Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Baldwin
Editor: Rosemary Gaby
Not Peer Reviewed

A Mirror for Magistrates (Selection)


[A Mirror for Magistrates (1559) is a collection of verse accounts of the lives of various key historical figures from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It was the work of several writers under the editorship of William Baldwin, and it pursues a clear aim to shape history into a series of moral and political lessons. Geoffrey Bullough suggests that Henry IV, Part One may owe something to A Mirror for Magistrates "if only by contraries" (165). Thomas Phaer's portrait of Owen Glendower is highly critical, but intersects with Shakespeare in interesting ways. This modern-spelling excerpt was prepared using a facsimile of the 1559 edition from Early English Books Online.]

How Owen Glendower seduced by false prophecies took upon him to be prince of Wales, and was by Henry then prince thereof, chased to the mountains, where he miserably died for lack of food.

1I pray thee Baldwin since thou dost intend
To show the fall of such as climb too high,
Remember me, whose miserable end
May teach a man his vicious life to fly.
5Oh Fortune, Fortune, out on her I cry,
My body and fame she hath made lean and slender
For I poor wretch am starved Owen Glendower.
A Welshman born, and of a gentle blood,
But ill brought up, whereby full well I find,
10That neither birth nor lineage make us good
Though it be true that cat will after kind,
Flesh gendreth flesh, so doeth not soul or mind,
They gender not, but foully do degender,
When men to vice from virtue them do surrender.
15Each thing by nature tendeth to the same
Whereof it came, and is disposed like:
Down sinks the mold, up mounts the fiery flame,
With horn the hart, with hoof the horse doth strike,
The wolf doth spoil, the subtle fox doth pike,
20And generally no fish, flesh, fowl, or plant
Doth any property that their dame had, want.
But as for men, since severally they have
A mind whose manners are by learning made,
Good bringing up alonely doth them save
25In virtuous deeds, which with their parents fade.
So that true gentry standeth in the trade
Of virtuous life, not in the fleshly line:
For blood is brute, but gentry is divine.
Experience doth cause me thus to say,
30And that the rather for my countrymen,
Which vaunt and boast their selves above the day
If they may strain their stock for worthy men,
Which let be true, are they the better then?
Nay fare the worse if so they be not good,
35For why they stain the beauty of their blood.
How would we mock the burden bearing mule
If he would brag he were a horse’s son,
To press his pride (might nothing else him rule,)
His boast to prove, no more but bid him run.
40The horse for swiftness hath his glory won,
To which the mule could never the more aspire
Though he should prove that Pegas was his sire.
Each man may crake of that which is his own,
Our parents’ virtues theirs are and not ours.
45Who therefore will of noble kind be known
Ought shine in virtue like his ancestors.
Gentry consisteth not in lands and towers:
He is a churl though all the world be his,
Yea Arthur’s heir if that he live amiss.
50For virtuous life doth make a gentleman
Of her possessor, all be he poor as Job,
Yea though no name of elders show he can.
For proof take Merlin fathered by a hob.
But who so settles his mind to spoil and rob,
55Although he come by due descent from Brute,
He is a churl, ungentle, vile, and brute.
Well thus did I for want of better wit,
Because my parents noughtly brought me up,
For gentle men (they said) were nought so fit
60As to attaste by bold attempts the cup
Of conquest's wine, whereof I thought to sup,
And therefore bent my self to rob and rive,
And whom I could of lands and goods deprive.
For Henry the fourth did then usurp the crown,
65Despoiled the king, with Mortimer the heir,
For which his subjects sought to put him down.
And I, while Fortune offered me so fair,
Did what I might his honor to appair,
And took on me to be the prince of Wales,
70Enticed thereto by many of Merlin’s tales.
For which, such idle[s] as wait upon the spoil,
From every part of Wales unto me drew,
For loitering youth untaught in any toil
Are ready aye all mischief to ensue.
75Through help of these so great my glory grew,
That I defied my king through lofty heart,
And made sharp war on all that took his part.
See luck, I took lord Reynold Grey of Ruthin,
And him enforced my daughter to espouse,
80And so unransomed held him still: and sithen
In Wigmore land through battle rigorous
I caught the right heir of the crowned house
The Earl of March sir Edmund Mortimer,
And in a dungeon kept him prisoner,
85Then all the marches longing unto Wales
By Severn west I did invade and burn,
Destroyed the towns in mountains and in vales,
And rich in spoils did homeward safe return:
Was none so bold durst once against me spurn.
90Thus prosperously doth Fortune forward call
Those whom she minds to give the sorest fall.
When fame had brought these tidings to the king
(Although the Scots then vexed him right sore)
A mighty army against me he did bring.
95Whereof the French king being warned afore,
Who mortal hate against King Henry bore,
To grieve our foe he quickly to me sent
Twelve thousand Frenchmen armed to war, & bent.
A part of them led by the Earl of March
100Lord James of Bourbon, a valiant tried knight
Withheld by winds to Wales ward forth to march,
Took land at Plymouth privily on a night.
And when he had done all he durst or might,
After that a many of his men were slain
105He stole to ship, and sailed home again.
Twelve thousand more in Milford did arrive,
And came to me, then lying at Denby
With armed Welshmen thousands double five,
