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To Rosalind (the forgotten woman in Romeo and Juliet)

Who were you, fair Rosaline?
Mentioned only in passing
At the beginning of the greatest of lovers tales.
That you were beautiful is beyond doubt -
Only beauty could cast a Montague into the arms
Of his mortal enemy.
Yet your beauty we know nothing of,
Only that you spurned one
Who seemingly could have offered you much.

In a way, I wonder at this.
I wish I could know what kind of woman you were
That inspired such a tale
(For inspire it you did - be it never so indirectly).
Were you a passionate, scornful beauty,
One who disdained to become involved with a family
So tainted by petty feuding?
Or a meek, timid mouse,
Ordered to wed elsewhere by a stern parent?
Were you a courtesan,
Trifling with young master Montague,
Until his purse, or that of his parent
No longer was willing to support your avarice?
Or were you merely a spirited young woman
Who decided that marriage to a man
Who sighed verses to your left eyebrow
And talked in blank verse
Even with his friends
Would be a fate not to be thought of?

In any case,
Once your choice had been made
It precipitated much else.
Again, I wonder -
Did you weep for Romeo,
For the chance you'd lost?
For the love you'd forsaken?
Or did you smile to see him fall head over heels
For the daughter of the house which was his family's mortal enemy?
Did you have hopes and dreams?
Dreams of a Verona where the feuding of the two families
No longer troubled the streets?
Did you weep for his death?
Did you weep for Juliet?

Odd, really -
It's the characters who nobody knows anything of
Which provoke the most thought.

10 April 1999

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