Two Seasons

I

The stars were wild that summer evening
As on the low lake shore stood you and I
And every time I caught your flashing eye
Or heard your voice discourse on anything
It seemed a star went burning down the sky.

I looked into your heart that dying summer
And found your silent woman's heart grown wild
Whereupon you turned to me and smiled
Saying you felt afraid but that you were
Weary of being mute and undefiled

II

I spoke to you that last winter morning
Watching the wind smoke snow across the ice
Told of how the beauty of your spirit, flesh,
And smile had made day break at night and spring
Burst beauty in the wasting winter's place.

You did not answer when I spoke, but stood
As if that wistful part of you, your sorrow,
Were blown about in fitful winds below;
Your eyes replied your worn heart wished it could
Again be white and silent as the snow.

by Galway Kinnell

Comments (4)

A continuation of the apologia for his philandering that the poet admits to in the previous sonnet. It also takes up, though perhaps in a less passionate manner, the idolatry theme of sonnet 105. The poet confesses to his swervings from the path of true love, but asserts that he returns refreshed and with a renewed sense of the divinity and wonder of his former love for the youth. Nothing has changed, if anything his love has increased, and he hopes and trusts that he will be welcomed by the beloved, just as he hopes ultimately for Christian redemption and a return to Abraham's bosom.
Commentators have understandably seen in this sonnet and the following one ambiguous references to Shakespeare's career as actor and playwright. The references seem to be rueful and resigned, indicating that he might have wished for better birth and fortune. But it must be admitted that the brief comments that he here makes and in the next one on 'public means that public manners breeds etc.' do not amount to much, and it would be difficult to build a biography on them.
Attitudes to players in the 16th and early 17th centuries were ambiguous. The stage was frequented by many of the wealthy and powerful, and much admired in legal circles, but there was a strong tradition that it fostered and encouraged immorality. The theatres were situated on the South Bank, outside the jurisdiction of the London authorities, in an area renowned for its taverns and brothels. Nevertheless a theatrical career could bring respectability in the end, as Shakespeare's own record testifies, and that of others such as Heminge, Condell, Burbage, Chapman and Jonson. In the end the growth of Puritanism killed off the theatre in England, but not before Shakespeare's death. Puritanism was strong even in Elizabethan times, but not strong enough to overturn the favours bestowed on theatrical companies by Elizabeth and her court. The same could be said of James's time. Nevertheless some of the hostility had an effect, and it is possible that the 'brand' mentioned in the next sonnet was the stigma of belonging to the theatre with all the supposedly dissolute practices and morals that such membership implied. shakespeares-sonnets.com/
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