Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A Tip of the Hat to the Bard

Thank goodness for Garrison Keillor's The Writer's Almanac. Today's entry, for May 20, reminds us that even the most famous of authors can have his works published, unauthorized.

For it was on this day, in 1609, that an unscrupulous publisher laid claim to publishing a book called "Shakespeares Sonnets."

As Garrison Keillor points out, " Many people think that Thorpe published them without Shakespeare's consent."

Here's a longer discussion of this publication:

"Shakespeare's sonnets were published in 1609, no doubt without authorization, by the unsavory Thomas Thorpe (1580-1614), described as "a publishing understrapper of piratical habits" who "hung about scriveners' shops"; in order to pinch manuscripts. There was no reprint until 1640. Despite a conspiracy theory that would insist that the volume was suppressed, sonnets just were not in vogue anymore. The 1640 piracy titled, rearranged, and combined the sonnets until those to the young man seem to be to a woman. For 150 years this was the basis for the sonnets: early piracies. Indeed one might feel uncomfortable reading the sonnets, most intended probably as private missives from the poet and lacking that public show-off quality typical of other Renaissance sonneteers. If he had wanted us to witness them, they'd be plays. "

Well, I certainly don't condone unauthorized publication, but the end result--a collection of 154 of the loveliest poems in sonnet form--has enriched all humanity.

Unlike some people, I have not read all of Shakespeare's sonnets. I haven't even memorized any of them. But I do love many of them.

So in honor of this anniversary of publication, herewith another of my favorites:

Sonnet 29

by William Shakespeare

When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee,--and then my state
(Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings'.


Anvilcloud said...

Miracle of miracles: that's one I've read. :)

NCmountainwoman said...

I've always been fascinated by the controversy surrounding Thorpe and the sonnets. I must admit I don't feel uncomfortable and I would even dare to disagree with some "experts" that the sonnets might have been private missives.

That's the best thing about a long-standing controversy. One need only choose a side. The defending arguments are already there.

Dog_geek said...

I don't even remember the sonnets that we had to memorize back in high school, but I enjoyed them even then. Shakespears's sonnets are too good not to be enjoyed by society!

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

I am having trouble leaving comments on your blog. This is my third effort at this posting.

My favourite sonnet is # XVII

"Shall I compare three to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
. . . ."

In school I remember having to memorize three or four of his sonnets. I think I am the last generation to have to submit to memory poems in school.

I love the sonnet form. Within a rather strict form one has to find words efficiently used to shape the meaning of the poem. Have you ever written a sonnet?