Shakespeare 400

Dare I presume to pen one word for thee,
The greatest of us all, whose works and fame
Ring round the globe? Have I audacity
Enough to dedicate lines to thy name?
The one who crowned great kings, broke lovers’ hearts,
Wrought new worlds, words and wonders on the page;
Unwound this mortal coil and all its parts,
Made us ourselves, and all the world your stage.
But dare I must; I have no other choice
As one alive in England at this hour:
Four centuries have passed, and still your voice
Compels my heart and hand. Such is your power.
Can words of mine do honour to this day?
I am no Will, but I shall find a way.

 

Had to write something to mark the 400th anniversary of the death of my one true hero, William Shakespeare, on 23 April. It’s a couple of days after the event, I know, but I had to summon enough courage before commemorating the ultimate sonneteer ! N.

 

Midsummer? (again!)

No drowsy dusk, no scent of elderflower
Or honeysuckle, dog-rose, eglantine
And all the garlands of Titania’s bower
As we poor, foolish mortals now incline
Our closest to the sun. Come solstice night,
I should walk, knee-deep, on the feathered edge
Of moth-soft fields suffused in amber light
While Oberon, enthroned beneath the hedge,
Holds court and toasts the world in golden ale.
Instead, I shiver in the house as rain
Smacks on the glass like grape-shot, and a gale
Roars in from the Atlantic once again.
The weathermen despair: all hope depends
On honest Puck, who shall restore amends.

 

I posted this sonnet on 21 June last year: as you’ll gather, honest Puck has been falling down on the job, and it’s distinctly un-Midsummer-ish here in Sussex this year, too! And to think the nights start drawing in again tomorrow…have a splendid weekend, one and all. N.

Following a hunch

Well, Crookback; here you are again. We’ve found
Your slight and poor remains, five hundred years
And more since Bosworth Field. No contrite tears
Were shed for you in England – and what ground
You lay in all that time: no royal bed
Or gilded tomb to pass eternity;
Just common clay, and for a century
We parked cars on your uncrowned, sword-hacked head.
But we’ve been led astray by Will, it seems,
Maligning you as monarch, and as man.
Your kingdom must recast you, if it can
From halt and hunchbacked monster of dark dreams.
Though now we look more kindly on your age
You’ll always be the villain on the stage.

 

The mortal remains of Richard III have been dug up in a car park in Leicester. Sometimes, this is a great country to live in. And while Shakespeare may have propogated rumours, half-truths and a good many outright whoppers about the last Plantagenet king (a sensible move for a playwright working under the Tudors) he did get one thing right in Hamlet: we all end up as dust, be we commoners or kings. N.

Once more unto The Globe…

This cockpit held those vasty fields: I saw
Harfleur in flames; men called back to the breach;
The king declare he wished not one more man
On Crispin Crispianus and beseech
God, and his ragged rogues, as longed-for day
Broke over Agincourt; the turncoat mud
Drag down the new-dubbed knights; the French dismay
And English wonder at the fall of blood.
This is not history, law or holy writ
As some would claim. A play, no more. But I’d
Defy one born in Albion to sit
And watch without a heart made big with pride.
Let ages pass and custom fail: we’ll still
Cry God for Harry, England – and for Will.

 

I had the immense pleasure and privilege of seeing Henry V at Shakespeare’s Globe in London on Friday. I’d booked the tickets months ago and been looking forward to it enormously; this was my fifth trip to the Globe but my first ‘history play’. Needless to say, it was wonderful from start to finish. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee left me largely unmoved, and the less said about the Olympic Games the better. But this production (with the fantastically talented Jamie Parker in the title role), the theatre itself and, of course, Will Shakespeare’s immortal words, reminded me that there are still some reasons to be proud – or, at least, not entirely ashamed – of this benighted country of ours.

Midsummer?

No drowsy dusk, no scent of elderflower
Or honeysuckle, dog-rose, eglantine
And all the garlands of Titania’s bower
As we poor, foolish mortals now incline
Our closest to the sun. Come solstice night,
I should walk, knee-deep, on the feathered edge
Of moth-soft fields suffused in amber light
While Oberon, enthroned beneath the hedge,
Holds court and toasts the world in golden ale.
Instead, I shiver in the house as rain
Smacks on the glass like grape-shot, and a gale
Roars in from the Atlantic once again.
The weathermen despair: all hope depends
On honest Puck, who shall restore amends.

