Poetry Friday: Sonnet 30 by William Shakespeare

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Sonnet 30

William Shakespeare

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 (unused to flow)

For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,

And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,

And moan th’expense of many a vanished 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 loses are restored, and sorrows end.

I’ve been thinking about this sonnet for the last week or so for a number of reasons. I love the phrase  “sweet silent thought.” And while the speaker is brooding for much of the poem, to me this phrase implies time to contemplate new ideas. Having quiet, unhurried time to think is a rarity these days. Just as by the end of the poem, the speaker has achieved peace thinking of his friend, taking this time to think can bring us peace. (Both literal and figurative!)

This poem has also been on my mind because of a story I’ve been working on. The main character is grieving over the loss of her mother, and by the end of the story I want her to come to the kind of reconciliation with her grief that this speaker has. Whether or not I can accomplish that for her is another story, but I’m going to try.

In the meantime, I think I’ll listen to Kenneth Branagh read this lovely poem once more:

http://www.popscreen.com/v/7adx9/William-Shakespeare-Sonnet-30-Kenneth-Branagh

Be sure to visit Keri at Keri Recommends for her inaugural Poetry Friday Round Up.

Slice of Life: The Taming of Me

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Today is William Shakespeare’s 449th birthday. To honor him, I’m sharing a reminiscence of my first encounter with the Bard.

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I was a very energetic child. I’m not sure that irrepressible is exactly the right word, but I did love to run and jump and talk and…well, you get the idea. My teachers didn’t see the charm of all this energy. They were very specific about how misplaced it was. My report cards were filled with comments like “If Catherine spent less time talking…” or “If Catherine focused more on her work…”

By the time I got to sixth grade I was beginning to get the idea that maybe I could be good at school if I put in some effort. Part of what was different about sixth grade was Miss Morency. She brought Drama to our school. The first play we put on an adaptation of The Tempest. I played the part of Stefano, a drunken sailor. The only thing I remember about the play was staggering onto the stage with an empty wine bottle in my hand. Can you imagine? But I also know that I LOVED being onstage.

We were a huge hit, and we begged Miss Morency to put on another play. She agreed, and before long we had the script for an adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew in our hands. Needless to say, I wanted the part of Katherine! I practiced and practiced. All my hard work paid off, and, in the spring of 1972, I starred in Burnham School’s production of Shakespeare’s comedy.

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Petruchio (Kevin Black) and Kate (Emily Jordan) from a Carmel Shakespeare Festival production of “The Taming of the Shrew” at the outdoor Forest Theater in Carmel, CA., Oct, 2003. Via Wkipedia Commons

This experience was a turning point in my young life. I had never been very successful at anything in school. People were happy to remind me of this on a daily basis. Suddenly, I was good at something! I started putting more effort into school. I started to get better grades. I started to like school.

I performed in a few other productions throughout middle and high school, but I never matched my success as Katherine. But my performance in The Taming of the Shrew gave me the confidence I needed to pursue other dreams.

It seems like the arts are always under fire, the first programs to be cut when budgets are tight. And yet the value of theater, music and the fine arts to education is clearer than ever. The National Task Force on the Arts in Education, in a report to The College Board, states “Studies consistently show that the arts are effective in keeping students in school, engaging students in learning and promoting high achievement.” (p. 5)

Shakespeare knew that “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” I was lucky to have teachers who helped me find that destiny in myself. I pay tribute to them every day by helping my students find their destiny.

Thank you to Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers for hosting this weekly Slice of Life Challenge!