February 8, 2016, Prescott-
20. sonnet, astronaut, cheese, glitter, karaoke
Sleep on this, I say. I am not one who can rattle off the names of poetic forms. I know a quatrain has four lines, a sestina has six, and that’s about it. Let’s consider, for a moment, the sonnet.
This type of verse, I am learning in my advancing state of being, has fourteen lines, of ten syllables apiece, written in iambic pentameter. I was most likely taught this in Junior High English- but who listens to talk of John Donne, or Petrarch, in seventh grade?
Shakespeare made the genre glitter. May I present his Sonnet XIV:
“Not from the stars do I my judgement pluck;
And yet methinks I have Astronomy,
But not to tell of good or evil luck,
Of plagues, of dearths, or seasons’ quality;
Nor can I fortune to brief minutes tell,
Pointing to each his thunder, rain and wind,
Or say with princes if it shall go well
By oft predict that I in heaven find:
But from thine eyes my knowledge I derive,
And, constant stars, in them I read such art
As truth and beauty shall together thrive,
If from thyself, to store thou wouldst convert;
Or else of thee this I prognosticate:
Thy end is truth’s and beauty’s doom and date.”
Much in this world glitters. In the end, the tinsel falls apart. Astronauts, though, look starward, as the Bard does here. He had the foresight to see the celestial as Man’s future focus. A lot of what we treasure, like fine cheese or a gilt evening gown, is doomed to fall apart, sour or spoil. The stars and planets, shall not.
Back to the sonnet: How do you think the late David Bowie would have sounded, singing the above verse in a karaoke fest? I believe it would not have gone well. Troubadours did not make a living, on the verses of Petrarch, or those of Spenser, Marlowe or Will,himself.
Yet, give it a try, if you are so inclined. There are almost as many sonnets by Shakespeare as there are moods in a season. The Bard was a master of observation, and of the turn of a phrase. In any age, Shakespeare rules.