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from From the Theatre of Illusion

Pierre Corneille

Sir, why so restless? Is there any need,
With all your fame, for one more glorious deed?
Have you not slain enough bold foes by now,
And must you have fresh laurels for your brow?

It's true, I'm restless, and I can't decide
Which of two foes should first be nullified—
The Mogul emperor or the Persian Sophy.

Ah, let them live a while, Sir. Neither trophy
Would add a great deal to your fame and standing.
And where's the army that you'd be commanding?

Army? Ah, villain, coward, do you doubt
That with this arm alone I'd wipe them out?
The mere sound of my name makes ramparts yield,
And drives divisions from the battlefield;
My wrath against these rulers needs engage
Only a piddling portion of my rage;
With one commandment given to the Fates
I oust the strongest monarchs from their states;
Thunder's my cannon; my troops, the Destinies;
One blow lays low a thousand enemies;
One breath, and all their hopes go up in smoke.
Yet you dare speak of armies! What a joke!
No longer shall a second Mars employ you;
With but a glance, you rogue, I shall destroy you ...
And yet the thought of her whom I adore
Softens me now, and I'm enraged no more;
That little archer, whom every God obeys,
Forbids my eyes to glare with lethal rays.
Observe how my ferocity, which hates
And hacks and slaughters, gently dissipates
When I recall my lady, and my face
Is changed by thoughts of beauty, love, and grace.

Oh, Sir, you have a hundred selves or more;
You're as handsome now as you were grim before.
I can't imagine any lady who
Could stubbornly refuse her heart to you.

Whatever I may have said, feel no alarm:
Sometimes I terrify, sometimes I charm;
Depending on my humor, I inspire
Men with anxiety, women with desire.
Before I had the power to suppress
My beauty, women gave me much distress:
When I appeared, they swooned in quantity,
And thousands died each day for love of me.
With every princess I had many a tryst,
And every queen came begging to be kissed;
The Ethiopian and the Japanese
Murmured my name in all their sighs and pleas.
Two sultanesses could not but adore me,
Two more escaped from the seraglio fòr me,
Which strained my friendship with the Turkish nation.

Their anger could but gild your reputation.

Still, all that was more trouble than it was worth.
It balked my plans for conquering the earth.
What's more, I tired of it, and to deter
Such nuisances sent word to Jupiter
That if he could not put a stop to these
Fond women and their importunities,
I'd rise up in a rage and end his reign
As ruler of the Gods, and would obtain
For Mars the right to throw his bolts of thunder.
Needless to say, the coward knuckled under:
He did as I desired, and now, you see,
I'm handsome only when I choose to be.

What love notes you'd receive, were that not so!

Don't bring me any ... unless from her, you know.
What does she say of me?

Today she said
That you inspire all hearts with love and dread,
And that if what you promise her comes true,
She'll feel herself a Goddess, thanks to you.

Back in the times I've just been speaking of,
Goddesses, also, pestered me for love,
And I shall tell you of a strange event
Which caused confusion without precedent
And threw all nature into disarray.
The Sun was powerless to rise one day
Because that bright, much-worshipped deity
Could not find where the Dawn, his guide, might be.
He sought her everywhere, in Cephalus' bower,
In old Tithonus' bed, in Memnon's tower,
But since Aurora nowhere was in sight,
The day, till noontide, was as black as night.

Where was the Goddess, during these alarms?

In my bedchamber, offering me her charms.
But she gained nothing by such shameless actions;
My heart was blind to all her bright attractions,
And all she got by showing off her beauty
Was a firm command to go and do her duty.

That curious story, Sir, I now recall.
I was in Mexico, where I heard it all.
They said that Persia, vexed by the insult to
Their famous Sun God, had it in for you.

I heard as much, and would have made them pay,
But was in Transylvania that day,
Where their ambassador hastened to appease
My wrath with presents and apologies.

Your brave heart showed them clemency. How fine!

Just look, my friend, upon this face of mine.
There every human virtue can be found.
Of all the foes I've stamped into the ground,
Whose kingdoms are annulled and cast aside,
There was not one who did not fall through pride.
But those who humbly honored my perfection
Have kept their power through a wise subjection.
The modest kings of Europe are all my vassals;
I do not sack their towns or wreck their castles;
I let them reign. But it's another story
In Africa, where I scorched the territory
Of certain kings who lacked humility,
And left great deserts there for all to see.
Those endless sands, beneath those skies of fire,
Are a great monument to my righteous ire.

Let us revert to love; your lady's here.

My cursèd rival's at her side, I fear.

Where are you going?

He isn't brave, this dunce,
And yet he's vain, and could be bold for once.
Perhaps he'll challenge me from foolish pride,
Merely because he's at the lady's side.

By doing so, the fool might come to harm.

I can't be valorous when I'm full of charm.

Cease to be charming and be terrible, Sir.

Oh, you don't realize what that would incur.
I can't be terrible by halves, you know;
I'd slaughter both my mistress and my foe.
Until they part, let's stand aside and wait.

Your prudence, like your valor, is very great.

(They withdraw to a corner.)

What is this about losing respect?

Mark Rudman

What is this about losing respect?

Do I have to talk about it?
He said he feared what I might
write about him when he was gone,
and I told him not to worry.

He worried about the “streak of morbidity” in your work.

He was a man of God, not of imagination.

And it wasn’t his fault if he got the shakes.
It was a familial tremor, not nerves.

And it first happened at a gravesite.

Near where Brigham Young did his number—“this is the place.”

