Rusty Drumm wrote recently in the praise of fish and fishermen, likening their tales to love sonnets, and to Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day . . .” in particular.
It was a really wonderful piece, and yet among the 154 sonnets Shakespeare wrote, there are few that are as transporting as number 18.
After reading them — the first 126, including “Shall I compare thee,” written to a Young Man, and the remaining ones to the Dark Lady, who appears to drive him crazy — one can be forgiven for concluding, although we’re warned not to treat the sonnets as a diary, that they show Shakespeare, an adept when it came to treating of love, to have been a rather unlucky lover.
The Young Man (the Earl of Southampton?) was apparently willing to admit impediments to the marriage of true minds, and the Dark Lady’s fooling around drove Shakespeare to feverish madness and to conclude that she was “as black as hell, as dark as night.”
“Maybe he was too taken up with his writing,” Mary surmised when I’d finished Helen Vendler’s “The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets.”
But, by the same token, these unrequited, or periodically unrequited, loves provided plenty of stimulus for his kaleidoscopic brain, and the sonnets that resulted are intricate, complex, and reflective, anything but Johnny-one-note paeans to Venus.
Time’s bending sickle, though, is the real villain, summer’s lease having all too short a date. Yet we are urged to bear it out even to the edge of doom.
Well I shall, and gladly, having been blessed with the love of a woman of infinite variety, generous to a fault, and rare to find it (though when she does, watch out), who, as I began to inch my way back from the doghouse not long ago, asked if I still had that quote of Dante’s that I had pinned to my office wall almost 27 years ago.
I did. A beacon to blithe lovers such as I, it warns, “How brief a blaze a woman’s love will yield if not relit by frequent touch and sight.”
“. . . If this be error and upon me proved / I never writ, nor no man ever loved,” Bub.