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Judith’s Creed
by [?]

It does not appear that the age thought his works worthy of posterity, nor that this great poet himself levied any ideal tribute on future times, or had any further prospect than of present popularity and present profit. So careless was he, indeed, of fame, that, when he retired to ease and plenty, while he was yet little declined into the vale of years, and before he could be disgusted with fatigue or disabled by infirmity, he desired only that in this rural quiet he who had so long mazed his imagination by following phantoms might at last be cured of his delirious ecstasies, and as a hermit might estimate the transactions of the world.

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s my own,
Which is most faint.

Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and frees all faults.

As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE.–Epilogue to The Tempest.

He was hoping, while his fingers drummed in unison with the beat of his verse, that this last play at least would rouse enthusiasm in the pit. The welcome given its immediate predecessors had undeniably been tepid. A memorandum at his elbow of the receipts at the Globe for the last quarter showed this with disastrous bluntness; and, after all, in 1609 a shareholder in a theater, when writing dramas for production there, was ordinarily subject to more claims than those of his ideals.

He sat in a neglected garden whose growth was in reversion to primal habits. The season was September, the sky a uniform and temperate blue. A peachtree, laden past its strength with fruitage, made about him with its boughs a sort of tent. The grass around his writing-table was largely hidden by long, crinkled peach leaves–some brown and others gray as yet–and was dotted with a host of brightly-colored peaches. Fidgeting bees and flies were excavating the decayed spots in this wasting fruit, from which emanated a vinous odor. The bees hummed drowsily, their industry facilitating idleness in others. It was curious–he meditated, his thoughts straying from “an uninhabited island”–how these insects alternated in color between brown velvet and silver, as they blundered about a flickering tessellation of amber and dark green . . . in search of rottenness. . . .

He frowned. Here was an arid forenoon as imagination went. A seasoned plagiarist by this, he opened a book which lay upon the table among several others and duly found the chapter entitled Of the Cannibals.

“So, so!” he said aloud. “‘It is a nation,’ would I answer Plato, ‘that has no kind of traffic, no knowledge of letters—-‘” And with that he sat about reshaping Montaigne’s conceptions of Utopia into verse. He wrote–while his left hand held the book flat–as orderly as any county-clerk might do in the recordance of a deed of sale.

Midcourse in larceny, he looked up from writing. He saw a tall, dark lady who was regarding him half-sorrowfully and half as in the grasp of some occult amusement. He said nothing. He released the telltale book. His eyebrows lifted, banteringly. He rose.

He found it characteristic of her that she went silently to the table and compared the printed page with what he had just written. “So nowadays you have turned pickpocket? My poet, you have altered.”

He said: “Why, yes. When you broke off our friendship, I paid you the expensive compliment of falling very ill. They thought that I would die. They tell me even to-day I did not die. I almost question it.” He shrugged. “And to-day I must continue to write plays, because I never learned any other trade. And so, at need, I pilfer.” The topic did not seem much to concern him.