David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 5-7 (Conclusion)

— 5.5 —

The battle was over, and King Edward IV was triumphant. King Edward IV, Duke Richard of Gloucester, and Duke George of Clarence stood together with their prisoners: Queen Margaret, the Earl of Oxford, and the Duke of Somerset. Many Yorkist soldiers were present.

King Edward IV said, “Now here ends our tumultuous broils. Take the Earl of Oxford away to Hames Castle immediately. As for the Duke of Somerset, cut off his guilty head. Go, take them away; I will not hear them speak.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “For my part, I’ll not trouble you with words.”

The Duke of Somerset said, “Nor will I, but I bow with patience to my ill fortune.”

Queen Margaret said to the Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Somerset, “So part we sadly in this troublous world, but we will meet with joy in the sweet city of Jerusalem in Heaven.”

Guards took away the Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Somerset.

King Edward IV said, “Has the proclamation been made that whoever finds Prince Edward, Queen Margaret’s son, shall have a large reward, and Prince Edward shall keep his life?”

“The proclamation has been made,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “and look, here comes the youthful Prince Edward!”

Soldiers arrived, bringing Prince Edward.

King Edward IV said, “Bring forth the gallant, and let us hear him speak. What! Can so young a thorn begin to prick? Prince Edward, what penalty can you pay for bearing arms, for stirring up my subjects to rebel against me, and for all the trouble you have caused me?”

Prince Edward replied, “Speak like a subject, proud ambitious York! Suppose that I am now my father’s mouthpiece. Resign your throne, and where I stand kneel before me, while I say the same questions to you, traitor, which you would have me answer.”

Queen Margaret said, “I wish that your father had been so resolute!”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “If he had been, then you might always have worn the petticoat, and never have stolen the pants from your husband, Henry VI, and worn them.”

Prince Edward said, “Let Aesop tell false fables during a winter’s night; Richard’s currish riddles are not suitable for this place.”

Aesop was popularly supposed to be hunchbacked like Richard. The word “currish” meant “like a cur, aka a mean-spirited dog.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “By Heaven, brat, I’ll plague you for that word.”

Queen Margaret said, “True, you were born to be a plague to men.”

“For God’s sake, take away this captive scold,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said.

“No,” Prince Edward said. “Instead, take away this scolding hunchback.”

“Be quiet, willful boy, or I will put a charm on your tongue to make it silent,” King Edward IV said.

“Untutored, badly raised lad, you are too malapert and impudent,” Duke George of Clarence said.

“I know my duty,” Prince Edward said. “You are all undutiful. Lascivious Edward, and you perjured George, and you misshapen Dick, I tell you all that I am your better, traitors as you are, and you have usurped my father’s right and mine.”

King Edward IV stabbed Prince Edward and said, “Take that, you likeness of this railer — Queen Margaret — here.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester stabbed Prince Edward and said, “Are you suffering your death throes? Take that, to end your agony.”

Duke George of Clarence stabbed Prince Edward and said, “And this is for twitting me with perjury.”

Prince Edward died.

Queen Margaret said, “Oh, kill me, too!”

“By Mother Mary, I shall,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said.

King Edward IV stopped him by saying, “Don’t, Richard, don’t; for we have already done too much.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester asked, “Why should Queen Margaret live? She will fill the world with words.”

Queen Margaret fainted.

King Edward IV said, “Does she swoon? Help her.”

During the commotion, Duke Richard of Gloucester said quietly to his brother Duke George of Clarence, “Clarence, excuse me to the King my brother. I’ll leave here and go to London on a serious matter. Before you come there, you will be sure to hear some news.”

“What? What?” Duke George of Clarence asked.

“The Tower! The Tower!” Duke Richard of Gloucester replied.

He exited.

Brought back to consciousness, Queen Margaret said, “Oh, Ned, sweet Ned! Speak to your mother, boy! Can’t you speak?

“Oh, traitors! Murderers! They who stabbed Julius Caesar shed no blood at all, did not offend, and did not deserve blame, if this foul deed were nearby to be compared to it. Julius Caesar was a man; this, in comparison, is a child. And men never expend their fury on a child.

“What’s worse than being a murderer, so that I may name it? No, no, my heart will burst, if I speak. And I will speak, so that my heart may burst. Butchers and villains! Bloody cannibals! How sweet a plant you have untimely cut!

