Page images
PDF
EPUB

To guard' a title that was rich before,
To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful, and ridiculous excess.

Pem. But that your royal pleasure must be done,
This act is as an ancient tale new told;
And, in the last repeating, troublesome,
Being urged at a time unseasonable.

Sal. In this, the antique and well-noted face
Of plain, old form is much disfigured ;
And, like a shifted wind unto a sail,
It makes the course of thoughts to fetch about;
Startles and frights consideration;
Makes sound opinion sick, and truth suspected,
For putting on so new a fashioned robe.

Pem. When workmen strive to do better than well,
They do confound their skill in covetousness;
And, oftentimes, excusing of a fault,
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse;
As patches, set upon a little breach ;
Discredit more in hiding of the fault,
Than did the fault before it was so patched.

Sal. To this effect, before you were new-crowned, We breathed our counsel : but it pleased your highness To overbear it; and we are all well pleased ; Since all and every part of what we would, Doth make a stand at what your highness will.

K. John. Some reasons of this double coronation I have possessed you with, and think them strong; And more, more strong (when lesser is my fear) I shall endue you with. Mean time, but ask What you would have reformed, that is not well; And well shall you perceive, how willingly. I will both hear and grant you your requests.

2

1 To guard is to ornament.
2 i. e. not by their avarice, but in an eager desire of excelling.

Pem. Then I, (as one that am the tongue of these,
To sound the purposes of all their hearts,)
Both for myself and them (but, chief of all,
Your safety, for the which myself and them
Bend their best studies,) heartily request
The enfranchisement of Arthur; whose restraint
Doth move the murmuring lips of discontent
To break into this dangerous argument, —
If what in rest you have, in right you hold,
Why then your fears (which, as they say, attend
The steps of wrong) should move you to mew up
Your tender kinsman, and to choke his days
With barbarous ignorance, and deny his youth
The rich advantage of good exercise ? ?
That the time's enemies may not have this
To grace occasions, let it be our suit,
That you have bid us ask his liberty;
Which for our goods we do no further ask,
Than whereupon our weal, on you depending,
Counts it your weal, he have his liberty.
K. John. Let it be so; I do commit his youth

Enter HUBERT.
To your direction.-Hubert, what news with you ?

Pem. This is the man should do the bloody deed;
He showed his warrant to a friend of mine.
The image of a wicked, heinous fault
Lives in his eye, that close aspect of his
Does show the mood of a much-troubled breast;
And I do fearfully believe, 'tis done,
What we so feared he had a charge to do.

Sal. The color of the king doth come and go, Between his purpose and his conscience,

3

1 To declare, to publish the purposes of all, &c.

2 In the middle ages, the whole education of princes and noble youths consisted in martial exercises, &c. Mental improvement might have been had in a prison as well as any where else.

3 The purpose of the king, to which Salisbury alludes, is that of putting Arthur to death, which he considers as not yet accomplished, and there fore supposes that there might be still a conflict in the king's mind

“ Between his purpose and his conscience."

Like heralds 'twixt two dreadful battles set.
His passion is so ripe it needs must break.

Pem. And when it breaks, I fear, will issue thence The foul corruption of a sweet child's death.

K. John. We cannot bold mortality's strong hand. Good lords, although my will to give is living, The suit which you demand is gone and dead. He tells us, Arthur is deceased to-night.

Sal. Indeed, we feared his sickness was past cure.

Pem. Indeed, we heard how near his death he was, Before the child himself felt he was sick. This must be answered, either here, or hence.

K. John. Why do you bend such solemn brows on

me?

Think you, I bear the shears of destiny?
Have I commandment on the pulse of life?

Sal. It is apparent foul-play; and 'tis shame,
That greatness should so grossly offer it.
So thrive it in your game! and so farewell.

