Thursday, March 20, 2014

SONNETS 1 ROSE: From fairest creatures we desire increase

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's Rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.
    Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
    To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.


Mnemonic Image: ROSE

Idiosyncratic Abstract: The Archetypal Rose of the Highest Aesthetic Beauty, The Alchemical Rose of Conjunction, Dante's White Rose, the Lotus of Tibetan Buddhism.

Couplet Imagery: The eugenic superman / beauty is urged to take pity on poor humanity, to not allow his seed to go to waste.

Notes 4/1/2017

Because it is first, I have recited this sonnet more times from memory than any other. It strikes me now as a heraldic blazon hung over the entrance to the Sonnets as a whole. A Shakespearian inversion of the inscription above the Gates of Hell. Within these 14 lines are embedded rich thematic content that will be unfolded not only in the following 16, but in the sequence as a whole.

This sonnet can be seen, in sum, as an index to the rest of the sonnets, or as a diapason of the notes of the sequence. - Vendler

The sunlit and shadow themes of eugenics, breeding, Neo-Platonic imperatives of Beauty, the unraveling of the world through forgetfulness and death. The perils of Narcissistic in-foldings and sexual solipsisms. Reflections on the the nature of self in the world, how much of us is defined by the gaze of the other. The non-secular but sacred duties of those who possess Beauty to bestow upon the world, this sacred red ribbon of beauty's blood that must be handed off to the one who waits ahead of us, to carry on the race. Shadows of sexual shame haunt this sonnet's theme but there is also a lusty shameless prurience in the language itself.

In Reading Shakespeare's Sonnets, Paterson writes:

Look at Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel, and the way WS consolidated his meaning by making the line complicit in its own song, here composed of lots of ls and fs and nasals. The line itself feeds its own flame: say it aloud, and listen to how it's almost licking itself in self-admiration.

I agree with that critical crowd this sonnet feels as if it were composed later, perhaps after the Procreation Sequence was complete. So much of the unfolding theme is embedded here.

Following my current Mnemonic Approach, key imagery is derived from the couplet: gluttony, self-gluttony, feeding on one's self, results in a famine for the rest of the world. The eugenic superman / beauty is urged to take pity on poor humanity, to not allow his seed to go to waste.

Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
    To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

Published by: Hieronymus Cock
Print made by: Pieter van der Heyden

Gluttony (Gula); an allegorical figure of a woman in sixteenth-century dress and a fifteenth-century head-dress sits on top of her attribute, a pig, guzzling from a pitcher; around her at the table several demons and nude women eat and drink to excess; behind them to the l a man vomits over a bridge into a river; on far l a giant man imprisoned in a building from which only his head emerges at top; in r background a windmill in the shape of a man's head being force-fed; various monsters eating and drinking throughout. 1558 Engraving

Invidia/ Gula (Envy and Gluttony) – “A half-cat, half-human creature on left, its left leg attached to its left shoulder, a lobster on its torso; on right a pig’s head sticking out from a barrel to which various types of meat on a pike are attached; landscape background.”

Seated on a pig; a hedgehog on the flag, a cat on the escutcheon and an owl as crest; from a series of WL female personifications of the vices riding animals and with their respective attributes on banners and shields. 1552 Engraving

Gustave Doré - The Divine Comedy 
Inferno, Canto VI

In the third circle, the gluttonous wallow in a vile, putrid slush produced by a ceaseless, foul, icy rain – "a great storm of putrefaction" – as punishment for subjecting their reason to a voracious appetite. Cerberus (described as "il gran vermo", literally "the great worm", line 22), the monstrous three-headed beast of Hell, ravenously guards the gluttons lying in the freezing mire, mauling and flaying them with his claws as they howl like dogs. Virgil obtains safe passage past the monster by filling its three mouths with mud.

Dorothy L. Sayers writes that "the surrender to sin which began with mutual indulgence leads by an imperceptible degradation to solitary self-indulgence." The gluttons grovel in the mud by themselves, sightless and heedless of their neighbors, symbolizing the cold, selfish, and empty sensuality of their lives. Just as lust has revealed its true nature in the winds of the previous circle, here the slush reveals the true nature of sensuality – which includes not only overindulgence in food and drink, but also other kinds of addiction. 

Wood engraving, 1873, after Gustave Doré for 'Gargantua and Pantagruel' by François Rabelais.

Imagine the Glutton. A Godlike, super-human sort of Glutton. But not merely the glutton of food, but as a glutton of their own transcendent and terrible beauty, a gluttony of over-indulgence of self, deriving pleasure from "feeding" upon one's own being, Narcissus feasting his eyes upon his image while his body wastes away.

