I start As You Like It, an old friend. I nod my head happily as I read.
One of the things I notice is how Shakespeare does not hang about. Once he has decided on a plot point, he gets the thing done. If they are to go into the Forest of Arden, into that forest they will go even if that rather dramatic event seems decided on the merest caprice of the cross duke. Never explain, never apologise.
And then, of course, there is one of my favourite bits in all of Shakespeare:
And this our life exempt from public haunt
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones and good in every thing.
I smile and smile and smile as I read it. Yes, that is a very, very old friend indeed.
It’s funny, when one stumbles upon the very famous passages. There are so many lovely ones that I could copy them all down. I won’t, because this would become longer than War and Peace. But there are some which caught the universal imagination and have lasted and lasted and lasted, so that four hundred years later schoolchildren can still recite them by heart. That is taken for granted, but if you think about it for a moment, it really is rather miraculous.
So here is the very, very famous:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
And this passage is not famous at all, but I love it and I rather identify with it. They should put it in the all self-help books:
Sir, I am a true labourer: I earn that I eat, get
that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's
happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my
harm, and the greatest of my pride is to see my ewes
graze and my lambs suck.
I was feeling quite grumpy before I started my daily reading, because it’s horrid bitter weather out there and the wind is blowing and blowing. Now I feel better. One can’t help but smile when in the company of such prose.