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The Well Read Poem

Apr 10, 2023

For the twelfth season of the Well-Read Poem, we will be reading four poems by William Shakespeare, whose genius as a lyric poet is best appreciated in his collection of 154 sonnets. Shakespeare is of course the supreme dramatic poet of the English language; yet if only his sonnets and shorter poems had survived out of his great body of work, it is not too much to say that he may still have enjoyed a certain literary immortality, albeit of a different sort. In addition to four sonnets by Shakespeare, we will be taking a look at two sonnets by fellow Elizabethan poets, to give a sense of the popularity of this poet form in Shakespeare's day.

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Today's poem is Sonnet 1, "From fairest creatures we desire increase." Poem begins at timestamp 9:35.

Sonnet I

by William Shakespeare

From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,
But, as the riper should by time decease,
His tender heir might bear his memory.
But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,
Feed’st thy light’s flame with self-substantial fuel,
Making a famine where abundance lies,
Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.
Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament
And only herald to the gaudy spring
Within thine own bud buriest thy content
And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding.
 Pity the world, or else this glutton be—
 To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.