Remembrance of Things Past

I jolted upright at Sonnet #30, thrilling at the connection between Shakespeare and Proust. I’d like to think that I knew about it previously, but if I did, I had forgotten:

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanish’d sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.

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2 Responses to “Remembrance of Things Past”

  1. Paul Crowley Says:

    The point about Sonnet 30 is that it is exceedingly BAD poetry — at least for its first 12 lines. Note the monotonous Tee-Tum Tee-Tum metre; See how often the poet uses monosyllables to produce it. Note the appalling alliteration. Note the bland shallowness of the expression — the wordiness that expresses nothing; instead of plain ‘remembering’ he summons up remembrance of times past. Would he do that for times future? He “grieves at grievances foregone”. Can anyone take that seriously? The answer is ‘yes’ — almost every academic and ‘poet’ who has commented upon this Sonnet. After all, they’ve been told he was a great poet, so nothing he writes can be bad — right? WRONG. This sonnet is deliberately bad. The poet was pouring scorn on a rival, adopting his habitual style, tones and subjects, and writing a parody. That is transparently obvious to anyone who can read English, as soon as they drop their ‘Bardolatrous’ mode of thought. Of course, it also helps to know who the poet was, and the context in which he wrote.

    • Your mocking tone is obvious. If that gets you off then whatever. I’m not seeking approval and Shakespeare certainly doesn’t need it. I’m taking a full month to study the sonnets proper and when I do I’ll reconsider this one in light of your comment. But this class of condescension is exactly the stuffy, highbrow style of rebuke I’m relieved to escape. It’s more suited to an 18th Century salon than a free spirit of open discovery. I want to learn. Correctness, however, interests me not. The conversation means everything and I thank you for contributing.

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