After The Play
Have you spent the money I gave you to-day?
Ay, father I have.
A fourpence on cakes, two pennies that away
To a beggar I gave.
The lake of yellow brimstone boil for you in Hell,
Such lies that you spin.
Tell the truth now, John, ere the falsehood swell,
Say, where have you been?
I'll lie no more to you, father, what is the need?
To the Play I went,
With sixpence for a near seat, money's worth indeed,
The best ever spent.
Grief to you, shame or grief, here is the story--
My splendid night!
It was colour, scents, music, a tragic glory,
Fear with delight.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, title of the tale:
He of that name,
A tall, glum fellow, velvet cloaked, with a shirt of mail,
Two eyes like flame.
All the furies of fate circled round the man,
Maddening his heart,
There was old murder done before play began,
Ay, the ghost took part.
There were grave-diggers delving, they brought up bones,
And with rage and grief
All the players shouted in full, kingly tones,
Grand, passing belief.
Oh, there were ladies there radiant like day,
And changing scenes:
Great sounding words were tossed about like hay
By kings and queens.
How the plot turned about I watched in vain,
Though for grief I cried,
As one and all they faded, poisoned or slain,
In great agony died.
Father, you'll drive me forth never to return,
Doubting me your son--
So I shall, John
--but that glory for which I burn
Shall be soon begun.
I shall wear great boots, shall strut and shout,
Keep my locks curled.
The fame of my name shall go ringing about
Over half the world.
Horror that your Prince found, John may you find,
Ever and again
Dying before the house in such torture of mind
As you need not feign.
While they clap and stamp at your nightly fate,
They shall never know
The curse that drags at you, until Hell's gate.
You have heard me. Go!
Robert Graves's Other Poems
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