Shakespeare – Sonnet 30


Sorrowing Old Man (At Eternity’s Gate) (Trauernder alter Mann) (1890) –Vincent Van Gogh – oil on canvas 31/9 x 25.6 inches – Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.

AG: Then the next one (next Sonnet) is very similar – “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought” (sessions- court sittings) – “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought” ((William) Burroughs was interested..(Jack) Kerouac liked the idea of that word “sessions” here – How did he get the idea that people had “sessions” of thoughts, what a strange word to put in – like they have “summer session” and then you have “sitting sessions”, sitting meditation sessions, and you have “rap sessions”, nowadays – “the sessions of thought”? – how did he get that? – just the odd, prettiness of that internal thoughtfulnesss of the use of “the session of thought” – “I think I”ll have a session of thought”! – Just a real, you know, real funny word. [Allen then begins to read, in its entirety, Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30] (“When to the sessions of sweet silent thought”…”All losses are restor’d and sorrows end”) – So what’s good about that, aside from the total sincerity of it is the great glimpses of death – “death’s dateless..”, “death’s dateless night” – “And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,” (that’s like “long-with-love-remembered-eyes” – long “weep afresh” (weep all over again), “woe” (that was cancelled long ago) – then “heavily from woe to woe”.. (just a good set of sounds there)

Student: “…tell o’er/ The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan..”

AG: Yeah, “fore-bemoaned moan”. (That is, the sad account of moans that I moaned long ago – like the “weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe”. That’s going over and over, like. grief, of death and friends gone and…) Then, all of a sudden, then, the redeeming, suddenly, his wish came true, his love-wish did come true, and at least he got right in the front of him what he always desired, since he was an eight-year-old boy, or something – he’s got it and it’s all his and apparently the friend is responding.

So these early sonnets begin with a suggestion to his boyfriend that he’s so beautiful that he should – (probably before he made him)..some kind of round-about sex proposition – that he should have children. (you know, like Shakespeare being a good guy or something – he should have some children – you know, “you’re so beautiful, you should reproduce yourself, stamp yourself out again for future generations, so that they’ll appreciate how beautiful, how beautiful earth’s beauty can be”. Then Shakespeare next promises that he loves him so much he’s goingto make him, he’s going to make his image beautiful throughout eternity,throughout human eternity, throughout human history, that in black ink my love might still shine bright” And then the here must have been some response because finally he’s totally, totally heart-lifted – “like to the lark at the break of day sings hymns  at heaven’s gate”. So apparently, there’s some balance of the love, of the love affair, that’s totally balanced and heart’s desire’s responded, completely

AG: However, there have been some slights. His boyfriend has maybe gone out with someone else, or didn’t come on time one night, or missed a date, or didn’t come, or didn’t make him come, or something wrong there. So, it isn’t purely.. you know.. everything isn’t perfect. So we have Sonnet 33.

to be continued..

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately thirty-one-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-five-and-three-quarter minutes in]

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