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Sonnet 25

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Sonnet 25

Let those who are in favor with their stars,

Of public honor and proud titles boast,

Whilst I whom fortune of such triumph bars

Unlooked for joy in that I honor most;

Great Princes favorites their fair leaves spread,

But as the Marigold at the suns eye,

And in themselves their pride lies buried,

For at a frown they in their glory die.

The painful warrior famoused for worth, [might,fight]

After a thousand victories once foiled,

Is from the book of honor razed quite, [forth]

And all the rest forgot for which he toiled:

Then happy I that love and am beloved

Where I may not remove, nor be removed.

Let all the lucky ones boast of their fame and position, while I, whom fortune bars from such prizes, have the unlooked for joy of your love. Couriers, though favorites of the Prince, are like the marigold that blooms while the sun shines, but whose own pride is fragile and dies with the Prince’s frown. A warrior with a thousand victories who is foiled only once is stripped of his honors, and all he accomplished is forgotten. Therefore, I am happy that I love and am loved in a place (your heart) where I may not leave nor be removed. 

“You’re not my soft place.”

The words sting me. Spoken after my response to hearing a confession of insecurity and angst. Hearing this confessional and pain, my response was, as my instinct directs, cold and truthful and helpful, as if the goal were to solve the problem. But that was not the point. The point, lost to my cold analytic mind, was simply to listen, and hear, and hold that fragile thing he gave to my care safe from the world that wounded it. I failed. Instead of hearing a cry for comfort, I heard a problem to be solved, and my solution was harsh. Far harsher than the soul bared to me could bear.

“You’re not my soft place.”

His voice cracks a little with the disappointment of this pronouncement. I look away before the water gathering in the corner of his eye can fall. I feel my gut knot as it knows he is right. My breath tightens. I feel the dreaded weight of not being enough, of disappointing once again. Water seeps into my eye. Before it can take hold, defensiveness–my old frenemy–reins back hard.

“You’re not my soft place.”

And he is not mine. I know this, and I keep those fragile fragments of my soul to myself, because I do not trust him with them, as he should not trust his with me. But he does, and I fail. And I resent him, and myself, for this basic misalignment of need and trust. Am I the famous warrior who is only remembered for my one failure instead of all the good I’ve done? Certainly, the trust placed in me in the future will only be equal to this latest failure. I will have to start over to earn more responsibility for the heart I am supposed to bear as if it were my own babe. I resent this setback.

“You’re not my soft place.”

My reaction to hearing these words is cold.. This is the truth, I think. I’m sorry it hurts you to hear, but I cannot change it. This thought is simultaneous with the knowledge that he is right. I am a stone bed for his heart. It is not what either of us wants or deserves.

“You’re not my soft place.”

I long for a place where my love is honored in unexpected ways, and where I can reveal my innermost fragile feelings without fear of judgment. But more than that, I want to be that soft place for another’s heart. My fear is two-fold: that I am simply not meant to bear this heart I have bruised tonight;  worse, that I am not capable of such a tender responsibility for any heart at all.

A note on the emendations here: Modern editions make one of two basic adjustments to “correct” the bad rhyme of worth and quite (l9 & l11). Popular are changing worth to might or fight, or changing quite to forth. There are other examples of bad rhymes in the sonnets, but none take me out of the verse so jarringly as this one. Possibly this is because the surrounding rhymes of Q3 are so tidy, but also because both worth and quite seem like placeholders, as if they represent the meaning Shakespeare wanted, but he forgot to go back and replace them with more elegant choices. I know that’s not what happened (probably) and the 1609 Q version may have been exactly what he intended… or it may have been a typo. Who knows? No one (and anyone who says they do is supposing as much as I am.)

But, when I speak this, I choose might over worth, though in my mind I equate the two in meaning – a warrior’s worth is his might. I won’t defend it any more than to say it feels right to me and doesn’t take me out of the verse.  In any case, it’s worth noting the differences the various emendations introduce compared to the original. Then go ahead and speak it however feels right to you.

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