The Young Man Sonnets offer advice to a young man. The speaker in the sonnets advise the audience, a young man, to marry, settle down, and have children. This series of sonnets is also known as the Procreation Sonnets.
Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest,
Now is the time that face should form another;
But if thou live, remember'd not to be,
Die single and thine image dies with thee.
For having traffic with thy self alone,
Thou of thy self thy sweet self dost deceive:
Then how when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter, and confounds him there;
But flowers distill'd, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.
But beauty's waste hath in the world an end,
And kept unused the user so destroys it.
Sonnet XII may be my favorite in the cycle. It reminds me of how fleeting time is and how temporal so much of what our culture deems important.
When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.
May 15 will be my last day of school with the senior class of 2014. Some have presented quite the challenge this year while others give me hope for our country's future. That is, I have the full academic and cultural gamut of students in my classes.
While the Young Man Sonnet cycle speaks of marrying, settling down, and insuring one's place in the cosmic order through one's offspring, Sonnet XII speaks to me on a deeper level. We each leave our mark on the world in many ways. Will my students look back on their lives with a sense of time wasted?
I speak in class frequently about the future, the importance of having goals, of preparing oneslf for life's choices. As with most messages, this one is met with varying degrees of success. The speaker in the final poem of the cycle asks
Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?
Perhaps the lesson of a senior English teacher will meet the fate of the poet's lines:
So should my papers, yellow'd with their age,
Be scorn'd, like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage...
Could it be that old English teachers never die but live on in the lives of their students in a Yin and Yang dichotomy?
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice, in it, and in my rhyme.
Happy belated birthday, William Shakespeare. Rest assured your "posterity" lives on in youthful minds and time immortal.
*Looking for Shakespeare resources, either on the plays or the sonnets? Check out my favorite Shakespeare site, The Folger Shakespeare Library.