Gentleman of Shalot

 Charles Dance

  Gentleman of Shalot by Elizabeth Bishop

  performed by Charles Dance

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Transcript

Which eye’s his eye?
Which limb lies
next the mirror?
For neither is clearer
nor a different colour
than the other,
nor meets a stranger
in this arrangement
of leg and leg and
arm and so on.
To his mind
it’s the indication
of a mirrored reflection
somewhere along the line
of what we call the spine.

He felt in modesty
his person was
half looking-glass,
for why should he
be doubled?
The glass must stretch
down his middle,
or rather down the edge.
But he’s in doubt
as to which side’s in or out
of the mirror.
There’s little margin for error,
but there’s no proof, either.
And if half his head’s reflected,
thought, he thinks, might be affected.

But he’s resigned
to such economical design.
If the glass slips
he’s in a fix –
only one leg, etc.  But
while it stays put
he can walk and run
and his hands can clasp one
another.  The uncertainty
he says he
finds exhilarating.  He loves
that sense of constant re-adjustment.
He wishes to be quoted as saying at present:
‘Half is enough.’