“Sonnet 29” by William Shakespeare (Favorite Poem Project)


I’m Daniel McCall. I live in Boston,
Massachusetts. I’m 81 years old. I’m a retired anthropologist. My father had a small shoe store… went bankrupt when I was nine years old. My mother had died when I was eight
months old in the influenza epidemic of 1918 and I was in an orphanage for a while but I ran away so many times they
wouldn’t take me back and I lived in with my father in a hotel. It was called a family
hotel but I was the only child that was in the hotel. It was during that time I think
that they had a teacher of English, Mrs. Frasher, who required all the classmates to choose a poem and learn it by heart. The poem that I selected, which has lived with me ever since, is certainly one that I learned by heart because poems I found can really live in your heart, they mean a lot to you and the longer you live I guess more thaey mean. I joined the Coast Guard which was a longer commitment of time than being drafted into the Army, but I
thought it would be more fun because I like being on ships. I was still in the Coast Guard when
Pearl Harbor occurred and then the Coast Guard automatically
became part of the Navy and first thing I knew I was on the coast of Asia instead of the coast of North America. Well it was a night in boot camp when I was told
to walk up and down a wharf from 12 to 4 a.m. winter night very cold holding this rifle on my
shoulder. The stock was cold, my hand was cold,
and the wind seemed to be really biting. I started reciting poetry
to myself and I started with poems that I knew. I
started with Shakespeare’s 29th Sonnet. And sometimes I got lost and had to reconstitute and start over again see where I was missing
a line or something wasn’t coming out in the right way. By the time that I got
through all the poems that I was trying to
remember I was being relieved, I gave them the rifle and went back to bed. So the poems help me get through a
difficult night. (hammering sound) This is a poem which I learned when I was in seventh grade and
what it meant to me at that time was that feeling of being in such misfortune. It was my experience in the in the orphanage. And the fact that a situation can turn
around so quickly that business of being well down into
the depths of being able to come up and that seemed to me so hopeful. “Sonnet 29” by William Shakespeare. When, in disgrace with Fortune and men’s eyes, / I all alone beweep my outcast state, / And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries, / And look upon myself and curse my fate, / Wishing me like to one more rich in hope, / Featured like him, / like him with friends possessed, /
Desiring this man’s art and that man’s scope, / With what I most enjoy contented least; / Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising, / Haply I think on thee, and then my heart / like lark at break of day arising /
From sullen earth sings hymns at heaven’s gate; / For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings /
That then I scorn to change my state with kings. The “Favorite Poem Project” is made
possible the National Endowment for the Arts. Fostering America’s creativity and investing in our living cultural
heritage. Additional funding has been provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and by the
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

1 thought on ““Sonnet 29” by William Shakespeare (Favorite Poem Project)

  1. Beautiful Story. This man understands the lowest depths of loneliness. I think this Sonnet gave him hope. I hope he eventually was able to experience that Sweet Love the poem describes.

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