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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 fashion'd 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 patch'd.
Sal. To this effect, before you were newcrown'd,
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
We breath'd our counsel: but it pleas'd your highness
To overbear it, and we are all well pleas'd; 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 40
I have possess'd you with and think them strong;
And more, more strong, then lesser is my fear,
I shall indue you with: meantime but ask
What you would have reform'd that is not well;
And well shall you perceive how willingly
I will both hear and grant you your requests.
Pɩm. Then I, as one that am the tongue of
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 night 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 To your direction. Hubert, what news with you? Taking him apart. Pem. This is the man should do the bloody deed;
He show'd his warrant to a friend of mine: 70
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 fear'd he had a charge to do.
Sal. The colour of the king doth come and go
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
The foul corruption of a sweet child's death. K. John. We cannot hold 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 deceas'd to-night.
Sal. Indeed we fear'd his sickness was past
Pem. Indeed we heard how near his death he
Before the child himself felt he was sick :
This must be answer'd either here or hence.
K. John. Why do you bend such solemn brows
Think you I bear the shears of destiny?
Have I commandment on the pulse of life?
Sul. 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
And find the inheritance of this poor child,
His little kingdom of a forced grave.
That blood which ow'd the breadth of all this
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.
K. John. They burn in indignation. I repent: There is no sure foundation set on blood, No certain life achiev'd by other's 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?
Mess. From France to England. Never such a
For any foreign preparation
Was levied in the body of a land.
The copy of your speed is learn'd by them;
For when you should be told they do prepare,
The tidings comes that they are all arriv'd.
K. John. O! where hath our intelligence been
Where hath it slept? Where is my mother's
That such an army could be drawn in France,
And she not hear of it?
My liege, her ear
Is stopp'd with dust: the first of April died 120
Your noble mother; and, as I hear, my lord,
The Lady Constance in a frenzy died
Three days before: but this from rumour's
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 pleas'd
My discontented peers. What! mother dead!
How wildly then walks my estate in France!
Under whose conduct came those powers of
That thou for truth giv'st out are landed here?
Mess. Under the Dauphin.
With these ill tidings.
Thou hast made me giddy
Enter the Bastard and PETER of Pomfret.
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 amaz'd
Under the tide; but now I breathe again
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 travell'd hither through the land,
I find the people strangely fantasied,
Possess d with rumours, 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 rimes,
That, ere the next Ascension-day at noon,
Your highness should deliver up your crown.
K. John. Thou idle dreamer, wherefore didst
Peter. Foreknowing that the truth will fall
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 hang'd.
Deliver him to safety, and return,
For I must use thee. Exit HUBERT, with PETER.
O my gentle cousin,
Hear'st thou the news abroad, who are arriv'd?
Bast. The French, my lord; men's mouths are
full of it:
I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus,
The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool,
With open mouth swallowing a tailor's news;
Who, with his shears and measure in his hand,
Standing on slippers, which his nimble haste
Had falsely thrust upon contrary feet,
Told of a many thousand war-like French,
That were embattailed and rank'd in Kent. 200
Another lean unwash'd artificer
Cuts off his tale and talks of Arthur's death.
Hub. Here is your hand and seal for what I did. K. John. O! when the last account 'twixt heaven and earth
Is to be made, then shall this hand and seal
Witness against us to damnation.
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds
Makes deeds ill done! Hadst not thou been by,
A fellow by the hand of nature mark'd,
Quoted and sign'd to do a deed of shame,
This murder had not come into my mind;
But taking note of thy abhorr'd aspect,
Finding thee fit for bloody villany,
Apt, liable to be employ'd in danger,
I faintly broke with thee of Arthur's death;
And thou, to be endeared to a king,
Made it no conscience to destroy a prince.
Hub. My lord,—
K. John. Hadst thou but shook thy head or made a pause
When I spake darkly what I purposed,
Or turn'd an eye of doubt upon my face,
As bid me tell my tale in express words,
Deep shame had struck me dumb, made me
And those thy fears might have wrought fears
Out of my sight, and never see me more!
My nobles leave me; and my state is brav'd,
Even at my gates, with ranks of foreign powers:
Nay, in the body of this fleshly land,
This kingdom, this confine of blood and breath,
Hostility and civil tumult reigns
Between my conscience and my cousin's death.
Hub. Arm you against your other enemies,
I'll make a peace between your soul and you. 250
Young Arthur is alive: this hand of mine
Is yet a maiden and an innocent hand,
Not painted with the crimson spots of blood.
Within this bosom never enter'd yet
The dreadful motion of a murderous thought;
And you have slander'd nature in my form,
Which, howsoever rude exteriorly,
Is yet the cover of a fairer mind
Than to be butcher of an innocent child.
K. John. Doth Arthur live? O! haste thee to the peers,
Throw this report on their incensed rage,
And make them tame to their obedience.
Forgive the comment that my passion made
Upon thy feature; for my rage was blind,
And foul imaginary eyes of blood
Presented thee more hideous than thou art.
