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But not too old to tell truth; the horse that will not
Stand still and endure searching, howe're in summer,
With warmth and pasture, he may strike at flies,
And play the wanton in a wealthy meadow,
For all his summer pastime, yet 'tis said,
Winter will leave him but a lean scald jade;
Come, come, y'are fooles, y'are fooles.
Leister. Well, let us-bear then.
Y. Bruce. Let us? O my blood !
Besides our injuries in his breach of promise,
He made by stains and publique grievances,
How in the flames of his adulterate heart
Pursues he my chaste cousin, by slights gets her
Within his tallon, and but this afternoon,
(Had not her friendly knife enfranchis'd her)
Even in the face of heaven, in his own garden
He would have ravish'd her."
Act I. scene I.
The king's impetuosity of temper, which he was unable to restrain, even to preserve the disguise he had himself assumed, is displayed in the following scene. John, with some of his courtiers, attired in the habits of masquers, enter Fitzwater's house, apparently to hold a revel, but really with the intention of carrying off his daughter Matilda. On their being announced, Old Fitzwater cries,
“ Fitz. Now by my troth they are gallants,
Citizens, said you ; now I remember too,
Ye do go gallant in your shops; no wonder then,
If in masques you cut it. I remember, gentlemen,
Your fathers wore a kind of comely habite,
Comely, because it well became the reverend name of citizens ;
But now let a knight walk with you in your shops,
(And I commend you for't, ye keep the fashion)
We know not which is which. How my tongue ranges,
And night grows old, mad times must have mad changes ;
Come, come, a hall, a hall.
Queen. Believe me, you have done well.
Y. Bruce. Pox a' these cats' guts, how they squeak.
Methinks a rattling sheep-skin lustily boxt,
[One of the torch bearers takes Matilda. Would thunder brave amongst them.
Mat. I can dance no more, indeed, sir.
Fitz. I am deceiv'd if that fellow did not carry
A torch e'en now;
Will you shame the gentleman?
Dance when I bid you.
Mat. Oh me, that graspe was like the king's.
0. Bruce. Dance, cuz.
Fitz. In good deed, dance,
will make me angry.
[The king pulls her violently.
Body of me, that's too much for a torch bearer,
You, sir Jack, sir Jack, she is no whit-leather,
She will not stretch, I assure you, if you come hither,
For love so 'tis.
K. John. For love.
Fitz. But if you and your company
Put on forgetfull rudenesse, pray take your Cupid yonder,
Your thing of feathers, and your barge stands ready
To bear ye all aboard the ship of fools,
I am plain Robin-passion of me!
Look if he do not threaten me; I will see thee,
Wert thou King John himselfe.
[Pulls off his vizard.
Om. The king!
Mat. Oh which way shall I flie ?"
The characters of the King and Fitzwater are strikingly exhibited in the following scene, which possesses great poetical as well as dramatic excellence.
"Oxford. O but my lord.
Fitz. Tut, tut, lord me no lords,
He broke, we powted, I tell plain truth, I,
Yet fell into no relapse of hostility.
But wot we what, he casts a covetous eye
Upon my daughter, passionately pursues her,
There had been other pledges but our oathes else,
(For heaven knows them he had) and (amongst the rest)
Matilda must be my pledge, for well he deem'd
They yielding theirs, shame would brand my denyall.
But catch craft, when we put truth to triall,
Kings should have shining souls, and white desires
Enflam’d with zeale, not parch'd by Paphian fires;
So shines the soul in which virtue doth shrowd,
As a serene skie bespotted with no cloud,
But a copper conscience whilst the head wears gold,
Is but a plain down-right untruth well told.
Come, come, I cannot fawn.
K. John, But in the passion
Of a dog, sir, you can snarl; have you talk'd all your words?
Fitz. I have told truth, I.
K. John. Then we will fall to deeds.
Oxford, command a guard, and presently
Take them to th' Tower; we can now talk and do.
Away with them, and muzzle those fierce mastiffes,
That durst leap at the face of majestie,
And strike their killing fangs into honour's heart;
Are they not gone? we shall be passionate
In your delay.
0. Bruce. Come, Leister, let us wear
Our sufferings like garlands.
Leister. Tempest nor death
Could never outdo Leister, who dares dye
Laughing at time's poyson’d integrity.
Fitz. Now by my troth 'twas very nobly spoken.
Shall I turne tale; no, no, no, let's go.
But how things will be carried ; ha! are these teares ?
Body of me, they are; shall I go like a sheep
With this pair of lyons; ha, ha, ha.
