|King. . . . . Our names are written equal
In Fame's wide-trophied halls; 'tis ours to gild
The letters, and to make them shine with gold
That never tarnishes: whether Third Edward,
Or Prince of Wales or Montacute or Mortimer,
Or e'en the least by birth, gain brightest fame,
Is in His hand to whom all men are equal.
The world of men is like the numerous stars
That beam and twinkle in the depth of night,
Each clad in glory according to his sphere:—
But we that wander from our native seats,
And beam forth lustre on a darkling world,
Grow larger as we advance; and some, perhaps
The most obscure at home, that scarce were seen
To twinkle in their sphere, may so advance
That the astonish'd world, with upturn'd eyes,
Regardless of the moon and those once bright,
Stand only but to gaze upon their splendour. [He here knights the Prince and other young Nobles.
Now let us take a just revenge for those
Brave lords who fell beneath the bloody axe
At Paris. Noble Harcourt, thanks, for 'twas
By your advice we landed here in Brittany,
A country not as yet sown with destruction,
And where the fiery whirlwind of swift war
Hath not yet swept its desolating wing.
Into three parties we divide by day,
And separate march, but join again at night:
Each knows his rank, and Heaven marshals all. [Exeunt.
SCENE III.— At Cressy. The King and Sir Thomas Dagworth. The Prince of Wales and Sir John Chandos.
King. What can Sir Thomas Dagworth
Request that Edward can refuse?
Dagw. I hope
Your majesty cannot refuse so mere
A trifle: I've gilt your cause with my best blood,
And would again, were I not now forbid
By him whom I am bound to obey. My hands
Are tied up, all my courage shrunk and wither'd,
My sinews slacken'd, and my voice scarce heard:
Therefore I beg I may return to England.
King. I know not what you could have ask'd, Sir Thomas,
That I would not have sooner parted with
Than such a soldier as you, and such a friend;
Nay, I will know the most remote particulars
Of this your strange petition, that if I can
I still may keep you here.
Dagw. Here on the fields of Cressy we are settled,
'Till Philip spring the timorous covey again.
The wolf is hunted down by causeless fear;
The lion flees, and fear usurps his heart,
Startled, astonish'd at the clamorous cock.
The eagle that doth gaze upon the sun
Fears the small fire that plays about the fen;
If at this moment of their idle fear
The dog seize the wolf, the forester the lion,
The negro, in the crevice of the rock,
Seize on the soaring eagle, undone by flight
They tame submit—such the effect flight has
On noble souls. Now hear its opposite:
The timorous stag starts from the thicket wild,
The fearful crane springs from the plashy fen,
The shining snake glides o'er the bending grass:
The stag turns head, and bays the crying hounds,
The crane o'ertaken fighteth with the hawk.
The snake doth turn and bite the padding foot.
And if your majesty's afraid of Philip,
You are more like a lion than a crane:
Therefore I beg I may return to England.
King. Sir Thomas, now I understand your mirth,
Which often plays with wisdom for its pastime,
And brings good counsel from the breast of laughter.
I hope you'll stay, and see us fight this battle,—
And reap rich harvest in the field of Cressy,
Then go to England, tell them how we fight,
And set all hearts on fire to be with us.
Philip is plum'd, and thinks we flee from him,
Else he would never dare to attack us. Now,
Now is the quarry set! and Death doth sport
In the bright sunshine of this fatal day.
Dagw. Now my heart dances, and I am as light
As the young bridegroom going to be married.
Now must I to my soldiers, get them ready.
Furbish our armours bright, new plume our helms,
And we will sing like the young housewives busied
In the dairy. Now my feet are wing'd, but not
For flight, an 't please your grace.
King. If all my soldiers are as pleased as you,
'Twill be a gallant thing to fight or die.
Then I can never be afraid of Philip.
Dagw. A rawbon'd fellow t'other day pass'd by me;
I told him to put off his hungry looks;
He said: ' I hunger for another battle.'
I saw a Welshman with a fiery face:
I told him that he look'd like a candle half
Burn'd out. He answer'd he was 'pig enough
To light another pattle.' Last night beneath
The moon I walk'd abroad when all had pitch'd
Their tents, and all were still:
I heard a blooming youth singing a song
He had compos'd, and at each pause he wip'd
His dropping eyes. The ditty was,—'If he
Return'd victorious he should wed a maiden
Fairer than snow and rich as midsummer.'
Another wept, and wish'd health to his father.
I chid them both, but gave them noble hopes.