He called him Friggin Young.

Well, during his bleak tenure in Greenville,
his congregants would tell nigger jokes
and he would force a smile—afraid now to rock the boat—
a mere exercise in stretching
the corners of his lips—
a fake grin he would have noted
on another face—false faces being
one of the things we loved
to laugh about when together we observed congregants’ idiosyncracies,
their ruses, their guises,

like one temple president, the son
of the “richest Jew in Salt Lake”
who, seated in the pulpit’s other red velvet wing chair,
would expose the holes in the soles of his shoes
while he batted his eyelashes to
wake himself up—

(though I owe him one: “Rosencavalier”
didn’t turn me in for copying
the wrong answers from Mary Weinstein
on our “final exam” in Sunday
school prior to confirmation.

He was ashamed for me,
young Rosencavalier.

He could hardly disguise
the curled lips and downcast eyes
of his contempt
for this lawless “Rabbi’s son”
whether or not my name
was Strome or Rudman,

but where teaching Judaism was concerned
his plodding methodical
reading to keep up each week
was a pathetic substitution
for Sidney’s well-wrought, impromptu riffs.

So there!)

Marty was ashamed of me.
I left town.

As night was falling?


In Utah you can drive at fifteen so by age
fourteen a lot of our talk
was hard core car talk

and somehow the word
Volkswagen came up
after confirmation class

(it was no GTO but you could drive
so far on so little gas...)
and Marty’s father—a redhead like his son—

made his way up the driveway’s ice,
smoke billowing from the exhaust
of whatever sleek black foreign car he drove.

Pulling on his elegant pigskin gloves
he announced he’d “never buy a Kraut car.”
I was bewildered

(what, hold against a country now
something that happened so long ago?)
and he held my gaze

and I shivered inside the shiver I felt
from the cold I thought he would
transmogrify into a southern sheriff

and ask “what kind of Jew are you boy”
but he didn’t have to say
another word.


In other words you were ready to leave town.

I’d had it with Utah.

But you wanted to stay in the west, against your father’s wishes?



Yes. Yes. Yes.

But you did submit to psychiatrists and interviews with the heads of schools
during your sojourn in the east that summer?

Yes. I didn’t say I wasn’t ambivalent and/or confused.

Nothing more, your honor.


This was around the time, was it not, that a certain “Penny,” from Los
Angeles, a family friend of your grandfather’s, came to dinner in Salt Lake

She was a small woman, slightly hunchbacked, who spoke in a low
voice. She was one of my mother’s major confidantes. My mother had a
great respect for her because she was the buyer for I. Magnin’s. When
the subject of my father came up, as it always did, Penny, fueled by
several Scotches, seemed to retract her head into her chest and when it
reemerged she spat out this sentence about Charles: “Why he’d stick his
prick into anything!”

I blanched. My features stiffened with rage. Sensual and tormented man
that he was, whatever he was, what right did they have to tear him down
in front of me! She put her leathered multi-braceleted hand on my hand
and said, “It’s all right, dahlink.” I said, “I’ve never seen him do any-
thing like that.” And they continued. “Well he used to screw the maid,”
my mother threw in wearily.

How did they know so much about him, this shadow, this spectre?

Everyone knew.

There she was, this tiny hunchback, almost a dwarf—this was how she
conceived of loyalty to my mother. In reality, it was another patronizing
blow, as if my mother had to hear the worst in order not to feel that the
failure of the marriage might have been her failure.

And while they sat there tearing him down the phone rang and it was—
guess who. Your mother handed the phone over to Sidney who, geared for
battle, bourbon happy, quarreled with your father about the precise details
as to where you should go when you “left town.” They had come to an
impasse in the conversation when it seems your father said something like
“you can’t talk to Charles K. Rudman that way” and Sidney said—because
this you overheard—“what does the ‘K’ stand for”—and your father said—
according to Sidney—“cocksucker.”

And Sidney howled. He would rag him till the end of his days. “Is this
Charles K. Rudman?”

I didn’t call you a cocksucker, Sidney said,

but since you said it i
heard you were a cocksucker.

I didn’t say it!

"I am,” your father was rumored to have said, probably (possibly?) not
meaning it literally, but more within the vernacular of street language,
curse-words meaning “sonofabitch,” not someone who literally “sucked

I think so.

Your heart went out to your poor father at that moment, didn’t it? Sidney
had a way of miscalculating the effect of these shots on you. You knew your
father was writhing in an agony of frustration.


But Sidney was running with it, relishing Charles’ self-hatred, his masoch
-ism which erupted at that moment out of frustration...And for years he
loved to tell the story of how Charles “called himself a cocksucker,” always
underscoring the anecdote by absolving himself, by making it clear that it
wasn’t he who first used the word.

He really rubbed it in.

Can you forgive him?


Only now that he’s dead can I let myself feel
how good we were at leaving each other alone.

Why was this poem recommended?

Currently this poetry engine looks a set of features about the poems and chooses a poem with the most similar set of features. Below you can see the features of each poem. Right now "most similar" is a simple Euclidean distance. Further work includes adding more sophisticated features and determining similarity differently. I talk about the features and similarity metric more on the about page.

Feature from From the Theatre of Illusion What is this about losing respect?
NumLines 183 203
NumWords 1051 1068
WidthInChar 35.62 39.96
AvgWordSize 4.50 4.56
RepetitionScore 0.57 0.56
ObscurityScore 0.47 0.47
SentenceScore 0.21 0.22