An Arthurian Miscellany at sacred-texts.com
THE SECOND ACT AND THE FIRST SCENE
NUNTIUS. Lo, here at length the stately type of Troy,
And Britain land the promis'd seat of Brute,
Deck'd with so many spoils of conquered kings!
Hail, native soil, these nine years' space unseen!
To thee hath long-renowned Rome at last
Held up her hands, bereft of former pomp.
But first, inflam'd with wonted valour's heat,
Amidst our sorest siege and thickest broils
She stoutly fought, and fiercely waged wars.
Tiberius courage gave, upbraiding oft
The Roman force, their wonted luck, and long
Retained rule by wars throughout the world.
What shame it were since such achieved spoils,
And conquests gain'd both far and wide, to want
Of courage then, when most it should be mov'd!
How Britons erst paid tribute for their peace,
But now rebel and dare them at their doors.
For what was France but theirs? Herewith incens'd,
They fiercely rav'd, and bent their force afresh.
Which Arthur spying, cried with thundering voice;
Fie (Britons) fie! what hath bewitch'd you thus?
So many nations foil'd, must Romans foil?
What sloth is this? Have you forgot to war,
Which ne'er knew hour of peace? turn to your foes,
Where you may bathe in blood and fight your fill.
Let courage work! what can he not that dares?
Thus he, [the] puissant guide in doubtful wars,
Asham'd to shun his foes, inflam'd his friends.
Then yielding to his stately steed the reins,
He furious drives the Roman troops about:
He plies each place, lest fates mought alter ought,
Pursuing hap, and urging each success.
He yields in nought, but instantly persists,
In all attempts, wherein whatso withstands
His wish, he joys to work away by wrack;
And matching death to death, no passage seeks
But what destruction works with blade or blood.
He scorns the yielded way; he fiercely raves
To break and bruise the ranks in thickest throngs,
All headlong bent and prone to present spoil.
The foes enforc'd withstand; but much dismay'd
They senseless fight, while millions lose their lives.
At length Tiberius, pierc'd with point of spear,
Doth bleeding fall, engor'd with deadly wound.
Hereat the rest recoil and headlong fly,
Each man to save himself. The battle quails,
And Britons win unto their most renown.
Then Arthur took Tiberius' breathless corse,
And sent it to the Senators at Rome,
With charge to say: This is the tribute due
Which Arthur ought: as time hereafter serves;
He'll pay the like again, the while he rests
Your debtor thus. But O! this sweet success,
Pursu'd with greater harms, turn'd soon to sour.
For lo, when foreign soils and seas were past
With safe return, and that the king should land,
Who but his only son (O outrage rare)
With hugy host withstood him on the shore!
There were prepar'd the foreign aids from far:
There were the borrowed powers of divers kings;
There were our parents, brethren, sons and kin,
Their wrath, their ire; there, Mordred, was thy rage.
Where erst we sought abroad for foes to foil,
Behold, our Fates had sent us foes unsought.
When foreign realms supplanted want supply,
O blessed home, that hath such boon in store!
But let this part of Arthur's prowess lurk,
Nor let it e'er appear by my report,
What monstrous mischiefs rage in civil wars,
O, rather let due tears and wailing want!
Let all in silence sink what hence ensu'd.
What best deserveth mention here is this:
That Mordred vanquish'd trusted to his flight,
That Arthur eachwhere victor is return'd.
And lo, where Mordred comes with heavy head:
He wields no slender weight that wields a crown.
THE SECOND SCENE
MORDRED. And hath he won? Be strands and shores possessed?
Is Mordred foil'd? the realm is yet unwon,
And Mordred lives, reserv'd for Arthur's death!
Well, 'twas my first conflict: I knew not yet
What wars requir'd: but now my sword is flesh'd,
And taught to gore and bathe in hottest blood.
Then think not, Arthur, that the crown is won!
Thy first success may rue our next assault;
Even at our next encounter (hap when 'twill)
I vow by heaven, by earth, by hell, by all,
That either thou or I, or both shall die!
CONAN. Nought should be rashly vow'd against your sire.
MORDRED. Whose breast is free from rage may soon b' advised.
CONAN. The best redress from rage is to relent.
MORDRED. 'Tis better for a king to kill his foes.
CONAN. So that the subjects also judge them foes.
MORDRED. The subjects must not judge their king's decrees.
CONAN. The subjects' force is great.
MORDRED. Greater the king's.
CONAN. The more you may, the more you ought to fear.
MORDRED. He is a fool that feareth what he may.
CONAN. Not what you may, but what you ought, is just.
MORDRED. He that amongst so many so unjust
Seeks to be just, seeks peril to himself.
CONAN. A greater peril comes by breach of laws.
MORDRED. The laws do licence as the sovereign lists.
CONAN. Least ought he list, whom laws do licence most.
MORDRED. Imperial power abhors to be restrain'd.
CONAN. As much do meaner grooms to be compell'd.
MORDRED. The fates have heav'd and rais'd my force on high.
CONAN. The gentler should you press those that are low.
MORDRED. I would be fear'd.
CONAN. The cause why subjects hate.
MORDRED. A kingdom's kept by fear.
CONAN. And lost by hate.
He fears as man[y] himself whom many fear.
MORDRED. The timorous subject dares attempt no change.
CONAN. What dares not desperate dread?
MORDRED. What? torture, threats.
CONAN. O spare! 'twere safer to be lov'd.
MORDRED. As safe to be obey'd.
CONAN. Whiles you command but well.
MORDRED. Where rulers dare command but what is well,
Pow'r is but prayer, commandment but request.
CONAN. If pow'r be join'd with right, men must obey.
MORDRED. My will must go for right.
CONAN. If they assent.
MORDRED. My sword shall force assent.
CONAN. No, gods forbid!
MORDRED. What! shall I stand, whiles Arthur sheds my blood?
And must I yield my neck unto the axe?
Whom fates constrain, let him forego his bliss;
But he that needless yields unto his bane,
When he may shun, doth well deserve to lose
The good he cannot use. Who would sustain
A baser life, that may maintain the best?
We cannot part the crown: a regal throne
Is not for two: the sceptre fits but one.
But whether is the fitter of us two,
That must our swords discern, and shortly shall.
CONAN. How much were you to be renowned more,
If casting off these ruinous attempts,
You would take care how to supply the loss,
Which former wars and foreign broils have wrought;
How to deserve the people's hearts with peace,
With quiet rest and deep-desired ease:
Not to increase the rage that long hath reign'd,
Nor to destroy the realm you seek to rule.
Your father rear'd it up, you pluck it down.
You lose your country, whiles you win it thus:
To make it yours, you strive to make it none.
Where kings impose too much, the commons grudge;
Good-will withdraws; assent becomes but slow.
MORDRED. Must I to gain renown incur my plague,
Or hoping praise sustain an exile's life?
Must I for country's ease disease myself,
Or for their love despise my own estate?
No. 'Tis my hap that Britain serves my turn;
That fear of me doth make the subjects crouch;
That what they grudge they do constrained yield.
If their assents be slow, my wrath is swift:
When favour fails to bend, let fury break.
If they be yet to learn, let terror teach,
What kings may do, what subjects ought to bear.
Then is a kingdom at a wished stay,
When what soever the sovereign wills or nills,
Men be compell'd as well to praise as bear,
And subjects' wills enforc'd against their wills.
CONAN. But whoso seeks true praise and just renown,
Would rather seek their praising hearts than tongues.
MORDRED. True praise may happen to the basest groom;
A forced praise to none but to a prince.
I wish that most, that subjects most repine.
CONAN. But yet where wars do threaten your estate,
There needeth friends to fortify your crown.
MORDRED. Each crown is made of that attractive mould,
That of itself it draws a full defence.
CONAN. That is a just and no usurped crown;
And better were an exile's life, than thus
Disloyally to wrong your sire and liege.
Think not that impious crimes can prosper long:
A time they 'scape, in time they be repaid.
MORDRED. The hugest crimes bring best success to some.
CONAN. Those some be rare.
MORDRED. Why may not I be rare?
CONAN. It was their hap.
MORDRED. It is my hope.
CONAN. But hope may miss, where hap doth hurl.
MORDRED. So hap may hit, where hope doth aim.
CONAN. But hap is last, and rules the stern.
MORDRED. So hope is first, and hoists the sail.
CONAN. Yet fear; the first and last do seld agree.
MORDRED. Nay, dare; the first and last have many means.
But cease at length; your speech molests me much.
My mind is fix'd: give Mordred leave to do
What Conan neither can allow nor like.
CONAN. But lo, an Herald sent from Arthur's host.
Gods grant his message may portend our good.
THE THIRD SCENE.
HERALD, GAWIN, MORDRED.
HERALD. Your sire, O Prince, considering what distress
The realm sustains by both your mutual wars,
Hath sent your brother Gawin, Alban king,
To treat of truce, and to imparle of peace.
MORDRED. Speak, brother: what commandment sends our sire?
What message do you bring? My life or death?
GAWIN. A message far unmeet, most needful tho'.
The sire commands not where the son rebels:
His love descends too deep to wish your death.
MORDRED. And mine ascends too high to wish his life.
GAWIN. Yet thus he off'reth. Though your faults be great
And most disloyal, to his deep abuse,
Yet yield yourself, he'll be as prone to grace,
As you to ruth--an uncle, sire, and liege.
And fitter were your due submission done,
Than wrongful wars to reave his right and realm.
