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In Winter's Cold

Lyrics Based on Shakespeare Sonnet 2

Music by Charles Wolff

Real Audio Clip


Shakespeare's Text

When forty winters shall beseige thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty's field,
Thy youth's proud livery, so gazed on now,
Will be a tatter'd weed, of small worth held:
Then being ask'd where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days,
To say, within thine own deep-sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserved thy beauty's use,
If thou couldst answer 'This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count and make my old excuse,'
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel'st it cold.

Research Notes

[ Leischman61:138] writes "...Shakespeare and the ancients have this in common, that to them, although they recommend submission, Time and Age are as hateful as they are to him who persists in his defiance."

[Wilson74: 146]: "It was shocking of Shakespeare to begin his sonnet sequence by trying to persuade his friend to marry. In the flabby end of the sonnet tradition in England, the sonneteer could plead with his lady to marry him... but this was a different matter, for he worshipped her with the irrationality and passion of romantic love. Shakespeare writes to a man, and he advocates the contractual bound that courtly lovers held in contempt. The motive he suggests is that of self-propagation and for the extraordinary purpose of handing on his beauty to succeeding generations. This must have startled [Shakespeare's] contemporaries... [they] are also likely to have noticed that the first sonnets, in their sweet, ornate tones, use arguments from a very lengthy, learned and earnest 'Epistle to persuade a young gentleman to marriage', which was written by Erasmus and had appeared in Thomas Wilson's The Art of Rhetorique in 1553..." [Wilson74:152] "[Sonnet 2] is pure Erasmus, but from the personal rather than the community angle. The dearth and the winter concern the man, not nature... Shakespeare's sonnet culminates in the fatuous old man showing his child, and claiming that it has the beauty of his own youth, here taking the pose of Erasmus..." I pretty much went with "the experts" on this one; since I was deliberately including it so that the "marry and have children" theme was explored, I felt like I shouldn't do any major reinterpretation of the text.

My Interpretation

I chose this sonnet because it seemed like the most "accessible" of the first twenty-six sonnets, the group of sonnets whose purpose is to encourage the "young friend" to marry and have children. These initial sonnets had such an impact on me, as a new reader encountering the collection for the first time, that I felt it would be almost "cheating" not to set at least one sonnet from this group.

Musical Style Considerations

To simplify the final mixdown process, I wanted to record the songs in their final order, which meant that this one was the first one recorded - and thus, was the first one that I had to "force" the development of a tune. What I came up with is probably one of the more "nondescript" musical settings of the project - unfortunate for an "album opener," but indiciative of my getting started on the whole project. I suppose the upside of this is that it served to force me to find unusual things to do with all the following sonnets.

The actual musical style used is a medium-tempo rock style - in a sense, the particular music style used here isn't supposed to support or encourage a particular interpretation, or to remind the user of other songwriters or songs - it's just a vehicle for setting this particular set of lyrics, and the message is carried in the lyrics.

Lyrical Adaptation

The basic adaptation of this sonnet consisted of using each of the quatrains as a "verse," in their original order, and the final couplet as a chorus, repeated after each verse. In the original sonnet, the rhyme between lines 2 and 4 was "field" and "held"; I rewrote line 4 to "unto the ravages of time must yield" - not the most original phrasing, but it preserved the meter and sense but with a true rhyme. Since the first two verses pose the question that the third one answers, I expressed the first two choruses as "How, then, to be made new..." The third chorus begins, "And so, to be made new..." reflecting the answer provided in the third verse. Other minor rephrasing was done, where needed to clarify the meaning of the lyric.

Iambic Pentameter Musical Setting

For each pair of lines in the verse, I split the first line up into two phrases and then sang the second line as a single phrase. In the chorus, the first line is split into two phrases, and the last phrase into three - "How then" "to warm the blood" "in winter's cold." I had a difficult time working out the musical phrasing for this last phrase, but I think the solution I came up with works.

Adapted Song Lyric

In Winter's Cold

adaptation and music Copyright 1998 Charles Wolff

When forty winters shall beseige your brow,
And dig deep trenches in your beauty's field
Your youthful looks, so gazed upon just now
Unto the ravages of time must yield.

How, then, to be made new when one is old?
How, then, to warm the blood in winter's cold?

When you are asked where all your beauty lies
And all the treasure of your lusty days,
If just within your own deep-sunken eyes,
That's nothing more than shame and empty praise.

How, then, to be made new when one is old?
How, then, to warm the blood in winter's cold?

How much more praise deserves your beauty's use
If you could answer, "This fair child of mine
Shall be my glory," making no excuse;
His beauty bringing memories of thine.

And so to be made new when one is old?
And feel the warmth again in winter's cold?

Real Audio Clip


Maintained by: Charles Wolff
Last Updated: 6/5/98