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POEMS ABOUT Shakespeare


A Funeral Elegy written on Burbage’s death

When Burbage played-

They all want to play Hamlet –

Pete the Parrot and Shakespeare:

Romeo and Juliet: The Prologue.

The Passionate Pilgrim:1599.

‘In Remembrance of Master William Shakespeare’

SHAKESPEARE-Matthew Arnold

On worthy Master Shakespeare and his Poems.

On Shakespeare`s Sonnets:

William Shakespeare by cliff kawerani

Guilielmus Rex Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907)

‘A funerall Elegy on the death of the famous Actor Richard Burbage:
who died on Saturday in Lent, the 13th of March 1618’.
Although there were earlier transcripts of the text,
it was first published in 1825 in The Gentleman’s Magazine:
KING our source.

The Play now ended, think his grave to be

The retiring house of his sad Tragedie,

Where to give his fame this, be not afraid,

Here lies the best Tragedian ever played.

No more young Hamlet though but scant of breath

Shall cry revenge for his dear father’s death:

Poor Romeo never more shall tears beget

For Juliet’s love and cruel Capulet;

Harry shall not be seen as King or Prince,

They died with thee, Dear Dick –

Not to revive again. Jeronimo

Shall cease to mourn his son Horatio;

They shall not call thee from thy naked bed

By horrid outcry; and Antonio’s dead.

Edward shall lack a representative,

And Crookback, as befits, shall cease to live.

Tyrant Macbeth, with unwash’d bloody hand

We vainly now may hope to understand.

Brutus and Marcius henceforth must be dumb,

For ne’er thy like upon our stage shall come

To charm the faculty of eyes and ears,

Unless we could command the dead to rise.

Vindex is gone, and what a loss was he!

Frankford, Brachiano and Malevolo

Heart-broke Philaster and Amintas too

Are lost forever; with the red-haired Jew,

Which sought the bankrupt merchant’s pound of flesh,

By woman-lawyer caught in his own mesh.

What a wide world was in that little space,

Thyself a world, the Globe thy fittest place!

Thy stature small, but every thought and mood

Might thoroughly from thy face be understood,

And his whole action he could change with ease

From Ancient Lear to youthful Pericles.

But let me not forget one chiefest part

Wherein beyond the rest, he moved the heart,

The grieved Moor, made jealous by a slave

Who sent his wife to fill a timeless grave,

Then slew himself upon the bloody bed.

All these and many more with him are dead,

Thereafter must our poets leave to write.

Since thou art gone, dear Dick, a tragic night

Will wrap our black-hung stage. He made a Poet,

And those who yet remain full surely know it;

For having Burbadge to give forth each line

It filled their brain with fury more divine.

Henry Austin Dobson (1840-1921) wrote a rondeau entitled ‘When Burbage Played’:

‘When Burbage played, the stage was bare

Of fount and temple, tower and stair,

Two broadswords eked a battle out;

Two supers made a rabble rout;

The Throne of Denmark was a chair!

And yet, no less the audience there

Thrilled through all changes of Despair,

Hope, Anger, Fear, Delight and Doubt,

When Burbage played.

This is the Actor’s gift; to share

All moods, all passions, nor to care

One whit for scene, so he without

Can lead men’s minds the roundabout,

Stirred as of old, these hearers were

When Burbage played.’

They all want to play Hamlet –

They all want to play Hamlet.
They have not exactly seen their fathers killed
Nor their mothers in a frame-up to kill
Nor an Ophelia dying with a dust gagging the heart
Not exactly the spinning circles of singing golden spiders
Not exactly this have they got at nor the meaning of flowers
O flowers, flowers slung by a dancing girl
in the saddest play the ink-fish Shakespeare, ever wrote.

