From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April dress'd in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing
That heavy Saturn laugh'd and leap'd with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odor and in hue
Could make me any summer's story tell.
Or from their proud lap pluck them while they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily's white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight; [C]
Drawn after you [A], you pattern of all those.[B]
Yet seem'd it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.
(Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse, p.132; Sonnet 98, William Shakespeare)

I guess participial phrase [A] is selected to say the condition of previous clause [C], and comma and verb-less clause [B] is to say the reason of [C]. Is this right?

  • 3
    Interpreting song lyrics or poetry should not be on-topic.
    – apaderno
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 9:10
  • @kiamlaluno OP does not ask for interpretation, she asks for grammatical analysis - very different thing. Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 10:54
  • I still think it's an grammatical interpretation of the text. Does doing grammar analysis of Shakespeare basing on modern grammar make sense? Let's do it for Beowulf.
    – apaderno
    Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 11:45
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno You're illegitimately confounding literary interpretation of the whole, which is off-topic, with grammatical analysis of a part of a single sentence, which is on-topic. The fact that the sentence is drawn from a 17th-century sonnet is wholly irrelevant; except for the play on 'but' (which OP does ask about) there is nothing in the lexicon or the syntax which is not entirely modern. And your reference to Beowulf is also irrelevant; this is Early Modern English, not Old English. Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 19:28
  • 1
    @kiamlaluno This is ModE syntax. "They are only examples, extracted from the data, the data itself provides the rules." If I take away the context (we always demand context) you can't tell it's EME. Or that it's poetry, either, though you've abandoned that spurious line of argument. Shall I edit to remove the context? Will that make it OK? Commented Jul 25, 2013 at 21:26

1 Answer 1


Just by way of warning: the semicolon is editorial; in the only source text, this is a colon. Elizabethan pointing was (to the extent that it was anything consistent) rhetorical, not mechanical, and in any case there's no knowing what Shakespeare originally wrote; so you can't depend on the point to mean anything in particular.

[A] and [B] are both reduced clauses, with omitted verbs. That verb is "were" from C, the entire preceding line.

[A] also omits its subject, and when you first hear the clause, you naturally parse it as an ordinary reduced relative clause, "They were ... but figures ... [which were] drawn after you".

[B], however, is an independent clause with a new subject: "You [were] the pattern of all those"; and when you hear this clause and recognize the antithesis it expresses, you realize that [A] is ambiguous. In light of what precedes it, [A] is a relative clause with the relative pronoun which as its omitted subject; but in light of what follows it, [A] may also be understood as an independent clause with the personal pronoun they as its subject.

So you've got a double parsing, which may be paraphrased either as:

They were only sweet images of delight, [which were] drawn with you as the model; you [were] the authentic original.
They were only sweet images of delight: they [were] drawn with you as the model, you [were] the authentic original.

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