A Vivisection

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?
O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of batt’ring days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
Nor gates of steel so strong, but time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
   
O, none, unless this miracle have might,
   That in black ink my love may still shine bright.
-William Shakespeare, Sonnet 65
Shakespeare seems to be aiming for depression at the start of this poem. Brass, stone, earth, sea, man; all these things diminish with time, so how would love and beauty fare through the ages? Beauty, “whose action is no stronger than a flower?” And how could his lover’s “honey breath hold out against the wreckful siege of batt’ring days?” I think the author is speaking more in terms of ages than aging. The “For better, for worse” in wedding vows pretty much takes care of the growing old factor of love. So how can he cement his lover in time, make sure her beauty is remembered? There isn’t really a conciliation anywhere; eventually, there’s a sort of conclusion. Shakespeare reveals his hope “That in black ink my love may still shine bright.” I suppose it worked. So far, that’s the only way anything has ever been immortalized, and the fact that centuries later people still read of Shakespeare’s lover makes it a good strategy.
While staying true to the scheme and rhythm of the poetry style that was named after him, Shakespeare uses metaphors to play readers’ emotion like one plays a banjo at an Ozark hoedown. (thank you so much for that quote, John Malkovich) “Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid?” is a brilliant example; personally, I don’t think there’s a woman I know who wouldn’t love to be called “time’s best jewel.”
I wonder how old Shakespeare was when he wrote this, to be so aware of time’s depredations. Aware and familiar, as he perfectly, originally describes it as something swift and sentient. Always, it’s something despairable or intimidating. A “wrackful siege” or “sad mortality o’er-swaying.” I wonder how different this poem would be if Shakespeare had had his mind on heaven and eternity…
This poem almost forces one to take in every moment and never take love for granted. To appreciate it and live it. And to love your spouse, even when you’re both irritable old people in a home. For better, for worse…?
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11 thoughts on “A Vivisection

  1. I’m as moved by your analysis as by the poem. Nice title. I thought you were gentle with Shakespeare though. I hear in this, a rare moment of reality from Shakespeare. Perhaps it’s the cynic in me. I love Shakespeare’s lofty aspirations, but it’s nice to hear him be realistic sometimes too, to hope his work immortalizes rather than to be sure it does.

  2. rblumfeldt says:

    I liked- how thoroughly you explained this sonnet
    I noticed- your amazing vocabulary
    I wondered- why you chose this particular sonnet
    I would suggest- making a few mistakes every once in a while
    Strong words/phrases- “Shakespeare uses metaphors to play readers’ emotions like one plays a banjo at an Ozark hoedown.”

    Great job!

  3. I liked all the description in describing the sonnet.
    I noticed how you insulted all grumpy old people in the last paragraph.
    I wondered why you chose the only one Shakespeare didn’t write about one of his boyfriends.
    I would suggest doing two next time so you screw up at least once.

  4. rblumfeldt says:

    I liked all of your great vocab and how you described the poem. I noticed how well you did the seven steps. I wondered why you picked this sonnet when he has tons? I would suggest seriously nothing. strong word or phrases “So how can he cement his lover in time, make sure her beauty is remembered?”

    btw this is Grace because my account wont let me post

  5. emmarapp says:

    I noticed that you did another Shakespeare sonnet
    I liked your analysis of this poem
    I wondered why you chose this poem
    I would suggest nothing
    Strong words or phrase “Shakespeare uses metaphors to play readers’ emotion like one plays a banjo at an Ozark hoedown.”

  6. jdog9881 says:

    I liked: how your feelings to the poem seemed to change throughout your writing
    I noticed: how you used some poetry devices in your writing of the response
    I wondered: why you gotta use such big words, you confuse me ._.
    I would suggest: stop showing off 😐
    Strong words or phrases: That in black ink my love may still shine bright. like one plays a banjo at an Ozark hoedown

    All in all I liked it but you gotta use smaller words for us small brained people, go get some skooma then start writing :p

  7. catiebeach says:

    I liked that you quoted it all through your analysis.
    I noticed that you used wedding vows.
    I wondered how you chose this poem.
    I suggest publishing a book?
    Strong words or phrases “almost forces one to take in every moment and never take love for granted, you’re both irritable old people in a home”
    Great job Phillip! It was well written and profound.

  8. ahkrapp says:

    Can you even write something that is not beautiful. Glob I hate you why do you have to be so awesome.
    I like… The whole stupid thing
    I noticed… The sarcasm about the Shakespeare stile
    I wondered… Why you chose this one
    I would suggest… Doing more
    Strong words or phases…banjo at the Ozark hoedown

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