Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sonnet 129 - Shakespeare

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame
Is lust in action; and till action, lust
Is perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame,
Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust,
Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight,
Past reason hunted, and no sooner had
Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait
On purpose laid to make the taker mad;
Mad in pursuit and in possession so;
Had, having, and in quest to have, extreme;
A bliss in proof, and proved, a very woe;
Before, a joy proposed; behind, a dream.
   All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
   To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell. 
This is by far my favourite sonnet by the man. 
He compares wasting your spirit to lustfull activities - 
described by those  beautifully colourfull adjectives.
He states that there is not even a brief satisfaction in it. 
You know, after eating a piece of decadent chocolate cake
you have a brief feeling of, "Damn, that was worth it."
But not here. Here it is 'despised straight'. Lust, or sin, is the bait that is 
laid with the full intent to drive you crazy. The double 
use of the words 'past reasons' should not be overlooked here. 
It's used twice to hammer in the fact that the bait is laid in
regards to actions that one has done before in life. The 
third Quatrain holds the full punch of the meaning: when we go after
something like a junkie after pain meds, and the pursuit of it
is as crazy as the state of the person pursuing - the happiness
you get once you've  achieved it is in itself a burden. Before you
have it - it looks so juicy tempting and perfect, but once its  behind
you its no more than something you hallucinated.
Now, my favourite sentence in the English language:
 "All this the world well knows; yet none knows well
                                                                                   To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell."
(Does this really need defining? It seems almost sacrilegious to even attempt it.)
Everyone knows the concept of doing something bad even though 
they know it will cost them hugely. Though no one knows it well enough 
to stop doing it. We keep doing things that bring us little satisfaction (lust/sin),
and this is our downfall. Now, why is this so profound to me?  Not only is it so eloquently
and delicately written - but Shakespeare does not outrightsay whether this human act
is folly, or unforgivable, or even tolerable. He just states it as a fact.
And it is a fact, a beautifull fact that people overlook, or blemish the notion
by casting blame left right and center.
It is perfect, and needs to be known by more than the literary geeks of our generation.

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