Letter 25


13 May 1827

‘One of my friends sent me a week or two ago the following poem, wh. he had transcribed out of an old album in the library at Hamburg. The date 1604 was on the binding of it–He cannot give a more decided description of the book. The lines are written in a neat old English hand.

My thoughts are winged with hopes, my hopes with Love,
Mount love unto the moon in clearest night
And saie, as she doth in the heaven move
In earth so wanes and waxeth my delight,
And whisper this but softly in her ears
How oft doubt hange the head and trust shed teares.
And you, my thoughts that seem mistrust to varye
If for mistrust my mistris do you blame
Saie, though you alter yet you do notvarye
As shee doth change and yett remaine the same.
Distrust doth enter hartes but not infect
And love is sweetest seasoned with suspect.
If shee, for this, with clouds do mask her eyes
And make the heavens dark with her disdaine,
With windie sights disperse them in the skyes,
Or with thy teares desolve them in to rayne
Thoughts, hopes and love returne to me no more
Till Cinthia shyne as shee hath done before.          W.S.

‘I have communicated the lines, with a strict regard ever to the interpunctuation, exactly as I received them.’ (I too–T.L.B.) Benecke in the Wunschelrathe–(Divining Rod) A dead Göttingen periodical No. 34. April 27. 1818. Göthe gave this translation in his periodical Vol. 2. No. 3 Stuttgard 1820. p. 32

Here grunteth the old pig of Weimar–

* * *

Göthe has done no good here, first he says out of an album of 1604–whereas the book was bound in 1604–was it bound before or after the sheets were written on–I suppose according to English custom, it was a blank book bought by some dilletante for a scrap: M.S. book–Such are seldom very soon filled–and therefore in all probability the lines were written, here at least, in the latter days of Shakspeare. Two lines of it wh I need not point out to you give the thing a possibility–But who is Cynthia? In the sonnets &c is no Cynthia mentioned & altogether there is scarce any evidence of Shakspeares being in love in a sonneteering way–he was probably too well acquainted with the tricks of Authorship, too intimate with the artifice and insincerity of poetry to think of availing himself of it in any serious passion at this time of his life (see Sonnet 130).

His sonnets I take to be early productions dictated by an ardent attachment to W.H. who was younger than himself, and written all before he had become a poetical artist. It may be that these lines were written hastily by him for W.H. or perhaps some Court gentlemen to serve as a complimentary poem or song for his lady–But is there any necessity for raising so great a spirit, is it absolutely necessory that no other W.S. cod have written these lines? The internal evidence is so little satisfactory to my feelings that I cannot think Göethe pardonable for his temerity in printing Shakspeares name at the end of the verses upon such deficient historical grounds. Compare too the Italian frivolity, the careless superficial playfulness, the constrained elegance & roundness of this little bit of verse with the deep & ardent expressions of that wondrous book of sonnets where he has turned his heart inside out & given us all to read all that the tender & true spirit had written on the walls of his chamber,: the former is as the dimple of the coquetting man of the world to the ′ανηριθμον γελασμα–the starry tremulous universal smile of an ocean of passion, which ebbed & flowed about the roots of a love, as firm & sacred as the foundations of the world.

So far from being ready to attribute anything he cd have written to S. I am inclined to deny the authenticity of many smaller pieces & songs such as that to Silvia in 2 Gent. of Verona. At this period of his life–(40 years of age) his spirit was at rest, he was wearied of the “light airs & recollected terms. Of those most brisk and giddy-paced times,” that feeling was awakened to full consciousness, wh dictated the true, self condemning expressions of the 110th Sonnet, & he was yearning for the quiet truth of enjoyment, the peace of life. He had long learned that there were mysteries in the feelings and passions of the soul, some of wh he had too rashly revealed; that the most exquisite happiness is silent, it’s delights unutterable. He had uncovered to profaner eyes some of the farthest sanctuaries of the heart, he had lent to vulgar tongues the sacred language of truth & divine passion & it was this repentance & sorrow for the violation, which speaks so sorrowfully in that little poem, which deterred him from printing the compositions in wh he had made his own soul a thoroughfare for the world. At this time, wearied and disgusted as he clearly was with the fate wh. had necessitated him to feed cold eyes with the emotions of his eternal nature, cd he have so returned to the cold conceits with wh he had dallied before he had learned the truth & sacredness of human feeling? I cannot think so.

But that an old fellow of letter-press, an author of our days, who wd send the paper wet with his own heart’s blood to the printer that fools might wonder & bookmen adore his art, shd think so, is what we can but expect from this vulgar prostituted age. I fear that Printing is a devil whom we have raised to feed & fatten with our best blood & trembling vitals. I (excuse, if you laugh at, this egotism of insignificance) will not again draw the veil from my own feelings to gratify the cold prying curiosity of such, as the million are, & will remain T.L.B–

You will hardly thank me for this letter, I have gone on with it without attending to the laws & purposes of correspondence–but send it that you may gather from the expressions a way of thinking wh grows upon me daily–Do you think I am right both with relation to the lines wh have occasioned them & the sentiment in general or in neither? I hope your instinct will lead you thro’ this labyrinth of remark, note Query–it looks like a skreen full of puzzles–

Addressed to

[Gosse, 1894]