Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Strange Workings of My Brain

I am absolutely convinced that the last two lines of this sonnet were, at some point in time, quoted in an episode of one of the Star Trek shows.

For the life of me, I cannot remember who, what, when, or why, and it's driving me nuts.

"So long as men can breathe or eyes can see
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

I don't suppose anyone out there can help me out?  Normally, I'm much better at remembering lines and quotes.

For the record, I think my favorite sonnet is Sonnet 29:


When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply** I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings'.

** Haply does not mean "happily," but rather, "by chance" (it's related to "happenstance," I suppose).

Like most of Shakespeare's works, I think that his sonnets should be read aloud to be fully appreciated -- but remember that you shouldn't pause at the end of a line unless there's punctuation there -- so, for instance, there should be no pause between "arising" and "From sullen earth."

That said, one of the greatest talents of my 11th and 12th grade English teachers was finding contemporary language to explain poetry (you should hear how my 11th grade teacher -- who, incidentally, was abysmal at teaching prose -- explained "To His Coy Mistress"), so here's my take on it:


When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
I all alone beweep my outcast state,

When nothing in my life is going well, and I'm crying from loneliness . . . 

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,

. . . and praying, though it's not doing any good, and I'm cursing my life and my bad luck . . . 

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:

. . . Wishing that I was somebody else -- someone with friends, or talents, or power -- hating that which I usually love . . . 

Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,

. . . And yet hating myself for feeling this way . . .

Haply** I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;

Just by chance, I think of you, and then I love everything about my life (note: I could not in any way do justice to that simile, which to me is one of the most gorgeous turns of phrase I've ever heard (despite the now sinister connections to the term "heaven's gate" and so I chose not to)

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings'.

. . . Because when I think of how you love me, I feel so rich that I wouldn't change my life for anything.

Seriously, though, read it aloud.

Read all of Shakespeare aloud, or at least listen to someone else read it aloud.  It takes longer, but it makes all the difference in the world.

Now that I've gotten so sidetracked, let me repeat my plea for help:

Where, oh, where, did they quote this on one of the Trek shows:

"So long as men can breathe or eyes can see
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee."

I have the niggling sense that it somehow relates to Data, but I'm honestly not at all sure.

1 comment:

Maddy said...

Can't help you on the quote I'm afraid, although now it's going to be whirring around in my brain all day. [thank you very much!]

Yes, I think it's the 'happenstance' kind of a happily too.

Yes, definitely read it out loud, after all most were in the aural tradition when people couldn't read.
Cheers