“You have no children, butchers! If you had, the thought of them would have stirred up remorse. But if you ever chance to have a child, look in his youth to have him so cut off as, you deathmen and executioners, you have killed this sweet young Prince!”

King Edward IV said, “Take her away! Go and bear her forcibly away from here.”

Queen Margaret said, “No, never carry me away from here; instead, kill me here and now. Here in my chest sheathe your sword; I’ll pardon you for killing me. What, Edward IV, you will not? Then, Clarence, you do it.”

“I swear by Heaven that I will not cause you so much comfort,” Duke George of Clarence replied.

Queen Margaret said, “Good Clarence, do it; sweet Clarence, please do it.”

“Didn’t you hear me swear I would not do it?” Duke George of Clarence replied.

“Yes, I did, but you are used to committing perjury,” Queen Margaret said. “Committing perjury was a sin before, but now it is a charitable deed. Won’t you kill me?

“Where is that Devil’s butcher, ugly Richard? Richard, where are you? You are not here. Murder is your good deed. You never refuse those who petition you to shed other people’s blood.”

King Edward IV ordered, “Take her away, I say; I order you, carry her away from here.”

Queen Margaret said, “May what happened to my son the Prince happen to you and yours!”

Guards forcibly carried her away.

King Edward IV asked, “Where has Richard gone?”

Duke George of Clarence said, “To London, in all haste.”

He thought, And, I guess, to make a bloody supper in the Tower of London.

King Edward IV said, “Richard acts quickly, if an idea comes into his head.

“Now we will march away from here. Discharge the common soldiers with pay and thanks, and let’s go away to London and see how well our gentle Queen fares. By this time, I hope, she has given birth to a son for me.”

— 5.6 —

King Henry VI and a Lieutenant were in a room of the Tower of London when Duke Richard of Gloucester arrived. King Henry VI was reading a religious book.

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Good day, my lord. Studying your book so hard?”

“Yes, my good lord,” King Henry VI said. “I should say rather ‘my lord’ because it is a sin to flatter; ‘good’ is a ‘little’ better than you deserve and so it is flattery. ‘Good Gloucester’ and ‘good Devil’ are alike, and both are contrary to the way things should be; therefore, I ought not to call you ‘good lord.’”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said to the Lieutenant, “Sirrah, leave us to ourselves. We must confer.”

The Lieutenant exited.

King Henry VI, who suspected what was about to occur, and who may have had the gift of prophecy, said, “So flees the reckless shepherd from the wolf. So the harmless sheep first yields his fleece and next yields his throat to the butcher’s knife. What scene of death has the famous Roman tragedian Roscius now to act? How am I to die?”

Duke Richard of Gloucester replied, “Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind. The thief is afraid that each bush is an officer of the law.”

King Henry VI said, “After being trapped in a bush, with trembling wings a bird fears every bush. And I, the hapless father to one sweet bird, the Prince, now have the fatal object in my eye where my poor young bird was trapped, caught, and killed. I need not fear every bush because in front of me I see the bush that I ought to fear.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “Why, what a peevish fool was that father of Crete, who taught his son the function of a foolish fowl! And yet, for all his wings, the fool was drowned.”

He was referring to the myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Imprisoned by King Minos on the island of Crete, they escaped after Daedalus fashioned wings made of wax and feathers. Icarus, however, flew too close to the hot Sun, which melted the wax of his wings, and he fell into the sea and drowned.

King Henry VI said, “I am Daedalus; my poor boy is Icarus; your father, the old Duke of York, is King Minos, who would not allow us to freely leave Crete; the sun that seared the wings of my sweet boy is your brother Edward; and you yourself are the sea whose malicious whirlpool swallowed up my son’s life. Ah, kill me with your weapon, not with words! My breast can better endure feeling your dagger’s point than my ears can endure hearing that tragic history.

“But why have you come? Have you come to take my life?”

Duke Richard of Gloucester asked, “Do you think that I am an executioner?”

“I am sure you are a persecutor,” King Henry VI said. “If murdering innocents is executing, why, then you are an executioner.”

“I killed your son for his presumption,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said.

“If you had been killed when you first presumed, then you would not have lived to kill a son of mine,” King Henry VI said. “And thus I prophesy that many a thousand people, who now mistrust no part of what I fear, and many an old man’s and many a widow’s sigh, and many an orphan’s tear-filled eye — men for their sons, wives for their husbands, and orphans for their parents’ untimely death — shall bitterly regret the hour that you were born.

