Hope, art thou true, or dost thou flatter me?
Doth Stella now begin with piteous eye
The ruins of her conquest to espy:
Will she take time, before all wracked be?
Her eyes’ speech is translated thus by thee.
But fail’st thou not in phrase so heavenly high?
Look on again, the fair text better try:
What blushing notes dost thou in margin see?
What sighs stolen out, or killed before full born?
Hast thou found such, and such-like arguments?
Or art thou else to comfort me foresworn?
Well, how so thou interpret the contents,
I am resolved thy error to maintain,
Rather than by more truth to get more pain.
I suggest you click here to open the sonnet in a separate window, so that you can refer directly to it as you read on through the analysis.
Reading notes: “piteous” (line 2), “heavenly” (6), and “stolen” (9) are all shortened by a syllable, while “wracked” (4) is lengthened to two.
Sonnet 67 continues the theme of the previous one, grasping at straws of hope that Stella might take pity on the speaker and requite his love in some way. The opening line poses in milder form the dichotomy in the first quatrain of Sonnet 66: has she given a misleading sign, or is he deluded by his own hope? The remainder of this quatrain picks up Sidney’s familiar military imagery, comparing Stella to a conqueror who suddenly sees the need to pause (“take time”) before allowing the conquest to be so utterly destroyed that it is not worth owning (a similar idea to the plea that comes at the end of Sonnet 40).
The remainder of the sonnet is a charming little colloquy between the speaker and personified Hope, the “thee” of line 5. Hope is partly a comforting counselor—something like Friar Laurence to Romeo, perhaps—but partly a student interpreting a text, and being told by the teacher (in lines 6-8) to take another stab at it, because it might be a bit over the student’s head, so to speak (“phrase so heavenly high”). “Fair text” (i.e., Stella’s face) in line 7 is a play on words, as this is a term of art for the text that expresses the author’s “true” meaning, as opposed to a “foul” copy (either a rough draft or a poorly-done copy) with mistakes. The student (line 8) is encouraged to take a look at the marginal notes (where authors often explain themselves), another word-play, as Stella seems to be “blushing” at the “margins” of her eyes.
The first half of the sestet adds three more questions to the one in line 8, all four basically adding up to an English teacher’s favorite question: do you have any specific evidence to support your general claim? The answer is clearly no, but in the final tercet the speaker is analogous to the speaker in Shakespeare’s Sonnet 138:
When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies. . .
—not that Stella is in any way a “dark lady” consciously misleading, but just that our speaker here is knowingly and deliberately suppressing the painful truth, in favor of the false hope.
Next time (weekend of February 6): Sonnet 68
Jonathan Smith is Professor of English at Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana.