Of the early risings and the dark returns
The unseen children and missed bedtimes
The chances taken on rain slick roads
The risk of dreadful collision
As bleary eyed drivers zoom and hurry
The agonies of thousands crammed into tubes and trains
Does anyone sing of the commuter’s plight?
Commuter belts were planned around cities
To give encircling green spaces
A commuter belt encircles my life
Tying me in
Constraining, tightening, giving no relief
Does anyone tell of the commuter as hero?
The journeys survived, the meetings won?
I am the voice of the lone commuter
You talk of food miles, of recycling
Of saving the planet
I counted my work miles
Those I have journeyed to earn my crust
They take me to the Moon and back
Oh to be free of these surly bonds
Hamlet stopped walking and asked the ghost, “Where are you leading me? I’ll go no further.”
“Listen to me carefully,” the ghost said.
“The hour has almost come when I must return to the sulfurous and tormenting flames of Purgatory.”
“Alas, poor ghost!”
“Do not pity me,” the ghost said. “Instead, listen carefully to what I shall tell you.”
“Speak; I am bound by filial duty to hear you.”
“When you hear what I have to say, you will be bound to seek revenge.”
“I am your father’s spirit. I am doomed for a certain time to walk during the night, and during the day I am confined to fast in fires, until the foul sins I committed in my days of life are burnt and purged away. If I were not forbidden to tell the secrets of my prison-house, I could tell you things whose lightest word would harrow your soul, freeze your young blood, and make your two eyes, like falling stars, start from their sockets, and part your carefully arranged locks of hair and make each individual hair stand on end like the quills of the bad-tempered porcupine. But this revelation of the mysteries of Purgatory must not be made to ears of flesh and blood. Listen, listen, listen to me if you ever have loved your dear father —”
“— revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.”
“Murder most foul,” the ghost said. “Murder is foul at best, but my murder was very foul, strange, and unnatural. My murder is unnatural because it goes against the natural bonds of kinship.”
“Quickly tell me what happened,” Hamlet said, “so that I, with wings as swift as thinking or the thoughts of love, may sweep to my revenge.”
“I find you apt and eager,” the ghost said. “You would have to be duller than the overgrown weeds that root themselves in ease on the banks of the Lethe River, whose water souls drink to forget past events, not to be moved by what I have to say.
“Now, Hamlet, listen. It was reported that as I was sleeping in my garden, a serpent bit me. The whole ear of Denmark is by a false account of my death rankly abused. Know, you noble youth, that the serpent that stung your father’s life now wears his crown.”
“Oh, my prophetic soul! I suspected this! My uncle!”
“Yes, your uncle is the cause of my death. He is an incestuous and adulterous beast. He used his knowledge of witchcraft, and he used traitorous gifts — wicked wit and gifts have the power to seduce! — to win to his shameful lust the will of my most seemingly virtuous Queen Gertrude, your mother.
“Oh, Hamlet, how she fell! She took her love from me, whose love was of such quality that it kept the vow I had made to her when I married her, and she gave it to a wretch whose natural gifts were poor in comparison to those of mine. True virtue can never be seduced even if lust dresses itself up with a Heavenly appearance, but lust, even if it has a Heavenly appearance, can first gorge itself in a celestial bed, and then gorge itself with garbage.
“But, wait! I think that I smell the morning air, so I must be brief. As I was sleeping — I thought safely — within my garden, as was my habit each afternoon, your uncle stole into my garden, carrying a vial of the poisonous juice of the cursed hebenon plant, and he poured the leprous poison into the shells of my ears. This poison so hates the blood of man that as quickly as it courses through the veins of the body, it makes the healthy and wholesome blood curdle like acid when dropped into milk. Quickly, my skin became like the bark of a tree. My skin became leprous; a vile and loathsome crust covered all my smooth body.
“That is how I, while sleeping, lost my life, my crown, and my queen, all because of a brother’s hand. My life was cut short even in the blossom of my sin. I died without receiving the sacrament of holy communion, without confessing and being absolved from my sins, and without being anointed with holy oil. I was not given my last rites. I was not able to make a reckoning of my sins before I died, but instead I was sent to give an account of my sins with all my imperfections on my head. Oh, horrible! Oh, horrible! Most horrible!
“If you have any natural feeling in you, do not tolerate this. Do not allow the royal bed of Denmark to be a couch for lustfulness and damned incest. But, whatever you do, do not allow your mind to be corrupted by contact with your uncle, and do not plot to harm your mother. Leave her to Heaven and to her conscience — allow those thorns that lodge in her bosom to prick and sting her.
“Farewell now! The glowworm shows that the morning is near — the glowworm’s ineffectual fire begins to pale.
“Adieu, adieu! Hamlet, remember me.”
The ghost departed.
Hamlet said to himself, “Oh, all you host of Heaven — you angels! Oh, Earth! What else shall I call on? Shall I call on Hell? Damn! Do not break, my heart. And you, my sinews, do not grow instantly old, but instead keep me standing upright.
“Shall I remember you! Yes, you poor ghost, I will remember you for as long as memory holds a seat in this distracted globe — this head — of mine. Remember you! Yes, from the tablet of my memory I’ll wipe away all trivial and foolish records, all quotations from books, all ideas, all past impressions and observations that I have copied and written there in my youth. The only thing that shall live on in the book and volume of my brain will be your commandment. It will not be mixed with baser matter. Yes, by Heaven!
“Oh, most pernicious woman! Oh, villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! My tablet — it is fitting that I write down that a person may smile, and smile, and still be a villain. At least I’m sure it may be so in Denmark.”
Hamlet wrote on a tablet, and then he said, “So, uncle, there you are. Now to my watchword, aka motto — the words that I will live by. The ghost said, ‘Adieu, adieu! Remember me.’ I have sworn to remember it.”
Horatio called, “My lord! My lord!”
Marcellus called, “Lord Hamlet!”
“May Heaven protect Hamlet!” Horatio said.
Hamlet said to himself, “So be it.”
Horatio called, “Hillo, ho, ho, my lord!”
A falconer uses the words “Hillo, ho, ho” to call his falcon to return to him.
Hamlet called back, “Hillo, ho, ho, boy! Come, bird, come.”
Horatio and Marcellus walked over to Hamlet.
“How are you, my noble lord?” Marcellus asked.
“What happened, my lord?” Horatio asked.
“Something to be wondered at,” Hamlet replied.
“My good lord, tell us what happened,” Horatio requested.
“No; you’ll reveal it.”
“Not I, my lord,” Horatio said. “I swear it by Heaven.”
“I also swear that I will not reveal it,” Marcellus said.
“What do you say then to this?” Hamlet said. “Would anyone ever think —”
He stopped and then asked, “But you will keep this secret?”
Horatio and Marcellus replied, “Yes, we will. We swear it by Heaven, my lord.”
Hamlet thought about revealing to them what the ghost had said, but in the midst of speaking he changed his mind and said something obvious: “All complete and total villains dwelling in Denmark are … complete and total knaves.”
“No ghost, my lord, needs to come from the grave to tell us this,” Horatio said. “We already know it.”
“Why, you are right,” Hamlet said. “You are in the right, and so, without any more explanation at all, I think it fitting that we shake hands and part. You shall do as your business and desire shall point you; every man has business and desire, such as it is. As for me, I will go and pray.”
“These are wild and excited words, my lord,” Horatio said.
“I’m sorry that they offend you,” Hamlet said. “I am heartily sorry — yes, heartily.”
“I am not offended,” Horatio replied.
“By Saint Patrick you say that you are not offended,” Hamlet said, “but my words are about offense — and a lot of offense. Regarding this vision here, it is an honest and genuine ghost — I can tell you that. As for your desire to know what happened between the ghost and me, stifle that desire as much as you are able to. And now, good friends, as you are friends, scholars, and soldiers, grant me one poor thing I request.”
“What is it, my lord?” Horatio said. “We will grant it.”
“Never make known what you have seen tonight,” Hamlet said.
“My lord, we will not,” both Horatio and Marcellus said.
“Swear it,” Hamlet said.
“Truly, my lord, I will not reveal what I have seen tonight,” Horatio said.
“Neither will I, truly,” Marcellus said.
“Swear it upon the cross made by the hilt of my sword,” Hamlet said.
Hamlet drew his sword.
“We have sworn, my lord, already,” Marcellus said.
“Swear upon the cross made by the hilt of my sword,” Hamlet repeated.
The ghost’s voice came from under the ground: “Swear!”
“Ah, ha, boy!” Hamlet said, excitedly. “Do you say so? Are you there, truepenny — true and honest fellow?”
He said to Horatio and Marcellus, “Come on — you hear this fellow in the cellars — swear.”
“Propose the oath you want us to swear to, my lord,” Horatio said.
“Swear by my sword that you will never speak of this that you have seen.”
The ghost’s voice came from under the ground, but from a different spot than before: “Swear!”
Hamlet said about the ghost’s voice, “Hic et ubique? [Latin for ‘Here and everywhere?’] Then we’ll shift our ground and move to a different spot. Come over here, gentlemen, and lay your hands again upon my sword. Swear by my sword that you will never tell what you have heard.”
The ghost’s voice came from under the ground, and again it came from a different spot than before: “Swear by his sword!”
“Well said, old mole!” Hamlet said. “Can you dig and work in the earth so fast? You are a worthy miner! Once more, let us move, good friends.”
“Oh, day and night,” Horatio said, “but this is wondrously strange!”
“Since the ghost is a stranger, welcome it,” Hamlet said. “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of by philosophers.”
He then said to both Horatio and Marcellus, “But come; swear here, as you have sworn oaths before, never, so help you God, no matter how strange or odd I act, as I perhaps hereafter shall think fitting to act in an antic and insane manner, that you, seeing me at such times, never shall do or say anything that reveals that you know that I am putting on an act. Swear that you will not fold your arms like this [Hamlet folded his arms], or shake your heads like this [Hamlet shook his head], or say some mysterious phrase such as ‘Well, well, we know,’ or ‘We could, if we would,’ or ‘If we wanted to speak,’ or ‘There are people who could say more if they wanted to,’ or such other ambiguous hint. In short, you will do nothing and you will say nothing that hints that you know that I am putting on an act. Swear this upon the grace and mercy that you will need on the Day of Judgment.”
The ghost’s voice came from under the ground: “Swear!”
Horatio and Marcellus put their hands on Hamlet’s sword and swore not to tell what they had seen, not to tell what they had heard, and not to reveal that Hamlet was faking it when he acted as if he were insane.
Tyler Cowen is a professor of economics at George Mason University. Alex Tabarrok remembers, “Tyler once walked into class the day of the final exam and he said. ‘Here is the exam. Write your own questions. Write your own answers. Harder questions and better answers get more points.’ Then he walked out.” In a 13 August 2012 comment on this blog entry, Ragbatz wrote, “In the 1960’s a Harvard chemistry professor posed a question on a chemistry final examination along these lines:‘10% Extra Credit. Write a question to be used as an extra credit question on a final examination in chemistry. The ideal extra credit question should be worth about 10% of the grade on the examination as a whole, and test facility with the material covered during the course.’ My friend Tom Hervey received full credit with the following answer:‘10% Extra Credit. Write a question to be used as an extra credit question on a final examination in chemistry. The ideal extra credit question should be worth about 10% of the grade on the examination as a whole, and test facility with the material covered during the course.’”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The House of Seven Gables, was a little wild while he was attending Bowdoin College. He played cards and gambled, drank alcohol and smoked tobacco, and cut class—all of which were against the rules of the college. In May 1822, William Allen, the president of Bowdoin, sent his mother a letter that said in part: “By the vote of the executive government of this college, it is made my duty to request your cooperation with us in the attempt to induce your son faithfully to observe the laws of this institution.” After he was caught gambling, the college fined him 50 cents. At the time, that amount of money would buy enough food to feed a person for two days. He wrote his mother and asked her to pay the fine. He also promised not to gamble again—at least until the last week of the term. In May of his senior year, he received a bill. The cost of his tuition was $2, and the cost of his fines was $2.36. The college fined him 20 cents for not turning in papers, 20 cents for missing church, 36 cents for missing prayers, and $1.60 for cutting class.
