Analysis of Sonnet 153
Cupid laid by his brand and fell asleep.
A maid of Dian's this advantage found,
And his love-kindling fire did quickly steep
In a cold valley-fountain of that ground;
Which borrow'd from this holy fire of Love
A dateless lively heat, still to endure,
And grew a seething bath which men yet prove
Against strange maladies a sovereign cure.
But at my mistress' eye Love's brand new fir'd,
The boy for trial needs would touch my breast.
I, sick withal, the help of bath desir'd,
And thither hied, a sad distemper'd guest;
But found no cure: the bath for my help lies
Where Cupid got new fire-my mistress' eyes.
This and the next sonnet both share the theme of love through Cupid. The conceit is not new, for it has been found in many poems. One example is from an epigram of Marianus Scholasticus from Henri Estienne's edition to which the theme is shared:
"Under these plane trees Eros was resting, held in gentle sleep, having given his torch to the nymphs to take care of. 'What are we waiting for?' said the nymphs to one another. 'If only we could quench together with this same fire in human hearts!' But as the torch set the water also on fire, since then the love-nymphs pur hot water into the bath."
Speculation remains as to whether Shakespeare is the author of these two sonnets, but it has never been proven successfully. The source for these sonnets, whoever the autheor, still remains unknown, but I suppose the scholars who diespel Shakespeare's authorship do so on the grounds of it being fairly simple in context, that is, there is not too much ambiguity. Due to the simplicity, I will do a brief paraphrase of the three quatrains and the couplet. 1st: 'Cupid falls asleep and one of Diane's maids (known for her chastity) tried to extinquish Cupid's fire in a pool of water'; 2nd: 'The maid borrowed an endless, lusty fire, which still goes on to this day, and provided [to her dismay] a bath of healing properties'; 3rd: '(Cupid) would curiously touch my heart (leading me to stray towards lust), unless I am in the sight of my lover, because of the "Love's brand" being newly fired [started].