Vortigern

By William Henry Ireland

Edited by Jack Lynch

The text comes from the first edition of 1799; in that volume, Vortigern was published with Henry II. The volume was prepared by Samuel Ireland; his son, William Henry, was not speaking to him at the time. The preface, too, was written by Samuel, who was still a believer in the Shakespeare papers. The text Samuel printed was supposed to be the complete text, in modernized spelling; the play was substantially trimmed for its production. See Samuel's note in the Preface that “The lines printed within the inverted commas [quotation marks] were not in the play-house copy, and consequently were not spoken.”


VORTIGERN,

AN

HISTORICAL TRAGEDY,

IN FIVE ACTS,

REPRESENTED

AT THE

THEATRE ROYAL, DRURY LANE.


PREFACE.

It is now near three years since the Play, which the following sheets present to the Public, was represented at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane. The fate which it underwent, and the decision of the audience, are well known. Notwithstanding that decision, the Editor has at length, agreeably to his promise, made at the time of that representation, again laid it before the public, which if it exposes it to the test of a more accurate criticism, will give it the opportunity of a more unbiassed and temperate examination.

They, who are at all conversant with dramatic concerns, must know that the opinion of large assemblies, promiscuously composed of all orders and classes, must depend on a variety of circumstances, local, temporary and accidental.

Where no stronger or worse motives interfere, fashion and caprice too often give the direction; but spleen and interest are made more powerful agents; and by their industry and activity, even the master puppet, be he in sock or buskin, may be gained, and the public may be too easily and unwarily led by premature and precipitate conclusions.

No man who recollects what was said and written in the public prints concerning this piece, on the eve of its representation, and the ludicrous manner in which the principal character was sustained, can deny, that the Editor has a right to complain of the most illiberal and injurious treatment.

Every undue stratagem, and every mean and petty artifice, was resorted to within doors and without, to prejudice the public mind; and one more deeply interested than had then, or has yet appeared, though a professed trader on the subject of Shakespeare, on the day before the representation, under the title of “An Enquiry into the Authenticity of certain miscellaneous Papers, &c. &c.” with this view, and the further expectation of helping off a few copies, sent into the world a volume long before promised, and long since forgotten.

This mass of dulness and self-conceit, consisting of about 430 pages, established nothing; and was built on principles (if it is not an abuse to apply to such trash a term so respectable) that could not possibly establish any thing. In every one of the instances which, with such a weak and overweening confidence, he so very idly brought forward, he has been exposed; and in some of them has been himself the author and detector of his own childishness, incapacity and ignorance.

Neither the index-lore, or the alphabetical, lexicographical, labours of this sagacious discoverer, or his congenial followers or associates, nor any declaration since made from a quarter once domestic to the Editor, through which something like genuine information might naturally have been expected, can induce him to believe that great part of the mass of papers in his possession are the fabrication of any individual, or set of men of the present day.

A fruitless expectation, that Time, the discoverer of Truth, might ere this have withdrawn that veil of mystery which yet involves this transaction, has alone given occasion to delay in this publication. The Editor had been happy to have been able to have penetrated it; and to have assigned to its proper owner each fragment and each whole.

As to the merits or demerits of the play now before the public, the Editor does not in the smallest degree consider himself responsible any where, or in any way. He sold the piece with “all its imperfections on its head,” after various cool and deliberate readings, and stated candidly all he had been told relative to it; all that, which from various circumstances, he had at that time no reason to doubt or discredit.

After the play was contracted for, some alterations were deemed necessary to fit it for representation. It was much too long, and consequently many passages were expunged; and in one historical fact, thought too gross for the public ear, viz. the incestuous passion of the king towards his daughter, it underwent some further alterations; but excepting these particulars, it stands nearly as in the original.

In this state it was delivered to the Theatre, with a request, or rather intreaty, that all further alteration, deemed necessary, should be made by the acting manager, or any other person competent to the business: to this request he received the following official answer from Mr. Kemble: — “That the play would be acted faithfully from the copy sent to the theatre;” and it was accordingly acted, literally from the Manuscript delivered to the house. This conduct was, as the Editor believes, unprecedented in the management of a Theatre, and must warrant him in concluding that in the judgment of the acting manager, the play wanted no aid or alteration.

Be these matters as they may, this piece is laid before the public with such interpolations by the Editor, as he presumes it was the duty of the acting manager to have made previous to its representation.