These are the minds that glory in the battle,
And leap and dance to hear the trumpet sound.
King. Sir Thomas Dagworth, be thou near our person:
Thy heart is richer than the vales of France;
I will not part with such a man as thou.
If Philip came arm'd in the ribs of death,
And shook his mortal dart against my head,
Thou'dst laugh his fury into nerveless shame!
Go now, for thou art suited to the work,
Throughout the camp; inflame the timorous,
Blow up the sluggish into ardour, and
Confirm the strong with strength, the weak inspire,
And wing their brows with hope and expectation:
Then to our tent return, and meet the Council.
Prince. Now we are alone, Sir John, I will unburthen
And breathe my hopes into the burning air,
Where thousand deaths are posting up and down,
Commission'd to this fatal field of Cressy.
Methinks I see them arm my gallant soldiers,
And gird the sword upon each thigh, and fit
Each shining helm, and string each stubborn bow,
And dance unto the neighing of our steeds:
Methinks the shout begins, the battle burns;
Methinks I see them perch on English crests.
And roar the wild flame of fierce war upon
The thronged enemy. In truth, I am too full;
It is my sin to love the noise of war.
Chandos, thou seest my weakness; for strong Nature
Will bend or break us. My blood like a spring-tide
Does rise so high to overflow all bounds
Of moderation; while Reason in her
Frail bark can see no shore or bound for vast
Ambition. Come then, take the helm, my Chandos,
That my full-blown sails overset me not
In the wild tempest; condemn my venturous youth
That plays with danger as the innocent child,
Unthinking, plays upon the viper's den:
I am a coward in my reason, Chandos.
Chandos. You are a man, my Prince, and a brave man,
If I can judge of actions; but your heat
Is the effect of youth and want of use;
Use makes the armed field and noisy war
Pass over as a cloud does, unregarded,
Or but expected as a thing of course.
Age is contemplative; each rolling year
Doth bring forth fruit to the mind's treasure-house;
While vacant Youth doth crave and seek about
Within itself, and findeth discontent;
Then, tir'd of thought, impatient takes the wing,
Seizes the fruits of Time, attacks Experience,
Roams round vast Nature's forest, where no bounds
Are set; the swiftest may have room, the strongest
Find prey; till, tir'd at length, sated and tir'd
With the still changing sameness, old variety,
We sit us down, and view our former joys
Prince. Then, if we must tug for experience,
Let us not fear to beat round Nature's wilds
And rouse the strongest prey; then if we fall,
We fall with glory: for I know the wolf
Is dangerous to fight, not good for food,
Nor is the hide a comely vestment; so
We have our battle for our pains. I know
That youth has need of age to point fit prey,
And oft the stander-by shall steal the fruit
Of the other's labour. This is philosophy;
These are the tricks of the world; but the pure soul
Shall mount on wings, disdaining little sport,
And cut a path into the heaven of glory,
Leaving a track of light for men to wonder at.
I'm glad my father does not hear me talk:
You can find friendly excuses for me, Chandos;
But, do you not think, Sir John, that if it please
The Almighty to stretch out my span of life
I shall with pleasure view a glorious action
Which my youth master'd?
Chand. Age, my lord, views motives,
And views not acts. When neither warbling voice
Nor trilling pipe is heard, nor pleasure sits
With trembling age, the voice of Conscience, then
Sweeter than music in a summer's eve,
Shall warble round the snowy head, and keep
Sweet symphony to feather'd angels sitting
As guardians round your chair; then shall the pulse
Beat slow; and taste and touch, sight, sound, and smell,
That sing and dance round Reason's fine-wrought throne,
Shall flee away, and leave him all forlorn—
Yet not forlorn if Conscience is his friend.[Exeunt.
SCENE V.—In Sir Thomas Dagworth's Tent. To him enters Sir Walter Manny.
Sir Walter. Sir Thomas Dagworth, I have been a-weeping
Over the men that are to die to-day.
Dagw. Why, brave Sir Walter, you or I may fall.
Sir Walter. I know this breathing flesh must lie and rot
Cover'd with silence and forgetfulness.—
Death wons in cities' smoke, and in still night,
When men sleep in their beds, walketh about!
How many in walled cities lie and groan.
Turning themselves about upon their beds,
Talking with Death, answering his hard demands!
How many walk in darkness, terrors around
The curtains of their beds, destruction still
Ready without the door! how many sleep
In earth, cover'd with stones and deathy dust.
