Psalter of Fire, Chapter 2-A
[Note: Please recall that this is a first rough draft. This writing is extra complex here, because it deals with mystical structures from the Book of Psalms. In the published book it shall be easier to see what is happening, as diagrams and computer graphics shall render explanations instantly accessible. Parts of this chapter remain in “note” form, as I will not be able to return to it for a while. (The end of the rough chapter preview, which discusses the top of the Ladder, is interesting.]
Chapter 1 has proven that the Sonnets have a running parallel dialogue with the Psalms. This dialogue was previously hidden, but now it is clear to see.
This chapter presents a related but different topic: the Mystical Psalm Structures, and how the Sonnets engage these mystical realities hidden in the Psalms.
The Psalm Structures
A forthcoming book shall present the Psalm Structures. An overview of them is available at this site: https://www.academia.edu/16106922/The_Mystical_Psalm_Structures
We could say that there are three initial Psalm Structures, three which are the most basic (there are many more things happening in the Psalms, but we shall present those matters later). The three basic Psalm Structures are the 7 Pillars of Wisdom (which is simply one pillar with various referents and references), the Ladder, and the Interwoven Menorahs.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
This Structure is a Pillar. The 7 Psalms that are multiples of 21 (21, 42, 63, 84, 105, 126, 147) make the Pillar.
These 7 Psalms have a theme of growing desire. A clear literary motif that runs through the group is that the noun “heart” or “soul” (lev and nefesh in the Hebrew, respectively) is combined with a verb of yearning, seeking, thirsting, or desiring. Thus we have the language of love.
Here is an image of this Psalm Structure:
In other discussions of the Psalm Structures, the Pillar usually is presented first, as it is the simplest structure to see, and has far fewer Psalms that make it up. (The Ladder has 25 Psalms, and the Intertwined Menorahs have 18 Psalms, while the Pillar has a mere 7 Psalms.)
However, because of a development in Shakespeare’s Sonnets, we shall present the Pillar at the end of this chapter. Therefore, let’s begin with the Ladder.
The Mystical Psalms Ladder is the most amazing literary structure in human history. Here is a picture of it, and the Psalms that make it up:
A mathematical formula is hidden in Psalm 12. This formula generates the flight of angels on the Ladder, a flight which has an exact choreography. (When the book on the Psalm Structures is published, it will be accompanied by a website and film that shows the angels’ motion in ten seconds. Thus, everyone can see and understand instantly what is happening, and the book will then help them to a deeper appropriation of this miracle.)
If the Pillar represents the Masculine, the Ladder represents the Feminine. Words for “temple” appear in the 25 Ladder Psalms with a 300% greater frequency than in the other 125 Psalms. There are other literary themes as well, including vertical motion, a theme that goes well with ladders, and with sexuality.
Themes of the Ladder Psalms (and the Pillar Psalms) include Human Evolution and the growth of the Global Community. The World. Peace and an authentic happiness. The Human Family.
In this part of the chapter, let’s compare Shakespeare’s treatment of the Ladder with the Ladder Psalms themselves.
Psalm 12 and Sonnet 12:
Shakespeare is already telling us he knows about the Psalms Ladder with the first verse of Sonnet 12:
When I do count the clock that tells the time
Good writers are usually economical with their words. They don’t waste words. So why does Shakespeare engage unnecessary action when he talks about “counting?” All he has to do to figure out the time is to look at the clock.
Unless, of course, there is something that needs counting. (Of course, he could be alluding to a clock’s bells, but let’s stay with this belabored account of “counting.”)
What’s more, his counting of the clock, more laborious then we might expect, echoes the rhythmical operation of the clock: “the clock that tells the time.” The iambic pentameter of this line is very pronounced, and it especially highlights the UPS and DOWNS between the accented and unaccented syllables. The first accented syllable is the accented “I” followed by 2 accented pairs of alliteration: “count” and “clock” is the first pair, and “tells” and “time” is the second. All 5 syllables have quite prominent stresses on them.
The five unaccented syllables are very soft: When, do, the, that, the. The alliteration of the last three words is quite smooth and soft, including the two “the’s.” The last hard “t” of ‘that’ is whisked away, absorbed into the “t” of ‘tells’. And the “d” of ‘do’ is breathlessly lost after the emerging aspirated “I” that precedes it. (The “I do” has matrimonial echoes, which could be discussed in a later treatment of the Ladder and the Pillar.)
This regular beat nicely approximates a clock, and a clock’s regular motion, a clock’s bells, and a clock’s ticking sound.
But it also approximates the perfect choreography of the angels on the Ladder, in their precisely ordered descending and ascending.
And this first verse does something else: Shakespeare is setting up a clear separation between the narrator and the clock; yet this belabored separation emphasizes, powerfully, the fact that the two different entities are related to each other by time, by rhythm, and by other parallel realities. The clock is making the narrator more like the clock. The Psalms, and the Ladder in the Psalms, are likewise pivotal in the making of the Sonnets, and of the Ladder in the Sonnets.
Back in the Psalms, the 12th Psalm has a vital verse for the Ladder, and for the generation of the motion of the angels.
The words of YHWH (are) words pure,
Silver refined in a vessel in/on/of the earth, 7 times purified.
This verse has many meanings, of course. Shakespeare knew, in his own life, the long work among the fires of the smithy of language. He also knew God’s refining fire and lye in the suffering, errors, and growth that Shakespeare was involved with, personally.
“Silver” also appears in Sonnet 12, in the “sable curls all silvered o’er with white.” The silver becomes incorporated into the body of a human person. It can be a sign of old age, or, it can be a sign of the incorporation of Wisdom and holiness, as it is in the Book of Proverbs………. The Ladder of the Psalms also represents the human body, and, the anthropomorphizing of God.
All the authors of Sacred Scripture know of the long process of refining that God leads them through.
Human words eventually become Scripture. That’s how every book of the Bible came into being, and why the words are holy: they are the fruit of spiritual discipline and human suffering and experience, and wisdom and art.
And Shakespeare reaches a fruition too.
Here is the mathematical formula hidden in Psalm 12, the formula that generates the flight of the angels: We take the “7 times” and we add the number of the Psalm, the number 12. Thus, we have “7 x 12.” The answer is 84, And Psalm 84 may be the most central Psalm of the Psalter. Psalm 84 is both a Ladder Psalm and a Pillar Psalm (the factors of 84 include 12 and 21). (The book on the Psalm Structures, and its accompanying video, will show the actual flight pattern. By the way, the Qur’an is constantly referring to the Mystical Psalms Ladder, and the flight of the angels. In fact, the Prophet Muhammad’s Mi’raj, that wondrous night journey, is connected to the Ladder. This, of course, makes the Dome of the Rock hugely important to all 3 Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.) This is the first of the very ordered and regular motion of the angels on the Ladder.