The lines printed within the inverted commas were not in the play-house copy, and consequently were not spoken.

The Editor feels, and here begs leave to acknowledge, his obligations to his friend William Linley, Esq. for his skill in composing the three songs in this piece, in which he is universally allowed to have shewn much taste and judgment; he likewise professes himself much indebted to Mrs. Jordan and Mrs Powell, for their very spirited exertions, and excellent acting on this occasion; and could he with truth or justice make the smallest acknowledgement to Mr. Kemble and his fellow tragedian Mr. Phillimore, he has little doubt, but that, whoever may have been the author of the piece, it might still have been received, and might have promoted the interests of the Theatre.

Norfolk-street, Strand, 1799.


PROLOGUE,
INTENDED FOR VORTIGERN
.

Written by JAMES HENRY PYE, Esq. P. L.

The cause with learn'd investigation fraught,
Behold at length to this tribunal brought,
No fraud your penetrating eyes can cheat,
None here can Shakespeare's writing counterfeit.
As well the taper's base unlustrous ray
Might strive to emulate the orb of day,
As modern bards, whom venal hopes inspire,
Can catch one spark of his celestial fire.
If in our scenes your eyes delighted find
Marks that denote the mighty master's mind,
If at his words, the tears of pity flow,
Your breasts with horror thrill, with rapture glow,
If on your harrow'd souls impress'd you feel
The stamp of nature's uncontested seal,
Demand no other proof — nor idly pore
O'er mouldy manuscripts of ancient lore,
To see if every tawny line display
The genuine ink of fam'd Eliza's day.
Nor strive with curious industry to know
How poets spelt two centuries ago.
But if these proofs should fail; if in the strain
You seek the drama's awful sire in vain,
Yet in our ancient legend should you trace
Truth's genuine features, tho' of humbler grace,
Condemn not rashly — o'er the forest glade
Tho' the oak spread no patriarchal shade,
Yet may a shrub of no unlovely green
With vivid foliage deck the sylvan scene,
Some tuneful notes the vocal woodlands fill,
And soothe the ear, tho' philomel be still.
Then each extraneous matter laid aside,
By its own merit be our drama tried.
Forget the prejudice of rigid art,
To read the code of nature in the heart;
Consult her laws, from partial favour free,
And give, as they decide, your just decree.


PROLOGUE.

Written by Sir JAMES BLAND BURGESS, Bart.

Spoken by Mr. Whitfield.

No common cause your verdict now demands,
Before the court immortal Shakespeare stands;
That mighty master of the human soul,
Who rules the passions, and with strong controul
Thro' every turning of the changeful heart
Directs his course sublime, and leads his powerful art.
When on his birth propitious nature smil'd,
And hung transported o'er her favourite child,
While on his head her choicest gifts she shower'd,
And o'er his mind her inspiration pour'd;
“Proceed,” she cried, “the high decree fulfil!
“'Tis thine to rule with magic sway the will,
“On fancy's wing to stretch o'er boundless space,
“And all creation's varied works to trace;
“'Tis thine each flitting phantom to pursue,
“Each hidden power of verse to bring to view,
“To shed o'er British taste celestial day,
“And reign o'er Genius with unrivall'd sway.”
Such was the high behest — the sacred choice
Long has been sanction'd by your candid voice;
The favour'd relics of your Shakespeare's hand
Unrivall'd, and inimitable, stand.
If hope of fame some modern bards has led
To try the path where Shakespeare wont to tread,
If, with presumptuous wing, they dar'd aspire
To catch some portion of his sacred fire,
Your critic pow'rs the vain attempt repell'd,
The flimsy vapour, by your breath dispell'd,
Exposed the trembling culprit to your fight,
While Shakespeare's radiance shone with doubled light.
From deep oblivion snatch'd, this play appears:
It claims respect, since Shakespeare's name it bears;
That name, the source of wonder and delight,
To a fair hearing has at least a right.
We ask no more — with you the judgment lies;
No forgeries escape your piercing eyes!
Unbiass'd then pronounce your dread decree,
Alike from prejudice and favour free.
If, the fierce ordeal pass'd, you chance to find
Rich sterling ore, tho' rude and unrefin'd,
Stamp it your own; assert your poet's fame,
And add, fresh wreaths to Shakespeare's honour'd name.


DRAMATIS PERSONÆ.

