I attended the wedding yesterday of a young friend. The ceremony she and her newly minted husband wrote themselves, full of style, panache and sweetness. There’s wasn’t much old or traditional in their ceremony or reception–or was there? Of course there was: The love of true minds–a kind of love they promised one another which is never perfect but the most beautiful thing in the world. It’s complicated, and never in the course of human Art has that kind of love been better expressed than in Will Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no; it is an ever-fixed mark,
That looks on tempests, and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
There is such a timeliness beauty, eloquence and truth to this sonnet–so perfect in its realization of the Elizabethan sonnet form, so infinitely depthless in its meanings and cross-meanings, so breathtaking in its imagery–that it’s never been matched by another poet. And yet–if one knows nothing of poetry, if one finds Shakespeare intimidating–even a cursory read or listen to these lines can raise your spirits and thrill your heart with its lyrical beauty.
Read it aloud today with someone you love.
And to my young friends, congratulations.
The image is the Elizabethan text of Sonnet 116, printed with the font and characters common to that era.