Outside today with the puppy, one of those moody-sky’d days, and of course I broke out with Shakespeare. I’m just that way. Sonnet 73 is one of my favorite poems. Evidently a feeling shared by others, it’s considered one of the finest in English, and posting is a nice thing to fill in a rainy afternoon.
It has been suggested that the third and fourth lines don’t, in fact, run together (“cold/Bare ruin’d choirs”) with the idea that it depicts the derelict churches remaining after the religious conflicts in England and which Shakespeare’s family had been party to. Needless to say, I disagree. In that interpretation is lost that “cathedral of nature” notion the autumnal tree imagery of the third line is abruptly supposed to switch to that of some roofless church in whose choir-stalls songbirds had roosted. With no predicate until the end the fourth line, however, I feel that line four is naturally dependent on the previous line; and so an elaboration of it’s imagery. This effect brought about by overlaying the bough imagery with that of the choir is powerfully transcendent, and yes, I agree that it’s one of the finest moments of English poetry.
Without further ado:
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 ruin’d 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 see’st 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 nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.
I once counted the rhetorical figures used in the first quatrain, and found 15 or so before exhausting my paltry knowledge of rhetoric. Where did such mastery come from? What I wouldn’t give to receive the training Shakespeare must have had.