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First Servant in King Lear

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By Burke Johnston

The power-maddened beast with bloody claw

Ready to pluck out Gloucester’s other eye

Paused, startled that a slave should dare defy

His fury and appeal to higher law.

Horror is kept at bay by twin-flamed light

Held in the godlike maker’s shaping hand.

One flame the servant’s sacrificial stand,

And one the blinded Gloucester’s inner sight.


The servant drained the cup of bitter wine,

Giving prime life to set and old man free:

Of some three thousand lines allotted nine

To speak for mankind against cruelty,

Transfigured from the nameless to divine,

He makes the dunghill kindred to the tree.

Source: College English, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Oct., 1954), p. 24 [[1]]

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