Friday, April 17, 2009

O Mistress Mine by Shakespeare

What to pick on the heels of yesterday's poem, "The Lobster Quadrille" by Lewis Carroll? Were it not still under copyright, I'd go with "Bagpipe Music" by Louis MacNeice, a poem that fairly dances across the page and off the tongue. Seeing the words England and France in the poem, I considered going with that old poem by Anonymous:

I see London, I see France
I see (your name)'s underpants.

But that seems an awfully short selection for the day, and I thought perhaps something other than nonsense verse would better suit my mood. I thought "O body swayed to music, o brightening glance,/How can we know the dancer from the dance?" but, alas, Yeats's "Among School Children" is still under copyright. And thus it was that I looked past the dance to the music, and came to William Shakespeare and one of the songs from Twelfth Night of which I am enamored.

O Mistress Mine
by William Shakespeare
from Twelfth Night, Act I, sc. 3

O mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love's coming,
That can sing both high and low.
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know.

What is love? 'Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty,
Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty;
Youth's a stuff will not endure.

Discussion and analysis:

The structure of the song is as follows: It is rhymed AABCCB DDEFFE, and it uses a mix of meters. The first two lines of each stanza are in iambic tetrameter (although in the first stanza, there's an extra "feminine" ending resulting in nine syllables in a line that has 4 iambic feet: taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM(ta)). The third and sixth lines of each stanza are trochaic trimeter (with an extra stressed syllable at the end of the line: DUMta DUMta DUMta DUM), for a total of seven syllables per line. And the fourth and fifth lines of each stanza are in trochaic tetramter (four trochaic feet per line: DUMta DUMta DUMta DUMta).

Of course, when I sing this to myself (which is far more often than most of you would guess), I sing the alto part to a choral setting that I cannot find on YouTube. Alas. I can share with you this clip from the 1996 movie version of Twelfth Night, with Sir Ben Kingsley as Feste, which includes a nice performance (interrupted by some dialogue between Viola and Orsino):

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Fiddler said...

Kelly, I'm enjoying your posts even more this month--poems and music together give me a real boost. And that part of that particular version of Twelfth Night (Ben Kingsley singing "O Mistress Mine") is an all time favorite movie scene. Thanks for finding and sharing the YouTube clip!

Kelly Fineman said...

My favorite Ben Kingsley singing moment is at the end of the movie, when he sings "When that I was and a little tiny boy, singing hey ho, the wind and the rain . . ." There's something mesmerizing and simple and pure about it, to say nothing of his singing straight to camera.

I'm glad you're enjoying this month of posts - it's been a fun challenge for me so far, and I still have nearly half a month to go!

Anonymous said...

I read that there was a choral arrangment you couldn't find on youtube. Our Madrigals did this piece. Would this be it?