Only a beige slat of sun above the horizon, like a shade pulled not quite down. Otherwise, clouds. Sea rippled here and there. Birds reluctant to fly. The mind wants a shaft of sun to stir the grey porridge of clouds, an osprey to stitch the sea to sky with its barred wings, some dramatic music: a symphony, perhaps a Chinese gong.
But the mind always wants more than it has — one more bright day of sun, one more clear night in bed with the moon; one more hour to get the words right; one more chance for the heart in hiding to emerge from its thicket in dried grasses — as if this quiet day with its tentative light weren’t enough, as if joy weren’t strewn all around.
Committing to read the complete works of Shakespeare through the course of 2018 was an iffy proposition from the beginning. As I began to fall behind during the second month of suggested readings, I realized the goal, however lofty, wouldn’t be achieved.
On the other hand, I did continue reading throughout the year, and at its end had discovered unsuspected treasures in Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays. Especially pleasing were innumerable nature references I’d never noticed, and a delightful collection of songs tucked into the plays. Many of those songs, set to music by various composers and arrangers, continue to be performed today.
In Act 2, Scene 7 of the pastoral comedy As You Like It, a musician named Lord Amiens sings before a group of exiles in the forest. Seeing what the winter wind recently wrought in one of my favorite groves, I couldn’t help remembering, and appreciating, his song.
“Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind” ~ Folger Consort Folger Consort is the early music ensemble-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.
Blow, blow, thou winter’s wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude;
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou art not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.
Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky, Thou dost not bite so nigh As benefits forgot: Though thou the waters warp, Thy sting is not so sharp As friends remembered not.
Wayfarer, the only way is your footsteps, there is no other. Wayfarer, there is no way, you make the way by walking. As you go, you make the way, and stopping to look behind you see the path that your feet will never travel again. Wayfarer, there is no way Only foam trails on the sea.
~ Proverbios y cantares XXIX ~ Antonio Machado (trans. Alan S. Trueblood)