19 - Shakespeare’s Sonnet 52

The Art 

“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.

The Music

The carcanet's jewels (for voice, recorders and frame drum)

“garklein” recorder

I wanted to get close to the sounds  of Shakespeare’s era – to how he must have heard the instruments of his day. Plus, I just LERVVVV  recorders in consort including the garklein, and I have a new frame drum so was pleased to combine these instruments. The “garklein” recorder. 

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! 

The book of Sonnets was apparently published without Shakespeare’s consent. There are 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”) , where 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