24 April 2012

National Poetry Month: 24

Shakespeare’s birthday was yesterday, but he deserves at least a two-day celebration, so here are a couple of poems about him. John Milton pays tribute with the sort of conceit (in the sense of a knotty and ingenious extended metaphor) favored by Shakespeare and his contemporaries. (“Unvalued” in line 11 means “without value”; that is, priceless.)

To Shakespeare

What needs my Shakespeare for his honor’d bones
The labor of an age in piled stones,
Or that his hallow’d relics should be hid
Under a star-ypointing pyramid?
Dear son of Memory, great heir of Fame,
What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a livelong monument.
For whilst to th’shame of slow-endeavoring art,
Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalu’d book
Those Delphic lines with deep impression took,
Then thou our Fancy of itself bereaving,
Dost make us marble with too much conceiving;
And so sepulcher’d in such pomp dost lie,
That Kings for such a tomb would wish to die.

– John Milton

Louise Bogan offers an epigrammatic meditation on art versus life:

To an Artist, to Take Heart

Slipping in blood, by his own hand, through pride,
Hamlet, Othello, Coriolanus fall.
Upon his bed, however, Shakespeare died,
Having endured them all.

– Louise Bogan

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