The Keats-Shelley Blog

30 March 2020

Week 1: Keats-Shelley Synchronised Reading Group - Shakespeare’s Sonnet 44

The Keats-Shelley Synchronised Reading Group starts 1st April, 12 noon GMT with Shakespeare's sonnet 44.

The Keats-Shelley Synchronised Reading Group starts with William Shakespeare - as John Keats suggested in his original letter to George and Georgiana Keats in December 1818:

‘I shall read a passage of Shakespeare every Sunday at ten oClock – you read one at the same time and we shall be as near each other as blind bodies can be in the same room.’

We haven't chosen a passage from a play (sorry John) but a sonnet - number 44 - which we feel embodies the project rather better than I am doing now. 

Sonnet 44: 1609 Quarto Version

Keats-Shelley House will begin reading on Wednesday, 1 April at 12pm GMT - and we hope you will join us for, say, 15 minutes or so. We will begin the countdown on Twitter a few minutes earlier.

What you do next is entirely up to you. Join us and Shakespeare. In a silent way. In a loud way out of the window.

If you would prefer to continue with your own book - or read Where the Wild Things Are to the kids - please do so. 

The important thing is the reading - alone and together, wherever and whenever we are.

Please tell us where you are reading, what you are reading, who is reading with you, what you are feeling - on Keats-Shelley Twitter or Facebook

You can find Sonnet 44 below - in its modern version. We have also included John Gielgud reading in full thespianic mode. If the spirit moves you to record your own performance, please do and send to us:

Sonnet XLIV
By William Shakespeare

If the dull substance of my flesh were thought,
Injurious distance should not stop my way;
For then despite of space I would be brought,
From limits far remote, where thou dost stay.
No matter then although my foot did stand
Upon the farthest earth removed from thee;
For nimble thought can jump both sea and land
As soon as think the place where he would be.
But ah! thought kills me that I am not thought,
To leap large lengths of miles when thou art gone,
But that, so much of earth and water wrought,
I must attend time's leisure with my moan,
   Receiving nought by elements so slow
   But heavy tears, badges of either's woe.

To download the text, click here. Listen to John Gielgud giving the sonnet the full Gielgud below.

James Kidd