Tag Archives: poetry

Summative Entry for Shakespeare and the English Renaissance.

While people in the English Renaissance wore different clothes and had no access to digital technology, their artistic expressions and the experiences these embody still have an impact on human beings living in the 21st Century.

I have learnt a new language and become immersed in another culture much different from my own, but at the same time so similar.

The culture and language are Shakespearian. When I first started the unit “Shakespeare and Renaissance literature” I was lost. I had no idea how to read or decipher the words or phrases on the page. The culture of the English Renaissance seemed far removed to culture today.

I soon learnt that there are many similarities between then and now, between that culture and my own in modern day Australia. Indeed much of our own language and culture evolved from the English Renaissance period.

It was Mr Shakespeare who invented many of our composite words, and other words which have become commonplace in our language today.  People attribute Donald Trump in making up the word “Bigly” but it is used in a few of Shakespeare’s texts including Othello. It was however an obsolete word from the Scottish language meaning of great importance or size. It can also mean boisterous or loud, something I think you would agree that describes Donald Trump accurately.

Shakespeare tells the story of a deformed man seeking love and acceptance through his play “Richard III”.  In the time of Richard III the deformed and different were cast aside from family and community, to try to survive any way they can. For Richard, his survival was reliant on his usurping his brother, in fact killing him in order to get the throne of England. Did he have a lust for power? Or did he merely seek to be loved and valued as a human being? The question of the origin of Richards evil ways was the topic of a blog I penned called:

Richard III. Evil: Inherent or learned?

I also wrote a poem, that perhaps may have been the thoughts of Richard, in a blog I entitled:

Would it be: A poem for Richard

I truly believe that the story of Richard would have been different if he was loved by his mother and family and included more in the family life. Poor Richard was hidden away, treated differently, looked down upon for his disabilities. Are we in the 21st Century treating our disabled or mentally ill any better? I think we are trying on this account but we still have a long way to go.

I liken some of the world leaders today to Richard III. Instead of working with others, certain leaders want all the power. They kill anyone who gets in their way, much like Richard did. Some of our world leaders today are downright evil, and we still ask the question: Is the evil they have in their hearts inherent or learnt behaviour?

From there, I went on a sidetrack and looked at the life of Sir Walter Ralegh and the monarch of the time, Queen Elizabeth I. We studied Ralegh’s poem “The Lie” in class and I wanted to uncover the context in which it was written. I did this in the post:

Walter Ralegh said the world is a Liar.

Raleigh knew too well that people were two faced, saying one thing in front of your face, then turning around and chopping your head off with their next breath. But wait, James said, I will free you if you go back to the Americas and bring back more riches. When he returned it was learned that he had a fight with a Spanish dude. The Spanish King said to the English King, “If you don’t chop his head off, I wont be your friend anymore”. Isn’t this how children in the playground act now? have we learned anything?

I wrote a poem to woo Queen Elizabeth I, to make her see that she needs to give England an heir. We know from history that I was unsuccessful.

Marry me?

 

King Lear is the second play we studied in class. We saw again in this play how people don’t value each other and how even family turns against family when they are seeking importance, power and money. Cordelia, the youngest daughter of Lear does not bend her fathers ear or lick his boots. She is content with her lot in life, whether that means inheriting part of the kingdom or not.

For King Lear, I wrote a bit of a frivolous entry, which compared the behaviour of Lear’s daughters to my dogs and cat. Just a bit of fun really, but I do think it is a good analogy:

Modern analogy of King Lear opening?

 

I wrote a poem for my father, comparing my relationship with my father to that of Lear and his youngest daughter. I then got a little soppy and wrote a Sonnet to my partner, which he loved by the way. Perhaps it was looking at Shakespeare’s poems and Sonnets that allowed me to express my love for Sam and my father. Maybe Shakespeare is still teaching the world how to love, through the legacy of his writings.

I did a sidetrack and studied the sonnets further, especially after the wonderful lecture we had from Professor Spurr. I for one didn’t know who Petrarch was, or the style of sonnets he wrote. I didn’t know they differed from the majority of sonnets written by Shakespeare. I went digging and wrote the following blog entry in response to that research.

