By Matthew Bitz
Last week as I was wandering through our school library, searching for something new and different, I found something very old, Palgraves Golden Treasury. Originally compiled in 1864 by Francis Palgrave, a professor at Oxford from 1885-95, it is a collection of poetry by English writers from Shakespeare to Dylan Thomas. Having found nothing else to read, I sat down and started browsing through the first pages of Book 1 when I had my first encounter with a Shakespearian sonnet.
Now, to set the record straight, Ive read or seen most all of Wills classic plays, but Id never read his sonnets or any of his longer poetry before. I cant believe what Ive been missing out on for all these years, because they are great.
Nearly everyone has read or seen something of Shakespeare in their lifetime, but the vast majority only see the famous theatrical productions like Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet. And while these are certainly marvelous, I must say that I personally find his sonnets more enjoyable to read than the longer plays like Macbeth or Othello. The reason I say this is, while his plays are the best ever written, poetry is a much more enjoyable thing to read than a script. Having to try and follow the story over page after page in old English sometimes takes away from the experience and the words begin to lose their power and emotion.
Not so with the sonnets though. They are brief and beautifully written and seem to flow off the page like music. Every word has been chosen to describe precisely what it is that the master of our language desires to say, every phrase fits seemlessly within the sonnet, conveying the human emotions exactly as Shakespeare desired it to.
Since I lack the ability to try and truly describe the beauty of this wonderful writing, I shall leave you with one of my favorite sonnets to attempt to convey the power of this mans words. It is titled simply, A Consolation. I hope it will encourage you to read more of the short works of William Shakespeare.
When in disgrace with fortune and mens eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with 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 possest,
Desiring this mans art, and that mans scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think of Thee and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heavens gate:
For thy sweet love rememberd, such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.