Sonnets for Advent 20: Sonnet 76

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I like to think of this sonnet as coming at the midway point in the collection. It seems utterly appropriate at this half-way stage that the poet should be asking, ‘Why is my verse so barren of new pride’? How can he keep re-inventing new ways to praise the beloved? Here again his expressions of love chime with theatrical metaphor. Just as actors need to sound as though they are speaking the same words for the very first time,’so all my best is dressing old words new’. Finally, his love is compared to the sun which will go on rising day, after day, and never tire.’

Sonnet 76 is read by my colleague Anjna Chouhan.

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O! know sweet love I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.

Find out more about Shakespeare’s Sonnets via our free on-line course www.gettingtoknowshakespeare.com

Listen to the same sonnet being read by a student at the University of Tubingen by clicking here.

You might like to treat yourself to The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s own, exclusive edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, edited by our Honorary President, Professor Stanley Wells C.B.E., and beautifully printed by Oxford University Press. Find out more 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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