Note the moral imperative in world's due - the superman owes it to the world to procreate. Beauty has its own imperative which cancels out any selfish concerns. Something like: once beauty appears in the world, it is owned by the world, is the world's due, and the temporary container of that Beauty has a duty to pour the contents of that Beauty into another container before it is cracked by Death and it's contents lost. Death also as the ultimate ravenous glutton constantly eating everything the lives, it's mouth the grave, the black maw that chews all flesh and bone to dust.

There are two key Mnemonic Images for Sonnet 1 from the couplet: the Glutton and Death.


The overarching theme of the Procreation Sequence is announced plainly in the first line:

From fairest creatures we desire increase

The eugenic imperative for that which is fair and beautiful to breed combined with our desire. We desire increase of beautiful creatures. Of any beautiful creature. The created Creature and creation standing against invention. Within the Cosmos of the Sonnets, we are creations, not inventions.

There seems to be— every step here is of the most tentative, provisional order— an absence from “creation” of precisely the penumbra of falsehood, of contrivance inseparable from the linguistics and speech-acts of “invention.” Said to a child (or even an adult): n’invente pas signifies “do not lie, don’t tell fibs.” To enjoin: ne crée pas, would, in every respect, be a nonsense phrase. In another register, however, that of the iconoclastic, prohibitions on “creation” can be cardinal. I have already cited the taboo on the “making of images” in Judaism and Islam. To create such images is to “invent,” it is to “fictionalize” in the cause of a virtual reality, scenes, real presences beyond human perception or rivalry (“ I know not ‘seeming,’” says Hamlet in his rage for truth). Time and again, we will meet up with the artist’s sense of himself as “counter-creator,” as competing with the primal fiat or “let there be” on ground at once exultant and blasphemous. Is the lack of humour, so marked in the Hebraic-Christian delineations of a revealed God, instinct with the seriousness of creation? Invention is often thoroughly humorous. It surprises. Whereas creation, in the sense of the Greek term which generates all philosophy, thaumazein, amazes, astonishes us as does thunder or the blaze of northern lights.

 - Grammars of Creation, George Steiner

The second line authorizes the first with what is the transcendent archetype of the Sonnets: Beauty's Rose.

That thereby beauty's Rose might never die

This transcendent Rose is the archetype of beauty. I search endlessly for images of it, for the most emblematic image, all in vain. It is a Rose of the mind. A Flower of the Mind. It is the Lotus Flower from Tibetan Buddhism, the Padme from the Great Mantra: Om Mani Padme Hum.

Gustave Doré Illustration

Dante sees an enormous rose, symbolizing divine love, the petals of which are the enthroned souls of the faithful (both those of the Old Testament and those of the New). All the souls he has met in Heaven, including Beatrice, have their home in this rose. Angels fly around the rose like bees, distributing peace and love. Beatrice now returns to her place in the rose, signifying that Dante has passed beyond theology in directly contemplating God, and St. Bernard, as a mystical contemplative, now guides Dante further (Canto XXXI).

In the surrounding circle, directly above, is the Buddha Amitabha, red in colour, peaceful, with one face and two hands held to the heart. The right holds the stem of a lotus flower blossoming over the right shoulder and the left a gold bell to the heart. Wearing elaborate sambhogakaya vestments he sits in vajra posture. At the right is the consort Pandara Vasini, white, similar in appearance; holding to the heart a lotus handled curved knife and a skullcup. At the right is Buddha Akshobhya, blue, similar in appearance; holding to the heart a gold vajra and bell. Below is the consort Mamaki, blue, similar in appearance; holding to the heart a vajra handled curved knife and a skullcup, seated in a relaxed posture. Below is Buddha Vairochana, white, holding a wheel to the heart and a bell at the side. At the left is the consort Vajradhatvishvari, white, similar in appearance, holding to the heart a wheel handled curved knife and a skullcup, seated in a relaxed posture. At the left is Buddha Ratnasambhava, yellow, holding to the heart a jewel and bell. Above is the consort Buddha-Locani, yellow, holding to the heart a jewel handled curved knife and a white skullcup, seated in a relaxed posture. Each is seated on a moon disc and the inner ring of pink lotus petals, surrounded by variously coloured spheres of light creating the shape of an eight-petalled lotus encircled by a blue ring. -

The lotus, of course, is a common Buddhist symbol from early times. While it is a popular pan-Indian symbol for birth, its meaning in Buddhism is best given by a passage frequently recurring in the suttas (e.g., S.III. 140):

"Just as, monks, a lotus, blue, red, or white, though born in tne water, grown up in the water, when it reaches the surface stands unsoiled by the water; just so, monks, though born in the world, grown up in the world, having overcome the world, a Tathagata abides unsoiled by the world."

