“Sonnet 129”
     by William Shakespeare

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjur’d, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;
Enjoy’d no sooner, but despised straight;
Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallow’d bait,
On purpose laid to make the taker mad:
Mad in pursuit, and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof,–and prov’d, a very woe;
Before, a joy propos’d; behind, a dream:
     All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
     To shun the heaven that leads men to hell.

Scholars agree that Shakespeare’s sonnets numbered 127—152 are addressed to a mysterious dark lady. However, anything known about this mistress is only speculation derived from the sonnets themselves. As enraptured as Shakespeare seems to have been by her, his deep regret of succumbing to the forces of lust, in what may have been an adulterous relationship, is bluntly and powerfully expressed in “Sonnet 129.” This sonnet is written in the language of nervous desperation. Shakespeare reaches that state of desperation when lust’s force inside of him is determined to move on, unrelenting in its pursuit for its goal. All the while, reason, which reminds of the consequences and rebels against lust’s disorder, is put aside and his advice denied.

Shakespeare begins “Sonnet 129” declaring that the action of lust causes a person’s spirit to waste away in shame. In the third line of the first quatrain, lust gets an immediate description of his unruly characteristics: he is extreme, savage, murderous, rude, cruel, full of blame, and not to be trusted. With this introduction, lust takes over and consumes not only the subject but the very pattern of rhythm and language in the sonnet as well.

As soon as the second quatrain begins the language becomes more desperate and sexual. Shakespeare announces that as soon as you enjoy the pleasure of lust, the “straight” way is despised. The straight way is always right, it is pure and virtuous. “Straight” represents the man’s conscience while his reason is being despised. Yet “straight” also immediately suggests erect, and the repetition in the next two lines: “Past reason hunted…Past reason hated…” declares that reason has lost the battle. This same repetition also quickens the flow of the rhythm as a man quickens during the intensity of his “lust in action.”

The words “no sooner had, swallowed bait, on purpose laid” are all quite clear with their sexual connotations, but just like a nagging thought of guilt in the back of the mind of a man whose lust is in action, reason makes his point in this quatrain. Once reason (or conscience) is sought after and had (understood), it is just as soon hated, and you are swallowed bait, you are caught in lust’s trap. This quatrain ends with the proclamation that the purpose of lust is “to make the taker mad.”

The last quatrain picks up right where the second ends as lust has taken over the mind of “the taker” and caused him to become “mad in pursuit” of it. Lust is in “possession” of the man just as the man is in “possession” of his desired object. In the next line, “Had, having, and in quest to have,” the words are short and quick with the stressed syllables more pronounced, and now the repetition is much closer together. This gives this line the sense of the intensity of a man’s final thrusts in his “lust in action,” and this sonnet climaxes with the word, “extreme.”

When “murderous” lust has made its kill and the action is finished, reason comes flooding back in. The phrase, “a bliss in proof,” states that lust is certainly pleasurable; it feels great! But in the end it is proved to be “a very woe.” In the last line of this quatrain it is stated that before acting upon it, lust is a proposed joy, a simple desire that seems like a good idea at the time, but after lust reaches its goal, the act is simply a memory. No pleasure that lust produces can be held onto and taken with you. Lust is a momentary joy that causes “the expense of spirit in a waste of shame.” Exactly two lines down from the sonnet’s climax, “extreme,” lust’s action is already only “a dream.”

The sonnet concludes with a well remembered couplet. Shakespeare almost exclaims in disbelief: the whole world knows of lust’s powers over reason, yet no one is smart enough to avert himself from the pleasures that grow and consume and possess and lead you to lust’s dark consequences. As mentioned before, most scholars agree that Shakespeare’s Sonnets 127—152 are about his entangled relationship with a mistress. This implies that some of his poetry is autobiographical. Whether or not this relationship was adulterous, a man generally writes from the outflow of his heart. Shakespeare had to have experienced being consumed by lust and the regret it causes to have portrayed it so passionately, and at least Sonnet 147 deals with this same subject. Of course, what man hasn’t felt the draw of lust in his heart? I imagine Shakespeare sitting up in his mistress’s bed and loosely composing this sonnet immediately after his own lust was in action as his reason began to regain control. He may have actually signed Sonnet 129 as his own personal struggle. Shakespeare makes a pun on his name in Sonnet 135, as well as more subtly in others. It is possible that he makes a pun on Will with “well” in his ending couplet: “All the this the world well knows; yet none knows well,” The whole world knows Will, yet no one knows of Will being able “To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.”

