Sunday, October 31, 2010


V, i
1. In some editions of Hamlet the "gravediggers" are not  called gravediggers but clowns. Why at this point in the play does Shakespeare resort to comic relief  ?
2. What is the dispute they have, and what is the riddle and its answer?
3. Why do you think Shakespeare at this point for the first time lets us now know Hamlet's age?
4. How does Hamlet  react to being told, "This same skull, sir, was Yorick's skull, the King's jester"?
5. What dramatic irony extends over much of this scene? What affect does it have?
6. Why does Laertes quibble with the priest officiating at his sister's burial? Where and how has this been foreshadowed  in this scene and elsewhere in the play?
7. Why at this point in the play do Laertes and Hamlet have such radically different opinions of each other?
8. What do we learn from Gertrude's farewell to Ophelia? What do you think of what she says? What would Polonius have thought?
9. What does the priest's treatment of his sister cause Laertes to do? How is this counterpoint to the comic relief earlier in the scene?
10. Why does Hamlet so assertively announce himself, "This is I, Hamlet the Dane" ? Why is Hamlet so angry?
11. Explain why Hamlet jumps into the pit dug for Ophelia's coffin?
12. What  do you think were Hamlet's true feelings for Ophelia?
V, ii
1. How did Hamlet sidestep Claudius' plot to have him put to death in England? (He tells Horatio.)
2. Why do or don't you think killing now may be easier for Hamlet?
3. How does Hamlet react to the idea of the match? How does Hamlet expect to do and why does he go ahead with it? How does this reflect the "new" nature of Hamlet, revealed in V, i? 
4. What is the nature of Hamlet's speech to Laertes before they fence?
5  How do Hamlet and Laertes get wounded?
6. How does Hamlet get his final revenge?
7. How do the characters who entered this scene die?
8. What is Hamlet's final act as King of Denmark?
9. Why does Hamlet entreat Horatio to stay alive?
10. Why is Fortinbras' presence important at the end of the play?

I hope you enjoyed the play. 

Recall Hamlet's references throughout the play to the decay of the body, and Denmark. Scene one is a culmination of the concerns Hamlet has expressed about mortality and decay throughout the play. (Here we have an example of a literary term T.S. Eliot coined, known as the objective correlative.)  Please read this scene aloud at least twice. The gravediggers speak in colloquial  lower class Elizabethan English, so carefully read the liner notes relating to their dialogue to appreciate both their graveyard humor as well as Hamlet's.

Friday, October 29, 2010


For those of you not in attendance on Friday please pay attention. A foil,  pronounced like aluminum foil, is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight various features of that other character's personality, throwing certain characteristics into sharper contrast or focus. A foil serves to stress and highlight the distinctive temperament of the protagonist. 


A foil is a secondary character who contrasts with a major character; in Hamlet, Fortinbras and Laertes, whose fathers have been killed, are foils for Hamlet.  As we have observed in class, Shakespeare employs Fortinbras four times in the play as a foil to Hamlet. And Laertes, a man of  precipitous action, also serves as a foil to the dilatory Hamlet on multiple planes.

Your Classmates Answers

Sonnet/Poetry Test.
Had you collectivelly taken the test, without the use of cell phones, you would have received a grade of 100%. Your classmates did answer the questions correctly.  Learn from them. Please rewrite each test questions as a sentence with a correct answer.  I am asking you to use this test as a learning instrument.
1. Italian love song: Katherine
2. Italian: Lam
3. Dante: Stephanie
4. Petrarch: Susan
5. Italian Sonnet: Jeanette
6. octave: Kenny
7. 8 lines: Kenny
8. sestet: Malthen
9. 6 lines: Farrid
10. personification: Nyasia
11. quatrains: Brandon
12. 14th Century: Chandanie (in essay)
13. 1609: Kenny
14. personification: Katherine
15. ababcdcdefefgg: Victor
16. quatrains: Amy
17. couplet: Chrisma
18. alternating rhyme: Chandanie
19. masculine: Ana
20. feminine: Tiffany
21. personification: Brittany
22. repetition: Maurice
23. asks a question: Yenifer
24 a. the lines of the poem: Malthen
      b. a summer's day compared to a person: Brandon
25. iambic pentameter: Raymond
26. when the endings are spelled the same but sound different: Stephanie
27 a. words last syllables are spelled differently or the same and sound the same:Yennifer
      b. rhyme that occurs within a single line of verse: Melida
28. But: Tiffany
29. introduces the antithesis: Yennifer
30. vowel: Victor

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


IV, i
1. What can we infer about Gertrude's compliance with Hamlet's requests (III, iv)?
2. Why do you or don't you believe that Gertrude is deceiving Claudius?
2. How does Claudius respond to the death of Polonius. Does he understand the implications of what Hamlet did? Explain.
3. What does this scene reveal about Claudius' regency (39-41)?
IV, ii
1. What metaphor does Hamlet introduce in referring to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and what metaphor did Hamlet use in referring to them earlier in III, ii ?
IV, iii
1. Why is Claudius sending Hamlet to England.
2. Why does Claudius tell Rosencrantz and Guilenstern what the letter he has given them contains?
3. How does Hamlet speak to King Claudius? What does it reveal?
4. What do you think Claudius is keeping secret from Gertrude and why?
IV, iv
1. Why do you think Fortinbras enters the play at this point? (Remember the literary term foil ? - Go to the "FOIL Posting.")
2. What sort of judgement does the Captain make about the place they are fighting for? How does Hamlet describe it?
3. Where is Hamlet going when he meets the Captain?
IV, v
1. What do we learn about the state of Gertrude's soul from her aside?
2. Why do you think Shakespeare has Ophelia sing songs at this point in the play?  (Remember Susan's performance of them in class.) What affect do they have?
3. How does Laertes propose to revenge his father's death? How does this compare with Hamlet's?
4. With what is Claudius threatened? How do you think Claudius handles the emergency?
5. How does Laertes respond to Ophelia?
IV, vi
1. What surpriise is contained in the letter Horatio receives and read on stage? Where is Hamlet now?
IV, vii
1. How has Claudius convinced Laertes of his innocence?
2. Why in Hamlet's letter to Claudius does he say he wants to see him "alone"?
3. How will Claudius and Laertes use Laerte's reputation to get revenge?
4. What would Laertes do to get revenge? How does this compare to Hamlet?
5. How and why did Ophelia die?  (How does this differ from the way her death is described in V, i?)
6. How does Laertes respond to his sister's death?
  Happy Halloween 

Thursday, October 21, 2010


"The play's the thing /Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." (last lines Act II)

III, i :
1. What does Claudius learn from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
2. Why is Claudius' aside in this scene of such importance?
3. Why is Hamlet's soliloquy placed where it is in this scene?
4. How can or can't you tell if Hamlet knows he is being spied upon during the "Nunnery Scene?"
Why do Hamlet's use of the word "remember" and Ophelia's use of the word "remembrances" resonate
so painfully. Who is the "one" referred to in the line "all but one?"  Why is this stated? Why do you think Hamlet  treats Ophelia the way he does? Do you think he no longer loves her? Explain. (Remember lines earlier in the play: "Frailty, thy name is woman."?)
5. Why does Polonius think it is necessary for him to spy on Hamlet and Gertrude for Claudius?
III, ii
1. How does the beginning of this scene offset the tension generated by the preceding one, and what does it reveal about Hamlet?
2. In what way does Hamlet praise Horatio. Why does he do so?
3. Why is writing the "mousetrap" the only thing Hamlet has done to exact revenge on Claudius?
4. How do Hamlet and Ophelia interact before the performance? Why does he lie his head where he does?
5. How is the play different from what you expected?
6. How does the play within the play deviate from what the ghost of Hamlet's father recounted in Act I ?
7. What have Claudius and Hamlet learned about each other as a consequence of the play?
III, iii
1. What has Claudius decided to do with Hamlet?
2. What do we learn about Claudius in his "prayer" soliloquy? Why can't he ask for forgiveness?
3. When Hamlet enters, why doesn't Hamlet kill Claudius? What is ironic about Hamlet's decision?
III, iv
1. How successful is the conversation between Gertrude and Hamlet? What goes wrong even before
Polonius' death. Why does Gertrude call for help?
2. Explain why you think Gertrude knew or did not know Claudius had killed King Hamlet?
3. What do you think of how Hamlet speaks to his mother
4. Why does the ghost appear, who sees him, and what is his message?
5. Should we see King Hamlet's ghost in this scene. Why, why not?
6. What are Hamlet's final instructions to his mother?

To understand the movement of Act III, you may want to chart the entrances and exits of characters. Make note of how Shakespeare transforms and juxtaposes movement within and between the scenes. This will enable you to appreciate Shakespeare's stage craftmanship.  Remember dramatic irony in Hamlet relies both
on the use of space and the utterance of words.

