Week 310: From ‘King Lear’, by William Shakespeare

It seems that yesterday was National Poetry Day. Some years ago I did try to get involved in this, having been told that our local library was going to be mounting a display. Moved by a certain sense of duty to my poor publisher, I went along and enquired rather diffidently if they’d like to feature some of my own work, you know, local poet and all that. The kindly librarian explained to me that really her wall-space was reserved for more established names: Pam Ayres, Maya Angelou, Roger McGough, Shakespeare…. I was not surprised, of course, but I did feel the need to remind myself of exactly what this Shakespeare fellow had done to merit a place in such distinguished company. Back home I picked up my ‘Lear’ and it opened at this passage, where the old king has just been reconciled with his daughter and the poetry gathers in a pool of serenity before its last plunge over the brink of tragedy. And I thought to myself oh well, fair enough.

From ‘King Lear’, Act V, Scene 3

Lear: ‘No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison:
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage:
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down,
And ask of thee forgiveness: so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon’s the mystery of things,
As if we were God’s spies: and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon’.

William Shakespeare


2 thoughts on “Week 310: From ‘King Lear’, by William Shakespeare

  1. You are a great poet. I have learned four of your poems by heart and they always reward a revisit. Incidentally, Yeats has managed to get six in there and Shakespeare only two, you keep only the best company.

    • Thanks, Nigel, that’s very kind. I think my own ‘most poems known by heart’ poet has to be A.E.Housman – no reflection on Yeats or Shakespeare, it’s just that Housman writes the kind of lapidary poem that sticks easily, I find.

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