Verse > Anthologies > Hunt and Lee, eds. > The Book of the Sonnet
Hunt and Lee, comps.  The Book of the Sonnet.  1867.
I. The Poet Laments to a Friend His Profession as an Actor
By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
O, FOR my sake do you with Fortune chide,
The guilty goddess of my harmful deeds,
That did not better for my life provide
Than public means, which public manners breeds.
Thence comes it that my name receives a brand,        5
And almost thence my nature is subdued
To what it works in, like the dyer’s hand.
Pity me then, and wish I were renewed;
Whilst, like a willing patient, I will drink
Potions of eysell ’gainst my strong infection:        10
No bitterness that I will bitter think,
Nor double penance, to correct correction.
  Pity me then, dear friend, and I assure ye,
  Even that your pity is enough to cure me. 1
Note 1. This sonnet, though it has one admirable passage,—about the dyer’s hand,—is not selected on account of its superiority to the general run of the author’s compositions of this kind, but because Shakespeare is here “unlocking his heart,” and because all his sonnets appear to have been written after he had entered upon a line of life for which he and others had not yet procured its just social consideration.
  “Public means, which public manners breeds”
is very harsh versifying,—to say nothing of the bad grammar, which was a license of the time. And the concluding rhyme “assure ye” and “cure me,” is no rhyme. The nature
To what it works in, like the dyer’s hand”
is true Shakespearian writing.
  I have noticed the faulty passages, because cultivators of the Sonnet must not be misled, even by Shakespeare. He can afford to err, where it would be presumption to follow him.
  “Eysell” is vinegar. Etymologists—in whose way so small a thing as a consonant is never allowed to stand—derive the word from the German Essig,—vinegar. [back]

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