O! answer not; but to my closet bring
The angry lords with all expedient haste.
I conjure thee but slowly; run more fast.
Before the Castle.
Enter ARTHUR, on the walls.
Arth. The wall is high; and yet will I leap down.
Good ground, be pitiful and hurt me not! There's few or none do know me; if they did,
Enter PEMBROKE, SALISBURY, and BIGOT.
Sal. Lords, I will meet him at Saint Edmundsbury.
It is our safety, and we must embrace
This gentle offer of the perilous time.
Pem. Who brought that letter from the cardinal?
Sal. The Count Melun, a noble lord of France; Whose private with me of the Dauphin's love Is much more general than these lines import. Big. To-morrow morning let us meet him then.
Sal. Or rather then set forward; for 'twill be Two long days' journey, lords, or e'er we meet. Enter the Bastard.
Bast. Once more to-day well met, distemper'd lords!
The king by me requests your presence straight.
Sal. The king hath dispossess'd himself of us;
We will not line his thin bestained cloak
With our pure honours, nor attend the foot
That leaves the print of blood where'er it
Return and tell him so: we know the worst.
Bast. Whate'er you think, good words, I
Found it too precious-princely for a grave.
Sal. Sir Richard, what think you? Have you beheld,
Or have you read, or heard? or could you think!
Or do you almost think, although you see,
That you do see? could thought, without this
Form such another? This is the very top,
The height, the crest, or crest unto the crest.
Of murder's arms: this is the bloodiest shame,
The wildest savagery, the vilest stroke,
That ever wall-eyed wrath or staring rage
Presented to the tears of soft remorse.
Pem. All murders past do stand excus'd in this:
And this, so sole and so unmatchable,
Shall give a holiness, a purity,
To the yet unbegotten sin of times;
And prove a deadly bloodshed but a jest,
Exampled by this heinous spectacle.
Bast. It is a damned and a bloody work;
The graceless action of a heavy hand,
If that it be the work of any hand.
Sal. If that it be the work of any hand!
We had a kind of light what would ensue :
It is the shameful work of Hubert's hand;
The practice and the purpose of the king:
From whose obedience I forbid my soul,
Kneeling before this ruin of sweet life.
And breathing to his breathless excellence
The incense of a vow, a holy vow,
Never to taste the pleasures of the world,
Never to be infected with delight,
Nor conversant with ease and idleness,
Till I have set a glory to this hand,
By giving it the worship of revenge.
Pem., Big. Our souls religiously confirm thy
Hub. Lords, I am hot with haste in seeking you:
Arthur doth live: the king hath sent for you.
Sal. O he is bold and blushes not at death.
Avaunt, thou hateful villain! get thee gone.
Hub. I am no villain.
Must I rob the law? Drawing his sword. Bast. Your sword is bright, sir; put it up again. Sal. Not till I sheathe it in a murderer's skin. Hub. Stand back, Lord Salisbury, stand back, I say:
By heaven, I think my sword's as sharp as yours.
I would not have you, lord, forget yourself,
Nor tempt the danger of my true defence;
Lest I, by marking of your rage, forget
Your worth, your greatness, and nobility.
Big. Out, dunghill! dar'st thou brave a
Do not prove me so;
Whose tongue soe'er speaks
If thou but frown on me, or stir thy foot,
Or teach thy hasty spleen to do me shame,
I'll strike thee dead. Put up thy sword betime,
Or I'll so maul you and your toasting-iron,
That you shall think the devil is come from hell.
Big. What wilt thou do, renowned Faulcon-
Second a villain and a murderer ?
Hub. Lord Bigot, I am none.
Who kill'd this prince?
Hub. 'Tis not an hour since I left him well:
I honour'd him, I lov'd him; and will weep
My date of life out for his sweet life's loss.
Sal. Trust not those cunning waters of his eyes,
Do but hear me, sir.
Bast. Ha! I'll tell thee what ;
Thou 'rt damn'd as black; nay, nothing is so
Thou art more deep damn'd than Prince Lucifer:
There is not yet so ugly a fiend of hell
As thou shalt be, if thou didst kill this child.
Hub. Upon my soul-
If thou didst but consent
To this most cruel act, do but despair;
And if thou want'st a cord, the smallest thread
That ever spider twisted from her womb
Will serve to strangle thee; a rush will be a beam
To hang thee on; or would'st thou drown thyself,
Put but a little water in a spoon,
And it shall be as all the ocean,
Enough to stifle such a villain up.
I do suspect thee very grievously.
Hub. If I in act, consent, or sin of thought.
Be guilty of the stealing that sweet breath
Which was embounded in this beauteous clay,
Let hell want pains enough to torture me.
I left him well.
Hub. Not for my life; but yet I dare defend Is fled to heaven; and England now is left My innocent life against an emperor.
Sal. Thou art a murderer.
Yet I am one.
Not truly speaks; who speaks not truly, lies.
