29 January 2010

RAW::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, whey then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on 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 that I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground.

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare."

~William Shakespeare


I heart Shakespeare.

In another lifetime, I was an English teacher {betcha didn't know that. Betcha didn't know that an English teacher would be so bold as to say 'betcha.'} {Actually, it is killing me to say that}. It was so long ago and far away that I can barely lay claim to that now. But once a teacher, always a teacher in your soul.

My first Shakespeare class in college at UW-Madison was in a lecture hall with 359 other souls and no discussion sections. We were assigned a different play to read each of the days the class met, Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and all the tests were essay. {To say that this was a nightmarish way to experience the nuances and lessons of Shakespeare is a gross understatement.} Needless to say, I flunked my midterm. I was crushed. I had the hardest time keeping up with the reading let alone understanding it all when the tweed attired prof spouted of random lines and seemed to have no logical plan, switching from one play to the next, and never taking questions from the class. So I dropped that faster than you can say 'iambic pentameter.'

I picked it up again in the summer when I was at home at UW-Stevens Point {I had to, after all, I was an English major and you can't graduate with an English major and no Shakespeare!}. This time I was in an intimate classroom with 21 other students. They all envied me my brand-spankin'-new copy of the Collected Works of Shakespeare {they all had horrible rentals}. I still have this copy of the book. It reminds me of that summer when I enjoyed each of the works thoroughly and got an -A.

While I love the plays -- the romanticism, the lessons, the humor, the settings, the angst, and the fully developed and complex characters -- I really have a soft spot for the sonnets.

My very favorite is #130.

A sonnet is comprised of 14 verses, and each verse is ten syllables. The iambic pentameter that each verse is composed in has a pattern of A,B, A, B, C, D, C, D, E, F, E, F, G, G, with the last two lines as a rhyme.

I find this poem particularly striking because at the time that Shakespeare was writing, poets spoke in flowery language idealizing the women of their dreams. It would seem that all women were in flowy dresses, with flowers strewn upon their path while they hovered slightly above the ground. Here, Shakespeare refutes that notion. The woman he loves is not as dazzling as the sun, has wires growing from her head, and has a bad case of halitosis. But yet he loves her. I find that very comforting imagery.

Since we are upon the season of mass-produced, shopping mall driven love, I think that this poem is a wonderful reminder of what love really is. Accepting the faults of the one that we hold dear is truly, madly and deeply the truth and power of love. I had a boyfriend once in high school who insisted on complimenting me every chance he could get. He seemed to think I was light itself. Ugh. It was awful! Ol' Will tells us that there is no need to place your love on a pedestal, a height that no one is able to attain or sustain. Rather it is the reality of the one that we love that keeps us bound. While we may have looked spectacular in the beginning, beauty fades and some with more fickle tastes could find their 'love' waning. But that is not true love.

What comes across as negatives really makes a positive statement in this sonnet. His love is rare, and he does not need to make overblown comparisons to appreciate her beauty.

When I was young and skinny{er} with nary a wrinkle or unruly gray strays on my head, I won over my husband. But over time I have changed {and truthfully, so has he} but we have evolved into loving the flaws and the extra baggage and the artfully colored gray. There are still loving embraces and I find them to be more tender and special than in the early days, probably because he knows all about me and loves me anyway.

I am content to be grounded because that means that I will have the chance to walk beside my love as we wade through all our lives. I feel safe in the knowledge that my husband, were he to talk in iambic pentameter, would share the same sentiment about me as Will did for his dark mistress.

And I will always think my love as rare.

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Do you like the amazing art that I have shared?
This was created by my friend Kerry Bogert of KAB's Concepts. You may know her from her amazing glass creations, or her upcoming book Totally Twisted due in stores this Spring. But she also makes the most incredible mixed media paintings featuring those glass treasures. Kerry created this one especially for me in a color palette I love. I squealed when I got it and then had a good cry...there is nothing more special than having a piece of art created just for you.

Do go check out her artistry! Have her make one just for you!

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What do you love about the special someone in your life?
What funny quirks and endearing qualities does that someone possess?

