From you have I been absent in the spring,William Shakespeare, Shake-speare’s Sonnets, Quarto 1609
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leapt with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flow’rs in odor and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew.
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seemed it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.
The Shakespearean Sonnet
Whether you know William Shakespeare for his poetry or plays, there’s no denying his incredible and undying influence over the worlds of theatre and literature alike. Looking to his sonnets, you may not know that Shakespeare published a collection of a huge 154 sonnets in the year 1609. A handful of additional sonnets feature throughout his plays.
The Shakespearean sonnet, also known as the ‘English’ sonnet, is an adaptation of the original Petrarchan Italian sonnet introduced in the 14th century. A Shakespearean sonnet form has 14 lines in total, is written in iambic pentameter rhyme, and has three quatrains of ABABCDCDEFEF rhyme scheme, ending with a rhyming couplet of GG. This is easy to hear when reading aloud.
Absence in Spring
Let’s take a closer look at a lesser-known number in the collection, Sonnet 98. A comparatively easy read, this sonnet needs little analysis. The first line, though perhaps not as catchy as ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ or ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds’, it seems to ask and answer a question in itself.
The poem describes Springtime in all its new and bold readiness, but it is marred with ‘heavy Saturn’. This reference is to the medieval Latin Saturnus, an astrological association of gloom and sluggish nature influenced by the rising of the planet of Saturn. The speaker is not impressed by the beauty and wonder of Spring, because his lover is not with him; it might as well be winter. The heartbreaking final couplet says he can only appreciate the flowers of Spring as a mere reflection of his lover.
Though this love poem is full of sadness, it portrays an almost unbearable passion, a love that cannot be hidden or denied. As we go through these troubling times and loved ones are separated for safety, we can take comfort in the fact that love for them won’t wilt. Unlike Shakespeare, we are extremely lucky to have the technology to stay in touch with the ones we love, no matter where in the world they are. Once we are all together again, we can enjoy the beauty in every season as well as in each other.
What do you think of Sonnet 98? Do you have a favourite Shakespeare sonnet or play? Let us know in the comments below.