Constantius Mr. Bensley.
Aurelius Mr. Barrymore.
Uter Mr. Caulfield.
Vortigern Mr. Kemble.
Wortimerus Mr. Whitfield.
Catagrinus Mr. Trueman.
Pascentius Mr. C. Kemble.
Hengist Mr. Benson.
Horsus Mr. Phillimore.
Fool Mr. King.
Servant Master De Camp.
Page Master Gregson.
Edmunda Mrs. Powell.
Flavia Mrs. Jordan.
Rowena Miss Miller.
  { Miss Leake.
Attendants on Edmunda { Miss Tidswell.
  { Miss Heard.
Barons, Officers, Guards, &c. &c.

ACT I.

SCENE I.

A large Hall, discovers Constantius, Vortigern, Wortimerus, Catagrinus, Pascentius, and Attendants.

Constantius.

Good Vortigern! as peace doth bless our isle,
And the loud din of war no more affrights us,
And as my soul hath plac'd thee next herself,
'Tis our desire that thou deny'st us not,
That, which anon we crave thee to accept,
For though most weighty be our proffer'd task,
We trust thy goodness will not yet refuse,
For we have always found thee soft by nature,
And like the pelican, e'en with thy blood,
Ready to succour and relieve.

Vortigern.

Most gracious sov'reign! to command is thine,
And as a subject mine is to obey.

Constantius.

Such was the answer we did here expect,
And farther now we shall explain our meaning;
As frozen age we find doth fast approach,
And state affairs lie heavy with ourself,
We here to thee half of our pow'r resign,
That thy reward may pace with this thy labour.
To this our proposition what reply?

Vortigern.

Oh! my most noble, good, and bounteous lord,
These honours are indeed so great, so weighty,
I fear lest like a garment too confin'd,
They aukwardly should press upon the wearer.
Therefore, my gracious lord! let one more worthy,
I do beseech thee, bear them.

Constantius.

Nay! nay! this thy excuse will not suffice us,
E'en here, we do await thy full consent,
And, that we may more speedily conclude,
We do require of thee that thou should'st sign
These papers, by the which thou wilt become
Jointly with ourself, King of this our realm.

Vortigern.

I shall, my lord, obey your high command.

[Signs the paper.

Constantius.

We shall await your coming at our palace.

[Exit Constantius.

Vortigern.

Fortune, I thank thee!
Now is the cup of my ambition full!
And by this rising tempest in my blood
I feel the fast approach of greatness which
E'en like a peasant stoops for my acceptance.
But hold! O conscience, how is it with thee?
Why dost thou pinch me thus, for should I heed thee,
Then must my work crumble and fall to nought;
Come then thou soft, thou double fac'd deceit!
Come dearest flatt'ry! come direst murder!
Attend me quick, and prompt me to the deed!
What! jointly wear the crown? No! I will all!
And that my purpose may soon find its end,
This, my good King, must I unmannerly
Push from his seat and fill myself the chair;
Welcome then glittering mark of royalty!
And with thy pleasing yet oppressive weight,
Bind fast this firm, and this determin'd brow.
But ere I do proceed, let caution guide me,
For though the trunk and body of the tree
Be thus within my gripe, still do I fear
Those boughs which stand so near and close allied,
Which will, ere long, yield seeds for their revenge.
Then since my soul e'en murder must commit,
To gratify my thirst for royalty,
Why should I play the child, or like a niggard,
By sparing, mar and damn my cause for ever?
No! as the blow strikes one, all three shall fall!
Then shall I, giant-like, and void of dread,
Uprear my royal and encircled brow,
And in the face of the Omnipotent
Bid bold defiance. —
This my determination then shall be,
And firm as adamant the end I'll see.

SCENE II.

A Chamber in Vortigern's Palace.

Enter Edmunda and Flavia.

“Flavia.

“Dearest mother! why let watery grief
“Like a corroding and slow malady
“Nip thus the fairest and most beauteous pearl,
“That ever art of man by stealth or cunning
“Drew from the azure vault of brightest heav'n,
“To grace this earth?” — Oh! my beloved mother!
Turn, turn those tear worn eyes, and let one smile,
One cheering look of sweet serenity,
Beam forth to comfort my afflicted soul!

Edmunda.

