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  • Title: The History of King Leir (Modern)
  • Editor: Andrew Griffin

  • Copyright Queen's Men Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Anonymous
    Editor: Andrew Griffin
    Peer Reviewed

    The History of King Leir (Modern)

    2090.1[Scene 24] [Video Sc.24]
    Enter the King of Gallia, Cordella, and Mumford, with a basket [and table], disguised like country folk.
    This tedious journey all on foot, sweet love,
    Cannot be pleasing to your tender joints
    2095Which ne'er were usèd to these toilsome walks.
    I never in my life took more delight
    In any journey than I do in this;
    [Enter attendants with banquet table.]
    It did me good, whenas we happed to light
    Amongst the merry crew of country folk,
    2100To see what industry and pains they took
    To win them commendations 'mongst their friends.
    Lord, how they labor to bestir themselves,
    And in their quirks to go beyond the moon,
    And so take on them with such antic fits
    2105That one would think they were beside their wits!
    Come away, Roger, with your basket.
    Soft, dame, here comes a couple of old youths.
    I must needs make myself fat with jesting at them.
    Enter Leir and Perillus, very faintly
    Nay, prithee do not; they do seem to be
    2110Men much o'ergone with grief and misery.
    Let's stand aside and harken what they say.
    [Cordella, Gallia, and Mumford stand aside and listen to Leir and Perillus.]
    Ah, my Perillus, now I see we both
    Shall end our days in this unfruitful soil.
    Oh, I do faint for want of sustenance,
    2115And thou, I know, in little better case.
    No gentle tree affords one taste of fruit
    To comfort us until we meet with men,
    No lucky path conducts our luckless steps
    Unto a place where any comfort dwells.
    2120Sweet rest betide unto our happy souls,
    For here I see our bodies must have end.
    Ah, my dear lord, how doth my heart lament
    To see you brought to this extremity!
    Oh, if you love me, as you do profess,
    2125Or ever thought well of me in my life,
    He strips up his arm.
    Feed on this flesh, whose veins are not so dry
    But there is virtue left to comfort you.
    Oh, feed on this; if this will do you good,
    I'll smile for joy to see you suck my blood.
    I am no cannibal that I should delight
    To slake my hungry jaws with human flesh;
    I am no devil, or ten times worse than so,
    To suck the blood of such a peerless friend.
    Oh, do not think that I respect my life
    2135So dearly as I do thy loyal love. --
    Ah, Britain, I shall never see thee more,
    That hast unkindly banishèd thy king,
    And yet not thou dost make me to complain,
    But they which were more near to me than thou.
    What do I hear? This lamentable voice,
    Methinks, ere now I oftentimes have heard.
    Ah, Gonorill, was half my kingdom's gift
    The cause that thou didst seek to have my life?
    Ah, cruel Ragan, did I give thee all,
    2145And all could not suffice without my blood?
    Ah, poor Cordella, did I give thee nought,
    Nor never shall be able for to give?
    Oh, let me warn all ages that ensueth
    How they trust flattery and reject the truth.
    2150Well, unkind girls, I here forgive you both --
    Yet the just heavens will hardly do the like --
    And only crave forgiveness, at the end,
    Of good Cordella, and of thee, my friend;
    Of God, whose majesty I have offended
    2155By my transgression many thousand ways;
    Of her, dear heart, whom I for no occasion
    Turned out of all through flatterers' persuasion;
    Of thee, kind friend, who, but for me, I know,
    Hadst never come unto this place of woe.
    Alack, that ever I should live to see
    My noble father in this misery.
    Sweet love, reveal not what thou art as yet,
    Until we know the ground of all this ill.
    Oh, but some meat, some meat! Do you not see
    2165How near they are to death for want of food?
    [Cordella takes Mumford's basket and empties out the food onto a table.]
    Lord, which didst help thy servants at their need,
    Or now or never send us help with speed.--
    Oh, comfort, comfort! Yonder is a banquet
    And men and women, my lord; be of good cheer,
    2170For I see comfort coming very near.
