It was four years yesterday that Seamus Heaney passed… As is often the case with this sort of anniversaries, it feels like much less and much longer at the same time. Continue reading
And I know, John Donne’s Song isn’t exactly star-themed – but I like the string of impossibilities, the playful sense of quest with a falling star on the lid…
Go and catch a falling star,Get with child a mandrake root,Tell me where all past years are,Or who cleft the devil’s foot,Teach me to hear mermaids singing,Or to keep off envy’s stinging,And findWhat windServes to advance an honest mind.If thou be’st born to strange sights,Things invisible to see,Ride ten thousand days and nights,Till age snow white hairs on thee,Thou, when thou return’st, wilt tell me,All strange wonders that befell thee,And swear,No whereLives a woman true, and fair.If thou find’st one, let me know,Such a pilgrimage were sweet;Yet do not, I would not go,Though at next door we might meet;Though she were true, when you met her,And last, till you write your letter,Yet sheWill beFalse, ere I come, to two, or three.
I don’t know whether I told you that I was formally adopted into the Other Company – Nina’s people – last April. I was already their resident author, and now am a full member, and will start teaching play-writing in the Company’s school next October. Also – possibly the most thrilling aspect of my change of status – I’ll get to direct my own Lunedì this year… Continue reading
So, Tamburlaine the Great, part II. Part I had been such a smashing success, and suddenly conquerors were all the rage in London playhouses, and one can easily imagine the Admiral’s Men pestering Kit Marlowe about a sequel… Continue reading
It would have been Seamus Heaney’s birthday, today… So I thought I’d remember him with one of Ross Wilson’s sketched portraits and a poem – one of those miracles of thought, light, questions, wonder, and images so vivid you can taste them on your tongue. Continue reading
I remember once being given a writing assignment in which I had to list seven meaningful colours, and write about them… How very fun, was my first reaction – only to find myself hopelessly bogged down as soon as I tried.
I could attach no particular meaning to any one colour – say orange or blue – let alone seven… Continue reading
Oh, let’s have some poetry, today – poetry and theatre. Kit Marlowe’s Duc de Guise, painting the full colours of his restless ambition, proudly boasting his cleverness and strength – and, most of all, chomping at the bit:
Now Guise, begin those deepe ingendred thoughts
To burst abroad, those never dying flames,
Which cannot be extinguisht but by bloud.
Oft have I leveld, and at last have learnd,
That perill is the cheefest way to happines,
And resolution honors fairest aime.
What glory is there in a common good,
That hanges for every peasant to atchive?
That like I best that flyes beyond my reach.
Set me to scale the high Peramides,
And thereon set the Diadem of Fraunce,
Ile either rend it with my nayles to naught,
Or mount the top with my aspiring winges,
Although my downfall be the deepest hell.
For this, I wake, when others think I sleepe,
For this, I waite, that scorn attendance else:
For this, my quenchles thirst whereon I builde,
Hath often pleaded kindred to the King.
For this, this head, this heart, this hand and sworde,
Contrive, imagine and fully execute
Matters of importe, aimed at by many,
Yet understoode by none.
For this, hath heaven engendred me of earth,
For this, the earth sustaines my bodies weight,
And with this wait Ile counterpoise a Crowne,
Or with seditions weary all the worlde:
For this, from Spaine the stately Catholic
Sends Indian golde to coyne me French ecues:
For this have I a largesse from the Pope,
A pension and a dispensation too:
And by that priviledge to worke upon,
My policye hath framde religion.
Religion: O Diabole.
Fye, I am ashamde, how ever that I seeme,
To think a word of such a simple sound,
Of so great matter should be made the ground.
The gentle King whose pleasure uncontrolde,
Weakneth his body, and will waste his Realme,
If I repaire not what he ruinates:
Him as a childe I dayly winne with words,
So that for proofe, he barely beares the name:
I execute, and he sustaines the blame.
The Mother Queene workes wonders for my sake,
And in my love entombes the hope of Fraunce:
Rifling the bowels of her treasurie,
To supply my wants and necessitie.
Paris hath full five hundred Colledges,
As Monestaries, Priories, Abbyes and halles,
Wherein are thirtie thousand able men,
Besides a thousand sturdy student Catholicks,
And more: of my knowledge in one cloyster keep,
Five hundred fatte Franciscan Fryers and priestes.
All this and more, if more may be comprisde,
To bring the will of our desires to end.
Since thou hast all the Cardes within thy hands
To shuffle or to cut, take this as surest thing:
That right or wrong, thou deal’st thy selfe a King.
I but, Navarre. Tis but a nook of France.
Sufficient yet for such a pettie King:
That with a rablement of his hereticks,
Blindes Europs eyes and troubleth our estate:
Him will we–
(Pointing to his Sworde.)
But first lets follow those in France.
That hinder our possession to the crowne:
As Caesar to his souldiers, so say I:
Those that hate me, will I learn to loath.
Give me a look, that when I bend the browes,
Pale death may walke in furrowes of my face:
A hand, that with a graspe may gripe the world,
An eare, to heare what my detractors say,
A royall seate, a scepter and a crowne:
That those which doe behold them may become
As men that stand and gase against the Sunne.
The plot is laide, and things shall come to passe,
Where resolution strives for victory.
One imagines that Ned Alleyn, with his imposing presence and deep, dark voice, must have been rather impressive in the part.
And besides… what can I say? I never read Marlowe’s dark heroes without imagining that there must have been days when he felt too large and too fiery for his own circumstances – and not much besides poetry as an outlet. Is it fanciful to think that he was the one forever burning for things beyond his reach?
In a world like Elizabethan England*, where a fair complexion was synonymous with beauty (it was not by accident that “fair” meant both “lovely” and “light-complexioned), here goes the lovestruck Biron, extolling his beloved Rosaline’s dark looks: Continue reading
We were speaking of Allen Tate‘s Aeneas at Washington, weren’t we? Well, let me observe in passing that, for one who isn’t all that keen on Virgil – and even less on the Aeneid, I post an awfully good deal about it all…
Oh well, it’s because of the play, mostly, and because I truly like Tate’s take on Aeneas, with its bitter suggestion that the notion of rebuilding elsewhere what had gone up in fire may have gone astray. Tate’s Troy remains a half-forgotten golden shadow, its intended rebirth is an empty shell – and one may well question if it was worth the high price that was paid for it. Continue reading
So, the New Oxford Shakespeare credits Christopher Marlowe as co-author of the three Henry VI plays.
Well, actually fourteen more plays get co-authoring credits by someone else, and Arden of Faversham is added to the Canon, as well as one added scene in Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy… But – probably because he is more widely known, and because of the Authorship rumours ever since Ziegler – the idea of Kit Marlowe having had a hand in the Henrys is doing most of the splash.