This marks night eight of my studies for the (largely impossible, excruciatingly daunting) GRE Literature in English exam. I find my labours have borne me well past ancient Greek isles and a snarling Scandinavian Beowulf and onward past duels ‘tween the Redcrosse Knight and Mephistopheles. With The Faerie Queene at my back and Piers Plowman pushing me onward, I now draw upon the Jolly Old English shore. It is there that I now scrape my stern and am greeted by a playwright, a poet, a scoundrel, and a wit: the highly-lauded (but certainly not overrated) Mr. William Shakespeare.
Hang on: let me explain. I am not one of those creepy Shakespeare fans who believes that Billy Boy was the only man ever for her. I do not attend Shakespeare festivals. I don’t even belong to any Shakespeare-centric online covenants (and that’s totally my bag, in case you couldn’t tell). In fact, for years I loathed–loathed–Shakespeare and what I appraised to be his entirely overrated, overplayed art. I don’t think, however, that my lack of deference to the Master had a damn thing to do with Shakespeare, but with me. I think it was the badass bitch persona I erected around myself rejecting the fettered romantic creampuff to whom in large part I attribute my true weepy softness. You see, I’ve spent the better part of my life being terrorized by my own snuggleability–so, because of all the silly twits I knew who loved Shakespeare so and my desperation NOT to be like one of them, I claimed I hated Shakespeare. But of course, like all groundless claims, this sham was destroyed by a lovely, gentle woman named Chloe Wheatley.
In my junior year at Trinity my former advisor and then-professor Chloe forced me, despite my haterness, to read Shakespeare’s sonnets–all of them. I grumblingly set about my task, convinced this would be the most painful homework assignment of my college career (next to Math One-oh-Dumb, of course). However, little by little, something rather surprising occurred: I fell into respect, then appreciation, then awe. The man had a voluble, virtuistic way with words, and, I’d like to think, a very rare heart from which to decant them. In partial penance for my late conversion to respectful admirer I’m posting here one of my favorite sonnets. Take number 116 and hold it close to your bosom–I’m pretty sure that that’s exactly where it would want to be.
|Let me not to the marriage of true minds|
|Admit impediments. Love is not love|
|Which alters when it alteration finds,|
|Or bends with the remover to remove:|
|O no! it is an ever-fixed mark|
|That looks on tempests and is never shaken;|
|It is the star to every wandering 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 compass 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 ever loved.|