MORDRED. It is my fault that he doth want his right:
It is his own to vex the realm with wars.
GAWIN. It is his right that he attempts to seek:
It is your wrong that driveth him thereto.
MORDRED. 'Tis his insatiate mind, that is not so content,
Which hath so many kingdoms more besides.
GAWIN. The more you ought to tremble at his pow'r.
MORDRED. The greater is my conquest, if I win.
GAWIN. The more your foil, if you should hap to lose:
For Arthur's fame and valour's such, as you
Should rather imitate, or at the least
Envy, if hope of better fancies fail'd:
For whereas envy reigns, though it repines,
Yet doth it fear a greater than itself.
MORDRED. He that envies the valour of his foe,
Detects a want of valour in himself.
He fondly fights that fights with such a foe,
Where 'twere a shame to lose, no praise to win;
But with a famous foe succeed what will,
To win is great renown, to lose less foil.
His conquests, were they more, dismay me not:
That oft'ner they have been, the more they threat:
No danger can be thought both safe and oft;
And who hath oft'ner waged wars than he?
Escapes secure him not: he owes the price:
Whom chance hath often miss'd, chance hits at length;
Or if that chance have furthered his success,
So may she mine, for chance hath made me king.
GAWIN. As chance hath made you king, so chance may change.
Provide for peace: that's it the highest peers,
No state except, even conquerers, ought to seek.
Remember Arthur's strength, his conquests late,
His fiery mind, his high-aspiring heart.
Mark then the odds: he expert, you untried;
He ripe, you green. Yield you, whiles yet you may;
He will not yield: he wins his peace with wars.
MORDRED. If chance may change, his chance was last to win;
The likelier now to lose. His haughty heart
And mind I know: I feel mine own no less.
As for his strength and skill, I leave to hap:
Where many meet, it lies not all in one.
What though he vanquish'd have the Roman troops,
That boots him not: himself is vanquish'd here.
Then weigh your words again: if conquerors ought
To seek for peace, the conquered must perforce.
But he'll not yield; he'll purchase peace with wars.
Well, yield that will; I neither will nor can.
Come peace, come wars, choose him; my danger's his,
His safety mine: our states do stand alike.
If peace be good, as good for him as me;
If wars be good, as good for me as him.
GAWIN. What cursed wars (alas) were those, wherein
Both son and sire should so oppose themselves!
Him whom you now, unhappy man, pursue,
If you should win, yourself would first bewail.
Give him his crown: to keep it peril breeds.
MORDRED. The crown I'll keep myself, ensue what will.
Death must be once; how soon, I least respect.
He best provides that can beware in time,
Not why nor when, but whence and where he falls.
What fool, to live a year or twain in rest,
Would lose the state and honour of a crown?
GAWIN. Consider then your father's grief and want,
Whom you bereave of kingdom, realm, and crown.
MORDRED. Trust me, a huge and mighty kingdom 'tis
To bear the want of kingdom, realm, and crown.
GAWIN. A common want, which works each worlding's woe:
That many have too much, but none enough.
It were his praise could he be so content,
Which makes you guilty of the greater wrong.
Wherefore think on the doubtful state of wars.
Where Mars hath sway, he keeps no certain course:
Sometimes she lets the weaker to prevail,
Sometimes the stronger troops: hope, fear, and rage
With eyeless lot rules all uncertain good,
Most certain harms be his assured haps.
No luck can last; now here, now there it lights:
No state alike, chance blindly snatcheth all,
And fortune maketh guilty whom she lists.
MORDRED. Since therefore fear and hope, and hap in wars,
Be all obscure, till their success be seen,
Your speech doth rather drive me on to try,
And trust them all, mine only refuge now.
GAWIN. And fear you not so strange and uncouth wars?
MORDRED. No, were they wars that grew from out the ground!
GAWIN. Nor yet your sire so huge, yourself so small?
MORDRED. The smallest axe may fell the hugest oak.
GAWIN. Nor that, in felling him, yourself may fall?
MORDRED. He falleth well, that falling fells his foe.
GAWIN. Nor common chance, whereto each man is thrall?
MORDRED. Small manhood were to turn my back to chance.
GAWIN. Nor that, if chance afflict, kings brook it not?
MORDRED. I bear no breast so unprepar'd for harms.
Even that I hold the kingliest point of all,
To brook afflictions well; and by how much
The more his state and tottering empire sags,
To fix so much the faster foot on ground.
No fear but doth forejudge, and many fall
Into their fate, whiles they do fear their fate.
Where courage quails, the fear exceeds the harm:
Yea, worse than war itself is fear of war.
GAWIN. War seemeth sweet to such as have not tried;
But wisdom wills we should forecast the worse.
The end allows the act: that plot is wise,
That knows his means, and least relies on chance.
Eschew the course where error lurks; there grows
But grief where pain is spent, no hope to speed.
Strive not above your strength; for where your force
Is overmatch'd with your attempts, it faints,
And fruitless leaves what bootless it began.
MORDRED. All things are rul'd in constant course: no fate
But is foreset: the first day leads the last.
No wisdom then, but difference in conceit,
Which works in many men as many minds.
You love the mean, and follow virtue's race:
I like the top, and aim at greater bliss.
You rest content: my mind aspires to more.
In brief, you fear, I hope; you doubt, I dare.
Since, then, the sagest counsels are but strifes,
Where equal wits may wrest each side alike,
Let counsel go: my purpose must proceed.
Each likes his course, mine own doth like me best.
Wherefore, ere Arthur breathe or gather strength,
Assault we him, lest he assault us first.
He either must destroy, or be destroy'd:
The mischief's in the midst; catch he that can.
GAWIN. But will no reason rule that desperate mind?
MORDRED. A fickle mind that every reason rules!
I rest resolv'd, and to my sire say thus:--
If here he stay but three days to an end,
And not forthwith discharge his band and host,
'Tis Mordred's oath, assure himself to die.
But if he find his courage so to serve,
As for to stand to his defence with force,
In Cornwall, if he dare, I'll try it out.
GAWIN. O strange contempt! like as the craggy rock
Resists the streams and flings the waltering waves
Aloof, so he rejects and scorns my words. [ Exit
THE FOURTH SCENE.
MORDRED, GILLA, GILLAMOR, CHELDRICHUS, DUX PICTORUM, CONAN.
MORDRED. Lo, where (as they decreed) my faithful friends
Have kept their time. Be all your powers repair'd?
GILLA. They be, and all with ardent minds: to Mars
They cry for wars, and longing for th' alarm,
Even now they wish t' encounter with their foes.
MORDRED. What could be wish'd for more? puissant king,
For your great help and valiant Irish force,
If I obtain the conquest in these wars,
Whereas my father claims a tribute due
Out of your realm; I here renounce it quite:
And if assistance need in doubtful times,
I will not fail to aid you with the like.
GILLA. It doth suffice me to discharge my realm,
Or at the least to wreak me on my foes.
I rather like to live your friend and peer,
Than rest in Arthur's homage and disgrace.
MORDRED. Right noble duke, through whom the Saxons vow
Their lives with mine, for my defence in wars,
If we prevail and may subdue our foes,
I will, in lieu of your so high deserts,
Give you and yours all British lands that lie
Between the flood of Humber and the Scots:
Besides as much in Kent as Horsa and
Hengistus had, when Vortigern was king.
CHELDRICHUS. Your gracious proffers I accept with thanks;
Not for the gain, but for the good desire
I have henceforth to be your subject here
May thereby take effect; which I esteem
More than the rule I bear in Saxon soil.
MORDRED. Renowned lord, for your right hardy Picts
And chosen warriors to maintain my cause,
If our attempts receive a good success,
The Alban crown I give to you and yours.
DUX PICTORUM. Your highness' bounty in so high degree,
Were cause enough to move me to my best:
But sure yourself, without regard of meed,
Should find both me and mine at your command.
MORDRED. Lord Gilla, if my hope may take success,
And that I be thereby undoubted king,
The Cornish dukedom I allot to you.
GILLA. My liege, to further your desir'd attempts,
I joyfully shall spend my dearest blood:
The rather that I found the king your sire
So heavy lord to me and all my stock.
MORDRED. Since then our rest is on 't, and we agreed,
To war it out, what resteth now but blows?
Drive dest'nies on with swords, Mars frames the means!
Henceforth what Mordred may, now lies in you.
Ere long, if Mars ensue with good success,
Look, whatso'er it be that Arthur claims
By right or wrong, or conquests gain'd with blood
In Britain or abroad, is mine to give:--
To show, I would have said: I cannot give
What every hand must give unto itself.
Whereof who lists to purchase any share,
Now let him seek and win it with his sword:
The fates have laid it open in the field.
What stars (O heavens) or poles, or powers divine,
Do grant so great rewards for those that win!
Since then our common good, and each man's care
Requires our joint assistance in these toils,
Shall we not hazard our extremest hap,
And rather spend our fates, than spare our foes?
The cause I care for most is chiefly yours:
This hand and heart shall make mine own secure,
That man shall see me foiled by myself,
Whate'er he be, that sees my foe unfoil'd
Fear not the field, because of Mordred's faults,
Nor shrink one jot the more for Arthur's right.
Full safely fortune guideth many a guilt,
And fates have none but wretches whom they wrench.
Wherefore make speed to cheer your soldiers' hearts.
That to their fires ye yet may add more flames.
The side that seeks to win in civil wars
Mus not content itself with wonted heat.
[ Exeunt omnes proeter MORDRED and CONAN.
