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Where the bee sucks -- William Shakespeare

One can never have too much Shakespeare on a poetry list...
(Poem #312) Where the bee sucks
Where the bee sucks, there suck I;
In a cowslip's bell I lie;
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
    Merrily, merrily shall I live now
    Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
-- William Shakespeare
from The Tempest, words spoken by Ariel after he is set free
by Prospero.

The Tempest fascinates me. Shakespeare's last play, it
combines the lyrical perfection of the early comedies with
the refined sensibility and practiced dramatic skill of the
middle period plays and the power and emotion of the great
tragedies. And although it's far from perfect [1], there's
no doubt that it's a glorious work of art - endlessly
complex thematically, shimmeringly (and, at times,
mystically) beautiful, the work of a mature playwright at
peace with the world. The Tempest's progressions are
refined, elegant, even stately. It has power, but it also
has grace. And it's simply gorgeous to read.

The character of Ariel is perhaps the most interesting
aspect of The Tempest. For some reason, it's spawned more
literary offshoots than almost any other character in any of
the plays - from Milton and Pope through Browning and
Hopkins to Eliot and Plath, poets have used (and abused) the
persona and symbolism of Prospero's attendant spirit, to
great effect. I wish I knew why; since I don't, I'll content
myself with enjoying the play for its innate poetry, as
exemplified by today's seven short lines. As I said before,
simply gorgeous.

(I could at this point digress and talk about the concept of
iconicity, how Shakespeare's creations have taken on lives
of their own, and are now as much a part of the collective
unconscious as, say, the Bible, or the classics, or the
heliocentric hypothesis. But I won't. Suffice to say that
Shakespeare continues to be the greatest of them all).


[1] I for one prefer the earthiness of the great tragedies
(especially Lear) and the ethereality of A Midsummer Night's
Dream to the (sometimes) hotchpotch of philosophy and action
that is The Tempest.

[More on Ariel]

Ariel: A spirit of the air and guardian of innocence. He was
enslaved to the witch Sycorax, who overtasked him; and in
punishment for not doing what was beyond his power, shut him
up in a pine-rift for twelve years. On the death of Sycorax,
Ariel became the slave of Caliban, who tortured him most
cruelly. Prospero liberated him from the pine-rift, and the
grateful fairy served him for sixteen years, when he was set
free. (Shakespeare, The Tempest.)

    -- Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable

[Minstrels Links]

Both Martin and I absolutely worship Shakespeare; it's no
surprise that he's been featured on the Minstrels more often
than any other poet. Some of my favourite pieces of verse
'Our revels now are ended'
(poem #126)
for its metaphysical insight,
'Full fathom five'
(poem #16) for
its lyrical beauty,
'Tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow'
(poem #229)
for the depth of its emotion, and
'Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks'
(poem #200)
for its sheer power.

All these, and much much more by the Bard (and others) can
be read at the Minstrels website,

Oh, and you especially shouldn't miss Sylvia Plath's incredible 'Ariel',
poem #129 , which, although I haven't the slightest idea what it means,
remains one of the most powerful poems I've ever read.

26 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Suejon said...

not so much a comment about the work but more about this site

i love the tiny side notes at the bottom abd comments about the pieces of work

it was very helpful and eye opening

thank you for a great site

Yours Truly,


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Very good, and yes Shakespeare needs to be present in every situation where poems are.

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