Friends and readers,
Above comic subversion, below otherwise:
Susan Herbert does Brief Encounter (click away for Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard & the film)
On this snowy morning over breakfast I read in the Times Literary Supplement a series of modern sonnets “after Shakespeare.” None matched Shakespeare’s usual depth of feeling, apprehension, word play, but one called attention to a sonnet by Shakespeare which connected back to my wish I could be haunted: No 43:
When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed;
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.
And to be candid, Gillian Clarke’s re-write of Shakespeare’s oft-quoted and apparently revered Sonnet 116 speaks home to me more than Shakespeare’s irony over clichéd assertions.
Pull between earth and moon, or chemistry ,
carries the swallow home from Africa
to perch again on his remembered tree,
the weeping birch by the pond. A star
will guide his mate home in a week, perhaps,
to the old nest in the barn, remade, mould
of spittle and pond-sludge snug in its cusp
as the new year in the mud-cup of the old.
Loss broke the swan on the river when winter
stole his mate while he wasn’t looking. Believing,
he waited, rebuilt the nest, all summer
holding their stretch of river, raging, grieving.
So would I wait for you, were we put apart.
Mind, magnetism, hunger of the heart.
My mate is lost, stolen from me, not believing, having no hope, I hold on to our stretch of shared consciousness, our nest. The last three lines (where Shakespeare is often weakest, though in the above 43rd not) are where Clarke is strongest.