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Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Exit the king

November 5, 2021

Could the presumed saviors of mankind actually be our enemies? The Catholic Church? The Republican Party? Israel? The Taliban? And if so, what then? And what would Shakespeare think?

Robert Kahn

By Robert Kahn

Deputy editor emeritus, Courthouse News

(Richard II, V, v)

I have been studying how I may compare

This world in which we live unto a prison:

And for because this prison’s populous,

Yet in it we are all alone,

I cannot do it; yet I’ll hammer it out.

My dogs I’ll seek, the comfort to my soul:

Their generousness, the peace they bring

to my still-breeding thoughts, that people

all my little world, seeking humour,

though humor never is contented.

The better dogs, as sent from things divine,

Are intermix’d with lesser dogs: Chihuahuas,

Bred to be eaten, and best, perhaps, for that.

Better kill domesticated beasts than wild ones —

As thoughts of things divine are intermix'd

With scruples and do set the word itself

Against the Word, as: ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill.’

O, really, Moses? So what do you think about

the State of Israel? Or the Taliban?

What should we do about them? Enemies

of mankind, or Saviors? And of whom?

Except their own sorry, lying asses.

And what is the difference between them?

How easy it is to set the word against itself —

I give you the Crusades, ‘celibacy’

In the Catholic Church, as thus:

‘Come, little ones;’ and then again,

‘It is as hard to come as for a camel

to thread the postern of a needle's eye.’

Thoughts tending to ambition, they do plot

Unlikely wonders; how our weak vanity 

May tear a passage through the flinty ribs

Of this hard world, our ragged prison walls,

And, for they cannot, die in their own pride.

Thoughts tending to content flatter themselves

That they are not the first of fortune's slaves,

Nor shall not be the last; like silly beggars

Who sitting in the stocks refuge their shame,

That many have and others must sit there;

and in this thought they find a kind of ease,

Bearing their own misfortunes on the back

of such as have before endured the like.

And so they post some bullshit on Facebook,

Inflicting their delusions on the world.

Thus play we all in one person many people,

and none contented — none with a particle of brain.

Sometimes am I king; then treasons make me

wish myself a beggar, and so I am.

Then crushing penury persuades me I was better

when a king; Then am I king’d again:

and by and by think that I am unking’d by Snopes.com,

and straight am nothing. But whate’er I be,

Nor I nor any man that but man is

With nothing shall be pleased, till he be eased

With being nothing. Music do I hear?


Ha, ha! keep time: How sour our sweet suppósed

state is, with no proportion kept!

And time forgot! So is it in the music

of men's lives, when we had not an ear

to hear our true time broke by tyrants.

We wasted time, and now doth time waste us;

for now hath time made us his numbering clock:

Sustaining lies until the next election.

With greedy ears they thrust their nose into

Our eyes. Th’ election season, their precious watch,

like a dial’s point, is pointing still,

cleansing them, they think, from tears they never felt:

Imposed, impelled, but never felt. While we

Stand here, or crouch, clutching our computers,

dogs, and children. Better clutch our dogs

or children than computers. And what would we

rescue from our burning house? Our dogs?

Our children? Or computers? This music mads me!

Let it sound no more. For though it have

holp madmen to their wits, in me it seems

it will make wise men mad, yet blessing on his heart

that gives it me! in this all-hating world.

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