Growing up with a cartoon creator for your father can have disadvantages. Chuck Jones directed and co-wrote the cartoon “For Scent-imental Reasons,” starring amorous skunk Pepé le Pew. His daughter, Linda, saw the cartoon just before she entered a junior high school spelling bee. She was asked to spell the word “sentimental.” Guess how she spelled it? Chuck remembered, “She came home furious.” By the way, when Linda was little and she and her friends were watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon, she told her friends that her father had drawn the cartoon—which he had. Unfortunately, they did not believe her. One child even said, “Yeah, sure, and my father’s Clark Gable.” Given the time and place the Jones family was living, that may even have been true. Also by the way, when Linda was four years old, she drank a teaspoonful of champagne and sugar to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Asked if she liked it, she said, “Yes, it’s full of jokes.”
Censors can come up with some funny things to object to. For example, in the early 20thcentury, a Midwestern women’s organization objected to the nudity of the Walt Disney cartoon character Clarabelle Cow. Fortunately, this objection was easy to disarm. Mr. Disney simply drew the character a skirt to wear. By the way, being able to draw a convincing cartoon character takes both talent and lots of study. For example, Disney artists study movies of a cow. At first, the cow is a calf, then it grows up, and then it is milked. By studying the movie, Disney artists discover such things as this fact: “Look! No matter how fat a cow gets, her hips still stay bony.” Another artist discovered this fact: “When she eats, she moves her jaw from side to side instead of up and down the way we do.”
Victor Mature and Jim Backus acted together, and they were cadets at military school together. Neither did well at military school; both succeeded in infuriating the Colonel in charge of the military school. The Colonel even bawled them out, told them to stay out of his sight, and predicted that they would end up as gutter bums. A few years later, Mr. Mature and Mr. Backus were successful movie actors. One day, they were making a movie together, and Mr. Mature got an idea. The movie set was a penthouse, and Mr. Mature, Mr. Backus, two starlets, and not much feminine clothing posed together on the set for a photograph that Mr. Mature sent to the Colonel with this note: “Best wishes from Cadets Mature and Backus. P.S. How are your honor students doing?”
Artist James Montgomery Flagg’s father did a very good deed during the Great Blizzard of 1888 in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, during which he got caught in the blizzard. While he was walking home, he came across a young woman who had fainted in the cold. He carried her a mile to her home and then walked the rest of his way to his home, where he used hot towels to melt the ice in his beard. (Young James, then eleven years old, had walked to school in snow up to his waist. When he arrived at the school, he discovered that school had been cancelled.)
As a child, African-American diva Grace Bumbry was very self-critical, often coming home despondent after a voice lesson. Often, her teacher, Kenneth Billups, would call her mother to tell her not to worry about her daughter’s mood: “She’s all right. She just had another voice lesson today.”
Conductor Pierre Monteux taught at a school for conductors, where a student conducted a very light Mozart piece as if it were a heavy, leaden piece. Mr. Monteux stopped the student and informed him, “Mon Dieu! It is not Strauss, it is not Mahler, and it is not Khrushchev!”
I RAN away from home with the circus, Having fallen in love with Mademoiselle Estralada, The lion tamer. One time, having starved the lions For more than a day, I entered the cage and began to beat Brutus And Leo and Gypsy. Whereupon Brutus sprang upon me, And killed me. On entering these regions I met a shadow who cursed me, And said it served me right. . . . It was Robespierre!
Maximilien Robespierre is an important figure of the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror.
Do you know a language other than English? If you do, I give you permission to translate any or all of my retellings, copyright your translation, publish or self-publish it, and keep all the royalties for yourself. (Do give me credit, of course, for the original retelling.)
I would like to see my retellings of classic literature used in schools, so I give permission to the country of Finland (and all other countries) to give copies of this book to all students forever. I also give permission to the state of Texas (and all other states) to give copies of this book to all students forever. I also give permission to all teachers to give copies of this book to all students forever.
Teachers need not actually teach my retellings. Teachers are welcome to give students copies of my eBooks as background material. For example, if they are teaching Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, teachers are welcome to give students copies of my Virgil’s Aeneid: A Retelling in Prose and tell students, “Here’s another ancient epic you may want to read in your spare time.”
