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

Act I. Scene I.

The First Part of King Henry the Fourth

London.The Palace.


K. Hen.So shaken as we are, so wan with care,

Find we a time for frighted peace to pant,

And breathe short-winded accents of new broils

To be commence’d in stronds afar remote.

No more the thirsty entrance of this soil

Shall daub her lips with her own children’s blood;

No more shall trenching war channel her fields,

Nor bruise her flowerets with the armed hoofs

Of hostile paces: those opposed eyes,

Which, like the meteors of a troubled heaven,

All of one nature, of one substance bred,

Did lately meet in the intestine shock

And furious close of civil butchery,

Shall now, in mutual well-beseeming ranks,

March all one way, and be no more oppos’d

Against acquaintance, kindred, and allies:

The edge of war, like an ill-sheathed knife,

No more shall cut his master. Therefore, friends,

As far as to the sepulchre of Christ,—

Whose soldier now, under whose blessed cross

We are impressed and engag’d to fight,—

Forthwith a power of English shall we levy,

Whose arms were moulded in their mother’s womb

To chase these pagans in those holy fields

Over whose acres walk’d those blessed feet

Which fourteen hundred years ago were nail’d

For our advantage on the bitter cross.

But this our purpose is a twelvemonth old,

And bootless ’tis to tell you we will go:

Therefore we meet not now. Then let me hear

Of you, my gentle cousin Westmoreland,

What yesternight our council did decree

In forwarding this dear expedience.

West.My liege, this haste was hot in question,

And many limits of the charge set down

But yesternight; when all athwart there came

A post from Wales loaden with heavy news;

Whose worst was, that the noble Mortimer,

Leading the men of Herefordshire to fight

Against the irregular and wild Glendower,

Was by the rude hands of that Welshman taken,

And a thousand of his people butchered;

Upon whose dead corpse’ there was such misuse,

Such beastly shameless transformation

By those Welshwomen done, as may not be

Without much shame re-told or spoken of.

K. Hen.It seems then that the tidings of this broil

Brake off our business for the Holy Land.

West.This match’d with other like, my gracious lord;

For more uneven and unwelcome news

Came from the north and thus it did import:

On Holy-rood day, the gallant Hotspur there,

Young Harry Percy and brave Archibald,

That ever-valiant and approved Scot,

At Holmedon met,

Where they did spend a sad and bloody hour;

As by discharge of their artillery,

And shape of likelihood, the news was told;

For he that brought them, in the very heat

And pride of their contention did take horse,

Uncertain of the issue any way.

K. Hen.Here is a dear and true industrious friend,

Sir Walter Blunt, new lighted from his horse,

Stain’d with the variation of each soil

Betwixt that Holmedon and this seat of ours;

And he hath brought us smooth and welcome news.

The Earl of Douglas is discomfited;

Ten thousand bold Scots, two and twenty knights,

Balk’d in their own blood did Sir Walter see

On Holmedon’s plains: of prisoners Hotspur took

Mordake the Earl of Fife, and eldest son

To beaten Douglas, and the Earls of Athol,

Of Murray, Angus, and Menteith.

And is not this an honourable spoil?

A gallant prize? ha, cousin, is it not?

West.In faith,

It is a conquest for a prince to boast of.

K. Hen.Yea, there thou mak’st me sad and mak’st me sin

In envy that my Lord Northumberland

Should be the father to so blest a son,

A son who is the theme of honour’s tongue;

Amongst a grove the very straightest plant;

Who is sweet Fortune’s minion and her pride:

Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him,

See riot and dishonour stain the brow

Of my young Harry. O! that it could be prov’d

That some night-tripping fairy had exchang’d

In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,

And call’d mine Percy, his Plantagenet.

Then would I have his Harry, and he mine.

But let him from my thoughts. What think you, coz,

Of this young Percy’s pride? the prisoners,

Which he in this adventure hath surpris’d,

To his own use he keeps, and sends me word,

I shall have none but Mordake Earl of Fife.

West.This is his uncle’s teaching, this is Worcester,

Malevolent to you in all aspects;

Which makes him prune himself, and bristle up

The crest of youth against your dignity.

K. Hen.But I have sent for him to answer this;

And for this cause a while we must neglect

Our holy purpose to Jerusalem.

Cousin, on Wednesday next our council we

Will hold at Windsor; so inform the lords:

But come yourself with speed to us again;

For more is to be said and to be done

Than out of anger can be uttered.

West.I will, my liege.[Exeunt.