Friday, May 25, 2007

Poetry Friday 51

I'm back with Shakespeare again this week - just because his words buzz through my brain on a regular basis. It's interesting, I think, to compare these lines from Twelfth Night Act 1, Scene 1:

If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o'er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.
O spirit of love! how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, nought enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement and low price,
Even in a minute: so full of shapes is fancy
That it alone is high fantastical.

with these by by Colonel Henry Heveningham, a poet born in the middle of the 17th century:

If music be the food of love,
sing on till I am fill'd with joy;
for then my list'ning soul you move
with pleasures that can never cloy,
your eyes, your mien, your tongue declare
that you are music ev'rywhere.

Pleasures invade both eye and ear,
so fierce the transports are, they wound,
and all my senses feasted are,
tho' yet the treat is only sound.
Sure I must perish by our charms,
unless you save me in your arms.

Many years ago my younger sister took part in a school version of Twelfth Night, and I conceived an instant dislike for the words "If music be the food of love, play on, give me in excess of it". I was very scornful of that "romance stuff" as a teenager. Now I'm older, wiser and better acquainted with the Bard, I actually like the concept of having a surfeit of music to get over one's lovelorn state (having been through a period of unrequited love in my 20s, I totally understand poor old Orsino's state.)

As for Heveningham's lines:

Pleasures invade both eye and ear,
so fierce the transports are, they wound,
and all my senses feasted are,
tho' yet the treat is only sound.

I can completely understand that, too - leaving aside the metaphor of music as the food of love - I know several pieces of music that transport me and feast my senses until I'm sated.


Kelly Fineman said...

Love, love, love the Shakespeare.

Of course, as soon as I started to type the above line, my mind slipped off to Eliot:

O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—
It's so elegant
So intelligent

I'm not sure I can ever tire of the Bard or Mr. E. Still, Hopkins was a nice find for me -- I've not read overly much of his stuff before (apart from Pied Beauty), and now I'm on a new kick. Gotta love new kicks.

And while I applaud Heveningham's attempt, it does come off as feeble when set beside/after Shakespeare. Nice sentiments, sentimental though they be. And I really do love seeing poems paired from time to time, to look at theme, form, etc.

Michele said...

*giggles* I can just imagine you singing that in your head...

I do love new kicks - but there's something very pleasurable about coming back to old favourites too.

Yes Heveningham is somewhat sentimental, but I thought provided an interesting contrast to the immortal Bard.


Do you know where I could find more poems by Heveningham?


Òscar Palazón (Catalonia, Spain)

Michele said...

I'm afraid I don't, sorry...

Jennifer S said...

Thank you for posting this. Not only did I find this insightful and intriguing, it also helped me write my choir essay. We are singing the song "If Music Be the Food of Love" by David C. Dickau. It is a wonderful song that you should take a listen to.

Michele said...

Glad it could help you Jennifer.