In Shakespeares Sonnet 146, the first words of the second line are missing. Based on the themes and metaphors of the rest of the poem, this writer believes that the second line should read, "[Leagued with] these rebel powers that thee array" (2). The phrase ties into the register of war, and illustrates the concept of the soul preparing for battle against the physical body.
Throughout the poem, Shakespeare uses various registers to convey to the readers that a persons physical body is a restraint on the soul. The first register portrays the idea of the soul as the center of ones "earth." In this sense, the word "earth" means a persons physical body. The physical body is described as "sinful earth" and can be interpreted as saying that humans are innately sinful creatures. People become a part of the earth when the exterior body dies, and thus the earth is described as "sinful" because it is composed of human bodies. The soul, on the other hand, is separate from the physical form. As a result, this sets the stage for the inevitable battle between the soul and the body because of the souls desire to be set free. "Poor soul, the center of my sinful earth," reads the first line of the poem. Indeed, the soul is trapped within the confines of the human body, and about to wage a battle against its "sinful" constraints. The physical body will become a permanent part of the earth when a person dies, and the soul does not want to be trapped within.
The second line, "[Leagued with] these rebel powers that thee array," seems to demonstrate the soul preparing to fight and break free from the confines of the body. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "array" can be interpreted as "preparation for battle." The word "leagued" can mean "in association with; confederation, and alliance," just to name a few. So the choice of the phrase "leagued with" for the second line corresponds with the register of war since this line describes the preparation for battle. The soul is rebelling against the body, and is therefore "leagued with" these rebel powers, that is, the souls is battling the body for control. The soul is a rebel because it is going against the command of the body.
"Shall worms, inheritors of this excess, eat up they charge? / Is this thy bodys end?" (7-8), is the question that illustrates the eventual result of death, which the soul is trying to escape by rebelling against the body. For worms will eat away at the corpse, and the body will eventually decompose into the earth. But the poem is saying that the soul does not have to die. "Then soul, live thou upon thy servants loss / And let that pine to aggravate thy store" (9-10), are lines which convey to the audience that the soul can continue to live even though the body has come to an end. Thus, the battle to live can be won by the soul, if it lets go of the physical body. "Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth, / Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?" (3-4), means, "Why suffer and focus so much on the physical appearance, when that eventually goes away as the body ages and dies?" Shakespeare is telling the reader not to believe the idea that death is the end of everything. Death is the end of the physical body, but there is still the soul. That is what the battle is all about. There is a fight between the soul and the body for control, compounded by the unwillingness of humans to let go of the physical form.
"So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men, / And Death once dead theres no more dying then," reads the last line of the poem, signifying the idea that once one accepts the death of the physical body, the soul can live forever because there is "no more dying" left to be done. The battle between the "poor soul leagued with these rebel powers" and the "sinful earth" of the physical body can only be resolved once the soul accepts that the time spent on earth in a body is temporary. The phrase [leagued with] is appropriate for the poem because it ties into the theme of battle. As time eventually goes by, the body ages, is consumed by worms, and returns to the earth. Yet the soul is able to live forever, having been "leagued with these rebel powers" in the fight against the body and is able to realize that letting go of the impermanent form can lead to a greater sense of existence.