Sonnets for Advent 3: Sonnet 6

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AdventSonnet6 Image from[/caption]Sonnet 6 forms a pair with Sonnet 5. The image of a child being like a precious distillation continues into the first quatrain, and then we hit – perhaps, but not entirely surprisingly – comparisons with usury: the future child becomes an investment model which yields interest! Since ten per cent was a common rate of interest on a loan, the poet starts to imagine no fewer than ten children surviving the beloved and thereby making the beloved ten times happier and triumphing over death. And yet those worms, boring into the coffin, are curiously made ever-present in the closing words of the sonnet. Sonnet 5 and 6 are good examples of Shakespeare’s metaphysical conceits and his surreal use of imagery.

Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distilled.
Make sweet some vial, treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure ere it be self-killed.
That use is not forbidden usury
Which happies those that pay the willing loan:
That’s for thy self to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thyself were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee.
Then what could death do if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-willed, for thou art much too fair
To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.

Click here to hear Sonnet 6 read by Stanley Wells.

You might like to visit a similar Shakespeare for Advent project led by students at the University of Tubingen by clicking here.

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Author:Paul Edmondson

Head of Research and Knowledge and Director of the Stratford-upon-Avon Poetry Festival for The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Follow Paul on Twitter @paul_edmondson

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