. Any ideas about exactly each word in the line means?
>(i.e., I want more than the gist of the line.)

If you're dead you wander in death's shade -- a vaguely classical allusion to a life in the underworld as a life without light. The person immortalized in the sonnet will be dead and as such wander in death's shade. But there is a difference. This person has another existence in the poet's "eternal lines," and this existence is dynamic. It involves growing just as a plant grows in the light of the sun. He will grow "to time", which is a slightly odd phrase, perhaps most easily construed as meaning "growing in time and growing to maturity, but in a process that never ends because it is eternal"

The underlying idea is a very orthodox formulation of poetic immortality. Alexander is supposed to have said, with despair, that unlike Achilles, he had no Homer to celebrate his deeds. 

Well, we still remember him anyhow. 

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Felix de Villiers < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 30, 2010 11:50:05 AM EDT
Subject:      Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

If you are writing a book on the Sonnets and poetry, Bob Grumman, I can hardly pretend to enlighten you on the line:

>When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.

I have always taken an obvious interpretation for granted: in time, during the passage of time.

Something I often think about is that it is not he (the fair youth) that lives in time, but the idea of him. as we don't see him. A great painter can give 'eternal life' to a face.

The abbreviation of 'to time' sounds so good; the subtle alliteration of 4 t's, 2 l's, the assonance of e's prolonged in '-er;'. then in 'lines to time', the mere absence of the plural s in 'time' can give a thrill. contrasted by the deeper 'thou' and grow.' This is the inimitable language of Shakespeare, also the perfect balance between the two phrases and the way they pass over the ceasura. When I read other poets, this is what brings me back to Shakespeare, subtle, imperfectly pefect and sublime.

Yours,
Felix

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Andrew Fleck < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 30, 2010 12:37:55 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0139 Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0139 Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

Dear Bob,

I hesitate to treat this too simplistically, but since you asked about a word-by-word treatment of this line, here's one stab at it.

First, keep in mind that you have to read the line you want in relationship to the line that comes before it. If you read your line in isolation, you won't know what the "when" refers to. So, if the previous line means something like: The Grim Reaper (death) will not get to boast (brag) that you (my beloved boy) are subject to death (the metaphorical meaning of "wandr'st in death's shade)... then we can move on to the line you're interested in: You will escape the shade of bad old Death "When" you (my young friend) continue to live (grow) until the [end of] time in my lines of poetry (which will survive until then and immortalize you along the way). Perhaps significantly, the idea of the growing youth (getting taller, more lively, more vibrant all the time) growing big/tall enough to get out from the shade cast by death further helps to link the two lines together--Now, on this sunny summer day, death is bigger and casts his shadow on the young man, but sometime down the road (with the help of the immortalizing lines of the poet), the youth will have outgrown the shadow cast by death (and maybe even cast his shadow down on death). And if you really wanted to push things, you might observe that death's "brag" is also a "boast" which would have rhymed with "growest" in the line you're working on.

Anyway, hope that helps a little! Good luck with your project.

Andy

[4]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         William Godshalk < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 30, 2010 2:27:25 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
Comment:      RE: SHK 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

Were I you and you me, you would go to Stephen Booth's edition of the sonnets, and reread his commentary on the line.

Could "lines" be a pun on "loins"?

[5]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Markus Marti < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 30, 2010 6:21:54 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

Dear Bob,

Great question, but I really think you make to much of a fuss about this line. Nevertheless, your question is absolutely worth the fuss.

I would say that "Time" (with a capital T) would be different from just "time": "Time" is Death with the hour glass; in sonnet 18, though, "time" is just printed as "time" (which may also be a printing mistake).

"Against T/time" would make an excellent motto for most of the sonnets: It is what most of them are about (if we consider them as a unity and as written by one single person -- which is possible, but which I doubt);.

In the case of sonnet 18, it is, of course, up to you whether you read "time" as "time" or as "Time" (and therefore: "Death") or as both.

The straightforward meaning of your problematic lines, I think, are quite clear: The person addressed can live on (=will be remembered) in the "lines" written in this very sonnet, as long as some people are still alive ("can breath") and "can see" (which would mean that they are therefore able to read these very lines).

How can one get immortalized? Till sonnet 17, the cheap material solution is propagation: One may live on in one's own children. But this is just a cheap trick. If this were true, "you" would not even be "you" -- "you" would be your own father or grandfather. Sonnet 18 offers, for the first (but not for the last) time in the sonnet cycle a more "classical" (Renaissance, Latin or Greek) solution: by being "remembered" in some way.

[6]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Mari Bonomi < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 30, 2010 6:39:55 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0139 Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0139 Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

Bob Grumman says, "When I started reading the notes I've made on Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 for the book on it (and poetry in general) I hope to put together, I found I can't quite figure out its 12th line: "When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st." The line preceding this is, "Nor shall death brag thou wandr'st in his shade.""

May I offer a humble suggestion?

The addressee will grow more renowned over time through the eternal lines the poet is penning...

That is, "to time" means the lines are addressed to future time, time to come... and because these lines are eternal, the addressee will grow or gain renown... and so will live on.

And the choice of wording, however ... odd? comes about in part I think to play off time (measurable) and eternity (infinite).

Mari Bonomi

[7]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Ira Zinman < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         March 30, 2010 10:46:23 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0139  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

Bob Grumman writes:

"When I started reading the notes I've made on Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 for the book on it (and poetry in general) I hope to put together, I found I can't quite figure out its 12th line: "When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st." The line preceding this is, "Nor shall death brag thou wandr'st in his shade."

When reading the Sonnets, I believe it is important to try and not "isolate" a particular line for interpretation, but to see how its meaning flows in the quatrain, and in the Sonnet as a whole.

Here is the original text followed by an interpretation of its meaning in its deeper context.

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st.

But thy soulful flourishing shall never fade, nor lose its vibrance and beauty, nor shall death be able to touch you. When you live your life in spiritual renewal, time cannot touch you, and your flowering never ceases.

In the above "deeper" interpretation the limiting aspect of "death" has no power, i.e cannot brag that it can bring the "eternal summer" into "his shade."

In another vein, interpreting the Sonnet in the context of Shakespeare as poet, his lines are ever "flowering", and thus "death," which touches other lesser poets' lines, has not power to touch Shakespeare's work.

This is how I see the referenced lines in Sonnet 18

Best wishes,
Ira Zinman

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