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Shakespeare Sonnet 95: "How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame"

Updated on October 11, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Poetry became my passion, after I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962.

Shakespeare Sonnet Titles

The Shakespeare Sonnet sequence does not feature titles for each sonnet; therefore, each sonnet's first line becomes the title. According to the MLA Style Manuel:

"When the first line of a poem serves as the title of the poem, reproduce the line exactly as it appears in the text."

APA does not address this issue.

Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford

The real "Shakespeare"
The real "Shakespeare" | Source

Introduction and Text of Sonnet 95

Sonnet 95 finds the speaker dramatizing his Muse's force in appointing all things that are lovely and graceful.

This insightful speaker remains appreciative of such power, despite the fact that ultimately degradation and decay must come to all physical objects.

The speaker remains once again in celebration of his magnificent talent, which affords him the ability to stay focused intently on his useful and truthful process of creativity.

That this scribbling speaker lives in his art becomes clear more and more with every sonnet that he adds to his collection.

How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame

HOW sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame
Which, like a canker in the fragrant rose,
Doth spot the beauty of thy budding name!
O! in what sweets dost thou thy sins enclose.
That tongue that tells the story of thy days,
Making lascivious comments on thy sport,
Cannot dispraise but in a kind of praise;
Naming thy name blesses an ill report.
O! what a mansion have those vices got
Which for their habitation chose out thee,
Where beauty’s veil doth cover every blot
And all things turn to fair that eyes can see!
Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege;
The hardest knife ill-used doth lose his edge.

Reading of Sonnet 95

First Quatrain: "How sweet and lovely dost thou make the shame"

In the first quatrain of sonnet 95, the speaker is addressing his Muse, capturing her trait of ferreting out the "lovely" from the cankerous "sins."

The speaker then asserts colorfully that beauty spouts from the fountain of the Muse's lush abilities.

Despite the fact that vile worms abide ready to attack all that is beautiful and decorous, the Muse’s talent keeps them at bay.

Also, it is the Muse's power that ultimately allows artists who woo her to forgo the "sins" that would "enclose" those who are less attentive.

Second Quatrain: "That tongue that tells the story of thy days"

The speaker then begins to dramatize the activities of the valiant artist who narrates the tale of his time on this round mud ball hurtling through space.

Despite nature’s ways of degrading all that is heavenly and praiseworthy, the many blessings that are inherent in the Divine Muse erase the ill effects that would despoil all beauty and heartfelt emotion, coupled with courage.

The Muse’s very "name blesses" all that might consort with the dark underbelly of the world.

The dark spirits cannot stand because light is a purifier, and the Muse is full of light—not the natural sunlight only, but the light of the soul.

Third Quatrain: "O! what a mansion have those vices got"

Vice cannot successfully compete with virtue; therefore, "vices" have no home, where the soulful Muse is enthroned.

The heart of the true artist yields itself up as the "habitation" from which the spark of the Muse Divine can reign, and in the place where the veil of beauty can function to hide every jot and tittle that would blot out loveliness.

The speaker encapsulates the Muse’s influence, while dramatizing the baser aspects of earth.

In so doing, the speaker is partaking of every item that may transform all fairness, any place where any eyes may detect such.

The speaker, who knows himself as a skillful artist, serves as a whisperer for the activity that prevails in the fine home of the heavenly Muse.

The Couplet: "Take heed, dear heart, of this large privilege"

In the couplet, the speaker shifts from the Muse to address his own heart, that is, his own conscience.

The speaker then reminds his own heart as well as his own talent that he enjoys the divine "privilege" of comprehending such mystical and esoteric knowledge.

However, the speaker's boast may yet again lead him astray, but until he loses his sharpness, he will remain well focused on his assigned task.

The speaker compares such fine-tuned power to the edge of a knife that when wrongly employed becomes dull.

The speaker is implying that his unique grasp of nature and heaven will protect him from foolishly squandering his useful and always entertaining talent.

For this speaker, his creativity remains his life as he is constantly searching for new metaphors to elucidate his soul qualities.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
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      Linda Sue Grimes 7 days ago from Spring Hill, TN

      FYI: I've found an even better video for the readings. It includes the text of the Shakespeare folio, 1609 edition. A fascinating find!

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
      Author

      Linda Sue Grimes 3 weeks ago from Spring Hill, TN

      Thank you, Louise! Glad these commentaries are working for you. They are fun to write. And I'm so glad that I was able to find a very good reader of the sonnets in Socratica. It does add a deep dimension to the poetry experience to both read and hear the words.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 3 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      I love reading your explanations of Shakespeares sonnets. Sometimes they are not easy to understand. I like that you've added the video too to listen to. Thankyou!