Resting in quietness, whose spirits walk
Upon the clouds of heaven, to die no more!
Yet death is terrible, though on angels' wings:
How terrible, then, is the field of death!
Where he doth rend the vault of heav'n, and shake
The gates of hell! Oh, Dagworth! France is sick:
The very sky, tho' sunshine light it, seems
To me as pale as the pale fainting man
On his death-bed, whose face is shown by light
Of sickly taper! It makes me sad and sick
At very heart. Thousands must fall to-day.
Dagw. Thousands of souls must leave this prison house
To be exalted to those heavenly fields,
Where songs of triumph, palms of victory,
Where peace, and joy, and love, and calm content
Sit singing in the azure clouds, and strew
Flowers of heaven's growth over the banquet table.
Bind ardent Hope upon your feet like shoes,
Put on the robe of preparation,
The table is prepar'd in shining heav'n,
The flowers of immortality are blown;
Let those that fight fight in good steadfastness,
And those that fall shall rise in victory.
Sir Walter. I've often seen the burning field of war
And often heard the dismal clang of arms;
But never, till this fatal day of Cressy,
Has my soul fainted with these views of death.
I seem to be in one great charnel-house,
And seem to scent the rotten carcases!
I seem to hear the dismal yells of Death,
While the black gore drops from his horrid jaws;
Yet I not fear the monster in his pride.—
But oh, the souls that are to die to-day!
Dagw. Stop, brave Sir Walter, let me drop a tear,
Then let the clarion of war begin;
I'll fight and weep! 'tis in my country's cause;
I'll weep and shout for glorious liberty.
Grim War shall laugh and shout, bedeck'd in tears,
And blood shall flow like streams across the meadows,
That murmur down their pebbly channels, and
Spend their sweet lives to do their country service.
Then England's leaves shall shoot, her fields shall smile,
Her ships shall sing across the foaming sea,
Her mariners shall use the flute and viol,
And rattling guns and black and dreary war
Shall be no more.
Sir Walter. Well, let the trumpet sound and the drum beat;
Let war stain the blue heavens with bloody banners.
I'll draw my sword, nor ever sheath it up,
Till England blow the trump of victory,
Or I lie stretch'd upon the field of death. [Exeunt.
SCENE VI.—In the Camp. Several of the Warriors met in the King's Tent. A Minstrel sings.
O Sons of Trojan Brutus, cloth'd in war,
Whose voices are the thunder of the field,
Your ancestors came from the fires of Troy,
(Like lions rous'd by lightning from their dens,
Whose eyes do glare against the stormy fires,)
Heated with war, fill'd with the blood of Greeks,
With helmets hewn, and shields covered with gore,
In navies black, broken with wind and tide.
They landed in firm array upon the rocks
Of Albion; they kiss'd the rocky shore:
'Be thou our mother and our nurse,' they said,
'Our children's mother; and thou shalt be our grave,
'The sepulchre of ancient Troy, from whence
'Shall rise cities, and thrones, and awful powers.'
Our fathers swarm from the ships. Giant voices
Are heard from out the hills; the enormous sons
Of Ocean run from rocks and caves: wild men,
Naked, and roaring like lions, hurling rocks,
And wielding knotty clubs, like oaks entangled,
Thick as a forest ready for the axe.
Our fathers move in firm array to battle;
The savage monsters rush like roaring fire,
Like as a forest roars with crackling flames.
When the red lightning borne by furious storms
Lights on some woody shore, and the parch'd heavens
Rain fire into the molten raging sea.
Our fathers, sweating, lean on their spears and view
The mighty dead: giant bodies streaming blood,
Dread visages frowning in silent death.
Then Brutus speaks, inspired; our fathers sit
Attentive on the melancholy shore.
Hear ye the voice of Brutus:—'The flowing waves
'Of Time come rolling o'er my breast,' he said,
'And my heart labours with futurity.
'Our sons shall rule the empire of the sea,
'Their mighty wings shall stretch from east to west;
'Their nest is in the sea, but they shall roam
'Like eagles for their prey . . .
'Our sons shall rise from thrones in joy, each one
'Buckling his armour on; Morning shall be
'Prevented by the gleaming of their swords,
'And Evening hear their song of victory.
'Freedom shall stand upon the cliffs of Albion,
'Casting her blue eyes over the green ocean;
'Or, towering, stand upon the roaring waves,
'Stretching her mighty spear o'er distant lands,
'While with her eagle wings she covereth
'Fair Albion's shore and all her families.'