Sunday, April 23, 2006

Remembering the Bard

Shakespeare's precise birthdate is not known; he was baptized on 26 April 1564, and over time 23 April has become the accepted date of birth, in part because he also died on 23 April in 1616.


One of his most famous sonnets:

1. When I do count the clock that tells the time,
2. And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
3. When I behold the violet past prime,
4. And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;
5. When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
6. Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
7. And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
8. Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
9. Then of thy beauty do I question make,
10. That thou among the wastes of time must go,
11. Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
12. And die as fast as they see others grow;
13. And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
14. Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

A good commentary, analysis and original version of the sonnet's given on this website:

A delightful site for the uninitiated. (Mind the colour setting though. You may want to change your IE settings to "ignore colour and font settings of the website" , for a while.)

Though Shakespeare is supposed to have written these sonnets as an 'advice' to his indulgent friend Henry for bringing him towards the noble path of honest matrimony, and the last line refers to the biological progeny of a human being, I guess we can give a symbolic connotation to this line. (That's the fun in being a critic. One can tell the creator to shut his/her mouth and go on and on with one's own viewpoint about the creation, though far different from the creator's own imagination.)

We may say that 'breed' here means the output of your life's work. Who saved Shakespeare himself from time's scythe? Not his offsprings, but his plays and his poetry. The Curies aren't remembered because of Mrs. Joliot 'nee Irene Curie, but because of their discovery of radium.

Would 'beauty' then be physical appearance, wealth and earthly possessions? ..Well maybe - but Then I remember Emily Dickinson's "I died for beauty.." where she claims that beauty is the same as truth, and now I'm digressed again ;)

Some other time maybe, eh?