I completely forgot that on April 23rd was William Shakespeare’s birthday. The Bard turned 451 years old the other day. Well, of course he didn’t turn anything because Shakespeare passed on from this world many years ago, and unless they celebrate birthdays in heaven it’s unlikely anyone there keeps count. Only we mortals continue to keep count. Shakespeare wrote such a lovely sonnet on coming death that it’s worth posting as a memorial to his birth. And death! Shakespeare happened to die on April 23rd as well.
By William Shakespeare
That time of year thou mayst in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.
Just a quick note to explain the poem. Shakespeare compares the passing of three time linked events with the passing of life, one in each quatrain. The passing of the year in the first, the passing of the day in the second, and the passing of the hearth’s fire in the third. The sequence of the three is rather interesting. The end of the year is notable because of shortened days; shortened days leads to darkening evenings, and cold evenings lead to a fireplace. He leaves the extinguishing of the hearth’s fire for last since a fire suggests the spark of life within each person, both of which ultimately expire. I have to say that the closing couplet doesn’t strike me as one of Shakespeare’s strongest. It seems rather conventional, but it gets the job done. It’s still a wonderful poem.
In honor of Will’s birthday, let me also post this picture of a birthday cake topped with the Globe Theater as a cake top.
Now I shameless stole this picture from my friend Laura’s blog, Provenance Online Project, otherwise shortened as POP. Laura has this wonderful job of putting online rare and interesting books, and she blogs about some of it, and on this particular blog she remembers Shakespeare’s birthday by going through some of the forgings of Shakespeare’s signature by a scoundrel named William Henry Ireland. It’s a fascinating read, especially since at one point Ireland goes on to include a tuft of hair that he claims was Shakespeare’s on a sham letter supposedly to Shakespeare’s wife, Ann.
Laura is no stranger to my blog. Several years ago I posted a picture of a wonderful blanket she knitted for Matthew. You can go back to that post, here. So Laura is not only very smart, she is very creative.