The best poems about ageing
‘I grow old… I grow old…’ So speaks J. Alfred Prufrock in T. S. Eliot’s classic poem. And, indeed, poets have often been drawn to the topic of growing old and approaching one’s winter years. Here are ten of the very finest poems about ageing, from the age of Shakespeare to the current century.
William Shakespeare, Sonnet 73. The third of four consecutive sonnets about ageing, this poem, beginning ‘That time of year thou mayst in me behold’, is a firm favourite for anthologists and sonnet fans. The gist of this poem is summed up by Don Paterson in Reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets thus: ‘The more decrepit I look, the more you’ll love me, as this reminds you that I’ll be gone before you are’. Read the rest of this entry
The mysterious life of an early English woman poet
Isabella Whitney is not a familiar name to many readers of poetry, and in many ways this is hardly surprising. But here at Interesting Literature we like to keep one eye out for the curious but overlooked, the obscure but interesting – and the life and work of Isabella Whitney fit the bill, we’d say. In this post we offer a very brief biography of one of the first English female poets.
That said, writing such a biography of someone like Isabella Whitney might be easier said than done, for very little is actually known about her life. We don’t even know when she was born or when she died. She is said to have ‘flourished’ (the ‘fl.’ abbreviation, standing for ‘floruit’ – Latin for ‘he or she flourished’ – is how her dates are usually rendered in biographical sketches of her) in the years 1567-73. Michael Schmidt’s indispensable The Lives Of The Poets, elsewhere a thoroughly detailed biographical introduction to the great and the good of English poetry, has just one paragraph about Whitney. But this is understandable, given the paucity of information about her that we have. Read the rest of this entry
A reading of a classic Donne poem
‘Batter my heart, three-person’d God’: a typically blunt and direct opening for a John Donne poem, from a poet who is renowned for his bluff, attention-grabbing opening lines. This poem, written using the Italian or Petrarchan sonnet form, sees Donne calling upon God to take hold of him and consume him, in a collection of images that are at once deeply spiritual and physically arresting.
Batter my heart, three-person’d God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town to another due,
Labour to admit you, but oh, to no end;
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be lov’d fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy; Read the rest of this entry