    Oh, my lord, a banquet and men and women!
    Oh, let kind pity mollify their hearts
    That they may help us in our great extremes.
    God save you, friends, and if this blessed banquet
    2175Affordeth any food or sustenance,
    Even for his sake that saved us all from death,
    Vouchsafe to save us from the grip of famine.
    [Cordella] bringeth [Perillus] to the table.
    Here, father, sit and eat; here, sit and drink,
    And would it were far better for your sakes.
    2180Perillus takes Leir by the hand to the table.
    I'll give you thanks anon: my friend doth faint
    And needeth present comfort.
    Leir drinks.
    [Aside] I warrant, he ne'er stays to say grace.
    Oh, there's no sauce to a good stomach.
    The blessèd God of heaven hath thought upon us.
    The thanks be His, and these kind courteous folk,
    By whose humanity we are preserved.
    They eat hungrily. Leir drinks.
    And may that draught be unto him as was
    That which old Aeson drank, which did renew
    2190His withered age and made him young again.
    And may that meat be unto him as was
    That which Elias ate, in strength whereof
    He walked forty days and never fainted.
    [To King of Gallia] Shall I conceal me longer from my father?
    2195Or shall I manifest myself to him?
    Forbear a while until his strength return,
    Lest being overjoyed with seeing thee
    His poor weak senses should forsake their office
    And so our cause of joy be turned to sorrow.
    What cheer, my lord? How do you feel yourself?
    Methinks I never ate such savory meat:
    It is as pleasant as the blessed manna,
    That rained from heaven amongst the Israelites.
    It hath recalled my spirits home again
    2205And made me fresh as erst I was before.
    But how shall we congratulate their kindness?
    In faith, I know not how sufficiently,
    But the best mean that I can think on is this:
    I'll offer them my doublet in requital,
    2210For we have nothing else to spare.
    Nay, stay, Perillus, for they shall have mine.
    Pardon, my lord, I swear they shall have mine.
    Perillus proffers his doublet; they will not take it.
    Ah, who would think such kindness should remain
    2215Among such strange and unacquainted men,
    And that such hate should harbor in the breast
    Of those which have occasion to be best?
    Ah, good old father, tell to me thy grief;
    I'll sorrow with thee if not add relief.
    Ah, good young daughter, I may call thee so,
    For thou art like a daughter I did owe.
    Do you not owe her still? What, is she dead?
    No, God forbid, but all my interest's gone
    By showing myself too much unnatural;
    2225So have I lost the title of a father
    And may be called a stranger to her rather.
    Your title's good still, for 'tis always known
    A man may do as him list with his own.
    But have you but one daughter then in all?
    Yes, I have more by two than would I had.
    Oh, say not so, but rather see the end:
    They that are bad may have the grace to mend.
    But how have they offended you so much?
    If from the first I should relate the cause,
    2235'Twould make a heart of adamant to weep,
    And thou, poor soul, kind-hearted as thou art,
    Dost weep already ere I do begin.
    For God's love tell it, and when you have done
    I'll tell the reason why I weep so soon.
    Then know this first, I am a Briton born,
    And had three daughters by one loving wife;
    And, though I say it, of beauty they were sped,
    Especially the youngest of the three,
    For her perfections hardly matched could be.
    2245On these I doted with a jealous love
    And thought to try which of them loved me best
    By asking them which would do most for me.
    The first and second flattered me with words
    And vowed they loved me better than their lives.
    2250The youngest said she loved me as a child
    Might do. Her answer I esteemed most vile
    And presently, in an outrageous mood,
    I turned her from me to go sink or swim,
    And all I had, even to the very clothes,
    2255I gave in dowry with the other two;
    And she that best deserved the greatest share,
    I gave her nothing but disgrace and care.
    Now mark the sequel: when I had done thus,
    I sojourned in my eldest daughter's house
    2260Where, for a time, I was entreated well
    And lived in state sufficing my content.
