Presumptuous, as always, I accepted an irresistible invitation from the Shakespeare Society to participate in their annual “Celebrity Sonnet Reading” at San Diego’s Olde Globe Theatre — a fun tribute to the Bard, with no one there to claim that Shakespeare wasn’t Shakespeare!
Some youth troupes performed dance interpretations of sonnets and choral extrapolations. Comic writer-actor Mike Nelson (from Mystery Science Theater 3000) regaled us with the visual stunts he’d love to see performed behind him while performing his reading… if only the (nonexistent) special effects budget allowed for sequences directed by Michael Bay…
…and then there was the local sci fi guy. My sole embellishment was to place an old globe atop a stool next to me. And thereupon to recite an introductory sonnet of my own, written as a tribute to the Bard of Stratford.
Slim in brain, heart or inspiration, it honors Shakespeare’s poetry by offering stark contrast! The hilariously inadequate efforts of a groundling, a Bottom with the mien of an ass, braying just before a banquet of sublimity.
== First: A Poor-Pathetic Prelude ==
Oh muse, pervade this arched and noble hall,
Where life, though short, partakes in art so long;
Where sinners, reprobates and octions all,
Gather here to share pretentious song.
Look thou with favor on our eager works,
We who – ecstatic – recite poesy past;
For though we borrow, that don’t make us jerks,
These tributes merely show that great stuff lasts!
So, Willy, spin not! Nor disturb thy bones,
Anonymous we aren’t! And so, anon…
Planetary detritus and stones,
Carry our message on and on and on.
So muse, inspire! Help me sing an ode,
To stars and galaxies… and THIS old globe.
Sonnet Number 146:
Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
These rebel powers that thee array;
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess
Eat up thy charge? is this thy body’s end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.