Hecht, Anthony. "The sonnet: Ruminations on form, sex, and history." Antioch Review 55: 2 (Spring 97) 134-148.
THE SONNET: RUMINATIONS ON FORM, SEX, AND HISTORY
The Sonnets, edited by G. Blakemore Evans, have been issued by the New Cambridge Shakespeare Series, and I was invited to write the introduction. It took quite a while to compose, space being carefully budgeted, and decisions about what to include and what to eliminate subject to editorial debate. I found myself brooding about a number of topics for which, in the end, there turned out not to be enough room. I've assembled these notions, snippets, mullings, into the small crazy-quilt that follows.
The survival of the form. It is astonishing. By comparison, the haiku, originating in the mid-sixteenth century, is a parvenu. There are, of course, a number of other forms with a long history--the ballade, the villanelle, the sestina, the canzone--but these have not enjoyed a continuous life. I can't think of one of them written in English in the entire seventeenth or eighteenth centuries. Like certain dance steps, they went out of fashion and were later revived. But from its inception the sonnet has enjoyed a continuous and vital existence. There are, I think, at least two reasons for this, one of them profoundly formal, the other intriguingly sexual. Let's save the sexy one for later.
Once in a conversation with W. H. Auden and a group of his friends, he raised this puzzle of the sonnet's survival powers, and asked us to speculate about how to account for it. He himself volunteered the very probing and suggestive notion that there must be manifest in the proportions of some familiar natural objects (say, the trunk of certain trees in relation to the crown of their branches and leaves) a ratio that corresponded in some way that we unconsciously recognized to the proportions of the two parts of a Petrarchan sonnet to one another, of the octave to the sestet, of eight to six. It was an absorbing puzzle, and no one, including Auden, was able, on the spur of the moment, to come up with any familiar instances of that proportional relationship. I thought about it for years, and eventually came to a tentative solution by way of that highly mathematical art, architecture, and one of its earliest and greatest theoreticians, Vitruvius.
I've written about this at some length in a book called On The Laws of the Poetic Art, so I will offer here only a brief summary. Vitruvius, the leading architect of Augustan Rome, propounded the remarkable notion that great and enduring works of architecture, and particularly of temples, were based on the proportions, one to another, of their various parts in almost exact correspondence to the way the parts of the human anatomy are proportionally related in the body of what Vitruvius called "a well-shaped man." He worked out these relationships in elaborate fractions and in detail; and fourteen and a half centuries later his outline of them served as the basis of an illustration by Leonardo da Vinci of a naked man, inscribed inside a square and a circle, with two sets of arms and of legs, and with the center of the image the man's navel. It has become a very familiar iconic device.
Vitruvius was painstaking in his demonstration that these ideal human proportions, admired not only when encountered in fellow-humans but in the greatest sculptures of ancient times, were the very proportions, recognized somehow unconsciously but kinesthetically and immediately, in those buildings that were most enduringly pleasing and elevating to contemplate. What he is saying is that our bodies react with excitement and with the sympathy of attraction to an edifice whose mathematical proportions we intuit as resembling what we would like to be at our best. This Vitruvian notion is made explicit use of in Yeats's late poem "The Statues."
I'd become familiar with these notions without ever so much as thinking of the sonnet form, and the connection did not occur to me for years until, well after Auden's death--I regret this, because I think he would have approved my small "discovery"--I began reading about architectural masterpieces of the Renaissance, and visiting some of them. I was particularly drawn to the works of Palladio, and to his extraordinary palazzo, the Villa Foscari, known as The Malcontenta. It's worth quoting Rudolph Wittkower's Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism on Palladio's methods:
The geometrical keynote is, subconsciously rather than consciously, perceptible to everyone who visits Palladio's villas and it is this that gives his buildings their convincing quality.
Yet his grouping and re-grouping of the same pattern was not as simple an operation as it may appear. Palladio took the greatest care to employ harmonic ratios not only inside each single room, but also in the relation of the rooms to each other, and it is this demand for the right ratio which is at the centre of Palladio's conception of architecture.