Yet they all want to play Hamlet because it is sad like all actors are sad
And to stand by an open grave with a jokers skull in the hand
and then to say over slow and say over slow
wise, keen, beautiful words masking a heart thats breaking, breaking
This is something that calls to their blood
They are acting when they talk about it
and they know it is acting to be particular about it and yet:
They all want to play Hamlet.

Pete the Parrot and Shakespeare:

I got acquainted with a parrot named Pete recently, who is an interesting bird. Pete says he used to belong to the follow that ran the Mermaid Tavern in London.
Then I said you must have known Sh.
Know him? said Pete. Poor mutt I knew him well;
he called me Pete and I called him Bill.
But why do you say poor mutt?
Well said Pete, Bill was a disappointed man and was always boring his friends about what he might have been and done, if only he had a fair break.
Two or three pints of sack and sherris and the tears would trickle down into his beard, and his beard would get soppy and wilt his collar.
I remember one night when Bill and Ben Jonson and Frankie Beaumont were sopping it up.

Here I am Ben, says Bill nothing but a lousy playwright,
and with anything like luck in the breaks
I might have been a fairly decent Sonnet writer.
I might have been a poet, if I had kept away from the theatre.

Yes, says Ben, I ve often thought of that Bill.
But one consolation is you are making pretty good money out of the theatre.

Money money, says Bill, what the hell is money.
What I want is to be a poet, not a business man.
These damned cheap shows I turn out
to keep the theatre running break my heart.
Slapstick comedies and blood and thunder tragedies and melodramas
-Say I wonder if that boy heard you order another bottle Frankie-
the only compensation is that I get a chance
now and then to stick in a little poetry when nobody is looking.
But hells bells that isn`t what I want to do!
I want to write Sonnets and songs and Spenserian stanzas
And I might have done it too if I hadn`t got into this frightful showgame.
Business, business, business, Grind, grind, grind.
What a life for a man that might have been a poet.

Well, says Frankie Beaumont, Why don`t you cut it Bill?

I can`t says Bill. I need the money, I`ve got a family to support down in the country.

Well says Frankie, Anyhow you write pretty good plays Bill.

Any mutt can write plays for this London public
says Bill, if he puts enough murder in them.
What they want is kings talking like Kings never had enough sense to talk.
And stabbings and stranglings, and fatmen making love,
and clowns basting each other with clubs,
and cheap puns, and off-color allusions to all the smut of the day.
Oh I know what the low-brows want and I give it to them.

Well, says Ben Jonson, Don`t blubber into the drink,
brace up like a man and quit the rotten business.

I can`t, I can`t, says Bill, I `ve been at it too long.
I`ve got to the place now where I can`t write anything else but this cheap stuff.
I`m ashamed to look an honest young Sonneteer in the face.
I live a hell of a life I do.
The manager hands me some mouldy old manuscript and says,

Bill here`s a plot for you.
This is the third of the month by the tenth
I want a good script out of this, that we can start rehearsals
on not too big a cast, And not too much of your damn poetry either.
You know your old familiar line of hokum.
They eat up that Falstaff stuff of yours, ring him in again!
And give them a good ghost or two.
And remember we gotta have something Dick Burbage can get his teeth into.
And be sure and stick in a speech somewhere
the Queen will take for a personal compliment.
And if you get in a line about the honest English yeoman, it`s always good stuff.
And it`s a pretty good stunt Bill to have the heavy villain a Moor or a Dago or a Jew or something like that.
And say I want another comic welshman in this.
But I don`t need to tell you this game.
Just some of your ordinary Hokum.
And maybe you could kill a little kid or two, a Prince or something; They like a little pathos along with the dirt.
Now you better see Burbage tonight and see what he wants in that part.

Oh, says Bill, to think I am debasing my talents with junk like that. Oh God, what I wanted was to be a poet,
and write sonnet serials like a gentleman should.

Well says I, Pete, Bill`s plays are highly esteemed to this day.

Is that so says Pete.
Poor mutt, little he would care, what Bill wanted was to be a poet.

