57 plus 33: Shakespeare On Summer’s Morn

Posted: 19 September 2021 in 57 plus, fiction, politics, writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

For various reasons, nothing new from me today; partly because I’ve been snowed under with other stuff, partly because I’m really not in the mood today, and partly because the low level headache I had throughout yeserday hasn’t completely gone, while my fucked-up-foot is still a bit ouch-y.

But since my friend Tony Lee is on my mind a bit — we met up for a delightful drink and catchup recently, for the first time in years — and he strongly suggested a potential new writing project for me, you can blame him for everything that follows.

Because Tony gave me what is possibly the hardest and trickiest and perhaps sneakiest fast fiction challenge I ever faced.

Harder even than when someone challenged me to use the top ten ‘words of the year’ in a single fast fiction story.

Because, in November 2005, I was due to answer the 100th fast fiction challenge that had been issued. The 100th story I was writing in this entirely daft, short lived (I thought!) project.

And Tony wanted to a) be the challenger for that story, and b) make it something… special, since it was, y’know, the 100th.

So he duly came up with somegthing… special.

Tony Lee, friend, writer, fella who knows how what I laughingly call my ‘mind’ works… knew how to make me stretch for the bloody thing, how to make me write a story that deserved being the one hundreth.

So the challenge: not only to use the word “sonnet” in the fast fiction, but also to write it in the form of a Shakespearean sonnet

Now, to be fair, there’s no way 200 words in a single 14 line sonnet is gonna happen. But 28 lines, split into two lots of 14 lines, in full iambic pentameter, with the proper rhyming format? That should be doable.

It took me a couple of hours to write and my brain was melting by the end of it, but here’s what resulted:
Title: Shakespeare On Summer’s Morn
Word: sonnet
Challenger: Tony Lee
Length: 200 words exactly

They came to town that early August morn,
Ten strolling players come to ply their trade.
To Stratford Common, set up on the lawn,
But only once of course they’d all been paid.
So Master Oliphant, he thus arrived.
Pomposity itself, prepared to speak.
The critics hated him but he’d survived,
(He was perforce the local Shakespeare geek.)
The worst of actors any could recall,
He planned to show them all that very day
Bringing the Bard again to one and all
A playwright born so many years away.
And Oliphant took to the stage once more
As he declaimed “So shaken as we are…”

The opening to Henry Fourth Part One
Commencing with those very words that way.
Through his performance Oliphant did stun
Much nicer than the truth: he stank that day.
But nonetheless, there was no doubt at all
The audience, they left the Common fast.
Such an abysmal, laughable portray’l
Unanimous verdict: “Please be the last!”
So Oliphant slunk off to sulk alone
Performances of others carried on
Without poor Oliphant, they did atone
And slowly did the audience return.
Soon someone told Oli where he’d gone wrong:
“Stick to a bloody sonnet from now on!”

© Lee Barnett, 2005

Note to all: Tony Lee is a so and so.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.


Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

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