Paul Hoover & William Shakespeare

Gloss on the Text1

Sweet love, renew thy force, be it not said2

Thy edge should blunter be than appetite3,

Which but today by feeding4 is allayed,

Tomorrow sharp’ned in his former might5.

So love be thou, although today thou fill

Thy hungry eyes6, ev’n7 till they wink8 with fullness.

Tomorrow see again, and do not kill

The spirit of love with a perpetual dullness.9

Let this sad int’rim10 like the oceans be

Which parts the shore11, where two contracted new

Come daily to the banks, that when they see

Return of love12, more blest may be the view;

As13 call it winter, which being full of care,

Makes summer’s welcome, thrice more wished, more rare.




1 The word “gloss” is highly suggestive, and should be more in currency.

2 Poetic inversion, common in the 16th century.

3 Appetite is a good word, but comparing it with an edge confuses the metaphor.

4 The poet extends the conceit of appetite into the erotic realm. Feeding is thus a polite reference to sexual intercourse.

5 The syntax is tortured so as to meet the rhyme on time.

6 The conceit of hunger strains to clean its plate; a conflicting conceit appears, this time involving eyesight.

7 I am reminded of the humorous phrase, “Elisions, I use them to keep me regular.”

8 Such word choices raise the question of whether Shakespeare the poet was the same person as Shakespeare the playwright.

9 It’s hard to locate a rhyme for “fullness.” This will have to do.

10 Are there nine syllables in this line or ten? If nine, why the elision? Or is “oceans” to be pronounced “osh-ee-ans”?

11 The figure of speech is puzzling. How exactly does an ocean part the shore, by sending in a powerful wave such as a tsunami? Wouldn’t the water rather quickly withdraw, in any event? Incidentally, in the Asian tsunami of December 25, 2004, my daughter’s former psychiatrist tragically died while vacationing in Thailand. His body was recovered, but his wife was apparently swept out to sea. Such haunting imagery would make a good subject for a sustained lyric poem by James Dickey or Hart Crane. I’d take up the project myself if I weren’t so busy. Two months before the doctor’s death, we stood in line behind him at the movies and overheard his caustic remarks about the latest Woody Allen movie. Death can come so quickly. Value your loved ones while you can.

12 Love apparently comes sweeping back, like ocean waves. As the lovers stand on each side of the water, their view is blest because it is of each other. But is it accurate to describe their standing place as “banks,” a word that suggests a more permanent breech in the relationship?

13 The presence of this word is inexplicable.