Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bruce Carroll: “Poetic Preservation & Peril”

Bruce Carroll

Poetic Preservation, Ontological Peril: The Friend within the Shakespearean Sonnet

1> Most readers will recall the poet-speaker of William Shakespeare’s Sonnets and his well-known promises to immortalize his poetic subject and beloved young friend (the ‘fair youth’), promises such as “So, till the judgment that yourself arise, / You live in this [sonnet] and dwell in lover’s eyes”[1] and “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this [sonnet], and this gives life to thee.”[2] But my attention in this essay is drawn to the speaker’s lesser recognized negative portrayal of his craft, a critique of the poetic form that clearly marks it as a threat to its subject. In one instance, poetry is a theft: “Why should false painting imitate his cheek / And steal dead seeming from his living hue?,”[3] and in another, a theft with mortal consequences: “[verse] is but as a tomb / Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.”[4] The disconcerting possibility of death is reemphasized: “I impair not beauty being mute, / When others [other poets] would give life and bring a tomb.”[5] Similarly, the speaker calls creative verse “barren,”[6] “barren rhyme,”[7] and the “barren tender of a poet’s debt.”[8] For what it is worth, I do not overlook the Sonnets’ conventional elevations of the poetic subject at the disparagement of the poet’s skill, such as: “And him [the friend] as for a map doth Nature store, / To show false Art what beauty was of yore.”[9] But it is neither conventional to indict verse for stealing from or causing the death of its subject, nor is it a trope when the speaker’s first explicit mention of poetry, as “rhyme,” likens it to the up to then most negative descriptor in the sequence, “barren.”[10]

2> The speaker’s aggrandizements and criticisms of his craft at once suggest that the qualities of poetry empowering it to safeguard his young friend against the ravages of time also bring him harm. How this may be possible is the object of the present investigation.

3> If unconventionally the Sonnets forward what resembles a theory of the relationship between the poem and its subject, which operates on a blurring of the boundaries, the ontological boundaries, between the two. Put another way, poetic preservation requires a transition from person-as-poetic-subject to inanimate poetic form. This seemed sensible enough to Horace, whose ode “more lasting than bronze” ensured that “part of [him] would evade the death god.”[11] But the Sonnets meditate at length on the consequences of poetic preservation, and a comparative analysis of the poem and the other art forms mentioned in the Sonnets reveals the pyrrhic solution found in the extra-ordinary ability of verse to protect its subject matter from the progress of time. Removing the friend to the ontologically foreign poetic image means driving him from his native ontological state, a state of life and flux that must include both age and death. It is this transition that threatens his definitive temporal nature and thus sacrifices his personhood, the who and what the speaker wishes to safeguard in the first place.[12]

4> Exploring variable means of artistic preservation, the Sonnets’ speaker settles on verse over the “gilded monuments of princes”[13] or any other visual, material media made up of brass, rock, steel,[14] marble, stone, or masonry.[15] The rejection of these sturdy materials contrasts poetry against everything from stately monoliths and memorials to that mainstay of monumental representation, the statue. Statuary may be crafted of the most durable material and cut to accurately resemble its subject, to reflect her character in a recognizable gesture or gait, and even to occupy the same amount of space as she by reproducing her height and girth. In his The Dream of the Moving Statue, a meditation on the animation, the life, of statuary, Kenneth Gross has said that “the statue presents a body or a pose arrested in time, arresting time itself; it marks an absence or a loss through the presence of the thing that is yet irremediably, materially present.”[16]

5> The statue’s marmoreal qualities should satisfy the speaker’s need to overcome the force of time that will destroy the youth. Yet it is the very materiality of steel, stone, and masonry, that eventually succumb to the wrackful siege of batt’ring days,[17] to broils, decay, and all the happenstances of sluttish time.[18] The speaker identifies the essential dependence of visual arts upon the material of their fashioning. Each piece is its material make up. Because the spatial nature of any material closely binds it to the progress of time, all matter over time decays, so that material monuments cannot adequately protect the friend from the deterioration to which they themselves are subject. The alternative is the immaterial “monument” of “gentle verse,” “Which eyes not yet created shall o’er read, / And tongues-to-be your being shall rehearse.”[19] The speaker repeats the proposition in the above-mentioned passages: “So till the judgment that your self arise, / You live in this [sonnet], and dwell in lovers’ eyes,”[20] and: “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / so long lives this [poem], and this gives life to thee.”[21] Before taking up the role of “gentle verse,” I want to examine the significance of the eye to poetic preservation. As a window into the mind, it becomes a channel for external phenomena that may then be converted into images, for safe keeping, within the imagination. And so it not only assists in the process of poetic preservation but also plays a part in the ontological compromise of its subject.

