Sonnet: Quadrivium (or, Horatio’s Studies)

This poem was written in response to Orson Scott Card’s decidedly homophobic retelling of Hamlet. It had not previously occurred to me that Horatio had this intense, unrequited love for Hamlet, but for some reason, I woke up the morning after reading the above article with the first quartet of this sonnet in my head, and had to write the rest.  And now, in my mind, I can’t read their relationship any other way.

I’m afraid I got a bit carried away with the whole Trivium / Quadrivium thing. Just in case there is anyone reading this who doesn’t know much more about this than me, students in medieval time were expected to learn the Trivium (Logic, Grammar, Rhetoric) before going to University, where they studied the Quadrivium (Geometry, Astronomy, Music, Arithmetic). And after that, you could study Philosophy. If you were good. 

Also, I got a bit carried away with my own cleverness, which you probably noticed.  But, actually, I do think it’s one of my better poetic efforts, which goes to show that even Orson Scott Card’s most horrifying statements have their uses…

No, scratch that.  Let’s blame this on Shakespeare.  He is a far superior source of inspiration.


Ah, Hamlet, Wittenberg seems far away,
For us the dons have rung their final bell.
I was your Trivium, when we did play;
You my Quadrivium, and I studied well:

I found in you geometry applied,
I knew each point and angle of your span.
I studied heavenly bodies at your side –
And learned well what a piece of work is man.

The sound of your slow breathing in the night
Was melody that only I could hear.
I counted as the sum of my delight
Each heartbeat, strong, iambic, by my ear.

Though heaven and earth hold greater things for thee
Thou’rt all my dreams, all my philosophy.

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