(1594) The sonnet titled "Since there's no help, come let us kiss and part" remains the best known poem by Michael Drayton. In the Elizabethan sonnet form it first appeared as number 61 in Drayton's 64-sonnet sequence titled Ideas Mirror. As did his contemporaries, Drayton differentiated between his sonnets only by number; their first lines were later adopted as titles. Widely anthologized, this sonnet proves far more readable than many of Drayton's poems, which tended to be burdened with elevated terminology and heavy with figurative language (figure of speech) that obscured, rather than clarified, their themes.
The first line of the sonnet serves as its title, presenting also its topic. The speaker finds himself in a relationship that no longer proves satisfying, and he wishes that both lovers might separate with a minimum of pain. As is common to the Elizabethan format, the sonnet's first 12 lines, in iambic pentameter, present and elaborate upon the problem or topic, while the final couplet acts as a summary or final epigram. The help referred to in the first line is used as if the speaker says, "We cannot solve our problem or mend what has become a permanent rift." His tone remains bitter in the second line, as he adds, "Nay, I have done, you get no more of me."
Drayton fashions a seemingly angry lover who declares in lines 3 and 4, "And I am glad, yea glad with all my heart / That thus so cleanly I myself can free." He wants to make what later would be termed a "clean break," in the sense that nothing will remain to burden him emotionally in the future; thus he can be free of all attachments to his love. As if confirming a business deal, he commands his onetime love, "Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows." She remains silent, not allowed a response, so the reader is unsure of her reaction. However, the speaker's intent cannot be mistaken, as he suggests, his tone softening a bit,
And when we meet at any time again,
Be it not seen in either of our brows
He wants to guard against any public display of regretted affection, instructing his lover not so much as to wrinkle her brow should they pass one another as they move about their business in town or attend social events.
Drayton then uses personification to transform love into a dying figure, complete with a death scene also attended by the personified figures of Passion and Faith:
Now at the last gasp of Love's latest breath,
When, his pulse failing, Passion speechless lies,
When Faith is kneeling by his bed of death,
And Innocence is closing up his eyes—
The lover has completely lost his tough demeanor, as he grieves in advance the loss of innocence represented by their love, perhaps a first for both. The dash at line 12's conclusion suspends the reader momentarily. It is neither an end-stopped line that ends with a period, nor an enjambment, as the reader is to hesitate before continuing. As the reader moves ahead to read the concluding couplet, Drayton's irony remains clear. The final lines contradict the sentiment the speaker had so carefully constructed in the preceding 12 lines, as he admits that hope might linger, after all. It is the guest present, but not mentioned, at Love's deathbed:
Now, if thou wouldst, when all have given him over,
After all of his stern resignation, the speaker reveals that his lover might yet resuscitate their passion. only she has the power over life and death, and he hopes that she will exercise it.
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