Earlier this week Paul posted a blog about Sonnet 29 (“When, in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes….). This particular sonnet seems to possess a deep resonance for many readers. But where did you first hear or read it? It could be that the sonnet found you, before you found it! Perhaps it was while travelling on The Tube in London when the sonnet appeared in advertising spaces as part of the ‘Poems on the Underground’ project. Or maybe your first encounter with the poem was when Richard Gere read it to Julia Roberts in the movie “Pretty Woman”. Rufus Wainwright set the piece to music and sang it a few years ago – so perhaps your memory is forever musical.
When Shahidul Mamon from Bangladesh visited Stratford a couple of weeks ago he brought a copy of Shakespeare’s Sonnets with him as a gift for our library collection. This beautiful edition has been translated into Bengali by Selim Sawar, and naturally I was very keen at the time to hear the poems read aloud. When I asked Shahidul whether he had a favourite sonnet that I could record him reading – without hesitation, he replied Sonnet 29. Here is Shahidul’s rendition of the poem for your enjoyment – along with the text in English.
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, and that man’s scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply 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 state with kings’.