Peter L Richardson


“God is love.” 1 John 4:8

February 14, 2010

“The maker of the universe is in love with me, and that love makes me love him so dearly…”      –Jessica Latshaw

Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani

Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani, PLR

“The Maker of the Universe: A Passion Play”

The mystery of the universe,
The meaning of life is this:

It is love,
True love.

It is the first bloom of spring;
It is an ancient river flowing out to sea,
The seed that floats in the breeze.

It is love,
True love.

A mother enduring the joy of birth,
A father’s proud smile.
The return of a wayward son.

It is love,
True love.

A man giving up life for his friends:
The means to the end;
His Spirit conquering death.

It is love,
True love.

It is her head rested on His chest,
Their lips locked together.
It is the ring in her ear,
The rings on their fingers.

It is love,
True love.

It is one spirit;
Deeper than one flesh.

It is love,
It is true love.

“Wear me as a seal over your heart, as seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, passion cruel as the grave; it blazes up like a blazing fire, fiercer than any flame.”
     –The Bridegroom, Song of Songs 8:6

Peter L Richardson

An honest guy’s perspective.

“Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well…Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth…May you ever be captivated by her love.” Proverbs 5:15-19

Malachi 4:2, Isaiah 53, Matthew 5.29-30, Hebrews 7:25, Hebrews 12:12-13, James 1:14-15

Malachi 4:2, Isaiah 53, Matthew 5.29-30, Hebrews 7:25, Hebrews 12:12-13, James 1:14-15 PLR '99

The issue of lust is rarely dealt with frankly. I’m just a young guy learning how to overcome sin myself; this is my attempt to expose lust—to bring it into the light so we can get a clear shot at it and kill it. As one who’s found himself starting on the “downward path to death” (Proverbs 5:5), this is a warning for others on that path to turn back.

Love or Consumption? 1 Corinthians 13 gives us a clear understanding of God’s idea of love. It’s easy to see how twisted the world’s idea of love is in comparison. I’ve found no better description of worldly love at its worst than by C.S. Lewis in the preface of his second edition of The Screwtape Letters. Lewis describes the demonic counterfeit of love like this: “Even in human life we have seen the passion to dominate, almost to digest, one’s fellow; to make his whole intellectual and emotional life merely an extension of one’s own—to hate one’s hatreds and resent one’s grievances and indulge one’s egoism through him as well as through one’s self. His own little store of passion must of course be suppressed to make room for ours. If he resists this suppression he is being very selfish. On Earth this desire is often called ‘love.’ In Hell I feign that they recognize it as hunger.”

2 Samuel 13 provides an example of this hunger. David’s son Ammon had fallen in love with his half-sister Tamar. Scripture says, “Ammon was so tormented that he became ill with love for his half sister” (v.2). When he approached her for sex, Tamar was willing even to marry him. Yet he was so consumed by his own desires that he raped her and then despised her and left her disgraced. Ammon was supposedly in love with her. Isn’t this typical of the pattern we find in the world? Some men will do anything, risk anything, and degrade themselves in any way for sex. These men disrespect women and care little, if any, for the individual they join their souls with. The act of sex is the most intense tying together of souls; that is why the Apostle Paul warns that in joining your body with a prostitute you become one flesh with her (1 Corinthians 6:16). This is the same principle that Jesus spoke of when he said that a man commits adultery when he looks lustfully at another woman. There is a literal exchange of their souls.

Who is Your god? The sinful aspects of lust go far beyond the devastating effects of tying your soul to numerous partners. Lust is idol worship. Paul Vitz, a psychologist from New York University, states, “Idols are needs and desires that we have begun to worship” (“The cult of self” Cornerstone Magazine 23,105/1995). Within the context of marriage, sex is a legitimate need and a healthy desire, but outside of marriage we must practice the fruit of self-control. Whether you are sexually active outside of marriage or you watch through a screen or magazine pages, you are bowing down to sex. It is spiritual adultery against Jesus, and it is demonic. In his seminar, “Lust and Spiritual Warfare,” Nick Marica of KEV Ministries states: “Illicit sexual contact opens up the gateway to satanic oppression…There are three separate instances [in Proverbs 5, 6, and 7] where God discusses the creation of a path leading to hell…Note the symbolism of the adulteress as a demon. In addition, note how God discusses her house—as a principality. These references are more that symbolic; the conclusion: you have opened a physical, mental gateway to actual demonic oppression in your own house.”

If sex is your god, the desire to own and dominate someone will consume you. Eventually, the object of your lust will become less important than experiencing the act of pleasure again. Some, like Ammon, resort to rape. Some begin to hunt women down for one night stands, looking for a challenge to conquer. Look at King David. He had wives and an abundance of concubines. He could have had any virgin in Israel, but Bathsheba was a challenge for him and he committed adultery with her and then had her husband killed to cover up the resulting pregnancy. Some men resort to hiring prostitutes.

