What need has Shakespeare for me? What am I
That I should add my praise to th'immortal
Poet of my tongue? Yet, grace demands it,
And gratitude: We must praise our masters
Though our praise fall ever short of their worth.
Then list, O reader faire, unto my words,
For on this day, this happy day, a mere
Four and one half centuries (plus years six)
Was born to us a bard. No man before
Nor since ever so wielded quill and ink.
Soul of his age, soul of ours, who saw
The full compass of man in all ages.
Never was born one whom Shakespeare wrote not,
Never can one be born out of Shakespeare.
In all ages and all places does brood
Hamlet in his sables, Macbeth does ford
His bloody river, and an Iago
Tempts Othello to mad, jealous murder;
Star damned Romeo seeks his Juliet,
And Lear rages at his ill-use, 'til breaks
His heart: And yet more: What tavern knows not
Its Falstaff, braggart great? He lies, we know,
Yet laugh we still, as did the wayward prince.
Theseus blesses where his law could damn,
And Malvolio storms, claiming his day
A language small was thy inheritance:
A language great was ours, enrich'd by thee
In words as well as poetry. So much
Thou gave'st thy beloved English, much more
Than can ever be repaid: And for thanks
Thou art much abused, they name known, naught else.
Taught by ill- learn'd schoolmasters to students
Unwilling: among them, thy glorious
Name a curse.
Take then, O my master great,
My praises weak, for though small they may be,
They are honest. As long as beats this heart,
My tongue I shall not enjail within teeth
And I shall praise thee, not as thou deserves,
For no mouth can speak thy worth, nor hand write
Praise high enough: A mere candle am I
Lit against the darkness rising. Take, I ask,
What I give, essaying to catch thy tone
If not thy worth, as I speak as thou spoke
For this one day, and be not offended
Thou needst me not, I know well, but I thou
Dost need and love, William of Stratford,
This day and ever master of my tongue,
And I am grateful providence saw fit
To grant us thee for time short and for time