TURNING POP SONGS INTO SHAKESPEARIAN SONNETS. In his New Yorker article (July 6 and 13) on love songs and Shakespearean sonnets, Adam Gopnik writes about Erik Didriksen, who has been regularly publishing Shakespearean sonnets which are translations into Shakespearean English of contemporary pop songs. Here is the Pop Sonnets site. All of the sonnets are in iambic pentameter with the rhymes scheme ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. Didriksen announces on the site that a book of 100 sonnets will be published in the U.S. and Canada on October 6.

Here is a Beatles song in sonnet form:


“O, there are tasks impossible to bring
to resolution by a person’s choice
the hymns that only cherubim can sing
cannot be sounded by a mortal voice

nor can the objects that cannot be made
be fashioned by the work of human hands,
nor can’st thou come to any victim’s aid
if that should contradict cruel Fate’s demands.

But waste no tears for what thou can’t pursue,
for there are ventures greater still than these.
To live—to care—to thine own self be true—
all noble occupations done with ease

—if thou art guided by the simple creed
that love is all thy life doth truly need.

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  1. I had never heard it before, until it popped up somewhere and caught me by surprise,
    the song from “Hair” called “What a Piece of Work is Man.” It was incredible.
    Here was one of Hamlet’s major moments of self-revelation, even as he is
    concealing most of his true feelings from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
    I was so blown away by it, that Vanessa David made a copy for me! The music
    highlights the lyrics that many of us now take for granted, because we have heard them
    so often, we can practically recite them along with the actor doing the role (the way
    Churchill, as an audience member, did to poor Richard Burton, who tried to shake him off by changing speeds, but he just couldn’t. Churchill knew the role as well as he did!)

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