Shakespeare Sonnet 154 Analysis: The little love-god lying once asleep

Shakespeare Sonnet 154 Analysis: The little love-god lying once asleep

This is a short summary of Shakespeare sonnet 154. Continue reading for complete analysis and meaning in the modern text. For the complete list of 154 sonnets, check the collection of Shakespeare Sonnets with analysis. It is highly recommended to buy “The Monument” by Hank Whittemore, which is the best book on Shakespeare Sonnets.

Shakespeare Sonnet 154 (Original Text)

The little love-god lying once asleep
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire,
Which many legions of true hearts had warmed;
And so the general of hot desire
Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed.
This brand she quenchèd in a cool well by,
Which from love’s fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy
For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall,
Came there for cure, and this by that I prove:
Love’s fire heats water; water cools not love.

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Shakespeare Sonnet 154 Modern Text (Translation)

Shakespeare Sonnet 154 Modern English translation
-via Sparknotes

Shakespeare Sonnet 154 Analysis

The poet repeats the same incidents as in sonnet 143 saying how cupid the god of love while sleeping “The little love-god lying once asleep” laid down his burning torch of love “Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,” among a group of celestial nymphs (handmaidens of the goddess Diana) who had taken vows of chastity “Whilst many nymphs that vowed chaste life to keep” came and watched him but the fairest of them all “Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand”

Took away his burning torch “The fairest votary took up that fire,” that had warmed the hearts of legions of lovers “Which many legions of true hearts had warmed;” and in this way the general of desire and love “And so the general of hot desire” was sleeping and disarmed by a virgin “Was, sleeping, by a virgin hand disarmed”

who threw his torch into a cold well nearby “This brand she quenchèd in a cool well by,” the cold well drew heat and fire from the torch and then burned with an eternal heat “Which from love’s fire took heat perpetual,” that turned it into a hot bath that cured disease “Growing a bath and healthful remedy” for men who suffered from various illnesses but he instead diseased with the love for his mistress “For men diseased; but I, my mistress’ thrall,”

Also came to the hot bath seeking a cure for his predicament but was given proof instead “Came there for cure, and this by that I prove” that the fire of love can heat up water but water is no remedy to cool down love burning in someone’s heart “Love’s fire heats water; water cools not love.

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