-from Archy and Mehitabel.
Don Marquis-1927.

Reading Shakespeare can be like sucking shards of shattered glass between the tongue and hard palate; eventually it becomes coagulate gore. –W.S. Sunday Oct.25th 1992.

Romeo and Juliet: The Prologue.

Two households, both alike in dignity
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.

From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life;
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Doth with their death bury their parents` strife.

The fearful passage of their death-marked love
And the continuance of their parents` rage,
Which, but their childrens` end, naught could remove,
Is now the two hours traffic of our stage;
The which if you with patient ears attend,
What here shall miss, our toil shall strive to mend.

The Passionate Pilgrim:1599.
1.( see Q138)

When my love swears that she is made of truth,
I do believe her, though I know she lies,
That she might think me some untutor`d youth,
Unskilful in the world`s false forgeries.

Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,
Although I know my years be past the best,
I smiling credit her false-speaking tongue,
Outfacing faults in love with love`s ill rest.

But wherefore says my love that she is young?

And wherefore say not I that I am old?

O, love`s best habit is a soothing tongue,
And age, in love, loves not to have years told.

Therefore I`ll lie with love, and love with me,
Since that our faults in love thus smother`d be.

2. (See Q144. ).

Two loves I have, of comfort and despair,
That like two spirits do suggest me still;
My better angel is a man right fair,
My worser spirit a woman colour`d ill.

To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her fair pride.

And whether that my angel be turn`d fiend,
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell:
For being both to me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another`s hell:
The truth I shall not know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

‘In Remembrance of Master William Shakespeare’
by Sir William Davenant.( More in Chambers)!!

Beware ( delighted poets), when you sing
To welcome Nature in the early spring,
Your num’rous feet not tread
The banks of Avon; for each flower
( As it ne’er knew a sun or shower)
Hangs there the pensive head…


Others abide our question.Thou art free.
We ask and ask: Thou smilest and art still,
Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill
That to the stars uncrowns his majesty,
Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea,
Making the Heaven of Heavens his dwelling-place,
Spares but the cloudy border of his base
To the foil”d searching of mortality:

And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know,
Self-school`d, self-scann”d, self-honoured, self-secure,
Didst walk on the earth unguessed at. Better so!
All pains the immortal spirit must endure,
All weakness that impairs, all griefs that bow,
Find their sole voice in that victorious brow.

On worthy Master Shakespeare and his Poems.

A mind reflecting ages past,whose cleere
And equall surface can make things appeare
Distant a Thousand yeares,and represent
Them in their lively colours,just extent.

To out-run hasty Time,retrive the fates,
Rowle backe the heavens,blow ope the iron gates
Of death and Lethe.where (confused) lye
Great heapes of ruinous mortalitie.

In that deepe duskie dungeon to discerne
A royal Ghoste from Churles; By art to learne
The Physiognomie of shades, and give
Them suddaine birth, wondring how oft they live;
What story coldly tells, what Poets faine
At second hand, and picture without braine,
Senselesse and soullesse showes.
To give a Stage
(Ample and true with life ) voice, action, age,
As Plato`s yeare and new Scene of the world
Them unto us, or us to them had hurld:
To raise our auncient Soveraignes from their herse,
Make Kings his subjects; by exchanging verse
Enlive their pale trunkes, that the present age
Joyes in their joy, and trembles at their rage:
Yet so to temper passion, that our eares
Take pleasure in their paine: And eyes in teares
Both weepe and smile: fearefull at plots so sad,
Then, laughing at our feare; abus`d and glad
To be abus`d; affected with that truth
Which we perceive is false; pleas`d in that ruth
At which we start; and by elaborate play
Tortur`d and tickled; by a crablike way
Time made pastime, and in ugly sort
Disgorging up his ravaine for our sport-
-While the Plebeian Impe, from lofty throne,
Creates and rules a world, and workes upon
Mankind by secret engines; Now to move
A chilling pitty, then a rigorous love:
To strike up and stroake down, both joy and ire;
To steere th ‡ffections; and by heavenly fire
Mould us anew.

