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Sonnet 128

September 13, 2013

Sonnet 128

How oft when thou, my music, music play’st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more bless’d than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

–William Shakespeare 1609

COMMENTARY: I think this is my favorite Shakespeare sonnet. No. “How
heavy do I journey on the way” is my favorite. But this is way up
there. I don’t know what to say about it, except that the metaphor
(speaker is jealous of lute because the lute kisses the fingers of the
beloved) and the imagery is ingenious. I like the repetition of the
word “jack,” meaning the string or the fret or something. It reminds
me of the part in Taming of the Shrew where Kate calls her music tutor
“rascal fiddler and twangling jack.” She was not an enthusiastic
musician, Kate.

Some vague principle of assiduousness tells me that I should write at
least two paragraphs, but I’m tired and have a long day tomorrow.
Besides there are enough Shakespearians on this list to tell me
what the poem means. Heyward? Dr. B? Julian? Where you guys at? And
Steve, you haven’t pitched a roll of two pennies in weeks, sir. I’ve
even stopped hearing from Jill, and I know she reads these things. Is
Jay Halio out there? He should be. And that’s not even
mentioning Patrick Rogers, that himalaya-trecking playwright. You
haven’t sent me a scene from A Certain Noontime’s Toff in ages. And
I’ve been sending you poems for a year and a half now. Donnie Jones,
you get a pass because you’re in Alaska. Dad, you get a pass, because
you’ve sent me three emails today, and I haven’t responded to any of
them. Dennis, you get a pass because you’re likely checking your email
from some Gator’s belly down there in Vero. There, that’s two
paragraphs of analysis. Pumpkin time.


From → Love Poems

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