Just as the beautiful lotus blossom grows up from the mud and water, so one with an enlightened mind, a Buddha, develops out of the ranks of ordinary beings, by maturing, over many lives, the spiritual potential latent in all. He thus stands out above the greed, hatred and delusion of the world, not attached to anything, as a lotus flower stands above the water, unsoiled by it. The lotus, then, symbolizes the potential for spiritual growth latent in all beings, and the complete non-attachment of the enlightened mind, which stands beyond all defilements.  -

The lotus is the symbol of spiritual unfoldment, of the holy, the pure.

The Buddha-legend reports that when the newly born infant Siddhartha, who later became the Buddha, touched the ground and made his first seven steps, seven lotus-blossoms grew up from the earth. Thus each step of the Bodhisattva is an act of spiritual unfoldment. Meditating Buddhas are represented as sitting on lotus-flowers, and the unfoldment of spiritual vision in meditation (4I944) is symbolized by fully opened lotus-blossoms, whose centre and whole petals many the images, attributes or mantras ol various Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, according to their relative position and mutual

In the same way the centres of consciousness in the human body (which we shall discus later on) are represented as lotus-flowers, whose colours correspond to their individual character, while the number of their petal corresponds to their functions.

The original meaning of this symbolism may be seen from the following simile: just as the lotus grows up from the darkness of the mud to the surface of the water, opening its blossom only after it has raised itself beyond the surface, and remaining unsullied from both earth and water, which nourished it - in the same way the mind, born the human body, unfolds its true qualities (“petals”) after it has raised itself beyond the turbid floods of passions and ignorance, and transforms the dark powers of the depths into the radiantly pure nectar of Enlightenment-consciousness (bod-cotta), the incomparable jewel (magi) in the lotus-blosom (padme). Thus the saint grows beyond this world and surpasses it. Though his roots are in the dark depths of this world, his head is raised into the fullness of light. He is the living synthesis of the deepest and the highest, of darkness and light, the material and the immaterial, the limitations of individuality and the boundlessness of universality, the formed and the formless, Samsara and Nirvana. Nagarjuna, therefore, said of the perfectly Enlightened One: Neither being nor not-being can be attributed to the Enlightened One. The Holy One is beyond all opposites.

If the urge towards light were not dormant in the germ that in hidden deep down in the darkness of the earth, the lotus would not turn towards the light. If the urge towards a higher consciousness and knowledge were not dormant even in a state of deepest ignorance, nay, even in a state of complete unconsciousness, Enlightened Ones could never arise from the darkness of samara. 

- Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, Lama Govinda

In the third line,

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's Rose might never die,
But as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory:

Death is first introduced in the Sonnets. Time and Death, are the two great antagonists in the Sonnet Sequence. Shakespeare's language wages a constant war against them. The word riper gives rise to vegetable and fruit images, squash ripening upon the vine, apples ripening upon the tree.

The forth line announces the means by which Time and Death can be defeated: memory. By passing on beauty to a new generation, to the new flesh,  before we ourselves are ripened and rotting away in death, our "memory" is carried forth beyond the ephemeral instance of our being. Carried as a burden, also carried as a seed in a womb and born anew into the world as a tender green shoot of life rising upwards from the dust of the earth, the over-ripened fruit having fallen, broken open, spilled its seed which found purchase in the soil, to be reborn, to extend the memory of beauty.

Q1 establishes Death (and Time) as the enemy which fair creatures may defeat by giving birth to tender heirs.

But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.

The Young Man, embodiment of Beauty (Rose) enters, immediately a problem, But thou, in Q2. We acknowledge the truth of the first quatrain, but YOU do not. Why not? Because you are reduced and wedded only to your own internal vision. Again: Narcissus lost in a self-recursive vision of his own reflection. The enlightenment that you believe you have found is involuted, in-turned upon itself, gluttonously feasting upon it's own super abundant beauty. Image here of the Buddha starving to death in asceticism, skeletal, death-like, feeding burning with the gem-like flame within, but lost and fading from the world, his flesh like a gossamer. Dickinson's "The Dews drew quivering and Chill — For only Gossamer, my Gown".

Your beauty (body, mind, spirit) is your own worst enemy: it has seduced you. You, like a Glutton, have seduced yourself with your hunger for abundance for your own beauty. What will remain are only forgotten bones. By turning away from the flesh, you deny life to memory.

