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To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw a perfume on the violet,
To smooth the ice, or add another hue
Unto the rainbow, or with taper-light
To seek the beauteous eye of heaven to garnish,
Is wasteful, and ridiculous excess.
Pem. But that your royal pleasure must be done,
This act is as an ancient tale new told;
And, in the last repeating, troublesome,
Being urged at a time unseasonable.
Sal. In this, the antique and well-noted face
Of plain old form is much disfigured;
And, like a shifted wind unto a sail,
It makes the course of thoughts to fetch about;
Startles and frights consideration ;
Makes sound opinion sick, and truth suspected,
For putting on so new a fashion'd robe.
Pem. When workmen strive to do better than well,
They do confound their skill in covetousness:1
And, oftentimes, excusing of a fault
Doth make the fault the worse by the excuse;
As patches, set upon a little breach,
Discredit more in hiding of the fault
Than did the fault before it was so patch'd.
Sal. To this effect, before you were new-crown'd,
We breath'd our counsel : but it pleas'd your highness
To overbear it; and we are all well pleas’d,
Since all and every part of what we would,
Doth make a stand at what your highness will.
K. John. Some reasons of this double coronation
I have possess'd you with, and think them strong;
And more, more strong (when lesser is my fear),
I shall indue you with : Meantime, but ask
What you would have reform’d that is not well,
And well shall you perceive how willingly
I will both hear and grant you your requests.
Pem. Then I, (as one that am the tongue of these,
To sound the purposes of all their hearts,)
Both for myself and them, (but, chief of all,
Your safety, for the which myself and them
Bend their best studies,) heartily request
Th' enfranchisement of Arthur; whose restraint
Doth move the murmuring lips of discontent
To break into this dangerous argument,-
2. Covetousness here means an over-desire of excelling.
If what in rest you have in right you hold,
Why, then, your fears (which, as they say, attend
The steps of wrong) should move you to mew up
Your tender kinsman, and to choke his days
With barbarous ignorance, and deny his youth
The rich advantage of good exercise ?
That the time's enemies may not have this
To grace occasions, let it be our suit,
That you have bid us ask his liberty;
Which for our goods we do no further ask,
Than whereupon our weal, on you depending,
Counts it your weal he have his liberty.
K. John. Let it be so; I do commit his youth
To your direction.—Hubert, what news with you?
Pem. This is the man should do the bloody deed;
He show'd his warrant to a friend of mine :
The image of a wicked heinous fault
Lives in his eye; that close aspect of his
Does show the mood of a much-trubled breast;
And I do fearfully believe 'tis done
What we so fear'd he had a charge to do.
Sal. The colour of the king doih come and go
Between his purpose and his conscience,
Like heralds 'twixt two dreadful battles set:
His passion is so ripe it needs must break.
Pem. And, when it breaks, I fear will issue thence
The foul corruption of a sweet child's death.
K. John. We cannot hold mortality's strong hand :
Good lords, although my will to give is living,
The suit which you demand is gone and dead :
He tells us, Arthur is deceas'd to-night.
Sal. Indeed we fear'd his sickness was past cure.
Pem. Indeed we heard how near his death he was,
Before the child himself felt he was sick :
This must be answer'd, either here, or hence.
K. John. Why do you bend such solemn brows on me?
Think you I bear the shears of destiny?
Have I commandment on the pulse of life?
Sal. It is apparent foul-play; and 'tis shame
That greatness should so grossly offer it:
So thrive it in your game! and so farewell.
(1) If what in rest you have in right you hold, i.e. if the power you now possess in quiet (rest) you hold by right.
(2) Between his purpose and his conscience,-between his consciousness of guilt and his design to hide it by fair professions.
Pem. Stay yet, lord Salisbury; I'll go with thee,
And find the inheritance of this poor child,
His little kingdom of a forced grave.
That blood, which ow'd the breadth of all this isle,
Three foot of it doth hold. Bad world the while !
This must not be thus borne: this will break out
To all our sorrows, and ere long, I doubt. (Ex. Lords.
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. 1—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 tongue
I idly heard; if true, or false, I know not.
K John. Withhold thy speed, dreadful occasion !
O, make a league with me, till I have pleas'd
My discontented peers ! - What! mother dead ?
How wildly then walks my estate in France !-
Under whose conduct came those powers of France,
That thou for truth giv'st out are landed here?
Mess. Under the dauphin.
Enter the Bastard and PETER of Pomfret.
Thou hast made me giddy
(1) From France to England. The king asks bow all goes in France: the messenger answers that all is going from France to England; meaning that there will be an invasion.
(2) The copy of your speed is learned by them, i. e. you may learn to copy your speed from theirs.
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 travell’d hither through the land,
I find the people strangely fantasied;
Possess'd with rumours, full of idle dreams;
Not knowing what they fear, but full of fear:
And here's a prophet, that I brought with me
From forth the streets of Pomfret, whom I found
With many hundreds treading on his heels;
To whom he sung, in rude harsh-sounding rhymes,
That, ere the next Ascension-day at noon,
Your highness should deliver up your crown.
K. John. Thou 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 hanged :
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 haste: the better foot before.'
(), let me have no subject enemies, 2
When adverse foreigners affright my towns
(1) Safety is here used for safe custody.
(1) Subject-enemies, i. e. enemies amongst my subjects.
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.
Mess. With all my heart, my liege. [Exit.
K. John. 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 ?
Hub. 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,)
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 had, 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,
(1) Five moons were seen to-night. Some ancient English historians assert this to have been really the case. Of course, such a portent was looked upon as foreboding some great evil.