Lust in Sonnet CXXIX (129)
A Savage Action Full of Blame - The essences of pure lust and its’ dark side. That is, in a word, what Shakespeare in his Sonnet CXXIX1 describes. His language is full of anger, frustration and self-blaming. A real, emotional, affected language - no flourishes. Shakespeare doesn't write about eternal love, the beauties of a woman or spiritual relations - all themes which we might expect from a classical sonnets. No - he talks about lust and the feeling of being dominated and helpless. And even a certain kind of vicious circle is strongly reflected in his choice of word and the atmosphere of the poem.
If we first take a brief look at the formal aspects of Shakespeare's Sonnet, we detect rather easily that it is presented in a very traditional way. Besides the classical end-rhyme scheme, we find a lot of examples ( e.g. line 11) of alliteration, which give the poem a very harmonic and smooth tone. But in analysing the formal aspects, there is a far more interesting and important point. The syntax of the poem already tell us a lot, especially about the word lust (l.2). In twelve of fourteen lines lust is the subject. To put it in another way, we can say that almost the whole poem is subjected - in the sense of being dominated, ruled by something - to lust.
This fact concerning the syntax, leads us to the first step of interpretation, namely the characteristics of lust. It seems, in accordance with the poem, that lust is something strong, domineering and taking possession. But not only the syntax of the first sentence leads us to such a definition of lust; the words - or in general: the language - in the poem speaks for itself:
"...and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,..." (l. 2)
Besides these very clear statements concerning the characteristics, it is also striking that lust is personified completely throughout the whole poem. All these human character traits that are ascribe to lust, make the reader realize that lust isn't something inanimate, but rather a very living, acting and dominating 'being'. Therefore, one can form a very good impression of the ideas around lust that Shakespeare tries to bring us closer to.
But how does Shakespeare describe lust? Generally, in the whole poem, different attitudes are ascribed to lust, especially concerning the ideas of before, during and after the act ( or action (l. 2) ) of lust. Also in this first quatrain, we find these ideas. Before the act ( see quote above ), lust is presented to us, in a very direct way, as something mean, lying, deceitful and almost sadistic1. But " ... is lust in action..." (l.2), the poet regards it as an "... expense of spirit in a waste of shame..." (l.1). So, the act of lust itself isn't described as bluntly as before; Shakespeare presents us in the first line a very strong metaphor of lust. As the word spirit...