Concerning Shakespeare's sonnets, what's to say? "They're great"? Who am I, Helen Vendler? My Daily Reading Guide says, "...they reveal the inner Shakespeare more truly than do any of his great plays." How they're so sure, I don't know, but it says "Harvard" right there on the label so they must be right.
There might be something to it after all, for the "I" in the sonnets does resemble a writer -- he keeps track of his rivals ("Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope"), he is alternately boastful ("Not marble, nor the gilded monuments/Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme"), and then he hates his writing ("These poor rude lines of thy deceased lover"). He is even bald ("Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.")
Like a writer, but, of course, a better writer than most. I like poetry with stunts in it, and Shakespeare obliges:
FAREWELL! thou art too dear for my possessing,I wonder if he had a draft where it was all "ing" words up until the couplet. Or this one, my favorite of this batch -- well, "That time of year thou may'st in me behold" is one I've always liked, and the middle quatrain of When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes has popped into my head from time to time -- but this one was one that I'd forgotten about, and just once I would like to go to a wedding where it was read instead of "Let me not to the marriage of true minds". A wedding of two political staffers, say:
And like enough thou know’st thy estimate:
The charter of thy worth gives thee releasing;
My bonds in thee are all determinate.
For how do I hold thee but by thy granting?
And for that riches where is my deserving?
The cause of this fair gift in me is wanting,
And so my patent back again is swerving.
Thyself thou gav’st, thy own worth then not knowing,
Or me, to whom thou gav’st it, else mistaking;
So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again, on better judgment making.
Thus have I had thee as a dream doth flatter;
In sleep, a king; but waking, no such matter.
TIRED with all these, for restful death I cry,—
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm’d in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall’d simplicity,
And captive Good attending captain Ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my Love alone.