Yet Sonnet 12 has no numbers in it. Does Shakespeare also provide us with the mechanism to make the angels fly? Without something to get the angels flying, the 12 steps are sitting there barren. There is no communication between heaven and earth on the Ladder, which remains strangely virginal. The poem mentions “barren.”
After the first 12 lines of the Sonnet, we see “Time’s scythe” raised in the air, poised to cut down the 12 preceding lines if a consummation, a meeting, does not happen. Let us hope that such a mowing does not happen, and that, instead, there is some sort of opening and meeting.
But in fact, the ominous overtones of Sonnet 12 continue: The Ladder is knocked over sideways, and it becomes a bier for a human body. It’s 90 degrees off, askew from its proper position.
A fine poet of the Harlem Renaissance, Owen Dodson, does the same thing in his collection Powerful Long Ladder. He too knows about the Mystical Psalm Structures. But he also knows the brutal racism in America. Dodson knocks the mystical Psalms Ladder over, and forms a bridge. From this bridge is hung an African American.
Shakespeare and Dodson both acknowledge that God will not automatically force these mystical blessings upon us. Rather, we must work earnestly for them. (Shakespeare makes further parody of the Ladder, especially in Sonnet 144, which shall be discussed below.)
But Shakespeare does tell us how to climb the Ladder.
He does tell us, but not with the sonnet entitled “12.” Instead, Shakespeare hides the formula in his sonnet entitled “7.”
In Psalm 150, which is one of the Ladder Psalms but which is above the Ladder itself, there are the “heavens,” which, as we know, have stars. Psalm 150 represents the heavens, or better, consummation of the Human and the Divine. In Sonnet 7 there is a star, i.e., the sun, which is anthropomorphized and considered as a human head. Psalm 150 atop the Ladder is also a human head, and the rest of the Ladder is a human body: Psalms 78 and 84 are the hands, and Psalms 6 and 12 are the feet. This is just one of the images that emerges from the Psalms Ladder.
Sonnet 7 has more Ladder references. The sun, “having climbed the steep-up heavenly hill,” reaches a zenith, its “highmost pitch.” This is again a reference to Psalm 150, and also to the process of climbing up the Ladder. But we also have the descent with is a part of the angels’ motion on the Ladder, for “he reeleth” and is “converted” to a “low tract.” The “steep-up” reminds us of a ladder, as well as a church steeple.
The “strong youth in his middle age,” which will soon become tired with the arduous journey and “with weary car,/ Like feeble age he reeleth . . .” reminds us also of Christ by the well in John 4. He is joined by a woman. Jesus, tired, is refreshed by a woman. This is a hugely important encounter for the Red Line of Hope.
At the zenith of the sun, at the time of noon, when Christ is tired, he is saved by a woman. Shakespeare gives us the formula in Sonnet 7. The zenith of the sun, described by the sonnet, is 12 o’clock. Thus we have the number 12 in Sonnet 7, just as the number 7 is in Psalm 12.
To make sure we see the connection: The first line of the couplet of Sonnet 7 has the word “noon,” just in case we didn’t connect the sun’s zenith with its numerical chronological description. “Noon,” of course, is connected with the number 12, fairly well signifying 12 o’clock.
Returning to Sonnet 12, the 12 steps of the Ladder are waiting to be ……………
More positively, the raised, waiting scythe near the portal to the ladder represents a good consummation about to happen. It could be sexual, the (masculine) Pillar goes with the (feminine) portal that is the Ladder. In Genesis 28, Jacob calls the Ladder in his vision the “Gateway of heaven.”
As with all the Sonnets, there is more to each poem than we can chart in this book. However, Sonnet 12 being so pivotal, let’s observe more.
Helen Vendler’s book on the Sonnets is simply necessary for all Shakespeare friends. Her discussion of Sonnet 12 is especially illuminating, and she gives rather much attention to the “sweets and beauties” that the poet mentions in the poem. After Vendler gives this topic more emphasis than usual, she states, “Sweetness and beauty are two of Shakespeare’s constituting categories of value, standing respectively for inward virtue and outward show (see 54)” (p. 98).
Recall that in Chapter 1, when discussing the YHWH MLK Psalms, we spoke of how Humanity must prepare for our reception of God’s great gifts.
A continual theme of the Sonnets is the coming-to-be not only of humanity, but also of our interior person, and, also of a regularity, a consistency, an integration, a seamlessness, between the inner person and the outer person.
In both our human evolution and in our individual lives, it may take time for both this depth and this seamlessness to develop. Recall the above discussion of Romans 7 and 8, in which humanity accrues depth and interior capacity by our struggles and difficulties, to which the seamlessness, the consistency, is added as a gift from God.
The poem’s “canopy” over the “herd” could be older people helping younger people. “And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves” may be fruit or harvest, the consistency and depth of vision that age can confer upon us. I differ from Vendler by saying this line enjambs upon the next line, “Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard….” The motion of enjambment replicates the climbing motions of descent and ascent upon the ladder. This use of enjambment is another lens to take to all the Sonnets. ………Then, a good death physically unites us in a more permanent way to the Ladder, which also serves us as a bier. The bier/Ladder serves as our entry to Heaven, into which we are borne, or, born.
Verse 12 is yet another reference to climbing the Ladder. When we activate the Ladder’s climbing motion, we see that there are many angels ceaselessly arriving at the Ladder, and then quickly departing from the Ladder once they’ve climbed up or down on various missions. The movement is entirely regular and precise. The angelic flying on the Ladder works like a clock, and angels don’t stop moving: “And die as fast as they see others grow.”
The Ladder is also very much about the Body of Christ, within which we all help each other. Or, for non-Christians, we might say that the Ladder is very much about the World Soul, the union of each and every human person.
Add somewhere above: Vendler also saves another reference to the Psalm Structures: one line apiece, 2 lines.
1 and 2 are important numbers for the Psalm Structures. The Pillar is formed by multiples of 21. The Ladder is formed by the multiples of 6—but the left side of the Ladder is formed by the multiples of 12 (which, of course, are also multiples of 6). Psalm 12 is the bottom of the left side of the Ladder. The number 12 is emphasized again by the top of the left side being Psalm 144; the number 144 is the number 12 squared.
Woman and man. 1 and 2, 2 and 1. 3 is born.
