Monday, January 07, 2013

Ugly Women and Beauty Unseen

I feel a bit like a rube in that I prefer the language of modern poetry to the classics, but of course there are some “bazinga!” exceptions out there. Tons. I’m just not as interested in them and don’t seek them out for re-reads. Excepting a few–one which I found only because my creative writing professor assigned us to memorize a Shakespeare sonnet. He said it's always good to have at least one Shakespeare sonnet memorized - to show off at literary-type parties I suppose. Almost didn't want to do it just to resist the temptation, but it is a personal satisfaction to be able to hear it whenever I want (though Cummings' "somewhere I have never traveled" is so much more satisfying. And yes, I have obnoxiously shown off w that one.) Back to the bard: I chose sonnet 141 for reasons I hope obvious: the language, the humor, and thank you Shakespeare for having a poem’s speaker interested in an unattractive woman.

"Sonnet 141" by William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note;
But ‘tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who, in despite of view, is pleased to dote;
Nor are mine ears with thy tongue’s tune delighted,
Nor tender feeling, to base touches prone,
Nor taste, nor smell, desire to be invited
To any sensual feast with thee alone:
But my five wits nor my five senses can
Dissuade one foolish heart from serving thee,
Who leaves unswayed the likeness of a man,
Thy proud heart’s slave and vassal wretch to be.
   Only my plague thus far I count my gain,
   That she that makes me sin awards me pain.

And the following lines from “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” by Thomas Gray (1716-1771). These lines usually come to mind when I see kids living in circumstances where their chances are limited to nil. Or any time that beauty goes (for the most part) unrecognized:

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
         The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen,
         And waste its sweetness on the desert air.


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