Tricks of the strong imagination

When Shakespeare was composing Richard III, he relied heavily on Sir Edmund de Fraude’s memoir The Kinge and I (1488), which was still available during the Bard’s day, in French translation, as Le roi et moi. Richard III trusted very few, so it fell on Sir Edmund (1447–1502) to serve his king as both valet cum butler and second in battle.

In de Fraude’s true account of that fateful Battle of Bosworth Field, he records the king’s cry, “A hearse, a hearse, my kingdom for a hearse!” This is how the author heard it because as the second in battle he could see that all was lost and that the king’s next ride would be to the crypt. Shakespeare used poetic licence to change “hearse” to “horse” and so the famous line was born. Richard III was an expert horseman, which was still well-known in the late 1500s and frankly, the line worked better with “horse’ replacing ‘hearse”.

Of course, since the exhumation of Richard III’s remains in a Leicester carpark this century, and the attendant discovery of a small vellum volume of poetry near the bones, scholars have come to reinterpret de Fraude’s quote as, “A verse, a verse, my kingdom for a verse.”

It is a fact that since time immemorial poetry has been the balm for despair, a source of joy, comfort, distraction and enrichment in all circumstances. Mad as he was—both crazy and angry—Richard III still knew he could rely on poetry to make his day. Perhaps he believed it could make him immortal. It didn’t work for him but it did for Shakespeare and many others, as is proved by all the volumes of poets’ work across the ages, in which we still take comfort in the battle of daily life, find inspiration and joy, as required and desired.

We all need more poetry in our lives and so BryshaWilson Press will be adding a volume of verse to its titles in the near future: Selected Poems by Larry Buttrose, in both ebook and hard print formats! Yes, folks, by popular demand we will also be issuing limited run print editions. Stay tuned for more...