CONAN. Would God your highness had been more advised,
Ere too much will had drawn your wits too far!
Then had no wars endanger'd you nor yours,
Nor Mordred's cause required foreign care.
MORDRED. A troubled head: my mind revolts to fear,
And bears my body back. I inwards feel my fall:
My thoughts misgive me much. Down, terror! I
Perceive mine end, and desperate though I must
Despise despair, and somewhat hopeless hope,
The more I doubt the more I dare: by fear
I find the fact is fittest for my frame.
What though I be a ruin to the realm,
And fall myself therewith? no better end:
His last mishaps do make a man secure.
Such was King Priam's end who, when he died,
Clos'd and wrapp'd up his kingdom in his death.
A solemn pomp, and fit for Mordred's mind,
To be a grave and tomb to all his realm. [ Exit.
Ye princely peers, extoll'd to seats of state,
Seek not the fair that soon will turn to foul:
Oft is the fall of high and hovering fate,
And rare the room which time doth not control.
The safest seat is not on highest hill,
Where winds and storms and thunders thump their ill:
Far safer were to follow sound advice,
Than for such pride to pay so dear a price.
The mounting mind that climbs the haughty cliffs,
And soaring seeks the tip of lofty type,
Intoxicates the brain with giddy drifts,
Then rolls and reels and falls at length plum-ripe.
Lo, heaving high is of so small forecast,
To totter first, and tumble down at last.
Yet Pegasus still rears himself on high,
And coltishly doth kick the clouds in sky.
Who saw the grief engraven in a crown,
Or knew the bad and bane, whereto it 's bound,
Would never stick to throw and fling it down,
Nor once vouchsafe to heave it from the ground.
Such is the sweet of this ambitious power,
No sooner had, than turns oftsoons to sour,
Achiev'd with envy, exercis'd with hate,
Guarded with fear, supported with debate.
O restless race of high-aspiring head!
O worthless rule both pitied and envied!
How many millions to their loss you lead,
With love and lure of kingdoms' bliss untried!
So things untasted cause a quenchless thirst,
Which, were they known, would be refused first:
Yea, oft we see, yet seeing cannot shun
The fact we find as fondly dar'd as done.
THE THIRD ACT AND FIRST SCENE
ARTHUR, CADOR, HOWELL.
ARTHUR. Is this the welcome that my realm prepares?
Be these the thanks I win for all my wars?
Thus to forbid me land? to slay my friends?
To make their blood distain my country shores?
My son (belike), lest that our force should faint
For want of wars, prepar'd us wars himself.
He thought (perhaps) it mought impair our fame,
If none rebell'd, whose foil might praise our power.
Is this the fruit of Mordred's forward youth
And tender age, discreet beyond his years?
O false and guileful life! O crafty world!
How cunningly convey'st thou fraud unseen!
Th' ambitious seemeth meek, the wanton chaste;
Disguised vice for virtue vaunts itself.
Thus (Arthur), thus hath fortune play'd her part,
Blind for thy weal, clear-sighted for thy woe.
Thy kingdom's gone, thy sphere affords no faith:
Thy son rebels: of all thy wonted pomp
No jot is left, and fortune hides her face.
No place is left for prosperous plight: mishaps
Have room and ways to run and walk at will.
Lo (Cador) both our states, your daughter's trust,
My son's respect, our hopes repos'd in both!
CADOR. The time, [O] puissant Prince, permits not now
To moan our wrongs, or search each several sore.
Since Arthur thus hath ransack'd all abroad,
What marvel is 't, if Mordred rave at home?
When far and near your wars had worn the world,
What wars were left for him but civil wars?
All which requires revenge with sword and fire,
And to pursue your foes with present force.
In just attempts Mars gives a rightful doom.
ARTHUR. Nay, rather (Cador) let them run their race,
And leave the heavens revengers of my wrong.
Since Britain's prosperous state is thus debas'd
In servile sort to Mordred's cursed pride,
Let me be thrall, and lead a private life:
None can refuse the yoke his country bears.
But as for wars, in sooth, my flesh abhors
To bid the battle to my proper blood.
Great is the love which nature doth inforce
From kin to kin, but most from sire to son.
HOWELL. The noble neck disdains the servile yoke:
Where rule hath pleas'd, subjection seemeth strange.
A king ought always to prefer his realm
Before the love he bears to kin or son.
Your realm destroy'd is ne'er restor'd again,
But time may send you kin and sons enough.
ARTHUR. How hard it is to rule th' aspring mind,
And what a kingly point it seems to those,
Whose lordly hands the stately sceptre sways,
Still to pursue the drift they first decreed,
My wonted mind and kingdom lets me know.
Think not but, if you drive this hazard on,
He desperate will resolve to win or die:
Whereof who knows which were the greater guilt,
The sire to slay the son, or son the sire?
CADOR. If bloody Mars do so extremely sway,
That either son or sire must needs be slain,
Give law the choice: let him die that deserves.
Each impotent affection notes a want.
No worse a vice than lenity in kings;
Remiss indulgence soon undoes a realm.
He teacheth how to sin that winks at sins,
And bids offend that suffereth an offence.
The only hope of leave increaseth crimes,
And he that pardoneth one, embold'neth all
To break the laws. Each patience fostereth wrong.
But vice severely punish'd faints at foot,
And creeps no further off than where it falls.
One sour example will prevent more vice
Than all the best persuasions in the world.
Rough rigour looks out right, and still prevails:
Smooth mildness looks too many ways to thrive.
Wherefore, since Mordred's crimes have wrong'd the laws
In so extreme a sort, as is too strange;
Let right and justice rule with rigour's aid,
And work his wrack at length, although too late;
That damning laws, so damned by the laws,
He may receive his deep deserved doom.
So let it fare with all that dare the like:
Let sword, let fire, let torments be their end.
Severity upholds both realm and rule.
ARTHUR. Ah too severe! far from a father's mind.
Compassion is as fit for kings as wrath.
Laws must not low'r; rule oft admitteth ruth.
So hate, as if there were yet cause to love:
Take not their lives as foes which may be friends.
To spoil my son were to despoil myself:
Oft, whiles we seek our foes, we seek our foils.
Let's rather seek how to allure his mind
With good deserts: deserts may win the worst.
HOWELL. Where Cato first had saved a thief from death,
And after was himself condemn'd to die,
When else not one would execute the doom,
Who but the thief did undertake the task?
If too much bounty work so bad effects
In thankless friends, what for a ruthless foe?
Let laws have still their course: the ill dispos'd
Grudge at their lives to whom they owe too much.
ARTHUR. But yet where men with reconciled minds
Renew their love with recontinued grace,
Atonement frames them friends of former foes,
And makes the moods of swelling wrath to 'suage.
No faster friendship than that grows from grief,
When melting minds with mutual ruth relent.
How close the severed skin unites again,
When salves have smoothly heal'd the former hurts!
CADOR. I never yet saw heart so smoothly heal'd,
But that the scar bewray'd the former wound:
Yea, where the salve did soonest close the skin,
The sore was oft'ner covered up than cur'd:
Which festering deep and fill'd within, at last
With sudden breach grew greater than at first.
What then for minds which have revenging moods,
And ne'er forget the cross they forced bear?
Whereto if reconcilement come, it makes
The t' one secure, while t' other works his will.
Atonement seld defeats, but oft defers
Revenge: beware a reconciled foe.
ARTHUR. Well, what avails to linger in this life,
Which fortune but reserves for greater grief?
This breath draws on but matter of mishap:
Death only frees the guitless from annoys.
Who so hath felt the force of greedy fates,
And 'dur'd the last decree of grisly death,
Shall never yield his captive arms to chains,
Nor drawn in triumph deck the victor's pomp.
HOWELL. What mean these words? Is Arthur forc'd to fear?
Is this the fruit of your continual wars,
Even from the first remembrance of your youth?
ARTHUR. My youth (I grant) and prime of budding years,
Puff'd up with pride and fond desire of praise,
Foreweening nought what perils might ensue,
Adventured all and raught to will the reins:
But now this age requires a sager course,
and will, advis'd by harms, to wisdom yields.
Those swelling spirits, the self-same cause, which first
Set them on gog, even fortune's favours quail'd,
And now mine oft'nest scapes do scare me most.
I fear the trap whereat I oft have tripp'd:
Experience tells me plain that chance is frail,
And oft the better past, the worse to come.
CADOR. Resist these doubts: 'tis ill to yield to harms.
'Tis safest then to dare, when most you fear.
ARTHUR. As safe sometimes to fear, when most we dare:
A causeless courage gives repentance place.
HOWELL. If fortune fawn.
ARTHUR. Each way on me she frowns:
For win I, lose I, both procure my grief.
CADOR. Put case you win, what grief?
ARTHUR. Admit I do, what joy?
CADOR. Then may you rule.
ARTHUR. When I may die.
CADOR. To rule is much.
ARTHUR. Small, if we covet nought.
CADOR. Who covets not a crown?
ARTHUR. He that discerns the sword aloft.
CADOR. That hangeth fast.
ARTHUR. But by a hair.
CADOR. Right holds it up.
ARTHUR. Wrong pulls it down.
CADOR. The Commons help the king.
ARTHUR. They sometimes hurt.
CADOR. At least the Peers.
ARTHUR. Seld, if allegiance want.
CADOR. Yet sovereignty.
ARTHUR. Not if subjection fail.
CADOR. Doubt not: the realm is yours.
ARTHUR. 'Twas mine 'till now.
