William Shakespeare

(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616 / Warwickshire)

Sonnet 103: Alack, What Poverty My Muse Brings Forth - Poem by William Shakespeare

Alack, what poverty my Muse brings forth,
That having such a scope to show her pride,
The argument all bare is of more worth
Than when it hath my added praise beside.
O, blame me not if I no more can write!
Look in your glass, and there appears a face
That overgoes my blunt invention quite,
Dulling my lines, and doing me disgrace.
Were it not sinful then striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?
For to no other pass my verses tend
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell;
And more, much more than in my verse can sit,
Your own glass shows you when you look in it.


Comments about Sonnet 103: Alack, What Poverty My Muse Brings Forth by William Shakespeare

  • Fabrizio Frosini (2/29/2016 5:38:00 AM)


    .shakespeares-sonnets.com/

    1. Alack! what poverty my Muse brings forth,
    brings forth = gives birth to.
    2. That having such a scope to show her pride,
    such a scope = such spacious and rich opportunities and themes
    to show her pride = to show off her excellence, to be ostentatiously showy.
    3. The argument all bare is of more worth
    The argument = the subject matter;
    all bare = when it is naked and unadorned.
    4. Than when it hath my added praise beside!
    Added praise beside - beside is tautological, but it adds to the sense of a heaping up of encomiums, and provides the necessary rhyme.
    5. O! blame me not, if I no more can write!
    My Muse of line 1 has now become the poet himself, who can no longer write, whose inspiration has all dried up.
    6. Look in your glass, and there appears a face
    your glass = your mirror.
    7. That over-goes my blunt invention quite,
    over-goes = surpasses, excels, out-does.
    my blunt invention = my dull powers of fancy and poetic creation, my poor poetic talent.
    8. Dulling my lines, and doing me disgrace.
    dulling my lines = making my lines appear to be boring by comparison.
    doing me disgrace = making me appear graceless, disgracing me by making me appear inadequate.
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  • Fabrizio Frosini (2/29/2016 5:38:00 AM)


    ..
    9. Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
    Were it not sinful = would it not be sinful if I were to etc.
    striving to mend = as a result of striving to improve (your image, the description of you) .
    10. To mar the subject that before was well?
    To mar the subject = to do damage to you, the subject of my verse.
    that before was well = you who, before I started to praise you, were already excellent in your own person.
    11. For to no other pass my verses tend
    no other pass = no other aim or issue.
    tend = strive, aim for.
    12. Than of your graces and your gifts to tell;
    your graces and your gifts = your elegant and graceful person and your talents.
    13. And more, much more, than in my verse can sit,
    more, much more - the more that he sees may not be to his liking.
    in my verse can sit = than can be placed in my verse, than my verse can contain. to sit is simply to be present at, or in.
    14. Your own glass shows you when you look in it.
    glass = mirror. The thought is that the youth's reflection in the mirror, the reality that he sees there, is far richer than anything that the poet can say of him in verse. The philosophical problem is that an image in the mirror is no more 'the thing itself' than is the image depicted, described, delineated and painted in verse. The narcissistic fulfilment of himself, achieved by gazing in the mirror, may therefore be as fatuous and unfulfilling as listening to the songs of poets who sing his praises.
    (Report) Reply

  • Fabrizio Frosini (1/13/2016 12:55:00 PM)


    The poet again parades his modesty, portraying himself as an indifferent poet who cannot adequately sing the worth of his beloved. But of course the poem itself contradicts this stance, and the poet, despite his disclaimers, is probably well aware of the relative merits of his verse when set against the youth's own frivolity and the worth of a lasting and true relationship. Yet he shows his generosity by degrading his talents to a humble level and putting the youth on the customary high pedestal. The closing couplet is perhaps double edged in that the 'more, much more' which the mirror shows is the effect of the encroachment of lines and wrinkles. The following sonnet pretends to deny this perception, saying it is unworthy of notice. But alas, the face which Narcissus saw, when he gazed at his own image reflected in the water, was the face of time and death. (Report) Reply

  • Brian Jani (4/26/2014 5:11:00 AM)


    Awesome I like this poem, check mine out (Report) Reply

  • Egal Bohen (9/25/2006 12:41:00 PM)


    I imagine whoever it was who gave this a 1 obviously cannot read (or perhaps is more than a little jealous?) (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: poverty, pride, sonnet



Poem Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003



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