Sonnet 149

Shakespeare Sonnet 149

CAnſt thou O cruell, ſay I loue thee not,
When I againſt my ſelfe with thee pertake:
Doe I not thinke on thee when I forgot
Am of my ſelfe, all tirant for thy ſake?
Who hateth thee that I doe call my friend,
On whom froun’ſt thou that I doe faune vpon,
Nay if thou lowrſt on me doe I not ſpend
Reuenge vpon my ſelfe with preſent mone?
What merrit do I in my ſelfe reſpect,
That is ſo proude thy ſeruice to diſpiſe,
When all my beſt doth worſhip thy defect,
Commanded by the motion of thine eyes.
But loue hate on for now I know thy minde,
Thoſe that can ſee thou lou’ſt, and I am blind.

Sonnet 149, one of the less weighty of the sequence, is full of conventional Petrarchan vocabulary beginning with Petrarch’s “crudele” (“O cruell”). The opening question is rhetorical: can the mistress say the poet doesn’t love her, when he is prepared to take her side (“pertake”) against himself. A series of evidential questions follow. Doesn’t he keep her in mind even when he, forgotten, is utterly hard (“all tirant”) on himself for her sake? Who is there that she hates that he calls a friend? On whom does she look with disfavour (“froun’st”), before whom the poet demeans himself (“faune vpon”)? If she looks unkindly on him (“lowrst”), doesn’t he take it out on himself (“spend / Reuenge vpon my selfe”) with instant regret (“with present mone”)? What value (“meritt”) does he find in himself, which is so proud that it would make serving her beneath him (“thy seruice to despise”), particularly since everything good in him is dedicated to her foulness (“doth worship thy defect”), all things being under the sway of her eyes (“Commanded by the motion of thine eyes”)? Yet, despite all the poet’s abnegation of self, the mistress (“loue”) is instructed to continue in her “hate,” because he knows her mind: she loves only those who can see and not therefore the poet who is “blind,” made so by the tears of Sonnet 148.13, “with teares thou keepst me blinde.”

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