The Bard is alive and with us at 450. The dawn of 2014 is special for that very reason, for the world shall sway to the strains of the Bard, and in celebrations all over where man exists and the word lives on, we shall relive his works a thousand times over. A mortal amortized by his art of literature, ‘not of an age, but for all times. ‘ We shall begin the year of celebration of the Bard in this space by revisiting the Shakespearian Sonnets. Jet That’ll, the writer of Narcosis and a performance poet, was here as a visiting professor at the Ago
University, and the sessions with him on understanding, and reveling in sonnets shall guide me through my experiences with the writing of this article. The technique which I always disregarded in lieu of the theme of poems acquired a color of its own and lured me to assimilate sonnets in a completely new light. The better for the exercise on the writing of it; which you can accomplish with finesse, with the comprehension of the origin, types, and structure of sonnets.
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After meditation on the outline frame of the sonnet, you are astonished to discover the immense space thin the confines, structured structure of a sonnet to experiment on flowing verse. The Shakespearean Sonnet is a 14-line lyric poem consisting of 3 quatrains (3 stanzas of four lines each) of alternating rhyme and a couplet: a b a b c d c d e fee f g . Each quatrain dwells on an idea, different from the other quatrains, but related to the overall theme of the sonnet.
The couplet at the end resolves the Juxtaposition of ideas, events, images in the quatrains, by possibly resolving or Just revealing the tensions created and operative between them. Line 9, the beginning of the third quatrain, is the turn or Volta which turns the preceding argument to a different image and then the culminating couplet settles the complete picture. Each line is of 10 syllables, with five feet, an iambic pentameter; a Shakespearean signature. Shakespeare wrote sonnets throughout his career for a private readership, but they came into the public domain when they were first published in 1609.
His sonnets are divided into 3 categories, biz. Those addressed to a fair young man whom he loves, hen to a dark married lady, and lastly on myriad themes of life. The Sonnets are a profound meditation on the nature of love, sexual passion, procreation, death and time. Perhaps the most famous sonnet is Sonnet 18 Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? A Thou art more lovely and more temperate: b Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, a And summer’s lease hath all too short a date: b Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, c And often is his gold complexion dimmed, d And every fair from fair sometime declines, c
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed: d But thy eternal summer shall not fade, e that fair thou stows, f Nor shall death brag thou wander’s in his shade, e When in eternal lines to time thou grower’s, f Nor lose possession of So long lives this, and this gives life to thee. G A typical English sonnet, with a typical Shakespearian rhyme scheme (indicated at the end of each line). The turn occurs at line 9, But thy eternal summer shall not fade. The Bard amortized the beauty of the fair young man, through his words which reaches us 450 years hence.
Sonnet 116, which is sung at all weddings worldwide, and is a celebration of the sacred bond of love in marriage: Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O, no! It is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. 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. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved. That time of year thou Mays in me behold When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang Upon those boughs which shake against the cold, Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang. In me thou set’s the twilight of such day As after sunset fade 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 set’s 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 nourished by. This thou perceivers, which makes thy love more strong, To love that well, which thou must leave ere long. Sonnet 73 is one of his most beautiful sonnets. He suggests that his lover will love him more with the passing years, and declining beauty, because the physical aging reminds the lover of the ephemeral nature of things and that death is not far behind. To me, fair friend, you never can be old, For as you were when first your eye I eyed, Such seems your beauty still.
Three winters cold, Have from the forests shook three summers’ pride, Three beauteous springs to yellow autumn turned, In process of the seasons have I seen, Three April perfumes in three hot Junes burned, Ah! Yet doth beauty like a dial-hand, Steal from his figure, and no pace perceive; So your sweet hue, which methinks still doth stand, Hath motion, and mine eye may be deceive: For fear of which, hear this thou age inbred: Ere you were born was beauty summer dead. In Sonnet 104, The Bard expresses profound love for his lover who remains as dutiful and vibrant as she was on the first day that he saw her.
The passing time has not marked her in his eyes. But he knows that time is fleeting and though his eyes are full of love and the lovely picture of his beloved, time is moving on, and beauty is moving forward deceiving his eyes. In the end, he remarks, ‘In consideration of that, listen, you unborn generations: the height of beauty was dead before you were born. ‘ Watch this space for further interludes with the Bard through the year! In love with literature we are: WE ARE BECAUSE HE IS! ‘