6> Mental activities in general were figured by the Elizabethan and Jacobean sense of sight. Recall Philip Sidney’s sonnet 5: “It is most true, that eyes are formed to serve / The inward light,”[22] which likely draws on Luke 11:34, where the eye works with an inward moral and decision making faculty: “The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, then is thy whole body light: but if thine eye be evil, then thy body is dark.[23] In his Five Plays Confuted, Stephen Gosson treats sight as the pathway to the theater-goer’s moral sense: “[V]ice is learned with beholding, sense is tickled, desire pricked.”[24] The lush religious visual stimuli that pervaded western Europe is believed to have originated in Francis’s conviction in the salvific effects of what one sees and takes into her imagination. Accounting for the abundance of metaphoric ecclesiastical architecture and, especially, religious statuary throughout the Catholic subcontinent, Franciscan iconophilia gave way to a Protestant distrust of the visual and reemphasis on the audial.[25] According to Gosson: “There commeth much euil in at the eares, but at the eies. . . . Nothing entereth more effectualie into the memorie, than that which commeth by seeing: things heard do lightlie passe awaie, but the tokens of that which wee haue seene, saith Petrarch, sticke fast in vs whether we wil or no.”[26] In the view of one commentator, sight in the contemporary outlook was “the most corruptible and most corrupting” of the senses.[27] Corruptible likely because of its tendency to be deceived, sight may only be corrupting because of its connection to something beyond or interior to itself, something like Sidney’s “inward light” that shines through the eye to illuminate mental, psychological faculties.

7> The connection of the eye to the mind needed to convert what is seen into imaginative images makes it not only a matter of moral implications but also of significant creative powers. Note that unlike visual works, letters and words cannot visually imitate what they represent. This is arguably the limitation of any poem, that it cannot present itself immediately to its audience in the way a visual image is present upon first sight, its audience confronted, in some cases accosted, with it precisely because of its visual nature. (Whether we desire participation with a visual piece or not, we cannot not see what is before us and, just as Gosson pointed out, once seen, we cannot unsee it.) To the contrary, the poem requires an audience’s careful, attentive interaction through reading to conjure the image somehow latent within its verbal or rhetorical constructions. The image of the poetic subject, then, lacks the literal immediacy of the visual image, but the reader’s imaginative conjuring of the poetic image gives its subject a personal presence.[28] This results in our numerous mental images derived from our reading: images of the physical features of literary characters, the setting of a fiction, and the impressions of abstract poetry. And though most of us have read many of the same texts, it is unthinkable that any two of our images are alike. The picture formed by reading is an image created within and belonging to each reader. It permits an imaginative and even emotional intimacy that will not allow the literary subject to become, as Horace said of ancient heroes who had no bard to sing of them, unweepable (inlacrimabiles).[29] Through Homer Agamemnon remains weepable to us, and our emotional investment retains in the world a measure of his personhood. We are, after all, unquestionably aware of him still, a fact that no material monument could guarantee as certainly as the poem. The poem better overcomes the progress of time by removing the image of its subject to the unconventional space of the imagination.[30] The poet, therefore, relies on an audience of “lovers”, on “lovers’ eyes,”[31] and his subject’s longevity (not to mention his poem’s) on the “eyes not yet created.”[32]

8> Choosing the “gentle” sonnet in favor of sturdy, material means of preservation, the speaker’s two-fold formulation that his friend may “live in this [sonnet], and dwell in lovers’ eyes”[33] operates on the principle that a poem is not limited to its material, the printed page, that unlike the material monument, and much like the space of the mind, the poem does not exist in any conventional understanding of space. In one sense, this is evident from the fact that it can be printed and re-printed (or re-written) numerous times without any compromise of the poetic work itself. For is not sonnet 55 in one copy of Colin Burrow’s edition of the Sonnets just like the sonnet 55 of the next copy?[34] Contrarily, the material monument is like the visual work of art, which is typically singular and singularly valuable. If more than one copy of it is made, each is numbered and becomes less valuable with each reproduction. For this reason, a painting, sculpture, or marble monument is far more precious than any piece of paper with a poem on it. The higher value of these works relies on their tangibility, the fact that they will, in time, decay. The literary equivalent would be the collector’s item, a folio edition or an inscribed or autographed page of poetry, but these derive their worth from their singular uniqueness. The inscribed page is only valuable because of its inscription, but the poem itself, provided that it is printed elsewhere, is not extraordinary in value.

