Friday, August 27, 2010

Falstaff Agonistes

When the mocking courtiers and merry wives
And children dressed as pinching fairy-folk
Have left him, sitting, horned, at the oak
Without the hope of swives, and once more broke,
Bereft of Bardolph, Pistol, and of Nym,
His Robin-boy took in by Mistress Page,
What shape in the cold night can comfort him,
The Fat Knight, pickling corpus, of his age?
Will not Titania come, to him, at night?

For he is Herne, if any mortal man
The awful robes and horns of the beast can
Tranmute to laughter crammed as cat-in-pan
Flesh thick as mince-pie, rich with Sack
That man is Faustus-Falstaff! Man or devil!
Is he a mortal man? Hark now how back
in Henry the Vth's youth, he tutored revel:
A fat old man, then, in 1413,
Sixty at least, the seasons on him weighty.
The same Fat Knight he stands in 1580
when Greensleeves is composed, that but lately,
it's music high, italianate, unknown
To that Sack swilling lad (apple of his eye)
Who passed from Falstaff's company to the crown,
To wars in France, to glory, and to die.
Falstaff died not: as spritely he
At 237 years, unbroken yet,
Mocked and abdured, and put to pain and fret,
Forever, lustdenied, fat-bellied and in debt.
His page (to Page, now gone) is Goodfellow
In truth that Puck who sets the foals to flight,
He is the King Who Never Will Wear Yellow.
To him Titania will come yet, at night.

Hush merry wives, you know not what you scorn.
Oberon in the Flesh, for you was born.

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