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The Last Man, Edited by Steven E. Jones

Sonnets cited


Never with dry eyes or with tranquil mind shall I look on those notes in which Love seems to sparkle and which Kindness seems to have made with his very hand.

Spirit once unvanquished by earthly mourning, you who now from Heaven pour down so much sweetness that you have brought back my wandering rhymes to the style from which Death separated them.

I thought to show you some other work of my young leaves; and what cruel planet was displeased to see us together, O my noble treasure?

Who forbids and hides you from me so soon, whom in my heart I see and with my tongue I honor? And in you, sweet sighing, my soul is quieted.

Petrarch, Sonnet 322


Love, I transgress and I see my transgression, but I act like a man who burns with a fire in his breast; for the pain still grows, and my reason fails and is almost overcome by my sufferings.

I used to rein in my hot desire so as not to darken her clear face; I can no longer do it: you have taken the reins from my hand, and my despairing soul has acquired boldness.

Therefore, if my soul hazards herself beyond her usual style, you are doing it--who so inflame and spur her that she attempts every difficult way toward her salvation--

and even more those heavenly, rare gifts which my lady has. Now at least make her perceive it, and make her pardon herself for my transgression.

Petrarch, Sonnet 236


Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread:--behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin destinies; who ever weave
The shadows, which the world call substance, there.

I knew one who lifted it--he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
through the unheeding many did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

P. B. Shelley, Sonnet IV in Posthumous Poems


When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gaz'd on now,
Will be a totter'd weed of small worth held:
Then being ask'd, where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say within thine own deep-sunken eyes
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserv'd thy beauty's use,
If thou couldst answer, "This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,"
Proving his beauty by succession thine.
  This were to be new made when thou art old,
  And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.

Shakespeare, Sonnet 2



Against my love shall be as I am now
With Time's injurious hand crush'd and o'erworn,
When hours have drain'd his blood and fill'd his brow
With lines and wrinkles,
when his youthful morn
Hath travell'd on to age's steepy night,
And all those beauties whereof now he's king
Are vanishing, or vanish'd out of sight,
Stealing away the tresure of his spring;
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age's cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love's beauty, though my lover's life.
  His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
  And they shall live, and he in them still green.

Shakespeare, Sonnet 63



When in disgrace with Fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my utcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myslef and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate,

  For thy sweet love rememb'red such wealth brings,
  That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Shakespeare, Sonnet 29



The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

William Wordsworth, "The world is too much with us"



If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way,
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth remov'd from thee,
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah, thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that, so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time's leisure with my moan,
  Receiving [nought] by elements so slow
  But heavy tears, badges of either's woe.

Shakespeare, Sonnet 44



All that which Aegypt whilome did deuise,
All that which Greece their temples to embraue,
After th'Ionicke, Atticke, Doricke guise,
Or Corinth skil'd in curious workes to graue;
   All that Lysippus practike arte could forme,
Apelles wit, or Phidias his skill,
Was wont this auncient Citie to adorne,
And the heauen it selfe with her wide wonders fill;
   All that which Athens euer brought forth wise,
All that which Africke euer brought forth strange,
All that which Asie euer had of prise,
Was here to see. O meruvelous great change:
   Rome liuing, was the worlds sole ornament,
   And dead, is now the worlds sole moniment.

Spenser, Ruines of Rome, 29

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Published @ RC

October 1997