#Shakespeare400: Birthday Bards Haggard and Shakespeare

Merle Haggard and William Shakespeare both died on their birthdays, but that is not the only thing they have in common.

One was the Bard of Avon; the other, the Bard of the Working Man.

Screenshot 2016-04-07 11.27.59

In medieval British culture, a bard was a professional story teller, a verse-maker and a music composer, usually employed to celebrate a paying patron’s ancestors or activities.

The Bard of Avon (Shakespeare) wrote 154 sonnets, and many of these 14 line poems centered thematically on life’s loves and losses. Sonnet 63 directly addresses how he feels about aging:

Against my love shall be as I am now,
With Time’s injurious hand crushed and o’erworn;
When hours have drained his blood and filled his brow
With lines and wrinkles; when his youthful morn
Hath travelled on to age’s steepy night;
And all those beauties whereof now he’s king
Are vanishing, or vanished out of sight,
Stealing away the treasure of his spring;
For such a time do I now fortify
Against confounding age’s cruel knife,
That he shall never cut from memory
My sweet love’s beauty, though my lover’s life:
His beauty shall in these black lines be seen,
And they shall live, and he in them still green.

In a similar vein, The Bard of the Working Man (Haggard) wrote songs also spoke about life’s love’s and losses. In this last refrain from the song Live this Long, which he sang with Willie Nelson (yet, another bard), he echoes Shakespeare’s theme of aging.
In fact, I’d even like to imagine him including the other “Will” in this verse, Will Shakespeare:

But we’re in pretty good shape, Will, for the shape we’re in
We’ll keep rocking along until we’re gone
But we’d have taking much better care of ourselves
If we’d have known we’s gonna live this long
Yeah, we’d have taking much better care of ourselves
If we’d have known we’s gonna live this long.

They may be gone, but their words endure.

 

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