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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)

    197.1[Scene 3] [Video Sc.3]
    Enter Leir and Perillus
    Perillus, go seek my daughters. Will them immediately
    200Come and speak with me.
    I will, my gracious lord.
    Oh, what a combat feels my panting heart
    'Twixt children's love and care of common weal!
    How dear my daughters are unto my soul
    205None knows but He that knows my thoughts and secret deeds.
    Ah, little do they know the dear regard
    Wherein I hold their future state to come.
    When they securely sleep on beds of down,
    These agèd eyes do watch for their behalf.
    210While they, like wantons, sport in youthful toys,
    This throbbing heart is pierced with dire annoys.
    As doth the sun exceed the smallest star,
    So much the father's love exceeds the child's.
    Yet my complaints are causeless, for the world
    215Affords not children more conformable,
    And yet methinks my mind presageth still
    I know not what, and yet I fear some ill.
    Enter Perillus, with the three daughters[, Gonorill, Ragan and Cordella]
    Well, here my daughters come. I have found out
    220A present means to rid me of this doubt.
    Our royal lord and father, in all duty
    We come to know the tenor of your will,
    Why you so hastily have sent for us.
    Dear Gonorill, kind Ragan, sweet Cordella,
    225Ye flourishing branches of a kingly stock,
    Sprung from a tree that once did flourish green,
    Whose blossoms now are nipped with winter's frost,
    And pale, grim Death doth wait upon my steps,
    And summons me unto his next assizes.
    230Therefore, dear daughters, as ye tender the safety
    Of him that was the cause of your first being,
    Resolve a doubt which much molests my mind:
    Which of you three to me would prove most kind,
    Which loves me most, and which, at my request,
    235Will soonest yield unto their father's hest?
    I hope my gracious father makes no doubt
    Of any of his daughters' love to him;
    Yet, for my part, to show my zeal to you,
    Which cannot be in windy words rehearsed,
    240I prize my love to you at such a rate,
    I think my life inferior to my love.
    Should you enjoin me for to tie a millstone
    About my neck and leap into the sea,
    At your command I willingly would do it.
    245Yea, for to do you good, I would ascend
    The highest turret in all Brittany,
    And from the top leap headlong to the ground.
    Nay, more, should you appoint me for to marry
    The meanest vassal in the spacious world,
    250Without reply I would accomplish it.
    In brief, command whatever you desire,
    And if I fail, no favor I require.
    Oh, how thy words revive my dying soul!
    [Aside] Oh, how I do abhor this flattery!
    But what saith Ragan to her father's will?
    Oh, that my simple utterance could suffice
    To tell the true intention of my heart,
    Which burns in zeal of duty to your grace
    And never can be quenched but by desire
    260To show the same in outward forwardness.
    Oh, that there were some other maid that durst
    But make a challenge of her love with me:
    I'd make her soon confess she never loved
    Her father half so well as I do you.
    265Ay, then my deeds should prove in plainer case
    How much my zeal aboundeth to your grace.
    But, for them all, let this one mean suffice
    To ratify my love before your eyes:
    I have right noble suitors to my love,
    270No worse than kings, and happily I love one;
    Yet, would you have me make my choice anew,
    I'd bridle fancy, and be ruled by you.
    Did never Philomel sing so sweet a note?
    [Aside]Did never flatterer tell so false a tale?
    Speak now, Cordella, make my joys at full,
    And drop down nectar from thy honey lips.
    I cannot paint my duty forth in words;
    I hope my deeds shall make report for me.
    But look what love the child doth owe the father:
    280The same to you I bear, my gracious lord.
    Here is an answer answerless indeed!
    Were you my daughter, I should scarcely brook it.
    Dost thou not blush, proud peacock as thou art,
    To make our father such a slight reply?
    Why, how now, minion, are you grown so proud?
    Doth our dear love make you thus peremptory?
    What, is your love become so small to us
    As that you scorn to tell us what it is?
    Do you love us as every child doth love
    290Their father? True indeed, as some
    Who by disobedience short their fathers' days,
    And so would you; some are so father-sick
    That they make means to rid them from the world,
    And so would you; some are indifferent
    295Whether their agèd parents live or die,
    And so are you. But didst thou know, proud girl,
    What care I had to foster thee to this,
    Ah, then thou wouldst say as thy sisters do:
    "Our life is less than love we owe to you."
    Dear father, do not so mistake my words,
    Nor my plain meaning be misconstrued;
    My tongue was never used to flattery.
    You were not best say I flatter: if you do,
    My deeds shall show I flatter not with you.
    305I love my father better than thou canst.
    The praise were great, spoke from another's mouth,
    But it should seem your neighbors dwell far off.
    Nay, here is one that will confirm as much
    As she hath said, both for myself and her.
    310I say thou dost not wish my father's good.
    Dear father --
    Peace, bastard imp, no issue of King Leir!
    I will not hear thee speak one tittle more.
    Call not me father if thou love thy life,
    315Nor these thy sisters once presume to name;
    Look for no help henceforth from me nor mine;
    Shift as thou wilt and trust unto thyself.
    My kingdom will I equally divide
    'Twixt thy two sisters to their royal dower,
    320And will bestow them worthy their deserts.
    This done, because thou shalt not have the hope
    To have a child's part in the time to come,
    I presently will dispossess myself
    And set up these upon my princely throne[H3].
    I ever thought that pride would have a fall.
    Plain-dealing sister, your beauty is so sheen,
    You need no dowry to make you be a queen.
    Exeunt Leir, Gonorill, Ragan.
    Now whither -- poor, forsaken -- shall I go,
    330When mine own sisters triumph in my woe,
    But unto Him which doth protect the just?
    In Him will poor Cordella put her trust.
    These hands shall labor for to get my spending,
    And so I'll live until my days have ending.
    Oh, how I grieve to see my lord thus fond
    To dote so much upon vain flattering words.
    Ah, if he but with good advice had weighed
    The hidden tenor of her humble speech,
    Reason to rage should not have given place,
    340Nor poor Cordella suffer such disgrace.