9> The same difference between visual and written works is also an indicator of the poem’s unique agility. While the material of its presentation is perfectly fungible, the poem itself is unaffected even by mass reproduction. It can move freely from one page to another and exist entirely apart from the page; if memorized, sonnet 55 ‘exists’ in my memory, another mental space, and no longer relies on the printed page or e-file where I first encountered it. I can recite it or write it down for someone else with no alteration to what it actually is.[35] I cannot describe to others a painting or a photograph in a comparable way, cannot replicate either as completely, because a description does not equal the actual article and because a replication is only that and not the work itself. Though not marble, consider that monument the Mona Lisa, probably the most reproduced image in the world. While no reproduction or photo can present to us the actual Mona Lisa, my recitation or transcription of sonnet 55 presents the poem in its whole form. Obviously, the Mona Lisa can only be in one geographic locale (at present, the Louvre), but the poem is no less complete when off the page than on it. No visual medium has this versatility.[36]

10> There is material here enough for an addition to the paragone that undergirded so much of the art and poetic theory shared by both Italian and English Renaissances. According to the dispute between the two chief visual arts, painting bettered sculpture because it relied less on the manual working of a material substance, such as stone. Painting was less labored and much cleaner, and therefore, of a higher class of craft. Poetry was always included among the liberal arts, the arts of those who could afford the education needed to practice them, and it bested both painting and sculpture because it relied that much less on labored means and material content for its execution and over all make up. The very same principles make it a superior preservative. Ontologically the poem is an abstract aritifact much like a law or theory.[37] Surely they exist, but because they are not found in any single, identifiable location, they are in no way bound by the space that partners with time to bring about physical change and decay.

11> But here within the agility needed to properly safeguard its poetic subject we find the poem’s threat to the speaker’s young friend who is himself of a physical and singular nature. More like the visual work of art that is limited to only one geographic place, the friend cannot withstand the abstract sonnet form’s capacity for multiplication through its many means of presentation. And worsening this injury is the fact that unlike the statue that eventually decays, the poem never releases what it preserves but only retains it within its poetic, imaginative images, images that do not just fix but fix multiply in various copies, editions, recitations.

12> Such a compromise to the young friend’s personhood is only increased by the snapshot quality of the sonnet, which as a representation arrests the subject in time at the moment his poetic image is made. The speaker uses the figure of distillation to illustrate this preservative quality. Once “never resting Time” has lead youthful summer on to “hideous winter” and has confounded him there,”[38] sonnet 5 reads:

Then were not summer’s distillation left
A liquid pris’ner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it nor no remem’brance what it was.[39]

13> Initially, the sonnet suggests that if the young friend, figured by summer, were not somehow captured, just as a distillation captures what it preserves, not only would his beauty be separated from its effects but there would be neither his youth nor even the memory of it. These are curious implications (which I will return to below), but the figure of distillation recalls the speaker’s reliance on stillness in other preservation sonnets, such as “His beauty shall in these black lines be seen, / And they shall live, and he in them still green”[40] and “in black ink my love may still shine bright”[41] and “When all the breathers of this world are dead, / You still shall live—such virtue hath my pen.”[42] Still may both suggest the quality of unmoving, such as “Dost thou lie still?”[43], and mark the progress of time up to the present moment, as in “But I did find him still mine enemy.”[44] In the latter use, for example, “my love may still shine bright” accounts for the progress of time only up to the present, and like its adjectival counterpart, it implies that within the “black ink” of the poem the young friend will “lie still” despite time’s advance. In another instance, “You still shall live—such virtue hath my pen” carries the double entendre “You shall live yet” and “You shall live without change by remaining motionless.”

14> And yet in sonnet 5 the stillness promised by distillation is actually a dubious protector, for though it may offer shelter from the flow of time, the language used to describe the solution—“pris’ner,” “pent”—is just as sinister as the problem. Taking a second glance, the stanza is laced with suggestions of ontological disorder. “Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,” for example, distorts the relationship between cause and effect. And just as distorted is the need to employ an artificial means, distillation, to protect summer from the natural advance of its own seasonal kind.

