Page images
PDF
EPUB

where he was. For feare hauing beene the onely knot that had fastned his people unto him, that once yntied by a greater force, they all scattered from him; like so many birdes, whose cage had beene broken.

“In which season the blinde king, hauing in the chiefe cittie of his realme set the crown vppon his son Leonatus head, with many teares (b: th of joy and sorrow) setting forth to the whole people his owne fault and his sonnes vertue, after he had kist him, and forst his sonne to accept honour of him, as of his new-become subject, euen in a momeni died: as it should seeme, his heart broken with ynkindenes and affliction, stretched so farre beyond his limits with this excesse of comfort, as it was able no longe to keepe Safe his vitall spirites But the new king, hauing no lesse louingly performed all duties to him dead, then aliue. pursued on the siege of his vnnaturail brother, as. much for the reuenge of his father, as for the establishing of his owne quiet. In which siege truely I cannot but acknowledge the prowesse of those two brothers, then whome the princes neuer found in all their trauaile two of greater hability to performe, nor of habler skil for conduct.

“ But Plexirtus finding, that if nothing else, famine would at last bring him to destruction, thought better by humblenes to creepe, where by pride he could not marche. For certainely so had nature formed him, and the exercise of craft conformed him, to all turningnes of sleights, that though no man had lesse goodnes in his soule than he, no man could better find the places whence arguments inight grow of goodnesse to another: though no man felt lesse pitie, no man could tel better how to stir pitie: no man more impudent to deny, where proofes were not manifest; no man more ready to confesse with a repenting manner of aggrauating his owne euill, where denial would but make the fault fowler. Now he tooke this way, that hauing gotten a pasport for one (that pretended he would put Plexirtus aliue into his hands) to speake with the king his brother, he himselfe (though much against the minds of the valiant brothers, who rather wished to die in braue defence,) with a rope about his necke, barefooted, came to offer himselfe to the discretion of Leonatus. Where, what submission he vsed, how cunningly in making greater the faulte he made the faultines the lesse, how artificially he could set out the torments of his owne conscience, with the burdensome comber he had found of his ambitious desires, how finely seem. ing to desire nothing but death, as ashamed to live, he begd life in the refusing it, I am not cunning inough to be able to expresse : but so fell out of it, that though at first sight Leonatus saw him with a other eie than as the murderer of his father, and anger already began to paint reuenge in many colours, ere long he had not onely gotten pitie, but pardon; and if not an excuse of the faulte past, yet an opinion of a future amendment: while the poor villaines chiefe ministers of his wickednes, now betraied by the author thereof, were deliuered to many cruell sorts of death; he so handling it, that it rather seemed, hee had more come into the defence of an vnreme. diable mischiefe already committed, then that they had done it at first by his consent. Malone.

[ocr errors]

A LAMENTABLE SONG

OF THE DEATH OF

KING LEIR AND HIS THREE DAUGHTERS.

KING LEIR* once ruled in this land,

With princely power and peace;
And had all things with heart's content,

That might his joys increase.
Amongst those things that nature gave,

Three daughters fair had he,
So princely seeming beautiful,

As fairer could not be.

So on a time it pleas'd the king

A question thus to move,
Which of his daughters to his grace

Could show the dearest love:
For to my age you bring content,

Quoth he, then let me hear
Which of you three in plighted troth

The kindest will appear.

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.

* King Leir &c.] This ballad is given from an ancient copy in The Golden Garn land, black letter, to the tune of-When flying fame. It is here reprinted from Dr. Percy's Rcliques of ancient English Poetry, vol. I, third edit. Stécvens,

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 hee my court,

Thou art no child of mine; Nor any part of this my realm

By favour shall be thine.

Thy eldest 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'

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.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »