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When the English measur'd backward their own ground,
Mess. Where is my prince, the Dauphin?
Mess. The count Melun is slain; the English lords,
By his persuasion, are again fallen off:
And your supply, which you have wish'd so long,
Lew. Ah, foul shrewd news!-Beshrew thy very heart! I did not think to be so sad to-night,
As this hath made me. Who was he, that said,
King John did fly, an hour or two before
The stumbling night did part our weary powers?
Lew. Well; keep good quarter, and good care to-night:
The day shall not be up so soon as I,
To try the fair adventure of to-morrow.
An open Place in the Neighbourhood of Swinstead-Abbey. Enter the Bastard and HUBERT, meeting.
Hub. Who's there? speak, ho! speak quickly, or I shoot. Bast. A friend: What art thou?
Bast. Whither dost thou go?
Of the part of England.
Hub. What's that to thee? Why may not I demand Of thine affairs, as well as thou of mine?
Bast. Hubert, I think.
Thou hast a perfect thought:
3 - tatter'd -] For tatter'd, the folio reads, tottering. Johnson. Tartering, which, in the spelling of our author`s time, was tottering, is used for tatter'd. The active and passive participles are employed by him very indiscriminately. Malone.
•keep good quarter,] i. e. keep in your allotted posts or stations. So, in Timon of Athens:
"Shall pass his quarter." Steevens.
perfect thought:] i. e. a perfect recollection. Steevens.
I will, upon all hazards, well believe
Thou art my friend, that know'st my tongue so well:
Who art thou?
Who thou wilt: an if thou please,
Thou may'st befriend me so much, as to think
I come one way of the Plantagenets.
Hub. Unkind remembrance! thou, and eyeless night, Have done me shame:-Brave soldier, pardon me, That any accent, breaking from thy tongue,
Should 'scape the true acquaintance of mine ear.
Bast. Come, come; sans compliment, what news abroad?
Hub. Why, here walk I, in the black brow of night, To find you out.
Brief, then; and what's the news? Hub. O, my sweet sir, news fitting to the night, Black, fearful, comfortless, and horrible.
Bast. Show me the very wound of this ill news; I am no woman, I'll not swoon at it.
Hub. The king, I fear, is poison'd by a monk:7
6 thou, and eyeless night,] The old copy reads-endless.
Steevens. We should read eyeless. So, Pindar calls the moon, the eye of night. Warburton.
This epithet I find in Jarvis Markham's English Arcadia, 1607: "O eyeless night, the portraiture of death!" Steevens. The emendation was made by Mr. Theobald. With Pindar our author had certainly no acquaintance; but, I believe, the correction is right. Shakspeare has, however, twice applied the epithet endless to night, in King Richard II:
"Then thus I turn me from my country's light,
"To dwell in solemn shades of endless night."
"My oil-dry'd lamp
"Shall be extinct with age and endless night."
But in the latter of these passages a natural, and in the former, a kind of civil, death, is alluded to. In the present passage the epithet endless is inadmissible, because, if understood literally, it is false. On the other hand, eyeless is peculiarly applicable. The emendation is also supported by our author's Rape of Lucrece:
"Poor grooms are sightless night; kings, glorious day."
7 The king, I fear, is poison'd by a monk:] Not one of the historians who wrote within sixty years after the death of K. John, mentions this very improbable story. The tale is, that a monk, to revenge himself on the king for a saying at which he took of
I left him almost speechless, and broke out
Bast. How did he take it? who did taste to him?
At whose request the king hath pardon'd them,
Bast. Withhold thine indignation, mighty heaven,
fence, poison'd a cup of ale, and having brought it to his majesty, drank some of it himself to induce the king to taste it, and soon afterwards expired. Thomas Wykes is the first who relates it in his Chronicle, as a report. According to the best accounts John died at Newark, of a fever. Malone.
8 that you might
The better arm you to the sudden time,
Than if you had at leisure known of this.] That you might be able to prepare instantly for the sudden revolution in affairs which the king's death will occasion, in a better manner than you could have done, if you had not known of it till the event had actually happened, and the kingdom was reduced to a state of composure and quiet. Malone.