15> The artificial intrusion into the progression of the seasons calls into question whether or not the preservative act can be natural at all. Sonnet 54 employs the distillation figure to raise this very issue. On roses, the sonnet reads:
Of their sweet deaths are sweetest odours made:
And so of you, beauteous and lovely youth:
When that shall vade, by verse distills your truth.[45]

16> Certainly the odor of any thing is, in a metaphysical contemplation, a part of its secondary nature, one inessential feature of the whole composition no more primary than hair color to the rest of the person. But if scent is the substance preserved through the sacrifice of the actual rose, then the direct comparison “And so of you” makes poetic praise of the young man his substantial “truth” and him himself an incidental quality. The reversal of order is congruent with the claim that a sign might produce its signified or an effect beget its cause. And if distillation means imprisonment, as we saw above, then the close association of it with verse is all the more remarkable. Distillation’s “walls of glass”[46] are the trap of artifice that the speaker associates with his own poetry. Likening poetry to distillation accents the harm that it may bring about, since the process of distillation only preserves through a kind of ontological blurring, a chemical permeation where, in this case, the rose ceases to be itself and becomes the solution in which it is preserved. As with distillation so with the sonnet: the youth’s preservation sacrifices him himself.

17> The seeming contradiction carried throughout these sonnets, that they at once propose and resist preservation, signals the paradox of the situation. Preservation may protect and harm the young man by removing him from his telos, yes, but that telos is itself both ordained by nature and ultimately destructive. Covered previously, the sonnet’s impressive capacity for reproduction brings about the increase called upon in sonnet 1’s “From fairest creatures we desire increase.”[47] At the same time, the poem’s tendency to capture its subject in a single moment brings about the contradictory stillness first proposed in sonnet 5’s “distillation.” Previously unnoted, the opening of the sequence then features a stormy collision of metaphysical forces, the one grounding its preservative power in stasis, the other in the increase of the poem’s potentially endless replication.

18> The speaker’s friend and poetic subject becomes the site for the squall, its dual forces more than reminiscent of Thomas Greene’s revolutionary take on the Renaissance self, which was on the one hand “centripetal,” or durable and center-oriented, and on the other “centrifugal,” or disoriented and “in quest of transformation.”[48] For Greene, Volpone is the exemplar of the centrifugal character, his urge being to transform his single, centered self into many selves in a manner that is only constant in its dynamism.[49] His example shows us “the horror of a self too often shifted, a self which risks the loss of an inner poise. It reflects this horror even as it portrays . . . the whirlwind virtuosos of multiplication.”[50] Though Greene’s analysis retains a metaphysical hue, his privileging of the stable over the transformative self belies a spatial, physical understanding of Volpone’s personhood. Volpone’s whirlwind shifting disorients an inner poise that only risks division at its peril, and the vehicle of his constant transforming is the object of all alchemical efforts, gold. The “cruel lesson of the play,” in fact, “is that gold fails to confer that infinite mobility its lovers covet, but rather reduces them to the status of fixed, sub-human grotesques.”[51] As is the case with any precious metal, the self of gold is nothing but the shifting foundation of its value. That its value is built upon the ever tenuous market only makes gold that much more unstable a substance. The predicament of identifying oneself with it recalls the sonnet, which, within the “whirlwind virtuosos of [the] multiplication”[52] of its forms, can only fix its subject matter through his division between increase and stillness.

19> As Philip Sidney had it, the power of the poet is not to imitate nature’s forms but to grow into “another nature”[53] capable of generating a new subject and a new reality within the poem. Such power given a literary form accounts for the instances of Horatian pomp that occupy our attention when we consider the poetics implicit in the Sonnets. Likely taken directly from Horace, sonnet 55’s “Not marble, nor the gilded monuments  / Of Princes shall outlive this pow’rful rhyme”[54] provides a frontispiece for passages like “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see, / So long lives this [sonnet], and this gives life to thee”[55] and “So, till the judgment that yourself arise, / You live in this [sonnet] and dwell in lover’s eyes,”[56] claims more gentle, yes, but ones still making the impossible promise of preservation. Sidney’s empowered literary form also accounts for the Sonnets’ negative portrayal of poetry, which responds to the notion of preservation with the nefarious language included throughout this essay. The “other nature” of the Shakespearean sonnet is a “false painting” that “steals”[57] by removing its subject from the flow of time. This ontological transition from a temporal to an a-temporal state robs the speaker’s beautiful young friend of his “living hue,”[58] a hue not simply “live” or “alive” but progressive, “living,” in the process of being live or alive. When employed as a preservative the sonnet defies the barriers that once defined and safeguarded the perceived dignity of the friend’s personhood.

