Sonnet 145

Shakespeare Sonnet 145

THoſe lips that Loues owne hand did make,
Breath’d forth the ſound that ſaid I hate,
To me that languiſht for her ſake:
But when ſhe ſaw my wofull ſtate,
Straight in her heart did mercie come,
Chiding that tongue that euer ſweet,
Was vſde in giuing gentle dome:
And tought it thus a new to greete:
I hate ſhe alterd with an end,
That follow’d it as gentle day,
Doth follow night who like a fiend
From heauen to hell is flowne away.
I hate, from hate away ſhe threw,
And ſau’d my life ſaying not you.

Sonnet 145 is not in Shakespeare’s customary pentameter line, but in tetrameters. It has caused much debate beause of its placement in the sequence and because of its seeming lightness (so raising questions about its authorship). While it may seem awkwardly placed between sonnets of considerable weight, if it is to be placed anywhere, then it is best placed here where the heaven, hell and fiends of accompanying sonnets surround it. Its lack of weight and questioned authorship, it has been proposed by Andrew Gurr, could be explained by its being a piece of juvenilia. Gurr based his argument on the apparent pun on “hate away” and Hathaway (where the ‘h’ would not have been pronounced) at line 13. 1 (Booth sees a further pun on “And” and Ann at line 14 – apparently not heeding the warning in the acrostic to lines 7-10, WAIT). In the end the poem can only be accepted for what and where it is.

The sonnet opens with the mistress’ lips, made by “Loues owne hand,” possibly Cupid’s, probably Venus’, which have “breathed” forth the words, “I hate,” as, conventionally, the poet pined for her (“languisht for her sake”). Once she discovered the poet’s “wofull state,” again a plaintive commonplace, immediately or directly (“straight”) mercy entered her heart, scolding (“chiding”) her ever-sweet tongue (a quality of petrarchist mistresses, compare Sidney, Astrophil and Stella 80.1, “Sweet swelling lip”). Hers was a tongue accustomed (“used”) to giving tender and non-menacing judgements (“gentle dome”) and she taught it a new mode of address (“tought it thus a new to greete”). She altered “I hate” by giving it a new end: the “not you” of line 14. The new ending fits the phrase as naturally as “gentle” day – non-threatening again – follows night which “like a fiend / From heauen to hell is flowne away.” The fiend, Lucifer (identified with Venus as the morning star), when thrown from heaven as a fallen angel with wings, could be said to have “flowne away” from heaven to hell. 2 From the word “hate away” the mistress cast aside the end, the “away,” and “alterd” it with another end, “not you,” thus giving “I hate not you” and by so saying saved the poet’s life. (In all this the demonology of the preceding sonnet cannot be ignored. The account of Lucifer being thrown from heaven to hell is found in Revelations 12.7 ff, where “there was a battayle in heauen, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon . . And the great dragon, that olde serpent, called the deuyll & Satanas, was cast out . . and his angels were cast out with hym.” Pertinently a voice was heard in heaven exclaiming, “Nowe is made saluation . . For the accuser . . is cast downe, which accused them . . day & nyght” [BB].)


145.1. Gurr 221-6.

145.2. Compare Isa. 14.12, “How art thou fallen from heauen, O Lucifer, sonne of the morning?” to which is attached the note, “for the morning starre that goeth before the sunne, is called Lucifer” (BB); or Griffin, Fidessa 46, where the “peepinge Lucifer” is identified as “Auroras starre.”