I do laugh now, John, and I'll tell thee why;
Th' art yet in thy green May, twenty-seven summers
Set in our kalends ; but when forty winters more
Shall round thy forehead with a field of snow,
And when thy comely veins shall cease to flow,
When those majestick eyes shall float in rhumes,
When giant Nature her own selfe consumes,
When thy swift pulses shall but slowly pant,
When thou art all a volum of my want,
(That like a tale-spent fire thou shalt sink,)
this lesson thou wilt think;
He dyes a happy old man, whose sweet youth
Was a continued sacrifice to truth;
I must weep now,
K. John. Away with them."
[Exit. Act II. scene I.
Besides some other whole scenes which are well worthy of being selected if our limits would allow, there are many short pieces of eloquent writing, which occur among less interesting matter. This is an instance: King John is railing at the queen, who has just confessed to have treated Matilda with personal violence.
“ K. John. Oh ye cruell one,
Crueller than the flame that turn’d to cinders
The fair Ephesian temple; wilde as a woolf,
The bear is not so bloody : teare her hairs!
Which, when they took their pastime with the winds,
Would charm the astonish'd gazer; teare that face!
Lovely as is the morning, in whose eyes
Stands writ the history of her heart, inticing
The ravish'd reader to runne on ; 'pon whose eyelids
Discretion dwels, which, when a wilde thought
Would at those casements like a thiefe steale in,
Playes her heart's noble friend and shuts out sin.”
Hubert, when pleading to Matilda for his master, says:
“ Hubert. Virtue! pale poverty,
Reproach, disaster, shame sits on her forehead,
Despisings fill her sleepš, ill-favour'd'injuries
Meet her at every turne, tears are her triumphs,
Her drink affliction, calumny attends her,
The unclean tongue of slaunder daily licks her
Out of her fashion; but if you be King John's friend,-
Mat. Oh, strong temptation.
Hubert. You may, like
A nimble wind, play on the ruffing bosome
Of that phantastick wood, the world; your sleep's a paradise
Hung round with glittering dreames, then your dissemblings
Will be call'd devotions, your rigid cold hypocrisie
Religious holy heats: mirth decks the court daies,
The wanton minutes glide just like a streame,
That clips the bosome of a wealthy meade,
Till't get it great with child; a sweet green blessing.
Consider, 'tis the king."
When the king imagines he has persuaded Fitzwater to give him his daughter on condition of procuring a divorce, in the joy of his heart he exclaims :
“ K. John. Yet there is hope ; now by my crown I will.
We shall be sonne and father; thou and I
Will walke upon our pallace battlements,
And thou shalt carry up a covetous eye,
And thou shalt cast that covetous eye about
The fair, delightful village-spotted valleyes ;
Thou shalt stand still, and think, and recollect
The troubl'd longings of thy large desires,
And whatsoever thou shalt aske the king,
(Of all thou see'st) the king shall give it thee."
After Matilda has succeeded in procuring a secure retreat
in Dunmore Abbey, John has an interview with her in the presence of her father, and in vain attempts to make her bend to his wishes. Taking a solemn farewell of her father and the king, she leaves them. Fitzwater says, as she goes :
“Fitz. A father's blessing, like a welcome cloud With child of friendly showers, hover o'er thy goodnesse, And keep it ever green;-she is gone, sir.
K. John. Go thou and runne into the sea.
Fitz. Ha, ha, so the great Emperor of the Barrons,
As you call'd him,
May come out again i'th' guts of a poor John :
No, no, I will live and laugh; you would have made her
The mistresse of the king, and she is married
To the king's master, oh, to the noblest king
Poore supplicant'ever kneeld to; to your king
And her king, and to my king, she's married;
Oh married, married, let the satyrs dance it,
The sweet birds sing it, let the winds þe wanton,
And as they softly, with an evening whisper,
Steal through the curl'd locks of the lofty woods,
Let them in their sweet language seem to say,
This, this, was chaste Matilda's marriage day.”
We have not, however, space for more than Old Fitzwater's denial of the charge of being a rebel, which the king throws in his teeth while they are parleying on the walls of a castle, to which the barons refuse the king entrance. He exclaims, in great indignation :
“ K. John. Barr'd out and brav’d,
You bate and chafe a lyon; bring Old Fitzwater ;
Thou, Bruce and grumbling Leister, either speedily
Give up the castle, and upon your knees
Fall to the mercy you have scorn'd, or here
Before a paire of minutes passe, the sword
Of incens'd justice shall, even in your eyes,
Leave this old rebell headlesse.
Fitz. Now by the blood
I lost in holy Palestine with Richard,
Oh that right reall souldier! King John, I sweare,
That foul word rebel has unrivitted
The bars of reason, and made me very angry;
Is it to take truth's part, to be a rebel?
To ease my groaning country, is that rebellion?
To preserve the unstain'd honour of a maid,