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dost wake elsewhere” (when Truth is elsewhere, and I am not busy with my writing). “From Me far off, with others all too near” (and liable to be employed by others in their writings). This stanza virtually denies to Shakespeare any work in the composition of the dramas.
'Tis Thee, Myself, that for Myself I praise,
He apologizes in this stanza for the self-love he has exhibited in the previous stanza by claiming for himself the merit of composing the dramas. Self-love possesses him “in all my every part.” Its control of him is so entire that there is “no remedy” for it. Under its influence he thinks no one handsomer than he is, so well shaped, so perfect in character. In his own estimation he excels "all others." But when he sees himself in his reflections “bated and chopp'd with tann'd
antiquity” (worn and thin from his studies and closet exercises, and a life of seclusion), he is undeceived and reminded of the folly of such selflove. It is all for “Thee, Myself” (my thoughts in delineation), that "for Myself I praise, painting My age with beauty of Thy days” (bestowing his thoughts upon the times in which he happens to live).
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
In this stanza he declares that he writes this poem to perpetuate the dramas. “Against My Love [it will be remembered that Shakespeare was added to “My Love,” but not as a true love, in the fortieth stanza) shall be, as I am now" (the time will come when Shakespeare will be enfeebled as he is). Time will wear out his vigor, attenuate and weaken his frame. His blood will be thinned, and wrinkles and lines will mark his visage.
His morn of youth will be superseded by the night of infirm old age. His freshness and joy. ousness, now so attractive, and all the strength of his manhood, will disappear, carrying with them the hopes and aspirations of his early life, and the ambition and energy of his spring. “Against confounding age's cruel knife” (to forestall the effect of these infirmities in Shakespeare), and that they may not be equally destructive to “My sweet Love's beauty” (his dramas), though they will destroy “My lover's (Shakespeare's] life,” “these black lines” (the printed lines composing this poem), shall preserve them, and their beauty shall "in them still be green” (always fresh).
May it not have been possible that it was one part of the arrangement between Bacon and Shakespeare, that Shakespeare should abandon all care for the dramas at the time of his retirement from the theatre, and that their history from that period should be left for the world to solve? There is something very curious about the closing period of Shakespeare's life. No evidence has ever been found to show that he bestowed any attention upon the plays after they ceased to add to his revenues. Nothing in his will shows that he claimed any property in them at the time of his death. His effects and papers did not contain any reference to them, nor was there even a letter or manuscript from which it
could be in ferred that he had ever written a line of them. He died and left no other sign than the fearful lines on his tomb which have so long prevented the removal of his bones to Westminster Abbey. Either Bacon knew at the time he wrote this stanza that this was to be the condition of the dramas at Shakespeare's death, or that Shakespeare was not likely from habit or inclination to care for their preservation. I incline to the former opinion, as well because of the intense interest manifested for their perpetuity in this poem, as the words in Bacon's will bequeathing his works and memory to "the next ages and foreign countries." He foresaw the time when the authorship of these works would be investigated, and "for such a time" did he “fortify” against the “confounding” which “cruel age” would be likely to introduce. That “confounding” has come, and the question will not rest without a just settlement.
When I have seen by Time's fell hand defac'd,
Ruin hath taught Me thus to ruminate,
This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
He assigns other reasons in this stanza for his fears concerning the perpetuity of the dramas. The devastations wrought by Time upon the richest and most sacred memorials, the overthrow of “lofty towers,” and the destruction of works and statues of brass, in broils and insurrections; the encroachments of the sea upon the land, and the gains of the land from the sea;—all these interchanges, as well as the changes in governments often ending in ruin, have caused him to fear that a like calamity may occur to his Love (his dramas). He is overwhelmed with regret at the thought, "which cannot choose but weep to have that which it fears to lose” (and grieves that he cannot claim the dramas as his own, since he is so much concerned for their future condition).
This stanza corroborates my impression that there must have been some understanding by which the dramas were to be abandoned by both Bacon and Shakespeare, and no further explanation of them given than such as appeared attributing them to Shakespeare, and their concealed history in this poem. This poem was probably understood by Shakespeare, at the time it was written, to contain a full history of the dramas. If so, it goes far to account for the meagre evi