In the Villa Foscari, if the rooms of the smallest width may be designated by the numeral 1, then the rooms across the whole villa, back, center, and front, are designed in the pattern 2-1-2-1-2 (where, by 2, is meant twice the width of 1). Then, from back to front, the rooms' lengths are, respectively, 1 2/3, 2 1/3, and 2. To walk through the villa is to experience, as in many Palladian structures, a space at once serene and grand. But if, now, we formulate a relationship between the whole width and the whole length, we come to 8 x 6, or the very relationship in the two parts of the Italian sonnet.
I write this in perfect confidence that it will outrage certain readers, as well as writers, of poetry--those who believe that poetry is the immediate and spontaneous overflow of strong emotions, that it is entirely a matter of feelings, sensations, impulses, visceral promptings, and that nothing is more alien to it than mathematics and the rigidities of numerical proportions. But there must be some intelligible way of explaining why the Italian form (also called Petrarchan) endured with such Methuselan health, a matter that is only the more puzzling in that the English (or Shakespearean) sonnet (composed of three quatrains rhyming abab, cdcd, efef, and ending in a couplet gg) is infinitely easier for us to write than its Italian forebear (with its octave rhyming abbaabba) in which only two rhyme sounds must serve for the first eight lines. English is not as rich in rhyme words as Italian, and so, while the form is easy and unforced in its original language, it risks becoming something of a tour-de-force in English. And yet, the sonnet in English from Wyatt and Surrey to Wilbur and Berryman has preferred this more demanding form.
The form. Of course, as any form becomes canonical, it virtually invites experiment, variation, violation, alteration. In "Pied Beauty" Hopkins wrote what he called a "curtal" or abbreviated sonnet. Elizabeth Bishop first, and later Mona Van Duyn, wrote sonnets with strikingly short lines, Bishop beginning hers with the (complete) line "Caught--the bubble," Van Duyn calling hers "minimalist" sonnets. But these were neither the first nor the last to attempt such artistic parsimony and spare ingenuity. As far as I am aware, the first truly emaciated sonnet (with each line confined to a single syllable) was composed by Arthur Rimbaud.
Roughly rendered, this means: (The) Slob / Drinks: / (The) Pearl (of a girl) / Sees (what's coming)://(The) Bitter / Law (of gravity takes effect), / (The) Carriage / Collapses!//(The) Woman / Tumbles, / Loins//Bleed, / Whimpers. / Pandemonium!
The latest specimen in this frugal and demanding form that I know of is by Brad Leithauser, and is titled "Post Coitum Tristesse: A Sonnet."
All the evidence we have suggests that the canonical form was invented by Giacomo de Lentino, a member of the Sicilian court of the Emperor Frederick II, and known as the Notary, possibly because he was empowered to act on the emperor's behalf in certain legal matters. We have, in any case, no earlier sonnets than his, and those of his fellow courtiers, which date from the third decade of the thirteenth century, that is, not long before Dante and his circle of poet-friends took up the form in earnest. Originally, the Sicilian poets composed their fourteen-line poems in hendecasyllabics, that is, pentameter lines with feminine endings; and the octaves contained two identical quatrains of alternating rhymes: abab, abab. As Maurice Valency declares in his excellent study In Praise of Love, "The sestet is usually distinguished logically from the octave; the musical volta was evidently accompanied by a turn of thought," and most poetry of the period was conceived as something either to be set to music or adapted to an already existent melody. The earliest sestets often divided into rhyming tercets, but sometimes appeared as couplets: cd, cd, cd. As Valency observes, "The result is a relatively simple and flexible song form, learned and courtly in its association, but, unlike the majestic canzone, very suitable for casual rhyming."
That extra syllable at the end of each line is easier in Italian than in English, though Shakespeare manages to do it twelve out of fourteen times in his Sonnet 87, "Farewell, thou art too dear for my possessing," chiefly by the repeated use of participial endings. But when the French got hold of the form they cast it in alexandrines, ending not with an extra syllable but an extra foot. This is immediately evident in Ronsard's "Quand vous serez bien vielle, au soir, a la chandelle," as well as Du Bellay's "Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage," though both poets also employed shorter lines for some of their sonnets. Probably in imitation, not of the Italians but of the French, the first of Sidney's sonnets in Astrophel and Stella is composed in hexameters, i.e., alexandrines: "Loving in truth, and fain in verse my love to show. ... "(Sidney, incidentally, carries off his alexandrine lines with enormous grace and skill, and in English this is no easy task; our language has been ill at ease with hexameters, which too often seem to us to deteriorate into doggerel or light verse: "A troubadour he played / Without a castle wall, ! Within, a hapless maid / Responded to his call" [W. S. Gilbert]. To our ears, the six-foot line breaks too easily into trimeters, and it may be for this very reason that when Renaissance translators cast about for English equivalents for the hexameters of Virgil and Ovid they came up with Surrey's pentameters and Golding's septameters: lines of five or seven feet that, being odd in number, won't fold squarely in the middle.)
