Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
My mother wanted to be an English teacher when she was growing up. Many of her older siblings went to college, but when she was still a child, my grandfather’s bank manager ran off with all the money in his bank. This was before FDIC, so people could have lost everything. Instead, my grandfather sold his mill, electric company, his farm and his house and made all the depositors whole even though he was not obligated to do so since it was a corporation. This left him impoverished and having to start over from scratch in his late sixties. He began again as a dairy farmer on contract to a local creamery, paying $1.00 per acre, but obligated to sell his produce only to that creamery for 30 years, a northern form of share-cropping. This ended any chance my mom had of going to college.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
However, Mom did become an English teacher – at least an English teacher to her children. While my siblings were mostly adults by the time I was born, they had the same experience of having to memorize one poem a week. All of us, including Dad, had to memorize the poems. There were times I thought it was a pain having one more assignment – even in the summer. But really, having all these poems on mental speed-dial was kind of wonderful and it has been a rich reward all my life to have poetry ready to spring to life and add a layer to how I see and experience events.
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
Mom’s favorites were Shakespeare, John Donne, Yeats, William Blake and Edna St. Vincent Millay, but her first and strongest love was Shakespeare and this was one of her favorites. She loved his egocentric assumption that his poem would be her posterity. Well, he was right, so just because he was arrogant, didn’t make him wrong. Shakespeare has a sly wit that just has to make you smile.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
My grandfather’s scrupulous insistence on selling everything he owned and making his depositors whole may have impoverished him financially, but it enriched him in other ways. He left a moral example for his children that has been passed down from his children to his grandchildren to his great-great and great-great-great grandchildren. Not only that, but when I was doing some family research and went back to that town where he had lived all those years ago, the clerk at the court house asked if I was really his granddaughter before pulling out a town history published a few years ago, dedicated to my grandfather who had moved away from that town more than seventy years earlier. That is a legacy worth more than wealth.
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