Please note that your text varies considerably from the Oxford University text of Hamlet in regard to what we touched upon in class today. Immediately before the "To be or not to be" soliloquy the stage directions in the Oxford text read: "Claudius and Polonius [hide behind the arras]. Enter Hamlet."  Your text has Polonius and Claudius move to the rear of the stage, but not necessarily in a conscious effort to spy on Hamlet. There is a big difference, since their spying during this speech, adds tension and pregnancy to Hamlet's words, colors Claudius' lines which end the first scene, and foreshadows what happens later in the play. You may want to go onto Youtube, type in Hamlet, and view the third video down from the top -Act III, i.  or Sir Lawrence Olivier's performance of this soliloquy. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

John Milton's Petrarchan sonnet

"For Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them."  John Milton
 Sonnet: On his Blindness
              John Milton (1608-1674) 
When I consider how my light is spent,
    Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent which is death to hide,
    Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my maker, and present
    My true account, lest he returning chide,
    Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?
    I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
    Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
    Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
    And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
    They also serve who only stand and wait.

n.b. (note well) This is a Petrarchan sonnet. John Milton was one of Mary Shelley's favorite poets and he is the author of Paradise Lost.  In writing Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus Shelley quoted from his poetry extensively - as she also did from both her husband's and Wordworth's.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Scorn Not the Sonnet (Sonnet/poetry test tomorrow)

               William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
Mindless of its just honours; with this key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
Camoens soothed with it an exile's grief;
The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faeryland
To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The Thing became a trumpet, whence he blew
Soul-animating strains -alas, too few!


Friday, October 15, 2010


Act II, i  Questions:
1. How does Polonius instruct Reynaldo to go about spying on Laertes in Paris?
2. Why does Reynaldo say, "My lord, that would dishonor him."?
3. How do you interpret Ophelia's description of Hamlets behavior in lines 99-112?
4. Why do you think Hamlet "raised a sigh so piteous and profound/That it did seem to shatter all his bulk/And end his being."?
5. How do you think Ophelia is being affected by Hamlet's behavior and her father's prohibitions?
6. What do you make of Polonius' interpretation of Ophelia's description of Hamlet's behavior?
7. Why does Polonius think he may be responsible for Hamlet's madness?

Act II, scene ii  is demanding, so be sure to read it aloud more than once and be sure to consult the explanatory notes to the left of the text.  I expect there will be many lines you will not comprehend, please just soar over them and finish the scene. It has a beauty and  an intensity that is quite extraordinary. Now reread it.  Now read the soliloquy which ends this act aloud once again.

This is one of the longest and most challenging scenes in Hamlet.  It consists of six sections:
     1. the arrival and reception of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
     2. the ambassabors return from Norway
     3. Polonius' interpretation of Hamlet's "antic" behavior to Claudius and Gertrude
     4. Hamlet's meeting and questioning of his school fellows
     5. the arrival of the players and their performances for Hamlet
     6. Hamlet's soliloquy

Act II, ii  Questions:
1. Why should or shouldn't Claudius be pleased with how the King of Norway restrained Fortinbras?
2. Why have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern been brought to Ellsinore?
3. What does Gertrude reveal in lines 59-60?
3. By Act II how badly has Hamlet deteriorated? Has his "antic" disposition fooled those around him?
5. How does Hamlet's disposition vary in this scene? On what does this variation depend? How much of it is real how much of it is pretense?
6. At the end of Act II, scene ii, write about Polonius from several perspectives:  his importance to King Claudius, Gertrude's attitude toward him, his role as Ophelia's father, his role as Laerte's father, and his role as self-appointed interpreter of Hamlet's "lunacy." How do you feel about this character?
7. Why does Shakespeare move between pathos and bathos (tragedy and humor)? Where do you observe them being mixed together? How does this affect the play?
8. Notice when and how in Act II Shakespeare leaves verse (poetic form) and writes in prose. Why do you think Shakespeare chose to do this?
9. Comment on Hamlet's lines to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (II:ii,268-270) ". . .'tis none to you for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so" and then (II:ii, 273-275) "O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."
* Read and then reread Hamlets lines II:ii, 317-334 (I will tell you why: so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery . . .)  aloud.
10. How do you think Hamlet manages the conversation with his old school friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?  Be explicit.
**  Immediately before and after the players arrive Shakespeare makes allusions to problems actors were having in contemporary England, the Bible, and Ancient Greek Literature. This reading is difficult going, so carefully read the notes given to you in the text! If you don't understand some of this, do not worry, it will be covered in class.
11. Why is Hamlet's attitude toward the players (actors) so different from Polonius'? Go to lines 549-552 and thereabouts.
12. Comment on Hamlet's soliloquy that ends Act II. 