Bruce, David. “Teaching Problem-Solving Through Scenarios.” Classroom Notes Plus: A Quarterly of Teaching Ideas. April 2004.
Bruce, Bruce David, David Stewart, and H. Gene Blocker. Instructor’s Manual and Test Bank for Stewart and Blocker’s Fundamentals of Philosophy, 5th edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2001.
Bruce, Bruce David, and Michael Vengrin. Study Guide for Robert Paul Wolff’s About Philosophy, 8th edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000.
Bruce, Bruce David, and Michael Vengrin. Study Guide for Robert Paul Wolff’s About Philosophy, 7th edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998.
Bruce, Bruce David. Study Guide for David Stewart and H. Gene Blocker’s Fundamentals of Philosophy, 4th edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1996.
Bruce, David. “Quarterly Quiz.” The Opera Quarterly. Vol. 21. No. 2. Spring 2005.
Bruce, David. “Quarterly Quiz: Tenors.” The Opera Quarterly. Vol. 20. No. 4. Autumn 2004.
Bruce, David. “Quarterly Quiz: Sopranos.” The Opera Quarterly. Vol. 20. No. 3. Summer 2004.
Bruce, David. “Shakespeare Quiz.” The Shakespeare Newsletter. 52:1. No. 252. Spring 2002.
Bruce, David. “Quarterly Quiz: More Singer Anecdotes.” The Opera Quarterly. Vol. 18. No. 1. Winter 2002.
Bruce, David. “Mystery Quiz.” International Gymnast. March 2002.
Bruce, David. “Mystery Quiz.” International Gymnast. February 2002.
Bruce, David. “Mystery Quiz.” International Gymnast. November 2001.
A song for the rights of all: the right to be safe in our bodies, the right to make decisions for our bodies, and the right to be who we are in our bodies. (Lyrics below.) I wrote this song […] out of the need to process my anger at women’s rights being taken away and for what this means for other rights down the line. A never-ending issue it seems, but one we can’t stop fighting for. A big thank you to Tom Riggs for taking footage of my first performance of this song with Mark Hellenberg on drums at The Union in Athens, OH.
Lyrics for “This Body”:
This body is temporary, but while it’s here / It’s not yours to hold captive in fear / This body is mine, it was never yours / So fuck your laws and gods and guns / I get to say what I put inside / I GET TO CHOOSE, IT IS MY RIGHT / This body is sacred, but only safe / When I’m in charge, you have no claim / This body is proud and wears the crown / Makes the decisions and won’t back down / I get to say what I put inside / I GET TO CHOOSE, IT IS MY RIGHT / And don’t tell me who I can love or about my identity / Don’t use your privilege to subject your patriarchy / I get to say what I put inside / I GET TO CHOOSE, IT IS MY RIGHT.
A Man and his son were once going with their Donkey to market. As they were walking along by its side, a countryman passed them and said: ‘You fools, what is a Donkey for but to ride upon?’
So the Man put the Boy on the Donkey and they went on their way. But soon they passed a group of men, one of whom said: ‘See that lazy youngster, he lets his father walk while he rides.’
So the Man ordered his Boy to get off, and got on himself. But they hadn’t gone far when they passed two women, one of whom said to the other: ‘Shame on that lazy lout to let his poor little son trudge along.’
Well, the Man didn’t know what to do, but at last he took his Boy up before him on the Donkey. By this time they had come to the town, and the passersby began to jeer and point at them. The Man stopped and asked what they were scoffing at. The men said: ‘Aren’t you ashamed of yourself for overloading that poor donkey of yours with you and your hulking son?’
The Man and Boy got off and tried to think what to do. They thought and they thought, till at last they cut down a pole, tied the donkey’s feet to it, and raised the pole and the donkey to their shoulders. They went along amid the laughter of all who met them till they came to Market Bridge, when the Donkey, getting one of his feet loose, kicked out and caused the Boy to drop his end of the pole. In the struggle the Donkey fell over the bridge, and his fore-feet being tied together he was drowned.
‘That will teach you,’ said an old man who had followed them:
‘Try to please all, and you will please none.’
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