Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

SHAKESPEARE, MEDICINE, AND ME

The responses to my question about American foreign and military policy were quite interesting, and I shall try to add to the discussion with some reactions, but first, let me take a moment to make some purely personal remarks.

Well over a year ago, I developed severe pain in my arms and legs.  After two frustrating months with my doctor, I gave up on him and found a new doctor, who took one look at me and diagnosed me as suffering from something called Polymyalgia Rheumatica, or PMR.  The principal test for PMR, odd as it may sound, is to prescribe a drug called Prednisone.  If the pain goes away, the medical profession concludes that you have PMR.  [How this differs from Hopi rain dances, I do not know.]   So my doctor prescribed 20 mg of Prednisone a day, and in thirty-six hours I was pain free.  Bingo.  I had PMR.  The treatment consists of slowly going off the Prednisone by very small stages, a month at a time, until, magically, one walks away cured.  The diagnosis was confirmed by a rheumatologist, whose name is Reumy Ishizawar.  [I am not making this up, honest.]  I went from 20 mg a day to 17.5, then to 15, then to 12.5, then back up to 15 [a setback, not uncommon, apparently], down again to 12.5, then 10, then 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, and finally, last December 23rd, to 3 mg a day.  I had three months to go.

Five days ago, my arms started to hurt, and by Sunday I was in real pain.  Yesterday [Monday was a holiday], Dr. Ishizawar told me to take 5mg that day and then continue with 5.  Today, the pain is almost entirely gone.  Presumably, I shall continue my march to zero, delayed two months by the setback.

Last night, at about 1 a.m., I was lying in bed thinking about the fact that I was not being kept up by the pain [this is not a contradiction – I always wake up in the middle of the night], and I found myself trying to recall the opening lines of a beautiful and very famous Shakespeare sonnet.  I got as far as “When in ***** with *** and men’s eyes/I all alone beweep my outcast state…”  My inability to recall the rest is not a consequence of my advanced age.  I have never been able to remember poetry or prose, even though I can recall a complex line of Baroque music thirty bars long without difficulty.  Seventy years ago, when I was in high school, my English teacher made us memorize ten lines of our choice from Julius Caesar.  I chose the opening lines of Marc Antony’s famous speech, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears.”  I repeated those lines over and over for a week and managed to spit them out on the test, after which they fell out of my brain, never to return.

Anyway, I finally got up and Googled the line “beweep my outcast state.”  Up popped Sonnet 29.  Here it is:

When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself, and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least;
Yet in these thoughts myself almost despising,
Haply I think on thee, and then my state,
Like to the lark at break of day arising
From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate;
For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings
That then I scorn to change my state with kings. 


Why have I told you all this?  I don’t know, except that it gave me an excuse to reproduce this exquisite sonnet.

6 comments:

s. wallerstein said...

A really beautiful sonnet. I have no idea why they make you learn this kind of poetry in high school or even in college when you're much too young to appreciate its beauty and wisdom. I had read the sonnet before, in a Shakespeare course in college, but I had never really read it until now.

Keith said...

Prednisone is a wonder drug and I'm glad it's working for you

B ut, there's that old thing about correlation and causation. Just because it addresses PMR does not mean you actually have same (or not).

My wife has been using it an incredible 30-some years. Up and down with the dose (just like you). She has Lupus; and also sees a rheumatologist. So I'd say you're in the right place.

Good luck with it and thanks for the sonnet.

David Auerbach said...

Prednisone will reduce inflammation whatever the cause. The tapering is needed (after a prolonged highish doses) because your body stops producing its own prednisone-analog. It does start again, but only slowly. Sudden stopping (not just a hitch in your slow taper) can be quite stunning.

It is an exquisite sonnet.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

David, thank you. That makes perfect sense.

Daniel MacDonald said...

It's really an excellent sonnet, thank you for posting it. After reading it I also realized that T.S. Eliot uses a line of it in his poem, "Ash Wednesday".

Seth said...

Great poem. Kids are subjected to poetry precisely because it baits them into trying to remember it much later in their lives ... when they will actually appreciate it ;)