A final note about Sonnet 12’s first verse. The clock that tells the time is also the Psalter itself. As a child in school, Shakespeare would have recited the Psalms every day, according to the monthly cycles of the Book of Common Prayer, of the early Anglican Church after its break from Rome. (The Psalms from that version of the BCP were from the Geneva Bible; however, Shakespeare likely helped with the translation of the Psalms in the King James Version (the Standard Version), and some conjecture that he hid his name in Psalm 46 of the KJV.) Shakespeare and his amazing mind and imagination would have had the Psalms memorized and would have always been thinking about them, first as a child and then as an adult. He knew which Psalm was next. He knew the process of the passing of time. The Psalms were said in the same order each month. The Psalms were his clock, his calendar, his teller of time.
Psalm 6 and Sonnet 6:
Sonnet 6 has lots of numbers and mathematical operations.
The accruing and collecting of financial interest is one of the mathematical moves occurring here, which is interesting, but which I’m not going to discuss here.
Psalms 6 and 12 form the lowest step of the Ladder. They both have the Hebrew word “ha-sheminith” in their Psalm superscriptions. These two occurrences are the only times the word appears in the Psalter. It means, literally, “the 8th.” In this context, it alludes to the next Psalm Structure, the Menorahs.
It could also allude to musical notation, such as the 1/8th note.
8 and 128 of sonnets, of menorahs
many other things. Including parable of sower. 10.
Additionally, the sun’s dramatic rising in Sonnet 6 is matched by a marked fall of the sun in Sonnet 12.
And now we see another echo of the Interwoven Menorahs in Sonnet 12. “When lofty trees I see barren of leaves” give us the image of the Menorahs. The earliest menorahs were intended to represent the Tree of Life.
Psalm 12, purifying silver; Sonnet 6, distilling (
Ensure that links between 6 & 12 are shown
There are more links between these 2 Sonnets at the base of the Ladder, and the Menorahs.
There are many 10’s. Recall the second verse of the Sonnets, how Shakespeare took a preexistent verse and expanded it by two syllables (see 1:2).
If we do that to the much-repeated 10, we arrive at 12, which is the number of sons that Jacob had. ………………
But this may be only one of several things that Shakespeare is doing with these numbers, of course.
The “breed” of Sonnet 6 reappears in Sonnet 12, echoing the repeating sheminith of Psalms 6 and 12.
In light of the Psalms and the Psalm Structures, there is much more going on in Sonnet 6.
Verse 3’s “Make sweet some vial…” is a …………. for “Make sweet some vile.” Shakespeare is tapping that important theme of blessing-over-cursing, which is also central to the Psalms and to the entire Bible.
Great human capacity.
At the end of Psalm 6 is something amazing. We might call it the Reverse Shema. At least 3 times per day, our Orthodox Jewish friends recite the great Shema, which goes thus: …………………….
The reciters of the Shema let God know that they are listening to God’s word in the Torah, which instructs the Israelites to say these words to God.
But in the last three verses…….. of Psalm 6, the Psalmist-Poet insists that God is listening to the human! In fact, the Psalmist acknowledges this her/his words have been heard by God, and that God shall act.
The Torah is the Word of God come down par excellence. God gave the word down to Moses, who came down the mountain, and gave it down to the people, who have given it down to each new generation.
The Psalms reverse this process.
Like a child learning how to engage in meaningful conversation with an adult, the Psalms speak up to God, and teach us how to do the same. The Psalms teach relationship with God. (Let’s recall that Moses too had to climb up and down the mountain repeatedly.)
Make sweet some “vial,” or, something that is vile, or someone that is vile. To understand what Shakespeare might be driving at, let’s take an aspect of the Bible’s dealing with the number 7. Cain slays Abel and God seems to promise that anyone who does anything to Cain will get it 7 times worse. A short time later, Lamech’s poor poetry to his two wives promises that vengeance will happen in a proportion 77 times greater than the initial offense. We see the unflinching violence of an early evolving humanity, as thought (mathematics) and memory, human gifts, are mixed with brutish early human-herd-animal nature.
Jesus read the Song of Songs, and knew that love is stronger than death.
He taught his disciples love. And wise community living.
Peter one day approached him, probably hot at Judas, who gleefully knew and pressed Peter’s buttons. Peter said, “Jesus! How many times do I gotta forgive this guy!? As many as 7 times?” The good student Peter has been being stretched by Jesus’ teaching, and feels himself becoming unmoored from something. He is becoming separated, detached, from his old ways. This makes him nervous, insecure, and prone to moments of anger. As Jesus helps us evolve. Peter is flailing a bit.
Jesus severs an old connection, pushing Peter off into the deep blue sea, even if Peter doesn’t realize it yet, and won’t fully, until after Christ’s Ascension.
Jesus shocks him by saying, “No Peter. Forgive 7 x 77 times.”
Do you see how Jesus is inverting the “anger and retribution” numbers of the Old Testament?
Jesus and his community chiastically remove human violence. It is a bit like how karma-purgatory works in an individual life. It’s chiastic. The process. (For example, in Dante’s Inferno and Purgatorio, the punishment-cleansings match, karmically, reciprocally, like a mirror image (hence chiastically), the errors and sins committed.) Jesus is concerned about each individual person’s growth, and also about the evolution of Humanity as 1 body.
Shakespeare emulates Jesus in these same interests.
Shakespeare suffered, and learned love, and so sees the potential of humanity. He would teach us to make sweet some vile.
The first words of the concluding couplet are, “Be not self-willed…” Well, this is not precisely what the Psalms teach, as Shakespeare well knows. The Psalms repeatedly mention God’s will. But the person praying the Psalms frequently may experience their will becoming more attuned to the will of God, and, paradoxically, may find their own will becoming more acceptable after early divine corrections to an individual’s will. Why he says this, “Be not self-willed,” shall be taken up in Chapter 6.
An endrhyme that appears much in the Sonnets is “thee . . . me.” Sonnet 6 is interesting in that two separate pairs of endrhymes feature “thee,” which appears twice, but without any corresponding “me” to balance it, as in many of the later Sonnets. This is teaching that the 5 books of the Torah must be balanced by the 5 books of the Psalms, and that the human person is not merely to remain forever an order-receiving unit, perpetually receiving divine orders from God, but is to grow up. Initial focus, however, is strongly on God. Similarly, children spend time with their parents in direct proportion to how young they are.
The number “ten” appears five times in Sonnet 6. (In Chapter 3, we shall take up the hidden chiastic structure of each individual sonnet, and the numbers 5 and 10 are central to that discussion.) The pair of 5’s that are within each 10 also indicate the 5 books of the Psalms and the 5 books of the Torah, discussed above.
