Representative Poetry Online

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2This prison where I live unto the world,
3And for because the world is populous
4And here is not a creature but myself,
5I cannot do it - yet I'll hammer it out.
6My brain I'll prove the female to my soul,
7My soul the father, and these two beget
8A generation of still breeding thoughts;
9And these same thoughts people this little world,
11For no thought is contented. The better sort,
12As thoughts of things divine, are intermixed
14Against the faith -
17To thread the postern of a needle's eye."
18Thoughts tending to ambition they do plot
19Unlikely wonders: how these vain, weak nails
20May tear a passage through the flinty ribs
21Of this hard world, my ragged prison walls,
22And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.
23Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves
24That they are not the first of Fortune's slaves
27That many have, and others must sit there;
28And in this thought they find a kind of ease,
29Bearing their own misfortune on the back
30Of such as have before endured the like.
32And none contented. Sometimes am I king;
33Then treason makes me with my self a beggar,
34And so I am; then crushing penury
35Persuades me I was better when a king,
36Then am I kinged again, and by and by
37Think I am un-kinged by Bolingbroke
38And straight am nothing. But what e'er I am Music
39Nor I nor any man that but man is
40With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased
41With being nothing. Music do I hear?
42Ha, ha, keep time - how sour sweet music is
43When time is broke and no proportion kept.
44So is it in the music of men's lives,
46To hear time broke in a disordered string,
47But for the concord of my state and time
48Had not an ear to hear my true time broke.
49I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.
50For now hath time made me his numbering clock;
51My thoughts are minutes, and with sighs they jar
54Is pointing still in cleansing them from tears.
55Now sir, the sound that tells what hour it is
56Are clamorous groans that strike upon the heart
57Which is the bell; so sighs and tears and groans
58Show minutes, hours, and times, but my time
59Runs posting on in Bolingbroke's proud joy,


1] Having been deposed by Henry Bolingbroke and imprisoned in Pontefract Castle in Act 5, King Richard contemplates the radical diminishment of his power and the limited time remaining in his life. Back to Line
10] humors: "mental disposition[s] ... constitutional or habitual tendency" (OED n. 4a). Back to Line
13] faith: the first quarto of 1597 prints the variant "word." Back to Line
15] "come little ones": evoking Luke 18:16 and Matthew 19:14. Back to Line
16] "It is as hard ... needle's eye": Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25. Back to Line
25] silly: "deserving of pity" (OED adj. 1a). Back to Line
26] refuge their: shelter themselves from. Back to Line
31] one prison: the first quarto of 1597 prints the variant "one person." Back to Line
45] daintiness: refined capacity; aesthetic taste. Back to Line
52] jar: to tick; also "to produce a harsh or grating sound ... on a musical instrument" (OED v. 1b). Back to Line
53] watches: acts intended to keep one awake for the purpose of observance or vigilance; the evocation of spring-driven time-pieces would also be consistent with the metaphysical conceit structuring this part of the speech. Back to Line
60] jack o'th'clock: a mechanical figure that emerges from a housing in a clock when the hour is struck. Back to Line