Thursday, November 09, 2006


"Beauty, truth, and rarity,
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclosed, in cinders lie."

This was first published in 1601 as a supplement to a poem by Robert Chester, "Love's Martyr: or Rosalins Complaint. Allegorically shadowing the truth of Loue, in the constant Fate of the Phoenix and Turtle"; the latter a turtle dove, not a shelled reptile.

Chester's long allegory is followed by short poems by the "least and chiefest of our moderne writers, with their names sub-scribed to their particular workes". These include, in addition to Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, George Chapman, John Marston and "Vatum Chorus" and "Ignotus".

All this, and more, was engagingly explained by Michael Wood to an audience of around 400 last Sunday in The Courtyard Theatre at 9pm; afterwards we walked up to Holy Trinity Church, where we had a lovely combination of the poems, read by Peter de Jersey, Joanne Pearce and David Troughton , and music organised by the RSC's Director of Music, John Woolf. All in candlelight - the setting and the strange allegorical poems made the evening seem as much a ritual as a dramatic performance.

You can find Shakespeare's poem in full at

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