§HAKJESPEARE 9 S §ONNETS: TOUCHSTONE OF THE ENGLISH L YruC TRADITION BURTON RAFFEL ON THE FACE OF!T, there is nothing either surprising or controversial about Stephen Booth's observation that Shakespeare's sonnets have been "highly valued by the vast majority of critics and general readers" (Essay ix). But "highly valued," though certainly commendatory, is praise set at a significantly lower key than, for example, George Saintsbury's: The mastery which had been partially attained in Venus and Adonis is complete here. There is nothing that the poet wishes to say that he cannot say, and there is hardly a district of thought and feeling into which he does not at least cast glances of unerring vision .... Shakespeare has here caught up the sum of love and uttered it as no poet has before or since, and .... in so doing he carried poetry ... to a pitch which it had never previously reached in English, and which it has never outstepped since. The coast-line of humanity must be wholly altered, the sea must change its nature, the moon must draw it in differ(320,319) ent ways, before that tide-mark is passed. Further: Booth's "high value" is ascribed-carefully, deliberately, knowledgeably-to "the
Explorations in Renaissance Culture – Brill
Published: Dec 2, 2000
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