Poem Hunter
Sonnet Cxv
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616 / Warwickshire)

Sonnet Cxv

Poem By William Shakespeare

Those lines that I before have writ do lie,
Even those that said I could not love you dearer:
Yet then my judgment knew no reason why
My most full flame should afterwards burn clearer.
But reckoning time, whose million'd accidents
Creep in 'twixt vows and change decrees of kings,
Tan sacred beauty, blunt the sharp'st intents,
Divert strong minds to the course of altering things;
Alas, why, fearing of time's tyranny,
Might I not then say 'Now I love you best,'
When I was certain o'er incertainty,
Crowning the present, doubting of the rest?
Love is a babe; then might I not say so,
To give full growth to that which still doth grow?

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Comments (6)

The poet marvels how his love can still seem to increase, even though in times past he claimed that it was impossible to love with any greater love than he knew at the time. Yet, on looking back, he finds that his love has grown miraculously even beyond that complete measure which he thought was the limit of its fulfilment. He concludes that, since love is a babe, (Cupid) , he cannot know how to define himself, or acknowledge any limitations to his growth, even though, as a full and perfect God he can in theory not be any better than he is already.
Comparisons are often made between this sonnet and the love poem by John Donne, 'Love's Growth'. 'Lovers Infiniteness' by the same poet is also relevant. These poems by John Donne are probably of a similar date to this sonnet, so we may be assured that metaphysical speculations of this sort were current among the literary fraternity of the time.
What is striking about this one is the number of echoes it brings back from the earlier sonnets to the youth, perhaps because it is seeking deliberately to contrast the pure love of that period with the tainted love he has for his dark lady, possibly because the language of love, as it was then defined, forced upon the sonneteer a certain number of conventional ideas which were used and re-used, many re-appearing frequently in slightly different clothing, like a play which is performed by too few actors.
Here the poet protests his devotion to his cruel beloved, detailing the many ways in which he has shown willingness to serve her. Nevertheless she is unresponsive, and does not repay love with love. His conclusion is framed in the conventional terms of the blindness of love, and the deduction that his mistress does not love those who cannot see what is before their eyes. It is probably not necessary to interpret the conclusion in any real psychological sense, for one suspects it has little or no bearing on what the woman herself was thinking. Its importance is more that it shows the poet casting round desperately for a solution, trying to come to terms with his rejection, and in the end only succeeding in explaining it in terms of rather worn out sonneteering conventions, which leave him as blind as ever. www shakespeares-sonnets.com
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