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William Shakespeare, Sonnet xxxiii

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchymy [*]
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face [*]
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out! alack! he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain, when heaven's sun staineth. [*]


line 4: [MND III.2, "Turns into yellow gold his salt green streams".] [ Back to text ]

line 6: Rack. Tooke, in his full discussion of the meaning of this word ('Diversions of Purley', Part II, Chap. IV.) holds that rack means "merely that which is reeked"; and that in all instances of its use by Shakespeare the word signifies vapour. He illustrates the passage before us by quoting the lines in the First Part of Henry IV., where the Prince in some degree justifies his course of profligacy:--

Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder'd at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours
, that did seem to strangle him.
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line 14: Stain and staineth are here used with the signification of a verb neuter. Sun of the world may be stained as heaven's sun is stained. [ Back to text ]

Most notes to Shakespeare's sonnets are from Charles Knight's edition, but those in square brackets are mine.