First approach to Sonnet 82 today — just letting it play in my head (and, hopefully, heart), letting it sink in, find its connection to the core of my being. I “put it into my head” before going for a walk, and so the time in the park was spent with the sonnet “in the background”:
I grant thou wert not married to my Muse,
And therefore mayst without attaint o’erlook
The dedicated words which writers use
Of their fair subject, blessing every book.
Thou art as fair in knowledge as in hue,
Finding thy worth a limit past my praise;
And therefore art enforced to seek anew
Some fresher stamp of the time-bettering days.
And do so, love; yet when they have devised,
What strained touches rhetoric can lend,
Thou truly fair, wert truly sympathised
In true plain words, by thy true-telling friend;
And their gross painting might be better used
Where cheeks need blood; in thee it is abused.
In contrast to the previous one, it exists on an unambiguously “interpersonal” level, with a tangible and “polite” distance between its “I” and its “thou”. The idea of (not) being married to the poet’s Muse comes entirely from the outside the sonnets sequence itself — the context of the sonnets implies that the addressee is the Muse, not her spouse. So thou wert not married to my Muse allows for two readings: the “inner” one (no, you aren’t married to her, you are her), and the “outer” one (no, you aren’t married to her, you are a free agent and can enjoy other poets’ offerings).
The other striking aspect of the sonnet, is, of course, the repetitive fair and true — and their interaction. “True” repeated four times in the space of two lines — from someone so “good with words”, this cannot be accidental. I’ll have to try and find a painting “equivalent” for that. For now, though, it reminded me of this conversation between Hamlet and Ophelia:
Hamlet Ha, ha! Are you honest?
Ophelia. My lord?
Hamlet. Are you fair?
Ophelia. What means your lordship?
Hamlet. That if you be honest and fair, your honesty should admit no
discourse to your beauty.
Ophelia. Could beauty, my lord, have better commerce than with honesty
Hamlet. Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness. This was sometime a paradox, but now the time gives it proof. I did love you once.
Thinking about this sonnet — in its intrinsic opposition to the previous one — clarified my understanding (or rather — my feeling) of this weird thing we call “I”, firmly enclosed within itself and yet somehow distributed all over the place.
And this, in turn, brought the first answer to the question I’ve been living lately: my decreased “studio time”, and the somewhat paradoxical effect of this decrease on the “results”. I have sacrificed some of my studio time to various self-reflection and “just being” activities, let alone working on the “Art of Seeing” platform — and I’ve been feeling acutely that I don’t spend enough time painting. So how could it happen that, at the same time, I’ve been actually painting more?
I realised that the very validity of this question hinges on the validity of the concept of solid “I”. Who is it that’s spending (or not spending) time in the studio? Obviously, some of the time my body spent was painting during the last months of 2015, “I” was barely in the room. And today during the walk, much more of it was actually involved in the process of painting — while walking at the same time.