The dedication, by Thomas Thorpe, of his 1609 quarto edition of Shakespeare's sonnets, is very familiar, and a source of endless, sometimes foolish, speculation. "TO.THE.ONLIE.BEGETTER. OF. THESE. INSVING.SONNETS. Mr W.H.ALL. HAPPINESS. AND. THAT ETERNITIE. PROMISED.BY.OVR, EVER-LIVING. POET. WISHETH. THE. WELL-WISHING. ADVENTVERER. IN. SETTING.FORTH." G. B. Evans, in the New Cambridge Shakespeare edition,
paraphrases this as: "To the sole inspirer of these following sonnets, Master W. H., all happiness and that eternity promised by our ever-living poet [William Shakespeare], wishes the well-wishing adventurer [Thomas Thorpe] in publishing [these sonnets]." But Evans is perfectly aware that any number of critics have proposed that for his word inspirer one could also advance the word procurer, since there seem to be grounds to suspect that the poems were published without the poet's consent, or even knowledge or supervision. The publisher, by this theory, would be dedicating his edition to that unnamed person who secured for him the copies of the poems that served his compositors. As for the candidates for Mr. W. H., Oscar Wilde, assuming that the dedication was Shakespeare's own, posited a young actor in Shakespeare's company, named, perhaps, Willie Hewes or Hughes. Other candidates are William Herbert, third Earl of Pembroke, Henry Wriothesley, third Earl of Southampton ("his initials being reversed as initials sometimes were in prefatory matters," Evans observes). These persons all come under the heading and theory of "inspirer." As for "procurer," the list of candidates includes
Southampton's stepfather and Shakespeare's brother-in-law. George Chalmers (1742-1825), a Scottish antiquarian, was the first person to propose that Thorpe's dedicatee, Mr. W. H., was the one who provided the publisher with the text of Shakespeare's sonnets. He also seems to have believed that, quite apart from any puzzles about the identity of Mr. W. H., the first 126 sonnets, seemingly addressed to a man, were in fact addressed to Queen Elizabeth, arguing that "Elizabeth was often considered a man," and, as Sam Schoenbaum explains, "was termed a prince rather than a princess by Drant, Spenser, Ascham and Bacon." In addressing the Commons, she also spoke of herself as a "prince." Clearly we are edging our way into the sexier aspects of the sonnet. And these aspects crop up right at the start of the sonnet's literary life, though many regard Shakespeare's addresses to the young man as anything from embarrassing to needing to be explained away (hence Queen Elizabeth) or, contrarily, a major claim for the ranks of gays.
Sexual ambiguities. The sonnet came into existence during the feudal period, which was also the time of the flourishing of "courtly love," and these two forms, of literary and amatory art, bore a very strange resemblance to one another. The posture of a lover toward his lady was meant to be identical with that of a vassal toward his lord: a posture of absolute submission, even to the point of death. As C.S. Lewis points out in The Allegory of Love, "The lover is always abject. Obedience to his lady's slightest wish, however whimsical, and silent acquiescence in her rebukes, however unjust, are the only virtues he dares to claim." Modern psychologists would regard such an attitude with suspicion and alarm; but there is more to come. The lover, Lewis goes on to explain, addresses his beloved as midons, "which etymologically represents not 'my lady' but 'my lord,'" implying any number of sexual complexities. If we encounter among Shakespeare's sonnets one addressed to "the master-mistress of my passion" (20), and find him abasing himself with the declaration, "Being your slave, what should I do but tend / Upon the hours and times of your desire" (57), we must ask ourselves whether he is following medieval conventions, expressing a personal psychological predisposition, or using the first of these as a pretext for the second. Though there is nothing in the way of solid evidence, this is clearly not a decision that should be allowed to rest on the personal whim or caprice of the reader.
