Apr. 23, 2005

Sonnet 144: Two loves I have, of comfort and despair

by William Shakespeare

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Poem: Sonnet 144 ("Two loves I have, of comfort and despair"), by William Shakespeare.

Sonnet 144

Two loves I have, of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colored ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turned fiend
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another's hell.
    Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
    Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

Literary and Historical Notes:

It's the feast day of St. George, the patron saint of England.

It's the birthday of poet and translator Coleman Barks, born in Chattanooga, Tennessee (1937). He's famous for his translations of poems by the 13th-century Sufi mystic, Rumi. His collection, The Essential Rumi, came out in 1995.

It's the birthday of novelist James Patrick (J.P.) Donleavy, born in Brooklyn, New York (1926). He was in the Navy in World War II, then went off to Trinity College, Dublin, on the GI bill. His first novel, The Ginger Man (1955), was included in the Modern Library's list of the 100 best works of fiction of the twentieth century; in Ireland it's the seventh best-selling book of all time. He became an Irish citizen in 1967.

It's the birthday of Ngaio Marsh, born in Christchurch, New Zealand (1899). She was a very popular writer of mystery novels between 1932 and her death in 1982. Her books usually spend about 70 pages setting up the characters and background. Then the murder is discovered, and Police Inspector Roderick Alleyn enters and spends the rest of the book solving the crime.

It's the birthday of poet Edwin Markham, born in Oregon City, Oregon (1852). He was famous for his poem "The Man With a Hoe," based on a painting by Millet. It was about the brutality of harsh work, and includes the lines:

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
The emptiness of ages in his face,
And on his back, the burden of the world.
It was a big hit when it came out in 1899.

On this date in 1635, the first public school in America, Boston Latin School, was founded. The school was started by the Reverend John Cotton.

It's the birthday of William Shakespeare, born in Stratford-on-Avon, England (1564), in a modest room above the shop on Henley Street where his father, John, made and sold gloves. As a teenager he married Anne Hathaway, an older woman. They had three children before Shakespeare went off to London to achieve greatness in the theater. By 1595, he was acting and writing plays for a theater company called the Lord Chamberlain's Men, and in 1599 he became a part-owner of the Globe Playhouse. Shakespeare returned to Stratford in about 1610, having written 37 plays and 154 sonnets. Stratford-on-Avon is now the second most popular tourist destination in England, after London.

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