Sunday, October 22, 2017

SONNET 10 HATE: For shame deny that thou bear'st love to any

Lucifer - Dore - source


For shame deny that thou bear'st love to any,
Who for thyself art so unprovident. 
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
But that thou none lovest is most evident; 
For thou art so possess'd with murderous hate 
That 'gainst thyself thou stick'st not to conspire.
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate 
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.
O, change thy thought, that I may change my mind!
Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love? 
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind, 
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove: 
    Make thee another self, for love of me,
    That beauty still may live in thine or thee.


SONNET INDEX

Mnemonic Image 

HATE

Again, like Shame, how do you figure Hate? Anger seems the obvious go to. But often, Hate is a quiet and hidden thing. Chaucer's "Smiler with the knife under his cloak." Hamlet's "one may smile, and smile, and be a villain." There are obscene hand gestures in all cultures for hatred. But what does the face of hatred, here a murderous hatred, resemble? What does self-hatred look like?


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Guy Fawkes - source


Memory Passage 

Beauty's ROSE solitary in a muddy World War I TRENCH. Reflecting in a GLASS (mirror) the face of the EXECUTOR, Death, who admires the FRAME of bone, adjusts it with his HAND to catch the SUN. Suddenly, the world is full of MUSIC (infinite octave) that fills Death with SHAME and then  HATE

Idiosyncratic Imagery

See the beautiful innocent child. Now the beautiful guilty Young Man, who sees himself as the portrait of Dorian Grey. The wretched image lies within. He alone sees it every day. He knows the ugliness of the true face of his soul. Now see the Poet, the Poet like no other. He is known through all time and place and the One Who Knows, who can see most clearly into the dark interior of all men, into their own private Heart of Darkness. The Poet is hired by the parents to persuade the Young Man to marry and conceive a child. The Poet is commissioned to write a series of sonnets urging procreation. This all goes well for seven days and seven sonnets until the Poet and the Young Man attend a wedding together. The Poet sees the Young Man is moved to sorrowful tears by the music of the ceremony. He speaks Sonnet 8 to the Young Man, singing of harmony, of a higher musical reality to the world, tells him this world, the superficial social world that so fascinates and enchants the Young Man, it is merely a world of shadows. But there is hope in that the Beauty which the Young Man contains within him, as a glass bottle contains a distilled perfume, will not be lost or wasted with his death, but will live on in the faces of his children. The Young Man makes no response and only continues to cry as the sorrowful music continues to fill the world around he and the Poet. The Poet now looks closer, deeper into the Young Man's soul. It is as if the Poet is now gazing upon the ruined inner portrait of the Young Man, the visual document of his secret depravities. The Poet, recoiling from the loathsome image of Beauty so defiled and defaced, speaks Sonnet 9. The Young Man has committed a murderous shame upon the image of his own beauty. The Young Man argues with the Poet. Who cares? What does it matter to you what I do with my own beauty? The Poet now speaks Sonnet 10 saying, the Young Man is now possessed with such a murderous hatred for himself and for what seems everyone in the world, that there may be no hope for him. But perhaps, the Young Man still has a measure of love for the Poet. And, if the Young Man will strive to make another Self, and to surrender this Ideal Self, Platonically, to the Poet to use as an Image of Beauty, then a monument might be built which will honor this Beauty and endure the degradations of Time.


Picture of Dorian Grey - Ivan Albright - source


Couplet Imagery

Make thee another self, for love of me,
    That beauty still may live in thine or thee.


The superficial and procreational interpretation is the encouraging of the Young Man to change his ways and produce a child-heir so his beauty shall endure. However, this sonnet is twinned closely with the previous which called the Young Man out for committing a murd'rous shame. The source of this shame was located in the Young Man's self-hatred (Vendler), that he must hate his own beauty if he does not want it to endure. Perhaps this self-hatred is due to a libertine lifestyle, where he engages in self-destructive (monstrous) behavior which he later regrets, or to a more profound sense of incompleteness and alienation, meaninglessness, in regards to the Neoplatonic One, the Godhead. Regardless, the Poet here steps onto the stage of the Sonnets for the first time to announce his own imperative request. Significantly, the numerological moment here is 10, marking completion and a new beginning. The Poet says, if you wish to persist in your decadent life-style and continue to wallow in your narcissistic self-hatred, then I insist that you make another self, a Platonic Self, for me. Allow me to use your Beautiful Self as an Ideal which I will celebrate through these sonnets, which shall act as vessels to contain this Beauty (much better than any spoiled child) and ensure their endurance for future times to conceive - denied as they will be of direct perception of you after your death.

Introductory

Consider the Edenic primal shame which is located in the act of disobedience to God's word: do not eat the Forbidden Fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. After the act, Adam and Eve experience shame and cover their genitals. Here is the sudden birth of conscience, a super-egoic creation, better or worser angels on our shoulders, that remind, chastise, goad, prod, whisper the mysteries of what is right and wrong. Here is the torment of temptation, of knowing what the right thing to do is and then to be tempted into doing the wrong thing. After surrendering to temptation, to defying conscience, comes shame's twin brother, guilt.

Consider the first murder, of Cain killing his brother Abel. Because Cain believed that God had turned away from him in favor of Abel, he betrayed his own blood, his own kind, and killed his brother. When God asked him where Abel was, Cain then lied to God.
And He said, "What have you done? Listen! your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil. And so, cursed shall you be by the soil that gaped with its mouth to take your brother's blood from your hand. If you till the soil, it will no longer give you strength. A restless wanderer shall you be on the earth." And Cain said to the Lord, "My punishment is too great to bear. Now that You have driven me this day from the soil I must hide from Your presence, I shall be a restless wanderer on the earth and whoever finds me will kill me." And the Lord said to him, "Therefore whoever kills Cain shall suffer sevenfold vengeance." And the Lord set a mark upon Cain so that whoever found him would not slay him." - Wikipedia
Both of these mythical acts sit with immense gravity as dark stars at the core of Western Culture. And both of these acts, of shameful disobedience and murderous betrayal, gave birth to a primal shame. All who were born even into the most nominal of Christian families, inherit this distant legacy of shame. We are Cain's children, "restless wanderers on the earth," hiding from God's presence, fearful of being killed and more fearful of being recognized for who we truly are: fallen creatures thrown away (Heidegger), forlorn from God, filled with anxiety, abandonment and despair (Sartre).

I quote again from Nussbaum's Hidden From Hunmanity, the Andrew Morrison passage, my emphasis:
"The essential narcissistic concern is a yearning for absolute uniqueness and sole importance to someone else, a "significant other." This yearning ... is signaled in patients by such statements as, "If I am not the only person important to [therapist or another], I feel like l am nothing." Such a feeling reverberates with primitive fantasies of symbiotic merger, omnipotence, and grandiosity, what Freud referred to as primary narcissism. Its emphasis is on the state and status of the self, and yet, paradoxically, it implies as well the prescience of an object for whom the self is uniquely special or who offers no competition or barriers to the self in meeting needs for sustenance.... Inevitably, shame follows narcissistic defeat. Patients have described the torment they have suffered from a perceived lack of specialness. "This humiliation is the most painful feeling I have ever experienced." ... [S]uch a yearning for uniqueness - by its very nature - can never be satisfied fully or for long."

