Friday, April 23, 2004

Bardic Musing

Happy birthday to William Shakespeare! The Bard turns 440 today. He doesn't look a day over 300. But seriously... It being Shakespeare's birthday today and Poetry Month, I thought I'd take a moment to remember that the man was more than a brilliant playwright, he wrote some darn fine poetry too. I love his plays, particularly the histories Richard III and Henry IV, but when it comes to the sonnets, I like the romantic ones best. The sonnets were first published in 1609 but no one is certain that they were published in the correct order. What is evident, apparently, is that all of the sonnets belong together and suggest a story, however vague it may seem. I confess I haven't read all 154 sonnets, maybe someday I will. For now I will enjoy the ones I have read and am familiar with. And of those here are my two favorites. Be sure to read them out loud, there is something about the way these words feel in the mouth and the iambic pentameter that is wholly satisfying.

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, And summer's lease hath all to short a date: Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines And often is his gold complexion dimmed; And every fair from fair sometimes declines, By chance or nature's changing course untrimmed; But thy eternal summer shall not fade, Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st, Nor shall death brag thou wander'st in his shade, When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st. So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun; Coral is far more red than her lips' red; If snow is white, why then her breasts are dun; If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head. I have seen roses damasked, red and white, But no such roses see I in her cheeks; And in some perfumes is there more delight Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks. I love to hear her speak, yet well I know That music hath a far more pleasing sound; I grant I never saw a goddess go; My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground. And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare As any she belied with false compare.