Curtain up

Oh, Will. We’ve found it. After all these years,
We’ve dug it up at last – your wooden O,
That in your day resounded to the cheers
Of lords and groundlings. How were they to know
Their Sunday entertainment would endure
Long after every trace of seats and stage
Had vanished – or that you, a poor, obscure
Hired player, would cast their world, define their age?
Perhaps now we can finally close the door
On those misguided souls who still debate
Who wrote your work – because, they claim, it’s more
Than one low lad from Stratford could create.
It’s not just mud and scattered stones we’ve found
In Shoreditch. It’s our roots. And sacred ground.

 

This made my day. N.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-18351007

Off the grid

It’s been too long. I must go wandering
Again, be free of this, live off the grid
A while, and work the way the old ones did:
Sans phone, sans internet, sans everything.
With dog at heel I’ll stalk the woods and hills
In solitary communion with the land
And put my words on paper, pen in hand –
Sans Microsoft, sans formatting, sans frills.
And so I disappear, but do not doubt
That I’ll return – this is my life, my trade
As I have said – and bring new poems made
By means to trust when all the lights go out.
No broadband reaches where I’m heading to
Which lets me reconnect with what is true.

 

Last post till the weekend, folks, as we’re making a dawn run to deepest (and, if things run true to form, dampest) west Wales tomorrow for a few days’ R&R chez mother-in-law. As always, my heartfelt thanks to my treasured band of fellow WordPress poets for your support and encouragement: look forward to catching up with you all very soon. N.

[The sharp-eyed among you will notice that, although this is (yet another) sonnet, I’ve finally departed from my favourite Shakespearean variant. I don’t know whether this one has an official name – as far as I knew I was making it up – but I enjoyed playing with a new rhyme scheme (ABBA CDDC EFFE GG instead of the usual ABAB CDCD EFEF GG). And of course, there’s more than a slight nod to Will in lines 4 and 8. Credit where it’s due, I always say. N.]

Sonnet: Motley

Come, brand me fool: I will take no offence.
A motley coat is all that I aspire
To wear – no suit fits my uncommon sense –
The wild wind’s liberty my sole desire.
I have my charter, blow on whom I please
And speak my mind, unblushing, where I will.
I mock the world, not to insult or tease:
My jests medicinal, each barb a pill
To treat infection. What the wise ones call
Their sensible pursuits of status, wealth
And comfort, I’ll make light of; though it gall,
My folly is a physic for their health.
For if their Real World is sanity,
I’ll gladly live a fool, be mad – and free.

 

Lugubrious he may be, but Jaques is one of my favourite characters in probably my favourite Shakespeare play, As You Like It. This start-the-week sonnet is inspired by his famous speech in Act II, which follows his first encounter with the equally splendid jester, Touchstone. To my mind, we poets are the sane ones: it’s the rest of the world that’s crazy. And if anyone knows where one can get hold of a motley coat these days, do let me know! N.

A thorny subject

By any other name?

Call me
Barbed-flower
Flesh-ripper
Swell-tendon
Blood-dripper.

My scent is dulled
My colour bled
My suckers rampant
Leaders dead.

Call me
Shirt-snagger
Finger-finder
Hand-harrow
Eye-blinder.

Hack me down
Cut me deep
Burn my remains
Leave me to sleep.

Call me
Fly-ridden
Rust-spotted
Mildew-powdered
Canker-rotted.

Then tell me how
Sweet I smell now.

Pruned a rose bush this morning. Didn’t enjoy it much!

Will and me

An effort of Will

He watches me
With dark, half-laughing eyes
From the postcard pinned
Above my desk;
Gold earring gleaming
And, I like to think,
A wink of fellow-feeling
Crackling beneath the paint.

His presence there
Does not intimidate;
We’re confederates, co-conspirators,
Rattling off the long day’s paid-for pages head-and-hand
While the heart beats to the rhythm
Of words that will be written
When doors are closed, lights dimmed,
And the world looks the other way.

Two country lads:
One weaving his boyhood’s woodbine and eglantine
To make a bower for a fairy queen,
And placing a bouquet of well-remembered weeds
In poor Ophelia’s hands;
Winding his word-girdle round the world
Unknowingly; lines penned to play for pay tonight
That would stretch a thousand years.

The other
Labouring under the master’s gaze
With foolish tales of tractors, trees
Shepherds, birds and hunting-dogs
In his own daily comedy
Of errors. I look on Will
And know that his perfection’s out of reach.
But I would learn from all he has to teach.