CADOR. And shall be still.
ARTHUR. If Mordred list.
CADOR. 'Twere well your crown were won.
ARTHUR. Perhaps 'tis better lost.
HOWELL. The name of rule should move a princely mind.
ARTHUR. Trust me, bad things have often glorious names.
HOWELL. The greatest food that fortune can afford.
ARTHUR. A dangerous good, that wisdom would eschew.
HOWELL. Yet weigh the hearsay of the old renowm.
And fame, the wonderer fo the former age,
Which still extols the facts of worthiest wights,
Preferring no deserts before your deeds.
Even she exhorts you to this new attempt,
Which left untried your winnings be but loss.
ARTHUR. Small credit will be given of matters past
To Fame, the flatterer of the former age.
Were all believ'd which antique bruit imports,
Yet wisdom weighs the peril join'd to praise.
Rare is the fame (mark well all ages gone)
Which hath not hurt the house it most enhanc'd.
Besides, fame's but a blast that sounds awhile,
And quickly stints, and then is quite forgot.
Look, whatso'er our virtues have achiev'd,
The chaos vast and greedy time devours.
To-day all Europe rings with Arthur's praise:
'Twill be as hush'd as if I ne'er had been.
What boots it then to venture life or limb
For that which needs ere long we leave or lose?
CADOR. Can blind affection so much blear the wise,
Or love of graceless son so witch the sire,
That what concerns the honour of a prince,
With country's good and subject's just request,
Should lightly be contemned by a king?
When Lucius sent but for his tribute due,
You went with thirteen kings to root him out.
Have Romans, for requiring but their own,
Abode your nine years' brunts? Shall Mordred 'scape,
That wrong'd you thus in honour, queen, and realm?
Were this no cause to stir a king to wrath,
Yet should your conquests, late achiev'd 'gainst Rome,
Inflame your mind with thirst of full revenge.
ARTHUR. Indeed, continual wars have chaf'd our minds,
And good success hath bred impatient moods.
Rome puffs us up, and makes us too--too fierce.
There, Britons, there we stand, whence Rome did fall.
Thou, Lucius, mak'st me proud, thou heav'st my mind:
But what? shall I esteem a crown ought else
Than as a gorgeous crest of easeless helm,
Or as some brittle mould of glorious pomp,
Or glittering glass which, while it shines, it breaks?
All this a sudden chance may dash, and not
Perhaps with thirteen kings, or in nine years:
All may not find so slow and ling'ring fates.
What that my country cries for due remorse,
And some relief for long-sustained toils?
By seas and lands I daily wrought her wrack,
And spareless spent her life on every foe.
Each where my soldiers perish'd, whilest I won:
Throughout the world my conquest was their spoil.
A fair reward for all their deaths, for all
Their wars abroad, to give them civil wars!
What boots it then, reserv'd from foreign foils,
To die at home? what end of ruthless rage?
At least let age and nature, worn to nought,
Provide at length their graves with wished groans.
Pity their hoary hairs, their feeble fists,
Their withered limbs, their strengths consum'd in camp!
Must they still end their lives amongst the blades?
Rests there no other fate, whilst Arthur reigns?
What deem you me? A fury fed with blood,
Or some Cyclopian, born and bred for brawls?
Think on the mind that Arthur bears to peace:
Can Arthur please you nowhere but in wars?
Be witness, heavens, how far 'tis from my mind
Therewith to spoil or sack my native soil.
I cannot yield; it brooks not in my breast
To seek her ruin whom I erst have rul'd,
What relics now soe'er both civil broils
And foreign wars have left, let those remain:
Th 'are few enough, and Britons fall too fast.
THE SECOND SCENE.
An HERALD from MORDRED.
HOWELL. Lo, here an herald sent from Mordred's camp:
A froward message, if I read aright.
We mought not stir his wrath; perhaps this may:
Persuasions cannot move a Briton's mood,
And yet none sooner stung with present wrong.
[ Aside. ]
HERALD. Hail, peerless prince! whiles fortune would, our king,
Though now bereft of crown and former rule.
Vouchsafe me leave my message to impart,
No jot enforc'd, but as your son affords.
If here you stay but three days to an end,
And not forthwith discharge your bands and host,
'Tis Mordred's oath: assure yourself to die.
But if you find your courage so to serve,
As for to stand to your defence with force,
In Cornwall (if you dare) he'll try it out.
ARTHUR. Is this the choice my son doth send his sire?
And must I die, or try it, if I dare?
To die were ill, thus to be dar'd is worse.
Display my standard forth! let trump and drum
Call soldiers near to hear their sovereign's hest.
THE THIRD SCENE
GAWIN King of Albany, ASCHILLIUS King of Denmark ,
KING OF NORWAY. A number of Soldiers.
ARTHUR. O friends, and fellows of my weariest toils,
Which have borne out with me so many brunts,
And desperate storms of wars and brainsick Mars!
Lo now the hundreth month, wherein we win!
Hath all the blood we spent in foreign coasts,
The wounds and deaths, and winters bode abroad,
Deserved thus to be disgraced at home?
All Britain rings of wars: no town nor field
But swarms with armed troops: the mustering trains
Stop up the streets: no less a tumult's rais'd,
Than when Hengistus fell, and Horsa, fierce
With treacherous truce, did overrun the realm.
Each corner threateneth death: both far and near
Is Arthur vex'd. What, if my force had fail'd
And standard fall'n, and ensigns all been torn,
And Roman troops pursu'd me at the heels,
With luckless wars assay'd in foreign soils?
Now that our fortune heaves us up thus high,
And heavens themselves renew our old renown,
Must we be dar'd? Nay, let that princock come,
That knows not yet himself, nor Arthur's force;
That ne'er yet waged wars; that 's yet to learn
To give the charge: yea, let that princock come,
With sudden soldiers pamper'd up in peace,
And gowned troops and wantons worn with ease;
With sluggish Saxons' crew and Irish kerns,
And Scottish aid, and false redshanked Picts,
Whose slaughters yet must teach their former foil.
They shall perceive with sorrow, ere they part,
When all their toils be told, that nothing works
So great a waste and ruin in this age,
As do my wars. O Mordred, blessed son!
No doubt these market-mates, so highly hir'd,
Must be the stay of thy usurped state.
And lest my head, inclining now to years,
Should joy the rest, which yet it never reap'd,
The traitor Gilla, train'd in treacherous jars,
Is chief in arms to reave me of my realm.
What corner (ah), for all my wars, shall shroud
My bloodless age? what seat for due deserts?
What town or field for ancient soldiers' rest?
What house? what roof? what walls for wearied limbs?
Stretch out again, stretch out your conquering hands!
Still we must use the force so often us'd.
To those that will pursue a wrong with wreak
He giveth all, that once denies the right.
Thou soil, which erst Diana did ordain
The certain seat and bow'r of wand'ring Brute:
Thou realm, which aye I reverence as my saint,
Thou stately Britain, th' ancient type of Troy,
Bear with my forced wrongs! I am not he,
That willing would impeach thy peace with wars!
Lo, here both far and wide I conqueror stand:
Arthur, each where thine own, thy liege, thy king.
Condemn not mine attempts; he, only he,
Is sole in fault that makes me thus thy foe.
Here I renounce all leagues and treats of truce:
Thou, fortune, henceforth art my guard and guide!
Hence, peace! on wars run fates: let Mars be judge;
I erst did trust to right, but now to rage.
Go, tell the boy that Arthur fears no brags:
In vain he seeks to brave it with his sire.
I come (Mordred), I come, but to thy pain.
Yea, tell the boy his angry father comes
To teach a novice both to die and dare.
[ Herald exit.
HOWELL. If we without offence ( O greatest guide
Of British name) may pour our just complaints,
We most mislike that your too mild a mood
Hath thus withheld our hands and swords from strokes.
For what? were we behind in any help?
Or without cause did you misdoubt our force,
Or truth so often tried with good success?
Go to: conduct your army to the field;
Place man to man, oppose us to our foes:
As much we need to work, as with your weal.
CADOR. Seems it so sour to win by civil wars?
Were it to gore with pike my father's breast;
Were it to rive and cleave my brother's head;
Were it to tear peacemeal my dearest child,
I would enforce my grudging hands to help.
I cannot term that place my native soil,
Whereto your trumpets send their warlike sounds.
If case requir'd to batter down the tow'rs
Of any town that Arthur would destroy,
Yea, were 't of Britain's self, which most I reed,
Her bulwarks, fortress, rampiers, walls and fence,
These arms should rear the rams to run them down.
Wherefore, ye princes, and the rest, my mates,
If what I have averr'd in all your names,
Be likewise such as stands to your content,
Let all your yeas avow my premise true.
SOLDIERS. Yea, yea, &c.
ASCHILLUS. Wherein, renowmed king, myself or mine,
My life, my kingdom, and all Denmark's pow'r,
May serve your turn: account them all your own.
KING OF NORWAY. And whatsoe'er my force, or Norway aid,
May help in your attempts, I vow it here.
GAWIN. As heretofore I always serv'd your hest.
So let this day be judge of Gawin's trust.
Either my brother Mordred dies the death
By mine assault, or I at least by his.
ARTHUR. Since thus (my faithful mates) with vows alike
And equal love to Arthur's cause you join
In common care to wreak my private wrongs,
Life up your ensigns efts, stretch out your strengths;
Pursue your fates; perform your hopes to Mars.
Lo, here the last and outmost work for blades!
