Sonnet 157: Not Household Words

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20 May 2022
· Chasing wild Oxwords for Sonnets Day ·

Feel free to skip right to the poem, but recall that my first 154 sonnets appeared in 1609 without commentary, and look at all the fuss that caused.

I hatched a whole flock of new words in my old work. I had to, if English was going to say what I wanted in the way I wanted it said. Most of my fledgelings settled at the warm hearth of common parlance where they’ve been easy to find ever since. Not all, though. An uncongenial little gaggle remained outdoors, elusive.

That gaggle came to mind last week as I sat sharpening ex-hostage pens, wondering what I should write for Sonnets Day. Were any of my strange birds more biddable now? Only one way to find out. Feathers flew.

If the poem covers familiar ground (I don’t mean Southampton) it’s because the geese knew better than I did where they wanted to go. It was all I could do to keep up.
Sonnet 157 image - authorship sonnets Shakespeare wordsExcept where noted, links and line numbers refer to
the works at (OSS)

a fixed position or placement
Troilus and Cressida, Act I, Scene 3, line 540

companions, friends, brothers
As You Like It, Act II, Scene 1, line 548

linked or bound by affinity
Troilus and Cressida, Act I, Scene 3, line 475
Othello, Act I, Scene 1, line 39

in full accord (portmanteau congruent+agreeing)
Henry V, Act I, Scene 2, line 327

impair (adjective)
improper, unsuitable, unworthy
Troilus and Cressida, Act IV, Scene 5, line 2582
This links to the Bodleian Library’s First Folio (BFF); OSS has impure. The almost-400-year-old orthography can take some getting used to, but the medial ſs have been replaced in the BFF’s transcribed text. It helps.

hostile resistance, opposition, with a hint of repugnance
Troilus and Cressida, Act I, Scene 3, lines 564-65

to argue louder than, literally or as metaphor
Othello, Act I, Scene 2, line 223

bisson conspectuities
(oxymoron) observations made blindly, perceptions lacking insight
Coriolanus, Act II, Scene 1, lines 897-98 (BFF)
Coriolanus, Act II, Scene 1, lines 978-79 (OSS)
This silly goose is made even sillier by mistake. The FF has it as beesome conspectuities. Astute editors correct beesome to bisson. Bisson (not an Oxword) means purblinddefinition. Conspectuities are things you can see. Witty patrician Menenius Agrippa is throwing shade as he questions two dim plebeian Tribunes. Beesome, an old name for a broom, turns the insult into nonsense. It’s another of the many compositing errors in the book. OSS got bisson right but mistyped harm as barm in Menenius’s question. There’s no end to these infernal devils.

willing to believe, trusting to the point of gullibility
Hamlet, Act I, Scene 3, line 514
I gave credent a somewhat less negative spin in a couple of other places, but this is the one that’s relevant to the sonnet.

schooled by rote, able to recite but without comprehension
Coriolanus, Act III, Scene 2, line 2045
BFF; OSS has rooted. The FF spells it roated but that’s the old orthography.

mistakenly wrathful, or as a hardened steel weapon wrongfully used
King John, Act V, Scene 1, line 2205
Romeo and Juliet, Act I, Scene 1, line 107

to be marvelled at, wonderful
Troilus and Cressida, Act IV, Scene 5, line 2763

enclosed as in a coffin or hearse, implying death
Henry VI Part 1, Act IV, Scene 7, line 2300
I forget whether this is mine or just a variant spelling of enhearsed. It’s been a long time.

the act of planting, or plant life, vegetation
Troilus and Cressida, Act III, Scene 2, line 1827

starry, pertaining to the stars in the firmament
King Lear, Act III, Scene 7, line 2053
BFF; OSS has steeled.

heraldic star, usually with five points
de Vere heraldic achievement - authorship sonnets Shakespeare wordsMore wild card than wild goose: the star in the de Vere arms. Also spelled mullet, it signifies neither fish nor hairstyle. Pierced, it’s the business end of a spur. The de Vere molet argent dates to the First Crusade in 1098. I’ll save that story for later but the poem’s context and the star’s luminous history fit perfectly.

re-light, brighten again, bring back to life
Othello, Act V, Scene 2, line 3314

successful, flourishing, celebratory
Hamlet, Act I, Scene 1, line 130

taking action to provide a supply of something
Cymbeline, Act III, Scene 7, lines 2280-81

Will my offish birds join the household words, or are they dead as doornails, good riddance? The ear-biters led me on quite a wild-goose chase, but now the game is up.
FF R&J Mercutio wild goose quote - authorship sonnets Shakespeare words

Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 4


  • Video: Wild Goose Chase [6:09]
  • · Van Beuren animation studio, 1932
  • · The cartoon has little if anything to do with a wild goose chase (there is a goose), but it was too amusing not to include anyway. Whatever Van Beuren’s animators partook of as they drew their storyboards, it must have been incredible. The Aesop’s Fables series began as silents with very loose adaptations, then expanded to include additional ‛plots’ and synchronised sound. Dinner Time (1928) preceded Steamboat Willie by a month, but the mouse got all the credit.