“Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.”
–excerpted from “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun”; Wm. Shakespeare
Today, April 23rd, we mark the 399th anniversary of the death of (quite possibly), the greatest poet of all time, William Shakespeare. What kind of writing blog would I be running if I let a date like that go by without a mention?
Me – I am not a Shakespearean scholar. Far from it. But the snippet above, from the song “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun” from the “The Tragedy of Cymbeline” is a favorite of mine. This play was first performed in (or around) 1611, or about five years before Shakespeare’s death at age 52.
It’s mind boggling really, when one thinks of the vast expanse of time across which Shakespeare’s words have traversed. Which contemporary author, poet, or playwright has penned words of such lasting significance? What does the future hold?
Will the world have become bored with the written word 399 years from today – by April 23, 2414? I assume we will have discarded paper books entirely by then (long before then the way things look). And presumably the electronic readers that are now replacing books will have long since been replaced by some yet to be discovered form of media. Perhaps by then we will be able to simply download the great works of literature directly to the brain through some sort of telepathic transfer, thus ‘short-circuiting’ the entire educational process. Or maybe not.
Maybe we will have destroyed our civilization by that time. Maybe the few survivors will find themselves huddling around a fire outside of a cave reading from a scorched volume of the collected works of the Great Bard. “As chimney-sweepers, come to dust”, they may read those words aloud, words that will be by that time nearly 800 years old, and nod knowingly to each other.
William Shakespeare…nearly immortal.
In any case, the complete poem may be read in its entirety here.