Sick as a Dog

Today I took a leaf out of Shakespeare’s book. An elm leaf. God only knows how it got there. Still, there’s no harm in attempting to second-guess the old chap.

Back in the grisly days of my studenthood I went through a phase of declaiming Stratford-upon-Avon’s favourite money-spinner to an audience of assorted animals. It was a sort of psycho-zoological-literary experiment, which came to a sad end when a German Shepherd Dog vomited all over my copy of As You Like It. Perhaps I shouldn’t have fed it all those marshmallows first. Still, I like an honest dog. Upon clearing the debris of extreme queasiness, I discovered his noble target. ‘Ay, marry, now unmuzzle your wisdom’ were the words I found lurking at the centre of the canine spew. Clearly something about this line excited him in one way or another; the concept of freeing one’s mind leading the gruff and furry fellow to release the shackles of the food particles making hay in his digestive system. Come forth thy emetic children; flee from the offending throat unto the hallowed page! Barf ye, barf ye (so and so somewhat immaturely forth)

Of course, the idea of being sick as a not-wholly-negative reaction to art has quite a few precedents. The work of the Bosnian novelist Hoçe is often said to ‘bring the reader’s dinner back’; likewise the paintings of Eugene Matendre. But in neither case is chronic nausea seen as a drawback; it is rather a truly natural response: a telling reminder for doubters all that art retains the ability to move the soul (and stomach).

So, how did the elm leaf get into my copy of The Bard’s sonnets? If this question were to be left unanswered, ‘twere better it were to be left unanswered here. On the erstwhile palm, I would imagine it fell from the tree that glorious early autumn day when once I read Sonnet XII to a squirrel.

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