The marriage of true minds

I've often asked myself what, exactly, it was about Shakespeare that made me fall in love (and yes, the emotions were very similar) with him and his plays when I was a young teenager.  I don't know.  Maybe it was too long ago.  Maybe there is no reason to it.  At any rate, when I discovered this poem in English class during my senior year in high school, I liked it so much I memorized it.  And I've never forgot it.

Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments.  Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken.
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come.
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

(I typed that from memory, just so you know.)


We wear the mask

If you ever have the misfortune to be diagnosed with tuberculosis, be glad you live in the 21st century where you can get sound medical advice.  Paul Dunbar (1872-1906), the author of today's favorite poem, contracted the disease and was told by his doctor to treat it by drinking whiskey.  Really, doctor?  Dunbar died of tuberculosis, exacerbated by the effects of alcoholism, at the age of 33.  But before that, he achieved some fame as a poet.

Incidentally, during our visit to Washington, DC, a couple of summers ago, I learned that Dunbar went to high school with Wilbur and Orville Wright, and was class president and editor of the school paper.  After school, he started a local newspaper, which was printed by the Wright brothers on their press.  There is a little exhibit about Dunbar's association with the Wrights in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Probably his most well-known poem, and one of my favorites, is "We Wear the Mask".

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,
This debit we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
       We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
       We wear the mask!

- Paul L Dunbar


In my craft or sullen art

April is National Poetry Month.

I decided that, to celebrate the month, I'd share one of my favorite poems.  It's a poem about a poet writing poetry, which seems entirely appropriate.

In My Craft or Sullen Art

In my craft or sullen art
Exercised in the still night
When only the moon rages
And the lovers lie abed
With all their griefs in their arms,
I labour by singing light
Not for ambition or bread
Or the strut and trade of charms
On the ivory stages
But for the common wages
Of their most secret heart.

Not for the proud men apart
From the raging moon I write
On these spindrift pages
Nor for the towering dead
With their nightingales and psalms
But for the lovers, their arms
Round the griefs of the ages,
Who pay no praise nor wages
Nor heed my craft or art.

- Dylan Thomas