From time to time I will be posting commentary on Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
Why lov’st thou that which thou receiv’st not gladly,
Or else receiv’st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who all in one, one pleasing note do sing;
Whose speechless song, being many, seeming one,Sings this to thee: “Thou single wilt prove none.”
The theme of encouraging the “Fair Youth” to marry and have children continues in this sonnet. However, a slightly different approach from that of the earlier sonnets is taken. Here, the imagery that Shakespeare uses is related to music. The “Fair Youth” is told that he cannot enjoy “well-tuned sounds.” The reason for this unfortunate reality is that beauty, in the form of music, is chiding the sonnet’s subject because the subject has not taken a wife and had children yet. Specifically, the melody, as strings “Strikes each in each by mutual ordering,” is compared to the beauty embodied by a small family.
In my posts on the previous Sonnets, I have observed that the argument presented to the “Fair Youth,” at least to my modern sensibilities, ranges from the unconventional to the odd. The subject of the sonnets is cajoled to marry and procreate essentially for two reasons. First, he is advised that he can live on for posterity through his offspring and thus, in a way, cheat age and mortality. Second, he is chided that the world should not be denied the glorious results that would be embodied by his decedents.
This sonnet seems to represent a shift. Here, we have the “Fair Youth” exhorted to marry and to have children for what seems to me as more conventional or understandable reasons. Here the beauty inherent in the art form of music is compared with the beauty inherent in having a family.
Appropriately, I find the lines of this sonnet particularly pleasing and beautiful, even in comparison to several of the previous sonnets in the sequence. This one seems to exude warmth not apparent in the earlier verse. The aesthetic joy that is created by music seems to be a fitting, or at least understandable, comparison to the joy that the subject will presumably feel and display when he finds a spouse and has a child.
If we look at the sonnets in chronological order, their “voice” has implored the “Fair Youth” to have children by using flattery, guilt and now an appeal to the subject’s sense of beauty and joy. As I read through these short poems, this one is among my favorites so far.
My commentary on additional Sonnets: