Shall I compare thee to a Summers day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough windes do shake the darling buds of Maie,
And Sommers lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d,
And every faire from faire some-time declines,
By chance, or natures changing course untrim’d:
But thy eternal Sommer shall not fade,
Nor loose possession of that faire thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wandr’st in his shade,
When in eternall lines to time thou grow’st,
So long as men can breath or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
So it’s Valentine’s Day, and Shakespearan sonnets seem called for. And what better reading of it than this version doing the rounds in Peter O’Toole’s glorious voice.
The thing I really love about Shakespeare though, is the way his words lend themselves so magically to a variety of interpretations, so that with every reading of the text you discover new meanings, see how the whole thing could be played differently. This effect is strongest in the plays, of course, but it plays out even in his poems, where startlingly different versions can all sound compelling and true. It’s this malleability of Shakespeare that I love, the changing flavour of his words in your mouth as you chew on them, twisting them this way and that.
So I thought we’d try something different with this one. Up above are four different readings of the same sonnet (all unfortunately, by me – how I wish I could have convinced O’Toole to participate). Just for the heck of it.
Note: The text above is taken from the 1956 edition of The Penguin Book of English Verse.