poetry: Shakespeare: Venus and Adonis (1593)

click for licensing I recall reading this in Northampton in the Haymarket, late one evening, at a small table, with my teapot, and a small dim light over my book, and I was waiting many hours for R—- to arrive, and nothing could keep my focus on this poem, though I tried with all my might to enjoy it. Yes, the language is very pretty, but does the story please me? At the time, I was very bored with it, pleased to finish it. Now, I am delighted in the language, yes, and the imagery, yes, and it makes me laugh and sigh for the struggles of love, the slight lewdness, the descriptions of two beauties tampering with something a pair of horses make perfect. And at the hint of coming tragedy, my heart begins to ache.

A girl once called me an Adonis. I hadn’t read that chapter of Ovid yet, though I was carrying the book around, so at the time I didn’t know what that meant, so I asked her. She said it meant I was “perfect.” Now, that was a long time ago, and I have a feeling now that she meant the rest of it too: that I wasn’t allowing myself to be fully given in love, that perhaps I had a nasty temperament, and perhaps that I’d meet my end foolishly, perhaps that she wanted me to meet my end very soon. I was sorry to see Adonis die, however, the descriptions, the wordplay, the imagery are some of the most clever I’ve ever seen. I’ve been disgusted with the long run of Shakespeare’s sonnets dealing with one matter: trying to convince a young man to reproduce. Now, I could see no reason to have written these, and I’m not quite sure why I assumed the subject was a young man anyway. The point is: it seems likely that the sonnets were exercises for this long poem, given that the majority of the poem is fuck-pleas, and Adonis argues that the reasoning “for increase” is not very convincing. Terms like tears that are solid until melted by cheeks, or perhaps tear-shaped until “melted” by the cheeks, and attempts to block those tears from the “sluttish ground” are those descriptions that makes poetry worthwhile for me. Does it teach me something? For certain. It helps to look at every thing in the world and maybe fall within its essence.

26 March 07

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