We will discuss II, i and then proceed to act out II, ii in class. If any of you want to volunteer to play a role, please let me know by email. I expect reader/performers to very carefully read and rehearse their parts beforehand.

Remember to prepare for the sonnet test on Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Hamlet" the "globe" and The Globe

First off I'd like to say I'm very pleased with those students who participated in today's lesson.  It is clear to me that some of you are working hard at understanding the text; however, I would like more of you to do so and more of you to participate in class discussion.  

Act I is the exposition of the play. The characters, the problems, and the themes Shakespeare develops throughout the play are clearly present in this first act. Please read this first act aloud, and with care, scene by scene.  Post your comments and questions in relation to act, scene, page, and line number(s) so your classmates know precisely what you are referring to.

1. The first marking period ends in ten days.
2. I will collect and read your literature log BEFORE computing your grade. Get a move on!
3. Outstanding (no pun intended) work should be handed in NOW.
4. There'll be a sonnet/poetry test on Monday-study your notes & Google "sonnet"
5. There'll be an in class written "Hamlet" essay, in which you'll discuss, analyze, and interpret a passage. 
6. Your participation or lack thereof on the class blog will be evaluated.
7. Your completed College Portfolio is due in November, before Thanksgiving. What have you done?
8. Once again, I am available to help you or to conference with you period 1, 8, or after school.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


"Are the commentators on Hamlet really mad, or only pretending to be?"
-Oscar Wilde

More has been written on and about this play than any other piece of literature, and as Oscar Wilde observed, much of if verges on madness. So, read the play by yourself and for yourself, then develop your own thoughts and opinions about "Hamlet."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

DUE TOMORROW take home test on "My Last Duchess"

Answer and respond to five of the following:
Your answers should be written as direct responses; however, I  do expect you to write fully developed paragraphs, in which you substantiate what you say by making direct reference to the poem, or by using quotations.   For the creative pieces (1 and 3) feel  free to use your imagination.  These two pieces however, do require thoughtful creative writing that relates to the text.
1. Write the report the envoy delivers to the count, concerning the prospective marriage of the count's  daughter to the Duke of Ferrara.
2. Why, in your opinion, does the Duke of Ferrara show the count's emissary the picture of his last duchess, and say to him what he says? (Remember they are in midst of negotiating the dowry and the marriage terms  to his next duchess.)
3. Have the last duchess respond in detail to her husband's words, attitudes, and actions. Give her p.o.v.
4. Write about the poem's structure, narrative development, and literary devices.
5. Of what importance is the statue of Neptune taming a seahorse at the end of the poem?
6. How does or doesn't Browning succeed in have us sympathize with a character as objectionable as the duke? Explain.
7. Discuss the use of irony in this poem.
8. Explain how the Duke's attitudes towards art and artists as revealed in the poem reveal his materialism, aristocratic hauteur, and insecurity.
9. Discuss three contradictory characteristics Browning reveals in the Duke, and show how each quality or characteristic is revealed.
10. With specific reference to the poem, formulate a statement of theme or poetic intention. What truth(s) about human nature does the poem communicate?

Monday, October 4, 2010

"My Last Duchess" a dramatic monologue

My Last Duchess


THAT’S my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said        5
“Frà Pandolf” by design, for never read
Strangers like you that pictured countenance,
The depth and passion of its earnest glance,
But to myself they turned (since none puts by
The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)
And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,
How such a glance came there; so, not the first
Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not
Her husband’s presence only, called that spot
Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek: perhaps        15
Frà Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps
Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint
Must never hope to reproduce the faint
Half-flush that dies along her throat:” such stuff
Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough        20
For calling up that spot of joy. She had
A heart—how shall I say?—too soon made glad.
Too easily impressed: she liked whate’er
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
Sir, ’twas all one! My favor at her breast,        25
The dropping of the daylight in the West,
The bough of cherries some officious fool
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule
She rode with round the terrace—all and each
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,        30
Or blush, at least. She thanked men,—good! but thanked
Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame
This sort of trifling? Even had you skill        35
In speech—(which I have not)—to make your will
Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this
Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,
Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let
Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set        40
Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse,
—E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose
Never to stoop. Oh sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;        45
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then. I repeat,
The Count your master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence        50
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go
Together down, sir. Notice Neptune, though,
Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,        55
Which Claus of Innsbruck cast in bronze for me!

