The Ballad of Reading Lear
by Showey Yazdanian
Once, long ago, was a silly old king
Who played with the world at the end of a string.
His name was King Lear, a fierce Brit was he
And haughty and stubborn, as proud as can be.
Now, the royal King Lear was aged more than eighty
When he decided his kingship had become rather weighty
So he gave up the duties to which he was written
And decided to divy the Kingdom of Britain.
He called his three daughters to his gold, kingly post
And loudly demanded, “Kids, who loves me most?”
First up was Goneril.Â Without batting an eye,
She knelt by her father and proceeded to lie.
“Father, I love you!Â I’d save you from strife!
I’d kill myself for you!Â I’d give you my life!”
Lear drew out a map and there with his hand
He forked out for Goneril a third of his land.
For despite his ripe age, old Lear was not wise
He completely believed in her vile pack of lies.
Smug Goneril stood with a glint in her eye
Enormously pleased with her chunk of the pie.
The middle child, Regan, rose quick to the bait.
She was only nineteen, but she looked sixty-eight.
“Oh, Dad,” she lied softly, “I’m your favourite girl.”
“There’s nought I love more in the whole wide world!”
Lear gleefully nodded, and without a word,
He pointed to Britain, and gave her a third.
Next was Cordelia, the youngest of three.
She was Lear’s favourite.Â Why?Â Soon you’ll see.
When she came to the throne, she was trembling with fright.
“Why, my child!” called King Lear, “Are you quite alright?”
“There’s nothing to fear, your land deeds are inked!”
said Lear with a smile as he merrily winked.
“Nothing!” burst Cordelia.Â “Zilch, zero, and nary!”
“I must speak the truth, though in this I am wary!”
“I love you!” she said, “A lie I can’t tell,”
“But unlike my two sisters, I love others as well.”
“Come now, Cordelia,” implied mystified Lear,
“Just speak truthfully, and your fortune’s right here!”
“Nope.” was the answer from stubborn Cordelia.
“Not for all the kangaroos in southern Australia.”
“So be it!” screamed Lear.Â “Thou cold-hearted louse!”
“Pack up your things!Â Then get out of my house!”
“Sire!” cried a lively young courtier named Kent,
“Reconsider, your lordship! I beg you, relent!”
Lear’s only response was a choked, strangled cough.
“You’re banished too, Kent!Â Now kindly buzz off!”
Cordelia’s two suitors looked on in a trace –
The great Earl of Burgundy, the grand King of France.
Burgundy grumbled.Â His luck had gone sour.
“I don’t want Cordelia without a rich dower.”
“Bah!” said King Lear.Â “She’s nothing to me!”
“Take her or leave her – then please let me be!”
France seized his chance.Â Â “Then come!Â Let’s away!”
“Cordelia’s a prize. I’ll wed her today!”
The king’s court broke up, with each to his own.
Cordelia set sail for France, her new home.
The sun set on England.Â The birds ceased to sing.
In the morning, King Lear was no longer the king.
With Cordelia gone, the castle felt chill.
So Lear sought a hug from his girl Goneril.
He set off that morning to visit the lass,
(Not knowing that Goneril would just kick his a–).
With impressive hauteur for a man of his age,
Lear mounted his horse with a huge entourage:
a long cavalcade of a hundred strong knights
(great people to know if you like having fights).
Whilst riding to Goneril, Lear met a young gent
And self-absorbed Lear didn’t recognize Kent!
Kent was clad in disguise.Â He missed the old cad.
And he had a strange premonition that things would go bad.
So Kent prettily begged Lear to serve Lear, his master
And protect him from woe, ill fate and disaster.
In Kent’s wake was also a saucy court jester
A lad all too willing to joke, tease and pester.
They made it to Goneril’s not one minute late.
But Goneril decided to make her dad wait.
She’d show that old coot who had all the power!
She’d keep them all waiting for hour upon hour.
When at last the door opened, Lear was stark boiling mad.
“How could you do this to me – your old dad?”
“Relax, dad!” yawned Goneril.Â “I’ve been busy today.”
But now that you’re here, I’ve got something to say.
“Now please don’t be irksome.Â Please don’t be bitter.
But your knights have to go, dad.Â Just look at the litter!
I know that an entourage makes you feel nifty.
But you don’t really need them.Â Why don’t you fire fifty?”
“You wench!” shouted Lear.Â “Why this is preposterous!
I’ll not fire my knights.Â You loathesome rhinocerous!
I’m done with you, Goneril.Â In hell may you burn!
I’m going away, and I’ll never return.
Two of my daughters are insufferable chits!
But I have yet a daughter!Â And she loves me to bits!”
As Goneril flounced like a peacock away
The jester sneered, “King?Â Why, they’ve thrown you away.”
“I’m queen of the castle!” Gon cackled with glee.
(Her poor henpecked husband could only agree).
To Regan’s the trio unhappily went.
“She’ll scorn him!Â She’ll spurn him!” predicted wise Kent.
He was right.Â She was not pleased to see them at all.
Regan grumbled and grunted with bitter and gall.
“Father!” she cried.Â “Your knights are pure mayhem!”
Fire seventy-five now!Â I cannot abide them!”
“I gave you my all!” shouted Lear with a roar —
But he was cut off by a knock at the door.
For there, eyes a-glitter, her voice ringing shrill
Was his sweet eldest daughter – that cow Goneril.
With all of the temperance of a witch-hearted hag.
She furrowed her eyebrows, and started to nag.
“Not both of you now!” Lear’s temper was hot.
He screamed in a fury, “May all of you rot!”
Lear slammed the door shut and left them to fester
Followed only by Kent and the loyal young jester.
Those two loyal subjects led him gingerly out
Then watched their old master rant, rave and shout.
But as Lear was wailing, a raging storm broke
And drenched ex-king Lear, the unfortunate bloke
Yet Lear still cursed and howled, he bemoaned the whole world
At his fate in producing such ungrateful, foul girls.
As the storm rumbled on, Lear’s ravings grew wild.
“Cordelia!” he ranted.Â “Where are you, my child?
To think I disowned you – your sisters were mere blisters
Compared to the horrors of your two wicked sisters!”
The storm savaged on – it did not relent
“The King – why, he’s freezing” thought sensitive Kent.
“Rumble thy bellyful!” Lear bellowed with glee
“Spit, fire!Â Spout, rain!Â Come, pour down on me!”
Kent hustled his master to an old, broken shack
Then pushed in the jester, with himself at the back.
It wasn’t a palace, but at least it was warm.
They stayed there and huddled, to wait out the storm.
But back at the castle, there was trouble
Regan and Goneril had new, evil plans