Sunday, May 12, 2013

Poetry Prayer #15

Today I'm going to stand up in front of a theatre full of mostly strangers and tell them the story of people I love. It's making me cry a little to think about it but I'm excited, too.

When I was in drama school we had to choose one of the choruses from Shakespeare's Henry V and present it. If you've done any Shakespeare work at all you've probably worked on the first one. "O for a muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention..." probably rolls off your lips at the slightest provocation. I wanted to do something different so I read through them a couple of times and finally chose the third one because I liked the phrase, "petty and unprofitable dukedoms" near the end. It wound up teaching me a lot, not only about acting Shakespeare, but about acting songs and acting in general. The choruses are exposition. They're the part of a play or TV show or movie that's like reading the phone book. You can't give that stuff to a crappy actor if you want anyone to listen to it. The pictures in this piece are exquisite and I've grown to love the ones I see in my head when I speak the words. My ability to paint those pictures by speaking these words seemed like a good thing to remind myself of on a day like today.

Enjoy this gorgeous poem. I'll see you on the other side.

Henry V
Chorus iii
by William Shakespeare

Thus with imagin'd wing our swift scene flies
In motion of no less celerity
Than that of thought. Suppose that you have seen
The well-appointed king at Hampton pier
Embark his royalty; and his brave fleet
With silken streamers the young Phoebus fanning:
Play with your fancies, and in them behold
Upon the hempen tackle ship-boys climbing;
Hear the shrill whistle which doth order give
To sounds confused; behold the threaden sails,
Borne with the invisible and creeping wind,
Draw the huge bottoms through the furrow'd sea,
Breasting the lofty surge: O, do but think
You stand upon the ravage and behold
A city on the inconstant billows dancing;
For so appears this fleet majestical,
Holding due course to Harfleur. Follow, follow:
Grapple your minds to sternage of this navy,
And leave your England, as dead midnight still,
Guarded with grandsires, babies and old women,
Either past or not arrived to pith and puissance;
For who is he, whose chin is but enrich'd
With one appearing hair, that will not follow
These cull'd and choice-drawn cavaliers to France?
Work, work your thoughts, and therein see a siege;
Behold the ordnance on their carriages,
With fatal mouths gaping on girded Harfleur.
Suppose the ambassador from the French comes back;
Tells Harry that the king doth offer him
Katharine his daughter, and with her, to dowry,
Some petty and unprofitable dukedoms.
The offer likes not: and the nimble gunner
With linstock now the devilish cannon touches,
[Alarum, and chambers go off]
And down goes all before them. Still be kind,
And eke out our performance with your mind.

1 comment:

  1. I can still hear your voice speaking these words as I read them! Merde for tonight; I am definitely there in spirit!