Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Birthday Boy, April 23, 1584

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impeduiments; love is not love
which alters when alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove,
Oh no, it is an ever fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compase come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man every loved.

Yes, it's Shakespeare's birthday and this is one of the most famous sonnets.

To read the sonnets is to understand that a language may become poorer and threadbare with use over a few centuries. Yes, we have many new words and new ideas, but we don't have the cadance that is poetic, we don't routinely use the metaphors and similies as they were used in the 1600s.

To read the plays and see them, is to understand that human psychology didn't need Freud to define everything from grand passions and ambitions to neuroses to stand up comedy. It's all there and more -- how did one man capture so much and simply put it on a page without having to say "look, look, Hamlet's depressed, Othello is so insecure he's a pushover for a whispering, envious bigot, Lear's an egosticial old tyrant..." he just shows us these and all the others. This is genius, this is amazing. And it's on our bookshelves to read and wonder at any time we tear ourselves from lesser things and crave a brief hour or two in contact with the best of the best. The I Ching which is full of ancient wisdom says we are what we put into our odies - both the food we eat and the things that fill our minds. If we choose Shakespeare, even once in a while, over a best seller, we are made better. Truly.

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