Sonnet Cxliii

Lo! as a careful housewife runs to catch
One of her feather'd creatures broke away,
Sets down her babe and makes an swift dispatch
In pursuit of the thing she would have stay,
Whilst her neglected child holds her in chase,
Cries to catch her whose busy care is bent
To follow that which flies before her face,
Not prizing her poor infant's discontent;
So runn'st thou after that which flies from thee,
Whilst I thy babe chase thee afar behind;
But if thou catch thy hope, turn back to me,
And play the mother's part, kiss me, be kind:
So will I pray that thou mayst have thy 'Will,'
If thou turn back, and my loud crying still.

by William Shakespeare

Comments (5)

.shakespeares-sonnets.com/ this sonnet with its chicken chasing imagery might have its counterpart in the works of Ronsard, Du Bellay, Desportes, or their numerous imitators, and an assiduous search might reveal it. However Shakespeare was less slavishly dependent in his sonnets on what had gone before, and in so far as his work was derivative, he tended to draw and absorb materials from a wide variety of sources. Commentators have suggested that he would have recalled an episode from The Nun's Priest's Tale in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales:
This sely widwe, and eek her doghtres two, widow, daughters Herden these hennes cry and maken woo, heard, woe And out at doores sterten they anoon, started, immediately And syen the fox toward the grove goon, saw And bar upon his bak the cok away; bore, back, cock And cryden 'Out! harrow! and weylaway! cried, hunting cries Ha, ha, the fox! ' and after him they ran, And eek with staves many another man etc. also, cudgels CT.4565-4572(OUP 1962) .
Also the description of a fowl from the Faerie Queene by Spenser. As fearefull fowle, that long in secret cave, For dread of soaring hawk herself hath hid, Nor caring how her silly life to save, She her gay painted plumes disorderid etc. FQ.II.3.36.
Although this sonnet follows the previous one in requesting that the woman be kind to him and take pity on him, it differs considerably from its predecessors. It takes the form of a lengthy simile in which the beloved is compared to a flustered housewife, the poet's rival is a chicken in flight, and the poet himself is a tear-stained, blubbering child.
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