Sunday, 14 February 2010

Shakespeare's Sonnet Sunday: Sonnet 6

Then let not winter's ragged hand deface,
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty's treasure ere it be self-killed.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That's for thy self to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thy self were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could death do if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
To be death's conquest and make worms thine heir.

1. Don't let old age's wrinkles ( raggedly) disfigure you
2. While you're still young, before you have children (distillation is made of your essence)
3. Have children and make some woman's womb happy with your seed (treasure)
4. Have children before you no longer can.
(Back then, the man's seed was considered to be the essential substance for the generation of new life. Women's function in the reproductive process was not understood. The woman was thought to be no more than the vehicle for carrying the man's progeny.)
5.Using your seed for gain is not forbidden
(use in the technical sense of usufruct,interest, making money by lending it out. Usury was considered sinful, but a ten percent return on money was legally permitted. The usurers performed the function of modern day banks) 6. Especially because it makes those happy who gain from it with children.
7. Because you only gain if you make another of you
8. Or ten times happier, if you have ten children instead of one.
9. Having ten children would make you ten times happier than if you only had one child, or certainly happier than you are in your present childless situation.
10. Ten children will keep ten fresh images of you around and more if they have grandchildren.
11.Then, if you die, death hasn't won
12. Because you will still live through your children. 13. Do not be stubborn, for you are too good for that.
(There is a sexual innuendo derived from will. Hence ' do not devote yourself to self-pleasure'.)
14. You do not want death to win and leave only worms to benefit from you (breeding from your corpse). (Also apparently there is a legal meaning of conquest: - property acquired by means other than inheritance (usually by force of arms).)

Source: Shakespeare's Sonnets


Bisi Adjapon said...

Don't I know it too well. This is a view held even today by many Africans, that the woman is the receptacle for the man's sperm. The idea of planting seeds all over the place is also interesting. My father was that way. He had thirteen children and that made him feel powerful and generous.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Shakespeare was worried or depressed that he only had three children, sort of a small number for that day and age, and his son died so young. So many of his sonnets talk about having kids.

Sam Wood said...

Thanks for the reading. I wonder why it the speaker feels he has to say it all and prevent the self-willing? I mean, however much the speaker is part of a culture similar to that described by Bisi Adjapon, the subject is not, preferring, what abstinence, self-indulgence, thinking himself too good for anyone else?

Jemi Fraser said...

Very interesting stuff! Thanks :)

Ann Elle Altman said...

Bisi, times haven't really changes much, have they?

Tina, maybe that's why shakespeare used his first six (so far) sonnets to stress the importance of procreation.

Sam, I believe Shakespeare was using his sonnets to speak to certain young men in particular, those obsessed with looks and not with treating their families with care.

Jemi, glad you like it.


Kimberly Job said...

Well, I have ten kids--most the time, they make me ten times happier. Other times--not so much.

Ann Elle Altman said...

Kimberley, you have ten children! Wow, you must be superwoman.


Anonymous said...

Ha! I'm starting to be able to read these! (Though I'm fairly confident of the theme by now before I embark!)

The final line in this sonnet is clever. :)


from the desk of a writer

Ann Elle Altman said...

Corra, glad you like it.