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William Shakespeare (1564–1616). The Oxford Shakespeare. 1914.

Act III. Scene VI.


Wales.Before the Cave of BELARIUS.

Enter IMOGEN, in boy’s clothes.

Imo.I see a man’s life is a tedious one;

I have tir’d myself, and for two nights together

Have made the ground my bed; I should be sick

But that my resolution helps me. Milford,

When from the mountain-top Pisanio show’d thee,

Thou wast within a ken. O Jove! I think

Foundations fly the wretched; such, I mean,

Where they should be reliev’d. Two beggars told me

I could not miss my way; will poor folks lie,

That have afflictions on them, knowing ’tis

A punishment or trial? Yes; no wonder,

When rich ones scarce tell true. To lapse in fulness

Is sorer than to lie for need, and falsehood

Is worse in kings than beggars. My dear lord!

Thou art one o’ the false ones. Now I think on thee,

My hunger’s gone, but even before I was

At point to sink for food. But what is this?

Here is a path to ’t; ’tis some savage hold;

I were best not call, I dare not call, yet famine,

Ere clean it o’erthrow nature, makes it valiant.

Plenty and peace breeds cowards, hardness ever

Of hardiness is mother. Ho! Who’s here?

If any thing that’s civil, speak; if savage,

Take or lend. Ho! No answer? Then I’ll enter.

Best draw my sword; and if mine enemy

But fear the sword like me, he’ll scarcely look on ’t.

Such a foe, good heavens![Exit to the cave.


Bel.You Polydore, have prov’d best woodman, and

Are master of the feast; Cadwal and I

Will play the cook and servant, ’tis our match;

The sweat of industry would dry and die

But for the end it works to. Come; our stomachs

Will make what’s homely savoury; weariness

Can snore upon the flint when resty sloth

Finds the down pillow hard. Now, peace be here,

Poor house, that keep’st thyself!

Gui.I am throughly weary.

Arv.I am weak with toil, yet strong in appetite.

Gui.There is cold meat i’ the cave; we’ll browse on that,

Whilst what we have kill’d be cook’d.

Bel.[Looking into the cave.]Stay; come not in;

But that it eats our victuals, I should think

Here were a fairy.

Gui.What’s the matter, sir?

Bel.By Jupiter, an angel! or, if not,

An earthly paragon! Behold divineness

No elder than a boy!

Re-enter IMOGEN.

Imo.Good masters, harm me not:

Before I enter’d here, I call’d; and thought

To have begg’d or bought what I have took. Good troth,

I have stol’n nought, nor would not, though I had found

Gold strew’d i’ the floor. Here’s money for my meat;

I would have left it on the board so soon

As I had made my meal, and parted

With prayers for the provider.

Gui.Money, youth?

Arv.All gold and silver rather turn to dirt!

As ’tis no better reckon’d but of those

Who worship dirty gods.

Imo.I see you’re angry.

Know, if you kill me for my fault, I should

Have died had I not made it.

Bel.Whither bound?

Imo.To Milford-Haven.

Bel.What’s your name?

Imo.Fidele, sir. I have a kinsman who

Is bound for Italy; he embark’d at Milford:

To whom being going, almost spent with hunger,

I am fall’n in this offence.

Bel.Prithee, fair youth,

Think us no churls, nor measure our good minds

By this rude place we live in. Well encounter’d!

’Tis almost night; you shall have better cheer

Ere you depart, and thanks to stay and eat it.

Boys, bid him welcome.

Gui.Were you a woman, youth,

I should woo hard but be your groom. In honesty,

I bid for you, as I do buy.

Arv.I’ll make ’t my comfort

He is a man; I’ll love him as my brother;

And such a welcome as I’d give to him

After a long absence, such is yours: most welcome!

Be sprightly, for you fall ’mongst friends.

Imo.’Mongst friends,

If brothers.[Aside.]Would it had been so, that they

Had been my father’s sons; then had my prize

Been less, and so more equal ballasting

To thee, Posthumus.

Bel.He wrings at some distress.

Gui.Would I could free ’t!

Arv.Or I, whate’er it be,

What pain it cost, what danger. Gods!

Bel.Hark, boys.[Whispering.

Imo.Great men,

That had a court no bigger than this cave,

That did attend themselves and had the virtue

Which their own conscience seal’d them,—laying by

That nothing-gift of differing multitudes,—

Could not out-peer these twain. Pardon me, gods!

I’d change my sex to be companion with them,

Since Leonatus’ false.

Bel.It shall be so.

Boys, we’ll go dress our hunt. Fair youth, come in:

Discourse is heavy, fasting; when we have supp’d,

We’ll mannerly demand thee of thy story,

So far as thou wilt speak it.

Gui.Pray, draw near.

Arv.The night to the owl and morn to the lark less welcome.

Imo.Thanks, sir.

Arv.I pray, draw near.[Exeunt.