“The owl shrieked at your birth — an evil sign. The night-crow cried, foretelling a luckless time. Dogs howled, and a hideous tempest shook down trees. The raven crouched on the chimney’s top, and chattering magpies sang dismal discords.

“Your mother felt more than a mother’s pain of childbirth, and yet brought forth less than a mother’s hope. I mean that she gave birth to an incomplete and deformed lump, not like the fruit expected from such a splendid tree as your mother.

“You had teeth in your head when you were born to signify that you came to bite the world. And, if the rest be true that I have heard, you came —”

“I’ll hear no more,” Duke Richard of Gloucester said. “Die, prophet, in the middle of your speech.”

He stabbed King Henry VI and said, “For this deed among the rest of my deeds, I was ordained. For such deeds I was born.”

“Yes, and for much more slaughter after this,” King Henry VI said.

As he died, King Henry VI said, “May God forgive my sins, and may God pardon you!”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said over King Henry VI’s corpse, “Will the ambitious, soaring blood of Lancaster sink into the ground? I thought it would have mounted into the sky. See how my sword weeps for the poor King’s death! Oh, may such bloody tears be always shed from those who wish the downfall of our House of York!

“If any spark of life is yet remaining, go down, down to Hell — and say I sent you there.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester stabbed King Henry VI’s corpse.

He continued, “I, who haven’t pity, love, or fear, sent you there. Indeed, what Henry VI told me is true, for I have often heard my mother say that I came into the world with my legs and feet first. Didn’t I have reason, you think, to make haste and seek the ruin of those who usurped our right? The midwife wondered and the women cried, ‘Oh, Jesus bless us, he is born with teeth!’ And so I was, which plainly signified that I would snarl and bite and play the mean dog.

“So then, since the Heavens have misshaped my body, let Hell make my mind crooked to correspond to my crooked body.

“I have no brother, I am like no brother, and this word ‘love,’ which graybeards call divine, is resident in men who are like one another, but it is not resident in me: I am myself alone.

“Clarence, beware, for you are keeping me from the light, from my golden-crowned goal. But I will arrange a pitch-black day for you, for I will buzz abroad rumors of such prophecies that Edward IV shall fear for his life, and then, to purge his fear by lancing and bloodletting, I’ll be your death.

“King Henry VI and his son — the Prince — are dead and gone. Clarence, your turn is next, and then the rest who are in line ahead of me to be King of England. I regard myself as worthless until I am the best and highest-ranking person in England.

“I’ll throw your body in another room and triumph, Henry VI, in your day of doom.”

— 5.7 —

In a room of the palace in London were King Edward IV, Queen Elizabeth, Duke George of Clarence, Duke Richard of Gloucester, Lord Hastings, a nurse holding the recently born Prince, and some attendants.

Using the royal plural, King Edward IV said, “Once more we sit on England’s royal throne,repurchased with the blood of enemies.What valiant foemen, similar to autumn’s wheat,have we mown down, at the peak of all their pride!

“We have mown down three Dukes of Somerset, who were threefold renowned as hardy and undoubted champions; two Cliffords, both the father and the son; and two Northumberlands — two braver men never spurred their warhorses at the military trumpet’s sound.

“Along with them, we have mown down the two brave bears, Warwick and Montague, who in their chains fettered the Kingly lion and made the forest tremble when they roared.”

The Earl of Warwick, the Marquess of Montague, and the Earl of Warwick’s father were members of the Neville family, whose crest depicted a rampant — standing — bear chained to a knobby post.

King Edward IV continued, “Thus have we swept suspicion and anxiety from our seat and made our footstool out of security.”

King Edward IV thought that he was safe and secure on the throne, but already Duke Richard of Gloucester was plotting to become King of England. A now rare meaning of “security” is “overconfidence.”

He continued, “Come here, Bess — my Queen — and let me kiss my boy.

“Young Ned, your uncles and I have in our armors stayed awake during the winter’s night and gone on foot in the summer’s scalding heat, so that that you could possess the crown in peace and so that you shall reap the gain of our labors.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester thought, I’ll blast your son’s harvest, if your head were laid in the grave, the way that a storm can blight a harvest by driving the tops of the wheat into the ground, for I am not yet respected in the world. This shoulder of mine was created so thick so that it could heave, and it shall either heave some bodies out of my way, or break my back.

