The weather has been crazy in Maryland this winter. On Saturday I was playing tennis in shorts and tee-shirt. On Monday, my class and I watched snowflakes gently cover the earth as we discussed Twelfth Night. Our flowers have been thoroughly confused.
Which recalls, of course, Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date
Of course, rough winds are supposed to be shaking us in February and early March. If they were doing so as late as May in Shakespeare’s time, it’s because Europe was going through the Little Ice Age. At times the Thames would freeze over.
Unsettling as the weather is, Shakespeare can reassure the young man to whom he addresses his sonnet that his eternal summer shall not fade:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed,
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course untrimmed:
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
The young man may develop lines as the seasons of his life progress but he needn’t worry because the poet is developing lines of a different sort. Sonnet 18 will grant the fair youth immortality for as long as men can breathe or eyes can see.
Our poor flowers still need some help, however.