The ability of the human person to ascend, to stand up, to be an individual, is quietly alluded to in the first verse. “Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface . . .”
Our two hands have five fingers each, like the Torah’s and Psalms’ number of books. The Ladder is also a person, with Psalms 78 and 84 being the two hands, and Psalm 150 being the face. Psalms 6 and 12 are the feet.
God wants us to evolve, and to stand tall in Reality.
10 and 4 and 1. 10 4 1, or, “Go to Sonnet 141.” Here in Sonnet 141 we find, two times, the number 5. The right and left hands, the Torah and the Psalms. The initial hard hand (right hand) of God’s ordering Word (the Torah), and the symphonic maestro’s guiding hand to a mature symphony, the left hand of the Spirit able to lead those who are musically Spiritually developed (the Psalms). (The left hand is connected to the more creative right half of the brain.)
This is related to yet another powerful pair of 5’s in the Bible. The Bible’s first page has the first creation account of Genesis. The supremely powerful verb “create” appears 5 times in the construction of the universe. The less powerful verb “make,” in which things are made from pre-existent matter, also appears 5 times. Again, we have God’s right and left hands.
The verb “create” is so amazing and unusual that some cultures don’t even have it in their languages. Three appearances of the verb “create” appear in Genesis 1:26, in the creation of humanity. This indicates that humanity has a special concentration of the Divine in us, and even that we may have the duty of assuming some of God’s creative role in the cosmos and in our world.
Once in a discussion with a great sage who’s now in heaven, I was disagreeing with him about human “creativity.” I said, “I read in a book that if one wanted to be creative, one should go to heaven.” He retorted, “That’s the old way.” We are meant to become creative, as an evolving humanity that is growing in care, love, and community.
Finally, there is something else about the number 10, and the Bible, and Shakespeare’s use of it. We shall discuss this more in Chapter 4, which presents the life of David as that unique tapestry is unfurled for us in the Sonnets.
It has to do with the Circumcision of David’s Heart, a necessary painful step up the ladder of our evolution. His son Solomon is an icon of good development and of human integration. However, his son Absalom represents the pain of our growth.
David’s sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah is, sort of, responsible for God activating Absalom’s rebellion, including the prelude to this: the rape by David’s son Amnon of Absalom’s sister Tamar.
After much drama and violence, Absalom rapes 10 women on David’s roof, the same place where David forced/raped Bathsheba. This is a part of David’s karma-purgation. They were David’s 10 concubines who were raped, and who became shut-ins, like this later Tamar (this later Tamar is emotionally more vulnerable than the earlier Tamar of Genesis 38, although she had much more potential than the earlier Tamar).
Absalom’s karma-purgation, and a deeper phase of David’s own, came when Absalom was hanging by his hair in the oak tree, “suspended between heaven and earth.” (An icon of our evolution, painful, and an early icon of the Cross-Ladder.) Joab calls his brutes over to torture Absalom while he’s dangling in the tree. How many of his worst brutes, and their javelins, did Joab muster for the task? Ten.
This aided Absalom in his karma-purgation as he died.
Evolution has tough times, but everything is leading to the Symphony.
This concludes the initial treatment of Sonnets 6 and 12, which form the base of the Ladder, and the Ladder’s portal (as the Psalms Ladder is presented in the Sonnets).
Between them is Sonnet 7, just as the 7 Psalms of the Pillar are meant to go between the two sides of the Ladder, representing sex.
We have begun to see how polyvalent the Sonnets are. There are many themes and levels and intersections. And there is much, much more to follow.
-Sonnets 6 & 18 are vertically adjacent to each other on the Ladder, w 18 over 6. Both have Death personified, and how this relates to the young man.
-18 is first sonnet that doesn’t urge physical procreation. There is a shift to literary creation, although literary fame is earlier too
-6 & 18 both have summer! And 30 has “sweet sessions,” reminiscent of good things in 6 & 18
-54 has deaths, vade, and lovely…………..and summer, see 6 & 18
-66 has die (death, 1st line), gone, and love……words all in last 3 verses, of both poems
-78 majesty (96, queen)
-90 strains of woe might
-102 mournful hymns, strengthened, weak
–this is how we train for working with the Holy Spirit
–searching out these links, these connections, exercises our muscles for making connections, and for enlivening those connections.
-102 sweets grown common
-114 alchemy, flattery
-126 waning grown
-138 lies, flattery
-150 lie, heart to sway; strength, worst
-150 ends w incredibly tender treatment of God, both deceptive and endearing. Standing atop the ladder, talking to God in heaven. Also, like end of Psalm 119—I’m a little lost sheep, help me.
The Psalms, because of the Psalm Structures, form multiple texts. When we select particular texts out of the larger Book of Psalms, and place them in new reading orders (based upon the mystical Psalm Structures), we create new texts. These new reading orders have very pronounced themes. These pronounced themes were planted in the reconfiguring texts by the Holy Spirit.
For example, in the first round of the Mystical Menorahs, we have the theme of light, which goes nicely with candles. The themes of joyful family and joyful community are also present. But after the Menorahs, which are made of Psalms 8, 16, 24, . . ., 144, something interesting happens. We can continue adding the number 8. So we start a new cycle that begins at Psalm 2 and goes to 10, 18, 26, . . ., 146. A different theme emerges in this group, with brilliant clarity. The theme is the effects, and the judgment upon, horrible leaders. (The working title for this new series of Psalms is “The Justice Series.”) People who abuse power in any way. Psalms 58 and 82 are in this group. As mentioned in the last chapter, world-renowned Biblical scholar John Dominic Crosson says that Psalm 82 is the most important text in the entire Bible. I was surprised when I first heard that. But then it made sense. Today, at the dawn of the 21st Century, humanity is at an important juncture. We have to make good decisions. Or we could doom the future of humanity and of the planet.
Psalm 82 implies that leaders wield quasi-divine potency, and are given some of God’s authority. But this authority is to be used for helping people. For making society as healthy as can be, and, therefore, in best possible relationship with the Earth Herself and will all human beings. Leaders who are owned by corporations or by wealthy individuals simply and utterly fail in their broad responsibilities. God, in Psalm 82, condemns such evil leaders. Psalm 82 fits well into this group of Psalms, which might be called the Justice Series. ……………
Shakespeare, in the Sonnets, also has a number of texts at work at once, just like the Psalms. By correlating his individual sonnets to the Psalms, he is intentionally following the sequences, the numerical schemes and groups, of the Psalm Structures. Like the Psalms, the individual sonnets can be grouped according to number sets. These number sets have clear themes, and so form multiple smaller books within the larger book of the Sonnets.
