A Haltless Mind

An Essay on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 65

I received a letter in the mail today from a Mr. WS. It seems he had heard of the predicament of Life I’d found myself in, and so sent me a Sonnet as consolation. Poetry often serves to calm what is a troubled soul of mine.

Though this Sonnet he’d sent did not calm my storm. No not a bit. Or so I’d at first felt. I’ll explain what I mean. First, you may read it if you’d like:

“Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,

But sad mortality o’ersways their power,

How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,

Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

Or how shall sweet summer’s honey breath hold out

Against the wrackful siege of battering days,

When rocks impregnable are not so stout

Nor gates of steel so strong, but Time decays?

O fearful meditation; where, alack,

Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid?

Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back,

Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid?

O none, unless this miracle have might,

That in black ink my love might still shine bright.”

            What was I to make of this truthful rag? This eloquent accusal? This harrowing surprise?

I immediately took it as a personal affront.

What else could I do? This to comfort me; to console; to soften a scorning life or caress the bruises left in blue? Brass statues corrode and crack. Stones moss like the old, are attention’s lost. An abundant earth withers. Boundless sea mounts my city.

This was an attack.

            Gates are waved in and there the breach of Time harries what I’d held out. He more than sweeps, but the ravage there.

            Oh troubling thought.

            Oh burst of the fear fused. The treasure’s chest, o’ how unlike Pandora’s fate, never opens again but all boxing evil hounds me closed from rest. Overtakes. I hold my hand to cover my face. Feet are kicking. I forbid with breath feeble the fume on my face. The exhale of graves.

Troubling thought!

            And yet there is an ease after a declame. Like the shock after a shout. I stop on that pause. And I say to myself what I’ve said, turning its sign, pasted on a board, left for the empty air to mind.

            I passed it by on the way back. And catch a gleam again in my eye. How hath letter so black have might? There’s the miracle, that black ink might shine so bright.

Is this a memory or a Sight?

I say this, and Time runs on as words in a halt-less mind.

What a strange thing it is to be sent a poem from WS.

William, Shakespeare. The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Sonnets and Poems. 2. New York: Oxford World’s Classics, 2008. Print.

3 thoughts on “A Haltless Mind

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