Leaving Certificate Poetry – William Shakespeare

Along with Eavan Boland, we also studied 6 sonnets by the Bard.

I consider myself privileged in that I have always had a very positive relationship with William Shakespeare. My parents had surprised me with comic versions of Hamlet and Macbeth as a youngling. Surprisingly, these retained the majority of the language of the originals and were gruesome and macabre – in other words utterly perfect for me.
As a family, we sporadically attended plays (the one that really sticks in my mind was A Midsummers Night Dream. Puck released loud firecrackers, which scared the bejeezus out of the very young versions of my brother and I and so sat with us throughout much of the play feeding us little titbits about the characters as they appeared, especially before a scary or loud bit. To this day I am incapable of hearing the name Titania without remembering that ‘she’ll do anything for you if you take her a cuppa in the morning’, or that Lysander could ‘sing jingle bells in three different languages’) and I was one of the few in the class who had a passing familiarity with both King Lear and the sonnets we were to study. 
I was that girl in school.
It was tremendous fun really.
I very much enjoyed the selection that we read. Shakespeare was a master manipulator and each of these demonstrated his skill at using words to attain something of advantage to himself – be it sponsorship, money or eternal recognition.
And Just For The Record, I happen to be a Stratfordian. I don’t think that we will ever know for sure who really truly absolutely wrote the poems and plays ascribed to William Shakespeare, all the while acknowledging that the doubt only arose in the 19th Century (out of intellectual snobbery if you ask me).
However, in the absence of definitive knowledge; I believe that it is important to at least try to believe that Will Shakespeare – a normal everyday man of no especial education or knowledge base – was the author. Allowing for genius in the everyday is essential – it allows us to dream of more; inspiring individuals to achieve beyond external expectations.
Anyhoo, please find below the sonnets studied. If you get me a little squiffy some night, I can even be persuaded to rather dramatically recite them!
Sonnet 29 – When In Disgrace With Fortune And Men’s Eyes
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,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
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 gat;
  For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
  That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Sonnet 30 - When To The Sessions Of Sweet Silent Thought
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus'd to flow,
Fro precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,
And moan th' expense of many a vanish'd sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
  But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
  All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

Sonnet 60 - Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown'd,
Cooked eclipses 'gainst his glory fight
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty's brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature's truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
   And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
   Praising they worth, despite his cruel hand.

Sonnet 64 - When I have seen by time's fell hand defaced 

When I have seen by time's fell hand defaced
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down razed,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage:
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store:
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate--
That Time will come and take my love away.
  This thought is as a death, which cannot choose
  But weep to have that which it fears to lose.
Sonnet 65 - Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea

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?
O! how shall summer's honey breath hold out
Against the wrackful siege of batt'ring days,
When rocks impregnable are not so stout,
nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?
O fearful meditation! where, alack,
Shall Time's best jewel from Time's chest lie hid?
Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back?
Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?
  O! None, unless this miracle have might,
  That in black ink my love may still shine bright.

Sonnet 73 -  That time of year thou mayest in me behold

That time of year thou mayest in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.
  This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
  To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

And since we're covering sonnets - my all time favourite -

Sonnet 130 - My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing Like The Sun

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips' red:
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow oh her head.
I have seen roses damask'd, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,--
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.
  And yet, by heaven, I think my love so rare
  As any she belied with false compare.


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