Friday, August 3, 2012

Love's Healing Power


Last week, I discussed the timeless role of orphans play in love stories. This week, I wish to continue with the theme that love, freely given by someone other than mother, has the power to restore us to a state of well-being.

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 29 is a good beginning:

    When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
    I all alone beweep my outcast state,
    And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
    And look upon myself and curse my fate,
    Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
    Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
    Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope,
    With what I most enjoy contented least;
    Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
    Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
    (Like to the lark at break of day arising
    From sullen earth) sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
                   For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings
                   That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

Whoever Shakespeare was, he was a man with a complete lifetime of experience and Ph.D.-level insight into mankind’s greatest torment and his most restorative gift, love. Sonnet 29 is but one of 154 proofs.

The speaker of this sonnet is out of luck. Fortune has turned her back upon him, and men shun him (ll. 1-2). Heaven too ignores his plight and his pleas (l. 3), leaving the speaker forlorn (l. 4),  envying what others possess: their hopes, appearance, friends, talents, and power (ll. 5-7). Whatever the speaker has is insufficient, inadequate (l. 8).

Yet, while loathing his circumstance and even himself, (l. 9), the speaker serendipitously thinks about another (l. 10), a special someone whose existence lifts the speaker from the depths of his despair (l. 12: “sullen earth”) to soar as high as “the lark . . . at heaven’s gate” (ll. 11-12).

“Love remembered” restores the speaker. He is now whole, a man equal to others in riches, the riches of love, so well endowed that he would refuse to change places with men on high (“kings”) (ll. 13-14).

Though much less eloquent, teens across this nation live in the shadow of Sonnet 29. They doubt themselves. They doubt their futures. They are not sure if they are good enough, attractive enough, or smart enough to draw one other special someone to their sides. They want reassurance. They yearn for acceptance, then pour their energies into poetry that will make them gag in ten years--at least mine did.

But when someone other than Mom, Dad, brother, or teacher praises them, they blossom. Those forlorn teens begin to feel as if they belong, as if they have something to offer and share. Their first love, although inevitably accompanied by heart shattering pain, nudges them on to the rickety bridge that carries us from adolescence to adult, from hopeless to hopeful, from dread to delight.

Reading Challenge:

Sonnet 30, provided below, by Shakespeare develops a theme quite similar to Sonnet 29.

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,
And weep afresh love's long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
               But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
               All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

Writing Challenge:

Write a synopsis of Sonnet 30. You may use the three short paragraphs that appear after Sonnet 29 in bold font as an example to guide your work.

GUM (Grammar, Usage and Mechanics):

George Carlin was a master at listening to language for all its bizarre and silly meanings, then sharing his insights with us. He made me rethink the phrase “on board” a plane when he declared that he preferred to be “in” the plane.

Some silly language derives from what I describe as “babble-speak,” the sort of speech that comes from people hired to fill “dead air” or radio and television time. These folks often strive to be perfectly clear, and we are grateful, but in being so clear, they are sometimes also silly and redundant. “Armed gunman” is an example. A gunman may bring a knife to a gun fight, but he surely is armed with a gun, too.

Other silly language is time-honored and traditional. Such language includes idiomatic expressions and makes learning English very difficult because the words in combination do not mean what they mean separately. “A long row to hoe” is an example. Literally, the words mean that a person has a long garden row of soil to hoe; figuratively, the words mean that the person faces a seemingly insurmountable and certainly exhausting task.

Listen for the clever, silly, and bizarre meanings conveyed by words in combination. Make a list of them, and as you do, know that you are tuning your talent for great dialogue that sounds real and true.