Oh! heavens! my gentle Flavia! would I could!
But this corroding pensive melancholy
Most venom like, destroys its nourisher.
Oh! Vortigern, my lov'd, once loving husband,
Why rend this bursting heart with cold disdain,
E'en the poor culprit brought before his judge
May boldly plead his cause; but I alas!
Most innocent, and ignorant of my fault,
Must bear the weight of judgment.

Enter Pascentius.

Flavia.

What news of good import, my dearest brother,
Does this thy eager joy now cloak from us?

Pascentius.

Oh! I have tidings I would fain make known,
But they are of such wond'rous magnitude
That I can scarcely give them utterance.

Edmunda.

Oh! speak my child! my dear Pascentius, speak,
For much thy mother consolation needs.

Pascentius.

The King then, madam, in his royal bounty,
Hath jointly with himself, conferr'd the sway
Of this our mighty kingdom, on my father.

Edmunda.

Now woe indeed hath made her masterpiece!
Ambition thou! thou art mine enemy;
Thy idle dreams have forc'd my husband from me;
Thy honey'd visions have depriv'd my soul
Of that alone which made life worth retaining;
Yes, thou art now, alas! become a flow'r
That by the radiance of the sun is parch'd,
And lacking drops of succour, droops and dies.

Enter Fool, whimsically attired, with his Bells and Ladle.

Pascentius.

Whither so fast, good Fool?

Fool.

Good Fool, say'st thou! marry, these are sweet words, that do not often fall to our lot; but let me tell you, good master, fools have excellent wits, and those that ha' none will gladly go flatter, lest the fool's folly should make them still more foolish.

Pascentius.

But, prithee, tell us what is thine affair?

Fool.

Oh! my affair is weighty indeed, being burthened with the speech o'royalty.

Pascentius.

And wherefore so?

Fool.

I pray you stay your patience but awhile, and I will tell you: thou dost expect nought from the Fool, but folly; but from a king thou wouldst a cunning speech.

Pascentius.

And is't not so?

Fool.

Oh! no, by my troth, our good sovereign hath unto my noble master betrayed great lack of policy.

Pascentius.

How so?

Fool.

Why your wise man will tell you, the crown doth gall the wearer; but marry! I will shew myself the fool indeed, for I do say the half oft pinches more than the whole.

Pascentius.

Thou wouldst be witty, Fool!

Fool.

Marry, say not I would be, but that I am so; for let me tell you, the wit of your Fool is true wit, being solely his own, no man coveting it; whereas that of your wise man comes from books, and from those who went before. But wherefore should I thus lose wind? my wit being folly, is not by your wise man understood; therefore, I'll to the purpose. My master is made half King, and sends me his swift Mercury, to tell your gentle ladyship his honour's pleasure.

Edmunda.

Prithee, be brief, and tell thine errand quickly.

Fool.

An please you then, my sweet mistress, he wills that you do put on your best attire, and that you do straight attend him, and go before th'other half o'th'crown.

Edmunda.

We shall be ready at command.

[Exeunt.

SCENE III.

Another Apartment in Vortigern's Palace.

Enter Vortigern.

Vortigern.

Thus far, then, have my deeds a sanction found,
For still each morn doth the resplendant sun
Dart forth its golden rays, to grace my sight.
O what an inconsistent thing is man!
There was a time when e'en the thought of murder
Would have congeal'd my very mass of blood;
“And, as a tree, on the approaching storm,
“E'en so my very frame would shake and tremble:”
But now I stand not at the act itself,
Which breaks all bonds of hospitality. —
To me, the King hath ever been most kind;
Yea, even lavish of his princely favours, —
And this his love I do requite with murder!
And wherefore this? What! for a diadem,
The which I purchase at no less a cost
Than even the perdition of my soul;
Still at that self same price will I obtain it.
The rooted hate the Britons bear the Scots
Is unto me an omen most propitious;
I have dispatch'd my secret emisaries,
And the young princes sons of the old King,
(A long time since for study sent to Rome)
Even for them have I prepared honours:
For ere the moon shall twice have fill'd her orb,
Death shall provide for them a crown immortal!

Enter Servant.

Servant.

Two officers, my lord! await your leisure.

Vortigern.

Well, shew them to our presence.

Enter Murderers.

Have ye concluded,
Is your answer ready?

Murderer.

We have consider'd all,
And on your promis'd bounty undertake
A speedy execution.

Vortigern.

You are agreed?

Both.

Yes, my good lord.

