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Shakespeare's Sonnets, Retold

Classic Love Poems with a Modern Twist

Foreword by Stephen Fry
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An enlightening and entertaining collection of the most esteemed love poems in the English canon, retold in contemporary language everyone can understand
 
James Anthony has long enjoyed poetry with a strict adherence to beat, rhythm, and rhyming patterns, which he likens to the very best pop songs. This drew him to the rewarding 14-line structure of Shakespeare’s sonnets, yet he often found their abstract language frustratingly unintelligible. One day, out of curiosity, he rewrote Sonnet 18—Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day—line-by-line, in the strict five-beat iambic pentameter and rhyming patterns of the original, but in a contemporary language a modern reader could easily understand. The meaning and sentiment—difficult to spot, initially—came to life, revealing new intricacies in the workings of Shakespeare's heart.
 
And so, James embarked on a full-time, year-long project to rewrite all 154 of the Bard's eternal verses creating SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS, RETOLD. This collection of masterful reinterpretations brilliantly demystifies and breathes new life into Shakespeare's work, demonstrating the continued resonance of a playwright whose popularity remains over 400 years after his death. Now, the passion, heartbreak, deception, reconciliation, and mortality of Shakespeare’s originals can be understood by all, without the need to cross reference to an enjoyment-sapping study-guide. Coming with a foreword by Stephen Fry, this is a stunning collection of beautiful love poems made new.
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2018 William Shakespeare & James Anthony

1

 

From fairest creatures we desire increase,

That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,

But as the riper should by time decease,

His tender heir might bear his memory:

But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,

Feed’st thy lights flame with self-substantial fuel,

Making a famine where abundance lies,

Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.

Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament,

And only herald to the gaudy spring,

Within thine own bud buriest thy content,

And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding.

            Pity the world, or else this glutton be,

            To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

 

1

 

We strive to procreate with gorgeous folk

So that our beauty won’t capitulate;

We reach a ripe old age, but then we croak;

Our memories live through offspring we create.

But you’re in love with you, and you alone,

So self-consumed, your face is all you see,

Depriving us of children of your own,

And hence you are your own worst enemy.

Now you are young and walking in your prime,

Well set to raise a daughter or a son,

But you’re content to piss away your time,

And—silly fool!—your days will soon be done.

            Take pity on your world, or go awry;

            Have children now, for one day you will die.

 

2

 

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,

And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,

Thy youth’s proud livery so gazed on now,

Will be a tatter’d weed of small worth held:

Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,

Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;

To say within thine own deep sunken eyes,

Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.

How much more praise deserv’d thy beauty’s use,

If thou couldst answer “This fair child of mine

Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,”

Proving his beauty by succession thine.

            This were to be new made when thou art old,

            And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

 

2

 

When forty years have weather-worn your face

And wrinkled skin forms crow’s-feet ’round your eyes,

Your youthful look we presently embrace

Will be a shabby rag, no more a prize.

When old, when asked, “Where is your beauty now?

 What’s left of lusty days from yesteryear?”

To say, “I drank, and screwed it up somehow,”

Brings shame on you; that’s nothing to revere.

But all would praise your beauty ever more

If you could answer, “This sweet child of mine

Is what I made, and what I came here for”;

My heir, my love, my beauty all combine.

            Before you’re old, you can yourself re-form,

            So, when you’re dead, your children’s blood runs warm.

 

3

 

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest,

Now is the time that face should form another,

Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,

Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.

For where is she so fair whose uneared womb

Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?

Or who is he so fond will be the tomb

Of his self-love to stop posterity?

Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee

Calls back the lovely April of her prime,

So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,

Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.

            But if thou live remembered not to be,

            Die single, and thine image dies with thee.

 

3

 

Look in the mirror, tell this to your face:

It’s time you had a child all of your own;

For if not now, then when? Your warm embrace

Will gift your world, and wife, a self-made clone.

For where’s the virgin girl so sexy she’d

Decline to be the mother of your child?

And who’s the selfish fool preferring he’d

Self-masturbate and not be recompiled?

You look just like your mom; in you she sees

Her joyful passage through her younger time;

And when you’re old, recounting memories

Through wrinkled eyes, right now you’ll call your prime.

            But if you have no kids, know this is true:

            Die single and your image dies with you.

 

4

 

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend

Upon thyself thy beauty’s legacy?

Nature’s bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,

And being frank, she lends to those are free:

Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse

The bounteous largess given thee to give?

Profitless usurer, why dost thou use

So great a sum of sums yet canst not live?

For having traffic with thyself alone,

Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive.

Then how, when nature calls thee to be gone,

What acceptable audit canst thou leave?

            Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee,

            Which, used, lives th’executor to be.

 

4

 

You squand’ring handsome man, please answer this:

Why spend and waste your beauty on yourself?

This beauty is not yours, so don’t dismiss

That nature’s loan does not erode your wealth.

Then—gorgeous clown!—why do you still abuse

The qualities that you’re supposed to share?

You wasteful bum! You’re blessed so why d’you choose

To think of what you have, not who you are?

Just jerking off at pornographic grot

Deprives you of another one of you;

Then when your days are done, you’ve served your lot,

What legacy is left at your adieu?

            You’ll take your unshared beauty to your grave,

            But used would be the gift of life you gave.

