(Poem #1018) At Stratford-Upon-Avon
Thus spake his dust (so seemed it as I read The words): Good friend, for Jesus' sake forbeare (Poor ghost!) To digg the dust enclosèd heare -- Then came the malediction on the head Of whoso dare disturb the sacred dead. Outside the mavis whistled strong and clear, And, touched with the sweet glamour of the year, The winding Avon murmured in its bed, But in the solemn Stratford church the air Was chill and dank, and on the foot-worn tomb The evening shadows deepened momently. Then a great awe fell on me, standing there, As if some speechless presence in the gloom Was hovering, and fain would speak with me.
(Sonnet XI from 'XXVIII Sonnets') Note: The reference is to Shakespeare's self-penned epitaph: "Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare To digg the dust enclosèd heare; Blese be ye man yt spares these stones And curst be he yt moves my bones " mavis: The song-thrush Aldrich dedicated the poem to Edwin Booth (see links) As a poet and writer, Shakespeare stands alone in the public estimation - like Einstein, his name and image have acquired a mystique out of proportion to even his towering achievements. It is this semimythical Shakespeare that Aldrich addresses in "At Stratford-Upon-Avon" - the man whose spirit even now pervades the town in which he lies buried, speechless and awe-inspiring. Aldrich captures this atmosphere admirably - the poem is evocative, and the balance and development perfect. He also avoids the temptation to write in a Shakespearean style - an easy trap to fall into, given the subject, and one that would likely have produced a far inferior poem.  or even to write a Shakespearean sonnet The sonnet is developed beautifully, the octet setting up a quiet, almost pastoral series of images which the sestet then builds upon and intensifies, transforming 'quiet' into 'solemn' and (in the old sense of the word) 'awful'. All in all, one of the better tributes to the bard I've seen. martin Links: I found today's poem on the HTI American Verse Project, a wonderful resource I recently discovered: http://www.hti.umich.edu/a/amverse/ There's a biography of Aldrich at Poem #236 Edwin Booth: [broken link] http://shakespeare.eb.com/shakespeare/micro/78/51.html and [broken link] http://www.geocities.com/litpageplus/shakmoul.html has a lovely collection of pieces on and tributes to Shakespeare