There is also a prurient reading here, which is helpful mnemonically, of the Young Man masturbating himself to death while gazing lustfully upon his own image in a mirror, sustaining himself only be feeding upon his own semen, which only fans the flames his sexual desire for more of himself.

From Golding's Ovid when Narcissus spies his own reflection:

And if I smile thou smilest too: and when that from mine eyes 
The teares doe drop, I well perceyve the water stands in thine. 
Like gesture also dost thou make to everie becke of mine. 
And as by moving of thy sweete and lovely lippes I weene, 
Thou speakest words although mine eares conceive not what they beene, 
It is my selfe I well perceyve, it is mine Image sure, 
That in this sort deluding me, this furie doth procure. 
I am inamored of my selfe, I doe both set on fire, 
And am the same that swelteth too, through impotent desire. 
What shall I doe? be woode or woo? whome shall I woo therefore? 
The thing I seeke is in my selfe, my plentie makes me poore. 
I would to God I for a while might from my bodie part.

Q1 states:

Individual beauty transcends Death through one's children. As a ripened fruit spills its seed upon the ground to give birth to the next generation. 

Q2 sets up the problem:

But you are so in love with yourself, you are gluttonously hoarding away your own beauty from the world. (Note the implicit imperative of what the world is due.) You are feeding upon your own seed. 

Q3 attempts to shift the Young Man's inward gaze, outwards to the world:

Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring,
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.

Your beauty is such that it is an ornament to the world. Although it is anachronistic, there is the image of the evergreen tree of Christmas, symbol of endurance through the winter, it's green never fading, now topped with a star-like ornament, symbol of hope and rebirth. This conflates with those flowering trees such as the Japanese Magnolia and Dogwood whose flowers unfold as ornaments announcing Spring, Booth's "gaudy-green" optimum here. Those in-folded buds must unfold into flowers or the tree will die. There is a teleology here. The acorn is an oak tree. The rebirth of the world is heralded by the unfolding green of leaf and flower. It is against the order of things (shadow teleology) to bury the beauty that is contained within the vessel (bud) of your being. Your happiness (contentment) will be buried (eaten / devoured ) with your beauty (contents), the essence of your being which your are so in love with will be wasted if it ends up being buried like a ripe fruit entombed away from the the fertile soil. Your tender flesh should create a tender heir, a fair creature, an increase of yourself, a celebration of the flowering of the roseate beauty within you.

Source echoes of churl and niggard from the Geneva Bible, Isaiah 32:5-6:

5 A niggard shall no more be called liberal, nor the churl rich.

6 But the niggard will speak of niggardness, and his heart will work iniquity, and do wickedly, and speak falsely against the Lord, to make empty the hungry soul, and to cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. 

(Kerrigan notes Shakespeare's use of niggard as a verb and gerund is original with him. OED source.)

The couplet now as a pleading curse: 

Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
    To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

That "pity" sounds slight apology for the brutal observations of Q2 and Q3. But nothing will come of the selfish gluttony that feeds upon itself even as the grave feeds upon it.

Kerrigan directs to this illustrative passage from Venus and Adonis:

Therefore, despite of fruitless chastity, 
Love-lacking vestals and self-loving nuns, 
That on the earth would breed a scarcity 
And barren dearth of daughters and of sons,   
Be prodigal: the lamp that burns by night  
Dries up his oil to lend the world his light. 

What is thy body but a swallowing grave, 
Seeming to bury that posterity 
Which by the rights of time thou needs must have, 
If thou destroy them not in dark obscurity? 
If so, the world will hold thee in disdain,  
Sith in thy pride so fair a hope is slain.


NOTES from 3/20/2014

Several themes immediately assert themselves:

1. Procreation - The value of Beauty is ensured through reproduction. The genetic seminal "fuel" that serves to transmit memory is wasted in masturbatory acts of self-love.

2. The Irony of Absence - by taking away, there is now a presence: by not sharing beauty - as in acts of self-love, self-reflection - one is wasting, making a famine, by withholding something precious; being selfish (gluttonous) by not allowing anyone to share in your beauty and talent (food). Esp. not marrying and producing heirs to pass on "beauty's pattern." Finally, it is the empty grave that will be full when it eats you.

3. One's Duty to Share Beauty / Food / One's Self.  The first four lines assert that beauty is meant to be shared and celebrated and passed on. Consuming as a social act, responsibility. Self-love does not share its food.  "Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel," "Making a famine." The couplet implores the young man to "Pity the world, or else this glutton be, / To eat the world's due."

