For this week’s installment of Monday Morning Poetry, I’d like to share William Shakespeare’s (1564–1616) “When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes”:
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 state,
Like to the 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 word “bootless” means “ineffectual” or “futile.”
I enjoy this poem because it recounts a change of perspective. As literary critic Leland Ryken points out, although the content is not explicitly Christian, the outlook it presents is consistent with a Christian attitude. As we all know, the comparison game is deadly, leading to either self-righteousness or self-loathing, depending on the circumstances. Neither attitude is Christlike and calls for repentance.
The only way out is to meditate on the wonder of grace and glory of Christ. Sometimes singing hymns is the medicine our soul needs.