20> Considered in this way, a corpus of poems attesting to a conflicting poetic theory emerges. In the Sonnets an ontological poetics acknowledges the poet’s power to transcend the limits of nature but to destroy what is preserved in the process. Simply put, the Sonnets’ other nature is the “tomb,”[59] its image becoming the young poetic subject’s final resting place—and we imaginative readers both the bereaved and the complicit.


[1] William Shakespeare, Complete Sonnets and Poems, Colin Burrow, ed., (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), sonnet 55.13-14. I draw on Burrow’s edition, referred to as Sonnets, for my analyses throughout.

[2] Ibid. 18.13-14.

[3] Ibid. 67.5-6.

[4] Ibid. 17.3-4.

[5] Ibid. 83.11-12.

[6] Ibid. 76.1. 

[7] Ibid. 16.4.

[8] Ibid. 83.4.

[9] Ibid., 68.13-14

[10] Ibid., 16.4.

[11] Horace, “I Have Completed a Monument,” in Odes, translated by Jeffrey H. Kaimowitz (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008), lines 2, 7-8.

[12] Both Allen Grossman (with Mark Halliday), The Sighted Singer: Two Works on Poetry for Readers and Writers (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 240-44, and Aaron Kunin, “Shakespeare’s Preservation Fantasy,” PMLA 124, no. 1 (2009): 92-106, derive this basic conclusion, but with a very different emphasis on the personae found in the poem. Grossman sees that the human collective keeps the poem, any poem, culturally alive, but that the poet as poetic speaker must die to be remembered in poetry (240-241). Kunin addresses the Sonnets’ poetic subject and finds that the young friend himself resists the annihilation of his character that will result from his own poetic preservation (100). Both critics associate poetic preservation with some form of death, but I focus on what the poem does to its subject from the only point of view we are given in the Sonnets, the speaker’s. Considering the speaker’s troubled concern over his poetry’s effect on his young friend, I draw on a large number of passages within these sonnets not considered by others to show just how central a problem the sonnet itself is to the sequence.

[13] Sonnets, 15.1-2.

[14] Ibid., sonnet 65.

[15] Ibid., sonnet 55.

[16] Kenneth Gross, The Dream of the Moving Statue (University Park: Penn State University Press, 2006), 15.

[17] Sonnets, sonnet 65.

[18] Ibid., sonnet 55.  

[19] Ibid., 81.9-11. Compare these lines to sonnet 107: “thou in this [sonnet] shall find thy monument, / when tyrants crests and tombs of brass are spent” (13-14).

[20] Ibid., 55.13-14.

[21] Ibid., 18.13-14.

[22] Sidney, Astrophil and Stella, edited by Max Putzel (Garden City, NY.: Anchor Books, 1967), 5.1-2.

[23] Tyndale’s translation, ca. 1536.

[24] Gosson, Five Playes Confuted, in Arthur F. Kinney, Markets of Bawdrie: The Dramatic Criticism of Stephen Gosson (Sallzburg: Institut für Englische Sprache und Literatur, Universität Salzburg, 1974), 192.

[25] Clifford Davidson, “The Anti-Visual Prejudice,” in Inconoclasm vs. Art and Drama, edited by Clifford Davidson and Eljenholm Nichols (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1988), 36.

[26] Gossson, A Second and Third Blast of Retrait from Plays and Theaters, in The English Drama and Stage Under the Tudor and Stuart Princes, 1543-1664, edited by W. C. Hazlitt (1869), (Reprint, New York: Burt Franklin, n.d.),141-42.

[27] Stuart Clark, Vanities of the Eye: Vision in Early Modern European Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 24.

[28] Though the notion of mental images became a signature modern dispute in cognitive theory, at the time of the Sonnets the close association of image (phantasma) with the mental function of imagination (phantasia) was still current. In Aristotle’s handling, it is impossible to think without images (phantasmata) (De Anima, 431a). For him, imagination is itself a mental activity during which a mental image (phantasma) is seen in the mind (ibid., 428a). Nigel Thomas (“Mental Imagery,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Summer 2013 Edition, accessed July 20, 2013,
locates the beginning of the modern conception of mental imagery with Descartes’ 1641 Meditations, which denies that certain concepts, like God, appear in our minds as an image. First refuted in 1651 by Hobbes, who conceived of all thought as a “trayne of imaginations” (Leviathan I.3, quoted in Thomas, “Mental Imagery”), cognitive “picture-theory,” as it is called, remains a matter of contention. Sections 3 and 4 of Thomas’s entry are devoted to this still ongoing debate.

