Posted by: John Looker | 15 May, 2016

Malvolio Looks Back




How did it go so wrong? I started well,
securing employment in a great house.
I worked diligently, learning to quell
my spirits, my own views, finding the nous
to flatter without detection, to be
discreet, dependable, in every task.
I rose. How I rose! until it was me
(or do I mean I?) who bore the steward’s staff.
Then how I failed myself: that yellow hose
(cross-gartered!); the fancy that my lady
loved me; the smiles; the conceit to suppose
that she would thrust some greatness upon me!

The hours would pass so sluggishly these days,
but for the new tobacco … sonnets … plays …

© John Looker 2016

© John Stevens 2011

I’m planning to post 2 or 3 poems as my own contribution to the  commemoration of Shakespeare’s death 400 years ago last month. This one first appeared here in 2011.

The illustration is taken from Wikipedia at


Added on 24 May 2016:

I’ve learnt that some readers do not know who Malvolio is, although Wikipedia has helped. So:

Malvolio was the pompous steward in a great house in Shakespeare’s play Twelfth Night. He was tricked into thinking that the Lady was in love with him and especially fancied him in yellow stockings with cross garters. He fell for it and made a complete ass of himself in front of her. And that was only the start of his troubles.


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