Sonnet 2 Decyphered

In an attempt to learn how to write better, I am continuing the Bradbury Challenge. I will read poetry, short stories and technical articles in order to contemplate why they work. In this post, I will be working with Shakespeare’s Sonnet 2.

Sonnet 2

“When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:

Then being ask’d where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.

How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!   This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.”

-William Shakespeare

Initial Reaction

This was a much nicer read as opposed to Sonnet 1. It felt more natural to me. It flows better for the most part. I also liked it better than Sonnet 1 because it lacks creepy overtones.

Initial Interpretation

When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:

First Interpretation: when you’re past your prime all that was superficially attractive about you will be as good as gone.

Then being ask’d where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.

First Interpretation: I’m puzzled. You will be humiliated when asked where your youth and beauty have gone.

How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!

First Interpretation: If you had a kid, they would be the proof of your beauty and vigor

This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.”

First Interpretation: when you feel old and drained of life, at least you would have this kid to carry on in your stead.

Upon Repeated Reading

I gleaned greater insights from repeated readings. Last time I placed the first and second interpretations side by side, but this time I chose to synthesize the deeper meaning into the second interpretation, for a smoother reading.

When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter’d weed, of small worth held:

Second Interpretation: Beauty and youth are likened to a field which is furrowed by time and left barren of new life. Only withered weeds remain.

Then being ask’d where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.

Second Interpretation: If you say that all the fruits of your beauty, of the field that was your youth, beauty and vigor are within you; in your eyes, in all the things you have seen and done, that’s shameful. You are full of unearned praise for yourself.

How much more praise deserved thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!

Second Interpretation: You should have put all that richness and fertility to use in having children. Those children would be proof enough of your beauty, beauty you didn’t want to spoil or diminish by taking on parenthood.

This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.”

Second Interpretation: Seeing this youth in your old age will help to ease the sting of aging.

An Addendum

As I was rewriting Sonnet 2 into the 2018 vernacular, I saw something I hadn’t before. Willy is being really judgy. In that video I link in the post for Sonnet 1, the younger of the pair made an observation that most people read Shakespeare with a lightness and solemnity that runs counter to the earthy and sometimes nasty notes that are truer to the work. I just called Shakespeare Willy. I had second thoughts about doing that, but I am going to continue to do it as the mood strikes because William Shakespeare was just a man. No matter how far removed from him we are, no matter how much I have enjoyed some of his works (there are a few pieces I have enjoyed again and again, but I am interested in exploring more of his works because they genuinely interest me not because they are GREAT) he is just a man.

What is a man? Another person like me. He had flaws, he made mistakes, he felt sorrow and loss and love and clearly he had a sense of humor. It might be helpful to think of Shakespeare as a rapper. Yes a rapper, not a slam poetry guy, but someone who spits sick rhymes over a cipher. The guy clearly enjoyed using words as weapons and dropping bombs on audiences from the stage. His plays were meant to be acted out. The Sonnets were likely meant to be read aloud. They were meant to have a bite, a punch. He wrote words to leave marks. Which is exactly what I want to do. That may be why I am so interested in lightning rods of creativity like Shakespeare.

I may have lost the thread a bit. My point is that Sonnet 2 feels very judgemental and a bit catty, but I like it that way. That interpretation informed my take on it. I honestly am knee-jerk judgemental towards people who refuse to have children. I don’t get it. I think some people shouldn’t have kids, but there are lots of people who refuse to who could be great parents; who could be greatly improved by taking the plunge. I don’t know what drives them so I can’t say. I try not to judge, but honestly it feels like a bit of a red flag for me. However, it isn’t my place to judge and I do my best not to. That doesn’t mean I don’t take note of my snap judgements, I do; I value them, but only so much. I set aside my snap judgements to be informed and corrected by new information. I have biases and I do my best to own them. I will be up front about them when I feel it is necessary, so be warned reader (or listener tuning into the Audioblog) you might just get to know a bit more about me if you stick around here, if you set aside your snap judgements and biases.

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