He touched his head and thought, You work out the way to accomplish my goals.

Then he touched his shoulder and thought, And you shall execute the plan.

King Edward IV continued, “Clarence and Gloucester, love my lovely Queen, and kiss your Princely nephew, both of you brothers of mine.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “The duty that I owe to your majesty I seal upon the lips of this sweet babe.”

“Thanks, noble Clarence,” Queen Elizabeth said, “Worthy brother, thanks.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “And, because I love the tree from whence this babe sprang, witness the loving kiss I give the fruit.”

He kissed the recently born Prince and thought, And Judas cried ‘all hail!’ when he meant all harm.

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.

Matthew 26:48-49 states, “Now he that betrayed him, had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he, lay hold on him. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, God save thee, Master, and kissed him” (1599 Geneva Bible).

King Edward IV said, “Now am I seated as my soul delights because I have my country’s peace and my brothers’ loves.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “What does your grace want to do with Queen Margaret? Reignier, her father, has pawned Sicily, Naples, and Jerusalem to the King of France and has sent here the money raised for her ransom.”

“Send her away, and waft her over the sea to France,” King Edward IV said. “And what remains to be done now but that we spend the time with stately triumphs and mirthful comic shows such as are suitable for the pleasure of the court?

“Sound, drums and trumpets!

“Farewell, sour, bitter annoyances! For here, I hope, begins our lasting joy.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s 3 HENRY VI: A Retelling in Prose — Act 5, Scenes 2-4

— 5.2 —

On 14 April 1471, the Battle of Barnet was being fought on a battlefield near Barnet. King Edward IV met the Earl of Warwick, who was mortally wounded and whose eyesight was failing.

King Edward IV said to him, “So, lie there. Die, you, and with you die our fear, for Warwick was a terror who frightened us all.

“Now, Marquess of Montague, sit fast, I seek you, so that Warwick’s bones may keep your bones company.”

King Edward IV exited.

Alone, the blinded Earl of Warwick said, “Who is near? Come to me, friend or foe, and tell me which General is the victor: York or Warwick?

“But why do I ask that? My mangled body shows, my blood shows, my lack of strength shows, my sick heart shows that I must yield my body to the earth, and by my fall, I must yield the victory to my foe.

“Thus yields the cedar to the axe’s edge, although the cedar’s arms gave shelter to the Princely eagle, and although under the cedar’s shade the ramping lion slept, and although the cedar’s topmost branch peered over Jove’s spreading oak tree and protected low shrubs from winter’s powerful wind.

“These eyes, which now are dimmed with death’s black veil, have been as piercing as the mid-day Sun as they perceived the secret treasons of the world.

“The wrinkles in my brows, now filled with blood, were often likened to Kingly sepulchers, for who lived as King, except a person whose grave I could dig?

“And who dared to smile when Warwick frowned?

“But look, now my glory is smeared in dust and blood! My hunting grounds, my walks, my manors that I had just now have forsaken me, and of all my lands there is nothing left to me except my body’s length — land enough for a grave.

“Why, pomp, rule, and reign are nothing but earth and dust! And, live us how we can, yet die we must.”

The Earl of Oxford and the Duke of Somerset arrived.

The Duke of Somerset said, “Ah, Warwick, Warwick! If you were still uninjured, like us, we might recover all our losses. Queen Margaret has brought from France a powerful army. Just now we heard the news. I wish that you could flee!”

“Why, even if I could, I would not flee,” Warwick said. “Ah, Marquess of Montague, if you are there, sweet brother, take my hand and with your lips kiss me and keep my soul in my body awhile! Your kiss will keep my soul from exiting my body through my lips. You don’t love me because, brother, if you did, your tears would wash this cold, congealed blood that glues my lips and will not let me speak. Come quickly, Montague, or I will be dead before you get here.”

The Duke of Somerset said, “Warwick, the Marquess of Montague has breathed his last, and to the last gasp he cried out for Warwick and said, ‘Commend me to my valiant brother.’ And he would have said more, and he did speak more that sounded like a clamor in a vault that could not be understood, but at last I heard him say clearly, delivered with a groan, ‘Oh, farewell, Warwick!’”

The Earl of Warwick said, “May his soul sweetly rest! Flee, lords, and save yourselves, for Warwick bids you all farewell until we meet in Heaven.”