Psalm 18 and Sonnet 18:
This pair was discussed in Chapter 1.
Yet when we look at this Sonnet as a part of the Ladder, it joins new conversations as it takes its place in its new series, in its new book.
Psalm 18 is the first Psalm of the second step of the Ladder. Various aspects of the Ladder are presented in the Sonnet. Verse 7 says, “And every fair from fair sometimes declines,” which is also an image of someone descending a ladder, or steps. [put earlier in essay how ziggurat steps could also be the ladder.] The two appearances of “fair” are like two identical steps, and they are adjacent iambic beats in the line, like two steps. More specifically, this could represent the second step of a staircase or ladder, which Psalm 18 is.
The concluding couplet specifically images the second step of a ladder, and perfectly summarizes the place of Psalm-and-Sonnet 18 on the Ladder. Note that these two bottom lines of the sonnet begin identically, thus replicating the lowest two steps of a staircase:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee.
Verse 14’s “this and this” is yet another repetition, echoing “fair from fair” and “So long . . . / So long . . .”
Just before the concluding couplet, the speaker says, “When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st.” The “eternal lines” are the two sides of the Ladder, which is pictured, this time horizontally, by the couplet.
This visually rhymes with the momentarily horizontal Ladder in Sonnet 12, where the Ladder is a bier for the deceased. In Sonnet 18, the young lover is doomed by Shakespeare to Hades, however, the horizontal ladder, in the lowest two verses of the sonnet, will be with the beloved in the underworld. If the ladder is turned 90 degrees to an upright position, perhaps the beloved may begin his ascent to paradise. [what does turning represent………….?
Humanity must erect the Ladder in our life, in our world, as St. Benedict knew and wrote in his rule (see RB, Chapter 7). Perhaps this is another meaning of “changing course.”
“Summer’s day” is at the top of the Ladder. Sun…………
Vendler notes a contingency at the end of the sonnet: “The couplet carries the tempering of triumph yet further: the lines last only so long as there exist, among the men who can breathe, eyes that can see this poem” (p. 122). This applies also to humanity discovering the Mystical Psalm Structures, which may be a saving grace for humanity. Now that the Psalm Structures have been discovered, they must be circulated through humanity. And incorporated, incarnated, in the lives of individuals and of societies. We must form a global menorah of billions of branches.
The sun is rising.
The sun is also the human face. The face of humanity.
The facial aspects of humanity, now in the muck of Hades, must be lifted as humanity enters our maturity. The concluding couplet has facial links to the first line of Sonnet 6, to the scythe of the couplet of Sonnet 12, and to the pronounced iambic climbing motion of the first line of Sonnet 12.
Having said this, let us revisit the first two verses of Sonnet 6:
Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface
In thee thy summer ere thou be distilled:
Bringing the lens of human evolution and development to the first two verses of the Ladder Sonnets, we see new textures of time, development, and difficult fashioning times of this development. This pair of verses might be called the “Preliminary Couplet to the Ladder.” Humanity is being distilled. Let us recognize this, accept the difficulties, celebrated the many advances, and forgive those who hurt others in this long and arduous process. The divinization of humanity is not simple.
Psalm 24 and Sonnet 24:
Chapter 1 noted that Sonnet 18 is a sly reply to the sheer awesomeness of YHWH in Psalm 18.
Something similar is happening in Psalm 24 and Sonnet 24. The second half of Psalm 24 is about opening, or lifting, the gates of the city/temple for the arrival of the king of glory, who is YHWH. Contrasting this, in the sestet of Sonnet 24, the sun is a voyeur who stares into the speaker’s heart/temple/bosom’s shop/breast!
(In Psalm 84, for the only time in the Bible, the sun is a metaphor for God. God is the sun. Part of what Shakespeare is doing here is defending David, who is a famous voyeur. David, if he actually existed, was manipulated by God, as much as David himself could be tricky, untrue, and manipulating. Perhaps Shakespeare felt used in a similar way by God. Once again, God is bold. We’ll consider this in Chapter 4.) God peers into our chest, our heart, to lead us forward on our evolutionary trek.
The first half of Psalm 24 speaks what is required for the ascent to the temple.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in his holy place?
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. (24:3-4)
The final word of Sonnet 24 is “heart,” which, among various early sectors of an evolving humanity, may be unknown………..
The way in which the sun gazes in this poem goes to the heart of its meaning.
Note the surprisingly rapid interior development-formation that occurs in the poem’s first verse, and throughout the quatrain:
Mine eye hath played the painter and hath steeled
Thy beauty’s form in table of my heart;
My body is the frame wherein ‘tis held,
And perspective it is best painter’s art.
The temple of humanity has something to do with how we look, how we see.
Booth has a humorous comment here:
The body of this poem is a playfully grotesque and literal-minded elaboration on a traditional topic of courtly love poetry: the reflection a lover sees of himself in the beloved’s eye (see 55.14). The sonnet is carefully designed to boggle its reader’s mind (make his eyes glaze), but some sanity may be retained if one holds on to the idea of two people looking into one another’s eyes. (Booth, p 172)
So we see that Shakespeare is clearly playing with the idea of “purity,” and using it as a foil.
Finally, the idea of the sun peeping into the person’s interior is a visual echo of Psalm 24 repeated request to raise high the gates, so that YHWH Tsabaoth, the Lord of Hosts and the King of Glory, may enter the city/temple.
……..God wants to enter heart. Temple is the heart. But God’s supervision can be, er, unnerving.
Breast, s 48
Psalm 30 and Sonnet 30:
Psalm 30 very much continues the theme of the Ladder, and of the temple. Its superscription is, “A psalm, a song for the dedication (hanukat) of the temple, by David.” The Hebrew word for “dedication” is basically the same word as Hanukah, the Festival of Lights, whose origins come from the purifying (re-dedication) of the temple described in 1 Maccabees. It is Hanukah that celebrates with the 9-branched menorah, instead of the 7-branched menorah; the 7-branched menorah is more common throughout the year. The Mystical Psalm Structure of the Interwoven Menorahs (which are a pair of 9-branched menorahs, like Hanukah menorahs) don’t celebrate the physical stone temple—rather, they celebrate humanity as the new home of the Shekinah, the presence of God. As Paul says, “You are the temple of the Holy Spirit.” This shall be considered in the next part of the chapter.
