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William Shakespeare and The Search of Lost Time

Sunday, 24 April, 2016

Terence Kilmartin and C. K. Scott Moncrieff translated À la recherche du temps perdu, Marcel Proust’s masterpiece, in the 1920s. In need of an English title, they found inspiration in Shakespeare, in Sonnet 30, which begins: “When to the sessions of sweet silent thought / I summon up remembrance of things past.”

Remembrance of Things Past is a work about time, memory, the past, the present and loss, as is Sonnet 30. When Shakespeare talks of “precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,” does he mean that our departed loved ones are buried, like treasure? Or are they hidden from us in some way we cannot perceive? Despite the ache of loss, what shines through the sonnet is our lifelong longing for friendship, for spiritual and emotional support. As we mark 400 years of Shakespeare, the brilliance of his writing continues to illuminate. Some things might have been lost in interpretation down through the centuries, but what this astonishingly gifted witness of the human condition observed in Elizabethan England continues to echo around the globe. In Shakespeare, we find our remembrance of things past, of lost friends, princes, lords and ladies.

Sonnet 30

When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe,
And moan th’ expense of many a vanish’d sight;
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.

William Shakespeare (26 April 1564 – 23 April 1616)

Mother and Prince


Filed in: Poetry • Tags: , ,

Comments (1)

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  1. Mary-Catherine Grogan says:

    Lovely sentiments on loss. Thank you. Yesterday afternoon I was at Landican cemetery and when I finished tidying my Tom,s grave and Auntie Mary,s grave ,it made me feel so close to our loved one’s. Hopefully Norah and I will be home on holiday from 8th to 18th May. We will visit your Mothers grave. We always made a visit to your Mother. She made sure she had the eggs and rhubarb ready when in season. Precious memories and always an enjoyable visit as we gave her the English news!!. She loved to give us updates on her undertakings.John and Brigid and Mike make sure we have a good holiday. My brother Tom will be home from Saudi so it will be good to spend family time together. Hope you and Ann are ok. I enjoy your Rainy Day.
    Mary-Catherine