(Poem #219) Full many a glorious morning have I seen (Sonnets XXXIII)
Full many a glorious morning have I seen Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye, Kissing with golden face the meadows green, Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy; Anon permit the basest clouds to ride With ugly rack on his celestial face, And from the forlorn world his visage hide, Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace: Even so my sun one early morn did shine With all triumphant splendor on my brow; But out, alack! he was but one hour mine; The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now. Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth; Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.
One noticeable thing about Shakespeare's sonnets is how commonplace the underlying metaphors and images are. Most of them have the same general theme, and the specific subjects - even given the large extent to which Shakespeare has influenced English literature, do not seem especially creative. However, this does not in any way diminish what is undoubtedly the finest collection of sonnets the language has produced. Shakespeare's genius lay not in novelty, but in his use of language; his mastery of subtle nuances and the way he could breathe new life into even the most timeworn of themes. Even so in today's poem - if you've read any of Shakespeare's sonnets, the sequence of images is instantly familiar. Time triumphs over flesh, and Love over all. However, the language, and the images it evokes, are simply beautiful. A final comment - most poems have their main impact either at the beginning or at the end. Shakespeare's sonnets definitely belong to the former category, having their most beautiful images, their best-phrased lines in the first quatrain or two. It seems somewhat counterintuitive, since the form might be expected to pack the impact into the final couplet, but while I can call to mind several of his sonnets with memorable opening verses, I can think of few with memorable endings. m. Look up the other Sonnets in the minstrel's archive, <http://www.cs.rice.edu/~ssiyer/minstrels>