This is the time that all our valour craves:
This time by due desert restores again
Our goods, our lands, our lives, our weal and all.
This time declares by fates whose cause is best;
This, this condemns the vanquish'd side of guilt.
Wherefore, if for my sake you scorn yourselves,
And spare no sword nor fire in my defence,
Then, whiles my censure justifies your cause,
Fight, fight amain, and clear your blades from crime:
The judge once chang'd, no wars are free from guilt.
The better cause gives us the greater hope
Of prosperous wars; wherein, if once I hap
To spy the wonted signs, that never fail'd
Their guide--your threatening looks, your fiery eyes,
And bustling bodies prest to present spoil,
The field is won! Even then, methinks, I see
The wonted wastes and scattered heads of foes,
The Irish carcass kick'd, and Picts oppress'd,
And Saxons slain to swim in streams of blood.
I quake with hope. I can assure you all,
We never had a greater match in hand.
March on! Delay no fates, whilst fortune fawns;
The greatest praise of war consists in speed.
[ Exeunt Reges et Cohors.
THE FOURTH SCENE.
CADOR. Since thus (victorious king) your peers allies,
Your lords, and all your powers be ready prest,
For good, for bad, for whatsoe'er shall hap,
To spend both limb and life in your defence,
Cast off all doubts and rest yourself on Mars:
A hopeless fear forbids a happy fate.
ARTHUR. In sooth (good Cador), so our fortune fares,
As needs we must return to wonted force.
To wars we must; but such unhappy wars,
As leave no hope for right or wrong to 'scape.
Myself forsees the fate; it cannot fall
Without our dearest blood: much may the mind
Of pensive sire presage, whose son so sins.
All truth, all trust, all blood, all bands be broke!
The seeds are sown that spring to future spoil.
My son, my nephew, yea, each side myself,
Nearer than all (woe's me), too near, my foe!
Well, 'tis my plague for life so lewdly led.
The price of guilt is still a heavier guilt;
For were it light, that ev'n by birth myself
Was bad, I made my sister bad: nay, were
That also light, I have begot as bad,
Yea, worse, an heir assign'd to all our sins.
Such was his birth: what base, what vulgar vice,
Could once be look'd for of so noble blood?
The deeper guilt descends, the more it roots:
The younger imps effect the huger crimes.
When many men assent to civil wars
And yield a suffrage to enforce the fates,
No man bethinks him of his own mishap,
But turns that luck unto another's share.
Whereas if fear did first forewarn each foil,
Such love to fight would breed no Briton's bane.
And better were still to preserve our peace,
Than thus to vent for peace through waging wars.
What folly to forego such certain haps,
And in their stead to feed uncertain hopes!
Such hopes as oft have puff'd up many a realm,
Till cross-success hath press'd it down as deep:
Whiles blind affection, fetch'd from private cause,
Misguiding wit hath mask'd in wisdom's veil,
Pretending what in purpose it abhorr'd.
Peace hath three foes encamped in our breasts;
Ambition, wrath and envy, which subdu'd,
We should not fail to find eternal peace.
'Tis in our power to joy it all at will,
And few there be, but if they will, they may:
But yet even those, who like the name of peace,
Through fond desire repine at peace itself,
Between the hope whereof and it itself
A thousand things may fall, that further wars.
The very speech sometimes and treats of truce
Is slash'd and cut asunder with the sword.
Nor seld the name of peace doth edge our minds,
And sharpeneth on our fury, till we fight;
So that the mention made of love and rest
Is oft a whetstone to our hate and rage.
Lo, here the end that kingly pomp imparts:
The quiet rest that princely palace plights!
Care upon care, and every day anew
Fresh rising tempest tires the tossed minds.
Who strives to stand in pomp of princely port,
On giddy top and culm of slippery court,
Finds oft a heavy fate; whiles too much known
To all, he falls unknown unto himself.
Let whoso else that list affect the name,
But let me seem a potentate to none:
My slender bark shall creep anenst the shore,
And shun the winds that sweep the waltering waves.
Proud fortune overslips the safest roads,
And seeks amidst the surging seas those keels,
Whose lofty tops and tacklings touch the clouds.
O base, yet happy boors! O gifts of gods
Scant yet perceiv'd! when powd'red ermine robes
With secret sighs, mistrusting their extremes,
In baleful breast forecast their foultring fates,
And stir, and strive, and storm, and all in vain;
Behold the peasant poor with tattered coat,
Whose eyes a meaner fortune feeds with sleep,
How safe and sound the careless snudge doth snore.
Low-roofed lurks the house of slender hap,
Costless, not gay without, scant clean within;
Yet safe, and oft'ner shrouds the hoary hairs,
Than haughty turrets, rear'd with curious art,
To harbour heads that wield the golden crest.
With endless cark in glorious courts and towns,
The troubled hopes and trembling fears do dwell.
THE FOURTH ACT AND FIRST SCENE.
GILDAS. Lord Conan, though I know how hard a thing
It is for minds train'd up in princley thrones,
To hear of ought against their humour's course,
Yet, sithence who forbiddeth not offence,
If well he may, is cause of such offence,
I could have wish'd (and blame me not, my lord)
Your place and countenance both with son and sire
Had more prevail'd on either side, than thus
T' have left a crown in danger for a crown
Through civil wars, our country's wonted woe:
Whereby the kigndom's wound, still fest'ring deep,
Sucks up the mischievous humour to the heart.
The staggering state of Britain's troubled brains,
Headsick and sore encumbered in her crown,
With giddy steps runs on a headlong race.
Whereto this tempest tends, or where this storm
Will break, who knows? but gods avert the worst!
CONAN. Now surely (Gildas) as my duty stood
Indifferent for the best to son and sire,
So (I protest), since these occasions grew,
That in the depth of my desire to please,
I more esteem'd what honest faith requir'd
In matters meet for their estates and place,
Than how to feed each fond affection, prone
To bad effects, whence their disgrace mought grow.
And as for Mordred's desperate and disloyal plots,
They had been none, or fewer at the least,
Had I prevail'd, which Arthur knows right well.
But even as counters go sometimes for one,
Sometimes for thousands more, sometimes for none:
So men in greatest countenance with their king
Can work by fit persuasion sometimes much;
But sometimes less, and sometimes nought at all.
GILDAS. Well, we that have not spent our time in wars,
But bent our course at peace and country's weal,
May rather now expect what strange event
And chance ensues of these so rare attempts,
Than enter to discourse upon their cause,
And err as wide in words, as they in deeds.
CONAN. And lo, to satisfy your wish therein,
Where comes a soldier sweating from the camp.
THE SECOND SCENE.
NUNCIUS. Thou echo shrill, that haunt'st the hollow hills,
Leave off, that wont to snatch the latter word.
Howl on a whole discourse of our distress:
Clip off no clause; sound out a perfect sense.
GILDAS. What fresh mishap (alas), what new annoy
Removes our pensive minds from wonted woes,
And yet requires a new lamenting mood,
Declare! we joy to handle all our harms:
Our many griefs have taught us still to mourn.
NUNCIUS. But (ah) my tongue denies my speech his aid:
Great force doth drive it forth; a greater keeps
It in. I rue, surpris'd with wontless woes.
CONAN. Speak on what grief soe'er our fates afford.
NUNCIUS. Small griefs can speak, the great astonish'd stand.
GILDAS. What greater sin could hap, than what be pass'd?
What mischiefs could be meant, more than were wrought?
NUNCIUS. And think you there's to be an end to sins?
No; crime proceeds: those made but one degree.
What mischiefs erst were done, term sacred deeds:
Call nothing sin but what hath since ensu'd.
A greater grief requires your tears. Behold
These fresh annoys: your last mishaps be stale.
CONAN. Tell on (my friend): suspend our minds no more.
Hath Arthur lost? hath Mordred won the field?
NUNCIUS. O, nothing less! would, gods, it were but so!
Arthur hath won, but we have lost the field.
The field? Nay, all the realm and Britain's bounds.
GILDAS. How so? If Arthur won, what could we lose?
You speak in clouds, and cast perplexed words.
Unfold at large, and sort their sorrows out.
NUNCIUS. Then list awhile: this instant shall unwrap
Those acts, those wars, those hard events, that all
The future age shall ever have cause to curse--
Now that the time drew on, when both the camps
Should meet in Cornwall fields, th' appointed place.
The reckless troops, whom fates forbad to live
Till noon or night, did storm and rave for wars.
They swarm'd about their guides, and clust'ring call'd
For signs to fight; and fierce with uproars fell,
They onwards hal'd the lasting hours of death.
A direful frenzy rose: each man his own
And public fates all heedless headlong flung.
On Mordred's side were sixty thousand men;
Some borrowed powers, some Britons bred at home.
The Saxons, Irish, Normans, Picts and Scots
Were first in place: the Britons followed last.
On Arthur's side there were as many more:
Islandians, Goths, Norwegians, Albans, Danes,
Were foreign aids which Arthur brought from France;
A trusty troop and tried at many a trench.
That now the day was come, wherein our state
For aye should fall, whenceforth might men inquire
What Britain was, these wars thus near bewray'd.
Nor could the heavens no longer hide these harms,
But by prodigious signs portend our plagues.
For lo, ere both the camps encountering cop'd,
The skies and poles opposed themselves with storms:
Both east and west with tempests dark were dimm'd,
And showers of hail and rain outrageous pour'd.
The heavens were rent, each side the lightnings flash'd,
And clouds with hideous claps did thundering roar.
