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Transcript of Sonnet 19
Come darkest Night, becoming sorrow best,
Light leave thy light, fit for a lightsome soul:
Darkness doth truly suit with me oppressed,
Whom absence power doth from mirth control:
The very trees with hanging heads condole
Sweet Summers parting, and of leaves distressed,
In dying colors make a grief-full role;
So much (alas) to sorrow are they prest.
Thus of dead leaves, her farewell carpets made,
Their fall, their branches, all their mournings prove,
With leafless naked bodies, whose hues fade
From hopeful green to wither in their love;
If trees, and leaves for absence mourners be,
No marvel that I grieve, who like want see.
Sonnet 19 is but one sonnet from a sonnet sequence in Lady Mary Wroth's
Countess of Montgomery's Urania
The sequence is called
Pamphilia to Amphilanthus
. It concerns the two titular characters.
As the title suggests, the sonnets are spoken by Pamphilia to Amphilanthus, her unfaithful lover.
Pamphilia is meant to reflect many character traits belonging to Lady Mary Wroth.
By Tyler Crown
By Lady Mary Wroth
Lady Mary Wroth was born to a family of literary luminaries in England during the Elizabethan era.
Until Wroth published
Countess of Montgomery's Urania
, fiction by a female author was unheard of in England.
The publication of this work was not originally intended as it is not wholly fiction, but is also infused with allusions to Wroth's actual romantic experiences.
Upon publication there was outcry.
The work was considered a transgression on tradition.
Following the outcry, the work was pulled from sale.
She had an ally in Ben Jonson who praised the work immensely. He was an outlier, however.
Mary Wroth's defiance of gender typification garnered her the label "hermaphrodite" courtesy of critics.
"Come darkest Night, becoming sorrow best,
Light leave thy light, fit for a lightsome soul..."
The speaker, Pamphilia, beckons the night, craving sorrow.
The night itself is representative of sorrow whereas the light referred to in the second line represents joy and merriment.
The repetition of the word "light" is likely meant to communicate the speaker's actual desire for happiness despite her commanding it away.
The speaker commands light away because she feels that her soul is not a "lightsome" - or joyful - one, deserving of light.
"... Darkness doth truly suit with me oppressed,
Whom absence power doth from mirth control..."
As alluded to in earlier lines, the speaker finds darkness befitting of her.
She claims that being overwhelmed by darkness must suit her. This is due to the fact that she is consistently disappointed by Amphilanthus in the original sequence.
The second line refers to Amphilanthus directly.
Pamhpilia recognizes that his absence is responsible for her depression.
The underlined phrase implies that Amphilanthus is amused by his power over Pamphilia's emotions and exploits this.
This phrase also, in rhyming with "soul," serves to further associate Pamphilia's internal anguish with her lover's whims.
In the second quatrain, the speaker employs the symbolism of summer after lending even more significance to the power that Amphilanthus holds over her by saying that he controls the very trees.
The imagery invoked with "hanging heads" serves to better communicate the sorrow felt by Pamphilia in the absence of Amphilanthus while also initiating her use of the extended metaphor which compares Pamphilia to dying trees.
She uses "the very trees" to show that she recognizes the breadth of Amphlianthus's control over her world.
The alliteration that occurs in "hanging heads" is both for the purpose of euphony as well as to add emphasis to the "personality" of the trees.
The trees are personified as they are said to hang their heads in condolence at the end of summer and feel grief.
The alliteration present in "Sweet Summers" serves to show the speaker's appreciation for "summer" and the following feelings of loss that she's experienced.
It should be noted that "summer" likely refers to the height of the relationship between Pamphilia and Ampilanthus.
"... The very trees with hanging heads condole
Sweet Summers parting, and of leaves distressed..."
"... In dying colors make a grief-full role;
So much (alas) to sorrow are they prest..."
Here, the speaker describes the trees "in dying colors," which is meant to accentuate the sorrow that they (Pamphilia) feel(s).
"Dying colors" also refers to the state of a tree in winter. Given that death is associated with winter and
, we can assume that Pamphilia feels that this episode may spell the end of her relationship with Amphilanthus.
The speaker laments the trees' sadness, saying that they are "prest" with sorrow.
This further personification of the trees makes it more obvious that they represent Pamphilia.
"... Thus of dead leaves, her farewell carpets made,
Their fall, their branches, all their mournings prove
With leafless naked bodies, whose hues fade
From hopeful green to wither in their love..."
The speaker characterizes the dead leaves on the ground as a farewell carpet that will, perhaps, mark the "farewell" of her relationship with her lover.
She says that the fallen leaves and the jagged branches characteristic of dead trees prove that they have mourned.
She is implying that she's also shed something (tears, happiness, etc.) in her mourning of Amphilanthus's absence and this "fall" is proof of that grief.
This natural imagery serves to ground Pamphilia's experience in the mundane - to make her more sympathetic as well as to serve the extended metaphor.
Pamphilia compares her loss to the withering of a tree.
Many other adjectives could have been used to describe the trees' green hue, but there is deliberate diction at play.
"Hopeful" is used because it's analogous to Pamphilia's hope for her relationship at its outset.
"... If trees, and leaves for absence mourners be,
No marvel that I grieve, who like want see."
In the concluding couplet, the speaker maintains the conceit that she is a withering tree, aggrieved by the absence of her lover as a tree is aggrieved by the absence of summer.
The shift, or "volta," of the poem is made here.
The shift involves Pamphilia beginning to understand that her grief is natural and thus surmountable.
The shift shows a transition in Pamphilia's thought process.
The shift also serves to appropriately conclude the conceit in which Pamphilia conflates her sorrow with that of the trees.
The work is somber and hopeless up to this point. It seems that upon the shift, the speaker reconciles the conflict through acceptance - as if it were an exercise in contemplation on the part of Pamphilia.
By writing "no marvel that I grieve," Worth shows that Pamphilia is fully recognizing her situation with the assistance of the conceit.
This realization will perhaps lend itself to allowing Pamphilia to move on.
Lady Mary Wroth's Sonnet 19 is categorized as an English, or Shakespearean, sonnet.
This means that it is composed of 14 lines (as every sonnet is), has three quatrains, and has a couplet that concludes the sonnet.
Additionally, the sonnet must be in iambic pentameter to be considered "English/Shakespearean."
The Rhyme scheme of a quatrain is ABAB, and that of a couplet is AA.
The decision by Wroth to incorporate masculine rhyme serves to make the rhythm of the poem relatively quick - even frustrated.
This would be consistent with historical use of masculine rhyme, as it is meant to signify a serious subject rather than a trivial one.
The sonnet's theme is unreciprocated love and faithfulness.
Pamphilia is victim to Amphilanthus's whims and amusements.
Being aware of this, Pamphilia explores this dynamic and comes to the realization that she is far too dependent on him.
Th tone is solemn and sorrowful.
Pamphilia first feels that she deserves darkness and sorrow, but eventually finds that this grief is likely more cyclical than permanent.
The dynamic between Pamphilia and Amphilanthus can't be surely identified as analogous to a specific relationship of Wroth's, but it's supposed that she based this relationship on her own experience with a man.