What must it have been like to have William Shakespeare writing sonnets about you? The greatest writer of his day celebrating your beauty? Even admitting that Shakespeare wasn't as appreciated in his day as he is now (which is almost deified), it still must have been a tremendous honor to know you were the source, the inspiration, of such sublime poetry. But there is a dark side to this honor: the danger of being placed upon a pedestal by a mind now universally acknowledged to have had a uncannily singular, profound and a penetrating insight into the the inner workings and mysterious impluses of human nature. If there were anything false in your self, any pretense to your beauty, any cosmetic over your psyche, Shakespeare was surely going to quickly detect it. Shakespeare surely must have know this about himself. How many times had he already been disillusioned by others, by the great and powerful persons they pretended to be and the sad and weak beings they actually were? His understanding and insight into the motivations of duplicity inform almost all his plays in one way or another. So what chance does the Young Man have under the all seeing eye of Shakespeare's intellect? 

None. He is human all to human, like everyone else. Looking through the lens of time, there were few, if any, that could claim to be Shakespeare's equal, that could withstand the probing depth of that penetrating gaze. Perhaps, Marlowe. Edward de Vere. Raleigh. But all the evidence for any of the contemporary candidates for the Young Man shows no indications of superior intellect or spirituality. They are all models of physical beauty, but otherwise, somewhat hollow men, typical Elizabethan aristocrats of their time. (Of the Dark Lady, more might be said.) 

"Though the primary experience from which they started was, I believe, the Vision of Eros, that is, of course, not all they are about. For the vision to remain undimmed, it is probably necessary that the lover have very little contact with the beloved, however nice a person he (or she) may be. Dante, after all, only saw Beatrice once or twice, and she probably knew little about him. The story of the sonnets seems to me to be the story of an agonized struggle by Shakespeare to preserve the glory of the vision he had been granted in the relationship, lasting at least three years, with a person who seemed intent by his actions upon covering the vision with dirt." - W. H. Auden, Introduction to the Sonnets.

Following Auden's remarks here, Sonnets 9 and 10 mark the moment in the Sonnet narrative where Shakespeare perceived the Young Man has no idea of the meaning of his own beauty. His lifestyle even works to negate it. He has no sense of any sacred duty, whether that be in procreation or to any manner of union to a Neoplatonic One. He is merely a mindless entitled aristocratic hedonistic Narcissist who naturally takes it for granted the greatest living writer of his time would be inspired to invent sonnets about him. Shakespeare had to have been aware of this. So the Young Man's beauty became the occasion for Shakespeare to write a sonnet sequence exploring the nature of beauty and enduring fame over time, masterfully using the tools of poetry to construct a sublime monument to the beauty of the Young Man, ensuring its endurance for as long as human's are able to see and breathe, and at the height of philosophic irony, never mentioning the Young Man's name. (At least, un-cryptically.)

Here at Sonnet 10, Shakespeare as the Poet overtly enters the narrative drama of the Sonnet sequence. And under the guise of continuing to promote the procreation theme, he says, make another self for me to build a poetic monument to, so that Beauty, transcendental Beauty, may still find a living presence for those shall live after you. 


Q1:

For shame deny that thou bear'st love to any,
Who for thyself art so unprovident. 
Grant, if thou wilt, thou art beloved of many,
But that thou none lovest is most evident; 

So the scene here continues: the Wedding Party with the sorrowful music plays on. The Poet has just illustrated the source of the Young Man's tears as he listened to the merry music in Sonnet 8. Then as the Young Man seems to sink even deeper into sorrow, self-pity and adolescent self-hatred, dramatically predicting the fate of any wife of his would be to soon become a widow, the Poet adds some fire to his language, telling him he is guilty of a murd'rous shame upon himself. Why do you say that? asks the alarmed Young Man. Because you do not even know your own Beauty, you hate your own Beauty, replies the Poet. You are hatefully turning away from your sacred duty to the transcendental idea of Beauty, from a union with the One, the Godhead.

Note here, Q1 begins, significantly with Shame. The tendency is to glide past this same as a component of a colloquialism, Shame on you! But the murd'rous shame is still ringing in the ear. This is the primal shame of disobedience and betrayal. Hear it loud and angry in the Poet's voice: Shame on you, you Adam, you Cain, who disobey and betray and lie! Just try to deny that you love anyone! You can barely bear the music's harmony. You show no care for that divine beauty which you now hold, perhaps tenuously, in your heedless possession. You are an ignorant fool who holds the greatest treasure in his hands and treats it like dirt. Sure, it is granted that many love you, charmed as they are by your outward beauty. But you are so Narcissistically enwrapped within your self, it is impossible for you to love anyone.

Q2:

For thou art so possess'd with murderous hate 
That 'gainst thyself thou stick'st not to conspire.
Seeking that beauteous roof to ruinate 
Which to repair should be thy chief desire.

Now, here in Q2, murderous shame is alchemized in an alembic of adolescent resentment to murderous hate. Kerrigan glosses possess'd as "though invaded by devils." These devils, daemonic voices of dark conscience, whispering inside the Young Man's mind, that he has no cause to suffer shame. He screams back at the Poet: "Cain had good reason to kill Abel. He shouldn't have been ashamed of what he did. Damn the God that cursed him and sent out to wander in the wilderness! Shame is an emotion more suitable for peasants, as means for the nobility to control the masses. I takes pride in my birth and title! I was born with more gifts than others! I am beyond shame!"

The Poet replies: "You are not beyond shame, you selfish ignorant child, through your wrath and resentment, you have merely turned it into hatred. Hatred for others and yourself. You no waste no time in ruining yourself in idle pleasures, carousing and drink. And you dishonor not only your own beauty, but the honor of your House, your family, that which granted you birth and whose lineage you now have petulantly chosen to end. Your utmost desire should be to repair, to become a father, (re pere, Booth), the roof of your House, your Family Name. Instead, your desire is common: more wine, more women, more song."

Q3:

O, change thy thought, that I may change my mind!
Shall hate be fairer lodged than gentle love? 
Be, as thy presence is, gracious and kind, 
Or to thyself at least kind-hearted prove: 

O, cries the Poet in a sudden change of tone, moving from argument to lament, change your thinking about this! Your beauty is still radiant and shows no sign of the abuse you have heaped upon it in your youthful indiscretions. Change your thought and I will happily change my mind about you. I don't want to think of you as full of a shame that has mutated to hate! I don't want to see that hatred has found a home in you. Close your eyes and realize that within you, the source of all that is beautiful in you, is a presence of the Divine, the One, of God. Tune yourself to this presence and be gracious and kind, honoring your family and friends. And most especially, be kind to yourself, do not hate and resent the sacred and familial duties of the beauty that is within you, but practice acceptance and love towards your innermost self. Here is where you will find true harmony.

Couplet:

   Make thee another self, for love of me,
    That beauty still may live in thine or thee.

Know how much I love you, how I honor the Beauty which you manifest as an emanation of the Neoplatonic One. Work with me to construct an Other, an Ideal Imago, a Platonic Self, to endure through time, an incorruptible representation of Beauty that will continue to instruct and inspire me in the making of this poetic monument and others in their desire for beauty in their lives, now and throughout all the ages to come.



Saturday, October 21, 2017

SONNET 9 SHAME - Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye

Cain - Henri Vidal - source

Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye,
That thou consum'st thy self in single life?
Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;
The world will be thy widow and still weep
That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
When every private widow well may keep
By children's eyes, her husband's shape in mind:
Look what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it;
But beauty's waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unused the user so destroys it.
   No love toward others in that bosom sits
   That on himself such murd'rous shame commits.


SONNET INDEX


Allegories of Shame - The Five-Headed Monster
source


Mnemonic Image 

SHAME

But how to imagine Shame? What is the image here? Perhaps everyone has their own private scene. But it's a difficult concept to figure, especially in relation to Sonnet 9.

