Posted by: John Looker | 5 June, 2016

From Shakespeare’s Notebook

From Shakespeare’s Notebook:
first thoughts towards his sonnet 73

 

Coming out of the theatre I find you here,
as promised,
in a doublet I have not seen before

       … I am evening now; autumn.
I am embers.
All this you perceive with your clear bright eyes

(your love must be more strong
than I had dared to hope, seeing me so
pallid, in this out-moded cape)

You raise your smile to me,
greeting me with a shared jest,
and I feel at once how fast my pulse is racing

(could it be your love is like the crowd
that gives its heart to the players with greater joy
knowing the play is fleeting?)

We walk on together towards the bridge,
you talking at length about your day and I lost
in the music of your voice

(do you sense, with me by your side,
how the scenes of your own half-written play
must pass?)

       … you are morning still; springtime. You
are a brightly lit fire from which I take such warmth
as I had thought would never shine on me.

 

© John Looker 2016

This is the third of five poems that are a personal commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. Most of Shakespeare’s sonnets are now presumed to be addressed to his Young Man, and number 73 reads as follows:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

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Responses

  1. 73 is a sonnet I would never have read, enjoyed, or comprehended on my own. You unwrap it for me, John, and then wrap a play around it.

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    • Thank you Elaine. I think Shakespeare’s final couplet can be interpreted in more than one way and I tried to picture him entertaining different thoughts.

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  2. Just lovely. Shared on FB 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Yes, those ‘bare ruined choirs’, and example of, what shall I say, ‘pure’ poetry. This piece thoroughly convinces, mating a light tone with some genuine Shakespeare-like insights. ‘I am evening now; autumn. I am embers.’ A nice tribute to the bard; no doubt somewhere he is smiling. Why not try a sonnet one of these days. I’ve been working on mine.

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  4. Yes, I’ve been reading your recent poems with my usual great interest, Jim. (And thanks.)

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  5. The phrase, “Love is blind” comes to mind, and from time to time, so it is. But why is seeing more that what may be “real” a blindness? Anyway, this sonnet or love poem captures how lovely it is to be in love. I enjoyed reading it. It feels bashful at times and giddy.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am reading the poem again in a quieter space and I feel the sadness in it, the contrast of one being autumn and the other springtime, the presence of the bridge, the “play” and something about to change. We can all relate to this walk of love/lovers.

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    • It’s most rewarding, Anna, to learn that you have returned to retread this — thank you. Like you (like everyone I suppose), I find that there is simply so much to think about and respond to in Shakespeare.

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  7. I am falling behind, John. I have come back to this twice now. What do I think of it? I think there is poetry here. I wish you could have finished all these for a book on Shakespeare’s sonnet before this year.
    This is a miniature play, of course, the old poet in his cape meeting a young man. As the old man comes up to the young man he discovers
    “your love must be more strong
    than I had dared to hope. . .”
    The pathos is palpable in your poem:
    (could it be your love is like the crowd
    that gives its heart to the players with greater joy
    knowing the play is fleeting?)
    What a three line set! And isn’t it true? As we grow older we become more unsure of ourselves. Could it be? Is love stronger when we know that life is fleeting?
    Then the glory:
    … you are morning still; springtime. You
    are a brightly lit fire from which I take such warmth
    as I had thought would never shine on me.
    I know that when I am around young people at Navajo Technical University they give me an extra energy. How much more powerful would that energy be when love reflects back from a young to an old person? There is both truth, and, of course, pathos in these lines.
    I am going to be teaching sonnet writing at a workshop with the Wisconsin Writer’s Association conference in the fall. Then I’ll be teaching about Shakespeare’s sonnets in a program put on by Door Shakespeare, a major Shakespearean outdoor theatre in Door County a few miles from where Ethel and I live. Your series of Shakespeare reaction poems are valued because of what I have committed to do this fall.
    Sonnet 73, with its idea that a man who is in the fall of his life
    makes thy love more strong,
    To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
    is a masterpiece, course. There are so many aspects of it that ring with power:
    In me thou seest the twilight of such day
    As after sunset fadeth in the west,
    Which by and by black night doth take away,
    Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
    This quatrain cannot, at least in my estimation, be surpassed by any poetry. It acknowledges mortality while still nodding to twilight
    glowing of such fire
    That on the ashes of his youth doth lie
    inside who we as humans are.
    This is a great effort on your part, playing off Shakespeare, but creating a playlet that echoes and reverberates into its own significance as a poem. I have enjoyed this. I’ll get to your latest effort in a day or two.

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  8. Thank you for all these thoughts, Tom; Shakespeare’s 73rd sonnet obviously is as full of riches for you as it can be for anyone. I’m sure you will find the preparation for those two teaching assignments most invigorating and your students/participants will derive great benefit. 73 is glorious isn’t it? The final couplet is a puzzle to me however. It seems capable of at least three different interpretations, which I tried to grasp in my tribute through the lines in parentheses.

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    • The reason I like Jim at ExtraSimile’s poetry so much is that it is not straight-forward. You have to really dig to discover the meanings in the lines. Shakespeare is a master at saying multiple things at once, I think. Partially it comes from the richness of his language. Partially he extends metaphors in way that create multiple paths that seem to magically couplet together. I often find a hint of irony in most of the sonnets.

      I think your parentheses interpretations are pretty brilliant really, catching three distinct ideas that I think are in the sonnet:

      (your love must be more strong
      than I had dared to hope, seeing me so
      pallid, in this out-moded cape)

      (could it be your love is like the crowd
      that gives its heart to the players with greater joy
      knowing the play is fleeting?)

      (do you sense, with me by your side,
      how the scenes of your own half-written play
      must pass?)

      Clearly the sonnet is as much about the autumn and spring of life as it is about love, but also about how love between autumn and spring reacts in each of these two states of being. We carry within ourselves our own death no matter what age we are. In spring we do not see that and that glory reflects outward on the beloved, the glory being the vigor inside our life. In the end we should love our beloved, especially if that love is in the autumn of their live, well — for it is fleeting.

      73 is absolutely glorious. I am going to go through the entire sequence this fall. I haven’t done that in awhile, but am looking forward to the exercise.

      Like


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