Sonnet 99: The Forward Violet Thus Did I Chide

The forward violet thus did I chide:
"Sweet thief, whence didst thou steal thy sweet that smells,
If not from my love's breath? The purple pride
Which on thy soft check for complexion dwells
In my love's veins thou hast too grossly dyed."
The lily I condemnèd for thy hand,
And buds of marjoram had stol'n thy hair;
The roses fearfully on thorns did stand,
One blushing shame, another white despair;
A third, nor red, nor white, had stol'n of both,
And to his robbery had annexed thy breath,
But, for his theft, in pride of all his growth
A vengeful canker eat him up to death.
More flowers I noted, yet I none could see,
But sweet or colour it had stol'n from thee.

by William Shakespeare

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Sonnet 99 is a member of the Fair Youth sequence, in which the poet expresses his love towards a young man. The sonnet is generally grouped with the preceding two in the sequence, with which it shares a dominant trope and image set: the beloved is described in terms of, and judged superior to, nature and its beauties. The sonnet has attracted some attention as one of those that appears to provide clues about the historical identity of Shakespeare's subject (on the traditional assumption that the poems are in some sense autobiographical) . In 1904, C. C. Stopes noted the existence of a portrait of Southampton at Welbeck Abbey in which his hair curls in a manner similar to young marjoram. This analysis has been disputed by scholars who assert that smell, rather than appearance, is the primary referent of Shakespeare's line. Because of the extravagant praise of the beloved's body, some Victorian scholars were reluctant to believe that the poem was addressed to a man; current consensus, however, groups it with the other poems written to the young man. The sonnet has 15 lines, and is the only poem in the sequence which has more than fourteen (126 has 12) . Sonnet structure was not fixed during the period, and Sidney Lee adduces many examples of fifteen line sonnets. An extra line is particularly common in linked sonnets, and this sonnet is linked to 98; Malone ended 98 with a colon to demonstrate the connection. However, other scholars have remarked on the clumsiness of the first line and suggested that the quarto text represents an unrevised draft that found its way into print. [from Wikipedia]
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Sweet violet, sweet thief of stolen smells Of what, this blushing shame On thy account Does Shakespeare tell