FIRST FOLIO! From You Have I Been Absent in the Spring: Of Shakespeare and the Sonnet

Title page of Shakespeare’s Sonnets (1609). Image from Wikipedia

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow (Sonnet 2)
Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface (Sonnet 6)
Not marble nor the gilded monuments (Sonnet 55)
Full many a glorious morning have I seen (Sonnet 33)

One glorious morning before April has fled, perhaps, you will mosey on down to the Central Library, with ticket in hand, to partake of the First Folio! This spring, the play’s the thing with Shakespeare taking center stage at the Seattle Public Library. But oh, there is more afoot to be found beyond the rare air of the folio.

When I consider everything that grows (Sonnet 15)
The forward violet thus did I chide (Sonnet 99)
Those hours, that with gentle work did frame (Sonnet 5)
Thy gift, thy tables, are within my brain (Sonnet 122)

Heady stuff, these days of a blossom’s time with spring moving into full-tilt celebration of a now drenched-in-rain’s sequence and cycle,

Is it for fear to wet a widow’s eye (Sonnet 9)
Music to hear, why hear’st thou music sadly? (Sonnet 8)
As fast as thou shalt wane so fast thou grow’st (Sonnet 11)
Those parts of thee that the world’s eye doth view (Sonnet 69)

Beneath what eye does a poem grow? More precisely, a sonnet. Like the folio, they are known by their numbers. Their form a little poem’s song. Like any season, the sonnet has a surprise waiting in its last flowering.

As with plants, sonnets come in more than one form. The sonnet can, even, lean towards the botanical with its crown of sonnets or sonnet corona. So bend your head, partake of the Occitan sonnet, the Spenserian sonnet, an Urdu sonnet or a modern sonnet. This poetic bouquet must give way, for our purposes, to the English or Shakespearean sonnet.

Did you know that there are lines in Shakespeare’s plays that are in sonnet form?  Of course, anyone knows that a writer’s lines entwine, one form stretching upon and/or submerging another; that they are borne of the same humid air of the then and there. We are here, in the now, in the ever-changing present. Yet, we read Shakespeare’s Sonnets . We listen to them. They have survived the winter of centuries. This is what we have come to celebrate and to see in the First Folio’s poetic lines that live.

                                                                Who will believe my verse in time to come (Sonnet 17)
                                                                Devouring time, blunt thou the lion’s paws (Sonnet 19)

~posted by Chris

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