We know the Bard, in written word, stands tall,
When speaking of the “charming streams of life”,
The beauteous and benign that nature thralls;
The venom and the vice which us appals;
The guy did not foresee our present strife
In th’obsolete, with which his works are rife;
In poring over books in uni rooms,
With darkened bags beneath our bloodshot eyes
As that depressing essay deadline looms.
If we could only waken from their tombs
The ghosts of playwrights, bidding them to rise,
T’explain the terms which they soliloquise
To tell us what they mean by “brave bawcock”;
And pompous terms that leave us all bemused
Why alter “knap” to mean the same as ‘knock’?
Why is “cog” to deceive and “gast” to ‘shock’?
Why “touch” means ‘try’ in volumes we’ve perused?
Why must a playwright’s work be so confused?
When searching for abuse or a cheap shot
The next are used to slander and abhor:
A “coystrill”, “rudesby”, “lozel”, “jack”, or “trot”,
“Enseamed”, a “ninny” “baggage”, “caitiff”, “quat”.
To mark as “housewife” is to brand a ‘whore’,
In what we’d deem a sexist metaphor.
The Bard, make no mistakes, was not a saint,
Loving to “sponge” – er, that is, to get pissed –
To “shrift”, to confess and then to insist.
When “coiled” you got your “gaskins” in a twist
And harmless terms like “natural” and “quaint”
Were ‘nough to make a Holy Sister faint.
You often flavour lemonade with lime,
When gathering in the drinks at Happy Hour.
These days it ne’er would be a crime, and yet
To “lime” a “leman” in old Shakespeare’s time
Is to enact a deed but twice as sour,
Entrapping sweethearts in some villain’s tower.
To think, if in four hundred years, we can
Still read this verse, our plays and books embossed,
Give voice to prose and so revive a man,
Like one as fierce and pissed as Caliban.
The ousting of these terms proves high a cost,
Which ne’er should be in our translation lost.