He died.

The Earl of Oxford said, “Let’s go, so we can meet the Queen’s great army!”

— 5.3 —

On another part of the battlefield, King Edward IV celebrated his victory. With him were his brothers Duke Richard of Gloucester and Duke George of Clarence. Also present were many soldiers.

King Edward IV said, “Thus far our fortune keeps an upward course, and we are graced with wreaths of victory. But, in the midst of this brightly shining day, I spy a black, suspicious, threatening cloud that will battle our glorious Sun before it attains its easeful, comfortable western bed. I mean, my lords, those troops whom Queen Margaret has raised in France have arrived at our coast and, so we hear, march on to fight us.”

Duke George of Clarence said, “A little gale will soon disperse that cloud and blow it to the source from whence it came. The very beams of the Sun will dry those vapors up, for not every cloud generates a storm.”

Duke Richard of Gloucester said, “The Queen’s forces are estimated to be thirty thousand strong, and both the Duke of Somerset and the Earl of Oxford have fled to her. If she is given time before she has to fight, be well assured that her faction will be fully as strong as ours.”

King Edward IV said, “We are informed by our loving friends that Queen Margaret and her troops hold their course toward Tewksbury. We, having now the victory at Barnet battlefield, will go to Tewksbury immediately, for willingness makes for progress on the journey. And as we march, our strength will be augmented in every county as we go along.”

He ordered the drummer, “Strike up the drum,” and then he ordered everyone, “Cry ‘Courage!’ and let’s go.”

— 5.4 —

On the plains near Tewksbury, Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, the Duke of Somerset, and the Earl of Oxford were meeting. With them were many soldiers.

Queen Margaret said, “Great lords, wise men never sit and bewail their loss, but cheerfully seek how to repair their misfortunes.

“What though the mast is now blown overboard, the cable broken, the holding-anchor lost, and half our sailors swallowed in the flood? Our pilot — King Henry VI — still lives.

“Is it suitable that a pilot should leave the helm and like a fearful lad with tearful eyes add water to the sea and give more strength to that which has too much, while as he moans the rock splits the ship, which toil and courage might have saved?

“What a shame, what a fault that would be!

“Say Warwick was our anchor — what of that? And the Marquess of Montague was our topmost sail — what of him? Our slaughtered friends were the ship’s tackles — what of these?

“Why, isn’t Oxford here another anchor? And Somerset another goodly mast? The friends from France our sail-ropes and tacklings?

“And, although we are unskillful, why shouldn’t my son Ned — Prince Edward — and I for once be allowed to perform the skillful pilot’s duty?

“We will not leave the helm in order to sit and weep, but we will instead keep our course, although the rough wind says no, and we will avoid the sandbanks, shoals, and rocks that threaten us with wreck.

“It is as good to scold the waves as to speak well of them. And what is Edward but ruthless sea? What is Clarence but a quicksand of deceit? And what is Richard but a jagged, deadly rock?

“All these are enemies to our poor ship.

“Say you can swim — but you can swim only for a while! Tread on the quicksand; why, there you quickly sink. Bestride the rock; the tide will wash you off, or else you will starve. That’s a threefold death: You can drown in the sea, sink in quicksand, or die of starvation on a rock.

“This speak I, lords, to let you understand, in case one of you would flee away from us, that there’s no hoped-for mercy coming from the brothers — Edward, Clarence, and Richard — no more than the mercy you would get from the ruthless waves, quicksand, and rocks.

“Why, be courageous then! It is childish weakness to lament or fear what cannot be avoided.”

Prince Edward said, “I think a woman of this valiant spirit would, if a coward heard her speak these words, infuse his breast with greatness of heart and nobleness of spirit and make him, without armor and weapons, defeat an armed warrior.

“I don’t say this because I doubt the courage of anyone here, for if I did suspect a man to be fearful he would have my permission to go away right now, lest when we need him to fight he might infect another man and make him of similar fearful spirit as himself.

“If any such be here — God forbid! — let him depart before we need his help.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “Women and children have so high a courage — and warriors are faint-hearted! Why, for warriors to have faint hearts is perpetual shame.

“Oh, brave young Prince! Your famous grandfather — King Henry V — lives again in you. Long may you live to bear his image and renew his glories!”

The Duke of Somerset said, “And may he who will not fight for such a hope as the young Prince go home to bed, and like an owl that is seen during the day, be mocked and wondered at if he arise.”

