On Mercy, The Epilogue of Prospero in The Tempest

by bryan maynard



Now my charms are all o’er thrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,–
Which is most faint: now ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got,
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell;
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant;
And my ending is despair
Unless I be relieved by prayer;
Which pierces so, that it assaults
Mercy itself, and freeze all faults.
As you from crimes would pardon’d be,
Let your indulgence set me free

I finished reading The Tempest today from a 1925 Cambridge edition of the works of William Shakespeare. Without giving too much away, this poem is uttered by Prospero, a man who is unjustly treated, and returns that injustice with mercy and forgiveness. Doing so, he wishes now to be given that which he has offered to those who harmed him. The basic themes of humanity and of all spirituality are here. Nothing is more basic than…