If Thou Canst Swim by Holly Schultz
2019 finalist: Grade 10 to 12 category
Holly Schultz is a finalist of the 2019 Shakespeare Selfie Student Writing Challenge. This annual writing competition challenges students to write a soliloquy or monologue in the voice of a Shakespearean character based on a prominent news, pop culture or current affairs event from the last year (April 2018 to April 2019).
Schultz, who attends White Oaks Secondary School in Oakville, Ont., wrote about a Republican lawmaker's comments that if he found out his children were gay, he'd see if they could swim. It's written from the perspective of The Winter's Tale's Mamillius.
An infant daughter cast aside,
To brave, unaided, the thundering storm.
A young son, whose untimely death
Fewer still do chance to mourn.
The merciless ocean, of that selfsame brine
That runneth from a child's eyes,
Such a sea, which, nearing shore, doth breed
Great waves to tear men's ships asunder,
And further out, pulleth them to an eternal grave,
This wrath of Neptune, raging, vengeful,
Yet turns gentle, soft as mist,
When placed next to the vile father
That cannot find love for his own child,
In being simply that which they are.
"Honor thy father," quoth this man to his babe.
"Follow God's rules, or if thou wilt not,
Show me whether thou canst swim."
And, forced down, into that lake
Where all the joyful memories,
This child would fain hold tight,
Do slip away and fall, and sink,
Naught but food for fishes,
And in doing so, are changed for those,
Which even now are made,
And, like to the Gordian knot,
Can never be undone.
Alack, the air runneth out apace,
And the world soon turneth darkling.
"An thou hast truly sinned,
If thou canst swim away,
Thou art then dead in mine eyes,
If verily art thou gay."
So saying, yet harder did he push,
And deeper my own scars did become.
Young child, I am just like thee,
Victim of that river of paternal hate,
I now entreat thee, swim away,
Swim, and choose that tributary,
Which bends far from the one of death,
Into which, my sometime sire,
Long ages ago, did push me.
Never let thyself be so destroyed
By the currents of hate and fear ―
Which thrash and churn and threat to suck
Most everyone inside ― by that turmoil
From whence nobody ever shall escape.
Find the stream of love and swim
Wherever it may take thee.
Seek solace and grow again thy strength,
With whosoever chance to love thee,
Whichever vessel they may be. Let not
My fate become thine own, and listen
To my plea. Thy future yet a shining pond
In which thou hast still to decide,
What reflection anon shall be.
Swim, child! Swim, I do implore.
Though it is far too late for me,
Yet there still be time for thee.