With whom we went to Worcester well nigh,
110And there encamped us on a mount on high,
To abide the king, who shortly after came
And pitched his field, on a hill hard by the same.
There eight days long, our hosts lay face to face,
And neither durst the other’s power assail:
115But they so stopped the passages the space
That victuals could not come to our avail,
Where through constraint our hearts began to fail
So that the Frenchmen shrank away by night,
And I with mine to the mountains took our flight.
120The king pursued us, greatly to his cost,
From hills to woods, from woods to valley's plain:
And by the way his men and stuff he lost.
And when he saw he gained naught save pain,
He blew retreat, and got him home again.
125Then with my power I boldly came abroad
Taken in my country for a very God.
Immediately after fell a jolly jar
Between the king, and Percies worthy bloods,
Which grew at last unto a deadly war.
130For like as drops engender mighty floods,
And little seeds sprout forth great leaves and buds,
Even so small strifes, if they be suffered run
Breed wrath and war, and death or they be done.
The king would have the ransom of such Scots
135As these the Percies had taken in the field.
But see how strongly Lucre knits her knots,
The king will have, the Percies will not yield.
Desire of goods soon craves, but granteth seld.
O cursed goods, desire of you hath wrought
140All wickedness, that hath or can be thought.
The Percies deemed it meeter for the king
To have redeemed their cousin Mortimer,
Who in his quarrel all his power did bring
To fight with me, that took him prisoner,
145Than of their prey to rob his soldier,
And therefore willed him see some mean were found,
To quit forth him whom I kept vilely bound.
Because the king misliked their request,
They came them selves and did accord with me,
150Complaining how the kingdom was oppressed,
By Henry’s rule, wherefore we did agree
To put him down, and part the realm in three:
The North part theirs, Wales wholly to be mine
The rest to rest to the Earl of March’s line.
155And for to set us hereon more agog
A prophet came (a vengeance take them all)
Affirming Henry to be Gogmagog
Whom Merlin doth a mouldwarp ever call,
Accursed of god, that must be brought in thrall
160By a wolf, a dragon, and a lion strong,
Which should divide his kingdom them among.
This crafty dreamer made us three such beasts
To think we were these foresaid beasts indeed,
And for that cause our badges and our crests
165We searched out, which scarcely well agreed,
Howbeit the heralds ready at such a need,
Drew down such issues from old ancestors,
As proved these ensigns to be surely ours.
Ye crafty Welshmen, wherefore do you mock
170The noble men thus with your feigned rhymes?
Ye noble men why fly you not the flock
Of such as have seduced so many times?
False prophecies are plagues for diverse crimes
Which god doth let the devilish sort devise
175To trouble such as are not godly wise.
And that appeared by us three beasts in deed,
Through false persuasion highly born in hand
That in our feat we could not choose but speed
To kill the king, and to enjoy his land.
180For which exploit we bound our selves in band
To stand contented each man with his part,
So fully folly assured our foolish heart.
But such they say as fish before the net
Shall seldom surfeit of the prey they take,
185Of things to come the haps be so unset
That none but fools may warrant of them make.
The full assured, success doth oft forsake.
For Fortune findeth none so fit to flout,
As suresby sots which cast no kind of doubt.
190How sayest thou Henry Hotspur, do I lie?
For thou right manly gavest the king a field,
And there was slain because thou wouldest not fly.
Sir Thomas Percy thine uncle (forced to yield)
Did cast his head (a wonder seen but seld)
195From Shrewsbury town to the top of London bridge.
Lo thus fond hope did their both lives abridge.
When Henry king this victory had won,
Destroyed the Percies, put their power to flight,
He did appoint prince Henry his eldest son
200With all his power to meet me if he might.
But I discomfort through my partners' fight
Had not the heart to meet him face to face,
But fled away, and he pursued the chase.
Now Baldwin mark, for I, called prince of Wales,
205And made believe I should be he indeed,
Was made to fly among the hills and dales,
Where all my men forsook me at my need.
Who trusteth loiterers seld hath lucky speed,
And when the captain's courage doth him fail
210His soldiers’ hearts a little thing may quail.
And so Prince Henry chased me, that lo
I found no place wherein I might abide,
For as the dogs pursue the sely doe,
The brach behind the hounds on every side,
215So traced they me among the mountains wide,
Whereby I found I was the heartless hare
And not the beast colprophet did declare.
And at the last: like as the little roach
Must either be eat, or leap upon the shore
220When as the hungry pickrel doth approach,
And there find death which it escaped before,
So double death assaulted me so sore
That either I must unto my enemy yield,
Or starve for hunger in the barren field.
225Here shame and pain a while were at a strife,
Pain prayed me yield, shame bade me rather fast.
The one bade spare, the other spend my life,
But shame (shame have it) overcame at last.
Than hunger gnew, that doth the stone wall brast
230And made me eat both gravel, dirt and mud,
And last of all, my dung, my flesh, and blood.
This was mine end too horrible to hear,
Yet good enough for a life that was so ill.
Whereby (O Baldwin) warn all men to bear
235Their youth such love, to bring them up in skill
Bid princes fly colprophets' lying bill,
And not presume to climb above their states,
For they be faults that foil men, not their fates.