Home  »  The Oxford Shakespeare  »  The Life of King Henry the Fifth

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

Act III. Scene VII.

The Life of King Henry the Fifth

The French Camp, near Agincourt.


Con.Tut! I have the best armour of the world. Would it were day!

Orl.You have an excellent armour; but let my horse have his due.

Con.It is the best horse of Europe.

Orl.Will it never be morning?

Dau.My Lord of Orleans, and my lord high constable, you talk of horse and armour—

Orl.You are as well provided of both as any prince in the world.

Dau.What a long night is this! I will not change my horse with any that treads but on four pasterns. Ça, ha! He bounds from the earth as if his entrails were hairs: le cheval volant, the Pegasus, qui a les narines de feu! When I bestride him, I soar, I am a hawk: he trots the air; the earth sings when he touches it; the basest horn of his hoof is more musical than the pipe of Hermes.

Orl.He’s of the colour of the nutmeg.

Dau.And of the heat of the ginger. It is a beast for Perseus: he is pure air and fire; and the dull elements of earth and water never appear in him but only in patient stillness while his rider mounts him: he is indeed a horse; and all other jades you may call beasts.

Con.Indeed, my lord, it is a most absolute and excellent horse.

Dau.It is the prince of palfreys; his neigh is like the bidding of a monarch and his countenance enforces homage.

Orl.No more, cousin.

Dau.Nay, the man hath no wit that cannot, from the rising of the lark to the lodging of the lamb, vary deserved praise on my palfrey: it is a theme as fluent as the sea; turn the sands into eloquent tongues, and my horse is argument for them all. ’Tis a subject for a sovereign to reason on, and for a sovereign’s sovereign to ride on; and for the world—familiar to us, and unknown—to lay apart their particular functions and wonder at him. I once writ a sonnet in his praise and began thus: ‘Wonder of nature!’—

Orl.I have heard a sonnet begin so to one’s mistress.

Dau.Then did they imitate that which I composed to my courser; for my horse is my mistress.

Orl.Your mistress bears well.

Dau.Me well; which is the prescript praise and perfection of a good and particular mistress.

Con.Ma foi, methought yesterday your mistress shrewdly shook your back.

Dau.So perhaps did yours.

Con.Mine was not bridled.

Dau.O! then belike she was old and gentle; and you rode, like a kern of Ireland, your French hose off and in your straight strossers.

Con.You have good judgment in horsemanship.

Dau.Be warned by me, then: they that ride so, and ride not warily, fall into foul bogs. I had rather have my horse to my mistress.

Con.I had as lief have my mistress a jade.

Dau.I tell thee, constable, my mistress wears his own hair.

Con.I could make as true a boast as that if I had a sow to my mistress.

Dau.Le chien est retourné à son propre vomissement, et la truie lavée au bourbier: thou makest use of any thing.

Con.Yet do I not use my horse for my mistress: or any such proverb so little kin to the purpose.

Ram.My lord constable, the armour that I saw in your tent to-night, are those stars or suns upon it?

Con.Stars, my lord.

Dau.Some of them will fall to-morrow, I hope.

Con.And yet my sky shall not want.

Dau.That may be, for you bear a many superfluously, and ’twere more honour some were away.

Con.Even as your horse bears your praises; who would trot as well were some of your brags dismounted.

Dau.Would I were able to load him with his desert! Will it never be day? I will trot to-morrow a mile, and my way shall be paved with English faces.

Con.I will not say so for fear I should be faced out of my way. But I would it were morning, for I would fain be about the ears of the English.

Ram.Who will go to hazard with me for twenty prisoners?

Con.You must first go yourself to hazard, ere you have them.

Dau.’Tis midnight: I’ll go arm myself.[Exit.

Orl.The Dauphin longs for morning.

Ram.He longs to eat the English.

Con.I think he will eat all he kills.

Orl.By the white hand of my lady, he’s a gallant prince.

Con.Swear by her foot, that she may tread out the oath.

Orl.He is simply the most active gentleman of France.

Con.Doing is activity, and he will still be doing.

Orl.He never did harm, that I heard of.

Con.Nor will do none to-morrow: he will keep that good name still.

Orl.I know him to be valiant.

Con.I was told that by one that knows him better than you.

Orl.What’s he?

Con.Marry, he told me so himself; and he said he cared not who knew it.

Orl.He needs not; it is no hidden virtue in him.

Con.By my faith, sir, but it is; never any body saw it but his lackey: ’tis a hooded valour; and when it appears, it will bate.

Orl.‘Ill will never said well.’

Con.I will cap that proverb with ‘There is flattery in friendship.’

Orl.And I will take up that with ‘Give the devil his due.’

Con.Well placed: there stands your friend for the devil: have at the very eye of that proverb, with ‘A pox of the devil.’

Orl.You are the better at proverbs, by how much ‘A fool’s bolt is soon shot.’

Con.You have shot over.

Orl.’Tis not the first time you were overshot.

Enter a Messenger.

Mess.My lord high constable, the English lie within fifteen hundred paces of your tents.

Con.Who hath measured the ground?

Mess.The Lord Grandpré.

Con.A valiant and most expert gentleman. Would it were day! Alas! poor Harry of England, he longs not for the dawning as we do.

Orl.What a wretched and peevish fellow is this King of England, to mope with his fatbrained followers so far out of his knowledge!

Con.If the English had any apprehension they would run away.

Orl.That they lack; for if their heads had any intellectual armour they could never wear such heavy head-pieces.

Ram.That island of England breeds very valiant creatures: their mastiffs are of unmatchable courage.

Orl.Foolish curs! that run winking into the mouth of a Russian bear and have their heads crushed like rotten apples. You may as well say that’s a valiant flea that dare eat his breakfast on the lip of a lion.

Con.Just, just; and the men do sympathize with the mastiffs in robustious and rough coming on, leaving their wits with their wives: and then give them great meals of beef and iron and steel, they will eat like wolves and fight like devils.

Orl.Ay, but these English are shrewdly out of beef.

Con.Then shall we find to-morrow they have only stomachs to eat and none to fight. Now is it time to arm; come, shall we about it?

Orl.It is now two o’clock: but, let me see, by ten

We shall have each a hundred Englishmen.[Exeunt.