Soil And Death: The Unchanging
In the first line of Shakespeare's Sonnet 146, the register of "body" is introduced. The thought of "body" is very broad in this text, encompassing the literal, physical, human body, as well as a number of diverse "bodies" in completely different registers such as a "religious body" or "congregation". The "body of earth" is the first metaphor found in the first line, in reference to the human body, and in the thirteen lines that follow, Shakespeare's iambic pentameter is the voice of his heart, being torn apart, struggling with the reality that he will eventually, if not tin the near future, die. While suggesting there is life after death, Shakespeare accepts that the heavens will not be a place for his mortal body to dwell, but that all bodies, passed or living, stay on earth, eventually in the earth, and forever decomposing in the soil. The plethora of metaphors and registers revolving around the human body, the earth, religion and the definition of the word, soil, prove to confirm that the phrase "Soiled by", would work best in the barren spot where line two of Shakespeare's 146th Sonnet should begin.
From the symbol of the earth, to the meaning of the soil, Shakespeare's sonnet is only fully appreciated when the phrase "Soiled by" begins the second line, for "soil" is a register within itself, using its multiple meanings to connect each quatrain. In this line, the register changes from a pleasant peaceful body, to a body of war, or the physical body in a battle with the spiritual soul (or eternal being). A battle for life, to the death, yet perhaps through the death, depending on the perspective taken; whether of the body or the the soul in response to the latter. In any sense, the "soul" is "Soiled by rebel powers" which in the seventeenth century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, means the rebel powers (or human body, using the metaphor) "pollute [the soul] with sin" and cannot function properly. Shakespeare's body suffers starvation, with words such as "pine" and "dearth", which register as the physical, human body, used to create the metaphor of a home, "mansion", being "painted", while payments are made to a "lease", and built sturdy on the soil. The register of soil, or dirt, or earth, never leaves the sonnet, but instead ties the knot from quatrain to quatrain. The gruesome images of a dead body being eaten by "worms" in the ground, seems far from similar to the sin that corrupts "rebel powers", but "soil" is able to combine these very different pictures, so the metaphors are able to flow more freely, and Shakespeare is able to play with his words.
Soil is a verb exhausting the contamination of the soul, as well as a noun developing the consistency of earth and death. The metaphors used to describe the conflict, haunting the body and the soul, are better understood by the use of"soil" as a constant stain or state connecting all other registers uncommon, and as a metaphor for the "body" as well, in the second line of the sonnet. In the end, the body cannot win the fight, and must surrender to the spirit, which will live eternally, for in death , finds a life that will not die. And in the new life, perhaps not soiled lives prosperous, not having to torture, had it been the fate of its first life. And the body, which only is granted on life, is sent into the unchanging soil. For there is nothing else that can be depended on, but soil and death. And the "Poor soul" which (according to the Oxford English Dictionary), is made "foul or dirty" by the body, is soiled by, while the "body" ends up soiled in, a soiled end.