By Wendy Cope
My Father’s Shakespeare
My father must have bought it second-hand,
Inscribed “To RS Elwyn” – who was he?
Published 1890, leather-bound,
In 1961 passed on to me.
November 6th. How old was I? Sixteen.
Doing A level in English Lit.,
In love with Keats and getting very keen
On William Shakespeare. I was thrilled with it,
This gift, glad then, as now, to think
I had been chosen as the keeper of
My father’s Shakespeare, where, in dark blue ink,
He wrote, “To Wendy Mary Cope. With love.”
Love on a page, surviving death and time.
He didn’t even have to make it rhyme.
On Sonnet 18
“So long as men can breathe and eyes can see” –
You don’t assume we’ll be around for ever.
You couldn’t know that “this gives life to thee”
Only until the sun goes supernova.
That knowledge doesn’t prove your words untrue.
Neither time nor the advance of science
Has taken anything away from you,
Or faced down your magnificent defiance.
That couplet. Were you smiling as you wrote it?
Did you utter a triumphant “Yes”?
Walking round the garden, did you quote it,
Sotto voce, savouring your success?
And did you always know, or sometimes doubt
That passing centuries would bear you out?
Specially commissioned by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
Listen to The Poetry Archive’s 400 Collection containing recordings of twenty sonnets read by ten major poets. Each poet has chosen a favourite sonnet by Shakespeare and, inspired by that sonnet, has written a new sonnet of his or her own.
A reminder that on April 27 we will be reading and discussing poetry and other literature about, or inspired by, Shakespeare, his works and characters. Please bring your own selection of this genre for discussion and, if you wish, post it first on the blog via the CONTACT US page, or email it to me directly. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for selections posted to-date.