“Sonnet 52” by William Shakespeare
Published in 1609, by Thomas Thorpe, London
So am I as the rich whose blessed key,
Can bring him to his sweet up-locked treasure,
The which he will not every hour survey,
For blunting the fine point of seldom pleasure.
Therefore are feasts so solemn and so rare,
Since seldom coming in the long year set,
Like stones of worth they thinly placed are,
Or captain Jewels in the carcanet.
So is the time that keeps you as my chest,
Or as the ward-robe which the robe doth hide,
To make some special instant special blest,
By new unfolding his imprisoned pride.
Blessed are you whose worthiness gives scope,
Being had to triumph, being lacked to hope.
“Sonnet 52 – the carcanet’s jewels” (4.00 mins)
Text, William Shakespeare
Music, Helen Davey
(for voice, recorders and frame drum and a would-be lute thanks to a-la-midi)
I have worked with Shakespeare before – when I adapted his “Midsummer- night’s Dream” for a musical production featuring Austraian Aboriginal Bush Spirits… It was magical to work with him then and it has been again this time. What a mind! On the occasion of his 450th birthday this week, I salute you sire and wish you many happy returns. Forthooth!
The book of Sonnets was apparently published without Shakespeare’s consent. It has many mysteries associated with the content – and depending on whom you read there is much speculation as to whom the book of sonnets was dedicated amongst other treasure chests with missing keys…
Sonnet 52 is one of the “Fair Youth” sequence (rather than the “Rival Poet” and the “Dark Lady”) , in which the poet expresses his love towards a young man. “It is indeed a somewhat mysterious sonnet, which I feel has a secret locked away deep in its bosom, and no one has yet plumbed its depths or been able to suggest wherein its mystery lies” (this quote – although nameless – comes from the webmaster of a lovingly crafted website of Shakespearean sonnets – there’s great reading about some of the mysteries and speculation. here).
As a songwriter, I’m particularly interested that the structure of the sonnets is very specific: 14 lines – 3 quatrains and a couplet – with the following rhyming patterns, ABAB – DDCD – EFEF – GG.
To write 154 sonnets with the degree of the bard’s eloquence is one thing…(!) but get this: there are 10 syllables per line which is in Iambic pentameter. That means, there are x5 pairs of short/long syllables per line which is what creates the iconic rhythm of the sonnet. (It’s also what had me twisting in knots to accommodate these syllables melodically). If you’re a bit geeky like me regarding meter and rhythm in words, there’s a good explanation of Iambic pentameter here
I wanted to get close to the sounds of Shakespeare’s era – albeit with just a few instruments that are pretty close to how he must have heard the instruments of his day. Plus, I just LERVVVV recorders in consort and have a new frame drum so was pleased to combine these instruments for this week’s sound-painting. The “garklein” recorder is the tiniest little poppet to play (one needs nimble fingers). You’ll hear it sailing atop the arrangement.
I appreciate all of your comments and emails. Thank you for hanging out with me and sharing my project with people you know.
Blessed are you…