Memorize "On Shakespeare" by John Milton

poems
(Josh Cohen) #1

Today is the start of Poetry Month 2019. The poem I’m going to memorize today is On Shakespeare by John Milton.

It was Milton’s first published poem. There’s a indirect reference to Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory, as “son of memory” – she was mother of the muses. I like the attempted use of Middle English style past tense (“ypointing” – similar to the “ge-” prefix in German), even if it might be incorrect (should it be “ypointed or ipoint”?).

Here’s the text of the poem:

What needs my Shakespear for his honour'd Bones,
The labour of an age in pilèd Stones,
Or that his hallow'd reliques should be hid
Under a Star-ypointing Pyramid?
Dear son of memory, great heir of Fame,
What need'st thou such weak witnes of thy name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thy self a live-long Monument.
For whilst to th' shame of slow-endeavouring art,
Thy easie numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalu'd Book,
Those Delphick lines with deep impression took,
Then thou our fancy of it self bereaving,
Dost make us Marble with too much conceaving;
And so Sepúlcher'd in such pomp dost lie,
That Kings for such a Tomb would wish to die.
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