Petrarch and the Sonnets

We then studied The Twelfth Night and discovered that this was an ancient equivalent to the modern day Rom/Com. There is lots of Romance in it and the comedy comes in the form of making us laugh at the stupidity of the drunks. However it made me look at the temporary nature of life and love. It was true in this play and is true in today’s world. In this poem Love or lust knows no boundaries. there are women in love with women, men in love with men. One can see that deception reigns as a teenage boy plays the role of a woman, who disguises herself as a man. Confused? so was I. But again I looked at Love as a theme and created the blog:

What is Love. Twelfth Night

We sometimes confuse love with lust, or is it just infatuation?

The Tempest is also something we may describe as a Romance. Certainly the end of the story and the solution to the dilemma lays in the Romance between Prospero’s daughter Miranda and the King’s son Ferdinand. The play again looks at deception. Prospero is usurped from his dukedom by his brother and exiled with his daughter to this island. When Prospero arrives on the island, he wants to take control. He frees the spirit Ariel from the tree, only to enslave him and make Ariel do his bidding. He takes the deformed and cast aside person of Caliban and teaches him language, so they can understand each other. Prospero seems to think he has done Caliban a great favour by teaching him language. Caliban is enslaved to Prospero, for now that Prospero has shown Caliban that life could be different, easier, Prospero says that without him, Caliban would be nothing.

The Tempest shows us the evils of colonisation. The western world takes on an air of superiority and thinks that anyone who is not at their standard of living, is substandard. In fact the natives of a land prior to colonisation, know more about the land than the colonisers. Without the natives, the colonisers would perish. I think we really need to remember that. I wrote further feelings about this subject in my final blog post:

Colonisation and “The Tempest”.

So what from Shakespeare is still relevant today? I have learned the truth in that power is something that men (and women) want at all costs. I have learned that disabled people were treated as bad in Shakespeare’s time as they are today; but I think we are getting better at that. I have learned that love takes many forms, that gender is fluid, and love as well as life are temporary. I have learned that deception was a major theme in many of Shakespeare’s plays, but that deception was not limited to the stage. Deception was rife in the courts of Britain during the English renaissance. Deception is also rife now. People are confused about what is true. What the heck are alternate facts if they are not indeed lies? What is fake news?

I have learned that language is evolving. Shakespeare made up words in his time. We make up words, and meanings in ours. When I was a child, hardware is what you bought from Nock and Kirby’s and software was not even a word. A mouse was something not wanted in the house. A screen is what you used to keep the flies out. a Monitor was someone who volunteered in the school library. A browser was someone who went window shopping. The young people of today don’t know what a walkman is, or a discman. Records are something to be broken, not to be played. Even the term CD is becoming obsolete as we download, upload, stream music.

These three remain, Faith Hope and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. Love was a theme then, it is relevant now, and it will be forever, whatever form it may take.

Thank you for coming on this journey through the writings of Shakespeare and the Renaissance. See you all again next Semester when I study Reading Australia and American Writing.

Dave

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Petrarch and the Sonnets

Last week we had a wonderful lecture by Professor Barry Spurr on the Sonnets of Shakespeare. Professor Spurr mentioned this fellow named Petrarch. Since few of us knew who he was or his style of Sonnet, I thought I would give you a brief biography, and explain a little about Petrarch Sonnets.

Francesco Petrarca or Petrarch was born in 1304 in Tuscany. He devoted his life to the study of Classical Literature. It was his devotion to the church and becoming a cleric which allowed him to travel and study the ancient texts in Latin and Greek.

When Petrarch was a child, the family moved to Avignon in France. It was here he met the subject of his desire and his sonnets,  Laura, in 1327. He wrote many sonnets and poems and this girl was one of the main themes for them. It is rumoured that Laura died in the Black Death in 1348.

The doctrine Petrarch espoused was that humankind can again “reach the heights of past accomplishments”, which he read about in the sometimes forgotten ancient and classical texts. The Doctrine was called Humanism and bridged the Gap between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.

Petrarch’s writings were much loved in his day and his poems led him to be named Poet Laureate of Rome in 1341. He worked tirelessly until he death at age 69. The legacy he left behind was a collection of his writings called Rerum vulgarium fragmenta—also known as Rime Sparse (“Scattered Rhymes”) and as Petrarch’s canzoniere (“Petrarch’s songbook”). This included 366 poems in the common language of the people and a further 317 sonnets.

His poems helped to shape modern day Italian language. But it is the Sonnets which I wanted to concentrate on.

