Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: John Higgins
Editor: Andrew Griffin
Not Peer Reviewed

John Higgins (Selection)

1If any woeful wight have cause to wail her woe,
Or griefs are past do prick us Princes, tell our fall:
Myself likewise must needes constrained eke do so,
And show my like misfortunes and mishaps withal.
5Should I keep close my heavy haps and thrall,
Then did I wrong: I wronged myself and thee,
Which of my facts a witness true mayest be.
A woman yet must blush when bashful is the case,
Though truth bid tell the tale and story as it fell,
10But sith that I mislike not audience, time, nor place,
Therefore, I cannot keep my woes in counsel well.
Not greater ease of heart then griefs to tell,
It vaunteth all the dolors of our mind,
Our careful hearts thereby great comfort find.
15For why to tell that may recounted be again,
And tell it as our eares may compass ease,
That is the salve and medicine of our pain,
Which cureth corsies all and sores of our disease:
It doth our pinching pangs and pains appease,
20It pleads the part of an assurèd friend,
And tells the trade, like vices to amend.
Therefore if I more willing be to tell my fall,
With my mishaps to ease my burdened breast and mind,
Some others haply may avoid and shun the thrall,
25And thereby for distress more aid and comfort find.
They keeping measure, whereas I declined,
May be as prompt to fly like bruit and blame
As I to tell, or thou to write the same.
Wherefore if thou wilt afterwards record
30What Queen Cordila tells to ease her inward smart,
I will recite my story tragical each word,
To thee that giv'st an ear, and ready art.
But lest I set the horse behind the cart,
I mind to tell each thing in order, so
35As thou may'st see and show whence sprang my woe.
My grandsire Bladud hight, that found the baths by skill,
A feathered king that practiced high to soar,
Whereby he felt the fall, God wot against his will,
And never went, rode, reigned, nor spake, nor flew no more.
40After whose death my father Leir therefore
Was chosen king, by right apparent heir,
Which after built the town of Leircèstere.
He had three daughters, first and eldest hight Gonerell,
Next after her his younger Ragan was begot:
45The third and last was I the youngest, named Cordell.
Us all our father Leir did love too well God wot,
But minding her that loved him best to note,
Because he had no son t'enjoy his land,
He thought to guerdon most where favour most he found.
50What though I youngest were, yet me judged more wise
Than either Gonerell, or Ragan more of age,
And fairer far, wherefore my sisters did despise
My grace and gifts, and sought my wreck to wage.
But yet though vice on virtue die with rage,
55It cannot keep her underneath to drown,
For still she sits above, and reaps renown.
My father thought to wed us unto princely peers,
And unto them and theirs divide and part the land.
For both my sisters first he called (as first their years
60Required) their minds, and love, and favor t'understand.
Quod he, "All doubts of duty to aband',
I must assay your friendly faiths to prove:
My daughters, tell me how you do me love."
Which when they answered him they loved their father more
65Than they themselves did love, or any worldly wight:
He praised them, and said he would therefore
The loving kindness they deserved in fine requite.
So found my sisters favour in his sight,
By flattery fair they won their father's heart,
70Which after turned him and me to smart.
But not content with this, he asked me likewise
If I did not him love and honor well.
"No cause," quod I, "there is I should your grace despise,
For nature so doth bind and duty me compel,
75To love you, as I ought my father, well.
Yet shortly I may chance, if Fortune will,
To find in heart to bear another more good will."
Thus much I said of nuptial loves that ment
Not minding once of hatred vile or ire:
80And partly taxing them, for which intent
They set my father's heart on wrathful fire.
"She never shall to any part aspire
Of this my realm," quod he, "amongst you twain,
But shall without all dowry aye remain."
85Then to Maglaurus Prince, with Albany, he gave
My sister Gonerell, the eldest of us all,
And eke my sister Ragan to Hinnine to have,
And for her dowry Camber and Cornwall.
These after him should have his kingdom all.
90Between them both he gave it frank and free,
But nought at all he gave of dowry me.
At last it chanced a prince of France to hear my fame:
My beauty brave, my wit was blazed abroad each where.
My noble virtues praised me to my father's blame,
95Who did for flattery me less friendly favour bear,
Which when this worthy prince, I say, did hear,
He sent ambassage liked me more than life
And soon obtained me to be his wife.
Prince Aganippus reaved me of my woe,
100And that for virtue's sake, of dowries all the best.
So I contented was to France my father fro'
For to depart, and hoped t'enjoy some greater rest.
Where living well beloved, my joys increased:
I got more favour in that prince his sight
105Than ever princess of a princely wight.
But while that I these joys so well enjoyed in France,
My father Leir in Britain was unwieldy old.
Whereon his daughters more themselves aloft t'advance
Desired the realm to rule it as they would.
110Their former love and friendship waxed cold,
Their husbands revels void of reason quite
Rose up, rebelled, bereft his crown and right,
Caused him agree they might in parts equall
Divide the realm, and promised him a guard
115Of sixty knights on him attending still at call.
But in six months such was his hap too hard,
That Gonerell of his retinue barred.
The half of them, she and her husband rest,
And scarce allowed the other half they left.
120Eke as in Albany lay he lamenting fates,
When as my sister so, sought all his utter spoil:
The meaner upstart courtiers thought themselves his mates,
His daughter him disdained and forced not his foil.
Then was he fain for succor his to toil
125With half his train, to Cornwall there to lie
In greatest need, his Ragan's love to try.
So when he came to Cornwall, she with joy
Received him, and Prince Maglaurus did the like.
There he abode a year, and lived without annoy,
130But then they took all his retinue from him quite
Save only ten, and showed him daily spite.
Which he bewailed complaining durst not strive
Though in disdain they last allowed but five.
What more despite could devilish beasts devise
135Than joy their father's woeful days to see?
What vipers vile could so their King despise,
Or so unkind, so curst, to cruel be?
Fro' thence again he went to Albany,
Where they bereaved his servants all save one,
140Bade him content himself with that, or none.
Eke at what time he asked of them to have his guard
To guard his noble grace where so he went;
They called him "doting fool," all his requests debarred,
Demanding if with life he were not well content,
145Then he too late his rigour did repent.
'Gainst me, my sisters fawning love that knew
Found flattery false, that seemed so fair in view.
To make it short, to France he came at last to me,
And told me how my sisters evil their father used.
150Then humbly I besought my noble king so free,
That he would aid my father thus by his abused.
Who not at all my humble he 'hest refused,
But sent to every coast of France for aid,
Whereby King Leir might home be well conveyed.
155The soldiers gathered from each quarter of the land
Come at length to know the noble prince's will,
Who did commit them unto captains every band.
And I likewise of love and reverent mere goodwill
Desired my lord, he would not take it ill
160If I departed for a space withal,
To take a part, or ease my father's thrall.
He granted my request, thence we arrived here,
And of our Britons came to aid likewise his right
Full many subjects, good and stout that were.
165By martial feats, and force, by subjects sword and might,
The British kings were fain to yield to our right,
Which won, my father well this realm did guide
Three years in peace, and after that he died.
Then I was crowned Queen this realm to hold . . .