Phil Everly, "Cathy's Clown," My Favorite Shakesperean Soliloquies, and Boxing

Phil Every died a couple of days ago. To me, as a child of the 1960s, this means something. I guess it was, first and foremost, the beauty of their voices, together. I read in one obituary that John Lennon called the Beatles "the English Everly Brothers." I hadn’t heard that before, but it fits, and so I think it’s most likely a true story.

But, without wanting to read too much into pop music, I’ve been thinking about a short section of one of the Brothers’ songs. It’s from "Cathy’s Clown."

I would put it on a bare stage. An old stage. Worn out. The boards haven’t been redone in decades. One small, beaten-up chair, like you’d see in some impoverished schoolhouse; and one tiny, maybe 3’ x 3’ unfinished table. And Phil Everly will be sitting on that chair, across that table, talking about what people do to other people.And he’s looking at you.

Phil Everly had a dark, smoky voice.

He would be hunched over, defeated, maybe, but I don’t know. Here are the lyrics I had in mind:

I've got to stand tall, you know a man can't crawl

For when he knows you're telling lies

And he hears them passing by

He's not a man at all.

When you see me shed a tear

And you know that it's sincere

Don't you think it's kind of sad, that you're treating me so bad?

Or don't you even care?

Now, let’s think about this. Shakespeare’s soliloquies were, obviously, one person musing about pain, tragedy, opportunity. What makes these soliloquies so powerful to us is the fact that we do this every day. But we hide the fact that we talk to ourselves, because we’re afraid of being crazy.And we think talking to ourselves is THE MARK of being crazy. And so, as I mentioned, we hide it. But we all do it. I don’t know any of you people, but I know you all do it. I could probably tell all of you at least 90% of what you’re telling yourself.

One of the most famous of Shakespeare’s soliloquies, is, of course, the gigantic, truly momentous speech that opens Richard III. But there’s a quieter one, nowhere near as ambitious. ButI think that it captures better what a boxer really must feel.

This is from the OpenSource Shakespeare, and I apologize for the line numbers and page breaks. Not everything in the world is my fault.

Henry VI. This battle fares like to the morning's war,

When dying clouds contend with growing light,

What time the shepherd, blowing of his nails, 1105

Can neither call it perfect day nor night.

Now sways it this way, like a mighty sea

Forced by the tide to combat with the wind;

Now sways it that way, like the selfsame sea

Forced to retire by fury of the wind: 1110

Sometime the flood prevails, and then the wind;

Now one the better, then another best;

Both tugging to be victors, breast to breast,

Yet neither conqueror nor conquered:

So is the equal of this fell war. 1115

Here on this molehill will I sit me down.

To whom God will, there be the victory!

For Margaret my queen, and Clifford too,

Have chid me from the battle; swearing both

They prosper best of all when I am thence. 1120

Would I were dead! if God's good will were so;

For what is in this world but grief and woe?

O God! methinks it were a happy life,

To be no better than a homely swain;

To sit upon a hill, as I do now, 1125

To carve out dials quaintly, point by point,

Thereby to see the minutes how they run,

How many make the hour full complete;

How many hours bring about the day;

How many days will finish up the year; 1130

How many years a mortal man may live.

When this is known, then to divide the times:

So many hours must I tend my flock;

So many hours must I take my rest;

So many hours must I contemplate; 1135

So many hours must I sport myself;

So many days my ewes have been with young;

So many weeks ere the poor fools will ean:

So many years ere I shall shear the fleece:

So minutes, hours, days, months, and years, 1140

Pass'd over to the end they were created,

Would bring white hairs unto a quiet grave.

Ah, what a life were this! how sweet! how lovely!

Gives not the hawthorn-bush a sweeter shade

To shepherds looking on their silly sheep, 1145

Than doth a rich embroider'd canopy

To kings that fear their subjects' treachery?

O, yes, it doth; a thousand-fold it doth.

And to conclude, the shepherd's homely curds,

His cold thin drink out of his leather bottle. 1150

His wonted sleep under a fresh tree's shade,

All which secure and sweetly he enjoys,

Is far beyond a prince's delicates,

His viands sparkling in a golden cup,

His body couched in a curious bed, 1155

When care, mistrust, and treason waits on him.

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