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Herbert

SONNET NO. 1

 

      FRom fairest creatures we desire increase,
      That thereby beauties rose might never die,
      But as the riper should by time decease,
      His tender heir   might bear his memory:
      But thou contracted to thine own bright eyes,
      Feed'st thy lights flame  with self substantial fuel,
      Making a famine where abundance lies,
      Thy self thy foe---to thy sweet self  too cruel:
      Thou that are now the world's fresh ornament,
      And only herald to the gaudy spring,
      Within thine own bud buriest thy content,
      And tender chorle mak'st wast in niggarding:
      Pity the world or else this glutton be,
      To eat the worlds due--by the grave and thee.

 

 


  •   Note the repetition of the following-we find-thy  lights
    flame, thy  self, thy foe, thy  sweet self, thy  content.

    11th line.  " Buriest thy content". To bury one's content in
                one self is to have no desires outside  one self and to
                be entirely engrossed in the inward pleasure of
                contemplating one's own beauty.
                The last two lines appear to mean that Herbert is
                told to "pity the world" which is daily depopulated
                "by the grave" and get children in order to supply
                the loss and not to be a "glutton" who swallows
                and consumes more than is sufficient for his own
                support and so consumes "the world's" due by
                dying childless.

      Here Bacon tells us that in the most beautiful creatures we
    desire increase (progeny) that thereby their beauty shall never
    die but that as the riper (fully developed) person must die his
    heir might bear his memory (impression so reproduced. ) Bacon
    tells Herbert that by remaining single he makes a famine where
    there should be abundance (great plenty) and that he is cruel
    to himself and his own foe because he being then the world's
    fresh (youthful) ornament (something with grace and beauty)
    and herald (forerunner) of the gaudy (gay) spring (the time or
    beginning) had buried his content (substance) within himself
    and made a waste by niggarding (grudging to spend or give
    away) that he is a glutton by eating (consuming) something
    which was due (owing) to the world by him so the world must
    be pitied.

The sonnets addressed to William Herbert require no explaining. They are written
by one friend to another advising Herbert to marry and have children and in the
meantime not to behave in any manner which would prevent him from coming to
a wife with a clean heart. In his youth Herbert appears to have had undesirable
aquaintances. He was born in 1580 and in 1598 in his eighteenth year came to reside
permanently in London. His parents, the Earl and Countess of Pembroke, wished
him to marry and settle down so they arranged that he should marry Bridget Vere
--a daughter of the Earl of Oxford, but apparently Herbert cried off and this marriage
did not take place, as Herbert preferred to remain a bachelor and enjoy the pleasures of
London town. When his father died three years later (January 1601), he became
Earl of Pembroke.
This was the same person to whom with his brother Philip, Earl of Montgomery,
Francis Bacon dedicated his great work, the first folio of the "Shakespeare" plays.
Bacon was a close personal friend of these two brothers so it was quite natural
that he should desire to honor one of them by dedicating his book of sonnets to
William Herbert, and it will be found that Sonnets Nos. 1 to 17 were all addressed
to William Herbert. All these sonnets contain an exhortation to manly conduct
asking Herbert to refrain from indulging in vicious excesses which were common
in those days.

  

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