Hannah Crawforth & Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, On Shakespeare’s Sonnets

Shakespeare died on 23 April 1616. Except that he didn’t. He’s been alive and well for four centuries. He’s ever-present in our vocabulary, idioms, images and culture. “My verse shall stand” he asserts in Sonnet 60, and, in Sonnet 55, that “Not marble nor the gilded monuments/ Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme”. His confidence in the strength of his own verbal immortality, expressed in so many of the sonnets, has proved more than justified.

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Tales from the Trees: Borrowdale Yews, Cumbria - Wordsworth's ancient

The continuous ridge of russet, stone-strewn lakeland mountain encircles a valley floor as flat as a paddy field. Lights of farms are beginning to spark and the cries of tawny owls reverberate around the bowl of darkening fells. In the distance, sunset pinks the snow-dusted peak of Glaramara. It is a suitable stage to approach the most notable trees of northern England.