It appears to me, that at leisure means less speedily, after some delay.
I do not clearly comprehend Mr. Malone's explanation. The death of the king was not likely to produce a state of composure and quiet, while there was a hostile army in the heart of the kingdom. M. Mason.
9 Why, know thus:
you not? the lords &c.] Perhaps we ought to point
Why know you not, the lords are all come back,
And brought prince Henry in their company? Malone.
The Orchard of Swinstead-Abbey.
Enter Prince HENRY,1 SALISBURY, and BIGOT. P. Hen. It is too late; the life of all his blood Is touch'd corruptibly;2 and his pure brain (Which some suppose the soul's frail dwelling-house) Doth, by the idle comments that it makes,
Foretel the ending of mortality.
Pem. His highness yet doth speak; and holds belief, That, being brought into the open air,
It would allay the burning quality
Of that fell poison which assaileth him.
P. Hen. Let him be brought into the orchard here.— Doth he still rage?
[Exit BIGOT. Pem. He is more patient Than when you left him; even now he sung. P. Hen. O vanity of sickness! fierce extremes, In their continuance,3 will not feel themselves. Death having prey'd upon the outward parts, Leaves them insensible; and his siege is now Against the mind, the which he pricks and wounds
1— Prince Henry,] This prince was only nine years old when his father died.
2 Is touch'd corruptibly;] i. e. corruptively. Such was the phraseology of Shakspeare's age. So, in his Rape of Lucrece: "The Romans plausibly did give consent
i. e. with acclamations. Here we should now say-plausively.
3 In their continuance,] I suspect our author wrote-In thy continuance. In his Sonnets the two words are frequently confounded. If the text be right, continuance means continuity. Bacon uses the word in that sense. Malone.
4 Leaves them insensible; and his siege is now
Against the mind,] The old copy reads-invisible Steevens. As the word invisible has no sense in this passage, I have no doubt but the modern editors are right in reading insensible, which agrees with the two preceding lines:
In their continuance, will not feel themselves,
The last lines are evidently intended as a paraphrase, and confirmation of the two first. M. Mason.
With many legions of strange fantasies;
Which, in their throng and press to that last hold, Confound themselves. 'Tis strange, that death should sing-
I am the cygnet to this pale faint swan,
His soul and body to their lasting rest.
Sal. Be of good comfort, prince; for you are born To set a form upon that indigest
Which he hath left so shapeless and so rude.7
Re-enter BIGOT and Attendants, who bring in King JOHN in a Chair.
K. John. Ay, marry, now my soul hath elbow-room; It would not out at windows, nor at doors. There is so hot a summer in my bosom, That all my bowels crumble up to dust: I am a scribbled form, drawn with a pen Upon a parchment; and against this fire Do I shrink up.
How fares your majesty?
K. John. Poison'd,—ill-fare ; 3—dead, forsook, cast off:
5 With many legions of strange fantasies;
Which in their throng and press to that last hold,
Confound themselves.] So, in our author's Rape of Lucrece: "Much like a press of people at a door,
"Throng his inventions, which shall go before." Malone. - in their throng and press to that last hold,] In their tumult and hurry of resorting to the last tenable part. Johnson. 6 I am the cygnet -] Old copy Symet. Corrected by Mr. Pope. Malone.
To set a form upon that indigest
Which he hath left so shapeless and so rude.] A description of the Chaos almost in the very words of Ovid:
"Quem dixere Chaos, rudis indigestaque moles.” Met. I. Whalley.
"Which Chaos hight, a huge rude heap, -: "No sunne as yet with lightsome beames the shapeless world did view." Golding's Translation, 1587. Malone. Poison'd, ill-fare;] Mr. Malone supposes fare to be here used as a dissyllable, like fire, hour, &c. But as this word has not concurring vowels in it, like hour, or fair, nor was ever dissyllabically spelt (like fier) faer; I had rather suppose the present line imperfect, than complete it by such unprecedented means. Steevens.