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Shakespeare Saturdays: Sonnet 22

Shakespeare saturdays

Just a quick Shakespeare Saturday post about sonnet 22…

DividerSonnet 22

My glass shall not persuade me I am old,
So long as youth and thou are of one date;
But when in thee time’s furrows I behold,
Then look I death my days should expiate.
For all that beauty that doth cover thee
Is but the seemly raiment of my heart,
Which in thy breast doth live, as thine in me:
How can I then be elder than thou art?
O, therefore, love, be of thyself so wary
As I, not for myself, but for thee will;
Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary
As tender nurse her babe from faring ill.
   Presume not on thy heart when mine is slain;
   Thou gavest me thine, not to give back again.

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In sonnet 22, the poet can see some traces of advancing age when he looks in a mirror but he says that his glass shall not persuade me I am old because his friend is still young. However, the poet also acknowledges that eventually time will cause furrows to mar the Youth’s brow and, at that point, the will contemplate the reality of his own death.

In lines 6-7, the speaker states that his own heart lives in the youth’s breast as the youth’s heart lives in his and, while this is a lovely image, it is a cautionary message to the subject of the poem. In the final couplet of the poem, the speaker urges the Fair Youth to be cautious – which is characteristic of the Fair Youth sonnets – and he claims that he will ‘bear’ and ‘keep’ the Youth’s heart safe even though his own has been ‘slain’.

Stylistically, the sonnet is a very typical Shakespearean sonnet. There’s nothing interesting or unusual about the rhyme scheme but the first line, My glass shall not persuade me I am old, exemplifies a regular iambic pentameter while the eleventh line, Bearing thy heart, which I will keep so chary, showcases what’s known as a ‘feminine ending’, a device seen most clearly in sonnet 20.

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Sonnet 22 is an odd sonnet. It seems so rigid and restrained compared to some of the other sonnets I’ve looked at in this series and, while this may have been a deliberate choice on Shakespeare’s part, reading this sonnet just leaves me cold.


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