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To whom the eldest thus began;
Dear father, mind, quoth she,
Before your face, to do you good,
My blood shall render'd be:
And for your sake my bleeding heart
Shall here be cut in twain,
Ere that I see your reverend age
The smallest grief sustain.
And so will I, the second said;
Dear father, for your sake,
The worst of all extremities
I'll gently undertake:
And serve your highness night and day
With diligence and love;
That sweet content and quietness
Discomforts may remove.
In doing so, you glad my soul,
The aged king reply'd;
But what say'st thou, my youngest girl,
How is thy love ally'd?
My love (quoth young Cordelia then)
Which to your grace I owe,
Shall be the duty of a child,
And that is all I'll show.
And wilt thou show no more, quoth he,
Than doth thy duty bind?
I well perceive thy love is small,
When as no more I find:
Henceforth I banish thee my court,
Thou art no child of mine;
Nor any part of this my realm
By favour shall be thine.
Thy elder sisters' loves are more
Than well I can demand,
To whom I equally bestow
My kingdome and my land,
My pompal state and all my goods,
That lovingly I may
With those thy sisters be maintain'd
Until my dying day.
Thus flattering speeches won renown
By these two sisters here:
The third had causeless banishment,
Yet was her love more dear:
For poor Cordelia patiently
Went wand'ring up and down,
Unhelp'd, unpity'd, gentle maid,
Through many an English town:
Until at last in famous France
She gentler fortunes found;
Though poor and bare, yet she was deem'd
The fairest on the ground:
Where when the king her virtues heard,
And this fair lady seen,
With full consent of all his court
He made his wife and queen.
Her father, old king Leir, this while
With his two daughters staid;
Forgetful of their promis'd loves,
Full soon the same decay'd;
And living in queen Ragan's court,
The eldest of the twain,
She took from him his chiefest means,
And most of all his train.
For whereas twenty men were wont
To wait with bended knee:
She gave allowance but to ten,
And after scarce to three:
Nay, one she thought too much for him:
So took she all away,
In hope that in her court, good king,
He would no longer stay.
Am I rewarded thus, quoth he,
In giving all I have
Unto my children, and to beg
For what I lately gave?
I'll go unto my Gonorell;
My second child, I know,
Will be more kind and pitiful,
And will relieve my woe.
Full fast he hies then to her court;
Where when she hears his moan
Return'd him answer, that she griev'd
That all his means were gone:
But no way could relieve his wants;
Yet if that he would stay
Within her kitchen, he should have
What scullions gave away.
When he had heard with bitter tears,
He made his answer then ;
In what I did let me be made
Example to all men.
I will return again, quoth he,
Unto my Ragan's court;
She will not use me thus, I hope,
But in a kinder sort.
Where when he came, she gave command
To drive him thence away :
When he was well within her court,
(She said) he would not stay.
Then back again to Gonorell
The woeful king did hie,
That in her kitchen he might have
What scullion boys set by.
But there of that he was deny'd,
Which she had promis'd late:
For once refusing, he should not
Come after to her gate.
Thus 'twixt his daughters, for relief
He wander'd up and down;
Being glad to feed on beggar's food,
That lately wore a crown.
And calling to remembrance then
His youngest daughter's words,
That said, the duty of a child
Was all that love affords:
But doubting to repair to her,
Whom he had banish’d so,
Grew frantic mad; for in his mind
He bore the wounds of woe.
Which made him rend his milk-white locks,
And tresses from his head,
And all with blood bestain his cheeks,
With age and honour spread:
To hills and woods and wat'ry founts,
He made his hourly moan,
Till hills and woods, and senseless things,
Did seem to sigh and groan.
Even thus possest with discontents,
He passed o'er to France,
In hope from fair Cordelia there
To find some gentler chance:
Most virtuous dame ! which when she heard
Of this her father's grief,
As duty bound, she quickly sent
Him comfort and relief.
And by a train of noble peers,
In brave and gallant sort,
She gave in charge he should be brought
To Aganippus' court; - *