Vortigern.

Listen then awhile!
This night Constantius gives a feast at which
He wills I should be present, mark me well,
For I will give the signal, and retire.
Then tarry not, but do it on the instant.

Murderer.

Fear not, my noble lord, we are resolv'd.

[Exeunt.

Vortigern.

Now then good King prepare thee for the worst.
For ere the thick and noisome air of night
Shall with damn'd Hecate's baneful spells be fill'd,
Thou must from hence to the cold bed of death,
To whom alike peasant and king are slaves.
Come then black night, and hood the world in darkness,
Seal close the hearts of those I have suborn'd,
That pity may not turn them from their purpose.

[Exit.

SCENE IV.

A Chamber in Constantius' Palace.

Enter Constantius with a Groom.

Constantius.

Here place the light, now hasten to the hall,
And unto Vortigern present this ring,
Pledge of my sacred friendship, and alliance,
Tell him I fain would see him in the morning —
Farewel, good Page! I now would be alone.

[Exit Page.

O sleep, thou nourisher of man and babe,
Soother of every sorrow, that can'st bury
The care-distracted mind in sweet oblivion,
To thee, O gentle pow'r! I pawn my soul!
Here then, on my bended knee, great God,
Let me implore thy grace, and look for mercy;
“Though thou hast plac'd me sovereign over men,
“And on my brow hath fix'd a diadem;
“Yet am I subject still to human frailty,
“And naught can boast more than my meanest vassal.”
How wisely hast thou fram'd thy work of nature,
Even the smallest reptile hath its instinct,
Aye, is as nicely form'd as man, himself.
Both too must die, both rot and come to dust.
Yet man hath one great property besides,
A never fading, an immortal soul!
Upon that thought I rest my happiness.

[Lies on the couch.

Enter two Murderers.

1st Murderer.

“Oh! if one spot did sully his pure soul
“In heaven hath he wip'd it clean away,
“With this his sweet unfeigned oraison.

2nd Murderer.

“'Tis true —
“The King to us hath ever been most kind,
“We've serv'd and gained honours under him;
“'Twould have disgrac'd the name of Murderer
“Had we to cold death sent him unprepar'd.
“For e'en the rigid law itself allows
“To crimes most daring, most atrocious,
“A time to pray, a time to ask for mercy.

1st Murderer.

“Why how now?
“Hast thou forgot thine errand,
“Wast sent here to prate thus,
“Or to fulfil thy promise?
“I'll do't, nor this thy dagger will I sheath
“'Till reaking with his blood.

2nd Murderer.

“Yet one moment I pray thee, comrade!

1st Murderer.

“I tell thee I will not.
“For as I am a man and soldier,
“So will I scorn to break my promis'd vow.

1st Murderer.

“Thou shalt not yet,
“For statue like, here will I fix myself
“Till thou dost hear me out.
“Oh! is't not most manlike, that we stain
“Our hands with blood that ne'er did us offend?
“Is't not most serpent like, to sting sweet sleep,
“Which even from the giant takes all strength,
“And makes man taste of that which is to come?
“Let us, I pray thee friend, turn from the deed!
“I cannot, dare not, nay! I will not do't —

2nd Murderer.

“Coward, take hence that poor unmanly carcase,
“Or this my steel shall work a double end.

1st Murderer.

“Lay on then! for I will defend the King,
“And may the Gods aid this my good design.”

[They fight, first Murderer dies behind the Scenes.

The King awakes.

Constantius.

“Vassal, I say! what means this bloody deed?
“This bold intrusion in our royal presence?
“Can majesty command no more respect,
“But, that our very sleep must be disturb'd
“With murder, rude and most licentious?

Murderer.

“Why plainly then! I do not fear thy presence,
“And to be brief with thee, thine hour is come!

King.

“Traitor and villain, what would'st thou?

Murderer.

“Nay then, an thou dost speak so rudely,
“Take thy reward.

[Stabs him.

King.

“Oh! I die, sweet Heaven receive my soul!
“Forgive, oh pardon this his crime!
“I come! bliss! bliss! is my reward for ever.

[Dies.

Murderer.

“Farewell, good King! and thou my comrade too!”
Now for my fouler purpose, that done!
Hence on time's wing will I to Vortigern,
And this my two edg'd work to him unfold.

[Exit.

SCENE V.