Psalm 30, appropriately for a Ladder Psalm, has much vertical motion. The body of the Psalm begins, “I will exalt you, Lord, for you have drawn me up, and not let my foes rejoice over me” (30:2).
Compare this with the first phrase of its counterpart, Sonnet 30: “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought/ I summon up remembrance of things past . . .”
Back to the Psalm, two verses later we hear, “Lord, you have raised up my soul from Sheol.” Psalms 6, 18, and 30 are all at the lower right side of the Ladder, and all three Psalms mention “Sheol,” and all state, or request, that God saves the Psalmist from Sheol.
Shakespeare also mentions the realm of death in Sonnet 30, when he mentions his “precious friends hid in death’s dateless night” (30.6).
The Psalm ends with a gladdening transformation for the Psalmist, who exclaims in the KJV, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness” (30:11).
Again, Shakespeare is carefully paralleling the Psalmist, if not in exact vocabulary, then in concept and action. Here is the remarkable transformation of the concluding couplet:
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restored, and sorrows end.
Shakespeare drives home the fact that he is intentionally making literary rhymes with the Psalmist in the 3rd quatrain, which immediately precedes the concluding couplet. Additionally, he may also be showing the two sides of the Ladder which he, like the Psalmist, is constructing before our eyes:
Then can I grieve at grievances forgone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoanèd moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
If we imagine the repeated-word pairs lined up over each other, we have the Ladder, and its two sides.
Additionally, this quatrain makes an echo of four sequences from Psalm 18, which is directly below Psalm 30 on the Ladder; they are adjacent. Here are the corresponding verses from Psalm 18; the first three pairs are fairly direct repetitions, while he last pair has an interesting lack of exact correspondence:
With the loyal you show yourself loyal;
With the blameless you show yourself blameless;
With the pure you show yourself pure;
And with the crooked you show yourself perverse. (18:25-26)
There are deep mystical meanings to these verses as well, but we cannot delve into them here.
Psalm 29 and Sonnet 29:
Although it is not a Ladder Psalm, Psalm 29 precedes Psalm 30, and also mentions the temple. Another topic of Psalm 29 is the sheer chaos and violence of the Flood, over and against which YHWH sat enthroned (29:10).
Sonnet 29 is like Psalm 29 in that there is a stalwart force, the memory of a person, that pulls Shakespeare through a difficult time. Additionally, there are many Ladder references in this sonnet, which is thematically paired also to Sonnet 30. Sonnet 29 begins with a flood of shame and despair:
When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
The emphasized line shows how the speaker is screaming to Heaven, which seems unresponsive to his plight on Earth, where his “boots” are. In this dynamic, we have the basic vertical trajectory of the Ladder, which is not yet functioning as the speaker would like it to.
Yet as in Sonnet 30, love on the human plane shall work a transformation:
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at Heaven’s gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
Now the Ladder is ignited and functioning, indicated by the joyful lark, who at the sunrise flies from “sullen earth” to serenade “Heaven’s gate.” Note that in Genesis 28, the astounded Jacob called the ladder he saw the “gate of heaven.”
Psalm 42 and Sonnet 42:
When he was on the Cross, Jesus said, “I thirst,” in John’s Gospel. Some have interpreted this as signifying a deep longing, a wide eros, that Jesus has for Humanity.
Of course, John is not operating as an eyewitness reporter, but is making one of the most spiritual books that has been given to us, based upon what he knew of the risen Christ and of God (and the mysterious-clear workings of the Holy Spirit).
At the same scene at the Cross in John’s Gospel, Jesus effects a deep healing between women and men, in the dialogue that he has with Mary and the Beloved Disciple. He also does powerful healing of the relation between Feminine and Masculine that are within all individual people (and in our societies). These will be dealt with in Chapter 5, which concerns the Red Line of Hope.
At the beginning of Psalm 42, a deer thirsts for running waters, in one of the most memorable images of the Psalms. That thirsty deer has inspired much art.
This thirst, and this wonderful creature, are a simile for the Israelite who thirsts for God. In this Psalm the Israelite’s thirst for God is particularly great, because the Psalmist is here a slave of the Babylonian Captivity. Recall, that almost 600 years before Christ, the Babylonian army steamrolled Judea and Jerusalem. Some of the leading citizens of Judea were marched into captivity in Babylon, where an Israelite community eventually formed and thrived for some time. 60 years later, Cyrus the Iranian freed the Hebrews, and allowed them to return to the land which they knew in their youth. The Prophet Isaiah considers Cyrus the Iranian to be a great hero.
But the plaintiff of Psalm 42 realizes his wretched state, and must become a spiritual athlete to survive. Her/his love for God must go deeper than before, because this person is far away from her beloved city and temple, which was the center of the world for the ancient Israelite. The relationship with God does attain new depth in Psalms 42 & 43, not without significant suffering and journeying on the part of the Psalmist. In reality, it is a fact that much of the Israelite Wisdom literature was written in their times of exile and diaspora. Perhaps God was inviting them to go deeper. God is bold. But the growth God demands is for our own good, and for our greater happiness. Additionally, God uses the terrible fallout of wars and violence to introduce people to each other.
Again, the Israelite of Psalm 42 doesn’t consciously know any of this. The person misses Jerusalem and the temple greatly, and this recollection seems to be their anchor in difficulty, their moral compass. A mantra shall form over the course of Psalms 42 & 43, and this spiritual mantra shall vanquish the bad mantra that arises in opposition to the good mantra. The victory of the good mantra is a part of the spiritual development portrayed and taught in these two Psalms. (The good mantra is……….. ; it vanquishes the bad mantra, which is “Where is your god?”)
The speaker of Sonnet 42 is in a similar state of grief and shock. The sonnet begins, “That thou has her, it is not all my grief,/ Yet it may be said I loved her dearly.” Note the similar sad longing at the beginning of both works. Both lament great loss. But in Sonnet 42, it is at the level of human relationship, which is a different kind of pain and loss than the military destruction of their old home followed by enslavement. While the Psalm presents a noble development of love and longing for God’s temple, which shall be replaced by a love for God Godself, the Sonnet of Shakespeare presents a more evolved humanity, in which humans are capable of deeper longing for each other.
Through this human love, even more kinds of love develop:
The sonnet explores the limits of altruism, and of selfless love.
Could a man love a woman so much that, if another man would be better for her, he could wish the two of them to be together?