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was a poet, playwright, and actor who is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare's vast body of work includes comedic, tragic, and historical plays; poems; and 154 sonnets. His dramatic works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. View titles by William Shakespeare

Meet the Author: James Anthony (SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS, RETOLD)

About

An enlightening and entertaining collection of the most esteemed love poems in the English canon, retold in contemporary language everyone can understand
 
James Anthony has long enjoyed poetry with a strict adherence to beat, rhythm, and rhyming patterns, which he likens to the very best pop songs. This drew him to the rewarding 14-line structure of Shakespeare’s sonnets, yet he often found their abstract language frustratingly unintelligible. One day, out of curiosity, he rewrote Sonnet 18—Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day—line-by-line, in the strict five-beat iambic pentameter and rhyming patterns of the original, but in a contemporary language a modern reader could easily understand. The meaning and sentiment—difficult to spot, initially—came to life, revealing new intricacies in the workings of Shakespeare's heart.
 
And so, James embarked on a full-time, year-long project to rewrite all 154 of the Bard's eternal verses creating SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS, RETOLD. This collection of masterful reinterpretations brilliantly demystifies and breathes new life into Shakespeare's work, demonstrating the continued resonance of a playwright whose popularity remains over 400 years after his death. Now, the passion, heartbreak, deception, reconciliation, and mortality of Shakespeare’s originals can be understood by all, without the need to cross reference to an enjoyment-sapping study-guide. Coming with a foreword by Stephen Fry, this is a stunning collection of beautiful love poems made new.

Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2018 William Shakespeare & James Anthony

1

 

From fairest creatures we desire increase,

That thereby beauty’s rose might never die,

But as the riper should by time decease,

His tender heir might bear his memory:

But thou, contracted to thine own bright eyes,

Feed’st thy lights flame with self-substantial fuel,

Making a famine where abundance lies,

Thyself thy foe, to thy sweet self too cruel.

Thou that art now the world’s fresh ornament,

And only herald to the gaudy spring,

Within thine own bud buriest thy content,

And, tender churl, mak’st waste in niggarding.

            Pity the world, or else this glutton be,

            To eat the world’s due, by the grave and thee.

 

1

 

We strive to procreate with gorgeous folk

So that our beauty won’t capitulate;

We reach a ripe old age, but then we croak;

Our memories live through offspring we create.

But you’re in love with you, and you alone,

So self-consumed, your face is all you see,

Depriving us of children of your own,

And hence you are your own worst enemy.

Now you are young and walking in your prime,

Well set to raise a daughter or a son,

But you’re content to piss away your time,

And—silly fool!—your days will soon be done.

            Take pity on your world, or go awry;

            Have children now, for one day you will die.

 

2

 

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,

And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,

Thy youth’s proud livery so gazed on now,

Will be a tatter’d weed of small worth held:

Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,

Where all the treasure of thy lusty days;

To say within thine own deep sunken eyes,

Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.

How much more praise deserv’d thy beauty’s use,

If thou couldst answer “This fair child of mine

Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,”

Proving his beauty by succession thine.

            This were to be new made when thou art old,

            And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

 

2

 

When forty years have weather-worn your face

And wrinkled skin forms crow’s-feet ’round your eyes,

Your youthful look we presently embrace

Will be a shabby rag, no more a prize.

When old, when asked, “Where is your beauty now?

 What’s left of lusty days from yesteryear?”

To say, “I drank, and screwed it up somehow,”

Brings shame on you; that’s nothing to revere.

But all would praise your beauty ever more

If you could answer, “This sweet child of mine

Is what I made, and what I came here for”;

My heir, my love, my beauty all combine.

            Before you’re old, you can yourself re-form,

            So, when you’re dead, your children’s blood runs warm.

 

3

 

Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest,

Now is the time that face should form another,

Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,

Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.

For where is she so fair whose uneared womb

Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?

Or who is he so fond will be the tomb

Of his self-love to stop posterity?

Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee

Calls back the lovely April of her prime,

So thou through windows of thine age shalt see,

Despite of wrinkles, this thy golden time.

            But if thou live remembered not to be,

            Die single, and thine image dies with thee.

 

3

 

Look in the mirror, tell this to your face:

It’s time you had a child all of your own;

For if not now, then when? Your warm embrace

Will gift your world, and wife, a self-made clone.

For where’s the virgin girl so sexy she’d

Decline to be the mother of your child?

And who’s the selfish fool preferring he’d

Self-masturbate and not be recompiled?

You look just like your mom; in you she sees

Her joyful passage through her younger time;

And when you’re old, recounting memories

Through wrinkled eyes, right now you’ll call your prime.

            But if you have no kids, know this is true:

            Die single and your image dies with you.

 

4

 

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend

Upon thyself thy beauty’s legacy?

Nature’s bequest gives nothing, but doth lend,

And being frank, she lends to those are free:

Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse

The bounteous largess given thee to give?

Profitless usurer, why dost thou use

So great a sum of sums yet canst not live?

For having traffic with thyself alone,

Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive.

Then how, when nature calls thee to be gone,

What acceptable audit canst thou leave?

            Thy unused beauty must be tombed with thee,

            Which, used, lives th’executor to be.

 

4

 

You squand’ring handsome man, please answer this:

Why spend and waste your beauty on yourself?

This beauty is not yours, so don’t dismiss

That nature’s loan does not erode your wealth.

Then—gorgeous clown!—why do you still abuse

The qualities that you’re supposed to share?

You wasteful bum! You’re blessed so why d’you choose

To think of what you have, not who you are?

Just jerking off at pornographic grot

Deprives you of another one of you;

Then when your days are done, you’ve served your lot,

What legacy is left at your adieu?

            You’ll take your unshared beauty to your grave,

            But used would be the gift of life you gave.

Author

William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was a poet, playwright, and actor who is widely regarded as one of the most influential writers in the history of the English language. Often referred to as the Bard of Avon, Shakespeare's vast body of work includes comedic, tragic, and historical plays; poems; and 154 sonnets. His dramatic works have been translated into every major language and are performed more often than those of any other playwright. View titles by William Shakespeare

Media

Meet the Author: James Anthony (SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS, RETOLD)

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