Shakespeare’s sonnets were, and perhaps remain, a cul-de-sac for me. I was bound, imprisoned as it were, in a fog of incomprehension. I decided that rather than read them yet again and reach an impasse, I would “converse” with them – sonnet to sonnet – I would engage with Shakespeare obliquely, as if we were sitting together with a convivial glass in hand, in a quiet corner - he having taken a break from his busy life at the Globe and me, rising from my poetic stupor. I would reflect upon, and reflect his divining verse which turns about the covert stations of love, yearning, dread and loss that afflict us all one way or another; perhaps to contradict it, perhaps to dance with its raptures of creation, perhaps to play with it in imaginative encounter, and thus approach these poems with the charmed serendipity of close conversation where meaningful words come to mind, spontaneously. I might then begin to reach below the skin of ambiguities and subtleties of his poetry.
And so I began this personal exploration of these marvellous poems. Though, in a sense I still do not comprehend them if by that word we mean possession or ownership. They are not simply gloss but the epitome of living and loving in a transient world of perennial departures. Relating thus to the sonnets has taught me what Wordsworth, in his Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, calls “…the grand elementary principle of pleasure”.
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