Friday, February 10, 2012

Sonnet 29

One of the things I love about literature is that the good stuff is always good and sometimes, it gets better.  

For instance, I have read Jane Eyre I-don't-know-how-many times but each time it means something a little bit different and something more than it did all the times before.  

Shakespeare's sonnets are adored and reviled by high school students the world over and when I first read most of them, they left me if not cold, at least lukewarm.  Old dishwater warm.  

They seemed like the ramblings of either a pathetically rejected lover or a dismal old man.  

Now, years...many years...years upon years upon years...later, I begin to understand a little bit more and appreciate a little bit more what that rejected lover and dismal old man felt. 

When I was newly in love, the first lines of Sonnet 116 seemed to exquisitely capture my sentiments: "Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment...[Love] is an ever-fixed mark that looks on tempests and is never shaken; it is the star to every wandering bark..."

But as we - John and I - get older, some further lines have gained significance as well.  "Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks within his bending sickle's compass come: Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, but bears it out even to the edge of doom."

I seem to identify more closely with that dismal old man, too.  

So when I came across Sonnet 29 again, its lines spoke to me in ways I'd never heard before.  

Maybe there is something to this "older and wiser" thing.  Maybe "getting" poetry is a sign of wisdom.  Maybe wisdom means seeing more than we could see before, hearing more than we could hear, feeling more than a twenty-something year old is able to feel.  Maybe wisdom means understanding that life is mostly made of maybes.  

Maybe I should wrap this up before I posit anything truly ridiculous.  Or am I too late?  I should let Shakespeare finish this off.  He always says it best.  

Sonnet 29:
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 possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope, 
With what I most enjoy contented least; 
Yet in these thoughts myself 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 remember'd such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings. 

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