LIFE IS A DREAM Essay Thesis

Published: 2021-09-10 17:05:09
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A monologue from the play by Pedro Calderon de la Barca
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Eight Dramas of Calderon. Trans. Edward Fitzgerald. London: Macmillan & Co., 1906.
SEGISMUND: Princes and warriors of Poland–youThat stare on this unnatural sight aghast,Listen to one who, Heaven-inspired to doWhat in its secret wisdom Heaven forecast,By that same Heaven instructed prophet-wiseTo justify the present in the past.What in the sapphire volume of the skiesIs writ by God’s own finger misleads none,But him whose vain and misconstructed eyes,They mock with misinterpretation,Or who, mistaking what he rightly read,Ill commentary makes, or misappliesThinking tno shirk or thwart it. Which has doneThe wisdom of this venerable head;Who, well provided with the secret keyTo that gold alphabet, himself made me,Himself, I say, the savage he fore-readFate somehow should be charged with; nipp’d the growthOf better nature in constraint and sloth,That only bring to bear the seed of wrongAnd turn’d the stream to fury whose out-burstHad kept his lawful channel uncoerced,And fertilized the land he flow’d along.Then like to some unskilful duellist,Who having over-reached himself pushing too hardHis foe, or but a moment off his guard–What odds, when Fate is one’s antagonist!–Nay, more, this royal father, self-dismay’dAt having Fate against himself array’d,Upon himself the very sword he knewShould wound him, down upon his bosom drew,That might well handled, well have wrought; or, keptUndrawn, have harmless in the scabbard slept.But Fate shall not by human force be broke,Nor foil’d by human feint; the Secret learn’dAgainst the scholar by that master turn’dWho to himself reserves the master-stroke.Witness whereof this venerable Age,Thrice crown’d as Sire, and Sovereign, and Sage,Down to the very dust dishonour’d byThe very means he tempted to defyThe irresistible. And shall not I,Till now the mere dumb instrument that wroughtThe battle Fate has with my father fought,Now the mere mouth-piece of its victory–Oh, shall not I, the champion’s sword laid down,Be yet more shamed to wear the teacher’s gown,And, blushing at the part I had to play,Down where the honour’d head I was to layBy this more just submission of my own,The treason Fate has forced on me atone?You stare upon me all, amazed to hearThe word of civil justice from such lipsAs never yet seem’d tuned to such discourse.But listen–In that same enchanted tower,Not long ago I learn’d it from a dreamExpounded by this ancient prophet here;And which he told me, should it come again,How I should bear myself beneath it; notAs then with angry passion all on fire,Arguing and making a distemper’d soul;But ev’n with justice, mercy, self-control,As if the dream I walk’d in were no dream,And conscience one day to account for it.A dream it was in which I thought myself,And you that hail’d me now then hail’d me King,In a brave palace that was all my own,Within, and all without it, mine; until,Drunk with excess of majesty and pride,Methought I tower’d so high and swell’d so wide,That of myself I burst the glittering bubble,That my ambition had about me blown,And all again was darkness. Such a dreamAs this in which I may be walking now;Dispensing solemn justice to you shadows,Who make believe to listen; but anon,With all your glittering arms and equipage,King, princes, captains, warriors, plume and steel,Ay, ev’n with all your airy theatre,May flit into the air you seem to rendWith acclamation, leaving me to wakeIn the dark tower; or dreaming that I wakeFrom this that waking is; or this and thatBoth waking or both dreaming; such a doubtConfounds and clouds our mortal life about.And, whether wake or dreaming, this I know,How dream-wise human glories come and go;Whose momentary tenure not to break,Walking as one who knows he soon may wakeSo fairly carry the full cup, so wellDisorder’d insolence and passion quell,That there be nothing after to upbraidDreamer or doer in the part he play’d,Whether To-morrow’s dawn shall break the spell,Or the Last Trumpet of the eternal Day,When Dreaming with the Night shall pass away.

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