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The poetry of complaint

Shakespeare's sonnet #66: Tired with all these..

Having a good ol' heart-felt complaint about the world's most horrible problems can sometimes be almost as satisfying as resolving those problems. Occasionally perhaps even more satisfying, since what would one have to talk about if all the world's problems were solved?

As in most fields of writing, Shakespeare is the champion, and in his sonnet #66, he eloquently expresses his disgust at the ills of the Elizabethan age:


    Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,
    As, to behold desert a beggar born,
    And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
    And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
    And gilded honour shamefully misplaced,
    And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
    And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
    And strength by limping sway disabled,
    And art made tongue-tied by authority,
    And folly doctor-like controlling skill,
    And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
    And captive good attending captain ill:
    Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
    Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.

(from Shekespeare's Sonnets )

And yet, the ills of the modern age seem considerably more sibstamtive than those that were bothering Shakepeare:

* Shakespeare complains that a deserving person might be born a beggar, whereas in modern times, infant mortality rates are such that children die before they even have a chance to show whether they are deserving or not.

* Shakespeare laments that "purest faith" is unhappily betrayed, and "gilded honor" is misplaced, but in our age, it is hard even to imagine what "purest faith" or "gilded honor" might look like.

* Shakespeare bewails the debauching (strumpeting) of "maiden virtue", but how quaint the very notions of "maidens" and "maiden virtue" sound today. In a world of contraception and teenage sex, it is hard to complain about the degrading of something that for practical purposes, no longer exists.

* Shakespeare can worry that "captive good" is attending "captain ill", but in our age, when we behold our sorry lot of leaders, we find it hard even to conceive what "captain good" might look like.

The time is opportune therefore for an updating of Shakespeare's wonderful poem with a revisiting of the same problems, but with today's more serious take on them:


    In this imperfect world, where pain, disease
    Or death greet untold newborns at their birth,
    Where wars are fought to propagate the peace,
    Where know-how grows but is of little worth,
    Where obscene wealth is flaunted without shame,
    Where public good is sold for private take,
    Where venal men advance in spite of blame,
    Where leaders feed their egos without break,
    Where artists pander to the crassest taste,
    Where wisdom's lost in some forgotten vault,
    Where no one ever needs to feel disgraced,
    Since science shows all this is no one's fault:
    In this imperfect world, I see in you
    A way to weave my universe anew.

                 (from Sonnets 2000)

Sonnets 2000 (iUniverse, October 2000)


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