William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616
Where art thou Muse that thou forget'st so long,
To speak of that which gives thee all thy might?
Spend'st thou thy fury on some worthless song,
Darkening thy power to lend base subjects light?
Return forgetful Muse, and straight redeem,
In gentle numbers time so idly spent;
Sing to the ear that doth thy lays esteem
And gives thy pen both skill and argument.
Rise, resty Muse, my love's sweet face survey,
If Time have any wrinkle graven there;
If any, be a satire to decay,
And make Time's spoils despised every where.
Give my love fame faster than Time wastes life,
So thou prevent'st his scythe and crooked knife.
In this and his following three sonnets, Shakepeare elaborately excuses his silence and the hiatus in the production of his sonnets in praise of the youth, a hiatus which perhaps corresponds to the period of absence commemorated in the previous three sonnets. Whether this silence was a real or imaginary one it is impossible to know. The defence against the charge of failure is a conventional defence, in that it uses the standard figure of the Muse as the source of poetic inspiration. But here the Muse is blamed for having dried up. She has spent her energies in worthless pursuits and is castigated for being devoted to trivialities, being forgetful and slothful. In the following sonnets she is accused of being a truant, neglectful, incapable, and beggarly.
And now for Shakespeare's best known sonnet.
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.