The armies, all aghast, did senseless stand,
Mistrusting much both force, and foes, and fates;
'Twas hard to say which of the two appall'd
Them most, the monstrous air or too much fear.
When Arthur spied his soldiers thus amaz'd,
And hope extinct, and deadly dread drawn on:
My mates (quoth he) the gods do scour the skies,
The fates contend to work some strange event,
And fortune seeks by storms in heavens and earth,
What pageants she may play for my behoof:
Of whom she knows she then deserves not well,
When (ling'ring ought) she comes not at the first.
Thus said, rejoicing at his dauntless mind,
They all reviv'd, and former fear recoil'd,
By that the light of Titan's troubled beams
Had piercing scattered down the drooping fogs,
And greeted both the camps with mutual view.
Their choler swells, whiles fell-disposed minds
Bounce in their breasts, and stir uncertain storms.
Then paleness wan and stern, with cheerless change,
Possessing bleak their lips and bloodless cheeks,
With troublous trembling, shows their death is near.
When Mordred saw the danger thus approach'd,
And boist'rous throngs of warriors threat'ning blood,
His instant ruin gave a nod at fates,
And mind, though prone to Mars, yet daunted paus'd.
The heart which promis'd erst a sure success,
Now throbs in doubts, nor can his own attempts
Afford him fear, nor Arthur's yield him hope.
This passion lasts not long: he soon recalls
His ancient guise, and wonted rage returns.
He loathes delays, and scorch'd with sceptre's lust,
The time and place, wherein he oft had wish'd
To hazard all upon extremest chance,
He offer'd spies, and spied pursues with speed.
Then both the armies met with equal might,
This stirr'd with wrath, that with desire to rule,
And equal prowess was a spur to both.
The Irish king whirl'd out a poisoned dart,
That lighting pierced deep in Howell's brains,
A peerless prince and near of Arthur's blood.
Hereat the air with uproar loud resounds,
Which efts on mountains rough rebounding rears.
The trumpets hoarse their trembling tunes do tear,
And thund'ring drums their dreadful larums ring.
The standards broad are blown and ensigns spread,
And every nation bends his wonted wars.
Some near their foes, some further off do wound,
With dart or sword, or shaft, or pike, or spear;
The weapons hide the heavens; a night compos'd
Of warlike engines overshades the field.
From every side these fatal signs are sent,
And boist'rous bangs with thumping thwacks fall thick.
Had both these camps been of usurping kings,
Had every man thereof a Mordred been,
No fiercelier had they fought for all their crowns.
The murthers meanless wax'd, no art in fight,
Nor way to ward nor try each other's skill.
But thence the blade, and hence the blood ensues.
CONAN. But what! did Mordred's eyes endure this sight?
NUNCIUS. They did; and he himself, the spur of fiends
And Gorgons all, lest any part of his
Scap'd free from guilt, enflam'd their minds to wrath,
And with a valour, more than virtue yields,
He cheer'd them all, and at their back with long
Outreached spear stirr'd up each ling'ring hand.
All fury-like, frounc'd up with frantic frets,
He bids them leave and shun the meaner sort,
He shows the kings and Britain's noblest peers.
GILDAS. He was not now to seek what blood to draw:
He knew what juice refresh'd his fainting crown,
Too much of Arthur's heart. O, had he wist,
How great a vice such virtue was as then,
In civil wars, in rooting up his realm!
O frantic fury, far from valour's praise!
NUNCIUS. There fell Aschillus stout, of Denmark king;
There valiant Gawin, Arthur's nephew dear,
And late by Augel's death made Alban king,
By Mordred's hand hath lost both life and crown.
There Gilla wounded Cador, Cornish duke,
In hope to win the dukedom for his meed.
The Norway king, the Saxon's duke, and Picts,
In woeful sort fell grovelling to the ground.
There prince and peasant both lay hurl'd on heaps:
Mars frown'd on Arthur's mates: the fates wax'd fierce,
And jointly ran this race with Mordred's rage.
CONAN. But with what joy (alas) shall he return,
That thus returns the happier for this field?
NUNCIUS. These odds endure not long, for Mars retires,
And fortune, pleas'd with Arthur's moderate fear,
Returns more full, and friendlier than her wont.
For when he saw the powers of fates oppos'd,
And that the dreadful hour was hastened on,
Perplexed much in mind at length resolves,
That fear is covered best by daring most.
Then forth he pitch'd: the Saxon duke withstood,
Whom with one stroke he headless sent to hell.
Not far from thence he spied the Irish king,
Whose life he took as price of broken truce.
Then Cador forward pres'd, and haply met
The traitor Gilla, worker of these wars,
Of whom by death he took his due revenge.
The remnant then of both the camps concur,
They Britons all, or most, few foreigns left:
These wage the wars and hence the deaths ensue:
Nor t' one nor t' other side that can destroy
Her foes so fast, as 'tis itself destroyed.
The brethren broach their blood; the sire, the son's
The son again would prove by too much wrath,
That he, whom thus he slew, was not his sire.
No blood nor kin can 'suage their ireful moods:
No foreign foe they seek, nor care to find:
The Briton's blood is sought on every side.
A vain discourse it were to paint at large
The several fates and foils of either side;
To tell what groans and sighs the parting ghosts
Sent forth; who dying bare the fellest breast;
Who changed cheer at any Briton's fall;
Who oft'nest stroke; who best bestow'd his blade;
Who vent'red most; who stood, who fell, who fail'd.
Th' effect declares it all: thus far the field.
Of both these hosts, so huge and main at first,
There were not left on either side a score,
For son and sire to win and lose the realm.
The which when Mordred saw, and that his sire
'Gainst foes and fates themselves would win the field,
He sigh'd and 'twixt despair and rage he cried:
Here (Arthur), here, and hence the conquest comes:
Whiles Mordred lives, the crown is yet unwon!
Hereat the prince of prowess, much amaz'd,
With thrilling tears and count'nance cast on ground,
Did groaning fetch a deep and earnful sigh.
Anon, they fierce encountering both concurr'd
With grisly looks and faces like their fates;
But dispar minds and inward moods unlike.
The sire with mind to safeguard both, or t' one;
The son to spoil the t' one or hazard both.
No fear nor fellness fail'd on either side:
The wager lay on both their lives and bloods.
At length, when Mordred spied his force to faint,
And felt himself oppress'd with Arthur's strength,
(O hapless lad, a match unmeet for him)
He loathes to live in that afflicted state,
And, valiant with a forced virtue, longs
To die the death: in which perplexed mind,
With grenning teeth and crabbed looks he cries,
I cannot win,yet will I not be won.
What! should we shun our fates, or play with Mars,
Or thus defraud the wars of both our bloods?
Whereto do we reserve ourselves, or why
Be we not sought ere this amongst the dead?
So many thousands murther'd in our cause,
Must we survive, and neither win nor lose?
The fates, that will not smile on either side
May frown on both. So saying, forth he flings,
And desperate runs on point of Arthur's sword!
(A sword, alas, prepar'd for no such use),
Whereon engor'd he glides till, near approach'd,
With dying hand he hews his father's head:
So through his own annoy he 'nnoys his liege,
And gains by death access to daunt his sire.
There Mordred fell, but like a prince he fell;
And as a branch of great Pendragon's graft
His life breathes out: his eyes forsake the sun
And fatal clouds infer a lasting 'clipse.
There Arthur staggering scant sustain'd himself;
There Cador found a deep and deadly wound;
There ceas'd the wars, and there was Britain lost!
There lay the chosen youths of Mars, there lay
The peerless knights, Bellona's bravest train,
There lay the mirrors rare of martial praise,
There lay the hope and branch of Brute suppress'd:
There fortune laid the prime of Britain's pride,
There laid her pomp, all topsy-turvy turn'd.
THE THIRD SCENE
GILDAS. Come, cruel griefs, spare not to stretch our strengths,
Whiles baleful breasts invite our thumping fists.
Let every sign that mournful passions work,
Express what piteous plights our minds amaze.
This day supplants what no day can supply;
These hands have wrought those wastes, that never age,
For all the brood of Brute shall e'er repair:
That future men may joy the surer rest,
These wars prevent their birth and nip their spring.
What nations erst the former age subdu'd
With hourly toils to Britain's yoke, this day
Hath set at large, and backwards turn'd the fates.
Henceforth the Kerns may safely tread their bogs;
The Scots may now their inroads old renew,
The Saxons well may vow their former claims,
And Danes without their danger drive us out.
These wars found not th' effect of wonted wars,
Nor doth their weight the like impression work:
There several fates annoy'd but several men;
Here all the realm and people find one fate:
What there did reach but to a soldier's death,
Contains the death of all a nation here.
These blades have given this isle a greater wound
Than time can heal--the fruit of civil wars:
A kingdom's hand hath gor'd a kingdom's heart.
CONAN. When fame shall blaze these acts in latter years,
And time to come, so many ages hence,
Shall efts report our toils and British pains;
Or when perhaps our children's children read
Our woful wars display'd with skilful pen,
They'll think they hear some sounds of future facts,
And not the ruins old of pomp long past;
'Twill move their minds to ruth, and frame afresh
New hopes and fears, and vows, and many a wish,
And Arthur's cause shall still be favour'd most.
He was the joy and hope, and hap, of all,
The realm's defence, the sole delay of fates;
He was our wall and fort: twice thirteen years
His shoulders did the Briton state support.
