Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Shakespeare's Bicycle

While going through a file of juvenilia I found this, part of an application for a writing gig. The question was "Describe a modern bicycle to an intelligent person from the 16th century." There is one error in the rhythm scheme -- when I wrote this I thought "antipodes" had three syllables rather than four -- but despite that error I got the job. (Unfortunately it did not last long, as the company folded soon after.)

Pray grant me, sir, a moment of thy time;
I’ll tell thee of a marvelous device
which giveth mortal Man a greater speed
than Mercury, clad in his wingéd shoes.
And thou, with far less effort than to walk,
might make use of this marvelous Machine
to travel all four corners of the World
far faster than the mighty storm winds blow.
Imagine now, two wheels of equal size,
like spokéd wheels of wagons, yet not like;
for thine two wheels doth not stand side by side,
but one behind the other, in a row.
The axles of these two wheels doth attach
unto a frame of metal, light and strong
and higher on this frame, there shalt thou find
a saddle, whereupon the Man might sit
and also there a bar which he can hold.
But more of these anon. Betwixt the wheels
lies one last, spinning thing found on this frame:
the axle of a Gear, as thee might find
inside the clock which keepeth time in Town;
a wheel with toothéd rim, art what I mean.
And on the axle of the Wheel in Back,
a second toothéd gear hath been affix’d.
And lo! A chain of forgéd iron links
pulled taut around the two gears’ antipodes,
enslaves the second gear unto the first
so that, whenever moveth this first Gear,
thus too must move the back wheel on the frame.
Yet this Gear, though master of the back one,
art but itself a slave unto the Man
who percheth on the saddle high above.
On each side of the Master gear, shalt find
a stirrup, where the Man may place his feet
to move the gear, the chain, and thus the wheel.
And as the back wheel turneth with the gears,
thine front wheel spins below the Gripping-Rod
by which the Man might turneth that Front wheel
as thou wouldst turn the rudder on thine boat.
This wheel’d machine art not a friend of Sloth;
when thy wheels move not forward, shalt they fall.
‘Tis balance, sir! Aye, balance—there’s the rub,
for those who lack it go not Forth, but Down.
And if thou findst not balance well at first,
get hence a child’s toy, to help thee learn:
two minute wheels, shalt flank the wheel in back,
until the Time of Training passeth by.


Blogger Steamboat Lion said...


8:31 AM  

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