Yesterday in Cambridge I was missing a dear friend who died recently. I went into Heffer’s Bookshop (best crime fiction stock of anywhere that I know) and my attention was caught by a book on one of the tables at the front: Poems That Make Grown Men Cry. I’d heard it mentioned on Radio 4. As I turned over the pages I came to Melvin Bragg’s choice: Shakespeare, Sonnet 30 and these words sprang out at me: ‘For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night.’ They so perfectly captured how I felt. Was there anything that Shakespeare didn’t know about the human heart? Here is the whole poem:
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought
I summon up remembrance of things past,
I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,
And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,
For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night,
And weep afresh love’s long since cancelled woe,
And moan the expense of many a vanished sight:
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,
And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er
The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,
Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,
All losses are restor’d and sorrows end.
And you can go here to hear it read by Kenneth Branaugh: . Sublime.