It’s 104 degrees outside right now, and the air conditioning is not able to keep up–this afternoon the interior temperature has risen from 78 to 85 over the last few hours. Our fingers are crossed for the system to hold up and to regain the upper hand as the outside cools off.
With an hour and a half to go until sunset, I’m sitting at my desk, a cold towel from the freezer on my neck, rereading Shakespeare’s sonnets 1-17 for class tomorrow. The students only have to read the four that are in the Norton Anthology of Poetry (5th shorter ed.)–1, 3, 12, and 15–plus 18 (“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”), so those are the ones I’m focused on.
Something different jumps out at you every time, and today it’s these lines from 3 (“Look in the glass and tell the face thou viewest”):
Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime;
So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,
Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.
What’s tugging at me emotionally is the phrase “through windows of thine age”–the way it implicitly compares aging eyes to panes of wavy old window glass. (At 46, I’m just starting to need reading glasses, and to notice how the softening of vision parallels the softening of memory.) And intellectually, what gets me is the way Shakespeare doesn’t speak the obvious promise–that the young man will see his golden time through the “glass” of a young replica of himself–although that’s the logical idea, that the child will be the young man’s mirror image the way the young man is for his own mother. Instead, the child himself can be tactfully overlooked in favor of the promise that “this thy golden time” will be preserved, wrinkle-free. A moment of delicacy. We quickly return to threats of annihilation and the grave, of course…