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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Nothing Compares: Summer Love and Beautiful, Eternal Memories



by William Shakespeare (1609)


Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou growest:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this and this gives life to thee. 

Summer and youth -- beauty, innocence and love. The sun seems to ignite tender emotions as human desire catches fire. In response, we run and jump and dance through the glorious days and new experiences of our youthful summers. Nothing compares to the combination of freedom, vitality and energy that come together during this time of life.

What could be more beautiful than a young lover? Perhaps the natural creation of the environment itself? "Sonnet 18" explores the limits of human emotion and man's ability to express his true love.

The speaker in William Shakespeare's "Sonnet 18" poses a question to himself on how to best immortalize his lover. He contemplates a comparison to "a summer day." Yet, he finds the metaphor imperfect so he decides through internal debate and poetic expression that the best way to immortalize his love is through his own poetry.

The form of the poem is structured with the first eight lines, an octet, as the speaker posing his question, or problematic comparison, to the reader while the latter six lines focus on a solution, which is a poetic format developed by the Petrarchan poets Dante and Petrarch.

Will a summer day do justice to his affection? After all, his fair youth is more beautiful and "more temperate," or calm and gentle, than the most lovely time of the warm solstice. And, the summer has "rough winds" and passes too quickly while his lover's beauty is eternal.

Each subsequent comparison between his lover and the summer fails in immortalizing his lover's beauty as each comparison is imperfect in describing her beauty, which will fade in time: "And every fair from fair sometimes declines."

The speaker makes a statement that shows summer can often be too hot. In this next line "And often is his gold complexion dimm'd" he tells the reader that the sun only shines for part of the day and disappears for much of the year. Summer is thus an imperfect season, but his love is not. She shines always -- she remains "fair."

Writing "when in eternal lines to time thou growest," the speaker uses a grafting metaphor. Grafting is a technique used to join parts from two plants with cords so that they grow as one. Thus the beloved becomes immortal, grafted to time with the poet's cords (his "eternal lines").

The speaker/poet states that the only way to keep his love alive forever is through his own poetry, which will be read for all of time: "So long as men can breathe or eyes can see." This line is his testament that as long as man remains on earth, then this poem will be read and his love's beauty remembered through the beautiful lines of the poem. In eternal verse, he thus finds a way to preserve his lover's incomparable youth and fairness.

My Take

Without summer, love, and lovers, we are empty. Without the ability to express our understanding of our needful human existence, we are powerless. The beauty and power of love reside in our hearts and souls. How often do we draw upon our memories and our experiences to sweeten our aging lives?

Poetry and music remind me of my past, a time filled with the trials, the errors, and the successes of love. Reliving tender moments or exchanges of heated passion gives me more reason to live. The summation of all I have done, like the beauty in "Sonnet 18," is eternal in my memory.

Summer moves my memory like the warm temperature causes sap to run from a maple. Yes, I am a boy of summer, even at the age of 62. Maybe you are a boy or maiden of the hot solstice, too.

Exploring Deeper Depths

Are your memories filled with magic summers 
Of naive times with vernal lovers?

Who took your breath, your heart, your skin
To sultry journeys without, within.

As hand-in-hand you tread warm waters
Too deep to touch familiar bottoms.

With fumbling fingers and thirsting lips
Two unfledged souls found new pleasure slips

To moor their dreams till new morns gave
Ripe, new suitors rights to give and take.

Once, warm breezes and sun-stirred, fevered blood
Now, cooled by time, become keepsakes of the wanton Flood. 

Frank R. Thompson, May 2013

"Summer Boy: even if he leaves again, he’ll be back
Because he never really left me anyway.
He’s my summer boy.
And summer boys are the only thing certain.
You can trust that they’ll always be back…
Because they loved you in the time
When you were most free."



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