4. Wasting Beauty. Related to the other two, that by not giving of one's self to to others, one is wasting it. Beauty and talent should be given to the world and shared like food. To not give the world its due is be miserly with riches. "makest waste in niggarding."


From fairest creatures we desire increase, 

The first line is obvious enough and easy to commit to memory. Right off the bat, there is the lovely ambiguous thematic image of creatures increasing through progeny but also increasing their own size through gluttony. Sexually, the "fair creature" increases desire. The mysteries of the erotic, the shape of the face, wicked curve of lip, upturned gaze of the bright eye. The half-concealed fullness of breast, the soft point of the nipple pressing through fabric. The delicious arch of a foot, revelations of the ankle, calf and opening pillow of a thigh. The elements of the erotic.

That thereby beauty's rose might never die,

The follow-through from the first line. Note the simile "Beauty's Rose." Emblematic. A rose which is relatively transient, its growth from bud to bloom remarking another theme in the sonnet. However, "Beauty's Rose" is enduring, a symbol of the condition all creative effort aspires to. Platonic images. Metaphysical poetry and conceits hinted at. Also, the flower form of the vagina, the womb into which increase (penis) releases desire (semen)  and out of which increase is made (children). 

But as the riper should by time decease, 

Problematic line. Takes a few scans to get that it refers back to the rose. The riper rose will die. Succulent layering of images of a ripe fruit (to which the word ripe is commonly applied) to that of a rose (to which it is not). A riper rose, over-redolent, pulpy red. Almost decadent. The flaccid penis sliding out of the Chthonic womb of female mystery, dying in the tomb.

His tender heir might bear his memory:

The transience of the life of the rose is redeemed by its progeny. The children, tender heirs, of the fairest creatures remind us of their beauty. The Eternal, Platonic, Rose of Beauty is sustained in an act of memory. Note internal rhyme: heir / bear. Following from above, the tender heir as the sexual organs, the penis full of semen or the uterus which will actually bear the child.

But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,

The first instance of the subject of the sonnets, this "thou." Contracted with the dual meanings of a marriage contract and diminished - as in the contraction of the pupil of the eye when exposed to light, emphasized in the "bright eyes." Theme of self-love reducing / contracting / diminishing the self - turning what should be directed outwards for / given to the pleasure of society inwards /  for its own esoteric sense of happiness. Hoarding the self. Being miserly with one's Beauty. Inward imaginings as the source for masturbatory fantasies.

Feeds't thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,

Building upon the self as illumination and the theme of eating, consumption. The dominant image is the candle, which "eats itself" as it burns. Mark the irony of the action of feeding, nourishing, growing fat, upon nothing, nothing external, upon one's own reflection. Echoes of the Narcissus myth here "contracted" to his reflection in the mirror, feeding upon his own beauty until he fades away to become a flower. The decomposing body a parody of the "fairest creature" which now "feeds" and nourishes the plant and subsequent flower. Also, sexual desire is directed inward, being stimulated only towards selfish ends, the ejaculation as the "fuel" which feeds further desire.

Making a famine where abundance lies,

The typical Shakespearean twist. Presence in absence. Here employed to amplify that this Narcissus, through his self-love is "wasting" the abundance, the plentitude, of his Beauty. Economic aspects of Beauty is to be shared with the society and not kept only for oneself. And the abundance of semen produced in masturbation serves no procreative purpose.

Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.

Self-love, masturbation,  makes the subject his own worst enemy. His beauty excites him sexually to the exclusion of anyone else. Slang resonance with beating one's self, choking, cranking, jerking, etc. in "to thy sweet self too cruel."

Then another note sounding the theme of feeding upon the self: "the sweet self." Cartoonish wolf images here: the society like a pack of wolves gathered around the beautiful light of this fair creature, salivating with hunger, licking their chops, wanting to devour the "sweet self." Also faintly here, but surprisingly apt, are tones of the Eucharist: the fair creature, Beauty's Rose, as Christ, of whose flesh and blood are given to the disciples.

"This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me". (1 Corinthians 11:23-24)

The theme remains intact: do not withhold the food, the self, which should be given to the community.

Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament

I detect a slight resentment in this line. The adjective "fresh," in the context what precedes it, carries an undertone of "soon to be rotten." Ornament also has a sense of a pretty little bauble, an accessory used to adorn, to enhance a greater beauty. Sexual overtones explicit. Note internal rhyme: thou / now.