Shakespeare writes of “A loss in love” (42.4). Many of us have felt betrayal or loss in love. And when we wish happiness for our beloved, would that go so far as to want to see them with a different partner, if that would make them happier? Such are the questions that Shakespeare takes up. He is exploring also the development of eros into agape, the love that also is found especially in God, and which may include a divinely charged eros. Shakespeare notes:
And both for my sake lay on me this cross. (42.12)
The word “cross” appears only four times in the Sonnets. [check this]
However, the “wailing” speaker cannot make, yet, a full reconciliation for the hurtful event that has occurred, and the resolution smacks of repression, weakness, and an inability to face reality. The concluding couplet:
But here’s the joy: my friend and I are one.
Sweet flatt’ry! Then she loves but me alone.
This stage of grieving is known as “denial.” To deal with the oversized loss that he cannot fully consciously recognize yet, the speaker says that the love he has with the young man is so great that they are one, they are unified. Therefore, when the young lady loves him instead of the speaker, she is actually loving the speaker too, because of the unity of the speaker and the interfering male. (A similar kind of psychic failure and resultant coping mechanism are present in Sonnet 36, and in many other places in the Sonnets.) ………Despite the awful sight of psychic defeat and failure, this is also an image of a love that can be renewed in far more powerful forms.
Humanity can learn to love.
And this love can be altruistic. And transpersonal. And, it can grow into an agapic, global love.
And, through the chaotic developments of history and of individual people’s histories, and their failures and snaps, there is actual human growth, profound, happening. “Deep calleth unto deep” (Psalm 42:7).
Postlude to Sonnet 42:
What caused the Babylonian Captivity?
Bathsheba was a beautiful foreign woman.
An interesting exercise is to read this sonnet from the point of view of Uriah, another noble foreigner, a goy of the goyim, when he is about to be killed as he is fighting a war for Israel. This shall be dealt with in Chapter 4, which takes up the life of David as revealed in the Sonnets.
Step 5: Sonnets 54 & 60 (and the Psalms of the same number)
Step 6: Sonnets 66 & 72 (and the Psalms of the same number)
Step 7: Sonnets 78 & 84 (and the Psalms of the same number)
Step 8: Sonnets 90 & 96 (and the Psalms of the same number)
Step 9: Sonnets 102 & 108 (and the Psalms of the same number)
Step 10: Sonnets 114 & 120 (and the Psalms of the same number)
Step 11: Sonnets 126 & 132 (and the Psalms of the same number)
Psalm 126 is both a Pillar Psalm and a Ladder Psalm.
Sonnet 126 is the end of the “Young Man” series of sonnets, and is followed by the “Dark Lady” series.
Sonnet 126 is unique in that it only has 12 verses, the shortest of the Sonnets. The 12 verses replicate the Ladder, which has 12 steps, as do other features of the sonnet.
Step 12: Sonnets 138 & 144 (and the Psalms of the same number)
The Heavens, Atop the Ladder: Sonnet 150 (and Psalm 150)
144 is both Ladder and Menorah
42 is both Ladder and Pillar
36 & 42 together, both with deluded states of mind
If Psalm 42 represents the stunned Israelite waking up as a slave in faraway Babylon, Psalm 126 is an account of the return of the captives to Jerusalem, and these pilgrims are ludicrously happy.
Psalm 84 is perhaps the central Psalm of the Psalter, and it is the central Psalm of the Ladder and Pillar both. If this is the case, then Psalms 42 and 126 are paired in equidistant orbit around Psalm 84, the center. Psalms 42 and 126 are both 42 units of poetic song away from Psalm 84.
The centrality of Psalm 84 shall become much more pronounced:
Psalms 60, 84, and 108, and Sonnets 60, 84, and 108:
To an early student of the Psalm Structures, Psalm 84 is the central Psalm of the Book of Psalms. It is the middle Psalm of the Pillar (the fourth of seven Psalms that make the Pillar), and it is at the center of the Ladder.
Stationed around Psalm 84 in equidistant orbit are Psalms 42 and 126. Both of these Psalms are removed by a distance of 42 units from Psalm 84. All three Psalms, 42, 84, and 126, are both Pillar Psalms and Ladder Psalms, as these three are multiples of both 21 and 6. Psalms 42 and 126 discuss the exile journey into the Babylonian Captivity, and the ecstatically joyful return from the Babylonian Captivity, respectfully. These Psalms shall be discussed……………
Also in equidistant orbit around Psalm 84 are Psalms 60 and 108, which are largely identical Psalms (about the last 2/3 of both Psalms are the same, with minor textual variations). Psalms 60 and 108 are both Ladder Psalms, and they are both 24 units away from Psalm 84. The next few paragraphs will consider these three Psalms.
God pounds the earth in Psalms 60 and 108, which creates turbulence in the lives of the earth’s human inhabitants. The latter half of both Psalms say, “Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast my shoe.” Such lines speak of God’s astounding power, which we have considered previously. In the first half of Psalm 60, God actually breaks the earth.
The shared, common parts of both Psalms, and the broken earth and broken humanity, come together when humanity implores God to remember God’s beloved, that is, humanity, on earth: “That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me” (60:5; the parallel verse in Psalm 108 is nearly identical). The word for ‘beloved’ is jedideka, which is cognate with the name of “David.” Additionally, after God apparently slew the first child of Bathsheba and David, David did something surprising. He comforted a woman, Bathsheba. What a novel concept. This is human evolution. Their next child was Solomon, and God loved Solomon. In fact, God sent word via a prophet to David that Solomon was to have an extra nickname, Jedidiah, “beloved of YHWH.” And Solomon too was to achieve a great evolutionary advancement for humanity, as shall be discussed in Chapter 5.
In general, humanity is God’s beloved, as the orbiting, paired Psalms 60 and 108 say again.
But in Psalm 84, something amazing happens.
God becomes humanity’s beloved.
God is the sought-after beautiful woman, the gorgeous one we’re chasing after. This is a radical change, and this is the backdrop against which Shakespeare sets Sonnets 60, 108, and 84.
Sonnet 60 (and Psalm 60):
The superscription for Psalm 60 is troubling: “To the chief Musician upon Shushan Eduth, Michtam of David, to teach; when he strove with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zoba, when Joab returned, and smote Edom in the valley of salt twelve-thousand [slaughtered].”
This is the Psalms’ only mention of David’s brutal alter-ego and right-hand man, the crafty and vengeful Joab. Joab here slaughters 12,000 men of Edom in the Valley of Salt. Note that 60 and 12 are both numbers that are associated with the Ladder, and they are numbers that Shakespeare alludes to or mentions relatively often.