This painting, by the Renaissance
 artist Bronzino,
is of the woman who inspired this poem.



Sunday, October 3, 2010

Partnership and Novel Selection Due Monday.

Please use the authors and book titles given to you as
a yardstick for sensing whether or not the book you
chose will be acceptable for this work. Do not chose
a book you read last year for Ms. Seimer's class. I hope
you have carefully looked at several books before deciding
on one; likewise, I hope you have considered several classmates,
before selecting one with whom to read this book in partnership.

The literature log prompts distributed in class today are intended
to help you write about what you have read in case you become
stuck.  As you read the book you are expected to make regular dated
entries into your literature log and to indicate the chapters or pages in
the book to which they relate. Your literature logs will be collected
by me for evaluation before Christmas. I will also ask you to bring
them to class for me to look at while you are taking tests or exams.
You and your partner are to start on this 
IMMEDIATELY.  Remember this work
is to be done outside the classroom. The 
reading and both your literature logs are
to be completed before Christmas.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Three Poems Involving London

William Blake

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new born Infant's tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

 In a London Drawingroom
         George Eliot (1818-1880)  nom de plume

The sky is cloudy, yellowed by the smoke.
For view there are the houses opposite
Cutting the sky with one long line of wall
Like solid fog: far as the eye can stretch
Monotony of surface & of form
Without a break to hang a guess upon.
No bird can make a shadow as it flies,
For all is shadow, as in ways o'erhung
By thickest canvass, where the golden rays
Are clothed in hemp. No figure lingering
Pauses to feed the hunger of the eye
Or rest a little on the lap of life.
All hurry on & look upon the ground,
Or glance unmarking at the passers by
The wheels are hurrying too, cabs, carriages
All closed, in multiplied identity.
The world seems one huge prison-house & court
Where men are punished at the slightest cost,
With lowest rate of colour, warmth & joy.

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
                                  T. S. Eliot (1888-1965)

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherised upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreat        5
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question …        10
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,        15
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,        20
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.
And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;        25
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;        30
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
In the room the women come and go        35
Talking of Michelangelo.
And indeed there will be time
To wonder, “Do I dare?” and, “Do I dare?”
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair—        40
[They will say: “How his hair is growing thin!”]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin—
[They will say: “But how his arms and legs are thin!”]
Do I dare        45
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.
For I have known them all already, known them all:—
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,        50
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
  So how should I presume?
And I have known the eyes already, known them all—        55
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?        60
  And how should I presume?
And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
[But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!]
It is perfume from a dress        65
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
  And should I then presume?
  And how should I begin?
      .      .      .      .      .
Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets        70
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?…
I should have been a pair of ragged claws
Scuttling across the floors of silent seas.
      .      .      .      .      .
And the afternoon, the evening, sleeps so peacefully!        75
Smoothed by long fingers,
Asleep … tired … or it malingers,
Stretched on the floor, here beside you and me.
Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?        80
But though I have wept and fasted, wept and prayed,
Though I have seen my head [grown slightly bald] brought in upon a platter,
I am no prophet—and here’s no great matter;
I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,        85
And in short, I was afraid.
And would it have been worth it, after all,
After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,
Among the porcelain, among some talk of you and me,
Would it have been worth while,        90
To have bitten off the matter with a smile,
To have squeezed the universe into a ball
To roll it toward some overwhelming question,
To say: “I am Lazarus, come from the dead,
Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all”—        95
If one, settling a pillow by her head,
  Should say: “That is not what I meant at all.
  That is not it, at all.”
And would it have been worth it, after all,
Would it have been worth while,        100
After the sunsets and the dooryards and the sprinkled streets,
After the novels, after the teacups, after the skirts that trail along the floor—
And this, and so much more?—
It is impossible to say just what I mean!
But as if a magic lantern threw the nerves in patterns on a screen:        105
Would it have been worth while
If one, settling a pillow or throwing off a shawl,
And turning toward the window, should say:
  “That is not it at all,
  That is not what I meant, at all.”
      .      .      .      .      .
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,        115
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
I grow old … I grow old …        120
I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me.        125
I have seen them riding seaward on the waves
Combing the white hair of the waves blown back
When the wind blows the water white and black.
We have lingered in the chambers of the sea
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown        130
Till human voices wake us, and we drown.