The Rival Poet's Reply to William Shakespeare's Sonnet 8

Updated on January 12, 2018

There is a higher music that I want;
a lasting sweetness and a joy that’s true.
I love with the eternity in view
which merely passing pleasures can’t supplant.

You, being childless too, should cease your rant.
If I (as foreordained, as you foreknew)
should harp the gaudy spring -- a prince like you
may lend to me your own supporting chant.

Let lofty duty be our main concern;
for there are higher goals we can discern.

As there are four of us, then I can say
that I am not alone though seeming one.
And if my childlessness you'd still assay,
though baffled I'd declare: "You are my son!"

Jose Rizal M. Reyes
Baguio City, Philippines
April 7, 2012. Black Saturday / Sabado de Gloria

rhyming pattern: abba abba cc dede
sonnet type: French Classic 2 in iambic pentameter

A harpist playing a harp.
A harpist playing a harp.

William Shakespeare's Sonnet 8

Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy:
Why lov'st thou that which thou receiv'st not gladly,
Or else receiv'st with pleasure thine annoy?
If the true concord of well-tuned sounds,
By unions married, do offend thine ear,
They do but sweetly chide thee, who confounds
In singleness the parts that thou shouldst bear.
Mark how one string, sweet husband to another,
Strikes each in each by mutual ordering;
Resembling sire and child and happy mother,
Who, all in one, one pleasing note do sing:
Whose speechless song being many, seeming one,
Sings this to thee: 'Thou single wilt prove none.'

Notes and Commentaries

The Shakesperian author discussed music in his 8th Sonnet and once more brought up the issue of progeny. The Rival Poet talks of a "higher music" and proposes the primacy of "lofty duty".

"should harp the gaudy spring"
This refers to the 10th line of Shakespeare's Sonnet I. Shakespeare/Bacon referred to his prophesied disciple as "Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament / And only herald to the gaudy spring". (Come to think of it, the word "now" there indicates that the scenario in this sonnet would take place by the time I tackle his sonnets). Due to space limitation, I couldn't quote Shakespeare in toto in my reply so instead of "herald", I first used the term "hail" which I later changed to "harp". But as originally worded by Shakespeare "only herald to the gaudy spring" carries a meaning far beyond mere hailing or harping. The operative word there is "only" which denotes specialness or exclusivity. If we examine history, there have been many other heralds to the gaudy spring (the great golden age of the third millennium and the fourth) -- including Sir Thomas More who wrote "Utopia" and Sir Francis Bacon who dreamed of a Great Instauration. But being the "only herald" means something else. Actually, I can use other terms more accurate than "hail" or "harp" (one such term even begins with letter "h" also); but I prefer to understate than to unnecessarily slight the sensibility of others.

"As there are four of us, then I can say"
This is a double entendre, although neither meaning is risque or indelicate. The first meaning refers to the time of the teacher (his parents, his brother and him); the second meaning refers to the time of the pupil (he and the three eX-men).

French sonnet 2 (abba abba cc dede)
The French sonnet follows the Italian octave (abba abba). But they invented their own sestet which they divided into a couplet and a quatrain. The French were the first to use a couplet as a distinct sub-stanza of a sonnet rhyme scheme. Their major couplet -- which marks the climax or high point of the poem -- is in the 9th and 10th lines (or 5th couplet) as contrasted to the English couplet which is in the 13th and 14th lines (or 7th couplet) .

Regarding the photo illustration
The photo shows King David harping his praise to God. The king is depicted here in a manner that bears strong resemblance to how the Christ is depicted. For some reason, such presentation is pregnant with meaning, intended or not.


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