This is only the beginning of the issue of sexual elements in sonnets. To be sure, as time went on, sonnets were employed for many topics that had nothing whatever to do with love in either its carnal or exalted forms. Milton's upon the massacre at Piedmont, Wordsworth's composed on Westminster Bridge, Keats's on Chapman's Homer or on the Elgin Marbles or to Sleep have nothing whatever to do with love or sex. Nevertheless, the form is still firmly associated with love, as Robert Frost knew when writing "The Silken Tent," with its very deliberate antique appurtenances. And one has only to consider the subjects of the English Renaissance sonnet sequences: after Sidney's "Astrophel and Stella," Spenser's "Amoretti," and Daniel's "Delia," we have Fulke Greville's "Caelica," Giles Fletcher's "Licia," Henry Constable's "Diana," William Percy's "Sonnets to the Fairest Coelia," Bartholomew Griffin's "Fidessa More Chaste than Kind," and Robert Tofte's "Laura." And from the time of Dante and Petrarch the sonnet was not just a form into which any subject might be poured, but one so firmly identified with the amorous and the erotic that when Shakespeare arranges for Romeo and Juliet to speak to one another for the first time at the masked ball their exchanges are framed as discrete segments of sonnets. And in Love's Labour's Lost, Armado, confessing that he has fallen in love, exclaims, "Assist me, some extemporal god of rhyme, for I am sure I shall turn sonnet," that is, turn to the writing of sonnets.
The Penalty for Sexual Pleasure. The third quatrain of Shakespeare's Sonnet 73 contains a curious, buried erotic note.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed by that which it was nourished by.
In these lines the fire, once brilliant, has dimmed; its ashes now serve to extinguish the very flames that, when those ashes were wood, they fed. What is implied by this is that the vigor and liberties of our youth are precisely what serve to bring us, by the excess of that youthful folly and energy, to our demise. We are thus self-executed. This is very close to the idea John Donne expressed in his poem "A Farewell to Love," which concerns the diminishment of our lives by the length of a day each time we engage in sex.
Ah cannot we,
As well as cocks and lions jocund be,
After such pleasures? Unless wise
Nature decreed (since each such act, they say,
Diminisheth the length of life a day)
This; as she would man should despise
Because that other curse of being short,
And only for a minute made to be
Eager, desires to raise posterity.
The Latin expression omne animal post coitum triste, attributed alternately to Aristotle and to Galen, refers to post-coital sadness, and was said to blight all creatures except, in one account, turtles, and in another, cocks and lions. A. J. Smith, in his excellent Penguin edition of Donne, glosses this third stanza of the poem with this paraphrase: "... unless wise Nature ordained this disillusioning inadequacy of our sexual experience to stop us killing ourselves by repeated sexual acts, as we urgently seek to overcome the brevity of our own lives by begetting children." Aulus Celsus, a Roman encyclopedist of the reign of Tiberius, who wrote on a multitude of topics from agriculture and military science to jurisprudence, survives only in his medical books, for which he was known as the Cicero medicorum. This work, lost sight of during the Middle Ages, was rediscovered in the early Renaissance, and his medical views were highly respected. Among these was his declaration: "The ejaculation of semen is the casting away of part of the soul."
Male Friendship and Love. The sexual atmosphere in America at the end of the twentieth century is both more open, with people emerging from their closets, and more embattled, with problems about military service and rancor from the religious right. In such circumstances it's difficult to try to imagine a society in which values differed greatly from our own. For a very long time, from antiquity up through the Renaissance, the friendship between men was regarded, on high authority, to be not merely the equal of but superior to the love between the sexes. Not just the dialogues of Plato, but Aristotle's Ethics, the biblical story of David and Jonathan, the Homeric account of Achilles and Patroclus, the classical legend of Damon and Pythias, Montaigness essay on Friendship, Malory's Morte D'Arthur, all advance this idea. Shakespeare uses it very wittily in The Merchant of Venice. At the very moment when Portia and Bassanio plight their troth and agree to marry, Bassanio is urgently summoned to try to help his friend Antonio, who has been arrested for failure to keep his bond with Shylock. The two lovers, Portia and Bassanio, are therefore abruptly and shockingly parted at the very moment they become united. Act III, scene iv begins with Lorenzo commending Portia for her strength of character in being able to accept so gracefully the departure of the man to whom she has just given herself and all her considerable goods. She replies to him with a statement about the physical similarities of men to one another that has behind it the authority of Aristotle:
I never did repent for doing good,
Nor shall not now: for in companions
That do converse and waste the time together,
Whose souls do bear an equal yoke of love,
There must be needs a like proportion
Of lineaments, of manners, and of spirit,
Which makes me think that this Antonio,
Being the bosom lover of my lord,
Must needs be like my lord. If it be so,
How little is the cost I have bestowed
In purchasing the semblance of my soul
From out the state of hellish cruelty!