The description for the contemporary philosopher Martha Nussbaum's book, Hiding from Humanity Disgust, Shame, and the Law [google books link], offers insight:

Martha Nussbaum argues that we should be wary of these emotions [shame and disgust] because they are associated in troubling ways with a desire to hide from our humanity, embodying an unrealistic and sometimes pathological wish to be invulnerable. Nussbaum argues that the thought-content of disgust embodies "magical ideas of contamination, and impossible aspirations to purity that are just not in line with human life as we know it." She argues that disgust should never be the basis for criminalizing an act, or play either the aggravating or the mitigating role in criminal law it currently does. She writes that we should be similarly suspicious of what she calls "primitive shame," a shame "at the very fact of human imperfection," and she is harshly critical of the role that such shame plays in certain punishments.
And this is from the book itself:
Where in this history should we locate shame? I can approach this topic by introducing yet one more classical myth, the story of the origins of love as told by Aristophanes in Plato's Symposium, which builds on the Classic Golden age story. Human being were once whole and round, says Aristophanes. Our spherical shape was the outward image of our totality and power. We were "awe-inspiring in force and strength," and had "great ambitions." Humans, in consequence, assailed the gods, with the aim of establishing their control over the universe as a whole. Instead of wiping us out completely, Zeus simply, making us "weaker," made us humans - creating for us the conditions of need, insecurity and incompleteness that sets an unbridgeable gulf between us and the gods. He accomplished the change by cutting the spherical beings in two, so that they walked on two legs - and then he turned their faces around so they would always have to look at the cut part of themselves. Incompleteness is revealed to us then by the very form of our bodies, with their pointy jutting limbs, their oddly naked front parts, their genitalia that betray our need for one another. The navel represents the gods sewing together what they have cut, and is thus a memorial of our former suffering (mnemeion tou palaiou pathous). The people of the myth are ashamed of the way they are now. (Indeed, the Greek word for genitalia, aidoia, contains an allusion to shame, aidos.) Aristophanes small detail about the navel suggests that the myth is not about sexuality per se, but is intended to capture the traumatic character of birth into a world of objects: for of course what the navel really reminds us of is out separation from the sources of nutrition and comfort and the beginning of a needy life.  
Thus, Artistophanes portrays shame as a painful emotion grounded in the recognition of our own non-omnipotence and lack of control, and he suggests the memory or vestigial sense of an original omnipotence and completeness underlie the painful emotion as it manifests itself in life. We sense we ought to be whole, and maybe once were whole - and we know that we now are not. We sense that we ought to be round, and we see that we are jagged and pointy, and soft and wrinkled. The way in which the speech connects sex and shame seems deeply perceptive: primitive shame is not about sex per se, but about sexual need as one sign of a more general neediness and vulnerability. It seems plausible that Aristophanes is right: a kind of primitive shame at the very fact of being human and nonwhole underlies the more specific types of shame that we later feel about handicaps and inadequacies. 

She quotes Andrew Morrison in a passage which has particular relevance to the sonnets:

"The essential narcissistic concern is a yearning for absolute uniqueness and sole importance to someone else, a "significant other." This yearning ... is signaled in patients by such statements as, "If I am not the only person important to [therapist or another], I feel like l am nothing." Such a feeling reverberates with primitive fantasies of symbiotic merger, omnipotence, and grandiosity, what Freud referred to as primary narcissism. Its emphasis is on the state and status of the self, and yet, paradoxically, it implies as well the prescience of an object for whom the self is uniquely special or who offers no competition or barriers to the self in meeting needs for sustenance.... Inevitably, shame follows narcissistic defeat. Patients have described the torment they have suffered from a perceived lack of specialness. "This humiliation is the most painful feeling I have ever experienced." ... [S]uch a yearning for uniqueness - by its very nature - can never be satisfied fully or for long."

Here you can imagine the primary narcissism of the Young Man coupled with a "yearning for absolute uniqueness and sole importance" to the Poet. There is also a persuasive argument for the reversal of these roles. However, Shakespeare, as the philosophically ironic voice behind the Poet, manifests a steady intentionality to this dialectic. He is the therapist here, eliciting response, goading and leading the Young Man out of crisis.

The Young Man, in denial and active negation of his Beauty, is turning his back on the path, the Great Chain of Being, that leads to union with the Neoplatonic One, Godhead. There is a sacred duty that he owes to the Beauty manifested within him, to the Quintessence of Divinity contained within him. He must return this quintessence to the Godhead. Instead, he distracts himself in superficial dramas and a life of petty intrigues, amusing himself in the ephemeral world of fleeting sensation and pleasure. Here is the root of the murderous shame. He, like Cain, has turned his back on God, on the possibility of returning to the source of his nourishment and security. And while he may not understand this yet, if he does not lose his mind (Dorian Grey), he will one day know that he betrayed himself and, in doing so, was a traitor to God. By turning away from God, from union, unison, wholeness, he turned back towards a life of Shame.


Leave the Shame Behind - Chris Peters - source


Memory Passage 


Beauty's ROSE solitary in a muddy World War I TRENCH. Reflecting in a GLASS (mirror) the face of the EXECUTOR, Death, who admires the FRAME of bone, adjusts it with his HAND to catch the SUN. Suddenly, the world is full of MUSIC (infinite octave) that fills Death with SHAME


Couplet Imagery

    No love toward others in that bosom sits
   That on himself such murd'rous shame commits.

It is clear from the Young Man's actions, his responses to music, that he does not love any other, nor it seems does he even love himself. Perhaps due to his dissolute lifestyle, he is blinded to his own beauty, especially after shameful acts, where he perhaps sees himself as a monster. The Poet says, this is a shame where you are effectively murdering all your children before they are born, allowing them to languish as unplanted seeds upon your bedsheets. But more so, this is a shame where you are neglecting the responsibilities of your Beauty, not only to your future family, but to the Neoplatonic One, the Godhead, that from which your Beauty derives and is nourished by - not matter how much you deny it.


Is this Shame? - Michelangelo



Introductory

Helen Vendler calls this sonnet a "Fantasy on the Letter W", staking a portion of her claim on the quarto spelling of widdow. So in the spirit of her masterful close readings, I propose the sonnet be read in the voice of Elmer Fudd or the comedic caricature of Barbara Walters, Baba Wawa. I prefer Elmer as such,

Is iwt fow fwear to wet a widow's weye,
That wou conwum'st wy swelf in swingle wife?
Ah! if wou issuewess shawlt hap to dwie,
The world will wail whee wike a makewess wife;
The world will be why widow and still weep
That wou no fowrm of wee hast weft behind,
When ewery prwivate widow well may kweep
By chiwdren's eywes, hewr husband's swhape in mwind:
Wook what an untwhriwft in the world dwoth spwend
Shwifts but hwis pwace, fow stwill the world enjwoys iwt;
Bwut bweauty's waste hath in the worwd an ewnd,
And kwept unwused the uwser swo destwroys iwt.
   No wove toward owthers in thwat bwosom swits
   Thwat on himswelf swuch murdw'rous shwame commits.

Agreed it is extreme. And funny. But it does serve to bring into a higher sonic relief all of the w, u, v, l, ou, eau sounds. A vibrato wuh wuh wuh reverbs in the interior music of the poem. Reread the un-Elmered poem now, listen to those latent Ws sing. (Even better in the Quarto spelling.) But to what end? Perhaps as Paterson (who believes the sonnet to be rubbish) coyly(?) alludes, it was only to leave a lot of Ws in the poem. Get it? W.S. Pissing all over the poem for no good reason perhaps other than to mark his territory. Vendler sees it as a contrast between the sins of commission in the octave and sins of commission in the sestet. I get that. There is certainly a strong turn between the two, moving from the issueless Young Man, the widow and her children to the unthrift spending money.

