~ Horatio ~
I have never yearned to see things
fantastic or tragic, wild or terrible.
The hunger that some feel for such sights
I have always thought a kind of madness.
To me, the world's good
when war lies quiet,
spirits are at peace,
teachers abound offering earnest study,
and friends are near
for the gift and receipt
of warmth and loyalty.
Why I should instead find myself
plunged deep into the polar opposite
of these ideals, I cannot say.
But Heaven and Denmark
are both troubled.
I can only do my best
to keep heart and footing both
across a once-firm landscape
of kingdom and soul, gone strange.
When Marcellus, a guardsman
on what were, I thought,
the strong walls of Elsinore,
came to me speaking of an intrusion
he could not stay with sword or partisan,
I thought him perhaps a little drunk,
and I smiled.
On cold winter nights
a flask can warm the vitals
and addle a bit, the wits.
But upon reflection
I had to judge him icy sober
despite the tale he laid before me
of a specter in the night.
"Very like unto the King," he said.
"What, King Claudius?" I replied.
"No." And he paused. "King Hamlet."
My smile returned.
"The Prince's father is dead, two months."
If not drunkenness,
surely then, some strange jest.
But he did not laugh,
and asked for me to come.
I thought directly to enlist
the company of my dearest friend,
son of that supposed
night-haunting spectral father;
but Prince Hamlet, I knew,
did uncomfortable duty this night,
attending the revel that marked
the marriage of his mother, the Queen
to his uncle, Claudius, now King.
Though he might welcome my intrusion,
and joy to be stolen away,
I thought him greatly troubled of mind
since his father's death,
and I would not weigh him
with rumor of ghostly whims to taunt
or tease his soul.
"Why come to me?" I asked,
still struck by the seriousness of his gaze.
"You're a scholar," was his simple word,
"and can tell us what to do."
Heaven or Hell gapes,
and Horatio shall know its measure.
What university teaches such lore?
Surely not mine.
But I rose.
"Lead on," said I.
"I should like very much to see
the shape and color
of a true King again, in Denmark."