This argument of physical similarity will be used at the play's end as a bawdy jest when, about to wed Bassanio at last, Portia tells Antonio that if ever her husband breaks his oath in any way, she will call upon Antonio to take up all the offices and functions of her husband. But, on the serious side, Shakespeare has one more argument in behalf of the "superior" love of man for man, and it comes from Scripture, specifically from John 15:13, which in the King James translation goes, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." The sensational trial scene in the play is a plain demonstration that Bassanio and Antonio are prepared to make precisely this Christ-like sacrifice for one another. And the Gospel tells us unambiguously there is "no greater love." But apart from the Bible, there was established custom, and patterns of behavior sanctioned by society. In The Waning of the Middle Ages Johan Huizinga tells us:
Even intimate relations in medieval society are rather paraded than kept secret. Not only love, but friendship too, has its finely made up forms. Two friends dress the same way, share the same room, or the same bed, and call one another by the name of "mignon." It is good form for the prince to have his minion [i.e., mignon]. We must not let the well-known case of Henry III of France affect for us the ordinary acceptance of the word "mignon" in the fifteenth century. There have been princes and favorites in the Middle Ages too who were accused of culpable relations--Richard II of England and Robert de Vere, for instance--but minions would not have been spoken of so freely, if we had to regard this institution as connoting anything but sentimental friendship. It was a distinction of which the friends boasted in public. On the occasion of solemn receptions the prince leans on the shoulder of his minion, as Charles V at his abdication leaned on William of Orange. To understand the duke's sentiment towards Cesario in Twelfth Night we must recall this form of sentimental friendship, which maintained itself as a formal institution till the days of James I and George Villiers.
The Body/Soul Antagonism. Of all the Shakespeare sonnets, 151 ("Love is too young to know what conscience is") may be the bawdiest--some would say the crudest and most vulgar. Its erotic character is certainly beyond question. In a comic-erotic parody of the vassal's submission and fidelity to his midons, Shakespeare subordinates his soul to his body, and his body, synecdochically represented by his penis, is made subservient to the mistress to whom the poem is addressed. The sonnet depends on traditional, even biblical, contentions and competitions between the soul and the body, including St. Paul's formulation in Galatians 5:17, "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other. ... "Many poems, from medieval times forward, reflected this opposition. Negotiations between the realms of the Body and Soul, the carnal and the spiritual, as well as sometimes daring and dramatic substitutions of these domains for one another, became a familiar literary device of the metaphysical poets, and a staple of Baroque and Mannerist art of the Counter Reformation.
Initially, of course, the early Christian Church was eager to consecrate or sublimate all vestiges of pagan rites and rituals, associated as they had been with heresy and the gross appetites of the body. In that cause a number of ancient holidays were "baptized" or "christened," maintaining their original places in the seasonal calendar, but altered by edict to a new character in the calendar of the church. For example, the Roman feast of Lupercalia, observed on the second of February, had been dedicated to the god Pan, and was observed as a fertility festival, celebrating both the growing of crops and the sexual vitality of humans and the other creatures. The festival coincided with the resumption of work in the fields after the rigors of winter (which, in Italy, were milder and briefer than in the northern part of the United States). But in the year 492 Pope Gelasius I abolished the Lupercalia, and substituted for it a sublimated version known as the festa candelarum or Candlemas, dedicated to celebrating the Presentation of Christ at the Temple and the Purification of the Virgin Mary. Its ritual involved a procession of lighted candles meant to symbolize the light of the Divine Spirit.