For the purposes of memorization, however, in the context of the entire sequence, and my own self taking no small delight in The Story, made-up as much of it may be, but no less far-fetched than many many others, I believe this sonnet and the following are the first signs of Shakespeare seeing more in the Young Man than a simple commission, a handful of coin for a handful of sonnets. Call it infatuation, call it falling in love. But after reciting this sonnet by memory hundreds of times, hearing all the echoes of the sonnets that precede it, it is unsettling to get to the couplet with its "murderous shame". That's intense. You imagine the Young Man's mother catching him in the act of masturbation, his heir worthy ejaculate splattered over his bare chest, hysterically shrieking: How dare you commit such murderous shame upon yourself! It is worth noting the Elizabethans believed that every time a man ejaculates, he takes a certain number of hours or days off of his life (which in itself would make an fascinating morality tale: the Young Man who masturbates so much he begins to regress in age).

The sonnet presents a weak argument for procreation to the Young Man Virile. I can't image he has much concern for wetting a widow's eye, be it his or any other man's. Or even that he much cares about the world wailing over his dead corpse like a makeless, husbandless, wife. And even if he does have a wife and children, there is cold comfort in knowing she will be better off being able to remember his beauty in the snot nosed, sniveling, bawling spoiled children he will leave behind. The sense I get is that Shakespeare, through his intimate interactions with the Young Man, realizes the "you will have immortality through bearing children" argument is weak. He himself, the Poet, is being seduced by the profound beauty of his subject. The Poet has begun to idolize the Beauty, capital B, of the Young Man.

Thus, the octave theme of making the widow weep, the world wail, and the faint hope in beauty being passed on through children's eye seems pro forma. Boilerplate Shakespeare, if you will. The sestet is much more interesting as it essentially says that beauty's currency is not the same as money, quality is not the same as quantity. The Unthrift spends his money to another's gain, no quantity of money is lost in the world. But Beauty's Waste (evocative phrase, cf. S129) is a loss. If the quality of Beauty's "treasure"(S6) is not "spent" (cf. S4 and S129), is not "deposited" into the womb of a woman (S3), then it is, effectively, destroyed.

Or... or perhaps there is another way to memorialize this beauty for future ages...  But in that case, if the Young Man's beauty is to be used as a muse wherein it may be alchemized, transmuted, from base flesh, leaden body, to an ideal golden spirit, then the Young Man himself must be "idealized" in a rigorous Neoplatonic sense. The Poet needs to have the Young Man create another self, a Platonic Self, that can be "aesthetisized " (Vendler) through poetry into an enduring, transcendental form - which is precisely what S10 seeks to do.


Berlinde De Bruyckere - V. Eeman - source

Q1:

Is it for fear to wet a widow's eye,
That thou consum'st thy self in single life?
Ah! if thou issueless shalt hap to die,
The world will wail thee like a makeless wife;

Figure the scene extending from the previous sonnet. The Young Man's soul remains stilled by the echoes of the sorrowful music. The Poet's words conjure images of the happy harmonious family in the Young Man's heart. But this only makes the Young Man more melancholy. He knows that death comes to all things. And even if he marries and has a child, he will one day die. Just thinking on this sorrow, on the sorrows of his dying, on the sorrows of his wife, on those of his children, is enough to dissuade him from ever involving himself with another.

He tells this to the Poet, who, hearkening back to Sonnet 1 and the line,

But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,

tells the Young Man: your reflexive self-love, your Narcissistic self-absorption, feeds upon itself for the brightness of your beauty. You are burning yourself out in this isolated singularity. Here the wasting of semen in the masturbatory acts of self-love, is relevant. The Poet warns the Young Man if he dies before any of his semen / treasure / beauty is put to good use, well-spent, the entire world will morn, like a wife with no husband, for such a tragic loss. I imagine a vast chorus of uneared, unplanted wombs all crying out for the Young Man's seed, vaginal mouths wailing for the loss of being able to bear the Young Man's child, like the Trojan Woman beating their uteruses in lament for all the dead children spilled upon the infertile sheets of the Young Man's bed. Note the Elizabethans believed the man alone was responsible for all the genetic character of the child. The woman merely provided the womb for it to grow, as a seed is planted into fertile soil.


Q2:

The world will be thy widow and still weep
That thou no form of thee hast left behind,
When every private widow well may keep
By children's eyes, her husband's shape in mind:

All these Ws: world, will, widow, weep, when, widow, well. There may be a fanciful case to be made (cf. Robert Irwin) for a "double you" - the child as a living mimetic reproduction. Here in Q2, the imagery is only amplified. Alliteration assists in memorization and also metered time and rhyme. Note the double widow: thy widow and every private widow. Private is odd. Booth stretches to suppose Shakespeare is working a macaronic pun on the etymological root of private in privare, to bereave. Hmm. It works more as a contrastive structure, your widow has no child, no form of you to sooth her grief over your death, while even an ordinary widow is able to see her husband in her children's faces and, one hopes, find some non-incestual solace there.

Q3:

Look what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it;
But beauty's waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unused the user so destroys it.

The Unthrifty Lovliness from S4 returns as the Prodigal Unthrift. Perhaps in the Wedding Party there is another man who the Poet points out to the Young Man. They watch as he hands out gifts of cash and coin to the bride and groom and the rest of the wedding party. Look at that Unthrift, the Poet says, his money simply moves from one pocket to another. There's no loss of Money overall in the world. But Beauty, says the Poet, looking at the Young Man, Beauty such as you possess, if it is not used, it is lost, destroyed, food for worms (S6), etc.. Do not waste your Beauty. Such a lovely phrase: beauty's waste hath in the world an end. Even the corollary: beauty's use hath in the world no end. After all the weeping of widows and children with their father's faces, the image of the Prodigal Unthrift, the lovely beauty's waste, destroys comes down hard in the ear. Preparation for the severe couplet perhaps.

Couplet:

  No love toward others in that bosom sits
   That on himself such murd'rous shame commits.

The Poet is no longer pulling his punches here. Maybe he's sick of the melancholy Young Man sitting sadly listening to the music, bemoaning the sorrow his widow might suffer. The intimacy and impertinence are arresting. You have no love for any other, the Poet says. Do you know how I know that? Because you commit upon yourself a Murderous Shame! I see the Young Man stirring from his sullen slouch. Wait! What do you mean? Where did that come from? What murder? What shame? I'm just sad and now you're throwing all of this at me. What does this mean?

It means, the Poet, tells him: you hate yourself because you are negating your own Beauty.



Cain with Bird - Henri Vidal - source

Thursday, October 19, 2017

MUSICA 1 GYPSY: Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20 (Gypsy Airs), Pablo de Sarasate, 1878





Of all the great versions of Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen, the one that resonates most profoundly for me is by Rusanda Panfili on violin and Donka Angatscheva on piano, recorded live at the Bank Austria Salon in Vienna, Austria. Of course the focused intensity of Panfili is supreme, but also the elegant Viennese Salon, the enigmatic grace of Donka Angatscheva, their beautiful attire, the sense of the intimate presence of the sound. There is a hot blooded vitality to the interiority of the Zigeunerweisen here, a throbbing Pulse.

I hasten to add that I am mostly musically illiterate and my impressions are extensions and extrapolations from my understandings of poetry. And while I have a layman's appreciation for the mathematical virtuosity of Bach's music, it sings to my head and not to my heart. Sarasate's Zigeunerweisen, with its virtuosic  evocations of a romantic passion, sexually charged dances around a fiery ring, whether this be some Western fantasy of the Romani or a more occluded archetype of desire that throbs in the spine, this music spins up the valence of the mind to the utmost limit of listening. At times (e.g. after the 2:00 mark, Lento), it feels as if the violin bow of time is being drawn over the taught strung and shivered nerves of the brain, lifting pleasure ever higher, higher and higher into the fractal flames of the infinite. The piece is a musical allegory of longing and desire, of ever reaching towards and never touching, even though the heat sears the flesh from your bones.




