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

Act V. Scene VII.

The Life and Death of King John

The Orchard of Swinstead Abbey.


P. Hen.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.


PemHis 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 prey’d upon the outward parts,

Leaves them invisible; 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. ’Tis 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 carrying 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.Poison’d, 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 confin’d to tyrannize

On unreprievable condemned blood.

Enter the BASTARD.

Bast.O! 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 crack’d and burn’d,

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 Dauphin 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?

Bast.Art thou gone so? I do but stay behind

To do the office for thee of revenge,

And then my soul shall wait on thee to heaven,

As it on earth hath been thy servant still.

Now, now, you stars, that move in your right spheres,

Where be your powers? Show now your mended faiths,

And instantly return with me again,

To push destruction and perpetual shame

Out of the weak door of our fainting land.

Straight let us seek, or straight we shall be sought:

The Dauphin rages at our very heels.

Sal.It seems you know not then so much as we.

The Cardinal Pandulph is within at rest,

Who half an hour since came from the Dauphin,

And brings from him such offers of our peace

As we with honour and respect may take,

With purpose presently to leave this war.

Bast.He will the rather do it when he sees

Ourselves well sinewed to our defence.

Sal.Nay, it is in a manner done already;

For many carriages he hath dispatch’d

To the sea-side, and put his cause and quarrel

To the disposing of the cardinal:

With whom yourself, myself, and other lords,

If you think meet, this afternoon will post

To consummate this business happily.

Bast.Let it be so. And you, my noble prince,

With other princes that may best be spar’d,

Shall wait upon your father’s funeral.

P. Hen.At Worcester must his body be interr’d;

For so he will’d it.

Bast.Thither shall it then.

And happily may your sweet self put on

The lineal state and glory of the land!

To whom, with all submission, on my knee,

I do bequeath my faithful services

And true subjection everlastingly.

Sal.And the like tender of our love we make,

To rest without a spot for evermore.

P. Hen.I have a kind soul that would give you thanks,

And knows not how to do it but with tears.

Bast.O! let us pay the time but needful woe

Since it hath been beforehand with our griefs.

This England never did, nor never shall,

Lie at the proud foot of a conqueror,

But when it first did help to wound itself.

Now these her princes are come home again,

Come the three corners of the world in arms,

And we shall shock them. Nought shall make us rue,

If England to itself do rest but true.[Exeunt.