Riposte to Jaques


Yes, it was quite a bright idea to say
That all the world’s a stage. But what a way
To act: without an audience and no play!

We have our entrances and exits, true!
But while on stage nobody tells us who
We are supposed to be or what we do.

Scene follows scene but no one knows the plot
Or if the action shows a theme or not.
The dialogue, one fears, is mostly rot.

Still, there’s some action, though by fits and starts:
With others, of course, to play the walk-on parts,
Each plays his sweet prince or her queen of hearts

But, when the curtain falls, there’s no applause.
Each of us to his dressing-room withdraws,
Takes off the grease-paint but is forced to pause

To see at last emerging to the view
In the dim glass a face we never knew
Whose anonymity stares us through and through.

“Whom in the end,” it asks, “did we deceive?”
The actor caught without his make-believe
Bows to his double and prepares to leave.

The lights go out. Doors slam. The streets resound
Our hollow footfalls now as homeward bound
We walk alone to take the underground.

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