~ Horatio ~
“What ho! Horatio!”
I hear Prince Hamlet’s call,
But when I turn to him,
I see his face is ghastly strained;
most certain, some further thing has happened,
some new pain sustained.
The smile he wears as he comes near
is that of a man in whom something,
something dear, has passed away.
“Here, sweet lord,” I say, “at your service.”
He puts a hand to my shoulder,
as if by anchoring there,
he grips for the last handhold
before descent down a precipitous cliff.
“Horatio,” says he, “I thought a month ago
that the world held in it honest men and women.
Their ways might twist and turn,
but at heart, I believed in them.
A week ago, I still believed that at least two
could speak to me,
and I would know their words to be true.
Now, there is but you.”
“Oh, my dear lord --“
But he shakes his head, to still me.
“Nay,” he says, “do not think I flatter;
For what advancement may I hope from you,
that no revenue has but your good spirits,
to feed and clothe you?
Why should the poor be flattered?
No, let the candied tongue lick absurd pomp,
and crook the pregnant hinges of the knee
where thrift may follow fawning.
Did you hear?
Since my dear soul was mistress of her choice
and could of men distinguish,
her election has sealed you for herself;
for you have been
as one, in suffering all, that suffers nothing;
a man that fortune's buffets and rewards
have taken with equal thanks:
and blessed are those
whose blood and judgment are so well commingled,
that they are not a pipe for fortune's finger
to sound what stop she please.
Give me that man
that is not passion's slave,
and I will wear him in my heart's core,
ay, in my heart of heart,
as I do you.
But I will not lay so much of this on you.
There is a play to-night before the king;
one scene of it comes near the circumstance
which I have told you of my father's death:
I beg, when you see that act unfold,
observe my uncle: if his guilt
does not spill out in one speech,
it is a damned ghost that we have seen,
and my imaginations are as foul
as smoke that belches from Vulcan's smithy.
Give him heedful note;
for my eyes too will rivet to his face,
and after we will both our judgments join
to see if his is a face that bears
the weight and guilt of monstrous crime.”
“Well, my lord,” I answer,
“if he steals anything while this play is playing,
and from me escapes detection,
I will pay the theft.”