Enter Vortigern with Guards, as having viewed the dead body of the King, behind the Scenes.

Vortigern.

O! this preposterous and inhuman act,
Doth stir up pity in the blackest hell.
Heav'n's aspect did foretell some ill this night,
For each dread shrieking minister of darkness,
Did chatter forth his rude and dismal song,
While bellowing thunder shook the troubled earth,
“And the livid, and flaky lightning,
“Widely burst ope each crack in Heav'n's high portal.”
Have ye the traitor seiz'd? Is he yet dead?

Officer.

Hard by, my lord, he lies reeking in's blood,
Despair and horror mastered each man's breast;
The attempt to check their rage would have been useless,
His body is become one gaping wound.

Vortigern.

O! my good friends, wou'd you had spar'd his life,
And that your zeal had been more temperate,
For by the workings of my soul, I find
This was the instrument, but not the head.

Officer.

Name him you deem the murderer, good my lord?

Vortigern.

Be silent and mark well that I shall say,
The Scots you know do bear us enmity,
Many of rank do tarry in our Court;
On them the guilt of this foul murder rests.
I pray you instantly dispatch the guard,
And seize each Scotsman ye shall chance to meet;
I will go summon all the lords to council,
And well consider that 'twere best to do.

[Exeunt.

SCENE VI.

Assembly of Barons.

Enter Vortigern.

Vortigern.

Oh! my thrice noble and right worthy Peers,
We are now met upon the heaviest summons
That ever yet did occupy our thoughts;
The sparkling drop which graces every eye,
And fain wou'd deluge every manly cheek,
Denotes the brimful sorrow of each heart;
Pity disgraces not the manlike brow,
And yet it suits but ill the present crisis,
When our best strength and wisdom both are needful,
To stem this black, this damn'd conspiracy;
For bloody war and foul rebellion lurk
Beneath the mask of cruel treachery,
Which i'th'present is so plainly shewn,
By the brutal deed of these vile Scotsmen!
Then let not drowsy thought deter our purpose,
Nor basely rot in us the plant of justice,
The clamorous people call aloud for sentence,
Should we delay, it will go hard with us.

1st Baron.

Trusting to thee, our noble good Protector,
We do, without delay, pronounce as guilty,
The perpetrators of this crying deed.
We also do, with general accord,
Beseech you bear the office of a King,
Until the Princes do return from Rome;
For on Aurelius, now the elder son
Of our deceased King the election lights;
Well do we know how tedious is this task,
How full of trouble and perplexity!
But we do also know thee for a man,
Most good, most perfect, and most merciful!

Vortigern.

I fear good Barons you do flatter me!
I thought ere this, to have resigned the weight,
Which the late King had heap'd upon my shoulders;
But mark the sad reverse, for even now,
You double this my load, and bear me down;
Oh! you ha' struck me where I am indeed
Most vulnerable — “The voice o'th'people!”
For them I will surrender liberty.
Dispatch to Rome the messengers I pray,
And let Aurelius know, that he is called
To wear this gold, this forked diadem,
That gives to man the sway of sovereignty.

2nd Baron.

My lord! the people, Barons, all do thank you
For this your kind compliance with their will;
To morrow's dawn shall see the packets ready,
And we will then consult what messengers
Shall to the princes bear, these heavy tidings.

Vortigern.

'Tis well! I do commend your zealous care;
And now, good friends, one mournful charge remains,
To attend the burial of our murdered King;
Oh! 'twas a nipping blast, which suddenly
Bereft us of our first, our sweetest plant,
Both King and Father it hath stolen from us;
“But wherefore do I strive to ope anew,
“Those gates which bar the course of liquid sorrow?
“No! rather let your big griefs pine unseen,
“Where cold restraint can neither chide nor curb ye,”
Farewel! time then be yours until to-morrow.

[Exeunt.

SCENE VII.

A Hall in Vortigern's Palace.

Enter Vortigern.

Vortigern.

How stands it now — then am I but Protector?
Oh! 'tis an attribute my soul abhors,
To sovereignty a pander and a slave,
That looks with wistful eyes upon the crown,
And dares not touch it; O! I will none on't.
Curse on those lords that did award me this,
Whose justice needs must force them keep the crown
For those, who by descent, do most deserve it.
By heav'ns, I'll pour my bitter vengeance down
For this their slow and niggardly promotion.
Yet as they did award and give me sway
Until the Prince Aurelius should return,
Then is it mine most sure! the Princes cannot
From their cold graves return to take it from me!
Their wish'd-for death is sure, yet do I dread —
For here within, there lurks a messenger
That cautions me, and fain wou'd ha' me fear.
What ho! without I say! who attends there!