Stolne from ourselves-
This, and much more which cannot be express`d
But by himselfe, his tongue, and his own brest,
Was Shakespeare`s freehold; which his cunning braine
Improv`d by favour of the nine-fold traine,
The buskind Muse, the Commicke Queene, the grand
And lowder tone of Clio; nimble hand,
And nimbler foote of the melodious paire,
The silver-voyced Lady the most faire
Calliope, whose speaking silence daunts,
And she whose prayse the heavenly body chants.

These gently woo`d him, envying one another,
(Obey`d by all as Spouse, but lov`d as brother),
And wrought a curious robe of sable grave,
Fresh greene, and pleasant yellow, red most brave,
And constant blew, rich purple, guiltlesse white,
The lowly Russet, and the Scarlet bright;
Branch`d and embroidred like the painted Spring,
Each leafe match`d with a flower, and each string
Of golden wire, each line of silke; there run
Italian workes whose thred the Sisters spun;
And there did sing, or seeme to sing, the choyce
Birdes of a forraine note and various voyce.

Here hangs a mossey rocke; there playes a faire
But chiding fountaine, purled.

Not the ayre,
Nor cloudes nor thunder, but were living drawne,
Not out of common Tiffany or Lawne,
But fine materialls, which the Muses know,
And onely know the countries where they grow.

Now, when they no longer him enjoy,
In mortall garments pent, ` Death may destroy,`
They say, `his body, but his verse shall live,
And more than nature takes, our hands shall give.

In a lesse volume, but more strongly bound,
Shakespeare shall breathe and speak, with Laurell crown`d
Which never fades.

Fed with Ambrosian meate
In a well-lyned vesture, rich and neate.

` So with this robe they cloath him, bid him weare it,
For time shall never staine, nor envy teare it.

The friendly admirer of his Endowments,

On Shakespeare`s Sonnets:

Whether his loves were many or but two?
Whether his heart grew strong or bled to waste?
Whether he toyed with thought as idlers do
Or some unseasoned lines betray his haste?

We enter here as to an empty house;
As pale folk from a far-off clime and date,
Peep into pictured halls where the carouse
Of mummied Kings once mocked their certain fate.

We gaze at signs he saw but only guess
How he read what we read: not bloom to fruit,
Meal to Moth`s wing, sight to blind eye is less
Recoverable! Time treads life underfoot;
These dead black words can warm us but as coal;
Once, forest leaves, they murmured round his soul.

-Sturge Moore

What neede my Shakespeare for his honour`d bones
The labour of an Age in piled stones,
Or that his hallow`d Reliques should be hid
Under a star-ypointing Pyramid?

Dear Sonne of Memory, great Heire of Fame,
What needst thou such dull witness of thy Name?
Thou in our wonder and astonishment
Hast built thyself a lasting Monument:
For whilst, to the shame of slow endevouring Art,
Thy easie numbers flow, and that each heart
Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued Booke
Those Delphicke Lines with deep Impression tooke;
Then thou, our fancy of herself bereaving,
Dost make us Marble with too much conceiving;
And, so Sepulcher`d, i n such pompe dost lie,
That Kings for such a Tombe would wish to die.

-John Milton.

De geest van Gentle Will is mij vannacht verschenen-
-zijn engels klonk zowaar, of hij `t in Oxford leerde-
Een tijdlang zat hij stil te mompelen voor zich henen,
helaas was er geen kans, dat ik een woord noteerde.

Maar eindelijk keek hij op. Ik dacht: zou ik het wagen-
-mijn engels is niet sterk en dan een man als hij-
Tenslotte kreeg ik moed en formuleerde vragen:
Zij kwellen – net als U – al vele jaren mij.

