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Sonnet 62

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Sonnet-62

Sonnet 62

Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye,

And all my soul, and all my every part;

And for this sin there is no remedy,

It is so grounded inward in my heart.

Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,

No shape so true no truth of such account,

And for myself mine own worth do define,

As I all other in all worths surmount.

But when my glass shows me myself indeed

Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity,

Mine own self-love quite contrary I read

Self, so self-loving were iniquity,

‘Tis thee (my self) that for my self I praise,

Painting my age with beauty of thy days.

 

I am old. You are young.

Sonnet 62 was my first step into the world of the sonnets. It was the first sonnet I ever memorized, and thus began my journey. I was drawn to it, I think, because as I age (and nature has been too kind in this regard) I am finally seeing a different face in the mirror–a man, in place of the boyish visage I’ve seen all these years. I spent most of those youthful-looking years in an odd Peter Pan state of stunted development, unable to claim or own my manhood.

I trace this back to my historic attachment to much older men in my youth. Being wanted (lusted after) and valued (pursued) by someone who knew something of life was far superior to the acceptance of my silly peers. Not to mention that, as a young closeted boy in West Virginia in the mid-80s, I was precocious and smart and mature and angelically youthful – catnip for any middle aged man. And there were many.

The truth of this paradigm echoes in my own middle age, as hunky, smart, funny, and mature (far beyond any maturity I every had at that age) young men endlessly fascinate me, while spurring my libido beyond all reason. These modern boys grew up in a vastly different world than I did, and the live in their truth more fully at such a tender age than I think I have ever done at twice their years.

Sonnet 62 explores my yearning to wrap myself in the cloak of their confidence, beauty, and sexual power in a vain attempt to preserve my own. Perhaps I will be allowed to live that lost time again through them, this time much more knowingly.

The sad truth is: I can’t. The face that stares back from my glass ages daily. Lines deepen. Teeth yellow. Hair (perhaps most alarmingly) emerges from formerly pristine features–my barber now trims my nose, ears, and brows as a matter of course.

The paradox of this disintegration of my youth is that my confidence in my manhood grows. The “sin” of self-love in not a sin I have vast experience with, having only recently been made possible with the wisdom of years. It is a treacherous illusion. As an actor, that I “all other, in all worths surmount” is a particularly devilish deception: my ego insists I am perfect for the role I am up for, and yet this more often than not turns out not to be the case. At least I don’t get the chance to prove it on stage.

And for myself mine own worth do define,

This sonnet itself is a particular favorite: the bravado of the octave is so deliciously tempered in the turn at the sestet. I love the way I speak of my self-love being infused into my eye, and (enticingly) “my every part.” Though I was initially uncomfortable saying it out loud, now I revel in my “gracious” face and my “true” shape. Defining my own worth, and owning it fully has been my journey in life, and here I reinforce that path with powerful language.

Contrast that with the reality of suddenly being faced with evidence I am “beated and chopped with tanned antiquity.” Let’s face it, I never take just one selfie since experience has shown that in any series of six self portraits, five must be deleted and banished forever from the earth. Sonnet 62 is a fine argument for “skinny” mirrors and strict photo approval.

The couplet brings me back to the youths I would wrap myself in. A simultaneously pathetic and comforting thought.

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