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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.

Swinstead Abbey

Swinstead Abbey

By William Shakespeare (1564–1616)

From “The Life and Death of King John,” Act V. Scene 7.

PRINCE HENRY.It is too late; the life of all his blood

Is touch’d corruptibly; and his pure brain

(Which some suppose the soul’s frail dwelling-house)

Doth, by the idle comments that it makes,

Foretell the ending of mortality.

PEM.His Highness yet doth speak; and holds belief,

That, being brought into the open air,

It would allay the burning quality

Of that fell poison which assaileth him.

P. HEN.Let him be brought into the orchard here.—

Doth he still rage?[Exit BIGOT.
PEM.He is more patient

Than when you left him; even now he sung.

P. HEN.O, vanity of sickness! fierce extremes,

In their continuance, will not feel themselves.

Death, having preyed upon the outward parts,

Leaves them insensible; and his siege is now

Against the mind, the which he pricks and wounds

With many legions of strange fantasies;

Which, in their throng and press to that last hold,

Confound themselves. ’T is strange, that Death should sing.

I am the cygnet to this pale, faint swan,

Who chants a doleful hymn to his own death;

And, from the organ-pipe of frailty, sings

His soul and body to their lasting rest.

SAL.Be of good comfort, Prince; for you are born

To set a form upon that indigest,

Which he hath left so shapeless and so rude.

Re-enter BIGOT and Attendants, who bring in KING JOHN in a chair.
K. JOHN.Ay, marry, now my soul hath elbow-room;

It would not out at windows, nor at doors.

There is so hot a summer in my bosom,

That all my bowels crumble up to dust.

I am a scribbled form, drawn with a pen

Upon a parchment; and against this fire

Do I shrink up.

P. HEN.How fares your Majesty?

K. JOHN.Poisoned,—ill fare;—dead, forsook, cast off;

And none of you will bid the Winter come,

To thrust his icy fingers in my maw;

Nor let my kingdom’s rivers take their course

Through my burn’d bosom; nor entreat the North

To make his bleak winds kiss my parched lips,

And comfort me with cold.—I do not ask you much,

I beg cold comfort; and you are so strait,

And so ingrateful, you deny me that.

P. HEN.O that there were some virtue in my tears,

That might relieve you!

K. JOHN.The salt in them is hot.—

Within me is a hell; and there the poison

Is, as a fiend, confined to tyrannize

On unreprievable-condemned blood.

Enter the BASTARD.
BAST.Oh! I am scalded with my violent motion,

And spleen of speed to see your Majesty.

K. JOHN.O cousin, thou art come to set mine eye.

The tackle of my heart is cracked and burned;

And all the shrouds, wherewith my life should sail,

Are turned to one thread, one little hair.

My heart hath one poor string to stay it by,

Which holds but till thy news be uttered;

And then all this thou seest is but a clod,

And module of confounded royalty.

BAST.The Dolphin is preparing hitherward:

Where, Heaven he knows, how we shall answer him;

For, in a night, the best part of my power,

As I upon advantage did remove,

Were in the Washes, all unwarily,

Devoured by the unexpected flood.[The King dies.

SAL.You breathe these dead news in as dead an ear.—

My liege! my lord!—But now a king,—now thus.

P. HEN.Even so must I run on, and even so stop.

What surety of the world, what hope, what stay,

When this was now a king, and now is clay!