Queen Margaret said, “Thanks, gentle Somerset; sweet Oxford, thanks.”

Prince Edward said, “And take thanks from me, who as of yet has nothing else to give you.”

A messenger arrived and said, “Prepare yourselves, lords, for Edward IV is at hand and ready to fight; therefore, be resolute.”

The Earl of Oxford said, “I thought no less. It is his military strategy to hasten so quickly in order to find us unprepared to fight.”

“But he’s deceived,” the Duke of Somerset said. “We are ready to fight.”

“Seeing your eagerness to fight cheers my heart,” Queen Margaret said.

“Here we will pitch our battle formation,” the Earl of Oxford said. “From here we will not budge.”

King Edward IV, Duke Richard of Gloucester, Duke George of Clarence, and many soldiers arrived.

King Edward IV said, “Brave followers, yonder stands the metaphorical thorny wood, which by the Heavens’ assistance and your strength must by the roots be hewn up before night. I need not add more fuel to your fire, for well I know you blaze to burn them out. Give the signal for the battle, and let’s go to it, lords!”

Queen Margaret said, “Lords, knights, and gentlemen, my tears contradict what words I should say because as you see, for every word I speak I drink the water of my eyes. Therefore, I will say no more but this: Henry VI, your sovereign, is held prisoner by the foe; his Kingship is usurped, his realm is a slaughterhouse, his subjects are being slain, his laws and statutes are cancelled, and his treasure is spent. And yonder is the wolf that makes this spoil. Your fight is just, and so then, in God’s name, lords, be valiant and give the signal for the battle.”

The battle started.


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David Bruce: Animals Anecdotes

As a teenager, author Gary Paulsen was the favorite victim of a bullying street gang. Once, as he left his job at a bowling alley late at night, he tried to find a new route home by leaving from the roof. As he climbed from the roof into an alley, he stepped on a ferocious dog. Frightened, he threw the dog half of a hamburger he was carrying, then he ran from the alley—right into the hands of members of the bullying street gang, who immediately started to beat him. Suddenly, the ferocious dog jumped out of the alley and began biting gang members. Gary gave the dog the rest of his hamburger, and after the dog bit the gang leader in another encounter, the gang left Gary strictly alone. (Eventually, Gary found the dog, now friendly to everyone except Gary’s enemies, a new life on a farm.)

Fans often get on major-league players, managers, and coaches. Usually, the pros ignore the hazing (they are too busy hazing the opposing team to listen), but occasionally a fan will go too far. Once Danny Murtaugh got up close and personal with a heckler and said to him, “When I was a youngster, I lived on a farm. We had a jackass on that farm that just wouldn’t do anything. One day I really gave that jackass a beating. My father heard the jackass hollering and came to his rescue. Then he turned to me and gave me a good lacing for what I had done. His last words were: ‘Someday that jackass is going to haunt you.’ And you know, up to now I never did believe him.”

Actor Patrick Macnee had a chance to display his riding ability in the Avengers episode “Silent Dust.” He actually rode the same horse that Sir Laurence Olivier had ridden in Henry V when he made the speech “Once more into the breach, dear friends.” Then, the horse was two years old. At the time of the filming of theAvengersepisode, the horse was 22, but still wonderful. Diana Rigg also rode on a horse, but during filming she confessed to Mr. Macnee that she had never been on a horse until the day before yesterday. When he asked what she had done the day before yesterday, she replied, “I went and had a lesson.”

Quakers tend to try to avoid pride of ownership of material possessions, especially during meetings. Benjamin Maule (1794-1873) was especially proud of a horse that he often rode to meetings. However, some Quakers noticed that he had not ridden the horse to meetings in a few weeks, and Mr. Maule confessed to selling the horse. When they expressed surprise that he would sell a horse he was so obviously proud of, Mr. Maule replied, “I felt I should; he would [metaphorically] come into meeting with me.”

Two lions lived in a zoo. One lion was a newcomer, while the other lion had lived in the zoo for many years. Each day the old lion feasted on hunks of raw meat, while the newcomer was given only bananas to eat. When the newcomer asked the old lion why this was, the old lion explained, “This zoo doesn’t have much money, so you are listed in the zoo roster as a monkey.”

