Shakespeare's Sonnets (1883)
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WILLIAM J. ROLFE.
Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy (Sonn. 33).
Edited, with Notes,
WILLIAM J. ROLFE, A.M.,
FORMERLY HEAD MASTER OF THE HIGH SCHOOL, CAMBRIDGE, MASS.
HARPER & BROTHERS, PUBLISHERS,
Copyright, 1883, by Harper & Brothers.
In this volume, as almost every page of the Introduction and the Notes bears witness, I have been under special obligations to Professor Dowden's excellent editions of the Sonnets. I have not, however, drawn at all from Part II. of the Introduction to his larger edition (see the footnote on p. 11), which condenses into some seventy-five pages the entire literature of the Sonnets. For the critical student this careful résumé answers a double purpose: as a bibliography of the subject, directing him to the many books and papers that have been written upon the Sonnets, if he is moved to read any or all of them; and as a compact and convenient substitute for these books and papers, if he wants to know their gist and substance without the drudgery of wading through them. I doubt not that the majority of students will be thankful that Professor Dowden has relieved them of this drudgery by compressing many a dull volume or magazine article into a page or a paragraph.
I have said on page 11 that I am not fully satisfied with the theory that the Sonnets are all autobiographical, and that 1–126 form a regular series: but the more I study them the more I am inclined to that theory. The work I have done since the Introduction was sent to the printer, in revising the Notes and seeing them through the press, has steadily forced me towards an agreement with Dowden and the many poets and critics (see page 22) who believe that Shakespeare "unlocked his heart" in the Sonnets. But I still see difficulties in this theory, and still doubt whether Shakespeare had anything to do with bringing out the edition of 1609. If "Mr. W. H." was the person who collected and arranged the poems for the press, he seems to have known enough of their origin and their meaning to enable him to get them nearly in their proper order; but I suspect that if Shakespeare had read the proof-sheets, he might have made some transpositions. If he could only have prefixed the "argument" of them, as in the case of the Lucrece!
I will only add that the text of the Sonnets, like that of the Poems, is given without omission or expurgation.
Cambridge, March 1, 1883.
in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warm'd (Sonn. 154)
Critical Comments on the Sonnets
Nor that full star that ushers in the even
Doth half that glory to the sober west
As those two mourning eyes become thy face (Sonn. 132).
TO . THE . ONLIE . BEGETTER . OF .
THESE . INSVING . SONNETS .
Mr . W. H. ALL . HAPPINESSE .
AND . THAT . ETERNITIE .
OVR . EVER-LIVING . POET .
THE . WELL-WISHING .
ADVENTVRER . IN .
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end (Sonn. 60).