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TO THE ONLY BEGETTER :
MR. W. H.
: To the only BEGETTER-) The begetter is merely the person who gets or procures a thing, with the common prefix be added to it. So, in Decker's Satiromastix : “I have some cousin-germans at court shall beget you the reversion of the master of the king's revels." W. H. was probably one of the friends to whom Shakspeare's sugred sonnets, as they are termed by Meres, had been communicated, and who furnished the printer with his copy.
Boswell. · T.T.) i. e. Thomas Thorpe. See the extract from the Stationers' books. Malone.
I. FROM fairest creatures we desire increase ?, That thereby beauty's rose might never die, But as the riper should by time decease, His tender heir might bear his memory: But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes, Feed'st thy light's fame with self-substantial fuel, Making a famine where abundance lies, Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel, Thou that art now the world's fresh ornament, And only herald to the gaudy spring, Within thine own bud buriest thy content, And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding *.
3 From fairest creatures we desire increase, &c.] See Venus and Adonis :
“Upon the earth's increase why should'st thou feed,
“ And so in spite of death thou dost survive,
“ In that thy likeness still is left alive.” Boswell. If the first nineteen Sonnets be attentively examined, they will be found only to expand the argument of that stanza. I have been tempted frequently to consider those, and many more of the collection, as parts of a design to treat the subject of Adonis in the sonnet form ; relinquished by the poet for the present more manageable stanza. Boaden.
And, tender churl, mak'st waste in NIGGARDING.] So, in Romeo and Juliet:
“Then she hath sworn that she will still live chaste ? “Rom. She hath: and in that sparing makes huge waste." C. VOL. XX.
Pity the world, or else this glutton be,
this glutton be, To eat the world's due, by the grave and thee.] The ancient editors of Shakspeare's works, deserve at least the praise of impartiality. If they have occasionally corrupted his noblest sentiments, they have likewise depraved his mosi miserable conceits; as, perhaps, in this instance. I read (piteous constraint, to read such stuff at all!)
this glutton be; * To eat the world's due, be thy grave and thee." i. e. be at once thyself, and thy grave. The letters that form the two words were probably transposed. I did not think the late Mr. Rich had such example for the contrivance of making Harlequin jump down his own throat. Steevens.
I do not believe there is any corruption in the text. Mankind being daily thinned by the grave, the world could not subsist if the places of those who are taken off by death were not filled up by the birth of children. Hence Shakspeare considers the propagation of the species as the world's due, as a right to which it is entitled, and which it may demand from every individual. The sentiment in the lines before us, it must be owned, is quaintly expressed ; but the obscurity arises chiefly, I think, from the aukward collocation of the words for the sake of the rhyme. The meaning seems to me to be this._ Pity the world, which is daily depopulated by the grave, and beget children, in order to supply the loss; or, if you do not fulfil this duty, acknowledge, that as a glutton swallows and consumes more than is sufficient for his own support, so you (who by the course of nature must die, and by your own remissness are likely to die childless) thus “ living and dying in single blessedness,” consume and destroy the world's due ; to the desolation of which you will doubly contribute ; 1. by thy death ; 2. by thy dying childless.'
Our author's plays, as well as the poems now before us, affording a sufficient number of conceits, it is rather hard that he should be answerable for such as can only be obtained through the medium of alteration ; that he should be ridiculed not only for what he has, but for what he has not written. Malone.
Thy youth's proud livery, so gaz'd on now,
This were to be new made, when thou art old, And see thy blood warm, when thou feel'st it cold.
III. Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest, Now is the time that face should form another ; Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest, Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother. For where is she so fair, whose un-ear'd womb Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?? Or who is he so fond, will be the tomb Of his self-love, to stop posterity & ?
6 a tatter'd weed,-) A torn garment. Malone. 7 — whose UN-EAR'D WOMB
DISDAINS THE tillage of the husbandry?] Thus, in Measure for Measure :
her plenteous womb “ Expresseth his full tilth and husbandry." Steevens. Un-eard is unploughed. See p. 7, n. 1. Malone. 8 Or who is he so fond, will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to STOP POSTERITY ?] So, in Romeo and Juliet:
beauty, starv'd with her severity, “ Cuts beauty off from all posterity.” Again, in Venus and
“ If thou destroy them not in their obscurity ? Fond, in old language, is foolish. Malone.