Sunday, April 22, 2007

I am dead and my dog lives on

[Poetry Request # 11]

Well, he did say "any style". So why not Shakespeare - a monologue - with a side nod to Browning?

I'm not sure what inspired this - it may have been the fact that I watched a performance of Othello yesterday, it may have been the news that they've discovered more of the Bard's work, it may have been that watching Iago always makes me think of Richard III. At any rate, here is Act I, Scene I.


I am dead, and my dog lives on.
My dog, I say; for when love is gone
what is left of the body but a barking cur,
a very beast that wears the collar
of my name, sniffs out my lust.
Her bitch is dead, she says, and lies
by the pond. O'er this she grieves, weeps,
sheds more tears than the summer has rain;
but my gift of a nine hundred year name
she does not heed. Is not this abuse?
To set the use of my ancient worth
against a moment's idle vanity
were to weigh with a scale of feathers,
balance gold against mirrored sunlight.
And am I thus to be contradicted?
Fie! Would that the bitch were dead!

But wait, wait - perhaps there were policy
in this, perhaps this seeming folly
were but outward show, and the barred gate
of this woe no more than a hurdle
such as the beloved are wont to set
in their pursuer's path, that o'erleapt,
it may prove a fence for privacies.
It may be so. But to quibble o'er
a hound! And besides, her tears were true.
What else then? Could it be that she,
sworn to another already,
likes not my wooing, and devises
this excuse to be rid of me? But who
could offer her more than I? There is none
that may. And to believe her beguiled
by some simple swain were an abuse
as bitter as to think this refusal
comes, as it seems, from a mere pet.

So be it then, let the heart forget,
the eye unchoose, and the hope repent
that it was e'er named. Oh, that the
wish were ne'er baptised in language,
that it may be the more easily damned!
But patience, patience. To slap a knave
were to lose but a glove. And something
may yet be gained from these passes -
a thing not of the marrow, but of the blood.
To see these matters in heat
were to be blinded by a day of grief,
such as makes the sight squint
against its own vantage. This light spent,
my thoughts darken apace and the outline
of a new scheme comes into view.
May not this loss be bent to my profit?
I am a dog, I say, and here is a mistress
who is missing one. May not her fancy
then prove ripe to more dog-eared
pursuit? The absence in her lap
fed with a bone so resolute?
Ay! this is the trick indeed! To wear
muscle in a sleeve of commisseration,
to grease the lock of her affection
with a slipped sympathy, and bear
a part at her side that may bear
another part inside her. So is she both won
and lost. Her dog is dead, she says.
Well, then, here is another found.
If she will not have me as a lover,
then she shall have me as a hound.

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