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

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 21.0179  Friday, 16 April 2010

[1]  From:      Bob Grumman < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      April 14, 2010 7:07:47 PM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0173  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

[2]  From:      Nicole Coonradt < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
     Date:      April 15, 2010 10:04:29 AM EDT
     Subj:      Re: SHK 21.0173  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Bob Grumman < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         April 14, 2010 7:07:47 PM EDT
Subject: 21.0173  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0173  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

>Felix de Villiers "fail(s) to understand why this line has
>been so much murdered with interpretation and hairsplitting
>discriminations. The line means quite simply what it says."

What you don't understand, it would seem, is that people like me can be vastly less intelligent than people like you, so fail to see that it "means quite simply what it says, and are inconsiderate enough to ask people like you for help.  

>When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st
>
>Charming the idea of growing to time, as in music. See similar
>passages elsewhere as in Richard II's prison speech. 

It is a charming idea, but I failed to find the phrase "to time" in Richard II. Are you saying the line means, "when in eternal lines, to (the beat of) time thou grow'st" or something like it? Would readers of the time take it to mean that? Sure, poets use ellipses and other means to condense, but I can't see anything in the line that makes this ellipsis obvious.

>I cannot insult the intelligence of Shakespeare readers who must
>know the context and how this theme is continually repeated and
>is confirmed by the final couplet in this sonnet:
>
>So long as men can breathe or eyes can see.
>So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

What does that have to do with growing in time's rhythm?

>There is absolutely nothing mysterious in the preposition ' to' in
>the phrase 'to time.' and if we don't know by now that poets concentrate
>their language, we should not be reading it at all.  Poetry in German
>is called Dichtung, concentration. Better to read Shakespeare first of
>all for the pleasure of doing so and then let interpretations dawn on you.
>Obsessive hairsplitting will get us nowhere.

But, Felix, consider that there may be people who aren't exactly like you and (alas) don't want to be, some of whom are like me and quite enjoy letting further meanings dawn as we enjoy our simplest meanings and the sounds of a poem making them, etc., but also enjoy murdering poems to get into them critically as deeply as we can. 

In this particular case, I'm only trying this "obsessive hairsplitting" on this one poem in order to determine as fully as possible what it does and how it causes all the pleasure it does--so as to be able to go on to determine how all poems do what they do. I really don't see that this eccentric pursuit of mine does any great harm to anyone, so I hope you will find a way to be a little more charitable toward it, or perhaps ignore it completely (although I hope you don't, for I did like the idea of keeping time as growing, which hadn't occurred to me--which makes me think of one more thing to mention that I'm surprised you're not aware of: how easy it is for anyone sometimes to miss very obvious things).

--Bob G.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:         Nicole Coonradt < This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it >
Date:         April 15, 2010 10:04:29 AM EDT
Subject: 21.0173  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18
Comment:      Re: SHK 21.0173  Line 12 of Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

RE de Villiers' post:

I have a question/observation:

If it were simple, how is simplicity possible from "concentration" of meaning that needs to "dawn on you"? On the contrary, does not "concentration" lend itself more to complexity? Would the simple need to "dawn" on one; rather, would it not just be there, point blank?

de Villiers writes: "I fail to understand why this line has been so much murdered with interpretation and hairsplitting discriminations. The line means quite simply what it says." 

Does it? And is there murder? By whom? (Cook did it in the billiard room with the candle stick!)

Yes, poetry is about concentration (and poets, perhaps, are best qualified to make such claims and understand them), but I do not think evidence exists that there is much in Shakespeare that is "simply what it says"-- indeed, is it not more often the case that things are NOT what they seem (does not the artist tell us this explicitly over and over throughout the canon-- in sonnets, poems, plays?) and words usually, purposely, have multiple meanings (rhetorical ambiguity was, after all, a Renaissance preoccupation/tool), many of which are now (at least immediately if not, in some cases, eternally) lost to postmodern readers, even when they read for the pleasure of "concentration"-- as many, if not most, do?

So de Villiers' reading is "simply" that the beloved grows "to time"-- ergo "as in music"-- in eternal lines? How does that make it simple? If it is about music, does "to" really function as a basic and non-mysterious preposition? Is "to time" the same as "keeping time" or "in time" (like a beat)? Does this make sense, even if one finds it a charming idea, as it may well be, even if it is not what the poet intended? Do most readers understand or detect a play on music here? Sonnet 18 is not one -- as some sonnets are-- *about* music; music is not a conceit employed here. The accepted current experts (say, for example, Booth or Vendler, who have been mentioned at this thread previously) do not note it-- they do not discuss music. These are some of my questions or concerns after reading de Villiers' post.

So maybe it's not so obvious or simple and maybe trying to parse it out and discuss it isn't an act of homicidal hairsplitting, whether readers are insulted or not.

And perhaps the idea of civil shared inquiry would be useful here especially when we so rarely have indisputable proof for claims.

Sincerely,
Nicole Coonradt
University of Denver

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