Friday, April 23, 2010

The Bard and the spiritual path

It's Shakespeare's birthday. (At least, we think it is.)

Anyone who is serious about the spiritual path would do well to study Shakespeare because of his astonishing insight into human nature and character. Just as you can find any emotion you want to express as part of your prayer somewhere in the psalms, so you will find everything you need about human motivation and the passions in Shakespeare.

Here's a sonnet that has been very meaningful to me for decades now. The poet reflects on impermanence and how vanity (as well as a spirit of acquisition) undermines true spiritual health. It's Sonnet 146:
Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
Ruled by these rebel powers that thee array,
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body's end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shall thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there's no more dying then.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely sonnet - thanks Ellie.

    (Speaking personally, my own "fading mansion" needs a bit spent on it at the moment because it is going to fall down round my ears if I don't do something soon.)


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