The rare recording of Sarasate himself performing the piece is wonderful, but it lacks, for better or worse, the chrome-like reflectivity of 21st century modernity. Sarasate's performance of his own piece registers on the ear as the flickering vignette of silent film works its nostalgic persistence upon the eye; whereas Panfili and Angatscheva's performance is in such a high definition that it seems supra-real, with diamond edges, whose notes pierce straight into the deep limbic areas of the brain, licking a forked tongue of fire over the core pleasure centers.




After Panfili, this particular performance by Sarah Chang works for me. Her haughty and icy demeanor combine with the rough whisky raspy tone in her violin to engage my fascination in the way a woman in an elegant gown and high-heels walking across a high-wire would. I was particularly moved by her performance of the third section, un poco più lento.




Anne Sophie Mutter's version is sublime, amazing in its precision. Of all the full symphonic versions, this has such an aching depth to it.




Itzhak Perlman's performance is stunning, endlessly listenable. But the recording itself, at least on my inferior equipment, seems muted, lacks intimacy. I feel the same way about the great Jascha Heifetz.







There's a magnetism to this intense performance by Bojidara Kouzmanova, the grin, smile and smirk of her mouth reflecting triumph and sorrow in the performance and the music. There are novels to be written on the facial expression of great musicians as they perform difficult musical works.

***

There is a Kintsugi about the raw live performance of a piece of difficult music that spotlights a virtuoso musician. What flaws I notice only enhance the experience, imagining all the years of training, the hours and hours of practice of the piece, and the performance with it's inevitable human errors. There's a breathing being inside that performance, with sweat and tears and blood threading through the pristine perfections of the music like broken bands of gold.


From Wikipedia: Kintsugi:

"Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise." [...]
"Kintsugi can relate to the Japanese philosophy of "no mind", which encompasses the concepts of non-attachment, acceptance of change and fate as aspects of human life.
"Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated... a kind of physical expression of the spirit of mushin.... Mushin is often literally translated as "no mind," but carries connotations of fully existing within the moment, of non-attachment, of equanimity amid changing conditions. ...The vicissitudes of existence over time, to which all humans are susceptible, could not be clearer than in the breaks, the knocks, and the shattering to which ceramic ware too is subject. This poignancy or aesthetic of existence has been known in Japan as mono no aware, a compassionate sensitivity, or perhaps identification with, [things] outside oneself.” 
- Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics


Kintsugi - source

Wikipedia: Zigeunerweisen

Zigeunerweisen (Gypsy Airs), Op. 20, is a musical composition for violin and orchestra written in 1878 by the Spanish composer Pablo de Sarasate. It was premiered the same year in Leipzig, Germany. It is based on themes of the Roma people, and in the last section the rhythms of the csárdás; this section uses a theme previously used in Franz Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 13, composed in 1847.
Zigeunerweisen is in one movement but can be divided into four sections, the first three in the key of C minor and the last in A minor, based on the tempi: 
Moderato – An imposing, virtuosic introduction with slow majestic energy by the orchestra, then a little softer by the violin itself. 
Lento – The violin plays in lugubrious lento 4/4. This section has an improvisational quality; the melody, which essentially consists of pairs of 4-bar phrases, is punctuated with difficult runs and other technically demanding figures, including flying spiccato and ricochet bowings. 
Un poco più lento – The muted soloist plays a melancholic melody with the so-called reverse-applied dotted note (1/16 + dotted 1/8 rhythm: sixteenth noteeighth note.), akin to the "Mannheim sigh" of the classical era; in 2/4 time. 
Allegro molto vivace – At this point, the piece becomes extremely rapid. The challenging solo part consists mainly of long spiccato runs, along with double stops, artificial harmonics and left-hand pizzicato; in 2/4 time. 


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

MUSICA 7: Piano Concerto No. 1 by Rachmaninov / Khatia Buniatishvili




Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor, Op. 23. 
Then, Franz Liszt – Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 in C-sharp minor, S.244/2, Horowitz version. 
Conductor: Zubin Mehta.


The relationship between the conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra , Zubin Mehta, and the Georgian classical pianist, Khatia Buniatishvili, reminds me of the Renaissance motif of Death and the Maiden, with flashing aspects of Persephone and Hades. No offense to Mehta, whose 80th birthday was celebrated at the beginning of the piece (April 11, 2016). The towering presence of the conductor as Death seems at times unable to control the overflowing super-abundance of the pianist as Love. It amuses me to hold this frame of reference in mind and watch the drama between the two unfold in a gestural language conveyed through face and hand. Note that I am certain this reading has no basis in reality and is only an exercise in figuration for my own idiosyncratic memorization purposes.

Khatia preceeds Mehta on to the stage. She is dressed in what, at first, seems a fairly conservative black dress, but later reveals itself to be quite sensual, transparently exposing the side of her hip and leg. Ever the gentleman, Mehta follows at a respectable distance behind, ascends the podium. Khatia makes a graceful bow to the audience. Mehta starts the piece with a deeply focused countenance and vigorous movements of his baton. The orchestra sounds out the initial theme, then Mehta turns to Khatia, who dramatically pounds out the huge chords with sable hair whipping around her head, a tight smile of utter mastery and confidence. Several times she looks up to Mehta as she is playing like an innocent child nurturing a frighteningly precocious talent, saying, this is nothing, easy. She lifts her face again, eyes wide, chin held up with what now might be construed as a disdainful contempt. Death is may be setting the stage and bending furious energies to structure the time, but Love knows otherwise and is patiently waiting, gathering her strength. She plays her part with perfection but adds a note of intensity, threatening, as always, to spill out over the top of the music.

With Rubinsteins' criticisms in mind, that there are parts where "even the greatest virtuoso is glad to survive unscathed," Khatia appears fearless, playing with a blurring fluidity of skill and effortless grace. At 3:38, her dramatic gesture feels as if she were returning, temporarily bestowing, the power to Mehta, whose conducting is now more restrained. Perhaps Death senses the shift in power as Love has begun to display her startling energy. I see Mehta sort of glancing at her out of the corner of his eye, as if a powerful black leopardess had suddenly manifested itself on the piano bench, unchained.

Khatia's performance gains again in intensity here she throws her head back time and again, hammering the keys, wrestling playfully with the orchestra, showing dominance. I love the sequence of her expressions from 5:09, just after her fingers have walked like restless dancing spiders over the ivory keys, her inward intensities darkening her features, then her willful return to the moment, the settling of her brow in acknowledgement that there is this musical drama to be enacted, a drama she knows she will emerge from triumphantly, her head rolling back slightly on her neck, granting presence again to the other musicians. Then, after sitting poised and proper for a moment, she begins to dutifully play her role, smiling like a good pianist (see 6:04), but then proceeds to invest the piece with an air of incipient chaos which boils up within her playing, herself popping off the bench, but never fully manifests, remaining as a dark rumbling between the notes. At 6:22, Mehta as Death with his arms down and a look of resignation on his face.

That shared look between them at 6:52 speaks volumes. Death indicating he knows she is playing the game at a higher level than he is used to or ever expected. Love gazing back with even composure. I imagine the scene when the male leopard, proudly returning with a rabbit he has just killed, sees the she leopard resting in the tree with a huge gazelle draped over the branch next to her. He is slightly winded, but now utterly deflates. She is not even noticeable breathing, her lids resting serenely over her eyes, meditating upon his weakness.

