When Most I Wink, Then Do Mine Eyes Best See

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shakespeare sonnet slam

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It’s the last half of April which means it’s Shakespeare’s Birthday Sonnet Slam time once again. I’ve been participating in the slam for the last four years, and  I’ve written about how to analyze a sonnet for performance several times before  (see here and here as well). Each year participants are assigned a sonnet, and within the space of about three hours all 154 sonnets are performed at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park, New York City.

This year I was randomly assigned Sonnet #43. As I’ve written before, I enjoy being told which sonnet to do, because it exposes me to sonnets which I would not necessarily have been drawn to by myself. Here’s the Sonnet:

Sonnet 43

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed;
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

Unlike some of the previous sonnets I have been assigned, at first glance this one seems fairly straightforward, if somewhat repetitious. As usual, the first step is to divide the sonnet into three quatrains and an ending couplet:

When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright are bright in dark directed;

Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?

How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?

All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

The first quatrain sets the conceit that runs through the poem: I see more clearly  at night, when you are present in my dreams, than the dull day when you are absent.

The second quatrain seems to say nearly the same, but it’s always useful to see what is new in each quatrain. After a few read-throughs I realized that here there is a request underlying this sonnet, and here the poet is expressing his desire to see his beloved, physically, in the daytime.

The third quatrain seems to be marshaling the same argument for your presence. How to distinguish it from the previous quatrain and make it more interesting? Oh, there it is. In the second quatrain, I say your presence would make me happy—but in the third quatrain I say your presence would make me feel blessed. That’s something to hang my hat onto. Two distinctly different appeals.

The final couplet is usually either a summation of the first three quatrains or a distinctly contrary upending of the previous lines. Here, it seems to be the former, but the last phrase of the last line seems peculiar to me. It reads “when dreams do show thee me.” But that seems backwards to the sense of the rest of the poem. Throughout the poem, I have been doing the dreaming, so I was expecting “when dreams do show me thee.” It scans exactly the same so that can’t be the reason the pronouns were switched. I don’t know the reason for that yet, but I do know I can’t ignore it. I’ve found through past experience that the one difficult word or line is often the key to unlocking everything else.

Here’s an early Happy Shakespeare’s Birthday to all.

“Even My Old Man Looks…Good”

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Monday, I had Friday on my mind.

The Australian Easybeats’, with their hit 1966 pop song that had something extra-Kinksish about it.

Got to love the energetic joyous performances.

Thanks to YouTuber рлин Вълчев

Al Pacino On Acting For The Stage and Screen

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AARP's 2nd Annual Movies For Grownups Film Showcase - "The Humbling"

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Al Pacino is one of only a handful of Hollywood actors who has regularly gone back to his roots in the theater.  At a recent press screening of his re-released films, Salome and Wilde Salome, he held forth on, among other things, the differences between acting in film and acting in the theater. Even at age 77, Pacino is a funny, enlightening, and honest speaker.

You can listen to his talk, as broadcast yesterday on the radio segment I prepared for the WBAI Arts Express radio program, by clicking on the grey triangle above.

 

I Never Cared For You

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Willie Nelson, with his beloved guitar, Trigger; Emmylou Harris assisting on vocals; and Willie’s sister, Bobbi, on keyboard. The poignant lyrics are by Mr. Nelson.

More Willie Nelson at WillieNelsonVEVO

That Reminds Me…

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Magicians know Harry Lorayne as the author of some very popular books of card magic, but Harry, who is now in his 90s and still writing card magic books, really made his bread and butter from a related but different form of show business. He was recognized as one of the foremost “memory experts,” and in the 1960s and 70s, he made scores of television and night club appearances, amazing audiences with his memory stunts.

In this clip he memorizes the names of the people in Johnny Carson’s audience, having met them briefly just once before the show.  It’s fun to see how Harry uses his entertainment skills and enthusiastic personality to turn what could be a dry demonstration into a showstopper.

Thanks to YouTuber Rudy Tinoco

There Once Was A Magical Duck…

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poetry-limericks-2-638

Here’s another installment of my limerick game contributions. As I stated in the first installment, on one of the online magic forums, there’s a game where one person suggests a first line for a limerick, and the next person has to complete the other four lines of the limerick. Many of the limericks have a magic-oriented theme, but that’s not a requirement. Here are a few of my better efforts. (Remember, all first lines were given by others):

There once was a magical duck
Enamored with some poor dumb cluck
He climbed on her bones
She started to moan
Hey!!–It’s a family website you schm*ck!

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On a cold dismal night in mid Feb
I Googled ’bout every celeb
I perused every writer
Yes, much like the spider
I waste too much time on the web.

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On the top of the mountain stood Harry
Houdini, that is, and then Larry
Jennings, of course
A powerful force
My favorite is Richardson, Barrie.

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A man once married his dog
“I’m happy,” he wrote on his blog
The bathroom is free
From ten until three
While the wife is out using a log.

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Derren Brown was reading my mind,
Attempting to do it while blind.
But the dude didn’t know
Of my years of Cointreau–
So there was nothing there he could find!