(Poem #16) Full Fathom Five
Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made; Those are pearls that were his eyes: Nothing of him that doth fade But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange. Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong. Hark! now I hear them - ding-dong, bell.
from 'The Tempest'. Most people are familiar with Shakespeare as a great playwright, unquestionably the greatest who ever lived. What's not so commonly realized, though, is that he was also a wonderful poet, not just of words of sounds, but of meanings and ideas. In addition to the sonnets, he filled his plays with lyrical songs (like today's poem) and marvelous flights of imagery; the Bard's language is every bit as beautiful as his insights are deep. 'The Tempest' was Shakespeare's last play (unless you count 'Henry VIII', which has recently been added to the canon), and it marks a departure in style and content from the great tragedies. Sadly, I haven't studied the play in detail... I just enjoy the words as they are, without delving into their deeper levels of significance. One final digression: many people think Shakespeare is hopelessly archaic and/or completely inaccessible. This is simply not true. I myself had the enormous good fortune of studying 'Macbeth' exhaustively while in high school, and it was one of the most rewarding explorations of my life. You should all try to spend some time with the Bard, using a good annotated edition of his plays - believe me, it'll be worth it. thomas.