Than at 7:08, with that wry turn of the head, she takes demonstrates her full powers and strength. Death who thought he held the Maiden in his arms, now finds himself, being held against the wall by Love, who needs to teach, rather remind, him of a few things. Her self-enraptured emotionality as she performs this passage is hypnotic, like gazing upon the face of Love as Love gazes upon herself. As she finishes this meditation, she again looks up to Death and cedes time back to him. Death listens, sees, accepts his place, and the real Dance begins. At 7:47, Love finally looks upon Death with respect, with admiration, with love. She takes up her part again almost as an afterthought, quiet prefatory musical phrases of compressed musical language, now expanding under the compelling authority of Death. Khatia looks back and forth from Death to the ivory keys, her fingers dancing seeming of their own will, possessed by charged currency of the shared musical world between her and the conductor, here triumphant in time. The momentary resolution arrived at just before 9:20 feels orgasmic. Her hair now over her face, her head turned to the side but vision still momentarily occluded, the veins on her neck fashioning letters of a holy language under the luminous sheets of her skin as she weights the keys at the lightest degree to still sound. As the orchestra resumes, she composes herself beautifully, smiling towards the other musicians. Death and the Maiden uncovering unison with the other amidst the community of music.

At 10:17, listening to the woodwinds, she begins this fluttering dance over the keys, flights of birds, water over rock. Mehta seems intoxicated with musical ecstasy. The strings swirl up the musical wind. At 11:02, Khatia is watching, waiting to see what sort of cyclone they are fashioning. Mehta is alive with energy. At 11:30, she comments in kind, her hands perfected hammers, reestablishing her own time within the orchestra's newly fashioned sphere, then slowing slowing down to gentle pressures, each note a drop of water falling under the weight of its own suspended tension.



Death and the Maiden -  Lenkiewicz - source

Death and the Maiden - Munch

Death and the Maiden - Hans Baldung - source

Dance of Death - Holbein - source



The work is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in B-flat, two bassoons, four horns in F, two trumpets in F, three trombones (two tenor, one bass), timpani, solo piano, and strings.
The concerto follows the traditional form of three movements:
1. Allegro non troppo e molto maestoso – Allegro con spirito (B-flat minor – D-flat major – B-flat minor – A-flat major – ambiguous key – B-flat minor – B-flat major – ambiguous key – B-flat major)
2. Andantino semplice – Prestissimo (D-flat major – D minor – D-flat major)

3. Allegro con fuoco (B-flat minor – D-flat major – ambiguous key – B-flat minor – B-flat major)
A standard performance lasts between 30 and 35 minutes, the majority of which is taken up by the first movement.




Sunday, October 15, 2017

SONNET 8 MUSIC: Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?


Allegory of Music - Laurent de La Hyre - source

The allegorical figure tunes a theorbo. At her shoulder is a songbird, symbol of natural music,
whereas by contrast she may be a representation of modern music theory and practice.
To the right are various contemporary instruments and scores:
a lute, a violin, two recorders, a vocal exercise, and a song in two parts.

Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear. 
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
   Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
   Sings this to thee: 'Thou single wilt prove none.'


SONNET INDEX

Mnemonic Image: an octave of MUSIC; sideways infinity ∞

Note: The only two sonnets which concern music are Sonnets 8 and 128. See Fred Blick's Number symbolism in Shakespeare's Sonnets 8 and 128 Pythagoras, Perfect Numbers, Triangular numbers and Musical Harmony for a deep analysis of the musical and mathematical relation between the two.

Memory Passage: Beauty's ROSE solitary in a muddy World War I TRENCH. Reflecting in a GLASS (mirror) the face of the EXECUTOR, Death, who admires the FRAME of bone, adjusts it with his HAND to catch the SUN. Suddenly, the world is full of MUSIC (infinite octave).

Idiosyncratic Imagery: The Young Man hears the sublime music of the spheres resonant throughout his being. He knows intuitively he is the physical manifestation of the Neoplatonic One. The music through its harmonies sorrowfully reminds him of his divided self, the lack of harmony between his physical, emotional and intellectual / spiritual aspects. He is like the Steppenwolf, always at war with himself. And while the music has the capacity to transport him, similar to the effect of music upon Harry Haller and the vision of the Golden Track, the music also gives him a heightened self-consciousness of his own inner divisions. The Young Man follows the Poet's analogies. Perhaps there is a Golden Path towards self-harmony through marriage and children, but he doubts this path is for him. He suspects the Poet also does not entirely endorse this path for him, that there is philosophical static in between the stations of father, mother, child and the speechless song sung by the three as one. The logical anatomizing of music into a familial triad (as the elements of a chord) is weak, as is the premise that it takes three to sing, to harmonize with, the transcendental harmony.

Couplet Imagery:

   Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
   Sings this to thee: 'Thou single wilt prove none.'

The three musical notes of the Father, the Mother and the Child in unison, compose a harmonious chord which sounds as One speechless song. This song causes sorrow in the Young Man because he comprehends its ineffable meaning: knowing as long as he remains single, he will never attain this harmonious union, never be able to participate in this familial music. Also, a play on the sense in which one was not considered a number.

Booth notes the pun of none as nun - a barren womb; but also subtler notes of an implicit sacrifice of sexuality for God, nuns are the Brides of Christ, mystically betrothed.

Note the Neoplatonic theme of Oneness. The three seem one by making music together. Perhaps an implicit relief in knowing the Young Man, through music, can do the same for himself, solipsistically. Also the interpretative tension in singleness being none.





Q1:

Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?


Music to hear is an epithet for the Young Man. The ghost of the Muse here embedded. The Poet is disarming though, saying in effect: You yourself, with your beauty and grace, in speech and thought, you are music. So why does this music make you so sad?  (cf. Merchant of Venice: "I am never merry when I hear sweet music.")

There are three visual elements to this scene: the music being played, the Young Man listening and the Poet observing the Young Man as he listens. I imagine the Young Man is demonstrably sad: tears falling down his face. The Poet says to him: You are like music yourself. Why does this music make you sad? Knowing the Young Man's love for the "common wisdom" of proverbs, the Poet explains, sweet creatures do no make war with other sweet creatures, and joy by its very nature delights in more joy. As you are a sweet and joyful music yourself, why do you make war and take no delight in the sweet and joyful music being played?

As several commentators have punily remarked, via the MoV, the scene here can be imagined as a marriage ceremony where the music is merry.

Then, knowing how the Young Man is amused by sexual metaphors, the Poet asks him why he is not glad and seems even annoyed by that which he usually loves to receive, to open himself up to, to allow himself to be penetrated by? Graphically: you usually love to be fucked by the music just as you love to be fucked by other men, what is it about this particular fucking that bothers you? (With an undertone here that recreational acts of sodomy are not as socially harmonious as procreational acts of breeding.)

The Old Guitarist - Picasso - source

Q2:

If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear. 

Concord
, "with hearts together", well-tuned, true, strings stretched into harmonious relationships with each other (Plato). It is through this musical relationship, union, unison, that they are married.

I see the Young Man responding to the Poet's question about why the music makes him sad with a sullen poet, saying simply, "It offends my ear."

And Q2 is the Poet's reply. Note the elaboration of

true concord
well-tuned sounds
unions married

Vendler writes: "This sort of logical division of a single entity into multiple (and therefore elaboratable) aspects is one of Shakespeare's most common inventive moves, widely shared with his contemporaries and borrowed of course from commonplace logical training."

