Sunday 23 October 2016

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,

Since Brass Nor Stone...

William Shakespeare

Published 05/10/2015 | 02:30

This is one of those marvellous sonnets - like When In Disgrace With Fortune And Men's Eyes or When To The Sessions Of Sweet Silent Thought - in which Shakespeare (pictured below) counts up the bitternesses and disabilities of life and balances them against the consolations he derives from his relationship with a particular person. It is not as personal as that other two. The wrongs here are public or general for the most part.

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Some of them have a remarkably contemporary ring. For example '... art made tongue-tied by authority' is not perhaps what we might expect an Elizabethan to cite as an impediment. It sounds much more like it belongs to the twentieth century, but of course it was true of his times too.

There is a deal of schadenfreude, or consolation in another's misfortune, to be had for the reader from these sonnets. That the greatest of all poets should admit to desiring 'this man's gift and that man's scope' is curiously solacing.

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,

But sad mortality o'ersways their power,

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,

Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry:

As, to behold desert a beggar born,

And needy nothing trimmed in jollity,

And purest faith unhappily forsworn,

And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,

And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,

And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,

And strength by limping sway disabled,

And art made tongue-tied by authority,

And folly, doctor-like, controlling skill,

And simple truth miscalled simplicity,

And captive good attending captain ill:

Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,

Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

Sunday Independent

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