Petrachan Sonnets have 14 lines. They are arranged into 2 stanzas.  The first is 8 lines (Octave) and the second is 6 lines.The rhyme sequence is abba, abba, or cde,cde or cdcdcd. A Petrachian sonnet has 3 parts:

  1. Question or Problem. First 6 lines
  2. Turning or volta. This is the next 2 lines and prepares us for the counteragument or answer to the question posed.
  3. This is the counterargument or the answer to the question presented in the first 6 lines.

From Visions
Francesco Petrarch (1304-1374)
Being one day at my window all alone,
So manie strange things happened me to see,
As much as it grieveth me to thinke thereon.
At my right hand a hynde appear’d to mee,
So faire as mote the greatest god delite;
Two eager dogs did her pursue in chace.
Of which the one was blacke, the other white:
With deadly force so in their cruell race
They pincht the haunches of that gentle beast,
That at the last, and in short time, I spide,
Under a rocke, where she alas, opprest,
Fell to the ground, and there untimely dide.
Cruell death vanquishing so noble beautie
Oft makes me wayle so hard a desire.
(Trans. Edmund Spenser)

Shakespeare used a different form of Sonnet. It had 3 lots of 4 lines  followed by a rhyming couplet. Each second line rhymed, but the rhyming couplet was different, rhyming a single line with the next.

We studied Sonnet 130 in class.

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

The turn or volta doesn’t occur in the same place as an Italian sonnet. It continues talking unfavourably about His mistress until the rhyming couplet. Then he says… EVEN SO… “And Yet”… i still love her.

Both types of sonnet use the iambic pentameter, or 5 beats to the line as a rhythm.

I enjoyed looking at this unique form of poem. I hope you have enjoyed reading it.

Dave

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/text/sonnet-poetic-formhttp://www.biography.com/people/
petrarch-943889

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Shall I compare Thee

A sonnet after Shakespeare, for my lover Sam.

 

“Shall I compare thee to a summers day?”

 

That day is pale in comparison to you

The sun may warm our skin today

your love warms my whole life through.

Your smile is bright like the stars at night

Your eyes shine as bright as the moon

Your embrace makes everything right

I hate that you must leave so soon

 

The busyness of our days prevent

the time we can  spend together

our last time together came and went

I pray such times should end never .

A time when we can together dwell

Will cause me to shout, All is well!

IMG_2174

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Dear Dad

You are the youngest daughter in your family. Your father is demanding that you tell him how much you love him. In your own words, tell him what you really feel about his question. What are you prepared to say in response to his demand?

The above is a suggested blog post for the Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature unit which I am doing at University. This struck a chord with me. My own father died some 10 years ago. It is his birthday this month. I was unable to be with him in the final days of his life. He asked for us not to go down to see him. We had said our face to face goodbyes about a month earlier. I rang every day. My dad was not one to say “I Love You” and did not expect his manly sons to say it either. It was just sort of understood. I could tell my mother, as could my brothers, but to show emotions in front of my father would have been seen as weakness by him.

So, now that I have done a mindfulness course; now that I am in touch with my emotions and stand unafraid to speak them. Here is a poem, that I would write for my father. Or if you like, one that Cornelia would have written to her father the King.

You held me when I was small

kept me safe from all

that scared me in the night

or gave me a fright. 

 

You held my hand on the first day of school

you brushed my hair so I looked real cool

you put food on the table, a roof over my head

you shook my hand when you sent me to bed.

 

You carried me from the car, asleep

you taught me life lessons which I keep

you cheered while I took a bow on stage

at times you scolded me, “act you age”.

 

You gave everything that you could give

I prayed to God that you would live

It’s hard to write now as I shed a tear

we were never close but you were always near.

 

If I had the time to live over again

I would be there to share your pain

“I’m doing alright” you would lie

why did you have to go and die?

 

before I could tell you

I love you.

You see dad, its not the things you gave me that makes me love you. Its that you taught me to be a man.; to be responsible, to have my own opinion and not to follow the crowds. You taught me to be myself no matter what anyone else thinks. You made it safe for me to come out, when earlier in my life I was too afraid. When everyone else deserted me, you were there. That’s why I love you.

I miss you dad.

Dave

 

 

 

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Walter Ralegh said the world is a Liar.