It is mnemonically helpful here to align these elaborations into the corresponding Neoplatonic transcendental categories:

true concord - Truth
well-tuned sounds - Beauty
unions married - Goodness

Thus, the Poet is reminding the Young Man, who will later be represented in the sequence as the unknowing avatar of the One, that through inner alignments and tunings, these separate aspects now have the voice to rebuke and reprimand him. Their claim is that the sorrow and annoyance he feels is due to his confounding singularity. Note that s was printed as f in the Quarto and there would have been a visual pun in con-sounds.  Much has been said about confounds here. (See Paterson below.)  Most helpful is to understand it as "a mixing up" or "a pouring together". Interpretative tension in that this singleness is comprised of separate elements which have been improperly mixed together by the Young Man. Perhaps implying that his Narcissistic inwardly turned illuminations of Truth, Beauty and Goodness produce a false sense of selfish Oneness and represent a neglect of the social parts, responsibilities, that he should bear. (Note another typographical pun in bear / hear which is prompted by the rhyme with ear. Also a latent sense of bear as in bear children.) Perhaps there is also an indication of self division, an inner dis-harmony.

The scenario of the Wedding Party is resonant. This ceremony between two people in front of family, friends and neighbors is vital to the integrity and strength of the community. The two make an oath, swear to stand by their words - until death do they part - in the presence and under the implicit authority of their immediate social world. (cf. Wendell Berry, Standing by Words and In the County of Marriage.) The meaning and value of the language is thus authorized and underwritten in this most basic of social contracts and ceremonies.

The Poet is telling the Young Man if he would "bear up" to his social responsibilities, as a husband and then a father, he would take joy and pleasure from this merry music of marriage.


The Ancient Mariner - Dore - source

Q3:

Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:

It is helpful to figure the Poet as the Ancient Mariner, halting the Wedding Guest with this tale.

It is an ancient Mariner, 
And he stoppeth one of three. 
'By thy long grey beard and glittering eye, 
Now wherefore stopp'st thou me? 

The Ancient Mariner / Poet now speaks with the "glittering eye" of the enchanting rhapsode. He has transfixed the Young Man's attention, compelling him to see the vision of Q3. The urgent and heedful Mark sounds out first: "Mark my words!" (cf. HAMLET: Where wilt thou lead me? speak; I'll go no further. Ghost: Mark me.) See how one string husbands, guards, controls, watches over, another string. The note of domestic violence, sweet husband striking wife and child, is vivid and memorable but surely unintentional. Rather, the image of musician plucking / striking the strings of a lute, composing a chord with three fingers, is more in the spirit of the poem.

Note resembling. Whenever Shakespeare uses words such as resembling, seems, shadows, appears, shows, they serve as indicators of the deeper shadow sonnet themes. Appearance is only a shadow of the truth.

These three separate familial notes, reference to the Trinity, reference to the Neoplatonic Triad, are here emphasized as being all in one. Then again, the sing this One note.

Couplet:

   Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
   Sings this to thee: 'Thou single wilt prove none.'

The couplet pounds the nail all the way in, this song with no words is sung by the three, but seems as if it come from one. Such is harmony, unison, and the source of the Young Man's sorrow. He can feel the music stirring his depths. The Poet here "translates" the speechless song: If you stay single, one, no number, you will, in the end, become none.

Note here the impossibility of language, speech, being able to explain what music means. Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It is the failure of a lesser and more limited mode of expression to contain the greater and unlimited expression which transcends it. The fish has no words to explain water. The water, like Heidegger's Being, is always at-hand.

Sing forms an acoustic knot with single. And as Vendler remarks, this and the strain of the conceits may have subtlety comforted the Young Man:


"They are made fresh here by the psychological presence of the philosophical problem of the Many and the One, as embodied in the young man's sulk at the prospect of his Oneness having to turn to Manyness. Shakespeare's reconciliation of the problem via music (perhaps borrowed from the Arcadia) is not new, but his straddling of the solution is: the strings sing one note, in truth, but the sound they make only seems one, and is many. Both oneness and manyness exist, existentially, in the music, in equal dominance. This is (or ought to be) reassuring to the young man; it clearly is to Shakespeare."









Via The Laughing Bone: I break open stars and find nothing: Why did the music not say, No?


From Steiner's 1966 essay, Silence and the Poet, in Language and Silence:

Because their language had served at Belsen, because words could be found for all those things and men were not struck dumb for using them, a number of German writers who had gone into exile or survived Nazism, despaired of their instrument. In his Song of Exile, Karl Wolfskehl proclaimed that the true word, the tongue of the living spirit, was dead:

Und ob ihr tausend Worte habt:
Das Wort, das Wort ist tot.

Elisabeth Borcher said: "I break open stars and find nothing, and again nothing, and then a word in a foreign tongue." A conclusion to an exercise in linguistic-logical analysis, which Wittgenstein carefully stripped of all emotive reference, though he stated it in a mode strangely poetic, strangely reminiscent of the atmosphere of Holderlin's notes on Sophocles, of Lichtenberg's aphorisms, had turned to a grim truth, to a precept of self-destructive humanity for the poet. "Whereof one cannot speak, one must be silent."


SONNET INDEX


Illustrations

At a Solemn Musick by John Milton

Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heav'ns joy,
Sphear-born harmonious Sisters, Voice, and Vers,
Wed your divine sounds, and mixt power employ
Dead things with inbreath'd sense able to pierce,
And to our high-rais'd phantasie present,
That undisturbèd Song of pure content,
Ay sung before the saphire-colour'd throne
To him that sits theron
With Saintly shout, and solemn Jubily,
Where the bright Seraphim in burning row
Their loud up-lifted Angel trumpets blow,
And the Cherubick host in thousand quires
Touch their immortal Harps of golden wires,
With those just Spirits that wear victorious Palms,
Hymns devout and holy Psalms
Singing everlastingly;
That we on Earth with undiscording voice
May rightly answer that melodious noise;
As once we did, till disproportion'd sin
Jarr'd against natures chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair musick that all creatures made 
To their great Lord, whose love their motion sway’d 
In perfect Diapason, whilst they stood
In first obedience, and their state of good.
O may we soon again renew that Song
And keep in tune with Heav'n, till God ere long
To his celestial consort us unite,
To live with him, and sing in endles morn of light.

***

Merchant of Venice. 5.1

LORENZO

Sweet soul, let's in, and there expect their coming.
And yet no matter: why should we go in?
My friend Stephano, signify, I pray you,
Within the house, your mistress is at hand;
And bring your music forth into the air.

Exit Stephano

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears: soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patines of bright gold:
There's not the smallest orb which thou behold'st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still quiring to the young-eyed cherubins;
Such harmony is in immortal souls;
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

Enter Musicians

Come, ho! and wake Diana with a hymn!
With sweetest touches pierce your mistress' ear,
And draw her home with music.

Music

JESSICA

I am never merry when I hear sweet music.

LORENZO

The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
Which is the hot condition of their blood;
If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
Or any air of music touch their ears,
You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
Their savage eyes turn'd to a modest gaze
By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet
Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods;
Since nought so stockish, hard and full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature.
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night
And his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

***

Don Paterson: "Not to mention the brilliance of that word confound. The rhyme will have suggested it, the bravery of his talent will have sanctioned it - but WS's transcendental skill with syntax and lyric weave allowed him to actually get away with it. Skipping the neuroscience, line-length in poetry universally defaults to something around three seconds long - the length of the human auditory 'present', which corresponds to what we can retain in our minds as a living instant: three seconds is the frequency of the carrier-wave of poetic sense. By the same rule, there are about three seconds or so on either side of a word in which it can be prepared for, or retrospectively sanctioned (unless it has a salient position, like a rhyme word; there are noisier, and can be committed to memory then recalled several lines later). In the case of confound, offend in 1.6 gets the ear ready for it, and soon the g in singleness waves in what could have been the rogue hard c. This is all poet's lore, and it supposed to be registered unconsciously by the reader. Confound is employed in a very unusual way here - but so seamlessly has WS woven it into his soundscape, he's practically fashioned it a new definition." 


