Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day by William Shakespeare

Seamus Heaney was born in 1939 in a small agricultural town in county Derry. In 1957 he went to Queen’s University in Belfast where he studied literature. He returned to Queen’s in 1965 as a lecturer. In 1972 Heaney moved to the Republic of Ireland because of the bitterness between Catholics and Protestants in the North. He taught at Carysfort College in Dublin from 1975 to 1980. He also taught at Harvard University, Massachusetts and Cambridge, England. His poetry is mainly concentrated upon his childhood years in Northern Ireland. The greatest achievement so far in his life is that he received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1995.

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William Shakespeare is recognised the world over as being the greatest playwright, dramatists and writer of all time. He was born in 1564 and baptised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England. He was the third of eight children and the eldest son. He apprenticed his father as a glove maker but because of declines in business it would no longer be commercially viable for him to take over his fathers business. In 1582 Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, who was the daughter of a local farmer, to whom he had a daughter in 1583 and twins, a boy and a girl, in 1585. The boy did not survive.

By 1592 William Shakespeare had attained success as an actor and playwright in London. His Sonnets and poems, written between 1593 and 1609, also established him as a gifted and popular poet of the Renaissance. Shakespeare’s poetic efforts include a series of one hundred and fifty four Sonnets, in which he developed the Shakespearean sonnet as a new poetic form, arranged as three quatrains and a single rhyming couplet. The Sonnets describe the devotion of a character, which is often the poet himself, to a young lady in whom he is infatuated. The sonnet uses the rhyme scheme: A B A B C D C D E F E F G G

In ‘Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day? ‘; which is Sonnet eighteen in the series of one hundred and fifty four, Shakespeare writes in praise of his lady’s beauty. He, in tradition, uses something in nature in comparison to a woman’s beauty, in this case to a wonderful summer’s day. Shakespeare, in this case, does not start by comparing the two but instead he asks the question, ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? ‘; Which in fact is a metorical question, he then goes on to explain in meticulous detail how his lady’s beauty is much greater than that of a summers day.

He dismisses the summer’s beauty as an in adequate comparison, ‘Thou art more lovely and more temperate. ‘; Shakespeare refuses to idealise the summer, he points out the imperfections in nature’s summer, ‘Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,’; ‘ Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines. ‘; He shows us that the summer time is only superficially beautiful and unpredictable. He vividly describes his reasons for saying his lady is more beautiful than the summer’s day, ‘But thy eternal summer shall not fade, nor lose possession of that fair ow’st. ‘; Here he shows his thoughts and feelings about his lady.

He is telling us that although the season of summer will pass the beauty of his lady will always be there, internally for an eternity. He paints a picture in the readers imagination of an immortal internal beauty, ‘Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in the shade. ‘; Shakespeare, however, does not lead us to believe that summer is somewhat bad, he maintains the air of summer being beautiful with phrases like, ‘darling buds of May’; ‘the eye of Heaven,’; and ‘his gold complexion. ‘; By maintaining this air he does not degrade the summer’s day but dilates the beauty of his lady. In this Poem, ‘Shall I Compare Thee To A Summer’s Day? ; Shakespeare never fails to lose the interest of the reader.

The simple, Shakespearean sonnet format of three quatrains and one rhyming couplet contributes to this fact. To me it’s the romantic writing and the message within the poem, that internal beauty is immortal and somewhat priceless, which is still relevant to this day is what touches the hearts and plays with the emotions of today’s reader. At first you may be forgiven for saying that this is just another love poem. It’s not. The depth at which Shakespeare goes into it and the language that is used, at second glance is awe-inspiring. It has a deep meaning that really does hit home.

The poem, ‘Mid – Term Break,’; by Seamus Heaney has a very deceptive title. The title suggests a holiday or fond childhood memory. The poem is, in fact, about a childhood memory of Heaney’s but it is a memory of stark contrast to what the title may lead you to believe. The poem is made up of seven three lined stanzas with a solitary line ending. Heaney is writing about the death of his younger brother, which happened while he was at boarding school. The poem has a deep meaning. It is an expression of grief, a young person’s perspective of life and death and an exposition of raw feelings and emotions.

Not only the title is deceptive, throughout the poem you are clutching at straws to try and find out what will happen or what has happened. The first stanza has a somewhat eerie air to it. It is speculative and gets your mind working. ‘At two o’clock my neighbours drove me home,’; this, the closing line of the first stanza has us pondering as to why were his neighbours driving him home. ‘In the porch I met my father crying,’; is the line that opens the second stanza. It is unusual for a child to see a parent cry, especially the father, this could have been an extremely traumatic sight for the young Seamus Heaney.

In this verse we also learn that someone has passed away, yet, to effectively retain the level of interest of the reader Heaney does not give any clue to whom or how. The fact that his father had always taken funerals in his stride is an indication that the deceased is, at least, someone close to his father. Heaney goes into immense detail, picking up on small things like the baby rocking in his pram or the whispers informing strangers that he was the eldest. His observances all play particular significance in the course of events.

Even the smallest details are important as they are all things that happen at funerals like the shaking of his hand and the old men telling him they were sorry for his trouble. These details, no matter how minute or insignificance tell us that Heaney is writing from the heart, these experiences are real life things and have, do and will happen. The role of the baby in the poem could be to show the contrast between innocence and death. ‘The baby cooed and laughed and rocked the pram,’; this is something a baby does all the time, it doesn’t know what’s going on, it is unaffected by the whole saga.

In the sixth stanza Heaney turns from a graphical image of death, ‘The corpse, stanched and bandaged by the nurses,’; and it’s affects on people ‘Coughed out angry tearless sighs,’; to a peaceful and soothing image, almost the other side of death, ‘Snowdrops and candles soothed the bedside. ‘; The last stanza again makes great use of imagery, ‘Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple. ‘; It also tells us that at this stage Heaney was beginning to accept his brother’s death, which, I am sure, cannot be an easy task.

He lay in a four foot box as in his cot,’; this is a very touching line that tells us that Heaney is actually not angry but almost at peace, he has accepted the death of his brother. It is the last stanza that we find out also how he died, ‘the bumper knocked him clear. ‘; It isn’t until the solitary line ending when we know how old the child was, ‘A four foot box, a foot for every year. ‘; It is the last line that would appeal to most people; the fact that the child killed was only four would affect many people’s emotions.

After reading and studying the poem, and looking back at the title, I now realise it may also have a deeper meaning. In Heaney’s case, where he was at a boarding school, the mid – term would have been one of the few chances he got to see his family, in this instance he does see his family but his brother has passed away. Mid – term could signify a change or the fact that the incident has happened at crucial stage or mid – point of Heaney’s life. The break could be referring to the emotional heartbreak and trauma.

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