[29] I draw on Allen Grossman’s translation here:

Many heroes lived before Agamemnon
but they are all unweepable [inlacrimabiles], overwhelmed
by the long night of oblivion
because they lacked a sacred bard.
(The Sighted Singer, 7)

[30] Grossman notes the imaginative preservative quality of “holding-in-mind by the poem of the picture of the person” (7).

[31] Sonnets, 55. 14.

[32] Ibid., 81. 10.

[33] Ibid., 55. 14.

[34] A work’s capacity for reproduction as a component in understanding its ontology has a long, well argued, and not much resolved, history of which Paisley Livingston offers a concise and helpful summary (“The History of the Ontology of Art,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Summer 2013 Edition, Edward N. Zalta, ed., accessed July 20, 2013, http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2013/entries/art-ontology-history/ [see especially section 2.1]). Livingston suggests categories of works based on their reproducibility: “Multiply instantiated works [such as a poem] form one major category, then, while single or non-reproducible ones [such as a painting] form another.”

[35] I should concede here that we all know of more than one version of sonnet 55, and though at this point in the Sonnets editorial history the differences are mainly in punctuation, the poem does differ from edition to edition. Nevertheless, my claims that sonnet 55 may exist whole and complete on the page or in the mind still apply. They rely neither on a single, standard version of the poem reproduced in one “master edition,” nor on what I believe is the sonnet 55 intended by Shakespeare. One might memorize the version in either Burrow’s or Stephen Booth’s edition (Shakespeare’s Sonnets [New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1977]). And though they differ in that Booth’s has one more question mark than Burrow’s, numerous copies of each version have been reproduced, so that each may have its own existence in multiple spaces, both on pages and within memories. 

[36] That is, no visual medium at the time of the Sonnets. Livingston’s recent treatment of the ontology of the photo, however, is informative to our own contemporary understanding of the sonnet form: “[I]t would be highly implausible to contend that Henri Cartier-Bresson’s famous photographic work ‘Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, Paris’ (1932), consists [ontologically] in the negative used to make the prints, or in the first or any other single print of this picture.” I see that, likewise, the existence of the poem cannot be limited to the material of is presentation, especially if there are numerous instances of it. Here we ask where a work exists to determine how it exists.

[37] Amie Thomasson’s Fiction and Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999) makes helpful distinctions  between presumably eternal abstract Platonic forms and abstract artifacts, or things that are made yet still occupy no space. “[A]bstract artifacts such as laws, theories, and works of music and literature cannot be forced into the categories of either the [Platonically] real or the ideal without giving up some of their most important characteristics, such as their repeatability and their created status” (148). See especially xii, 37-38, 148-49.

[38] Sonnets, 5. 5-6.

[39] Ibid., 9-12.

[40] Ibid., 63. 13-14, my emphasis throughout.

[41] Ibid., 65. 14.

[42] Ibid., 81. 12-13.

[43] Antony and Cleopatra, 5.2.3755. Citations of the plays are from OpenSourceShakespeare: An Experiment in Literary Technology, George Mason University, accessed 05 April, 2014, 

[44] As You Like It, 1.2.335.

[45] Sonnets, 12-14.

[46] Ibid., 5.10.  

[47] Ibid., 1.1

[48] Thomas Greene, “The Flexibility of the Self in Renaissance Literature,” in The Disciplines of Criticism: Essays in Literary Theory, Interpretation, and History, edited by Peter Demetz, et al. (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1968), 326.

[49] Ibid., 337-43.          

[50] Ibid., 344.

[51] Ibid., 343.

[52] Greene, 344.

[53] Philip Sidney, An Apology for Poetry (or The Defence of Poesy), edited by Geoffrey Shepherd, 3rd edition revised and expanded by R. W. Maslen (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 2002), 85. 

[54] Sonnets, 55. 1-2.

[55] Ibid. 18.13-14.

[56] Sonnets, 55.13-14. 

[57] Ibid. 67. 5-6

[58] Ibid., 67.6.

[59] Ibid. 17. 3 and 83. 12.

Bruce Carroll holds a lectureship with New York University-Shanghai. He has published previously with The Annals of Scholarship on the Greek archaic poet's relationship with his Muse. Drawing on Hans Blumenberg's reoccupation thesis, his current research argues that the appearance of the Muse in early modern English poetry points to an ontological relationship between the poet and his art form.

Studies in Renaissance / Early Modern Literature & Culture,
Volume Seven (2014): Genres & Cultures

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