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First Sen.

Not in this heat, sir, now.

Cor. Now, as I live, I will. My nobler friends,
I crave their pardons :

For the mutable, rank-scented many, let them
Regard me as I do not flatter, and

Therein behold themselves: I say again,

In soothing them, we nourish 'gainst our senate
The cockle of rebellion, insolence, sedition,

Which we ourselves have plough'd for, sow'd, and scatter'd,

By mingling them with us, the honour'd number,
Who lack not virtue, no, nor power, but that
Which they have given to beggars.

Men.

Well, no more.

First Sen. No more words, we beseech you.
Cor.

How! no more!

As for my country I have shed my blood,
Not fearing outward force, so shall my lungs
Coin words till their decay against those measles,
Which we disdain should tetter us, yet sought
The very way to catch them.

Bru.

70

You speak o' the people, 80

As if you were a god to punish, not

A man of their infirmity.

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Were I as patient as the midnight sleep,

By Jove, 'twould be my mind!

Sic.

It is a mind

That shall remain a poison where it is,
Not poison any further.

Cor.

70. cockle, the corn-cockle, a common weed in corn-fields.

Shall remain !

79. tetter, cover as with a skin disease.

Hear you this Triton of the minnows? mark you

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You grave but reckless senators, have you thus
Given Hydra here to choose an officer,

That with his peremptory 'shall,' being but

The horn and noise o' the monster's, wants not spirit

If he have power,

To say he'll turn your current in a ditch,
And make your channel his?
Then vail your ignorance; if none, awake
Your dangerous lenity. If you are learn'd,
Be not as common fools; if you are not,
Let them have cushions by you. You are plebeians,
If they be senators: and they are no less,
When, both your voices blended, the great'st taste
Most palates theirs. They choose their magistrate,
And such a one as he, who puts his 'shall,'
His popular 'shall,' against a graver bench
Than ever frown'd in Greece. By Jove himself!
It makes the consuls base! and my soul aches
To know, when two authorities are up,
Neither supreme, how soon confusion

89. Triton, Neptune's trumpeter, was powerful among the sea-gods, calming the ocean at his own pleasure.

90. from the canon, an infraction of the rule; the tribunes have acted ultra vires in declaring what is to be, without the consent of the people.

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93. Hydra, the 'many-headed multitude.' The Hydra' was a monster with many heads, inhabiting the low lands about Lake Lerna. It was slain by

Hercules.

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98. vail your ignorance, drop your idle pretensions.

103. When the great'st taste most palates theirs, when the predominant taste is adapted to their palate.

110. It has been remarked that there was never a constitution which looks more unworkable on paper than the Roman. But the Romans had a genius for government, which prevented deadlocks.

May enter 'twixt the gap of both and take
The one by the other.

Com.

Well, on to the market-place. Cor. Whoever gave that counsel, to give forth The corn o' the storehouse gratis, as 'twas used Sometime in Greece,—

Men.

Well, well, no more of that.

Cor. Though there the people had more abso

lute power,

I say, they nourish'd disobedience, fed

The ruin of the state.

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Was not our recompense, resting well assured
They ne'er did service for 't: being press'd to the

war,

Even when the navel of the state was touch'd,

They would not thread the gates. This kind of service

:

Did not deserve corn gratis. Being i' the war,
Their mutinies and revolts, wherein they show'd
Most valour, spoke not for them the accusation
Which they have often made against the senate,
All cause unborn, could never be the motive
Of our so frank donation. Well, what then?
How shall this bisson multitude digest
The senate's courtesy? Let deeds express
What's like to be their words: 'We did request it;
We are the greater poll, and in true fear

They gave us our demands.' Thus we debase
The nature of our seats and make the rabble

120

130

131. bisson multitude. So On 'bisson' cf note to ii. L. Dyce. Ff 'bosome-multiplied.'

70.

Call our cares fears; which will in time

Break ope the locks o' the senate and bring in
The crows to peck the eagles.

Men.

Come, enough.

Bru. Enough, with over-measure. Cor. No, take more: 140 What may be sworn by, both divine and human, Seal what I end withal! This double worship, Where one part does disdain with cause, the other Insult without all reason, where gentry, title, wisdom,

Cannot conclude but by the yea and no

Of general ignorance,—it must omit

Real necessities, and give way the while

To unstable slightness: purpose so barr'd, it follows,

Nothing is done to purpose. Therefore, beseech

you,

You that will be less fearful than discreet,
That love the fundamental part of state

More than you doubt the change on 't, that prefer
A noble life before a long, and wish

To jump a body with a dangerous physic
That's sure of death without it, at once pluck out
The multitudinous tongue; let them not lick
The sweet which is their poison: your dishonour
Mangles true judgement and bereaves the state
Of that integrity which should become 't,
Not having the power to do the good it would,
For the ill which doth control 't.

Bru.

'Has said enough;

Sic. 'Has spoken like a traitor, and shall answer

As traitors do.

Cor. Thou wretch, despite o'erwhelm thee!

144. without all, without any, or beyond all.

154. To jump, to imperil.

150

160

What should the people do with these bald tri

bunes?

On whom depending, their obedience fails

To the greater bench: in a rebellion,

When what's not meet, but what must be, was law,
Then were they chosen: in a better hour,

Let what is meet be said it must be meet,

And throw their power i' the dust.

Bru. Manifest treason!

Sic.

Bru. The ædiles, ho!

This a consul? no.

Enter an Edile.

Let him be apprehended.

Sic. Go, call the people: [Exit Edile] in

whose name myself

Attach thee as a traitorous innovator,

A foe to the public weal: obey, I charge thee,
And follow to thine answer.

Cor.

Hence, old goat!

Aged sir, hands off.

Senators, etc. We'll surety him.

Com.

Cor. Hence, rotten thing! or I shall shake thy

bones

Out of thy garments.

Sic.

Help, ye citizens !

Enter a rabble of Citizens (Plebeians) with the

Ediles.

Men. On both sides more respect.

Sic. Here's he that would take from you all

your power.

Bru. Seize him, ædiles !

165. bald, witless ('chauve d'esprit'; bauld-spirited; that hath as little wit in, as he hath

170

180

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