Apr. 24, 2003

Sonnet 138: When my love swears that she is made of truth

by William Shakespeare

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Poem: Sonnet 138 by William Shakespeare.

Sonnet 138

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I take her word, though I do know she lies,
That she might think me some green youth,
Not taught in how the world's false facts are sly.
Thus with the vain thought that she thinks me young,
Though she knows my days are past the best,
I just take the word from her false-spoke tongue:
On both sides thus is plain truth all down pressed.
But why is it she says not she's not just?
And why is it I say not that I'm old?
Oh, love's best guise is when we seem to trust,
And age in love loves not to have years told.
    And so I lie with her and she with me,
    And in our faults by lies we more vain be.

Literary Notes:

On this day in 1916, the Easter rebellion began on the streets of Dublin. The British police extinguished the rebellion a few days later. Called "the poet's rebellion," it was led by six patriotic poets and men of letters including Patrick Pearse and James Connolly. They organized a group of about 400 dissidents, dressed in makeshift uniforms and carrying antiquated rifles, to march through Dublin's main streets to the imposing General Post Office at the center of the city. They barged inside and read their "Proclamation of Independence" to a baffled crowd. The rebellion seemed hopelessly unsuccessful until the British government valorized many of the rebels by executing them a few weeks later. The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw wrote, "It is absolutely impossible to slaughter a man in this position without making him a martyr and a hero, even though the day before he may have been only a minor poet." The executions set in motion a movement for Irish nationalism, and in 1921 Ireland finally achieved independence from Great Britain -- except for the six northernmost counties of the island, which comprise Northern Ireland. William Butler Yeats wrote a poem called "Easter 1916" where he said,

"All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born."

It's the birthday of English novelist Anthony Trollope, born in London in 1815. He spent much of his childhood in poverty, and his family often moved from house to house and country to country. His mother even spent a year in America, where she tried unsuccessfully to help in the founding of a city called New Harmony. Many of Trollope's novels originated from daydreams that he had as a child. He invented stories that he would carry on in his mind for months at a time. When Trollope was nineteen, he began working as a clerk for the post office, eventually being placed in Ireland as a postal surveyor. It was in Ireland that he began writing novels, churning them out regularly at a rate of three books every two years. He would write 1,000 words an hour before breakfast. He wrote realistic novels about the daily life of ordinary people, including The Warden (1855), Barchester Towers (1857), and Framley Parsonage (1861). Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in a letter to his publisher: "Have you ever read the novels of Anthony Trollope? They precisely suit my taste; solid, substantial, written on strength of beef and through inspiration of ale, and just as real as if some giant had hewn a great lump out of the earth and put it under a glass case, with all its inhabitants going about their daily business, and not suspecting that they were made a show of." Anthony Trollope said: "Of the needs a book has, the chief need is that it be readable."

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