Of Sonnets and Songs



For the longest time I thought April's designation of National Poetry Month was in honor of William Shakespeare whose birth and death occurred in April. Not so! The Academy of American Poets made this decision back in 1996. By now, all kinds of book business people participate e.g. booksellers, writers, publishers, librarians, teachers and of course, poets. They have compiled a very cool list of poetry themed activities. However, I still consider it a shout out to Sir William! 

His famed plays continue to find new audiences and play globally in a variety of formats and genres (Bollywood's Omkara and Haider anyone?). In 2016 during Shakespeare's 400th year celebrations, collaborative efforts between various musicians paid tribute to his poetry from plays and sonnets. On a whimsy, I decided to read more poetry as a new year's resolution. This led to my re-discovery of wonderful and melancholy sonnets that I had read back in my school days but certainly forgotten in the last couple of decades of advance level adulting.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading these lovely musings on love and longing. You can read more about Shakespeare's Sonnets in this article from Literary Reference Center listed on our Literature Resources' page

But for now, find a quiet spot, sit with a loved one and speak these immortal words aloud as they were meant to be! 

Sonnet 29

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,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
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 remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

#29 is my favorite!


Sonnet 98

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April dress’d in all his trim
Hath put a spirit of youth in every thing,
That heavy Saturn laugh’d and leap’d with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew;
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight,
Drawn after you, you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.

mentions April so I kind of had to include this one!

Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

yeah so I tend to disagree with the Bard on this one about a summer's day being lovely and temperate. Obviously he never endured a Texas summer!

And last but certainly not the least, one that's often heard at weddings...
Sonnet 116

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.

So I urge you to give poetry a try this season. Give classics a second chance. You might be surprised at how much you like them as an adult. 

Saima K.
Librarian, Digital Strategies



Thank you for sharing these lovely sonnets with us. I hadn't read them in too long a time.

Saima, you are wonderful and just lovely! What a great blogpost. Only someone truly in love can appreciate and understand #29. I hope whoever you're in love with, loves you back just as much.

Thanks for this great post in praise of sonnets! Lovers of the Shakespearean form might enjoy my long PLUTONIC SONNNETS cycle, inspired by Pluto's demotion from full planetary status. Here is an example https://allpoetry.com/poem/8710167-PLUTONIC-SONNETS--A-Modern-Shakespearean-Sonnet-Cycle--164-A-Sugg-by-Rob-Graber

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