Did the branch break by divine intervention or did Ophelia overburden her soul? Tamiko Ono’s new poem discusses the tragedy reflecting on the c1851 oil on canvas work, “Ophelia”, by British artist Sir John Everett Millais.
On the drowning of Ophelia
Extract from Hamlet Act IV Scene VII
One woe doth tread upon another’s heel,
So fast they follow; your sister’s drown’d, Laertes.
Drown’d! O, where?
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream;
There with fantastic garlands did she come
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men’s fingers call them:
There, on the pendent boughs her coronet weeds
Clambering to hang, an envious sliver broke;
When down her weedy trophies and herself
Fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide;
And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up:
Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes;
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element: but long it could not be
Till that her garments, heavy with their drink,
Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay
To muddy death.
Alas, then, she is drown’d?
Too much of water hast thou, poor Ophelia,
And therefore I forbid my tears: but yet
It is our trick; nature her custom holds,
Let shame say what it will: when these are gone,
The woman will be out. Adieu, my lord:
I have a speech of fire, that fain would blaze,
But that this folly douts it.
Text: An extract from Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
Introduction by Benito Kobayashi.
Poem “On the drowning of Ophelia” by Tamiko Ono.
Photo – Woman in dark water stream and soft sunlight by captblack76 via Adobe Stock.