Better late than never. My sibling assignment is finished. Yes, the overachiever in me put it to pictures and music. Here was our assignment this week, given to us by Inland Empire Girl. Her post is here, and Raymond Pert’s is here.
“Think of a poet that has inspired your writing, your thinking, and/or your view of the world. Use your words, the poet’s words, and images (and music if you want to be an overachiever!) to illustrate how this poet has influenced your life."
I chose William Shakespeare, and, in particular, Sonnet 29.
As far as Shakespeare goes, I think anyone who is part of the western culture and writes cannot help but be inspired by Shakespeare’s writings. His works are a masterpiece, bigger than the writer.
I, like most students, was probably first exposed the works of Shakespeare in my freshman English class when we read Romeo and Juliet.
In college, I remember taking the class “Shakespeare for Non-Majors” at the University of Idaho (and I can’t remember the professor’s name, but I do remember people were scared of this guy. I think he was a little easier on us non-major students. But his did know his Shakespeare.) I always enjoyed studying Shakespeare’s plays.
But the most defining moment for me and Shakespeare’s writings was December 10, 1984. This was the night a handsome young man dropped to his knee in front of me and said this:
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,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts my self 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 gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings.
And then PKR asked me to marry him.
This sonnet has rolled around in my head quite a bit in the last 23 years. The wonderful thing about poetry is it tells a story, but that story can be interpreted by the reader, or the one reciting the poem.
It is amazing to me that hundred of years later; Shakespeare’s 29th Sonnet can tell the story of what PKR was going through at the time building up to our engagement.
We were both students at U of I, and had been since the fall of 1983, when PKR transferred there from a college in Montana. College didn’t always agree with PKR, and he had his struggles. One of them that year was the inability to sleep at night. He went through a phase where he would be awake all night, and sleep during the day. Well, as you know, this doesn’t work too well when you have classes to attend during the day. (At the time, he wasn’t sure what was going on, and why he was acting this way. When you’re in college, all kinds of strange behaviors go on, and you just learn to deal with them. A few years after we were married, PKR was reading the book Born Again by Charles Colson. Colson described similar behavior after being put in jail after Watergate. Colson described it as depression.)
As you read this sonnet, it tells the story of one not happy with the state of his life. But then something happens. He looks upon the love of his life, and realizes how blessed he is, and that this love has changed his life, and he wouldn’t want to change his life with anyone, not even a king.
And, I am fortunate that this story has continued for the past 23 years. Each and every day PKR has convinced me that thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings. And I have never, ever felt in our time together that he would ever want to be with anyone other than me. And, this poem continues to live in our daughter’s lives as well. PKR and I have screwed up as parents on many, many occasions, but one we have done well is that our girls know we love each other.
I’d like to share a story The Princess shared with me from one of her classes this last week at school. It broke my heart. In her Senior English Class, they were talking about “courtly love”, and they had an assignment to write a list of ten things that, to them signified “true love”. The Princess said she would just look to her mom and dad to get some ideas, because they were always holding hands when they walked, or she always catching them kissing and she’d have to tell them to stop all the time.
She was surprised at the reaction she received from her fellow classmates when she said this about her parents. Their reaction was they just saw their parents fight and yell at each other, and they weren’t sure if they loved each other or not, at least romantic love.
As I said before, it broke my heart.
But, I’m sure this story can be found in Shakespeare’s writings as well. He knew how to tell stories about humanity so well.
And I am fortunate that his 29th Sonnet still tells part of my story to this very day. And it makes me want to write about what the true human condition is, and how we can learn from it, and be moved by it, and how the people’s stories told through many forms of writing, including poetry, can help us understand ourselves better.