~ Horatio ~
The chill of winter midnight
found lodging in my bones
as we topped the castle wall
and walked it toward the nightwatch.
A figure loomed up; no ghost,
but Marcellus’ comrade, Bernardo,
and I thought his voice trembled
as he called out his challenge to us.
“Stand ho! Who is there?”
“Friends to this ground,” I answered.
Bernardo lowered his partisan
and rushed forward to our greeting;
relieved, no doubt, to welcome
figures of mere flesh and blood,
however chilled by the night wind.
“Say, what, is Horatio there?”
“A piece of him,” I muttered,
wondering that I should have let myself
be coaxed into such folly.
Bernardo and Marcellus fell to talk,
in hushed tones, of their specter;
I confess, my mind wandered toward thoughts
of my warm chamber, and bed.
On and on they chattered:
the King, the King, so describing their ghost
as the same figure seen so often
by these men, in his martial armor.
I set to gentle chiding of these fancies,
and made many points fairly
concerning saddened hearts and weary minds,
and the illusory phantoms conjured thereby.
But in the midst of these wise admonitions,
Marcellus shouted, “It comes!
Look, where it comes again!”
Dear God, such wisdom as I thought to possess
melted like morning frost, and I was harrowed
with fear and unnatural marvel.
The King indeed it was, all armored,
and through his ghostly form
I could see the pole star burning
where it illumed heaven behind the shade.
“Speak to it, Horatio!” entreated my comrades.
How does one address the dead?
“Who are you that usurps this time of night
together with that fair and warlike form
in which the majesty of our buried King
did sometimes march?
By heaven, I charge you, speak.”
Contemptuous of command from such as I,
it stalked away, silent.
My courage rose, and I thought to cross it,
though it blast me.
“Stay, illusion. If you have sound
or course of worry, speak it to me.
If there by any good thing to be done
that may to you do ease and grace, speak it to me.
Stay, and speak.”
But no, it would not break its stubborn quiet for me,
and walked, I thought,
into the very night’s embrace, fading utterly.
A mote it was, to trouble the mind’s eye;
to bode some strange eruption to our state.
They say in the streets of Rome
a little before the mightiest Julius fell
the graves stood tenantless
and the sheeted dead
did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.
Prologue and omen.
In all duty and love,
I must speak of this to Prince Hamlet,
for this his father’s shade can have come
guarding its whispers from beyond life,
to wait on none but him.