There Goes the Sun: An analysis of Shakespeare's 33rd Sonnet
Who doesn’t love a bright summer morning? Sadly, even the greatest days are cloaked in stifling clouds. William Shakespeare, in his “Full Many a Glorious Morning Have I Seen”, connects both types of days to something much greater. Through the extended metaphor of the sun, he discusses a man's wonder and impassivity towards life.
Like one’s childhood, the poem begins with pure joy. Shakespeare begins the poem with “Full many a glorious morning have I seen / Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye.”(1-2) On a surface reading, the poet is saying how wonderful the day is. This can be extended to a early life, too. When a child is young, he holds everything in awe. Every sight is a first, from a cooing mother to a glorious mountain. In most cases, nothing spoils the pure bliss of the awareness.
Shakespeare then quickly switches from the mindless joy of a toddler to the happiness and excitement of growing up. The third line is already “Kissing with golden face the meadows green,”(3) normally yet another piece of imagery. It should be noted, however, that kissing is an intimate act. People first kiss their parents in an expression of familial love, and then their lovers in romantic expression. From this, The Bard connects his imagery to the blossoming of a person’s love and (eventually) lust. After this, he writes “Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchymy [sic];” (4) Gilding is an art and a trade, and alchemy was a highly intellectual and spiritual activity. It becomes apparent that here the children are experiencing intellectual development. They begin to dissect and alter the world, hence the comparison to alchemy. Furthermore, children learn to both use their imagination and function as adults, which is why a connection to gilding applies. Thus it can be suggested that the first four lines reflect the wonder and joy of a person’s childhood.
All good things come to an end, though, especially the innocence of infancy. In the poem, clouds soon dot the skies. In Shakespeare’s words, “Anon permit the basest clouds to ride / With ugly rack on his celestial face,” (5-6) Over time, people grow disillusioned and cynical with the word. Love cools into tolerance, wonder becomes fear of the unknown, and the desire to learn and imagine warps into apathy. At first the process is subtle- hence why the sun “permits” it- but accelerates until it “racks” the sun. Eventually, Shakespeare says the sun is clouded such that “And...