Last week I asked for non-obvious sonnet suggestions, and then most of you suggested 130, “My lover’s eyes are nothing like the sun,” which is the most overused sonnet he ever wrote. So THANKS A LOT, GUYS. But to be fair, it is a great one. I didn’t pick it, but I did end up picking one of the other most overdone sonnets, so it evens out. Without going into needless detail, it was an unexpectedly horrible week for me: I spent the first three days flat on my back with illness, and the last four days scrambling like mad to meet a surprise deadline. When my friend called Sunday night to set up a recitation session, I hadn’t slept in 59 hours and hadn’t even started a poem. I didn’t want to drop the week, though, so I summoned the Internet and grabbed the easiest one (ie, the one I already knew four lines of) and memorized 29, “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes”:
When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope:
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed;
Desiring this man’s art, or that man’s scope;
With what I most enjoy contented least.
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Happily I think on thee, and then my state
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen Earth, sings hymns at Heaven’s gate.
For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings,
That then I scorn to change my place with kings.
This week is Harlem Renaissance, and I’m doing Langston Hughes’ “Mother to Son”:
Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor –
But all the time
I’se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’t been no light.
So boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps
‘Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now –
For I’se still goin’, honey,
I’se still climbin’,
And life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
I’m a huge fan of Langston Hughes, and this is one of my favorites. If you’ve never read him, look him up–everything that man wrote is smart, brilliant, and completely original.