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Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part (Idea: LXI) -- Michael Drayton

(Poem #936) Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part (Idea: LXI)
 Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part,
 Nay, I have done: you get no more of me,
 And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart,
 That thus so cleanly I myself can free.
 Shake hands for ever, cancel all our vows,
 And when we meet at any time again
 Be it not seen in either of our brows
 That we one jot of former love retain.
 Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
 When his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
 When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
 And Innocence is closing up his eyes,
    Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
    From death to life thou might'st him yet recover.
-- Michael Drayton
 Source: the "Idea" sonnets, LXI (published 1619; date of composition
 Form: Shakespearean sonnet.
 Metre: 14 lines of iambic pentameter.
 Rhyme: ababcdcd efefgg.

   Like "Citizen Kane", or "Pet Sounds", today's poem springs from a happy
confluence of time, chance and circumstance. Masterpieces like this are not
written every day, nor even every decade; the alignment of planets that
produced today's sonnet is nothing short of miraculous. Witness: without
this poem, Michael Drayton would be just another obscure Renaissance poet,
of interest only to academics and enthusiasts. With its writing, however,
his immortality was assured. "Since there's no help" is the peer of anything
Shakespeare ever wrote; indeed, the peer of any sonnet ever written.

   The poem is magnificent. The phrasing is perfect, evenly balanced between
sincere simplicity and high-flown rhetoric. The same effortless balance
extends to the subject material, which bridges the personifications and
apostrophes of the Pastoral with the passion and directness of Elizabethan
love poetry. There's even a hint of the Metaphysicals in the elaboration of
one theme (the deaths of Love, Passion, Faith and Innocence) and its
subsequent (almost paradoxical) inversion in the couplet [1].


[1] This inversion reminds me of Millay's wonderful sonnet "Love Is Not
All", Minstrels Poem #860.

  There's a Michael Drayton biography at Luminarium:


   The only other Elizabethan of high poetic rank, apart from Shakespeare,
who prominently associated himself with the sonneteering movement, was
Michael Drayton. In one effort, Drayton reached the highest level of poetic
feeling and expression. His familiar quatorzain opening "Since there 's no
help, come let us kiss and part" is the one sonnet by a contemporary which
deserves to rank with some of Shakespeare's best. It is curious to note that
Drayton's triumphant poem was first printed in 1619, just a quarter of a
century after he first sought the suffrages of the Elizabethan public as a
sonneteer. The editio princeps of his sonnet-sequence, called Ideas Mirrour:
Amours in Quatorzains, included fifty-two sonnets, and was reprinted no less
than eight times, with much revision, omission and addition, before the
final version came forth in 1619.
   Drayton's sonneteering labours constitute a microcosm of the whole
sonneteering movement in Elizabethan England. He borrows ideas and speech
from all available sources at home and abroad. Yet, like many contemporary
offenders, he deprecates the charge that he is "a thief" of the "wit" of
Petrarch or Desportes. With equal vigour of language he disclaims
pretensions to tell the story of his own heart:
     Into these loves who but for passion looks:
     At this first sight, here let him lay them by!
     And seek elsewhere in turning other books,
     Which better may his labour satisfy.
   For the most part, Drayton is a sonneteer on the normal Elizabethan
pattern, and his sonnets are rarely distinguished by poetic elevation.
Occasionally, a thin rivulet of natural sentiment winds its way through the
fantastic conceits which his wide reading suggests to him. But only in his
famous sonnet did his genius find in that poetic form full scope.

        -- Sidney Lee, "The Cambridge History of English and American

  Lemuel Whitaker, "The Sonnets of Michael Drayton"

[Minstrels Links]

William Shakespeare's sonnets:
Poem #44, My Mistress' Eyes are Nothing Like the Sun (Sonnets CXXX)
Poem #71, Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day? (Sonnets XVIII)
Poem #219, Full many a glorious morning have I seen (Sonnets XXXIII)
Poem #363, Let me not to the marriage of true minds (Sonnet CXVI)
Poem #808, Not From The Stars Do I My Judgment Pluck (Sonnets XIV)

Works by other Renaissance poets:
Poem #565, Now Winter Nights Enlarge -- Thomas Campion
Poem #328, from The Faerie Queen  -- Edmund Spenser
Poem #75, The face that launch'd a thousand ships  -- Christopher Marlowe
Poem #506, Lament for Zenocrate  -- Christopher Marlowe

An excellent web resource:

35 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Sunil Iyengar said...

"I once spent a day reading all Michael Drayton's 150-odd sonnets, on the
view that anything as marvellous as the celebrated 'Since there's no help'
could not be the only one. No; Q had picked the only winner."

-- Kingsley Amis, on the discrimination of anthologist Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch

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