Whiles yet he reign'd, no foreign foes prevail'd,
Nor once could hope to bind the Briton bounds;
But still both far and near were forc'd to fly;
They thrall to us, we to ourselves were free.
But now, and henceforth aye, adieu that hope,
Adieu that pomp, that freedom, rule and all!
Let Saxons now, let Normans, Danes and Scots
Enjoy our meadows, fields, and pleasant plains!
Come, let us fly to mountains, cliffs, and rocks.
A nation hurt, and ne'er in case to heal!
Henceforth, the weight of fates thus fallen aside,
We rest secure from fear of greater foil:
Our leisure serves to think on former times,
And know what erst we were, who now are thus.
O Britain's prosperous state, were heavenly powers
But half so willing to preseve thy peace,
As they are prone to plague thee for thy wars!
But thus, O gods, yea, thus it likes you still,
When you decree to turn and touse the world,
To make our errors cause of your decrees.
We fretting fume, and burning wax right wood;
We cry for swords and harmful harness crave;
We rashly rave, whiles from our present rage
You frame a cause of long-foredeemed doom.
When Britain so desired her own decay,
That even her native brood would root her up,
Seem'd it so huge a work, O heavens, for you
To tumble down and quite subvert her state,
Unless so many nations came in aid?
What thirst of spoil, O fates! In civil wars
Were you afriad to faint for want of blood?
But yet, O wretched state in Britons fond,
What needed they to stoop to Mordred's yoke,
Or fear the man themselves so fearful made?
Had they but link'd like friends in Arthur's bands,
And join'd their force against the foreign foes,
These wars and civil sins had soon surceas'd,
And Mordred, reft of rule, had fear'd his sire.
Would gods these wars had drawn no other blood,
Than such as sprang from breasts of foreign foes!
So that the fountain, fed with changeless course,
Had found no nearer vents for dearer juice.
Or if the fates so thirst for British blood,
And long so deeply for our last decay,
O, that the rest were spar'd and safe reserv'd.
Both Saxons, Danes, and Normans most of all!
Hereof, when civil wars have worn us out,
Must Britain stand, a borrow'd blood for Brute.
When prosperous haps and long-continuing bliss
Have pass'd the ripeness of their budding growth,
They fall and foulter like the mellow fruit,
Surcharg'd with burden of their own excess:
So fortune, wearied with our often wars,
Is forc'd to faint and leave us to our fates.
If men have minds presaging ought their harms,
If ever heavy heart foreween her woe,
What Briton lives so far remov'd from home,
In any air or pole, or coast abroad,
But that even now, through nature's sole instinct,
He feels the fatal sword imbrue his breast,
Wherewith his native soil for aye is slain!
What hopes and haps lie wasted in these wars!
Who knows the foils he suffered in these fields?
THE FIFTH ACT AND FIRST SCENE.
ARTHUR, CADOR, CHORUS.
ARTHUR. Come, Cador, as our friendship was most firm
Throughout our age, so now let's link as fast.
Thus did we live in wars, thus let us die
In peace, and arm in arm partake our fates.
Our wounds, our grief, our wish, our hap alike,
Our end so near: all crave each other's help.
CADOR. O king, behold the fruit of all our fame!
Lo, here our pomp, consumed with outselves:
What all our age with all our wars had won,
Lo, here one day hath lost it all at once!
Well, so it likes the heavens: thus fortune gibes;
She hoisteth up to hurl the deeper down.
FIRST CHORUS. O sacred prince! what sight is this we see?
Why have the fates reserved us to these woes?
Our only hope, the stay of all our realm,
The pillar of our state, thus sore oppress'd!
O, would the gods had favour'd us so much,
That as we lived partakers of your pains,
And likewise joy'd the fruit of your exploits,
So having thus bereft our sovereign's bliss,
They had with more indifferent doom conjoin'd
The subjects' both and sovereign's bane in one!
It now (alas) engendereth double grief,
To rue your want and to bewail our woes.
ARTHUR. Rue not, my Britons, what my rage hath wrought,
But blame your king, that thus hath rent your realm.
My meanless moods have made the fates thus fell,
And too much anger wrought in me too much:
For had impatient ire endured abuse,
And yielded where resistance threat'ned spoil,
I mought have lived in foreign coasts unfoil'd,
And six score thousand men had been unmoan'd!
But wrong, incensing wrath to take revenge,
Preferred chance before a better choice.
SECOND CHORUS. 'Twas Mordred's wrong and too unjust deserts
That justly mov'd your highness to such wrath:
Your claim requir'd no less than those attempts:
Your cause right good was prais'd and pray'd for most.
ARTHUR. I claim'd my crown; the cause of claim was good,
The means to claim it in such sort was bad.
Yea, rather than my realm and native soil
Should wounded fall, thus bruised with these wars,
I should have left both realm and right, and all,
Or dur'd the death ordain'd by Mordred's oath.
CADOR. And yet, so far as Mars could bide a mean,
You hateless sought the safeguard of them all:
Whereto the better cause or badder chance
Did draw, you still inclin'd; preferring oft
The weaker side, sometimes for love, sometimes
For right (as fortune sway'd), your son, yourself.
So pity spar'd what reason sought to spoil,
Till all at length with equal spoil was spent.
THIRD CHORUS. Would gods your mind had felt no such remorse,
And that your foes had no such favour found!
So might your friends have had far friendlier fates,
If rebels for their due deserts had died.
The wicked's death is safety to the just;
To spare the traitors was to spoil the true:
Of force he hurts the good that helps the bad.
In that you sought your country's gain, 'twas well:
In that you shunned not her loss, 'twas hard.
Good is the friend that seeks to do us good,
A mighty friend that doth prevent our harms.
ARTHUR. Well, so it was; it cannot be redress'd;
The greater is my grief that sees it so.
My life (I feel) doth fade, and sorrows flow,
The rather that my name is thus extinct;
In this respect, so Mordred did succeed,
O that myself had fall'n and Mordred liv'd!
That having conquer'd all my foes but him,
I mought have left you him, that conquer'd me.
O heavy, wretched lot! to be the last
That falls! to view the burial of my realm!
Where each man else hath felt his several fate,
I only pine, oppress'd with all their fates!
FOURTH CHORUS. Although your highness do sustain such grief,
As needs enforceth all your realm to rue,
Yet since such ruth affordeth no relief,
Let due discretion 'suage each cureless sore,
And bear the harms that run without redress.
The loss is ours, that lose so rare a prince:
You only win, that see your foe here foil'd.
[ The breathless body of MORDRED in armour, as he fell, is brought upon the stage.
ARTHUR. A causeless foe. When wars did call me hence,
He was in years but young, in wit too old.
As virtue shineth most in comeliest wights,
When inward gifts are deck'd with outward grace,
So did his wit and feature feed that hope,
Which falsely train'd me to this woful hap.
His mind transformed thus, I cannot choose
But long to see what change his face sustains.
My blood and kindred, doubled in his birth,
Inspires a mix'd and twice-descending love,
Which drives my dying veins to wish his view.
Unhelm his luckless head, set bare his face,
That face which erst pleas'd me and mine too
FIRST CHORUS. See (worthiest king) the hope of all your realm,
Had not his lust to rule prevented all.
ARTHUR. I see (alas) I see (hide, hide again:
O, spare mine eyes!) a witness of my crimes;
A fearful vision of my former guilt;
A dreadful horror of a future doom,
A present gall of mind. O happy they,
Whose spotless lives attain a dreadless death!
And thou, O hapless boy! O spite of fates!
(What mought I term thee--nephew, son, or both?)
Alas! how happy should we both have been,
If no ambitious thought had vex'd thy head,
Nor thou thus striv'd to reave thy father's rule,
But stay'd thy time, and not forestall'd us both!
CADOR. The hot-spurr'd youth, that forc'd the forward steeds,
Whiles needs he would his father's chariot guide,
Neglecting what his sire had said in charge:
The fires which first he flung about the poles,
Himself at last, most woful wretch, inflam'd.
So too much love to hover in the heavens
Made him to pay the price of rash attempts.
ARTHUR. What ruth (ah), rent the woful father's heart,
That saw himself thus made a sonless sire!
Well, since both heavens and hell conspir'd in one
To make our ends a mirror to the world,
Both of incestuous life and wicked birth,
Would gods the fates, that link'd our faults alike,
Had also fram'd our minds of friendlier moulds!
That as our lineage had approach'd too near,
So our affections had not swerv'd too far.
Then mought, I['ve] lived t' enlarge the Britons' praise
In rearing efts the first triumphant Troy,
And after thou, succeeding mine attempts,
Have spent thy courage in a juster cause.
But 'twould not be: ambition grew too great;
We could not join our minds--our fates we join'd,
And through thy blood a way was made to mine.
SECOND CHORUS. And must we needs (O worthiest peers) forego
By this untimely fate our greatest hope?
That in your ripest years and likeliest time
Your chiefest force should on this sudden fall?
[THIRD CHORUS.] See, see our idle hopes, our brittle trust,
[FOURTH CHORUS.] Our vain desires, our over-fickle state
Which, though a while they sail on quiet seas,
Yet sink in surge, ere they arrive to road.
O woful wars! O Mordred's cursed pride,
That thus hath wrought both king and kingdom's woe!
CADOR. Let plaints and mournings pass; set moans apart.
They made much of themselves, yea, too--too much;
They lov'd to live that, seeing all their realm
Thus topsy-turvy turn, would grudge to die.
