As we sat in the balcony, I eagerly anticipated Jacques’ famous speech,
one I first heard live on the Goshen College stage.
Do you remember “The seven stages of man” speech?
Here is an old movie version that uses subtitles so you can read the text:
Like so many of Shakespeare’s comedies,
As You Like It does not shy away from the source of greatest tragedy: death.
But instead of littering the stage with bodies at the end (the conclusion of most of the tragedies),
the great playwright straightens out the twisted plot and marries off all the lovers.
The play, therefore, focuses on the “third stage” where lovers sigh like furnaces
and compose ballads to eyebrows.
In their passion and silliness lie the seeds of their future fates.
No matter their generativity or ambition,
no man escapes; the seven stages of man end in oblivion:
“Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
Thankfully, I still have teeth, eyes, and taste,
so I composed my own “seven stages” speech,
with apologies to the Bard and all of you.
The Seven Stages of Woman
All the world’s a stage
and all the women and men merely players:
they have their exits and their entrances;
and one woman in her time plays many parts,
her acts being seven ages.
At first the infant,
mewling and puking in her mother’s arms:
And then the eager school girl, with her satchel
and shining morning face, fluttering like a butterfly
exchanging farm for school.
And then the lover,
sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad
made to her true love’s stylish sideburn
And the peace activist
sans denim, sans boots, sans sunscreen
Then the classroom years.
The professor beardless, seeking wisdom,
feeling the weight of the presidential medallion,
she plays her part.
The sixth age shifts
into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
with spectacles on nose and pouch on side
No last scene yet
but pilgrim days of walking, singing, touching, savoring, listening
in silence and with voice
Avec joy, avec love, avec mischief, avec everything!
All the birthday hoopla is over now.
My family and friends totally surprised me with a book
of stories, poems, pictures, and memories
gathered from all over the country and from many of those seven stages of life.
I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all of you,
no matter when or how we met,
no matter whether you contributed to the book or not,
I celebrate all the inter-related stages of all our lives.
This book ranks among my very favorite birthday gifts.
What was your favorite present?