Shakespeare the Melancholy

I decided I would read a bit of Shakespeare this morning. It has been quite some time since I sat down with the bard. I was far from ambitious enough to start a play but thought I’d read a few sonnets, recalling it’s really the sonnets I enjoy most. Time is a strange thing though. I had forgotten how really morose, often downright depressing some of Shakespeare’s sonnets are. Reminds me of reading Ecclesiastes. But I find the sonnets “lovely, dark, and deep” in the way Robert Frost’s woods were “on that darkest evening of the year” (“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”).

Sonnet  XII
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 girdled 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.

Basically–we all grow old and ugly and die. Perhaps the next one is more hopeful. At least the following sonnet will keep its subject alive “as long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,..” as her beauty will live in his poetry.

Sonnet XVIII
Shall I compare you to a summer day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often in his gold complexion dimm'd: 
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, un trimm'd;
But they eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest;
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

I considered Sonnet XXVIII but it ends thus: But day doth daily draw my sorrow longer/And night doth nightly make grief’s strength seem stronger. –So no. I will end with Sonnet XXIX instead.

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,
Featur'd 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
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

And that is a lovely sonnet to end on. Next time I will post what may well be my favorite sonnet. I love its sentiment even more than its skill. What are your favorite sonnets–from Shakespeare or others?

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