 

Walter Ralegh was not a suitor of the Queen, however she fancied him.  He flirted and presented the Queen with gifts from his explorations, and trophies from his wins in battles. Walter and Elizabeth Throckmorton had found that they were with child and decided to marry. The Queen who was jealous for Ralegh and disappointed at her servant Bess, through them both in the tower for not asking her permission to marry. The first child, a son named Damerei, dies early in life. Subsequently there were  two other sons Walter and Carew. Walter died in a battle, but Carew led a full life before being killed and buried with his father in 1666.

Walter Ralegh served in Parliment as well. The Queen was somewhat moody. At one time, she knights him and asks for him to be Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard (the head honcho bodyguard). At other times he was out of favour with the Queen and was returned to the Tower of London, then a Royal prison.  He was released a number of times because of his skill in the military and he was needed to lead in battles against the Spaniards.

Sir Walter Ralegh is credited with having bought potatoes and tobacco to England, products which he found on his explorations of  South America. With hindsight, one can look back and ask if he did a favour to the ‘ civilised world’ by introducing Tobacco, but the potato became a staple in the British diet.

Ralegh was sent to the tower in 1603 by James I for an alleged plot against the Throne. He stayed there until he was pardoned in 1617 when he went again to South America. He attacked a Spanish outpost when out there. James I was friends with the Spanish. The Spanish ambassador was upset by the hostilities and asked James to have Ralegh beheaded. He complied with the request, to keep the peace.

What is the central complaint that underlines Ralegh’s poem “The Lie”?

Walter Ralegh had an epiphany in the tower, as he awaited his head to be separated from his body. He figured that there is no real pleasure, no good in the world. If there are moments of pleasure or good, they, or the ones who administer it,  have hidden agendas. Every smile is painted over a smirk, every tickle has darker intentions.

Walter wrote many poems in the Tower. The Lie being one of them.

The Lie tells of discoveries that Walter made that are perhaps not documented elsewhere. It explores and discovers the truth about the world and those in it. To Walter, the affections and admiration of those close to him, save perhaps his sons and wife, were all false. The favours people were showing him were conditional. Conditional on his allegiance and devotion to a religion, a monarch or a cause.

To the court and the church, the poem is saying that while you look good, underneath, your foundations are rotting. The foundation of the court was the history on which it stood, but the reports of historians were all lies, biased in favour of the monarch who was ruling at the time. The church itself was not so much a place of relief and solace, but one in which political decisions were made. The church at the time espoused a virtuous existence where in fact they were a puppet of the politicians.

The poem continues in the third verse, to tell the Kings and Queens not to be fooled when some says they love you. They love you only so far as it can fair them well. It is not a love or a loyalty that can be relied upon. It is merely a fair weather love. The Monarchs say they are serving their people, they want nothing for themselves. Ralegh says that is a lie. This was shown when Ralegh was castigated for attacking a Spanish ship, but was forgiven it when it showed to be a bounty for the monarch.

The poem continues in its revelations. Everything is a lie. With this discovery, he finds he has no reason to fight any longer. He has resigned himself that he is going to die.

The final verse tells the world to kill him then. The body may die but you cannot kill the soul.

The Lie

Go, Soul, the body’s guest,
Upon a thankless errand;
Fear not to touch the best;
The truth shall be thy warrant:
Go, since I needs must die,
And give the world the lie.

Say to the court, it glows
And shines like rotten wood;
Say to the church, it shows
What’s good, and doth no good:
If church and court reply,
Then give them both the lie.

Tell potentates, they live
Acting by others’ action;
Not loved unless they give,
Not strong but by a faction.
If potentates reply,
Give potentates the lie.

Tell men of high condition,
That manage the estate,
Their purpose is ambition,
Their practice only hate:
And if they once reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell them that brave it most,
They beg for more by spending,
Who, in their greatest cost,
Seek nothing but commending.
And if they make reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell zeal it wants devotion;
Tell love it is but lust;
Tell time it metes but motion;
Tell flesh it is but dust:
And wish them not reply,
For thou must give the lie.

Tell age it daily wasteth;
Tell honour how it alters;
Tell beauty how she blasteth;
Tell favour how it falters:
And as they shall reply,
Give every one the lie.

Tell wit how much it wrangles
In tickle points of niceness;
Tell wisdom she entangles
Herself in overwiseness:
And when they do reply,
Straight give them both the lie.

Tell physic of her boldness;
Tell skill it is prevention;
Tell charity of coldness;
Tell law it is contention:
And as they do reply,
So give them still the lie.