“Wie was de Jongeling en wie de Donkre Dame?“-
begon ik stotterend en aarzelde bedeesd-
“Wij zoeken eeuwenlang vergeefs al naar hun namen!
Oh, zeg me, Gentle Will! wie of het zijn geweest.“

“En zeg me, Grote Geest, die driehoekssituatie,
is die nu waar gebeurd – of is ze slechts fictief?
Ikzelf geloof eraan, maar ach, Uw reputatie
heeft men in Engeland nog altijd veel te lief.“

De geest keek lachend op en zei: “ Mijn beste jongen:
Ik ben een heel oud man en was altijd discreet.
Al bij mijn levenstijd heb ik ze zo bezongen,
dat tot op dit moment geen mens de waarheid weet.“

“Mijn vriend toch was mijn vriend; en een dame is een dame.
Ik had ze beiden lief. Hoe – dat weet ik alleen…
Wij, in de oude tijd, wij noemden nimmer namen
En dan: men heeft getoond zich veel te veel te schamen-“
Toen neeg de geest het hoofd en lachte en verdween.

– Coenraad van Emde Boas.

-Austin Dobson

What, lofty Shakespeare, art agine reviv`d?
And Virbius like now show`st thy self twice liv`d,
Tis love that thus to thee is showne,
That labours his, the glory still thine owne.
These learned poems amongst thine after-birth,
That makes thy name immortal on the earth,
Will make the learned still admire to see,
The Muses gifts to fully infus`d on thee.
Let carping Momus barke and bite his fill,
And ignorant Davus slight thy learned skill:
Yet those who know the worth of thy desert,
And with true judgement can discerne thy art,
Will be admirersof thy high tun`d straine,
Amongst whose number let me still remaine.

John Warren, Commendatory poem to 1640 version of the Sonnets.

I like to think of Shakespeare, not as when
In our London of the spacious time
He took all amorous hearts with honeyed rhyme;
Or flung his jest at Burbage and at Ben;
Or speared the flying follies with his pen;
Or, in deep hour, made Juliet`s love sublime;
Or from Lear`s kndness and Iago`s crime
Caught tragic hint of heaven`s dark way with men.

These were great memories, but he laid them down.
And when, with brow composed and friendly tread,
He sought the little streets of Stratford town,
That knew his dreams and soon must hold him dead,
I like to think how Shakespeare pruned his rose,
And ate his pippin in his orchard close.

-E.K. Chambers, author of The Elizabethan Stage( 4 vols.).
and William Sh.: A Study of Facts and Problems ( 2 vols.).

William Shakespeare by cliff kawerani

Wondered I; if as well hinged on air
Intrigued attention-a pen to trust
Like a cobweb, words he latticed
Leased the whole universe of penning,
In poetry cooking as he excelled
At no cost shared his handpicked
Many years have died but as if yesterday

Still lives he; through top oeuvre
Hard to twig but like words of a toddler
A warrior who knew no sword but pen
Kinsmen: None wore the very forte
Evincing the greatness of the most high

Shakespeare-the bard of Avon
Possessed a heart-a talent to admire
Every talent is a piece of good fortune,
And it takes the keen to pinpoint,
Raise and promulgate.
Earlier this did he; now for the dynamic
cliff kawerani

Guilielmus Rex
Thomas Bailey Aldrich (1836–1907)

THE FOLK who lived in Shakespeare’s day
And saw that gentle figure pass
By London Bridge, his frequent way—
They little knew what man he was.

The pointed beard, the courteous mien, 5
The equal port to high and low,
All this they saw or might have seen—
But not the light behind the brow!

The doublet’s modest gray or brown,
The slender sword-hilt’s plain device, 10
What sign had these for prince or clown?
Few turned, or none, to scan him twice.

Yet ’t was the king of England’s kings!
The rest with all their pomps and trains
Are mouldered, half-remembered things— 15
’T is he alone that lives and reigns!