What is your favorite piece of the Great Bard?
If you were to write a line or two in iambic pentameter about your love, what would you say?

Do tell!


Check It Out::No Fear Shakespeare
Enjoy the day!

15 comments:

mairedodd said...

i love shakespeare too, very much so his plays... the sonnet you shared is quite wonderful and real...
i cannot imagine having a class taught in the respect you were - devastating - and criminal! so glad it wasn't a major turn off for you...
p.s. i love hearing you say 'betcha'! and kerry's work is divine...

Patricia Wood said...

What a beautiful piece! I love Kerry's work:)

Have a wonderful day,

Patricia

lunedreams said...

ha! yes! there's a difference between being in love with love and being in love with an actual person. if you're convinced your lover is perfection, you're probably not really seeing them, but your own fantasy. I've always felt very uncomfortable with men who were over-complimentary too. Like I was just a screen for them to project some sort of fantasy onto and I wasn't really a real person to them. I took a couple Shakespeare classes on college too and would never have understood a word of it without the lexicon provided on every page, and the teacher telling us what it all meant!! Loved it though.

SummersStudio said...

Beautiful! I love Shakespeare as well and cannot even begin to imagine having been taught with no questions, no discussion. In many ways I thinking sharing your thoughts, reactions are what reading Shakespeare is all about. Timeless, like the sonnet. I too am content to walk on the ground. After 20 some years it is more than comfortable being with my love. It is complete. It is rare.

lakeviewer said...

I came from Comesitbymyfire, intrigued by the Italian you used. This was a lovely lesson too.

LeeAnn@Encouragement Is Contagious said...

What an awesome blog and blog title! This is the first time I have visited here and I am so inspired from stopping by. I must become a follower.

I just love your profile words "Imagine yourself doing what you love......". That is what I am currently trying to get brave enough to do. It's very nice to meet you and thank you for the encouragement.

Lee Ann

Relyn said...

Oh, oh my. Will is my MAN. OK, him and Robert Downey Jr., but lets not quibble. Have you ever read Where There's a Will, There's a Way? I think you would love it. It's a bit of a psychologists look at the wit and wisdom of Shakespeare.

My first real experience with Shakespeare was in a college class my boyfriend (now husband) and I took together. Our professor looked and spoke like no one so much as Droopy Dog of the cartoon fame. NOT kidding. And then he picked up his worn, personally owned, non-text book edition of Shakespeare, and opened his mouth. I had never seen anything like it. Droopy Dog turned into Laurence Olivier. Remarkable! Dr. Shawn's voice made me fall in love with the English language and with Shakespeare.

Jenners said...

Thanks for helping me appreciate that a little bit more.

And I wonder if betcha is in the dictionary. I betcha it is (not).

You're wonderful.

rosebud101 said...

Wow! Erin, that is a fabulous Mixed Media painting from Kerry! No wonder you write so well, you were an English teacher. I majored in English, but ended up in special ed. Go figure. Great blog!

Lance said...

Erin,
This is so beautifully written. You are a shining star of what love is.

kiwiken said...

Oh, I love Shakespeare! :) Macbeth was one of the best things we had to read in school, I still know his one monologue by heart (She should have died hereafter...)
I only know few of his sonnets, though - I knew the one above, and I love it! So true, and funny - a rare thing in a poem. I don't like to hear all those exaggerated compliments either. A great poet, and apparently, a wise man.

Angie Muresan said...

Yes, isn't it amazing how love evolves? I never thought my gorgeous husband would prove to be such an awesome dad and wonderful friend. The love between us has matured and deepened.

Riki Schumacher said...

Well written Erin! I love your post. I was a Shakespeare fan, but lifetimes ago. You wrote this so beautifully, it makes sense you were an English major in another life! We all have past lives, don't you wonder what everyone used to do? Well done. Thanks for such a great story. Riki

Christina said...

Shakespeare words are beautiful...always.

lisa at lo.and.behold said...

I was also an English teacher in another life. I think English majors end up doing the most interesting things. . . And, I also own a Kerry Bogart painting - love them.

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