Tell fortune of her blindness;
Tell nature of decay;
Tell friendship of unkindness;
Tell justice of delay:
And if they will reply,
Then give them all the lie.

Tell arts they have no soundness,
But vary by esteeming;
Tell schools they want profoundness,
And stand too much on seeming:
If arts and schools reply,
Give arts and schools the lie.

Tell faith it’s fled the city;
Tell how the country erreth;
Tell manhood shakes off pity
And virtue least preferreth:
And if they do reply,
Spare not to give the lie.

So when thou hast, as I
Commanded thee, done blabbing–
Although to give the lie
Deserves no less than stabbing–
Stab at thee he that will,
No stab the soul can kill.

 

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Would it be: A poem for Richard

Would it be that I be loved by she

Who gave me life and breathe

Would it be that I be treated kindly

By he who is called my brother

Then would I be contented

 

Would it be that the power giver

Had given enough for those who have it

None would seek to step on the neck

Of those whose loftiness hinder

Then would I be contented

 

Would it be that my form was perfect

Free from spot or deformity

Dogs would not bark with tails curled under

And small children would not flee

Then would I be contented

 

Would it be that words harmed not

The heart where sword doth not pierce

Then would I stand straight and strong

And face the battle e’er so fierce

Then would I die contented.

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The Lamb and the Tyger, William Blake. John Tavener.

The poem called the Lamb by William Blake was first written in his collection of works called Book of Innocence. This book later became part of Songs of Innocence and Wisdom.

The book shows the benefit of Naivety and Experience. This was highlighting another aspect of the teachings of William Blake. Contraries. Without Innocence, wisdom would have no use. The overcoming of innocence brings wisdom and experience.

The trick is to get the balance right. We need to remain innocent in some aspects. For example, I have no experience of drug taking, nor do I ever want any. I don’t think I would benefit from taking drugs of any kind at all . But at the same time, I have benefited by the experience of others in this area. I have seen what drugs do to people and desire to remain innocent of ever doing it myself.

The Lamb poem was mirrored in the  Songs of Wisdom, by The Tyger. On one hand, you have the innocence of the Lamb, who knows nothing and is happy to go about life just…being. The Tyger however is manipulative, always looking for opportunities to devour those not as smart as himself. Blake sees the Tyger as evil and cruel. But the Tyger cannot exist without the Lamb. If there were no innocent created, the Tyger would not have anything or anyone to prey upon.

Blake also reminds us in the poem, the Tyger, that the Tyger was made by the same hands who made the Lamb. Good and evil by one hand. Since the bible tells us that all things are created by God (John Chapter 1), then God made good and evil alike. Without Evil, there is no good, or we wouldn’t be able to discern between the two.

Such a paradox for one, such as me, who always thought that all good came from God and all evil came from Satan.

I have been contemplating this since studying William Blake this last semester (semester 2, 2016) when I studied Blake at University. It was again brought to my mind when we sang The Lamb (words by William Blake, Music by John Tavener) on the Australian Catholic University Choir tour to Rome.

John Tavener obviously studied the poem and its context well before writing the music for this  a Capella piece. The song starts off with the purity of a soprano line, and is joined in along the way by alto, tenor and bass sections. The soprano is beautiful but haunting as the singers ask… “Little Lamb who made thee? dost thou know who made thee?”

As the different sections are added, you can hear the discords or the clash of notes between two or more sections. In some parts the clash is quite pronounced as natural notes come against sharps, which are sung at the same time as flats. It really is confusing for a singer. The timing also is varied throughout the song, as is the volume. But in the end, it all comes together , when the child says…”I’ll tell you who made thee… he is called by your name”. From  then on harmonies bland well, united under one God. It truly is a remarkable piece of music. Copyright prevents me from sharing the written music with you, but here is a YouTube clip from King’s College, Cambridge of the song so you can hear the discord harmonies for yourself.

enjoy.

Dave


“The Lamb”
from Songs of Innocence

Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee
Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
By the stream & o’er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing wooly bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice:
Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

Little Lamb I’ll tell thee,
Little Lamb I’ll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child:
I a child & thou a lamb,
We are called by his name.
Little Lamb God bless thee.
Little Lamb God bless thee.

“The Tyger”
from Songs of Experience

Tyger Tyger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes!
On what wings dare he aspire!
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger, Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

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