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Featured Poem: Ariel, from The Tempest by William Shakespeare

June 27, 2016

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A little taste of Shakespeare this Monday morning, we revisit a song from The Tempest.

This week’s Featured Poem comes from William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The extract is found in Act V, Scene I when it is sung by Ariel, a sprite in the service of the sorcerer Prospero.

Prospero has informed Ariel that he intends to renounce his magical powers and will free the sprite from his service. Ariel became his ‘slave’ after Prospero saved him from being trapped in a tree. As Prospero changes his wizarding robes for his city clothes in a symbolic act of transformation, Ariel sings the lyrics in anticipation of gaining freedom from service and returning to the natural world.

Ariel rejoices at the prospect of living “Merrily, merrily … Under the blossom that hangs on the bough”, an escape to the idyllic, pastoral world we’ve touch on quite a lot recently with Yeats and Thoreau.

A fierce and wicked sprite, Ariel’s song reveals a softness, a longing for freedom from his enslavement. He remains loyal to Prospero throughout the play, protecting his master and foiling plots to bring him down, and is eventually rewarded with his freedom to “fly after summer merrily”.

 

Ariel, from The Tempest

 

Where the bee sucks, there suck I:

In a cowslip’s bell I lie;

There I couch when owls do cry.

On the bat’s back I do fly

After summer merrily.

Merrily, merrily shall I live now

Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.

 

William Shakespeare

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