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American Scholar Claims Discovery of Shakespeare Poem

November 24, 1985

LONDON (AP) _ An American scholar working at Oxford University claims to have discovered a previously unknown poem by William Shakespeare in the university’s library, the Sunday Times reported.

It said Gary Taylor, 32, of Topeka, Kan., is convinced Shakespeare wrote the 90-line, nine-stanza love poem that he found in the Bodleian Library this month while checking its index of poems attributed to the poet.

The index quoted the first line of a poem, ″Shall I die? Shall I fly,″ which Taylor had never read before.

Taylor asked for the book containing the poem to be brought from storage and was handed a leather-bound anthology of English Renaissance poetry, probably compiled in the 1630s, tied with pink ribbon and written in black ink, the newspaper said. Shakespeare died in 1616.

It said the book probably was compiled for someone who wanted a personal anthology and had been in the Bodleian Library since 1756.

The scribe signed the author’s name at the end of each poem and there were two attributed to Shakespeare, one of which Taylor knew. ″Nobody has ever taken much notice″ of the other poem, the newspaper said.

If the untitled poem is by Shakespeare, it would be the first work by him discovered in this century and possibly the first found since the 17th century, according to the Sunday Times. It said the discovery suggests other unknown poems by Shakespeare could be lying unnoticed in libraries.

The anthology containing the poem was in a bequest to the Bodleian from Richard Rawlinson, an Oxford University graduate who devoted his life to book collecting. He died in 1755.

Taylor is joint general editor of the ″New Complete Shakespeare″ due for publication next year by the Oxford University Press. It will include the discovered poem, the report said.

The Sunday Times described Taylor as ″one of the world’s most brilliant Shakespearian textual analysts.″

Maryland University professor Sam Schoenbaum, an American expert on Shakespeare, was quoted by the newspaper as saying: ″It doesn’t seem at all a wild surmise that this is an early Shakespeare.″

But John Carey, Merton Professor of English Literature at Oxford, told the newspaper, ″Gary is an extremely good scholar, but this is such a feeble poem that I am not convinced.″

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