Home  »  A Library of American Literature  »  Shakespeare

Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889


By Henry Ames Blood (1836–1900)

[Born in Temple, N. H., 1836. Died in Washington, D.C., 1900.]

I WISH that I could have my wish to-night;

For all the fairies should assist my flight

Back into the abyss of years;

Till I could see the streaming light,

And hear the music of the spheres

That sang together at the joyous birth

Of that immortal mind,

The noblest of his kind—

The only Shakespeare that has graced our earth.

Oh, that I might behold

Those gentle sprites, by others all unseen,

Queen Mab and Puck the bold,

With curtseys manifold

Glide round his cradle every morn and e’en;

That I might see the nimble shapes that ran

And frisked and frolicked by his side,

When school-hours ended or began,

At morn or eventide;

That I might see the very shoes he wore

Upon the dusty street,

His little gown and pinafore,

His satchel and his schoolboy rig complete!

If I could have the wish I rhyme,

Then should this night, and all it doth contain,

Be set far back upon the rim of Time,

And I would wildered be upon a stormy plain:

The wanton waves of winter wind and storm

Should beat upon my ruddy face,

And on my streaming hair;

And hags and witches multiform,

And beldames past all saintly grace,

Should hover round me in the sleety air.

Then, hungry, cold, and frightened by these imps of sin,

And breathless all with buffeting the storm,

Betimes I would arrive at some old English inn,

Wainscoted, high, and warm.

The fire should blaze in antique chimney-place;

And on the high-backed settles, here and there,

The village gossip and the merry laugh

Should follow brimming cups of half-an’-half;

Before the fire, in hospitable chair,

The landlord fat should bask his shining face,

And slowly twirl his pewter can;

And there in his consummate grace,

The perfect lord of wit,

The immortal man,

The only Shakespeare of this earth should sit.

There, too, that Spanish galleon of a hulk,

Ben Jonson, lying at full length,

Should so dispose his goodly bulk

That he might lie at ease upon his back,

To test the tone and strength

Of Boniface’s sherris-sack.

And there should be some compeers of these two,

Rare wits and poets of the land,

Whom all good England knew,

And who are now her dear forget-me-nots;

And they should lounge on Shakespeare’s either hand,

And sip their punch from queer old cans and pots.

Oh, then, such drollery should begin,

Such wit flash out, such humor run

Around the fire in this old English inn,

The veriest clod would be convulsed with fun;

And Boniface’s merry sides would ache,

And his round belly like a pudding shake.

Never since the world began

Has been such repartee;

And never till the next begins,

Will greater things be said by man,

Than this same company

Were wont to say so oft in those old English inns.

Dear artist, if you paint this picture mine,

Do not forget the storm that roars

Above the merry din and laughter within doors;

But let some stroke divine

Make all within appear more rich and warm,

By contrast with the outer storm.

23 April, 1864.