But the negotiations, however much they may first have centered on the purification and consecration of what had formerly been carnal and pagan, in the course of time were found to flow in the reverse direction as well: that is, in behalf of the desacralization of the spiritual and the holy. Though he is no doubt being "playful and ingenious" in composing a lover's argument in a seduction poem aimed at the sexual conquest of a lady, Donne was following what had become established literary practice when he wrote, "Love's mysteries in souls do grow, / But yet the body is his book. ... "as though the mysteries of the soul could best (perhaps only) be explicated by consulting the text of the body, and a strict respect for the spirit demanded that it be "incarnated" in the act of sexual union, thus "piously" mimicking the Incarnation of the Spiritual Godhead in the body of the person of Christ and through the agency of the Virgin's womb. Donne's metaphor turns the body into the Bible. Those who find this shocking, and possibly blasphemous, might do well to consult what Mario Praz has to say at the beginning of his chapter on "Richard Crashaw and the Baroque" in The Flaming Heart:
There exists in Rome, in the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria, a work of art which may be taken as the epitome of the devotional spirit of the Roman Catholic countries in the seventeenth century. Radiantly smiling, an Angel hurls a golden dart against the heart of a woman saint langourously lying on a bed of clouds. [The Italian name for this work of art is "Santa Teresa in Orgasmo."] The mixture of divine and human elements in this marble group, Bernini's Saint Teresa, may well result in that "spirit of sense" of which Swinburne, who borrowed the phrase from Shakespeare, was so fond of speaking. Spirit of sense as in that love song the Church had adopted as a symbol of the soul's espousals with God: The Song of Solomon, which actually in the seventeenth century was superlatively paraphrased in the coplas of Saint John of the Cross. Inclined as it was to the pleasures of the senses, the seventeenth century could not help using, when it came to religion, the very language of profane love, transposed and sublimated: its nearest approach to God could only be a spiritualization of the senses.
Yet this was not, in fact, a seventeenth-century innovation. Critics and scholars have pointed out that both the late medieval poets of southern France as well as Dante and Petrarch in Italy had spiritualized their love of women, often elevating the beloved to virtually discarnate conditions of perfection, and abasing themselves with professions of profane desire. It has furthermore been observed that this adoration of the purified beloved incontestably owed much to the cult of Mariolatry. As Teresa McLean writes in Medieval English Gardens, "Amor (love), dilectio (pleasure or delight), and caritas (charity), were the basic elements of monastic love, both fraternal and divine, in early medieval Europe, and become the elements of the courtly love cult which swept western Europe in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, applying all the devices of the love for Mary in heaven to the love of a woman on earth." The influence can be found as late as Baudelaire's "To a Madonna." As for Donne, he was able to bring the spiritual and the carnal into so close (and, for some, uncomfortable) a balance that he could end a sonnet of self-inquisition and acknowledged sinfulness with a prayer amounting to something like a desire for sexual violation (with a pun embodied in the word "ravish") in these words addressed to God: "Take me to you, imprison me, for I / Except you enthral me, never shall be free, / Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me."
Something of the same unease or discomfort has disturbed at least some of the viewers of Bernini's angel and saint. While Hippolite Taine found this marble Teresa "adorable" in the religious sense of the word, Mrs. Anna Brownwell Jameson (1794-1860), whose writings are largely devoted to religious art, wrote, in Legends of the Monastic Orders as Represented in the Fine Arts, "All the Spanish pictures of S. Teresa sin in their materialism; but the grossest example--the most offensive--is the marble group of Bernini in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. The head of S. Teresa is that of a languishing nymph, the angel is a sort of Eros; the whole has been significantly described as 'a parody of Divine Love.' The vehicle, white marble,--its place in a Christian church,--enhance all its vileness. The least destructive, the least rudish in matters of art, would here willingly throw the first stone." Mrs. Jameson was not alone in finding a familiarly carnal aspect to Bernini's statue. Wittkower reports: "When the debonair Charles de Brosses, president des parlemerits of Dijon, wrote the memoirs of his Italian journey of 1739-40, he observed of Bernini's S. Teresa, considered the epitome of divine rapture, 'If this is divine love, I know it well.'" But this complicated matter may perhaps best be summarized by a remark made in a letter by W. B. Yeats: "One feels at moments as if one could with a touch convey a vision--that the mystic vision & sexual love use the same means--opposed yet parallel existences."
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Item Number: 9705015968
Reflects on various aspects of Shakespeare's sonnets. Survival and history of the sonnet's form;
Erotic notes on the sonnets; Male friendship and love; Body-soul antagonism.
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