Monday, February 2, 2015

Delia 47: Read in my face a volume of despairs - Samuel Daniel

Read in my face a volume of despairs,
The wailing Iliads of my tragic woe,
Drawn with my blood and printed with my cares
Wrought by her hand, that I have honor'd so.
Who, whilst I burn, she sings at my soul's wrack,
Looking aloft from a turret of her pride;
There my soul's tyrant joys her in the sack
Of her own seat, whereof I made her guide.
There do these smokes that from affliction rise,
Serve as an incense to a cruel Dame;
A sacrifice thrice grateful to her eyes,
Because their power serve to exact the same.
   Thus ruins she, to satisfy her will,
   The Temple where her name was honor'd still.

Though Daniel was most known as a playwright and dramatist, his contributions to poetry in the English Renaissance are significant, particularly his sonnets.  Here, in high fashion, Daniel cultivates an air of despair and sorrow, something I've discussed before.  There was a fashion of melancholy, where expressing your sadness in an elegant way was socially desirable.  While it's certainly highly affected language, it's still got sincerity about it.

Daniel describes his lover, who has presumably spurned his offenses, like a Queen, a tyrant who ruins the "temple where her name was honor'd still."  That temple is Daniel himself, his heart.  He burns in torment and pain, as if cast into hell, but she just sings and laughs.  Still though, he cannot help but worship her, such is his love.  It's somewhat hokey by our modern standards, but I can't help but think these sonnets of his would have greatly pleased his wealthy patron, Mary, Countess of Pembroke.  These seem to be the height of passion and refinement as far as suffering is concerned.

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