And only herald to the gaudy spring,

A sense of efflorescence, as of society as a whole blooming forth. Herald as harbinger. Gaudy as radiant rather than cheap or tastelessly showy as it is understood today. Note the flower theme picked back up. The slight resentment in ornament is ameliorated by this more natural context. The ornament is the flower ready to bloom:

Within thine own bud buriest thy content

The harping note of self-love and masturbation here. "Thine own bud" has explicit sexual connotation. The verb "buriest" is beautiful here. The image of the bud burying itself in the "content" (read: cunt). But also, slightly less obvious, returning back in such an utterly inward manner that it returns to the soil which gave it birth,  tunneling through the soil like a worm or a blind mole seeking its own seed. Beyond the vulgar pun, "content" plays two meanings: happiness and what one is composed of, the contents. And finally, the contents of a grave are what has been buried - just slight note of death here that will be fully sounded in the couplet.

And, tender churl, makest waste in niggarding.

Note the symmetry with "tender heir" above. "Churl" meaning miser or fool here. And with regards "niggarding;" the word is a sore red wound these days, even though it is etymologically distinct from the racial slur. Still, the acoustic resonance is powerful enough to have essentially prohibited its usage. [ cf Wikipedia: Controversies about the word "niggardly" and Google's NGram Graph of Word Usage ]

Both words have a distinct Anglo-Saxon gutturality. Churl is softened by "tender." But the line overall has a cursing quality to it. The upbraiding of a friend with harsh language. Not so much to insult, but to tease but with a seriousness intact.

Note the content bud now grows riper as a "tender churl." And then again the Shakespearian Irony: to make waste, to use up a valuable commodity, by NOT using it, by not sharing it with others, by holding it within only for self-pleasure.

Always, the sexual undertone, the dangers of self-love, masturbation - which is, on the most obvious level, about marriage and having children as the natural and proper expression of self. Makest waste of semen all over the place instead of in the womb to make children.

Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
    To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

Shakespeare's couplets always give me some trouble. Perhaps I grant to them too much gnomic wisdom when they are actually the weakest part of the sonnet.  I find that I often must memorize the couplet as a single unity. Separating the lines only leads to confusion. Not so much with the body of the sonnet.

"Pity the world" is the poet addressing the subject of the sonnet. I am happy - contra some commentators - to understand this as Shakespeare speaking to the Young Man. Shakespeare is telling him to take pity on the world, as you would to someone who had less food than you and was hungry. Have some pity, some compassion, sympathy for those less fortunate. Give them something to eat. Find a woman, impregnate her with your semen, food, fuel.

"or else this glutton be," and if do not give them anything to eat, you choose instead to eat all the food yourself - even if it be a feast that would feed many, you greedily, spitefully, eat it, not allowing anyone else to even have a bite. Quickly, an element of homoerotic and homosexual eating of semen - faintly, but there. Note how it plays into the next line. 

"To eat the world's due," but as the lines above have illustrated, this is not good for you or for the world. Beauty, like food, especially when there is Plenty, is meant to be shared, to be celebrated, with others. It is meant to be given away to enrich the world, through children, deeds, art and language. The sonnet itself stands as testimony to that which could have never been published but was. ( Note a larger ontological problem with the publication of the Sonnets here.)

"by the grave and thee." If you cannot take pity on the world and become the glutton that devours what belongs to the world and you, in turn, and all of your precious beauty and talents, will be eaten by the grave, by Death. You will become food for the grave. Food for worms.


Notes 4/23/2017:

Reading William Gass' Reading Rilke, I encounter right there at the first these remarkable passages which point back - in my mind - to Sonnet 1 with such clear vision. The synchronistic Aha! rising up from the long forgotten. Note the interplay of the roses, eyes, unfoldings, blushings and bloomings of the erotic, petals falling, the rose as fruit (riper), self-containing - "if self-containing means: to transform the world." 

Open-eyed, Rainer Maria Rilke died in the arms of his doctor on December 29, 1926. The leukemia which killed him had been almost reluctantly diagnosed, and had struck like a storm, after a period of gathering clouds. Ulcerous sores appeared in his mouth, pain troubled his stomach and intestines, he slept a lot when his body let him, his spirit was weighed down by depression, while physically he became as thin and fluttery as a leaf. Since, according to the gloom that naturally descended on him, Rilke’s creative life was over, he undertook translations during his last months: of Valéry in particular—“Eupalinos,” “The Cemetery by the Sea”—and composed his epitaph, too, invoking the flower he so devotedly tended.


The myth concerning the onset of his illness was, even among his myths, the most remarkable. To honor a visitor, the Egyptian beauty Nimet Eloui, Rilke gathered some roses from his garden. While doing so, he pricked his hand on a thorn. This small wound failed to heal, grew rapidly worse, soon his entire arm was swollen, and his other arm became affected as well.  According to the preferred story, this was the way Rilke’s disease announced itself, although Ralph Freedman, his judicious and most recent biographer, puts that melancholy event more than a year earlier.

