Thursday 6 October is National Poetry Day in the UK. With so much economic gloom in the news, and to mark the day, here are a couple of pieces of Shakespeare’s most beautiful poetry.
The first one comes from near the end of The Merchant of Venice and conjures a peaceful, harmonious scene where Lorenzo and Jessica sit outside at night listening to music playing. Looking up at the sky, Lorenzo describes the music of the spheres, by which the planets were thought to sing as they move through the heavens.
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank!
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears. Soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven
Is thick inlaid with patens of bright gold.
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still choiring to the young-eyed cherubins.
Such harmony is in immortal souls,
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.
And in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon describes the power of the imagination to drive the lunatic and the lover to madness, while it inspires the creativity of the poet:
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet’s eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Enjoy the day!