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THE OLD LAW. A COMEDY. BY PHILIP MASSINGER, THOMAS MIDDLETON, AND WILLIAM
The Duke of Epire enacts a law, that all men who have reach
ed the age of fourscore, shall be put to death, as being adjudged useless to the commonwealth. Simonides, the bad, and Cleanthes, the good son, are differently affected by the promulgation of the edici.
Oh, lad, here's a spring for young plants to flourish!
The old trees must down, kept the sun from us.
We shall rise now, boy.
Cle. Whither, sir, I pray?
To the bleak air of storms, among those trees
Which we had shelter from.
Sim. Yes, from our growth,
Our sap and livelihood, and from our fruit.
What! 'tis nut jubilee with thee yet, I think;
Thou look’st so sad on't. How old is thy father?
Cle. Jubilee! no, indeed ; 'tis a bad year with me.
Sim.'Prithee, how old's thy father? then I can tell thee.
Cle. I know not how to answer you, Simonides.
He is too old, being now expos'd
Unto the rigour of a cruel edict;
And yet not old enough by many years,
'Cause I'd not see him go an hour before me.
Sim. These very passions I speak to my father.
Cle. Why, here's a villain,
Able to corrupt a thousand by example.
Does the kind root bleed out his livelihood
In parent distribution to his branches,
A dorning them with all his glorious fruits,
Proud that his pride is seen when he's unseen,
And must not gratitude descend again
To comfort his old limbs in fruitless winter?
Cleanthes, to save his old father, Leonides, from the opera-
tion of the lari, gives out that he is dead, celebrating a
pretended funeral, to make it believed.
Duke. Courtiers. Cleanthes, as following his father's
body to the grave. Duke. Cleanthes ?
Court. Tis, my lord, and in the place
Of a chief mourner too, but strangely habited.
Duke. Yet suitable to his behaviour, mark it;
He comes all the way smiling, do you observe it?
I never saw a corse so joyfully follow'd,
Light colours and light cheeks—who should this be?
'Tis a thing worth resolving Cleanthes - --
Cle. O my lord!
Duke. He laugh'd outright now.
Was ever such a contrariety seen
In natural courses yet, nay, profess'd openly?
Ole. "Tis, of a heavy time, the joyfull’st day
That ever son was born too.
Duke. How can that be?
Cle. Ijoy—to make it plain--my father's dead.
Court. Old Leonides ?
Cle. In his last month dead.
He beguild cruel law the sweetliest
That ever age was blest to.
It grieves me that a tear should fall upon't,
Being a thing so joyful, but his memory
Will work it out, I see : when his poor heart
Broke, I did not so much, but leap'd for joy
So mountingly, I touch'd the stars, methought.
I would not hear of blacks, I was so light,
But chose a colour orient, like my mind :
For blacks are often such dissembling mourners,
There is no credit giv'n to't, it has lost
All reputation by false sons and widows.
Now I would have men know what I resemble,
A truth, indeed; 'tis joy clad like a joy,
Which is more honest than a cunning grief
That's only fac'd with sables for a show,
But gawdy-hearted. When I saw death come
So ready to deceive you, sir, forgive me,
I could not chuse but be entirely merry;
And yet too, see now, of a sudden,
Naming but death, I shew myself a mortal,
That's never constant to one passion long;
I wonder whence that tear came, when I smild
In the production on't: Sorrow's a thief,
That can, when joy looks on, steal forth a grief.
But, gracious leave, my lord; when I've perform’d
My last poor duty to my father's bones,
I shall return your servant.
Duke. Well, perform it;
The law is satisfied: they can but die.
Cleanthes conceals Leonides in a secret apartment within a
wood, where himself, and his wife Hippolita, keep watch
for the safety of the old man. This coming to the duke's
knowledge, he repairs to the wood and makes discovery of
the place where they have hid Leonides.
The Wood.--Cleanthes listening, as fearing every sound.
Cle. What's that? Oh, nothing but the whisp'ring
Breathes thro' yon churlish hawthorn, that grew rude
As if it chid the gentle breath that kiss'd it.
I cannot be too circumspect, too careful,
For in these woods lies hid all my life's treasure,
Which is too much ever to fear to lose,
Though it be never lost; and if our watchfulness
Ought to be wise and serious 'gainst a thief
That comes to steal our goods, things all without us,
That prove vexation often more than comfort,
How mighty ought our providence to be
To prevent those, if any such there were,
That come to rob our bosom of our joys,
That only make poor man delight to live!
Psha, I'm too fearful-fie, fie, who can hurt me?
But 'tis a general cowardice, that shakes
The nerves of confidence; he that hides treasure,
Imagines every one thinks of that place,
When 'tis a thing least minded; nay, let him change
The place continually, where'er it keeps,
There will the fear keep still. Yonder's the store-house
Of all my comfort now-and, see, it sends forth
A dear one to me. Precious chief of women!
How does the good old soul ? has he fed well ?
Hip. Beshrew me, sir, he made the heartiest meal to
day, Much good may't do his health.
Cle. A blessing on thee, Both for thy news and wish.
Hip. His stomach, sir, Is better'd wond'rously, since his concealment. Cle. Heav'n has a blessed work in't. Come, we're safe
here. I pri’thee, call him forth, the air is much wholesomer. Hip. Father.
Leonides comes forth.
Leon. How sweetly sounds the voice of a good woman!
It is so seldom heard, that, when it speaks,
It ravishes all senses. Lists of honour,
I've a joy weeps to see you, 'tis so full,
So fairly fruitful.
Cle. I hope to see you often, and return
I oaden with blessing, still to pour on some.
I find them all in my contented peace,
And lose not one in thousands, they're dispers'd
So gloriously, I know not which are brightest;
I find them, as angels are found, by legions.
A Horn is heard.
Leon. What was't disturb’d my joy?
Cle. Did you not hear,
As afar off
Hip. What, my excellent consort?
Cle. Nor you
Hip. I heard a-
Cle. Hark, again-
Leon. Bless my joy,
What ails it on a sudden?
Cle. Now since- lately-
Leon. 'Tis nothing but a symptom of thy care, man.
Cle. Alas! you do not hear well.
Leon. What was't, daughter?
Hip. I heard a sound, twice.
Cle. Hark! louder and nearer.
In, for the precious good of virtue, quick, sir.
Louder and nearer yet; at hand, at hand;
A hunting here! 'tis strange! I never knew
Game follow'd in these woods before.
(Leonides goes in.d Hip. Now let them come, and spare not.
Enter Duke, Courtiers, Attendants, as if hunting. . Cle. Ha ! 'tis — is't not the Duke? -- look spar
ingly. Hip. 'Tis he, but what of that? alas! take heed, sir; Your care will overthrow us.
Cle. Come, it shall not.
Let's set a pleasant face upon our fears,
Though our hearts shake with horror. Ha! ha! ha!
Cle. Prithee, proceed;
I'm taken with these light things infinitely,
Since the old man's decease..Ha! ha! ha!