The Mirror of Shakespeare

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Does Shakespeare Really Have “Universal Appeal?”

His characters are not modified by the customs of particular places, unpracticed by the rest of the world; by the peculiarities of studies or professions, which can but operate upon small numbers; or by the accidents of transient fashions or temporary opinions: they are the genuine progeny of common humanity, such as the world will always supply and observation will always find.

Such was the verdict of Samuel Johnson in a preface to one of the many published editions of Shakespeare’s First Folio, and it was the beginning of a sentiment that is often thrown around, but never elaborated on, in many academic and conversational settings. Every classroom I have experienced has thrown the phrase about at least once; Shakespeare has a supposed “universality” that speaks to all of humanity within his writing, but this is a phrase used and discarded at a whim, never fleshed out and just accepted prima faci. Is it true though?

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A Poem for Your Monday

O Me! O Life!

By Walt Whitman

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
  Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.


Image courtesy of https://www.pinterest.com/ldygwen784/old-new-york/

A Poem for Your Monday

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Dejection: An Ode

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Late, late yestreen I saw the new Moon,
With the old Moon in her arms;
And I fear, I fear, my Master dear!
We shall have a deadly storm.
(Ballad of Sir Patrick Spence)
I
Well! If the Bard was weather-wise, who made
       The grand old ballad of Sir Patrick Spence,
       This night, so tranquil now, will not go hence
Unroused by winds, that ply a busier trade
Than those which mould yon cloud in lazy flakes,
Or the dull sobbing draft, that moans and rakes
Upon the strings of this Æolian lute,
                Which better far were mute.
         For lo! the New-moon winter-bright!
         And overspread with phantom light,
         (With swimming phantom light o’erspread
         But rimmed and circled by a silver thread)
I see the old Moon in her lap, foretelling
         The coming-on of rain and squally blast.
And oh! that even now the gust were swelling,
         And the slant night-shower driving loud and fast!
Those sounds which oft have raised me, whilst they awed,
                And sent my soul abroad,
Might now perhaps their wonted impulse give,
Might startle this dull pain, and make it move and live!

A Poem for Your Monday

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Ode: Intimations of Immortality

by William Wordsworth

The child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.
(Wordsworth, “My Heart Leaps Up”)
There was a time when meadow, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight,
To me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light,
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it hath been of yore;—
Turn wheresoe’er I may,
By night or day.
The things which I have seen I now can see no more.
The Rainbow comes and goes,
And lovely is the Rose,
The Moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare,
Waters on a starry night
Are beautiful and fair;
The sunshine is a glorious birth;
But yet I know, where’er I go,
That there hath past away a glory from the earth.