The statue of William Shakespeare by Louis François Roubiliac in the British Library is not happy.
Forgive me, prithee, this affected pose.
In life I ne’er had time for such tableaux.
Fie! Gazing off in space for inspiration?
The stage is scarce so glam’rous a vocation.
One needs must keep the groundlings fed with gags,
Abandon a soliloquy that drags,
Replace a lad whose voice untimely breaks,
Becalm a nervous novice with the shakes,
Restrain the zeal of an o’erweening clown,
Whiles praying that the theatre burn not down.
Let scholars be as studious as they please;
A playwright deals with practicalities.
Grim threat of heavy rain is ever troubling.
And many are the headaches caused by doubling.
Withhold the Fool until Cordelia’s done,
Let her not show her face throughout his fun,
Then kill him off before she cometh back.
No scholar I, but makeshift jobbing hack.
Excuse, to boot, this lavish goodly gear.
Enormous cloaks I was not wont to wear.
Is this the swaddling blanket for a whale?
Mercutio would declare, “A sail! A sail!”
It ill beseemeth I be decked out so,
Who laughed at Osric, mocked Malvolio.
I ne’er was vain—but for my slender figure,
Which, to my shame, the sculptor’s rendered bigger!
I look full-bellied with my vest unbutton’d.
Behold me, Falstaff! Thou hast been outglutton’d.
I’m oft proclaimed “the greatest scribe on earth.”
I see now ’tis referring to my girth.
Would’st hear the reason for this bad mischance?
The villain who did sculpt me came from France.
In Henrys Fifth and Sixth I scorned the French.
E’en called their precious soldier Joan a wench.
Now hath my artist his revenge on me.
I’m mocked in marble for posterity.
Except, this statue is not me at all.
Some player, name of Garrick, had the gall
Not only to commission the assault--
But stood as model too! ’Tis all his fault.
The pose, the clothes, the finger on the cheek--
All him! This portliness is his physique.
He meant well, aiming for a grand effect,
Though sadly only grand in disrespect,
More versed in pomp and bombast than in tact.
I’m glad I never saw the fellow act.
Now fare ye well and let me bear my yoke.
A poor fool I, could I not take a joke.
Go see a play. Leave me to sigh like Job.
I hear there’s something decent at the Globe.