Monday, September 24, 2007

You Know, I Never Appreciated The Irony

It's funny how meanings open up when you paraphrase things for children.  This is another post about my kids and Sonnet 18, so if you're bored with that, you can move on :).

Since they have now memorized the first part and are driving us nuts with it, I'm trying to teach them the rest.  At one point I got to the line that, in my own interpretation, "Is the most beautiful line in the most beautiful poem in the world:  Nor shall Death brag thy 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."  To me it means, quite simply, that as long as people continue to read this tribute  to your perfect beauty, you shall never grow old, and you shall never die.    Is there really anything greater to wish for your true love, than immortality?  Shakespeare takes it one step further by not just wishing immortality, but claiming that he has the power to grant it.

And then I thought, "And you know what? Shakespeare was right.  It's 400 years later, and we're still talking about it.  Dang, that's some good stuff."

That's when the irony set in.

Somebody please tell me, who exactly he wrote Sonnet 18 for?


Anonymous said...

I recently read an article that championed the idea that the many of the sonnets, including 18, were written not for Southampton, the Queen or any other person but for Shakespeare's muse: his poetry. This article, from someone believing that Shakespeare was Edward de Vere, said that at the time this and many sonnets were written, 1580s, de Vere and his followers were into a literary style called Eupuism, which called for elaborate poetic devices such as rhetoric, alliteration, etc, as well as references to the ancient classics of Rome and Greece.

The writer actually says, similar to your comment, that de Vere purposely stretched the known bounds of poetry to transform the English language. This makes sense with Sonnet 18 in which the writer promises immortality through his words. Just put "muse" or "poetry" where you'd put lover or son or whatever.

It's an interesting theory. The writer, who I can't recall, says that de Vere had earlier visited France and met Rosnard, a foremost French poet who promised to transform French poetry into a world-class language by including the classics and using novel poetic devices. De Vere brought that idea home to England, whose language was still in flux, and made it his mission to elevate the Queen's English into an unforgetable language.

While Sonnet 18 is often considered the most beautiful love poem, writer James Boyd White says the poem only loves itself:

"What kind of love does 'this' in fact give to 'thee'? We know nothing of the beloved’s form or height or hair or eyes or bearing, nothing of her character or mind, nothing of her at all, really. This 'love poem' is actually written not in praise of the beloved, as it seems, but in praise of itself. Death shall not brag, says the poet; the poet shall brag. This famous sonnet is on this view one long exercise in self-glorification, not a love poem at all; surely not suitable for earnest recitation at a wedding or anniversary party, or in a Valentine."

I've also read that the sonnets refer to Anne Vavesor, with whom de Vere had a child out of wedlock. She was a firebrand of her day, intelligent and darkly beautiful. She named their son Edward Vere and for the most part kept him away from his father. This pained the older de Vere and this pain is what some say comes through in the sonnets. Anne Vavesor also slept around (so did de Vere) and de Vere was very jealous and this pain is also supposedly in the sonnets.

Another theory holds that de Vere as the author of the sonnets refers to the Earl of Southampton, who some claim was an illegitimate son of de Vere and Queen Elizabeth.

It's quite mindboggling the many theories out there when you start to read about the Shakespeare authorship question. I didn't even begin to elucidate those who claim Sir Francis Bacon wrote the Shakespeare cannon and how they fit his life into the sonnets.

One thing is for sure: The writer certainly elevated the English language far and above any other language of his or any other day.

cp kaiser

Walter Slaton said...
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