Sunday, April 24, 2016

Poetry Sunday: Shakespeare's sonnets

April is Shakespeare's month. He was born in April, 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon and died on April 23, 1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon. In between, he invented - or at least reshaped - the English language.

April is also National Poetry Month. Could there perhaps be a connection? For in addition to his immortal plays, we also have 154 sonnets that are attributed to him. Here are three of his greatest hits. 


Sonnet XVIII

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 too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime 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.

Sonnet XXIX

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
    For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
    That then I scorn to change my state with kings.


Sonnet XXX

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
    But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
    All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

6 comments:

  1. Hmmm...I find them complicated.

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  2. You know I like sonnets.
    Thank you for this enjoyable post

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    1. I like sonnets, too - even when they are complicated.

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  3. Sonnet 28 is one of my favorites and seems so appropriate in the spring--the "darling buds" are fading fast here.

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    1. Reading the sonnets is fascinating on many levels, one of which is recognizing a phrase that is so much a part of our language, something originally introduced by the Bard - like "the darling buds of May." I love that sonnet, too.

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