Pem. Stay yet, lord Salisbury; I'll go with thee,
And find the inheritance of this poor child,
His little kingdom of a forced grave.
That blood, which owed the breadth of all this isle,
Three foot of it doth hold. Bad world the while !
This must not be thus borne; this will break out
To all our sorrows, and ere long, I doubt.

[Exeunt Lords. K. John. They burn in indignation ; I repent; There is no sure foundation set on blood; No certain life achieved by others' death.

Enter a Messenger. A fearful eye thou hast; where is that blood, That I have seen inhabit in those cheeks? So foul a sky clears not without a storm. Pour down thy weather ;-how goes all in France ?

1 i. e. “oroned the breadth of all this isle.” The two last variorum editions erroneously read “ breath for breadth,which is found in the old copy.

The copy

Mess. From France to England. —Never such a

power For any foreign preparation, Was levied in the body of a land!

of

your speed is learned by them; For, when you should be told they do-prepare, The tidings come that they are all arrived.

K. John. O, where hath our intelligence been drunk?
Where hath it slept? Where is my mother's care?
That such an army could be drawn in France,
And she not hear of it?
Mess.

My liege, her ear
Is stopped with dust; the first of April, died
Your noble mother; and, as I hear, my lord,
The lady Constance in a frenzy died
Three days before: but this from rumor's tongue
I idly heard ; if true, or false, I know not.

K. John. Withhold thy speed, dreadful occasion !
O, make a league with me, till I have pleased
My discontented peers !—What! mother dead ?
How wildly then walks my estate in France ! 2—
Under whose conduct came those powers of France,
That thou for truth giv'st out, are landed here?

Mess. Under the dauphin.

Enter the Bastard and PETER of Pomfret. K. John.

Thou hast made me giddy With these ill tidings.—Now, what says the world To your proceedings? Do not seek to stuff My head with more ill news, for it is full.

Bast. But if you be afeard to hear the worst, Then let the worst, unheard, fall on your head. .

K. John. Bear with me, cousin ; for I was amazed ” Under the tide ; but now I breathe again

1 The king asks how all goes in France ; the messenger catches the word goes, and answers, that whatever is in France goes now into England.

2 i. e. how ill my affairs go in France.

3 Astonied, stunned, confounded, are the ancient synonymes of amazed, obstupesco.

Aloft the flood; and can give audience
To any tongue, speak it of what it will.

Bast. How I have sped among the clergymen,
The sums I have collected shall express.

. But, as I travelled hither through the land, I find the people strangely fantasied; Possessed with rumors, full of idle dreams; Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear. And here's a prophet, that I brought with me From forth the streets of Pomfret, whom I found With many hundreds treading on his heels; To whom he sung, in rude, harsh-sounding rhymes, That, ere the next Ascension-day at noon, Your highness should deliver up your crown. K. John. Thou idle dreamer, wherefore didst thou

so? Peter. Foreknowing that the truth will fall out so.

K. John. Hubert, away with him ; imprison him; And on that day at noon, whereon, he says, I shall yield up my crown, let him be hanged. Deliver him to safety, and return, For I must use thee.—0, my gentle cousin,

[Exit HUBERT, with PETER. Hear'st thou the news abroad, who are arrived ? Bast. The French, my lord; men's mouths are full

of it. Besides, I met lord Bigot, and lord Salisbury, (With eyes as red as new-enkindled fire,) Ànd others more, going to seek the grave Of Arthur, who, they say, is killed to-night On your suggestion. K. John.

Gentle kinsman, go, And thrust thyself into their companies.

This man was a hermit, in great repute with the common people. Notwithstanding the event is said to have fallen out as he prophesied, the poor fellow was inhumanly dragged at horses' tails through the streets of Warham, and, together with his son, who appears to have been even more innocent than his father, hanged, afterwards, upon a gibbet.-Holinshed, in anno 1213.—Speed says that Peter the hermit was suborned by the pope's legate, the French king, and the barons, for this purpose.

2 i. e. to safe custody

« PreviousContinue »