Pem. Cut him to pieces.
Keep the peace, I say.
Sal. Stand by, or I shall gall you, Faulcon-
Bast. Thou wert better gall the devil, Salis-
To tug and scamble and to part by the teeth
The unowed interest of proud-swelling state.
Now for the bare-pick'd bone of majesty
Doth dogged war bristle his angry crest,
And snarleth in the gentle eyes of peace:
Now powers from home and discontents at home
Meet in one line; and vast confusion waits,
As doth a raven on a sick-faller beast,
The imminent decay of wrested pomp.
Now happy he whose cloak and ceinture can
Hold out this tempest. Bear away that child
And follow me with speed: I'll to the king:
A thousand businesses are brief in hand,
And heaven itself doth frown upon the land.
Go, bear him in thine arms.
I am amaz'd, methinks, and lose my way
Among the thorns and dangers of this world.
How easy dost thou take all England up!
From forth this morsel of dead royalty,
The life, the right and truth of all this realm
Your sovereign greatness and authority.
And I have made a happy peace with him; K. John. Now keep your holy word: go meet And he hath promis'd to dismiss the powers the French,
And from his holiness use all your power
To stop their marches 'fore we are inflam'd.
Our discontented counties do revolt,
Our people quarrel with obedience,
Swearing allegiance and the love of soul
To stranger blood, to foreign royalty.
This inundation of mistemper'd humour
Rests by you only to be qualified:
Then pause not; for the present time's so sick,
That present medicine must be minister'd,
Or overthrow incurable ensues.
Pand. It was my breath that blew this tempest up
Upon your stubborn usage of the pope;
But since you are a gentle convertite,
My tongue shall hush again this storm of war
And make fair weather in your blustering land.
On this Ascension-day, remember well,
Upon your oath of service to the pope,
Go I to make the French lay down their arms.
K. John. Is this Ascension-day? Did not the
Say that before Ascension-day at noon
My crown I should give off? Even so I have:
I did suppose it should be on constraint;
But, heaven be thank'd, it is but voluntary.
Bast. So, on my soul, he did, for aught he knew. | But wherefore do you droop? why look you sad? Be great in act, as you have been in thought; Let not the world see fear and sad distrust Govern the motion of a kingly eye: Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire; Threaten the threatener, and outface the brow Of bragging horror: so shall inferior eyes, That borrow their behaviours from the great, Grow great by your example and put on The dauntless spirit of resolution. Away! and glister like the god of war When he intendeth to become the field: Show boldness and aspiring confidence. What! shall they seek the lion in his den And fright him there? and make him tremble
O inglorious league! Shall we, upon the footing of our land, Send fair-play orders and make compromise, Insinuation, parley and base truce
To arms invasive? shall a beardless boy,
A cocker'd silken wanton, brave our fields,
And flesh his spirit in a war-like soil,
Mocking the air with colours idly spread,
And find no check? Let us, my liege, to arms:
Perchance the cardinal cannot make your peace;
Or if he do, let it at least be said
They saw we had a purpose of defence.
K. John. Have thou the ordering of this present time.
Bast. Away then, with good courage! yet, I know,
Our party may well meet a prouder foe. Exeunt.
SCENE II-A Plain near Saint Edmundsbury. Enter in arms, LEWIS, SALISBURY, MELUN, PEMBROKE, BIGOT, and Soldiers.
Lew. My Lord Melun, let this be copied out, And keep it safe for our remembrance. Return the precedent to these lords again; That, having our fair order written down, Both they and we, perusing o'er these notes, May know wherefore we took the sacrament, And keep our faiths firm and inviolable.
Sal. Upon our sides it never shall be broken. And, noble Dauphin, albeit we swear A voluntary zeal and unurg'd faith To your proceedings; yet, believe me, prince, I am not glad that such a sore of time Should seek a plaster by contemn'd revolt, And heal the inveterate canker of one wound By making many. O! it grieves my soul That I must draw this metal from my side To be a widow-maker: O! and there Where honourable rescue and defence Cries out upon the name of Salisbury. But such is the infection of the time, That, for the health and physic of our right, We cannot deal but with the very hand Of stern injustice and confused wrong. And is 't not pity, O my grieved friends! That we, the sons and children of this isle, Were born to see so sad an hour as this; Wherein we step after a stranger march Upon her gentle bosom, and fill up
Her enemies' ranks,-I must withdraw and weep
Upon the spot of this enforced cause,—
To grace the gentry of a land remote,
And follow unacquainted colours here?
What, here? O nation! that thou could'st re-
That Neptune's arms, who clippeth thee abont.
Would bear thee from the knowledge of thyself,
And grapple thee unto a pagan shore;
Where these two Christian armies might combine
The blood of malice in a vein of league,
And not to spend it so unneighbourly!
Lew. A noble temper dost thou show in this;
And great affections wrestling in thy bosom
Do make an earthquake of nobility.
O! what a noble combat hast thou fought
Between compulsion and a brave respect.