Roses climb his life as if he were their trellis. Turn the clock back twenty-four years to 1900. Rilke is a guest at Worpswede, an artists’ colony near Bremen, and it is there he has made the acquaintance of the painter Paula Becker and his future wife, Clara Westhoff. One bright Sunday morning, in a romantic mood, Rilke brings his new friends a few flowers, and writes about the gesture in his diary:

"I invented a new form of caress: placing a rose gently on a closed eye until its coolness can no longer be felt; only the gentle petal will continue to rest on the eyelid like sleep just before dawn."


The rose is a distilling eye. It gathers light and filters it until the concentration is powerful and pure, until its stamens become erect. If the rose is not a poem, the poem is surely a rose.

And the movement in the roses, look:

gestures which make such minute vibrations
they’d remain invisible if their rays
did not resolutely ripple out into the wide world.

Look at that white one which has blissfully unfolded
to stand amidst its splay of petals
like Venus boldly balanced on her shell;
look too at the bloom that blushes, bends
toward the one with more composure,
and see how the pale one aloofly withdraws;
and how the cold one stands, closed upon itself,
among those open roses, shedding all.

And what they shed: how it can be light or heavy,
a cloak, a burden, a wing, a mask—it just depends—
and how they let it fall: as if disrobing for a lover.


The poet collects the world inside himself as the rose gathers the light of the skies, and there he intensifies it until the phallic element of the flower dominates the symbol. Eventually the rose bestrews itself. Petals, like poems, leave their tree. The beautiful unity the rose once was now becomes a fall of discoloring shards; yet these petals can help us see to another part of the world as through a stained-glass window.

“What can’t they be? Was that yellow one,
lying there hollow and open, not the rind
of a fruit in which the very same yellow
was its more intense and darkening juice?
And was this other undone by its opening,
since, so exposed, its ineffable pink
has picked up lilac’s bitter aftertaste?
And the cambric, is it not a dress
to which a chemise, light and warm as breath,
still clings, though both were abandoned
amid morning shadows near the old woodland pool?
And this of opalescent porcelain
is a shallow fragile china cup
full of tiny shining butterflies—
and there—that one’s holding nothing but itself.”

Later, in the August of an emptied Paris, Rilke will compose a poem about the interior of the rose: it is first an Inside awaiting its Outside, then a bandaged wound, at last a lake full of the sky’s reflection. When the rose is blown and the petals part, they fill, as if fueling for the journey, with inner space, finally overflowing into the August days, until summer becomes ein Zimmer in einem Traum—a room in a dream. But it is “The Bowl of Roses” which remains Rilke’s great rose-poem.

"And aren’t they all that way? just self-containing,
if self-containing means: to transform the world
with its wind and rain and springtime’s patience
and guilt and restlessness and obscure fate
and the darkness of evening earth and even
the changing clouds, coming and going,
even the vague intercession of distant stars,
into a handful of inner life.

It now lies free of care in these open roses.”

- From: William H. Gass, Reading Rilke


From Wikipedia: Day of the Dead [ emphasis mine ]

People go to cemeteries to be with the souls of the departed and build private altars containing the favorite foods and beverages, as well as photos and memorabilia, of the departed. The intent is to encourage visits by the souls, so the souls will hear the prayers and the comments of the living directed to them. Celebrations can take a humorous tone, as celebrants remember funny events and anecdotes about the departed. 
Plans for the day are made throughout the year, including gathering the goods to be offered to the dead. During the three-day period families usually clean and decorate graves; most visit the cemeteries where their loved ones are buried and decorate their graves with ofrendas (offerings), which often include orange Mexican marigolds (Tagetes erecta) called cempasúchil (originally named cempoaxochitl, Nahuatl for "twenty flowers").
In modern Mexico this name is sometimes replaced with the term Flor de Muerto (Flower of Dead). These flowers are thought to attract souls of the dead to the offerings.

Mixtec ofrenda of Day of the Dead

Mexican cempasúchitl (marigold) is the traditional flower used at honor to the dead
Toys are brought for dead children (los angelitos, or "the little angels"), and bottles of tequila, mezcal or pulque or jars of atole for adults. Families will also offer trinkets or the deceased's favorite candies on the grave. Ofrendas are also put in homes, usually with foods such as candied pumpkin, pan de muerto ("bread of dead"), and sugar skulls and beverages such as atole. The ofrendas are left out in the homes as a welcoming gesture for the deceased. Some people believe the spirits of the dead eat the "spiritual essence" of the ofrendas food, so though the celebrators eat the food after the festivities, they believe it lacks nutritional value. Pillows and blankets are left out so the deceased can rest after their long journey. In some parts of Mexico such as the towns of Mixquic, Pátzcuaro and Janitzio, people spend all night beside the graves of their relatives. In many places people have picnics at the grave site, as well.


