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.
About this poem
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.