ARTHUR. Yea, sure: since thus (O fates) your censure seems,
That free from force of foreign foes, there rests
That Mordred reap the glory of our deaths,
B' it so: drive on your doom, work your decree:
We fearless bide what bane soe'er you bid.
And though our ends, thus hastened to your hests,
Abruptly break the course of great attempts,
Yet go we not inglorious to the ground:
Set wish apart, we have perform'd enough.
The Irish king and nation wild we tam'd;
The Scots and Picts, and Orcade Isles, we wan;
The Danes and Goths, and Friesland men, with all
The Isles inserted near those seas; and next
The German king and Saxons we subdu'd.
Not France that could prevail against our force,
Nor lastly Rome, that rues her pride suppress'd.
Each foreign power is parcel of our praise:
No titles want to make our foes afraid.
This only now I crave (O fortune! erst
My faithful friend): let it be soon forgot,
Nor long in mind nor mouth, where Arthur fell:
Yea, though I conqueror die, and full of fame,
Yet let my death and parture rest obscure.
No grave I need (O fates!) Nor burial rights,
Nor stately hearse, nor tomb with haughty top;
But let my carcase lurk; yea, let my death
Be aye unknowen, so that in every coast
I still be fear'd, and look'd for every hour.
[ Exeunt ARTHUR and CADOR.
Lo, here the end that fortune sends at last
To him, whom first she heav'd to highest hap!
The flattering look, wherewith he long was led;
The smiling fates, that oft had fed his fame,
The many wars and conquests which he gain'd,
Are dash'd at once: One day infers that foil,
Whereof so many years of yore were free.
O willing world to magnify man's state!
O most unwilling to maintain the same!
Of all misfortunes and unhappy fates
Th' unhappiest seems to have been happy once.
'Twas Arthur sole, that never found his joys
Disturb'd with woe, nor woes reliev'd with joy.
In prosperous state all heavenly pow'rs aspir'd;
Now, made a wretch, not one that spares his spoil!
Yea, fortune's self in this afflicted case
Exacts a pain for long-continued pomp.
She urgeth now the bliss of wonted weal,
And bears him down wiht weight of former fame.
His praises past be present shame. O tickle trust,
Whiles fortune chops and changeth every chance,
What certain bliss can we enjoy alive,
Unless, whiles yet our bliss endures, we die?
Yea, since before his last and utmost gasp
None can be deem'd a happy man or bless'd,
Who dares commit himself to prosperous fates,
Whose death prepar'd attends not hard at hand:
That sithence death must once determine all,
His life may sooner fly, than fortune flit.
THE SECOND SCENE.
GORLOIS. Now, Gorlois, 'suage thyself. Pride hath his pay,
Murther his price, adult'ry his desert,
Treason his meed, disloyalty his doom,
Wrong hath his wreak, and guilt his guerdon bears!
Not one abuse erst offered by thy foes,
But, since most sternly punish'd, is now purg'd.
Where thou didst fall, ev'n on the self-same soil,
Pendragon, Arthur, Mordred, and their stock
Found all their foils: not one hath 'scaped revenge;
Their line from first to last quite razed out!
Now rest content, and work no further plagues:
Let future age be free from Gorlois' ghost:
Let Britain henceforth bathe in endless weal.
Let Virgo come from heaven, the glorious star,
The Zodiac's joy, the planets' chief delight,
The hope of all the year, the ease of skies,
The air's relief, the comfort of the earth!
That virtuous Virgo, born for Britain's bliss;
That peerless branch of Brute; that sweet remain
Of Priam's state; that hope of springing Troy,
Which, time to come and many ages hence,
Shall of all wars compound eternal peace.
Let her reduce the golden age again,
Religion, ease, and wealth of former world.
Yea, let that Virgo come, and Saturn's reign,
And years, oft ten times told, expir'd in peace.
A rule that else no realm shall ever find,
A rule most rare, unheard, unseen, unread;
The sole example that the world affords.
That (Britain), that renown, yea, that is thine.
B' it so: my wrath is wrought. Ye furies black
And ugly shapes, that howl in holes beneath:
Thou Orcus dark, and deep Avernus nook,
With dukish dens out-gnawn in gulfs below,
Receive your ghastly charge, Duke Gorlois' ghost!
Make room! I gladly, thus reveng'd, return!
And though your pain surpass, I greet them tho!
He hates each other heaven, that haunteth hell.
See here by this the tickle trust of time:
The false affiance of each mortal force;
The wavering weight of fates: the fickle trace,
That fortune trips; the many mocks of life;
The cheerless change, the easeless brunts and broils,
That man abides, the restless race he runs.
But most of all, see here the peerless pains:
The lasting pangs, the stintless griefs, the tears:
The sighs, the groans, the fears, the hopes, the hates:
The thoughts and cares, that kingly pomp imparts.
What follies, then, bewitch th' ambitious minds,
That thirst for sceptre's pomp, the well of woes!
Whereof (alas!) should wretched man be proud,
Whose first conception is but sin, whose birth
But pain, whose life but toil, and needs must die?
See here the store of great Pendragon's brood,
The t'one quite dead, the t'other hastening on:
As men, the son but green, the sire but ripe,
Yet both forestall'd, ere half their race were run!
As kings, the mightiest monarchs of this age,
Yet both suppressed and vanquished by themselves.
Such is the brittle breath of mortal man,
Whiles human nature works her daily wracks:
Such be the crazed crests of glorious crowns,
Whiles worldly powers like sudden puffs do pass.
And yet for one that goes, another comes;
Some born, some dead: so still the store endures.
So that both fates and common care provide,
That men must needs be born, and some must rule.
Wherefore, ye peers and lordings, lift aloft,
And whosoe'er in thrones that judge your thralls,
Let not your sovereignty heave you too high,
Nor their subjection press them down too low.
It is not pride that can augment your power,
Nor lowly looks that long can keep them safe.
The fates have found a way whereby, ere long,
The proud must leave their hope, the meek their fear.
Whoe'er received such favour from above,
That could assure one day unto himself?
Him whom the morning found both stout and strong,
The evening left all grovelling on the ground.
This breath and heat, wherewith man's life is fed,
Is but a flash or flame, that shines a while,
And once extinct is, as it ne'er had been.
Corruption hourly frets the body's frames;
Youth tends to age, and age to death by kind.
Short is the race, prefixed is the end;
Swift is the time, wherein man's life doth run:
But by his deeds t'extend renowm and fame,
That only virtue works, which never fades.
Sat citò, si sat benè: utcunque,
Quoad non dat spes, dat optio.
Hereafter follow such speeches as were penned by others, and pronounced instead of some of the former speeches penned by Thomas Hughes.
A speech penned by William Fulbecke, gentleman, one of the society of Gray'sInn, and pronounced instead of Gorlois in his first speech penned by Thomas Hughes, and set down in the first Scene of the first Act.
Alecto, thou that hast excluded me
From fields Elysian, where the guiltless souls
Avoid the scourge of Rhadamanthus ire,
Let it be lawful (sith I am removed
From blessed islands to this cursed shore,
This loathed earth, where Arthur's table stands,
With ordure foul of Harpies' fierce distained)
The fates and hidden secrets to disclose
Of black Cocytus and of Acheron,
The floods of death, the lakes of burning souls,
Where hellish frogs do prophesy revenge;
Where Tartar sprites with careful heed attend
The dismal summons of Alecto's mouth.
Myself by precept of Proserpina
Commanded was in presence to appear
Before the synod of the damned sprites.
In fearful mood I did perform their hest,
And, at my entrance in, th' enchanted snakes,
Which wrap themselves about the furies' necks,
Did hiss for joy: and from the dreadful bench
The supreme fury thus assign'd her charge.
Gorlois, quoth she, thou thither must ascend,
Whence, through the rancour of malicious foes,
Wearied with wounds thou didst descend to us.
Make Britain now the mark of thy revenge:
On ruthless Britons and Pendragon's race
Disburse the treasure of thy hellish plagues.
Let blood contend with blood, father with son,
Subject with prince, and let confusion reign.
She therewithal enjoin'd the dusky clouds,
Which with their darkness turn'd the earth to hell,
Convert to blood, and pour down streams of blood.
Cornwall shall groan, and Arthur's soul shall sigh:
Before the conscience of Guenevera
The map of hell shall hang, and fiends shall rage;
And Gorlois' ghost exacting punishment
With dreams, with horrors, and with deadly trance,
Shall gripe their hearts: the vision of his corse
Shall be to them, as was the terror vile
Of flaming whips to Agamemnon's son.
And when the trumpet calls them from their rest,
Aurora shall with wat'ry cheeks behold
Their slaughtered bodies prostrate to her beams:
And on the banks of Camela shall lie
The bones of Arthur and of Arthur's knights,
Whose fleet is now triumphing on the seas,
But shall be welcom'd with a tragedy.
Thy native soil shall be thy fatal gulf,
Arthur: thy place of birth thy place of death.
Mordred shall be the hammer of my hate
To beat the bones of Cornish lords to dust.
Ye ravening birds under Celoeno's power,
I do adjure you, in Alecto's name,
Follow the sword of Mordred where he goes;
Follow the sword of Mordred for your food.
Aspiring Mordred, thou must also die,
And on the altar of Proserpina
Thy vital blood unto my ghost shall fume.
Heaven, earth, and hell concur to plague the man,
That is the plague of heaven, earth, and hell!
Thou bidd'st, Alecto: I pursue my charge.
Let thy Cerastæ whistle in mine ears,
And let the bells of Pluto ring revenge!