Reading between the lines of the David story, it is often not easy to know if Joab’s missions of murder are ordered by David, or tacitly allowed by David, or, as happens sometimes, are cause for David to protest and state that Joab operated without David’s approval. David is a politician too, and can be bloodthirsty and amoral himself. We are a young humanity, especially in the early adventures of nation-building in ancient Israel. These are themes of the Red Line of Hope, and shall be dealt with in Chapter 5.
Sonnet 60 is about this.
Pebbled shore, starry night
Psalm 66 and Sonnet 66:
10 “and’s” join 11 lines; connection to 22, 44, 66, ….
Psalm 96 and Sonnet 96:
Ladder and Menorah Psalm
Fingers of s 96:
Lambs, hearken back to s 12
Psalm 126 and Sonnet 126:
Grow’st……… s 1
Psalm 138 and Sonnet 138:
Psalm 144 and Sonnet 144:
With Sonnet 144 we have Shakespeare at his most outrageous in his direct conversation at God.
Psalm 150 and Sonnet 150:
Sonnet 150, joyful, love, power; elements like Ps 150
Humorous dialogue w; this humor sign of grace, growth
Lie: s 138
Also, a more mature appropriation, incorporation, of humor and parody of Sonnets 138 and 144.
Also, Chapter 5 of John’s Gospel is an exciting text for the New Testament’s use of the Mystical Psalms Ladder.
Sonnets 38 and 39 are in dialogue with John 5.
The Top of the Ladder,
and the Heavens Above It
Psalms 138 and 144 are the top of the Ladder. Psalm 150 is the heavens above the Ladder.
It is striking that Sonnets 138 and 144 were known to have been shared by Shakespeare long before the publication of the Sonnets in 1609. Perhaps Shakespeare had planned, early in the process of the composition of the Sonnets, to have 138 and 144 in their respective places, forming the top rung of the Sonnets’ version of the Ladder.
One can see why Shakespeare has done this.
Both Psalms are parodies of relationship, and more and less humorous. However, in comparison with their partners in the Psalms themselves, these two sonnets are spastically funny.
Psalm 138 speaks of an arriving among the Elohim—this term “Elohim” could mean “God,” or “angelic beings,” or even real leaders among humanity. In this wonderful company, praise of God shall be sung. One gets the notion that a good sense of fulfillment and happiness accompanies this pure joyful singing.
Shakespeare, however, is reflecting in Sonnet 138 about how lovers may lie to each other to avoid having their relationship hit rocky turbulence. The imperfections of the two individuals have not yet been worked out, “And in our faults by lies we flattered be.” (138.14) So instead of the Psalm’s health, arrival, and celebration of friendship in realms divine, the two self-conscious lovers lie and, flattered by these lies, achieve an uneasy peace and harmony.
He sews the structure of the Ladder into this sonnet, saying that “On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed,” alluding to the two sides of the Ladder. (138.8)
Psalm 144 is a celebration of incredibly joyful human community. In a rare appearance of the words “daughters” and “sons” both, together, there is also a cosmic fecundity; mother Earth responds to this peaceful joyful human community by blessing us, all of us, with bounteous harvests in every way.
Constructing the top step of his own replication of the Psalms Ladder, Shakespeare pauses to reflect on the hurts of his own life, which we shall discuss in Chapter 6. The ungodly sufferings he went through, that the world has not yet known about…. The ruptured community he grew up, and suffered in, following difficult religious civil war…. The awful parodies of human relationships that he was trapped in as a mere child in school…. The incredibly difficult, albeit finally successful recovery from these things, having been ultimately saved by Anne Hathaway….
Shakespeare is speaking to God directly in Sonnet 144.
Will is saying, “You really mauled me God. (Or, God, you stood by while these things happened to me.)” Now, Psalm 144 celebrates sweetness of community and growth among humans. So Shakespeare responds to this by saying it’s perhaps unreal—or, if not unreal, not yet achieved in his own life. His Sonnet 144 is a parody of the Psalms Ladder, of Psalm 144, and of the Holy Trinity, as his sonnet has a love triangle, the passing of venereal disease, much cheating, psychological doubt, the failure of what today we might call the ‘normal’ “binary” of male-female sexual relations, intentional betrayals, and generally vile behavior and attitudes.
Mocking the Ladder, angels fall from heaven to hell. A good angel gets fired out of hell like a cannonball, after having suffered corruption.
Conversions happen, but bad ones: an angel becomes a “fiend.”
The Red Line of Hope is also mocked, as the “woman colored ill” is a much worse character than the male angel. (In the Red Line of Hope, the female characters generally save the bumbling male characters from themselves, and advance our human evolution in the process.)
Forming a nice parallel to the “both sides” of the Ladder in Sonnet 138, so too does Sonnet 144 have the words “both” and “side.”
What are we to conclude? Here at the top of the Ladder, has Shakespeare turned on us, or will he show us the way, through hurt, to love?
The Triumph of Love in Sonnet 150:
Humanity is growing. Love is growing among humanity.
The sonnet begins, “O, from what power hast thou this powerful might/ With insufficiency my heart to sway?”
A bit later the plaintiff asks, “Who taught thee how to make me love thee more [?]”
Something amazing happens in the final line of Sonnet 150, which is a parallel place to the very end of the Psalms.
Shakespeare writes the word “beloved.”
“Beloved,” in Hebrew, is cognate with the word “David.” It is also cognate with God’s nickname for Solomon, “Jedidiah.” Jesus, a much later fruit of the “line of David,” is also called “Beloved” by God.
Psalm 150 is a rock party concert in the house, in the gathering place, in the town square, in heaven. There is much music and dancing and pure celebration. It is a par-tay.
The Psalm, and the Book of Psalms, concludes, “Praise Yah!” Allelu-Yah!
This “Yah” is a diminutive of YHWH. A nickname for YHWH.
YHWH is still the great God of the Old Testament.
But Shakespeare is playing with this, and he’s replaying what Psalm 84 does, in the orbit of equidistant Psalms 60 and 108. All three Psalms have the word “Beloved.” But Psalm 84 applies this, right in the center of the Psalms, to God! God is the little beloved darlin’ of humanity! Yahweh is a love object, hunted and pursued by humanity!
Shakespeare makes it all a glorious hot mess.
If we read Sonnet 150 from the point of view of God, then God is the beloved, and wants to be beloved of humanity.
If we read Sonnet 150 from the point of view of Humanity, then Humanity is the beloved, wanting to be beloved of God. Knowing that we have earned this (sic—theology would not agree, however….).
So. After the rough and tumble of life, Shakespeare has realized that God’s plan is really good. Love grows. That’s the basic reality of the state of things.
We all want to love, and we all want to be loved.