William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55


Torso of a fighting giant – Unknown Roman artist (117-138CE), RISD Museum, Providence, Rhode Island

AG: So the obvious ones that you jump to is  (William) Shakespeare – similar thought – Sonnet number 55 on page 213 – You get a very similar.. Well, we’re now up to the Sonnets of Shakespeare anyway. So it’s a good place to jump into.. Now.. what Sonnet is it now? – 55 – yeah, 213, the bottom of the page  – Everyone knows that one? The great, you know, it’s like (a) symphony orchestra, sonnet, old masterwork(s)..Would somebody like to read that?- [to Student] -You go..Number 55

Student (reads):

Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmear’d with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all-oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So, till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

AG: So he’s saying that.to… how long to..? – well, “all posterity/That wear this world out to the ending doom” (which is not very far from now – anyway, it might be). So, actually, it came true. This sonnet lasted until the apocalypse. Pretty good! – Or we can say that it lasted until (the) decades before the apocalypse (and if the apocalypse doesn’t come, then it’ll keep on lasting – because people’ll value the tender emotions even more, because it’ll be the anti-apocalypse, it’s tender love). So, either way, Shakespeare got it made, with absolute authenticity, total certainty, and complete power (he knows his power). So that  means that he does “outlast”, literally, marble, or “the gilded monuments of princes”.

So, the point I was making the last time was that airy breath, just an empty airy breath, measured properly, a properly measured breath, will outlast the Empire State Building, giant battleships, all the Titan missiles, all the Polaris submarines – possibly even the plutonium (it may be). That empy airy breath – because, you see, plutonium could rust or decay, or whatever, explode, the buildings could fall down, or be wrecked, but the sonnet breath (endures).

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately eighteen-and-a-half minutes in and concluding approximately twenty-two-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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