Shakesperian Readings

Original Text: 
Phoebe Cary, Poems and Parodies (Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1854): 199-200. Internet Archive. OCLC Id: 00271599. Poems of Alice and Phoebe Cary with Notes (A. L. Burt, n.d.): 139-40. York University PS 1263 A25 B8
1.2To be a cold obstruction and to groan!
1.3This sensible, warm woman, to become
1.4A prudish clod; and the delighted spirit
1.5To live and die alone, or to reside
1.6With married sisters, and to have the care
1.7Of half a dozen children, not your own;
1.8And driven, for no one wants you,
1.9Round about the pendant world; or worse than worst
1.10Of those that disappointment and pure spite
1.11Have driven to madness: 'Tis too horrible!
1.12The weariest and most troubled married life
1.13That age, ache, penury, or jealousy
1.14Can lay on nature, is a paradise
1.15To being an old maid.
2.2Walking between the garden and the barn,
2.3Reuben, all armed; a certain aim he took
2.4At a young chicken, standing by a post,
2.5And loosed his bullet smartly from his gun,
2.6As he would kill a hundred thousand hens.
2.7But I might see young Reuben's fiery shot
2.8Lodged in the chaste board of the garden fence,
2.9And the domesticated fowl passed on,
2.10In henly meditation, bullet free.
3.2As it might be, perhaps, were I good-looking,
3.3I should, your lordship.
3.4And what's her residence?
3.5A hut, my lord, she never owned a house,
3.6But let her husband, like a graceless scamp,
3.7Spend all her little means, -- she thought she ought, --
3.8And in a wretched chamber, on an alley,
3.9She worked like masons on a monument,
3.10Earning their bread. Was not this love indeed?


1.1] Cf. Claudius in Measure for Measure, III.i.117-31 (on his immanent execution for fornication):
Ay, but to die, and go we know not where;
To lie in cold obstruction, and to rot;
This sensible warm motion to become
A kneaded clot; and the delighted spirit
To bathe in fiery floods, or to reside
In thrilling region of thick-ribbed ice;
To be imprison'd in the viewless winds
And blown with restless violence round about
The pendant world; or to be worse than worst
Of those that lawless and uncertain thought
Imagine howling -- 'tis too horrible!
The weariest and most loathed worldly life
That age, ache, [penury], and imprisonment
Can lay on nature is a paradise
To what we fear of death.
(The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd edn., ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997]: 600-01). Back to Line
2.1] Cf. Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, II.i.155-64 (in an allusion to Elizabeth I):
That very time I saw (but thou couldst not),
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all arm'd. A certain aim he took
At a fair vestal throned by [the] west,
And loos'd his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might see young Cupid's fiery shaft
Quench'd in the chaste beams of the wat'ry moon,
And the imperial vot'ress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
(The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd edn., ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997]: 262). Back to Line
3.1] Cf. the exchange of Viola and Orsino in Twelfth Night, II.iv.107-15:
[Viola] My father had a daughter lov'd a man
As it might be perhaps, were I a woman,
I should your lordship.
[Orsino] And what's her history?
[Viola] A blank, my lord; she never told her love,
But let concealment like a worm i' th' bud
Feed on her damask cheek; she pin'd in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sate like Patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?
(The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd edn., ed. G. Blakemore Evans and J. J. M. Tobin [Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997]: 454). Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2000.