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:
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.

In my college days I did not think much of this sonnet and even began to doubt whether it was Shakespeare’s. The imagery appeared to be quite ordinary and looked like little more than use of the typical Elizabethan hyperbole. Later I thought the poet was merely being sarcastic about the charms of the beloved. Much later, in life, I thought Shakespeare was merely debunking the genre of love poetry of the time. I still see a trace of irony in the way he tells the object of his love that for all the beauty that she possesses there is only one way in which she could be immortalized i.e. through his own poetry!

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Circles of light

Bangle sellers are we who bear
Our shining loads to the temple fair…
Who will buy these delicate, bright
Rainbow-tinted circles of light?
Lustrous tokens of radiant lives,
For happy daughters and happy wives.

Some are meet for a maiden’s wrist,
Silver and blue as the mountain mist,
Some are flushed like the buds that dream
On the tranquil brow of a woodland stream,
Some are aglow wth the bloom that cleaves
To the limpid glory of new born leaves

Some are like fields of sunlit corn,
Meet for a bride on her bridal morn,
Some, like the flame of her marriage fire,
Or, rich with the hue of her heart’s desire,
Tinkling, luminous, tender, and clear,
Like her bridal laughter and bridal tear.

Some are purple and gold flecked grey
For she who has journeyed through life midway,
Whose hands have cherished, whose love has blest,
And cradled fair sons on her faithful breast,
And serves her household in fruitful pride,
And worships the gods at her husband’s side.

A poem by Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949)

I love the images used here for describing the colors and textures of the glass bangles being on sale in the temple fair.

“shining loads” ,“circles of light” ,”silver and blue as the mountain mist”, ”flushed like the buds that dream”, “Like fields of sunlit corn”, “like the flame of her marriage fire” , “Purple and gold-flecked”

Most of the imagery is visual. The only auditory image used is “tinkling” which comes into use only when the bangles are worn. Mountains and meadows and streams are invoked here because the glass sellers in a temple fair especially in Hyderabad (the home of Sarojini Naidu) are usually banjarins ,women from a nomadic tribe called “banjaras”.