Home / De Vere Poem Articles / De Vere Poem 15: Who Taught Thee First to Sigh?

De Vere Poem 15: Who Taught Thee First to Sigh?

The Introduction to this new Shakespeare Oxford Fellowship edition of the known poems of Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (1550-1604), explaining their text, format, annotations, and historical background, with key to abbreviations and works cited, is available here (see copyright notice therein, note 1). The other de Vere poems published in this edition (and a printable and citable pdf version of the entire article, including all 20 poems with annotations) may be accessed from the Introduction.

Poem No. 15: “Who Taught Thee First to Sigh?”

(May #15: classically “Shakespearean” sonnet, with three echoes)

1            Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

2            Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?        Love

3            Who filled thine eyes with tears of bitter smart?

4            Who gave thee grief, and made thy joys to faint?

5            Who first did print with colours pale thy face?

6            Who first did break thy sleeps of quiet rest?                    Love

7            Above the rest in court, who gave thee grace?

8            Who made thee strive in virtue to be best?

9            In constant troth to bide so firm and sure,

10          To scorn the world, regarding but thy friend,

11          With patient mind each passion to endure,

12          In one desire to settle to thy end?                                    Love

13          Love then thy choice, wherein such faith doth bind

14          As nought but death may ever change thy mind.

 

(1) Who taught thee first to sigh, alas, my heart?

Who taught thee how to make me love thee more …?’ (Sonnets, 150.9).

Both samples employ an identical phrase (Who taught thee?) in exactly the same context—a rhetorical question asking about the origins of the speaker’s love for another. In both there is a kind of sweet chiding over the beloved’s responsibility for inspiring the lover’s desire.

(2) Who taught thy tongue the woeful words of plaint?

‘And if I were thy nurse, thy tongue to teach’ (Rich. II, 5.3.113); ‘To teach my tongue to be so long’ (Pass. Pilg., 18.52); cf. ‘Those eyes that taught all other eyes to see’ (Venus, 952); ‘How angerly I taught my brow to frown’ (Two Gent., 1.2.62); ‘And teach your ears to list me with more heed’ (Errors, 4.1.101); ‘Teach not thy lip such scorn’ (Rich. III, 1.2.171); ‘O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!’ (R&J, 1.5.44).

The parallel here is not merely the verb to teach, but its specific, playful, metaphorical use as applied to the tongue, or to other body parts or inanimate objects.

(2) woe­ful words

‘As if they heard the woeful words they told’ (Venus, 1126).

(4-5) Who gave thee grief, and made thy joys to faint? Who first did print with colours pale thy face?

‘Affection faints not like a pale-fac’d coward’ (Venus, 569); cf. ‘As burning fevers, ague, pale and faint’ (Venus, 739).

(6) break thy sleeps

break not your sleeps for that’ (Ham., 4.7.30); cf.broke their sleep’ (2 Hen. IV, 4.5.68, and Cor., 4.4.19).

See also No. 18b.15 (I break no sleep).

(8-9) strive in virtue … In constant troth

‘I did strive to prove The constancy and virtue of your love’ (Sonnets, 117.13); cf. ‘That ’gainst the stream of virtue they may strive’ (Timon, 4.1.27).

(11) With patient mind each passion to endure

‘God of his mercy give You patience to endure’ (Hen. V, 2.2.180); ‘I must have patience to endure the load’ (Rich. III, 3.7.230); ‘I must have patience to endure all this’ (Titus, 2.3.88); ‘I have the patience to endure it now’ (Caes., 4.3.192); cf. ‘have patience and endure’ (Much, 4.1.254); ‘endure the toothache patiently’ (Much, 5.1.36).

[posted January 22, 2018]

About Bryan Wildenthal

Stay Informed
Join our FREE Email list to get the latest news on the Shakespeare authorship controversy
No Thanks
Thanks for signing up. You must confirm your email address before we can send you. Please check your email and follow the instructions.
We respect your privacy. Your information is safe and will never be shared.
Don't miss out. Subscribe today.
×
×