Poem-A-Day 2021, Day 23: William Shakespeare

I typically like to post something by Shakespeare on his presumed birth- and deathday. This year it’s Sonnet 12.

I’ve been thinking about mortality and legacy. I’m maybe at that time of life, I suppose? But also, these seem like good things to consider from time to time, to make sure we aren’t wasting our time. Or maybe that’s just me.

I try not to obsess over any of it — and don’t advocate that anyone should, frankly. But tempus fugit and all, and I guess I want to make sure that what I spend so ridiculously much time doing means something beyond the time I spend doing it. Gods, I hope it means something good.

Shakespeare advocates that having children is the way to achieve immortality, after a fashion. I get his point but really don’t think that will do it. Tim O’Brien wrote that stories would save us, that books were a form of immortality. That seems a bit more like it. If I recall correctly (and I might not), David Eagleman imagined the afterlife, in one iteration, as a vaguely purgatorial place where souls had to hang around, waiting for their eternal rest, until no one who yet remembered them was still alive. Shakespeare was miserable in that waiting room, watching lots of less noteworthy people shuffle off to some great reward while he had to sit there wishing people would stop reading his work.

Sorry, Bard. Your sonnets are the bomb.

Sonnet 12

When I do count the clock that tells the time, 
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night; 
When I behold the violet past prime, 
And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves 
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves 
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard, 
Then of thy beauty do I question make, 
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow; 
   And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
   Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence. 

***

Click on these links for the Shakespeare posts from 2018 and 2019 for some biographical information and images of him. I’ll warn you that the bios get more irreverent as time goes on, and I’ll add that he’s one of the few old dead white guy authors I think we still need to teach. Cheers!

10 thoughts on “Poem-A-Day 2021, Day 23: William Shakespeare

  1. Jamie Danielle Portwood

    I think it’s more the nature of our souls, the stuff of which we are made that asks these questions. More than a particular age because I know a lot of people our age who don’t think about legacy at all and lately all I can think is about curating the legacy I’ve been given and curating the legacy I’m leaving.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike Alexander

    I too think of Shakespeare this time of year. It’s part of what makes April the coolest month. Funny thing is, the sonnets are not his most representative work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They really aren’t. His major plays are in a class by themselves. (I shall not speak about Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus, which I cannot abide.) But I do love his sonnets as little technical marvels. Or so they seem to me. I’m really just so-so on meter myself.

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      1. Mike Alexander

        Oh, I love Titus. I see the early Shakespeare as obsessed with Ovid. A complete unexpurgated Ovid had just come out in the early 1590s. If you keep an eye on the text, Shakespeare packs the play with Ovidesque Easter Eggs. & I happen to love Ovid. So, bloody revenge play? Yes, but also a meta masterpiece.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That movie is so well-loved, but I admit I couldn’t actually get all the way through it. Lavinia’s aftermath was just too much for me — but you’re right, that bloody image of Laura Fraser has haunted me all these far too many years. I always did wonder, though, whether Tamor ever closed the loop on the kid playing under the dinette set at the beginning.

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      3. Jamie Danielle Portwood

        I had to order that movie to watch again because it has stayed with me since college. I need a DVD player. You can’t stream it anywhere I don’t think.

        Liked by 1 person

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