    But every day her kindness did grow cold,
    Which I with patience put up well enough,
    And seemèd not to see the things I saw.
    2265But at the last she grew so far incensed
    With moody fury and with causeless hate
    That, in most vile and contumelious terms,
    She bade me pack and harbor somewhere else.
    Then was I fain for refuge to repair
    2270Unto my other daughter for relief,
    Who gave me pleasing and most courteous words,
    But in her actions showed herself so sore
    As never any daughter did before.
    She prayed me in a morning out betime
    2275To go to a thicket two miles from the court,
    'Pointing that there she would come talk with me;
    There she had set a shag-haired murd'ring wretch
    To massacre my honest friend and me.
    Then judge yourself, although my tale be brief,
    2280If ever man had greater cause of grief.
    Nor never like impiety was done
    Since the creation of the world begun.
    And now I am constrained to seek relief
    Of her to whom I have been so unkind,
    2285Whose censure, if it do award me death,
    I must confess she pays me but my due.
    But if she show a loving daughter's part,
    It comes of God and her, not my desert.
    No doubt she will. I dare be sworn she will.
    How know you that, not knowing what she is?
    Myself a father have a great way hence,
    Used me as ill as ever you did her;
    Yet, that his reverend age I once might see,
    I'd creep along to meet him on my knee.
    Oh, no men's children are unkind but mine.
    Condemn not all because of others' crime,
    But look, dear father, look, behold and see,
    Thy loving daughter speaketh unto thee.
    She kneels.
    Oh, stand thou up! It is my part to kneel
    2300And ask forgiveness for my former faults.
    He kneels.
    Oh, if you wish I should enjoy my breath,
    Dear father rise, or I receive my death.
    He riseth.
    Then I will rise, to satisfy your mind,
    But kneel again, till pardon be resigned.
    He kneels.
    I pardon you; the word beseems not me,
    But I do say so for to ease your knee.
    You gave me life, you were the cause that I
    Am what I am, who else had never been.
    But you gave life to me and to my friend,
    2310Whose days had else had an untimely end.
    You brought me up whenas I was but young,
    And far unable for to help myself.
    I cast thee forth whenas thou wast but young
    And far unable for to help thyself.
    God, world, and nature say I do you wrong,
    That can endure to see you kneel so long.
    Let me break off this loving controversy,
    Which doth rejoice my very soul to see.
    Good father, rise. She is your loving daughter,
    He riseth.
    2320And honors you with as respective duty
    As if you were the monarch of the world.
    But I will never rise from off my knee,
    She kneels.
    Until I have your blessing and your pardon
    Of all my faults committed any way
    2325From my first birth unto this present day.
    The blessing, which the God of Abraham gave
    Unto the tribe of Judah, light on thee,
    And multiply thy days, that thou mayst see
    Thy children's children prosper after thee.
    2330Thy faults, which are just none that I do know,
    God pardon on high, and I forgive below.
    She riseth.
    Now is my heart at quiet and doth leap
    Within my breast for joy of this good hap.
    And now, dear father, welcome to our court,
    2335And welcome, kind Perillus, unto me,
    Mirror of virtue and true honesty.
    Oh, he hath been the kindest friend to me
    That ever man had in adversity.
    My tongue doth fail to say what heart doth think,
    2340I am so ravished with exceeding joy.
    All you have spoke, now let me speak my mind,
    And in few words much matter here conclude:
    He kneels.
    If e'er my heart do harbor any joy
    Or true content repose within my breast
    2345Till I have rooted out this viperous sect
    And repossessed my father of his crown,
    Let me be counted for the perjured'st man
    That ever spake word since the world began.
    [He] rise[s].
    Let me pray too, that never prayed before;
    Mumford kneels.
    2350If e'er I resalute the British earth,
    As, ere't be long, I do presume I shall,
    And do return from thence without my wench,
    Let me be gelded for my recompense.
    [Mumford] rise[s].
    Come, let's to arms for to redress this wrong.
    2355Till I am there, methinks the time seems long.