Shakespeare: a Reconstruction

Shakespeare: a Reconstruction
from Matthew Arnold, ‘Shakespeare’

Others are open. You give a high smile
as you win the Prospero stakes, and silently
bury your books deeper than any auditor
could find them sound or unsound.
Did you ‘die a papist’, hate dogs, love swarthy
ironhaired women and fair flibbertigibbet men
or are the sonnets a load of. Cigarette foil
litters our searching and poring. You sit there
self-sustaining, a white cloud, while your wife
sews your new coat-of-arms passim. Better sew
than unpick! See Marlowe? Well.
All pains the immortal spirit must endure,
all weakness that impairs, all griefs that faze
rebels like him, you filched to salt your plays.
Edwin Morgan

from Themes on a Variation (Carcanet Press, 1988)

Reproduced by permission of the publisher.
Edwin Morgan

Born in Glasgow, Edwin Morgan lived there all his life, except for service with the RAMC. Although his poetry is grounded in the city, the title of his 1973 collection, From Glasgow to Saturn, suggests the enormous range of Morgan's subject matter. He was Glasgow's first Poet Laureate 1999-2002, and the first to hold the post of 'Scots Makar', created by the Scottish Executive in 2004 to recognise the achievement of Scottish poets throughout the centuries.

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About Shakespeare: a Reconstruction

Edwin Morgan ‘reconstructed’ this poem from Matthew Arnold’s famous sonnet on the Bard, as part of a series initiated by Peter McCarey, playing with well-known poems. He works with the notions that so much of what we know about Shakespeare is itself a ‘reconstruction’, and that the poet borrowed from many sources to ‘salt’ his plays.