If my dear love were but the child of state,
It might for Fortune's bastard be unfather'd
As subject to Time's love or to Time's hate,
Weeds among weeds, or flowers with flowers gather'd.
No; it was builded far from accident;
It suffers not in smiling pomp, nor falls
Under the blow of thralled discontent,
Whereto the inviting time our fashion calls:
It fears not policy, that heretick,
Which works on leases of short-number'd hours,
But all alone stands hugely politick,
That it nor grows with heat nor drowns with showers.
To this I witness call the fools of time,
Which die for goodness, who have liv'd for crime.
CXXIV. Apparently in continuation. The poet declares that his
love for his friend is not subject to the mutations which attend
courtiers and state affairs. It was not the result of accident or
policy; and it fears not the scythe of Time.
1, 2. If my love were the child of state, it might have yielded up its position in relation to the state to whatever Fortune, in her endless changes, might produce.
3. As subject to Time's love or to Time's hate. That is, as being the "fool of Time" (line 13).
4. To be cut down by the scythe of Time at his pleasure, and accordingly,
as hated or loved, to lie a weed among weeds, or a flower among flowers.
5. No; it was builded, &c. Reverting probably to the pyramid spoken
of in the last Sonnet.
6. Smiling pomp. Notice that the idea of "state" is still kept in view.
7. Under the blow of thralled discontent. Alluding pretty evidently to
the discontent existing after the death of Essex. The discontent was "thralled," as being kept down and held in subjection.
8. The custom and usage of our time invites to such discontent.
9. That heretick. As seeking separately its own interests.
11, 12. But all alone, &c. Here again we have the pyramid of the last
Sonnet. Politick seems here equivalent to self-sufficing, desiring no increase or extension, and fearing no enemies, like a well-ordered city or state. Cf. Much Ado, Act v. sc. 2, lines 63, 64, "So politic a state of
evil that they will not admit any good part to intermingle with them."
13, 14. The fools of Time, &c. Those whom Time does what he likes with.
They "die for goodness," alluding to the popular repute of Essex as the "good Earl," notwithstanding the "crimes" for which he and certain of his companions were executed. Cf. cxvi. 9.
How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. Sonnets. Ed. Thomas Tyler. London: D. Nutt, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Aug. 2013. < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/sonnets/124.html >.
Shakespeare on Fate ... We have a Roman scholar named Boethius to thank for the medieval and Renaissance fixation on "fortune's wheel." Queen Elizabeth herself translated his hugely popular discourse on fate's role in the Universe, The Consolation of Philosophy. Although the idea of the wheel of fortune existed before Boethius, his work was the source on the subject for Chaucer, Dante, Machiavelli, and of course, Shakespeare. Read on....