Others who worship sex attempt to satisfy themselves with self-gratification. In high school, before I was a Christian, I discussed my desires to lose my virginity to a Christian friend. He quickly exhorted me to go home and gratify those desires by myself. Better to do that, he reasoned, than to lose the virginity I had. The truth is self-gratification does not quell the desires of lust, as some believe. It is only fuel for the fire. Whether through fantasy, video, or still images, it only keeps your mind on sex and increases your curiosity. It leaves you more empty, more lonely, and depressed. In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus instructs us that a man can commit adultery with a lustful eye. Then he exhorts us that it is better to gouge out our eye or cut off our hand if it causes us to sin than risk going to Hell. He was politely, but very strongly, encouraging us to practice self-control and keep our hands doing something productive rather than destructive to our souls.

I believe lust led to the downfall of Israel. Do you think worshipping other gods would have been half as tempting if it didn’t involve temple prostitution? “Sorry honey, you know I luv ya, but she’s part of the requirement. Besides, I’m doing this for us! We need better crops this year.” Yeah, right. Look at David’s son, Solomon. 1 Kings 11 tells us that King Solomon loved many foreign women from the nations with whom the Lord had forbidden the Israelites to intermarry. “’Because,’ God said, ‘they will entice you to serve their gods’…But Solomon was devoted to them and loved them dearly…his wives turned his heart to follow other gods, and he did not remain wholly loyal to the LORD his God as his father David had been” (v.2,4).

It is significant that David’s grandmother was Ruth the Moabite. Although Ruth herself was a righteous woman, throughout the Old Testament the nation of Moab was notorious for its sexual sins. David’s, Ammon’s, and Solomon’s struggles with lust were quite possibly the result of generational curses. If you are not the only one who is prone to lust in your family, you should research this subject (Derek Prince’s book, Blessing or Curse, is a great place to start).

Sex: The Real Thing. Let’s remember: God created sex. Why settle for a cheap imitation when you can have the real thing? Within the marriage covenant, each partner’s body is a gift for each other, free for exploration in mutual agreement. Think of Christmas. It’s always great to open your presents on Christmas morning during the festivities. But if you already know what you are receiving, it’s not nearly as exciting. How would that make your gift feel if your gift was your spouse?

If you go into marriage already experienced, or even just well researched, you may be faced with unmet expectations if you are not repentant, healed, and free of those experiences, and that is obviously unfair to your partner. At the very least, you have both missed out on some fun that should have been reserved for just the two of you. I’ve seen couples who have done it the right way. They have an amazing sense of unity—a bond of spiritual and romantic love that you can almost physically see. And I’m not talking about being mushy and annoying in public. I’ve also seen couples who didn’t get off to that great of a start, but worked out their salvation together through repentance and love, and they reached that same place of unity. Still, wouldn’t it be better to be able to have a strong level of trust right from the beginning?

If you are involved in sexual sin, it probably won’t be an easy road to freedom, and you will likely stumble from time to time. But Christ died not only to offer us complete forgiveness, but also total freedom from sin. Don’t underestimate his mercy. There are no formulas for overcoming lust or any other sin. However, keep fighting, keep drawing near to God—through worship, through the Word, and through prayer. Do what every Christian should be doing: cultivating a life led by the Holy Spirit. Jesus admonishes his disciples in John 6:63: “It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh can achieve nothing; the words I have spoken to you are both spirit and life.” Listen to Jesus. Follow Jesus. Every day.

Peter L Richardson
March/April 1999

Originally published in Red Magazine, Volume 3, Number 1, March/April 1999.



She talks go
But when I go
Red lights flash ahead.
I prefer to stop.
Fire burns red.
My flesh burns for you.

Far better
In me
A white fire
Of the core.
Soul consuming.

Peter L Richardson

for Pop Pop…

February 2, 2010

Pop Pop

Pop Pop, by PLR

“I’m not getting older; I’m getting better…Bullshit.” 
  -Bill Walz

…dedicated to William Matthew Walz.
          February 2, 1918 – April 28, 1998

There are not any questions “why” in here;
I have peace; I know you are in good cheer.
Your time out: debate set your heart in place.
It was gett’n late, but you found Father’s grace.
Finger points down, finger raised to the sky,
Kernel of wheat falls into the ground:
               Your fruit multiplied.

And after the ending of your grand day,
The seeds you have sown are still portrayed,
Arrayed in the faces, the spirits, known;
Planted in me, a piece of you has blown,
Sown again from me into my offspring,
‘Till the day we stand together to sing:

Peter L Richardson
April, 1998