Poem of the Week: Sonnet 33 by William Shakespeare

Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace:
Even so my sun one early morn did shine,
With all triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack, he was but one hour mine,
The region cloud hath mask’d him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven’s sun staineth.

Translation to modern English

I’ve seen so many glorious mornings when the royal sun lights up the mountaintops, kisses the green meadows with its golden face and makes streams shine with its celestial magic. But then it allows the blackest clouds to ride across its heavenly face with ugly gloom, and hides that face from the dull world, sneaking off to the west with the disgrace of it. In just that way my sun shone on my brow early one morning with that same triumphant splendour. But alas, he was mine for only one hour: the dark clouds have hidden him from me now. Yet, my love doesn’t condemn him in the least. The suns of humanity may show their faults if the sun of heaven does.

This is a poem about loss; the loss of a loved one. Shakespeare approaches it by expressing the contrast in the way we feel when the morning sun is shining brightly and when it’s obscured by clouds, making the world a forlorn place. When he was loved by the beloved it was like the glorious morning, but now, having lost the beloved, it feels like an overcast and gloomy morning. He concludes that he doesn’t condemn the beloved because human frailty, even among the best of humanity, is just as much a part of nature as the obscuring clouds are.

shakespeare

William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 (baptised) – 23 April 1616) was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English languageand the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon”. His extant works, including some collaborations, consist of around 38 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems, and a few other verses, of which the authorship of some is uncertain. His plays have been translated into every major living language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright.

Shakespeare was born and brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of 18, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna, and twins Hamnetand Judith. Between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer, and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, later known as the King’s Men. He appears to have retired to Stratford around 1613 at age 49, where he died three years later. Few records of Shakespeare’s private life survive, and there has been considerable speculation about such matters as his physical appearancesexualityreligious beliefs, and whether the works attributed to him were written by others.

Shakespeare produced most of his known work between 1589 and 1613. His early plays were mainly comedies and histories and these works remain regarded as some of the best work produced in these genres. He then wrote mainly tragedies until about 1608, including HamletOthelloKing Lear, and Macbeth, considered some of the finest works in the English language. In his last phase, he wrote tragicomedies, also known as romances, and collaborated with other playwrights.

Many of his plays were published in editions of varying quality and accuracy during his lifetime. In 1623, John Heminges and Henry Condell, two friends and fellow actors of Shakespeare, published the First Folio, a collected edition of his dramatic works that included all but two of the plays now recognised as Shakespeare’s. It was prefaced with a poem by Ben Jonson, in which Shakespeare is hailed, presciently, as “not of an age, but for all time”. In the 20th and 21st centuries, his work has been repeatedly adopted and rediscovered by new movements in scholarship and performance. His plays remain highly popular today and are constantly studied, performed, and reinterpreted in diverse cultural and political contexts throughout the world.

Sources: 1 2 3

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