He who lives by celebrity, dies by celebrity

(Note: in this entry, a reader asks me to paraphrase a Shakespeare sonnet in contemporary language, and I give it a try.)

Charles Krauthammer traces the arc of Obama’s celebrity, from his 2004 keynote address that started it all, to his 2008 acceptance speech, where, as Krauthammer cleverly explains, Obama’s pre-Berlin hubris, reflected in the classical columns and rock-star fireworks, clashed with the pedestrian themes of his speech that were chosen after his staff had realized that his messianism had jumped the shark in Berlin.

And then, as all the world knows, the next morning Obama’s nemesis Sarah suddenly appeared.

As Tennyson might have put it,

The old celebrity fadeth, yielding place to new…

Or Shakespeare in his seventh sonnet:

Lo! in the orient when the gracious light
Lifts up his burning head, each under eye
Doth homage to his new-appearing sight,
Serving with looks his sacred majesty;
And having climb’d the steep-up heavenly hill,
Resembling strong youth in his middle age,
Yet mortal looks adore his beauty still,
Attending on his golden pilgrimage:
But when from highmost pitch, with weary car,
Like feeble age, he reeleth from the day,
The eyes, ‘fore duteous, now converted are
From his low tract, and look another way….

- end of initial entry -

Ben W. writes:

Would you mind paraphrasing that Shakespeare sonnet stuff you quote? In preparation for an exam at school, I used to buy the Classics comics version of Shakespearean plays (just to get the characters’ names and plot right). “To be or not to be” was “I’m here but should I be here if I can do something better elsewhere?” You see how much more understandable the Classics comics version is? You could probably do a pretty good job rewriting The Bard.

LA replies:

Well, here’s an attempt:

Hey! When the sun comes up in the morning
It sure feels good after the long cold night.
We look up, and feel that warmth on our faces
Everyone is so glad to see the sun!
And as that sun gets higher in the sky
It’s like a handsome, charismatic guy,
And everyone says, “Look at that dude,
He’s got to be the one, let’s follow him!”
But when, at the height of his popularity,
He suddenly loses his cool and acts like a jerk,
The people don’t know what to think anymore.
So they turn away and forget about him.

LA continues:

The problem with this version is, the sun turns into the dude instead of being a metaphor for him. But that’s part of the problem one has to resolve. If you’re rendering Shakespeare for contempory people, do you use metaphor at all? Do you make the poem be about the sun, or do you leave aside the sun metaphor and make the poem just be about the dude?

Adela G. writes:

What an apt swipe at Obama. I think he’d be gratified to know that you chose a Shakespearean sonnet to refer to him, then chagrined at the use to which you put it. Lift him up, then knock him down; he won’t get back up anytime soon. He’s not too bouncy, is he?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 13, 2008 01:28 AM | Send

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