No more be griev’d at that which thou hast done:
Roses have thorns, and silver fountains mud,
Clouds and eclipses stain both moon and sun,
And loathsome canker lives in sweetest bud.
All men make faults, and even I in this,
Authorizing thy trespass with compare,
Myself corrupting, salving thy amiss,
Excusing thy sins more than thy sins are;
For to thy sensual fault I bring in sense,
(Thy adverse party is thy advocate)
And ‘gainst myself a lawful plea commence:
Such civil war is in my love and hate
That I an accessary needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.
FYI: This is a homework assignment.
1. What is the structure of the poem?
As a sonnet, it has the traditional 14 lines. As an English sonnet it has 3 quatrains and a couplet. I do not see a ghost octave in this sonnet. It seems to stay with the original flow from beginning to end; with the only change I noted being the use of imagery stronger at the beginning and fading as the poem proceeds. However, the first two quatrains are complete thoughts. While the third quatrain runs into the couplet to complete the idea. The rhyming in the poem is traditional and fairly straight forward, with only lines 6 and 8 seeming to be a near rhyme rather than a true one.
2. What does the poem say?
Whom ever Shakespeare is addressing in this poem, has done something that is generally considered morally wrong and it is implied that the “sin” was sexual in nature. Line 9 reads “For thy sensual fault I bring in sence” Which basically means that Shakespeare is trying to bring a defense for a sexual/sensual wrong by giving the reasons for the wrong. Perhaps implying forgiveness comes through understanding the other’s view point. At the beginning of the poem Shakespeare declares that all things have faults and that men shouldn’t be condemned for being the same. Over all, I get the sense that Shakespeare is basically forgiving this person because he considers himself much the same and doesn’t believe a real wrong has been committed.
3. What figurative language is used?
This poem is full of figurative language, especially at the beginning of the poem. Line 2 reads “Roses have thorns, and silver fountains have mud.” The beautiful rose has the fault of thorns. The silver fountain, or spring, has mud. Springs are generally looked at as being a pure water source and yet, he notes, that they have mud. Line 3 reads “Cloudes and eclipses staine both Moone and Sunne.” Even the light of the two greatest heavenly bodies are not free of blemish. These images serve to stress Shakespeare’s point that men are faulted by nature, as all things are, and cannot be condemned for those faults. The image of the canker in the bud continues to illustrate this point; the portion of the plant holding the most promise and potential is also the part that holds the worm. Later in the poem, he refers to civil war to express the inner conflict he is experiencing. On the one hand, he feels love for whom he his speaking to and desires to forgive. On the other hand, he hates the wrong doing that ha been committed. The conflicting emotions of love for the person and hate for the action are compared to a civil (or internal) war.