Adelie penguins share egg incubation duties equally. After the female penguin lays the eggs, she goes off on a two-week vacation of swimming in the ocean, eating, and growing fat, while the male penguin incubates the eggs and grows thin. When the female penguin returns from her two-week vacation, the male penguin goes off on his own two-week vacation. When the male penguin returns, the egg or eggs are about ready to hatch.

A crowd of Republicans was talking about the fortunes of politics. One Republican boasted that at one time, the Republican party could nominate a jackass for office and get him elected, too. Unfortunately, the Democrats now were winning elections handily. When he was asked to explain the reversal in fortunes, the Republican said, “I am inclined to think the reason is that when we had the power, we simply elected too many jackasses.”

When Anna Pavlova and her company danced Don Quixote, Rocinante was played by a real horse. Although the horse was well-taken care of, when it was made up for its role it resembled the broken-down nag Cervantes had written about. In fact, in Great Britain, members of the audience complained to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Before Ulysses S. Grant rose to a position of prominence, the union soldiers in the Civil War suffered from poor generalship. One day, President Abraham Lincoln learned that a Union brigadier general and 12 mules had been captured by Confederate soldiers. President Lincoln remarked, “How unfortunate! Those mules cost $200 apiece.”

The first performance of George Frideric Handel’s Messiah took place April 23, 1742, at Neal’s Music Hall, located on Fishamble Street in Dublin. The name “Fishamble” is interesting. A market used to be called a “shamble,” and Neal’s Music Hall used to be a fish market.

Natalie Schafer, who played Mrs. Thurston Howell on the TV series Gilligan’s Island, had a small French poodle, Fifi, as a pet. Fifi was too small to jump onto Ms. Schafer’s bed to sleep with her, so Ms. Schafer had a ramp built so that Fifi could climb into bed with her.

Obviously, the White House is very concerned about security. When Caroline Kennedy’s pet hamsters escaped from their cage, JFK’s press secretary, Pierre Salinger, announced at a press conference, “Our security is very tight, but these were extremely intelligent hamsters.”

John Gielgud once played Hamlet at the Castle in Elsinore, Denmark, where the historical Hamlet is supposedly buried. However, Mr. Gielgud reports that many people think that Hamlet’s grave is a fake, and that some people even think that buried in Hamlet’s supposed grave is a cat.

In a Boxford, Massachusetts cemetery is a tombstone the front of which is dedicated to Sarah J. Wood, who died before 1875. On the back of the tombstone is the inscription, “Here at my feet lies my dear pet cat, Tommy, Aug. 24, 1875, aged 17 yrs.”

According to the ancients, although a fox is faster than a rabbit, frequently the rabbit will elude the fox. Why? Because the fox is running for its dinner—but the rabbit is running for its life.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Edgar Lee Masters: Granville Calhoun and Henry C. Calhoun (Spoon River Anthology)

Granville Calhoun

I WANTED to be County Judge
One more term, so as to round out a service
Of thirty years.
But my friends left me and joined my enemies,
And they elected a new man.
Then a spirit of revenge seized me,
And I infected my four sons with it,
And I brooded upon retaliation,
Until the great physician, Nature,
Smote me through with paralysis
To give my soul and body a rest.
Did my sons get power and money?
Did they serve the people or yoke them,
To till and harvest fields of self?
For how could they ever forget
My face at my bed-room window,
Sitting helpless amid my golden cages
Of singing canaries,
Looking at the old court-house?

Henry C. Calhoun

I REACHED the highest place in Spoon River,
But through what bitterness of spirit!
The face of my father, sitting speechless,
Child-like, watching his canaries,
And looking at the court-house window
Of the county judge’s room,
And his admonitions to me to seek
My own in life, and punish Spoon River
To avenge the wrong the people did him,
Filled me with furious energy
To seek for wealth and seek for power.
But what did he do but send me along
The path that leads to the grove of the Furies?
I followed the path and I tell you this:
On the way to the grove you’ll pass the Fates,
Shadow-eyed, bent over their weaving.
Stop for a moment, and if you see
The thread of revenge leap out of the shuttle
Then quickly snatch from Atropos
The shears and cut it, lest your sons
And the children of them and their children
Wear the envenomed robe.


The mythological three Fates determined the length of human life. Clotho spun the thread of life, Lachesis measured the thread of life, and Atropos cut the thread of life.

The mythological Furies were avenging monsters that punished major crimes such as a son’s murder of a father or a mother.