The Changes of Self-position in Shakespeare's Sonnet 29
In the speaker's contemplation, this poem shows the progress of self-assertion of his love. There are three states in relating to the development of his belief. In the first state, the speaker despises himself and loses all hopes in life. In the second state, the speaker sits on the fence and looks on both sides, pondering whether he can or cannot accept himself. In the third state, with the very certainty of love, the speaker elevates and confirms himself, and even his position raises higher than that of the kings.
In the first state, from line 1 to line 8, the speaker can only see himself from the appearance through "men's eyes." He admits other people's judgement and perceptive for him. This speaker does not interact with people around; instead, he is kept outside. In this condition, the speaker does not fight back. He does not reject the disgrace that others impose on him but passively takes in the scold. In line 2, the subject "I" first appears and brings out the first state of the speaker, outcast and all alone. He is not satisfied with his own state. He feels depressed and starts crying.
(14) king ? turning point (1) disgrace(13) sweet love (2) outcast state?(12) sing hymns (3) bootless cries(11) lark, arising (4) curse my fate (10) think on thee (5) wishing°Kmy state ć (6) featured°K (7) desired°K (8) what I most enjoy contented least(9) Yet, in these thoughts myself almost despising
The right side of this picture reflects the development in the first quatrain. The speaker suffers from his own "disgrace." He grows the self-denial idea and rejects his own talents. The speaker asks help from heaven, which responds with nothing. The heaven is deaf because the speaker firmly believes that he is in an outcast stage. The inability of heaven to provide any help is the projection of the speaker. He believes his fate has already left him all alone so certainly that he does not expect any hope from the outside. Though he cries to heaven, the voice cannot reach anywhere. Beweeping, reflecting, and cursing and three actions the speaker "I" has done so far. First, the speaker feels sad and starts crying. Then he verbally attacks his own fate. This life has become but nothing he values. The speaker is in despair. He delivers a message that nobody can receive. In the second stage, the speaker lives in a self-indulgent condition. He convinces himself to be truly helpless.
From line 5 to 7, the subject of these sentences is omitted. The speaker rejects his self. The participial structure results in an absent subject in this sentence, reflecting the speaker's self-denial. What he wants to be and care for is not himself at all but "this man's art and that man's scope."
The speaker's greatest self-conflit appears first in line 8-"With what I most enjoy contented least." Two verbs in the middle contradict and confront each other. These two verbs are supposed to have the same positive meanings. But now they are in conflict because the adverbs, most and least, another two opposite words with contradictory meanings. The conflict sits nearly in the middle of the sentence, six syllables in front, and four in behind. The speaker does not yet move out from his sad feelings. Moreover, the subject of this line is omitted more completely. The only "I" is wrapped up as a subject in the noun clause, which is an object in the main sentence. In other words, the idea of I has been submerged in other people's perspective. The speaker has lost any help from himself or others. There seems to be no exit to escape out.
There are some binaries in the poem. (1:14, 2:13, 3:12, 4:11, 5+6+7:10, 8+9 as the turning point) On the left hand side of this picture shows the elevating condition of the speaker. In line 14, the speaker turns his own position higher than kings, whereas in line 1 he thinks he is in disgrace in others' eyes. In line 2, the speaker has nothing but lonely, outcast state, and later in line 13, he enjoys both material and spiritual satisfaction-sweet love and wealth. In line 3, the speaker would not believe the power of God, but then in line 12, the speaker sings hymns at heaven's gate. From these pairs of comparisons, we can see that the speaker has undergone a sudden change, which has turned his complaints towards life to hope and his despair to joy.
The turning point appears in line 10. The speaker is immediately caught by a thought of "thee," and his whole condition has completely reversed. Not any physical touches or meeting, this object "thee" does not have a substantial existence, and the speaker has obtained his transformation. The rescuer of the speaker is a thought in his own mind. Moreover, what has made the whole situation change is the "sweet love remembered." It is still something without any evident trace or proof. This love might be only remembered by the speaker, which never exists. This feeling of love might only be stored in the speaker's mind.
After all, the speaker, through the process of questioning and rejecting himself, tries to confirm and enforce his feeling of love towards a lover unknown. Because of this remembrance of love and this thought of the lover, the speaker has asserted himself to another higher and happier state. Despite of all other people's looking or scolding, the speaker does not care at all. The speaker confirms this certain and confident attitude of love by this sonnet. His belief in love becomes above all trials.