‘Ophelia’s Song’ by Sandhya Pai

“Nymph, in thy orisons

Be my sins remembered!”

Fair game was I
naïve and nubile;

hackneyed nothings
from your lips

filling my being –

summer showers
on desert sands.

A gull, a dull fool
never was there
to sense that men
anything may say
to get their own way.
Prince or pauper
they are all the same
when it comes to keeping
their desires at bay.

The more deceived I
to believe honour
and good breeding
go hand in hand –
the truth is converse
they lie through their teeth
to get between sheets;
then go raging mad.

You lashed with your tongue
you flayed with your wit
you punned and quibbled
in public; and I did
feign innocence
pretend ignorance
when you raved on
country matters!

You censured me
then preached to me

“get thee to a nunnery.”
In your scrambled brain
all women were the same –

whores and bawds, all game.
Did you turn me at once
with your caustic tongue
from a nymph chaste

to a rabid tramp?

My brother abroad
my father skewered
like a rat behind the arras,
What was I to do
but turn ranting mad
I most sorely abandoned!

My bawdy songs
my floral patter
my ditties, my folksy lays
welled tears in the eyes
of all onlookers – but you
were nowhere around.

The ‘good night’s I uttered
somehow seemed final
though I from fair judgement
severed; and out I wandered
and too far meandered
to the willowy niche yonder.

Did the breeze whisper my dirge?
did the brook unfold my shroud?
as the branch tumbled me down the stream…
my dress wafting on the waves
mermaid-like I sank beneath…
the waters laved and loved me…

Now you may jump into my grave
protest that you loved me more
forty thousand brothers will not
hold a candle to your ardour.
The truth is that, Mon amour,
I don’t care a whit anymore!


[Note: This poem is inspired by Ophelia’s plight in Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’.  The poem is a close reading of her travails and tragedies – Hamlet’s insensitive and cavalier treatment of her, the death of her father, her eventual madness and her pitiful death.] 


Poet’s Bio- Sandhya Pai is an Associate Professor in English at St. Joseph’s College for Women, Alleppey, affiliated to the University of Kerala.  She is a bi-lingual writer, editor and reviewer, writing poems and articles and translating from English to Malayalam and vice versa.  She has published academic articles on literary subjects.  She holds a doctorate from the Mahatma Gandhi University.

Illustration by Alan Van Every (Featured image on the front page)

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