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William Shakespeare, Sonnet lxxxvi

Was it the proud full sail of his great verse,
Bound for the prize of all-too-precious you,
That did my ripe thoughts in my brain inhearse,
Making their tomb the womb wherein they grew?
Was it his spirit, by spirits taught to write
Above a mortal pitch, that struck me dead?
No, neither he, nor his compeers by night
Giving him aid, my verse astonished.
He, nor that affable familiar ghost
Which nightly gulls him with intelligence, [*]
As victors, of my silence cannot boast;
I was not sick of any fear from thence.
But when you countenance fil'd up his line, [*]
Then lack'd I matter; that enfeebled mine.


line 10: Steevens conjectures that this is an allusion to Dr Dee's pretended intercourse with a familiar spirit. [ Back to text ]

line 13: Fil'd -- gave the last polish. Ben Jonson, in his verses on Shakespeare, speaks of his "Well-torned and true-filed lines." [Modern editions prefer "filled".] [ Back to text ]

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