Friday, July 30, 2010

The lowest trees have tops

Enraptured as I am with my new project, which I am calling (for the time being, and without saying much more about it) the Shakespeare poems, it's no wonder that I found myself dialing up Sting's The Journey and the Labyrinth on my iPod, listening to the music of Elizabethan composer, lutenist and possible treasonist, John Dowland, accompanied by prominent lutenist Edin Karamazov.

Today's post is short, but hopefully sweet as well. At least I believe the poem is sweet, in a slightly melancholy way (typical of Dowland's own lyrics as well, and perhaps a hallmark of that particular time).

The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall
by Sir Edward Dyer

The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall,
The fly her spleen, the little spark his heat:
The slender hairs cast shadows, though but small,
And bees have stings, although they be not great;
  Seas have their source, and so have shallow springs;
  And love is love, in beggars and in kings.

Where waters smoothest run, there deepest are the fords,
The dial stirs, yet none perceives it move;
The firmest faith is found in fewest words,
The turtles do not sing, and yet they love;
  True hearts have ears and eyes, no tongues to speak;
  They hear and see, and sigh, and then they break.


Form: This poem is written in what is known as Venus & Adonis stanza, a name taken from Shakespeare's epic poem. It uses iambic pentameter (five iambic feet per line, taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM) and a rhyme scheme of ABABCC.

The poet, Edward Dyer, was a courtier during the time of Elizabeth I. He was a contemporary of some poets I've mentioned in past posts, including his friend, Edmund Spenser, Christopher Marlowe and Sir Walter Raleigh, Ben Jonson, William Shakespeare, and more. He is believed to have been a Rosicrucian based on his study of alchemy. (One of the leading Rosicrucians of the day was Francis Bacon.) Dyer's best-known poem is "My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is. You can read that poem at Bartleby.com or elsewhere online.

For my part, I prefer "The lowest trees have tops, the ant her gall." I especially love the line "And love is love in beggars and in kings." *swoon*

I wish I could have found a better video to embed for you, but this one will have to do:





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