On the one hand, William Shakespeare. On the other, Howard Moss. Both of them poets. There, the comparison should likely stop, since after all, one was a Renaissance man. (Dramatist too. 16th century. Brit.) The other, a New Yorker who edited the poetry section of The New Yorker. (20th century. American.)
What links them? Sonnet XVIII, or, “Shall I Compare Thee to A Summer’s Day?”
Shakespeare obviously wrote that one, right? A Renaissance man would be the one more likely to use the exceedingly proper ‘King James English.’)
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.
Such a lovely sonnet, isn’t it? The speaker finds a summer’s day (temperate, sun-kissed, alive) an inadequate metaphor to compare the ‘fair’ qualities that the listener/hearer possesses. (Most would say that this sonnet addresses the ‘young man’ so often discussed in the sonnet analysis, by the way.) After all, winds do blow roughly, and eventually all things ‘fair’ fade. Worse still, summer is far too short, and the listener’s beauty and worth should last longer. What then, shall be done? Write a sonnet, of course. Immortalize the mortal. Ahhhhh…..
But, couldn’t it all be said more simply?
Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?
Who says you’re like one of the dog days?
You’re nicer. And better.
Even in May, the weather can be gray,
And a summer sub-let doesn’t last forever.
Sometimes the sun’s too hot;
Sometimes it is not.
Who can stay young forever?
People break their necks or just drop dead!
But you? Never!
If there’s just one condensed reader left
Who can figure out the abridged alphabet,
After you’re dead and gone,
In this poem you’ll live on!
Hilarious. Every time. And THAT is just one more reason why I love poetry. Because poets know how to have fun. Because poets know how to make words sing, stomp and clap their hands. And, in my ,week-long tribute to Shakespeare, I find myself with another reason to love him more too. I love him for his eloquence, and for his lofty adoration of language (both words in general and his own usage in particular, I suspect).
“Who says you’re like one of the dog days?”