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Craig Kurtz, two poems

Prologue to The Comedy of Errors


Who wants a lackey that is smart,

he’ll short-change you right from the start;

you send him erranding, and he’d

steal all the best scenes, guaranteed;

what if he was crafty Jodlet

who got to woo Don John’s coquette?;1

consider Warner, the servant,

who got rich, as well Millisent;2

with such a rogue as Jeremy,

Truewit was a non-entity;3

this will not do; a lackey must

be dull enough to merit trust;

if he’s too clever, faith, he will

command the top place on the bill.


Who wants a master that is smart,

you’ll off to Tyburn in a cart;

the Pit may like someone noble,

but they’re too brisk with the cudgel;

ye gallants prefer heroes deft

as they prevent their servants’ theft;

ye swells may chouse dames to make nice,

but view askance my galliardise; 4

a master who possesses brains

outwits his Bubble, just like Staines;5

forsooth, there’s knav’ry in all trades,

but gents pluck the best escapades;6

it’s beggarly, a lackey’s lot,

a smart master cannot be taught.

1. William Davenant, The Man’s The Master.

2. John Dryden, Sir Martin Mar-All.

3. Ben Jonson, The Alchemist.

4. Peter Bellon, The Mock Duellist, in which the valet Champagne explains his thievery of his masters’ wares as an expression of French servants’ punctilio.

5. John Cooke, Greene’s Tu Quoque.

The Jester’s Pitch

Forsooth, nobody needs a jest

when life is fair, as prepossessed;

if everything was admirable

then anticks would be inutile;

in times of bonny merriment,

wisecracks are sure superfluent;

nobody needs a laugh when they’re

as happy as a millionaire;

nobody needs a somersault

when the zeitgeist makes all exult;

who needs a comic pantomime

when rapt with a merry pastime;

a jolly farce is overkill

when people surfeit on goodwill;

good times are bad for madcap folks

since good times furnish their own jokes;

nay, only when the days turn tart,

the whole world needs the cut-up’s art;

when things turn sad and life does plague,

you need someone to pull your leg;

when money’s short and dangers lurk,

that’s when comedians find work;

when kingdoms forget how to laugh,

the king needs a fool on his staff.


Finding the 21st century obsolete, Craig Kurtz versifies Restoration plays, illustrated by Anni Wilson. Excerpts appear in California Quarterly, Penn Review and (upcoming) Seems. Visit for particulars. Kurtz and Wilson reside at Twin Oaks Intentional Community.

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