Notes 4/8/2017

I sometimes amuse myself by imaging highly memorable scenes from the Sonnets. There are two identical oak great chairs, carved with images of birds and snakes, sitting on either side of the an elaborately carved oak table which depicts scenes from Ovid's Metamorphosis.. The table is in the center of a room with one window looking out onto a cultivated Garden.

The Mother of the Young Man, knowing how much he adores the work of Shakespeare, has just introduced them to each other and left them alone to talk. Sonnets 1 to 126 are a record of their conversations and mark developments in their relationship.

Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southhampton

The Young Man is dressed in an pearlescent jerkin over which is a similarly toned doublet. There is a richly embroidered hanging ruff around his neck. The bottom his doublet is a patterned gold, with gold upper hose and beige nether hose. He has removed his gloves and shoes and sits askew in a chair, one leg draped over the arm, his legs apart, slumped down, lasciviously gazing upon Shakespeare with parted lips. Shakespeare is standing before him with a crooked smile, dressed plainly in black with a white collar. There is gold ring in his left ear. He seems hesitant to sit down. There is a pale white greyhound asleep on the floor.

Upon the table is a

Red Rose is a crystal vase
A black bowl of dried Rose Petals
A white bowl of unopened Rose Buds
A Silver Hand Mirror with a Narcissus molded upon the reverse.
A thick flesh colored beeswax Candle

Shakespeare explains to the Young Man the necessity for him to breed, to procreate. This is not merely to establish an heir for his family's fortunes, but to also honor and extend that Beauty the Young Man was born with.

Shakespeare pets the dog, the fine product of many generations of breeding.

From fairest creatures we desire increase

At the word "increase" the Young Man raises and eyebrow and openly caresses his crotch.

Shakespeare lifts the Rose and gives it to the Young Man, who puts it in his mouth and eats it, all the while holding Shakespeare's gaze.

That thereby beauty's rose might never die,

Shakespeare laughs sardonically and throws the bowl of dried rose petals at the Young Man. The petals collect beautifully in his long red hair.

But as the riper should by time decease,

Now Shakespeare takes one of the green Rose Buds and places it on his tongue. He approaches the Young Man, lowers to his mouth and tenderly slips the Rose Bud into it.

His tender heir might bear his memory:

Shakespeare pulls the Young Man up and kneeling down between his legs places the Hand Mirror in the Young Man's crotch.

But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes,

Now looking into the Mirror to catch the Young Man's eyes inside of it, Shakespeare places the thick flesh colored Candle upon the mirror so that it rises up like a burning cock.

Feed'st thy light's flame with self-substantial fuel,

Shakespeare takes the Young Man's hand and wraps it around the Candle, holds his own over it as he strokes the Candle up and down.

Making a famine where abundance lies,

Shakespeare removes his hand from the Young Man's and tilts the Candle until it spills creamy white wax over the Young Man's breeches. The Young Man gives a slight cry as the heat touches through the fabric. Shakespeare blows out the Candle.

Thy self thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel:

He places his hand around the Young Man's cock and suddenly clenches tight upon the hardening member. Like a dog on a leash, he pulls the Young Man up and leads him across the room to the window. Never releasing his hold in the hard cock, he turns the Young Man so that his back is to the window. Shakespeare kneels down with his face inches from the Young Man's cock. With a pull, the releases the Young Man's breeches and liberates the cock. It is huge, pulsing with lust.

Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament,

Outside in the Garden, the birds begin to sing in chorus, a beautiful melancholy song. Shakespeare takes the Young Man's cock into his mouth.

And only herald to the gaudy spring,

With his hands, Shakespeare is spreading apart the Young Man's ass and begins to insert the tightly folded Rose Buds into the Young Man's asshole. He takes his mouth off of the cock to say:

Within thine own bud buriest thy content,

The Young Man cannot take it anymore and shoots great arcs of pearly cum across the room, splattering the floor and walls.

Shakespeare shakes his head sadly and chides him:

And, tender churl, mak'st waste in niggarding:

But then he tenderly begins to lick and eat the cum as it continues to ooze from the Young Man's cock.

Pity the world, or else this glutton be,

He stands up, his mouth full of cum, and places the rich load into the Young Man's mouth,

To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.

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