Archive for March, 2003

SHAKESPEARE – JULIUS CAESAR III/II

26 March 2003

I was served Shakespeare at High School as part of a subject called “English”, which is strange for all sorts of reasons when you dwell on it.  Anyway, I struggled with the material until Julius Caesar and the following excerpt.

This was the the tipping point for me, after which I “got” Shakespeare.  The rhetoric is poetic here, and I each time I read through even just this piece of text, I discover more.  It is true to say that Shakespeare keeps on giving.

This excerpt is from Shakespeare’s ‘Julius Caesar’ Act III Scene II – Rome. The Forum. Brutus, Cassius, and a throng of Citizens enter, Brutus speaks from the Rostrum (Romans, countrymen, and lovers! …), Cassius leaves, then Antony and others arrive carrying Caesar’s body. At this point everyone hates Caesar and loves Brutus. Antony’s fabulous rhetorical argument and wonderful oration soon persuades the crowd to reverse their view…

BRUTUS
Good countrymen, let me depart alone,
And, for my sake, stay here with Antony:
Do grace to Caesar’s corpse, and grace his speech
Tending to Caesar’s glories; which Mark Antony,
By our permission, is allow’d to make.
I do entreat you, not a man depart,
Save I alone, till Antony have spoke.

Exit

First Citizen
Stay, ho! and let us hear Mark Antony.

Third Citizen
Let him go up into the public chair;
We’ll hear him. Noble Antony, go up.

ANTONY
For Brutus’s sake, I am beholding to you.

Goes into the pulpit

Fourth Citizen
What does he say of Brutus?

Third Citizen
He says, for Brutus’s sake,
He finds himself beholding to us all.

Fourth Citizen
‘Twere best he speak no harm of Brutus here.

First Citizen
This Caesar was a tyrant.

Third Citizen
Nay, that’s certain:
We are blest that Rome is rid of him.

Second Citizen
Peace! let us hear what Antony can say.

ANTONY
You gentle Romans,–

Citizens
Peace, ho! let us hear him.

ANTONY
Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer’d it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest–
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men–
Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure, he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

First Citizen
Methinks there is much reason in his sayings.

Second Citizen
If thou consider rightly of the matter,
Caesar has had great wrong.

Third Citizen
Has he, masters?
I fear there will a worse come in his place.

Fourth Citizen
Mark’d ye his words? He would not take the crown;
Therefore ’tis certain he was not ambitious.

First Citizen
If it be found so, some will dear abide it.

Second Citizen
Poor soul! his eyes are red as fire with weeping.

Third Citizen
There’s not a nobler man in Rome than Antony.

Fourth Citizen
Now mark him, he begins again to speak.

ANTONY
But yesterday the word of Caesar might
Have stood against the world; now lies he there.
And none so poor to do him reverence.
O masters, if I were disposed to stir
Your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage,
I should do Brutus wrong, and Cassius wrong,
Who, you all know, are honourable men:
I will not do them wrong; I rather choose
To wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you,
Than I will wrong such honourable men.
But here’s a parchment with the seal of Caesar;
I found it in his closet, ’tis his will:
Let but the commons hear this testament–
Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read–
And they would go and kiss dead Caesar’s wounds
And dip their napkins in his sacred blood,
Yea, beg a hair of him for memory,
And, dying, mention it within their wills,
Bequeathing it as a rich legacy
Unto their issue.

Fourth Citizen
We’ll hear the will: read it, Mark Antony.

All
The will, the will! we will hear Caesar’s will.

ANTONY
Have patience, gentle friends, I must not read it;
It is not meet you know how Caesar loved you.
You are not wood, you are not stones, but men;
And, being men, bearing the will of Caesar,
It will inflame you, it will make you mad:
‘Tis good you know not that you are his heirs;
For, if you should, O, what would come of it!

Fourth Citizen
Read the will; we’ll hear it, Antony;
You shall read us the will, Caesar’s will.

ANTONY
Will you be patient? will you stay awhile?
I have o’ershot myself to tell you of it:
I fear I wrong the honourable men
Whose daggers have stabb’d Caesar; I do fear it.

Fourth Citizen
They were traitors: honourable men!

All
The will! the testament!

