Monday, October 16, 2017

Two Sonnets On Time

I looked upon my life to judge its worth,
Good deeds and bad; its joys with all its woe,
From edge of existence to day of birth,
Thus weighed in balance, I, of all I know.
But vanity of vanities, alas!
The gavel strikes and shadow downward bends.
"What profit" cried I, "O'er this life shall pass,
"When all thy days are gone and soul descends?
"Thy son or servant, wisdom may not keep,
To grow or guard what labors' increase shows,
And thy poor soul cannot awake from sleep,
To chide or buffet backs with whips and blows."
          Thy labors thou must now enjoy and love,
          As gifts in season, given thee by Jove.


A time is there to bless or curse tis said,
A time to laugh and cry; to sow and reap,
A time to work and rest upon thy bed,
A time to give; another time to keep.
The times will change but time will stay the same,
For time is there to stop and time to go,
And time will mend or break a good man's name,
For time will cover up and time will show.
O time! Thus strumpeted by all and naught,
What time have thou to give or take to thee?
Of all the times tis time is time's own thought;
For time is there for time to timely be.
          I took of time some time a time to show,
          That most of time, in time, one cannot know.

A Sonnet

Like a ram's horn that blasts a battle cry,
Or hawk's fell cry before her prey she snares,
So my words whirling on the wind do fly,
And raise a din as far as rocket's flare.
Not war, nor hunt of martial nature signs,
My voice's meaning more of love partakes,
Of all of nature's fit and fair designs,
I praise the image formed without mistakes.
Thy form no jewels' shimmer can outshine,
Thy loveliness surpasses ev'ry grace,
Though sun and stars their countenance combine,
They'd pale before the splendor of thy face.
          These words I blast to heaven's highest bend,
          None touches thee unless thou wilt descend.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Isocrates on Using Judgment

The quote below, by Isocrates, appears to claim that each age deserves to be judged by its own opinion (or, at least, the opinion of its intelligent members). Is this an example of the "golden rule"?

"It is reasonable that we judge events in our own time according to our own opinions, but for events that are so ancient, it is fitting that we show ourselves to be like-minded with the intelligent people of that time." from Isocrates's Encomium of Helen in reference to judging the virtue of Theseus as a basis for judging the virtue of Helen, whom he admired and abducted.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

St. Crispin's Day!

"This day is called the feast of Crispian. He that outlives this day and comes safe home with stand a tip-toe when the day is named, and rouse him at the name of Crispian" (King Henry, Shakespeare's Henry V).

October 25th is the anniversary of saints Crispin and Crispian, two brothers who were beheaded under Emperor Diocletian's persecution of Christians in the late 3rd and early 4th century (they were executed on October 25th 285 or 286, according to the Wikipedia article).

The day is also remembered as the anniversary of the English victory over the French in the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Shakespeare memorialized the battle in his play, Henry V, by putting a speech into the mouth of King Henry that roused his outnumbered troops to fight valiantly in the face of the enemy and gain the glory that would assured whether in defeat or victory.

I have for the last three years had my senior rhetoric students memorize and perform the St. Crispin's Day speech and this year it just so happens that Romans Road Media is hosting a contest for anyone who can recite, from memory, the best rendition of St. Crispin's Day speech. Unlike many contests in the classical education sphere, this one is open to adults as well as students!

I will be encouraging my students (current and former) to participate in the contest, as well as some of my colleagues. I'm planning to enter myself, too. I hope the contest gets lots of participants, for several reasons. First, I hope it does well because the speech is magnificent and deserves to be memorized by many. Second, the more folks who hear and gain an interest in Shakespeare, the more folks will come to love his language, which in turn will allow them to love the English language more, too. Finally, I hope it will lead to more recitations of Shakespeare, for the reasons above and because there are so many more beautiful words of the Bard to be committed to memory and performed.