Posted by: John Looker | 27 May, 2011

MALVOLIO LOOKS BACK

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MALVOLIO LOOKS BACK

How did it go so wrong? I started well,
securing employment in a great house.
I worked diligently, learning to quell
my spirits, 
my own views, finding the nous
to flatter without detection, to be
discreet, dependable, 
in every task.
I rose. How I rose! until it was me
(or do I mean I?) who bore the steward’s staff.
Then how I failed myself: that yellow hose
(cross-gartered!); 
the fancy that my lady
loved me; 
the smiles; the conceit to suppose
that she would 
thrust some greatness upon me!
    The hours would pass so sluggishly these days,
    but for the new tobacco … sonnets … plays …

.
© John Stevens 2011

.The illustration is taken from Wikipedia at
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malvolio

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Responses

  1. such empathy
    so sad !

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  2. You have a lovely, gentle sense of humour John.

    This one left me smiling

    David

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  3. So, John, now that I’ve finished reading Lear,
    you want me to get started on Twelfth Night.
    Malvolio, is it? You know, I fear
    I’ve never read the play. Try as I might
    I can’t recall the plot. Still, a sonnet
    on it! Sharp. Sly. I tend to end my lines
    with a word like ‘tergiversate’—darn it—
    with which only ‘masturbate’ truly rhymes—
    a metaphor which poetry can do
    without. (There’s ‘stand and wait’, but that’s been done.)
    So, bravo. (You could have said ‘to try / to
    be dependable’, but it ruins the fun.)
    A nifty little poem. ( ‘House’ rhymes with ‘nous’?
    but, no—I’ll be quiet as…a moose.)

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  4. Thanks guys. It’s a slight piece and I’m not sure why I wrote it now – it took shape on and off over many months. I see it as rueful. Sad but funny. (Certainly funnier than King Lear anyway!)
    Those rhymes Jim: it all depends on regional accent I suppose. On this side of the Atlantic and to my south-east England ear ‘house’ and ‘nous’ are an exact rhyme; to a northern Englishman they would also rhyme with ‘moose’. Heaven knows what they sound like to a northern Irishman living in Yorkshire …

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    • Yes, I did think it was a question of differing pronunciations—but I couldn’t resist having a little fun with it. Truth is, I don’t think it a slight poem at all. Stately, clever, fun, slightly rueful, and a very nice use of words. Partaking in the joy of language…
      I did trust you to realize I was fooling around.

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      • Sorry Jim. I was a bit dense there! (Rather like Malvolio, on reflection!)

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  5. I think The Bard himself would have to smile if he read this. Well done!

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  6. Bravo, John – beautifully constructed, wistful and funny; a very sympathetic and enjoyable piece about a character arguably more sinned against than sinning. A super sonnet.

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    • Thanks Nick. I felt very sympathetic to poor old Malvolio!

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  7. yay! Im happy to see a new poem…
    “securing employment in a great house”

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  8. I’ve been challenged twice to write a sonnet and I sort of flayed around like a toddler not allowed any biscuits all the while I wrote it. Your seems so flawless and flowing – I’m in awe and congrats on seeing those months work come to fruition.

    Like

    • I like the picture you paint of yourself flaying like a toddler etc … I don’t believe a word of it of course.
      But thank you – and thanks, Evelyn, to you too.

      Like

  9. Is there no form that you have not mastered? The humor in this is splendirifous as you rise in the great house to steward, lolling in all the joys of tobacco, sonnets, and plays.

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    • Thank you, you’re very kind. I feel like Malvolio at times!

      Like

  10. A particularly memorable read. I enjoyed the encounter with ‘nous’ which I had to look up in my Webster tome. I agree Shakespeare would have been proud!

    Like

    • So glad you enjoyed it! A Webster’s is definitely for people with nous!

      Like


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