Sympathists

Posts Tagged ‘Loudon Wainwright’

On Prince Hal

In Music, Reading on January 5, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Matthew Thomas, Kyoto

This post takes as its source the song “Prince Hal’s Dirge,” by Loudon Wainwright III. Wainwright, in turn, bases the song on the character of Prince Hal in Henry IV.  Let’s dive in. Prince Hal in Shakespeare deliberately consorts with riff-raff and drunks as a young man, so that his later conversion to an upright king may appear all the more sympathetic.  Speaking to Falstaff and assorted drinkers:

I know you all, and will awhile uphold
Th unyoked humor of your idleness.
Yet herein I will imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wondered at
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapors that did seem to strangle him.

Hal continues:

So when this loose behavior I throw off
And pay the debt I never promised,
By how much better that my word I am,
By so much I shall falsify men’s hopes;
And, like bright metal on a sullen ground,
My reformation, glitt’ring o’re my fault,
Shall show more goodly and attract more eyes
Than that which hath no foil to set it off.
I’ll so offend to make offense a skill,
Redeeming time when men think least I will.

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