***

Katharine Wilson:

Delia
Sonnet LII. Like as the lute, that joys or else dislikes
Samuel Daniel (1562–1619)

Like as the lute, that joys or else dislikes,
    As is his art that plays upon the same:
    So sounds my Muse, according as she strikes
    On my heart strings, high tuned unto her fame.
Her touch doth cause the warble of the sound,
    Which here I yield in lamentable wise,
    A wailing “descant” on the sweetest “ground,”
    Whose due reports give honour to her eyes.
Else harsh my style, untunable my Muse;
    Hoarse sounds the voice, that praiseth not her name!
    If any pleasing relish here I use;
    Then judge, the world! her beauty gives the same.
O happy “ground” that makes the music such!
And blessèd hand that gives so sweet a touch!

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Kerrigan:

Arcadia III.5 

"And is solitary life as good as this? Then can one string make as good music as a consort."

MND IV.1.111-117, where Hippolyta describes the 'music' of the hounds in the field; "such gallant chiding... So musical a discord, such sweet thunder."

"One is no number" proverb

See Marlowe's Hero and Leander

"confounds: : destroys. Informed, as often in Shakespeare, by the implications of Latin confundere: 'to pour together, topple in confusion, bewilder, disastrously mingle.'"


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Booth:

"Unions   joinings, unifications, marriages. ... A 'union' is also appropriately reminiscent of a 'unison,' a musical term meaning 'a sound or note of the same pitch as another' or 'the agreement of the sound of two or more bodies vibrating at different rates' [OED cites a music text of 1596: 'A concord is divided into a Unison, Third, Fifth, Sixth..."].

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Vendler:

The "invention" at work in the elaborate conceit of harmony (lines 5-14) is the decision to divide the music into its three parts: its sounds or aural effect (lines 5-8); its strings or medium (lines 9-12); and its song or content (line13-14). This sort of logical division of a single entity into multiple (and therefore elaboratable) aspects is one of Shakespeare's most common inventive moves, widely shared with his contemporaries and borrowed of course from commonplace logical training.  p 80

However, the resolution of many parts in one unision / (being many, seeming one) is of obvious relevance as an aesthetic principle for the Shakespearean sonnet, which because or its four discrete parts, runs and inherently greater risk of disunity  than does the Italian sonnet. p 80

The assumed preestablished harmony between music and a harmoniously ordered human soul exists in the young man; he loves music, and normally receives pleasure from hearing it. p 80

They are made fresh here by the psychological presence of the philosophical problem of the Many and the One, as embodied in the young man's sulk at the prospect of Oneness having to turn into Manyness. p 81


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From Wikipedia:

It is appropriate that Sonnet 8, a sonnet of musical descant, is placed as the 8th sonnet, since an "eight" is a "true concord."


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From http://www.williamshakespeare-sonnets.com/sonnet-8

Sonnet 8, a sonnet of musical descant, is suitably placed as the 8th sonnet, since an “eight” is a “true concord.”

A “true concord” intends both ‘with cords together’ and ‘with hearts together’ (con + corda = with hearts together).

But it can only be a “speechlesse song,” an ‘unvoiced song’ (with a hint at infans = speechless), if a third, a child, is not produced to make up the concord. Without it their song can only remonstrate, “thou single wilt proue none;” “proue” points to the mathematical maxim, ‘One is no number’ or ‘One is as good as none,’ which Whitney, like Shakespeare, in his motto Mutuum auxilium (“mutuall societie”) renders, “The prouerbe saieth, one man is deemed none, / And life, is deathe, where men doo liue alone.” 7


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Foreground Narrative:

The foreground narrative of the sonnet orbits around a strained musical conceit: separate notes combine together to produce beautiful music, unison, concord (con + cord =  with hearts together), chord, in which all these separate sounds combine as one. As he listens to this music, which he loves, the Young Man is reminded of his singleness and is filled with a sorrow, a nostalgia for union. The Poet uses this occasion of sorrow brought on by the music to advance his procreation theme. He tells the Young Man the reason this harmonious music fills him with sorrow is because the Young Man is stubbornly insisting upon his singleness. Part of what makes the music so beautiful is in the union of three notes which make up a chord, a harmonious whole. The Poet tells him this familial unison, the three working together as one, remind him that his single life, his solitary note, while beautiful in its own melodic way, will never produce an enduring music unless he marries himself to other notes and (here strain) gives birth (bears) a child. Then, he will be part of the three that as a harmonious chord sound as one.

Background Themes:

Obviously, the procreation theme is predominant. The sonnet is ostensibly working to persuade the Young Man to marry and produce a child, an heir. Also to ensure that his beauty, his aesthetic legacy, will endure beyond his own life.

There is also a latent Christian theme in the strained Trinity of the Father, Mother and Son.

What is most prominent is the Neoplatonic theme here initially asserting itself. This is the "hidden image" in this sonnet and is the ground for much of the sequence overall. Three notes uniting in harmony to become One music is directly analogous to Beauty, Truth and Goodness as transcendental emanations of the Neoplatonic God, the One, the Ideal.

The mnemonic narrative I imagine is Shakespeare working to reconcile his evolving understanding of the living presence of the Young Man with his poetic Platonic ideal. The spiritual imperative pulsing in the heart of the poem is to recognize those aspects of the One in the temporal transient world, within and without, and to harmonize your thoughts and actions to these in order to become unified with the One. Seek out beauty, cultivate Truth, practice Goodness in your life so that you might be closer to the Will of God. Align your soul with the Transcendent so that you may have a spiritual life which will endure beyond the material one.

The strain with the musical conceit is that it does not necessarily follow that the Young Man must unite with two others, a wife and a child, to find harmony with the One. There is also a problem with the sequential logic in that the father and the mother must first unite to produce the child which can only sing with them after it has been born.

I see Shakespeare encountering the Young Man at a marriage ceremony. Shakespeare observes the Young Man standing apart, enraptured by the music and deeply saddened, suffering from a nostalgia for a future he knows will never be his, his heart heavy with imagined impossible possibilities: a lovely and living wife, a sweet child, laughter in the mornings over breakfast, the three of them in bed on a cold night. Shakespeare approaches the Young Man and asks what is the matter? The Young Man signs and says he doesn't know why he is sad. He actually loves this piece of music. But there is something aching and nostalgic about it that just makes him want to stand outside of the happy world of the marriage party and feel the full weight of his aloneness.

Shakespeare considers many conversations he and the Young Man have had about philosophy. The Young Man asserting his desire to live a life in harmony with Beauty and Truth and Goodness. However, his passions and self-centered desires always seem to distract him from the path back towards the One, the Godhead of the Ideal. Shakespeare sees an opportunity to appeal to the higher elements of the Young Man's attention by aligning a musical conceit with the harmonious trinity of a family and indicating how it might allow the Young Man to find a path to the One.

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Drafts:

Q2: Sweetly chide not by dissonant sound but by consonance, you, who confounds, con-sounds your song, single song, your insistence on not needing others to find your resonance or being a part of another song, the implied morality of should - that shadow of theme of moral duty in the procreative sonnets, you should bear, also bear children, note the word hear inside there - sugared sonnets - you should be playing many parts but you condense these, reduce these to one part, one single part, when you should, should, be un-condensed, contracted to thine own eyes, or the inward turned burying of your blossom in your blood.