Shakespeare: Poem on Spring

The following poem ends Shakespeare's play, Love's Labor Lost. This was among his comedies, and the poem is certainly meant to be humorous. It plays on that stereotype of spring fever when people's emotions are thought to get the better of them.

When daisies pied, and violets blue,
   And lady-smocks all silver-white,
And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue
   Do paint the meadows with delight,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men, for thus sings he:
     'Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo!' O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear.

When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
   And merry larks are ploughmen's clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
   And maidens bleach their summer smocks,
The cuckoo then, on every tree,
Mocks married men, for thus sings he:
     'Cuckoo!
Cuckoo, cuckoo!' O word of fear,
Unpleasing to a married ear.

Of course, the "cuckoo" is the reminder to the "cuckold" that his wife has been unfaithful. There seems to be a tremendous amount of temptation and abandon induced by the season of spring, a wanton disregard of convention. Shakespeare gives a warning, for those who do step over the line cause misery and fear. A woman hurts her husband, and a man, by cuckolding another, only expands the universe of cuckoldry so that he might have reason to fear as well.

It is interesting to contrast this poem with one by the ancient Roman, Catullus, on a Predestined Husband. Also we are reminded of the song in the musical Camelot refering to the Month of May.

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Interesting Fact:

William Shakespeare had a brother named Edmond who followed him to London and became a "player" on the stage. His career was tragically cut short in 1607 before he reached the age of 30.


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