Once, a coworker asked me if I knew any good love quotes from Shakespeare. Apparently it was his anniversary and he was working on something for his wife. I asked him to be more specific. While there’s plenty of love to be found in the works, there aren’t too many happy marriages :). (I think we ended up with something from Romeo and Juliet). Anyway, as Valentine’s Day approaches I thought I’d go coming for some of the more obvious Cupid references. At first Sonnet 153 leapt right out at me, but then I saw Sonnet 154. I’m not a big student of the sonnets, so maybe somebody can explain this to me?
|SONNET 153 Cupid laid by his brand, and fell asleep: A maid of Dian’s this advantage found, And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep In a cold valley-fountain of that ground; Which borrow’d from this holy fire of Love A dateless lively heat, still to endure, And grew a seething bath, which yet men prove Against strange maladies a sovereign cure. But at my mistress’ eye Love’s brand new-fired, The boy for trial needs would touch my breast; I, sick withal, the help of bath desired, And thither hied, a sad distemper’d guest, But found no cure: the bath for my help lies Where Cupid got new fire–my mistress’ eyes.||SONNET 154 The little Love-god lying once asleep Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand, Whilst many nymphs that vow’d chaste life to keep Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand The fairest votary took up that fire Which many legions of true hearts had warm’d; And so the general of hot desire Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm’d. This brand she quenched in a cool well by, Which from Love’s fire took heat perpetual, Growing a bath and healthful remedy For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall, Came there for cure, and this by that I prove, Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.|
Are those not almost the exact same sonnet? I don’t really have the attention span here at work to dissect the whole thing, so I’m going to assume that the ending is fundamentally different for each, but the setup’s certainly the same, isn’t it? Cupid falls asleep, the nymphs come and steal his little bow and arrow and shove it in the water to cool it off. Only instead of cooling it off, it produces a hot spring that men come to soak in. 153’s ending makes clear sense – Cupid see’s my mistress’ eyes and that is enough to light his torch again, and the cure for the poet’s ills is not the hot bath, but his mistress’ eyes as well. But what’s 154 mean? He went to the bath to try to stop thinking about his mistress, and it didn’t work for him?