Second Citizen
They were villains, murderers: the will! read the will.

ANTONY
You will compel me, then, to read the will?
Then make a ring about the corpse of Caesar,
And let me show you him that made the will.
Shall I descend? and will you give me leave?

Several Citizens
Come down.

Second Citizen
Descend.

Third Citizen
You shall have leave.

ANTONY comes down

Fourth Citizen
A ring; stand round.

First Citizen
Stand from the hearse, stand from the body.

Second Citizen
Room for Antony, most noble Antony.

ANTONY
Nay, press not so upon me; stand far off.

Several Citizens
Stand back; room; bear back.

ANTONY
If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
You all do know this mantle: I remember
The first time ever Caesar put it on;
‘Twas on a summer’s evening, in his tent,
That day he overcame the Nervii:
Look, in this place ran Cassius’s dagger through:
See what a rent the envious Casca made:
Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb’d;
And as he pluck’d his cursed steel away,
Mark how the blood of Caesar follow’d it,
As rushing out of doors, to be resolved
If Brutus so unkindly knock’d, or no;
For Brutus, as you know, was Caesar’s angel:
Judge, O you gods, how dearly Caesar loved him!
This was the most unkindest cut of all;
For when the noble Caesar saw him stab,
Ingratitude, more strong than traitors’ arms,
Quite vanquish’d him: then burst his mighty heart;
And, in his mantle muffling up his face,
Even at the base of Pompey’s statua,
Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell.
O, what a fall was there, my countrymen!
Then I, and you, and all of us fell down,
Whilst bloody treason flourish’d over us.
O, now you weep; and, I perceive, you feel
The dint of pity: these are gracious drops.
Kind souls, what, weep you when you but behold
Our Caesar’s vesture wounded? Look you here,
Here is himself, marr’d, as you see, with traitors.

First Citizen
O piteous spectacle!

Second Citizen
O noble Caesar!

Third Citizen
O woful day!

Fourth Citizen
O traitors, villains!

First Citizen
O most bloody sight!

Second Citizen
We will be revenged.

All
Revenge! About! Seek! Burn! Fire! Kill! Slay!
Let not a traitor live!

ANTONY
Stay, countrymen.

First Citizen
Peace there! hear the noble Antony.

Second Citizen
We’ll hear him, we’ll follow him, we’ll die with him.

ANTONY
Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up
To such a sudden flood of mutiny.
They that have done this deed are honourable:
What private griefs they have, alas, I know not,
That made them do it: they are wise and honourable,
And will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.
I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts:
I am no orator, as Brutus is;
But, as you know me all, a plain blunt man,
That love my friend; and that they know full well
That gave me public leave to speak of him:
For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth,
Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech,
To stir men’s blood: I only speak right on;
I tell you that which you yourselves do know;
Show you sweet Caesar’s wounds, poor poor dumb mouths,
And bid them speak for me: but were I Brutus,
And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony
Would ruffle up your spirits and put a tongue
In every wound of Caesar that should move
The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.

All
We’ll mutiny.

First Citizen
We’ll burn the house of Brutus.

Third Citizen
Away, then! come, seek the conspirators.

ANTONY
Yet hear me, countrymen; yet hear me speak.

All
Peace, ho! Hear Antony. Most noble Antony!

ANTONY
Why, friends, you go to do you know not what:
Wherein hath Caesar thus deserved your loves?
Alas, you know not: I must tell you then:
You have forgot the will I told you of.

All
Most true. The will! Let’s stay and hear the will.

ANTONY
Here is the will, and under Caesar’s seal.
To every Roman citizen he gives,
To every several man, seventy-five drachmas.

Second Citizen
Most noble Caesar! We’ll revenge his death.

Third Citizen
O royal Caesar!

ANTONY
Hear me with patience.

All
Peace, ho!

ANTONY
Moreover, he hath left you all his walks,
His private arbours and new-planted orchards,
On this side Tiber; he hath left them you,
And to your heirs for ever, common pleasures,
To walk abroad, and recreate yourselves.
Here was a Caesar! when comes such another?

First Citizen
Never, never. Come, away, away!
We’ll burn his body in the holy place,
And with the brands fire the traitors’ houses.
Take up the body.

