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Write till your ink be dry

Michael Rosen's poem - Ferdinand Meets his Father...



Who created it?

Michael Rosen


I was born in 1946 in north west London and that's where I was brought up. My parents were teachers though they both went to teach at universities, training teachers. I studied English literature and language at university and soon got into writing poems, stories and plays. I also learned how to perform poems - especially mine! I spend my time between writing, performing, doing radio broadcasts and teaching at Goldsmiths University of London. 

What do you like about books?

I love reading and writing books. They are both 'slow' ways of being entertained or of thinking about ideas, feelings, plots and stories. Things pass us by very quickly but writing and reading slows things down so that we can give more time to wondering about things. 

My Shakespeare-inspired poem: Ferdinand Meets his Father…




My father? My father? Alive?

It’s not possible. It cannot be.

Have I not spent day after day

on this island of mystery and music,

slaving away

for some stern stranger,

doing his bidding

cutting timber, carrying logs to his cave?


Did I not hear in the air,

as if the music in the wind

was itself torturing me,

that my dear father

was drowned at sea

in that fearsome tempest?


Did I not hear that

my dear father was deep down

on the sea-floor,

five fathoms down

full fathom five

his bones turning to coral

his eyes turning to pearls?


This I believed was true.

I lived with that as if it were

as true as my life.


Yes, it was this Ariel

slave of that stern stranger

who sang me that sad song,

It was this Ariel

who gifted me that torment

that my dear father

gasped his last

sinking into the white waves.


How many times

did I dream the picture

of his dear face slipping under the water?


Why then, Ariel,

you who were a slave yourself

did you carry out such a command?

Why then did you feed me such lies

and see me, like you, enslaved?


Full fathom five thy father lies

you sang.


full fathom five was your lies.


You and me Ariel

have been part of your master’s grand scheme of things

We were part of what he called his ‘project’;

he who boasted that he could bedim the noontime sun.


And yet and yet and yet…


I’m confused.

My mind drifts like paper in the wind

that when I reach for it

the wind blows it on and away from my hand.


What did I see?

what did I dream?

What did I dream?

What did I see?


Am I perhaps dreaming now

that this is my father?

Could it be

I am a dream of myself?

What is one moment substance in the hand

the next, slips out of sight.


After all

did I not hear of

cloud-capp'd towers, gorgeous palaces,

solemn temples, the great globe itself,

dissolving…fading, leaving not a rack behind…?


Did I not hear that

we are such stuff as dreams are made on?


Am I alive

with you now, father

or is my life already rounded with a sleep?



What’s your favourite Shakespeare quote, character or play?

I like it when Caliban sticks up for himself in The Tempest and says, 'This island's mine.' My favourite character is Feste in Twelfth Night. I like his songs and I like the way that Shakespeare has hinted that he is possibly in love but has no hope of having that love come back to him. My favourite play is probably Twelfth Night

Watch this!

You can also watch a special Shakespeare Week workshop with Michael Rosen (broadcast live at 11am on Tuesday 21 March 2023 on the Shakespeare Week website and then available on the Shakespeare Week website thereafter). Michael’s workshop is all about celebrating Shakespeare’s creativity and fun with language.