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K. John. They burn in indignation. I repent.
There is no sure foundation set on blood;
No certain life achiev'd by others' 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 power,
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 come, that they are all arriv'd.
K. John. 0, where hath our intelligence been drunk?
Where hath it slept? Where is my mother's care,
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
Your noble mother: And, as I hear, my lord,
The lady Constance in a frenzy died
Three days before: but this from rumour's tougue
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 pleasd
My discontented peers!—What! mother dead ?
How wildly then walks my estate in France !-
Under whose conduct came those powers of France,
That thou for truth giv'st out are landed here?
Mess. Under the dauphin.
Enter the Bastard and PETER of Pomfret. K. Johx.
Thou hast made me giddy
With these ill tidings.--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 travellid 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 propbet, 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 rhymes,
That, ere the next Ascension-day at noon,
Your highness should deliver up your crown.
K. John. Thóu idle dreamer, wherefore didst thou so ?
PETER. Foreknowing that the truth will fall out so.
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.-O my gentle cousin, [Exit HUBERT, with PETER.
Hear'st thou the news abroad, who are arriv'd ?
Bast. The French, my lord ; men's mouths are full of it:
Besides, I met lord Bigot, and lord Salisbury,
(With eyes as red as new-enkindled fire)
And others more, going to seek the grave
Of Arthur, who, they say, is kill'd to-night
On your suggestion.
Gentle kinsman, go,
And thrust thyself into their companies :
I have a way to win their loves again ;
Bring them before me.
I will seek them out.
K. John. Nay, but make baste : the better foot before.
0, let me have no subject enemies,
When adverse foreigners affright my towns
With dreadful pomp of stout invasion!
Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels ;
And fly, like thought, from them to me again.
Bast. The spirit of the time shall teach me speed.
[Exit. K. John. Spoke like a spriteful noble gentleman.
Go after him; for he, perhaps, shall need
Some messenger betwixt me and the peers ;
And be thou he.
With all my heart, my liege.
[Exit. K. Joan. My mother dead!
HUB. My lord, they say five moons were seen to-night:
Four fixed; and the fifth did whirl about
The other four, in wondrous motion.
K. JOHN. Five moons?
Old men, and beldams, in the streets
Do prophesy upon it dangerously:
Young Arthur's death is common in their mouths:
And when they talk of him, they shake their heads,
And whisper one another in the ear;
And he that speaks doth gripe the hearer's wrist;
Whilst he that hears makes fearful action,
With wrinkled brows, with nods, with rolling eyes.
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 a,)
Told of a many thousand warlike French,
That were embatteled and rank'd in Kent:
Another lean unwash'd artificer
Cuts off his tale, and talks of Arthur's death.
K. John. Why seek'st thou to possess me with these fears?
Why urgest thou so oft young Arthur's death?
Thy hand hath murther'd him: I had a mighty cause
To wish him dead, but thou hadst none to kill him.
HUB. None badb, my lord ! why, did you not provoke me?
K. John. It is the curse of kings to be attended
By slaves that take their humours for a warrant
To break within the bloody house of life;
And, on the winking of authority,
To understand a law; to know the meaning
Of dangerous majesty, when, perchance, it frowns
More upon humour than advis'd respect.
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 band and seal
Witness against us to damnation !
How oft the sight of means to do ill deeds • Contrary feet. The fashion of Shakspere's time is now well understood through a similar fashion in our own;-but half a century ago this passage was adjudged to be one of the many proofs of Shakspere's ignorance or carelessness.
None had. The original gives no had. The common reading is had none.
Makes ill deeds done a! 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 murther had not come into my mind:
But, taking note of thy abhorr'd aspect,
Finding thee fit for bloody villainy,
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 break off,
And those thy fears might have wrought fears in me:
But thou didst understand me by my signs,
And didst in signs again parley with sin;
Yea, without stop, didst let thy heart consent,
And, consequently, thy rude hand to act
The deed, which both our tongues held vile to name.
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.
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 murtherous 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,
• We have ventured upon a transposition. The original is “makes deeds ill done;"—but this might apply to good deeds unskilfully performed.
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.
SCENE III.-The same. 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,
This ship-boy's semblance hath disguis'd me quite.
I am afraid ; and yet I'll venture it.
If I get down, and do not break my limbs,
I'll find a thousand shifts to get away:
As good to die and go, as die and stay.
O me! my uncle's spirit is in these stones :-
Heaven take my soul, and England keep my bones !
Enter PEMBROKE, SALISBURY, and Bigot.
SAL. Lords, I will meet him at Saint Edmund's-Bury;
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 't will be
Two long days' journey, lords, or e'er we meet a.
Bast. Once more to-day well met, distemper'd lords !
The king, by me, requests your presence straight. Sal. The king bath dispossess'd himself of us.
We will not line his thin bestained cloak
• Or e'er we meet-before we meet. So in Ecclesiastes, " or ever the silver cord be loosed.”