Second Citizen
Go fetch fire.

Third Citizen
Pluck down benches.

Fourth Citizen
Pluck down forms, windows, any thing.

Exeunt Citizens with the body

ANTONY
Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot,
Take thou what course thou wilt!

‘Julius Caesar’ Act III Scene II, William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

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THE LADY’S DRESSING ROOM

25 March 2003

I came across Johnathan Swift, no doubt like many others, by virtue of “Gulliver’s Travels”.  I had to study “Gulliver” as set work during a course, and I found it fascinating and very rewarding (and not merely a kid’s story).  I was surprised to see him named elsewhere as the Reverend Johnathan Swift, and then I came across “The Lady’s Dressing Room”!

A Religious man wrote this! How marvellous! This is an amazing piece if work for that, but also for being written such a long time ago! It’s an amazing piece for a whole barrow-load of reasons.  Enjoy!

Five hours, (and who can do it less in?)
By haughty Celia spent in dressing;
The goddess from her chamber issues,
Arrayed in lace, brocade and tissues:
Strephon, who found the room was void,
And Betty otherwise employed,
Stole in, and took a strict survey,
Of all the litter as it lay:
Whereof, to make the matter clear,
An inventory follows here.

And first, a dirty smock appeared,
Beneath the arm-pits well besmeared;
Strephon, the rogue, displayed it wide,
And turned it round on every side.
In such a case few words are best,
And Strephon bids us guess the rest;
But swears how damnably the men lie,
In calling Celia sweet and cleanly.

Now listen while he next produces,
The various combs for various uses,
Filled up with dirt so closely fixed,
No brush could force a way betwixt;
A paste of composition rare,
Sweat, dandruff, powder, lead and hair;
A forehead cloth with oil upon’t
To smooth the wrinkles on her front;
Here alum flower to stop the steams,
Exhaled from sour unsavoury streams;
There night-gloves made of Tripsy’s hide,
Bequeathed by Tripsy when she died:
With puppy water, beauty’s help,
Distilled from Tripsy’s darling whelp.
Here gallipots and vials placed,
Some filled with washes, some with paste;
Some with pomatum, paints and slops,
And ointments good for scabby chops.
Hard by a filthy basin stands,
Fouled with the scouring of her hands;
The basin takes whatever comes,
The scraping of her teeth and gums,
A nasty compound of all hues,
For here she spits, and here she spews.

But Oh! it turned poor Strephon’s bowels,
When he beheld and smelt the towels;
Begummed, be mattered, and beslimed;
With dirt, and sweat, and ear-wax grimed.
No object Strephon’s eye escapes,
Here petticoats in frowzy heaps;
Nor be the handkerchiefs forgot,
All varnished o’er with snuff and snot.
The stockings who should I expose,
Stained with the moisture of her toes;
Or greasy coifs and pinners reeking,
Which Celia slept at least a week in?
A pair of tweezers next he found
To pluck her brows in arches round,
Or hairs that sink the forehead low,
Or on her chin like bristles grow.

The virtues we must not let pass,
Of Celia’s magnifying glass;
When frighted Strephon cast his eye on’t,
It showed the visage of a giant:
A glass that can to sight disclose
The smallest worm in Celia’s nose,
And faithfully direct her nail
To squeeze it out from head to tail;
For catch it nicely by the head,
It must come out alive or dead.

Why, Strephon, will you tell the rest?
And must you needs describe the chest?
That careless wench! no creature warn her
To move it out from yonder corner,
But leave it standing full in sight,
For you to exercise your spite!
In vain the workman showed his wit
With rings and hinges counterfeit
To make it seem in this disguise,
A cabinet to vulgar eyes;
Which Strephon ventured to look in,
Resolving to go through thick and thin;
He lifts the lid: there need no more,
He smelt it all the time before.

As from within Pandora’s box,
When Epimethus oped the locks,
A sudden universal crew
Of human evils upward flew;
He still was comforted to find
That hope at least remained behind.

So, Strephon, lifting up the lid,
To view what in the chest was hid,
The vapours flew from out the vent,
But Strephon cautious never meant
The bottom of the pan to grope,
And foul his hands in search of hope.

O! ne’er may such a vile machine
Be once in Celia’s chamber seen!
O! may she better learn to keep
‘Those secrets of the hoary deep.’

As mutton cutlets, prime of meat,
Which though with art you salt and beat,
As laws of cookery require,
And roast them at the clearest fire;
If from adown the hopeful chops
The fat upon a cinder drops,
To stinking smoke it turns the flame
Poisoning the flesh from whence it came;
And up exhales a greasy stench,
For which you curse the careless wench:
So things which must not be expressed,
When plumped into the reeking chest,
Send up an excremental smell
To taint the parts from which they fell:
The petticoats and gown perfume,
And waft a stink round every room.

Thus finished his grand survey,
The swain disgusted slunk away,
Repeating in his amorous fits,
‘Oh! Celia, Celia, Celia shits!’

But vengeance, goddess never sleeping,
Soon punished Strephon for his peeping.
His foul imagination links
Each dame he sees with all her stinks:
And, if unsavoury odours fly,
Conceives a lady standing by:
All women his description fits,
And both ideas jump like wits,
By vicious fancy coupled fast,
And still appearing in contrast.

I pity wretched Strephon, blind
To all the charms of womankind;
Should I the queen of love refuse,
Because she rose from stinking ooze?
To him that looks behind the scene,
Statira’s but some pocky quean.

When Celia in her glory shows,
If Strephon would but stop his nose,
Who now so impiously blasphemes
Her ointments, daubs, and paints and creams;
Her washes, slops, and every clout,
With which she makes so foul a rout;
He soon would learn to think like me,
And bless his ravished eyes to see
Such order from confusion sprung,
Such gaudy tulips raised from dung.

‘The Lady’s Dressing Room’ Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) wr. 1730 pub. 1732

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TO HIS MISTRESS GOING TO BED

25 March 2003

Some things never change — human nature is obviously like that. Can you believe this poem is so old? This was a favourite for me at school because it made the girls (and the teacher) blush and fluster! Ah! Adolescence!
Come, Madam, come, all rest my powers defy,
Until I labour, I in labour lie.
The foe oft-times having the foe in sight,
Is tired with standing though he never fight.
Off with that girdle, like heaven’s Zone glistering,
But a far fairer world encompassing.
Unpin that spangled breastplate which you wear,
That th’ eyes of busy fools may be stopt there.
Unlace yourself, for that harmonious chime
Tells me from you, that now is bed time.
Off with that happy busk, which I envy,
That still can be, and still can stand so nigh.
Your gown going off, such beauteous state reveals,
As when from flowry meads th’ hill’s shadow steals.
Off with that wiry Coronet and show
The hairy Diadem which on you doth grow:
Now off with those shoes, and then safely tread
In this love’s hallow’d temple, this soft bed.
In such white robes, heaven’s Angels used to be
Receiv’d by men; thou Angel bring’st with thee
A heaven like Mahomet’s Paradise; and through
Ill spirits walk in white, we easily know,
By this these Angels from an evil sprite,
Those set our hairs, but these our flesh upright.
Licence my roving hands, and let them go,
Before, behind, between, above, below.
O my America! my new-found-land,
My kingdom, safeliest when with one man mann’d,
My Mine of precious stones, My Empery,
How blest am I in discovering thee!
To enter in these bonds, is to be free;
Then where my hand is set, my seal shall be.

To his Mistress Going to Bed’ John Donne (1572-1631)

DYLAN THOMAS – UNDER MILKWOOD

25 March 2003

It is spring, moonless night
in the small town, starless and
bible-black, the cobblestreets
silent and the hunched,
courters ‘-and-rabbits’ wood
limping invisible down to the
sloeback, slow, black, crowblack,
fishingboat-bobbing sea.

Dylan Thomas Under Milkwood 1954 (Narrator’s introduction)

I was attracted to this poem initially because of “Starless and Bible Black” — which is the title of a King Crimson album — and I loved the phrase’s imagery, starless black and also “Bible black” — which is clever as it invokes a black bound bible, but black is usually associated with evil, and white with good, making a bible black a good play on words.  But — Oh — just look at the wonderful poem here — sloeback, slow black crowblack — it’s fabulous!  Like James Joyce on steroids! Class!

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