Enter Servant.

Vortigern.

Are there no letters yet arrived from Rome?

Servant.

No, my good liege.

Vortigern.

Nor messengers?

Servant.

Neither, my gracious sir.

Vortigern.

Retire a while.

[Exit Servant.

Nor messengers nor letters! this alarms me;
But what care I, e'en let the Princes come,
When come, there's room enough i'th'ground for them.
But soft! and let me weigh my present state,
For much I fear these barons proffer'd friendship.
“Their niggard shew of liberality
“Suits ill my lofty aim, and but the semblance wears
“Of that my soul is thirsting for — Dominion!
“Not rivetted by closer ties their Chief, tho' friendly,
“May swerve and prove a foe.” —
Yet I've a lure that shall ensnare that chief,
My daughter's hand! but if she shou'd refuse,
Then were my purpose baffled, or destroy'd.
Is it not strange, a flinty heart like mine,
Should stagger thus at thinking of a daughter?
Flavia! whose fondest love to young Aurelius,
Now sojourning at Rome, hath long been pledg'd!
Yet what of that! shall she, a whining girl,
Oppose a father's and a monarch's will?
My firm resolve once known, will shake that mind
Which in her gentlest moments nature fram'd;
This work atchiev'd each lord his aid shall lend,
And to my will the haughtiest crest shall bend.

[Exit.

SCENE VIII.

London. The Palace.

Enter Flavia and Pascentius.

Flavia.

Oh! heav'ns! in thy great mercy thou hast led me
To that dear object I so long have sought
Through ev'ry secret winding o'th'palace.

Pascentius.

My Flavia say!
What is't hath ruffled thus thy gentle bosom?
I fear our father hath occasion'd this,
For late as passing through the hall I saw him,
He paced to and fro in great disorder,
Sometimes in deep thought lost, he'd stop and pause,
Then o'er his troubled breast crossing his arms,
Would utter words, but in a voice so low,
That they distill'd themselves i'th'gentle air.
Tho' I did thrice address him, yet he brake
Abruptly from me, and no answer made.
I never saw the conflict of his soul
So plainly in his countenance pourtray'd.

Flavia.

Alas! 'tis true! I too have seen my father;
And harshly has he urg'd my breach of vow
To my Aurelius, and to pledge my love
To one my soul abhors! say then, my brother,
Is that kind friendship for my lov'd Aurelius,
Which first in years of infancy took root,
Is it yet untainted? Speak truly brother —
And are thy vows of friendship to thy sister
Pure and unspotted as the face of heav'n!
And wilt thou save her?

Pascentius.

'Tis not in my nature
To act a treach'rous or ungenerous part!

Flavia.

Enough, enough, I meant not to offend;
That I'm about to ask is truly urgent,
Nor more nor less than our own banishment.

Pascentius.

Th'impending exile is to me most strange,
But if thy dearest mother thou can'st leave,
Then must it be most pressing; I consent,
And will not ruffle thee by further question.
But silence for a while, here comes the Fool,
Of him some tidings we perchance may hear.

Enter Fool.

Flavia.

Speak, Fool, when did'st last see my gentle mother?

Fool.

Rather ask, when 'twas that I e'er saw thy father in such sort before; marry, he did never speak so roundly to me. Of old, your Fool did make your sage one tremble, but my foolship hath not found it so. Times must indeed be bad, when fools lack wit to battle wise mens ire; nay, but I have legs, therefore can run; a heart, that's merry, but wou'd be more so, an 'twas drench'd with sack from my ladle; but no matter, that's empty, till you gentles chuse to fill it, then by your leaves we'll walk, and carry our wits where they'll chance meet better fare.

Pascentius.

Nay, nay, come hither Fool, be not too hasty;
This fellow's true and honest, and, dear sister,
Might well our purpose serve, wilt thou consent
That in our service he be bound?

Flavia.

Of me ask nothing, but pursue that council
Which in thy riper wisdom shall seem meet.

Pascentius.

What's thy purpose, Fool?

Fool.

To quit thy father.

Pascentius.

What think'st o'me for a master?

Fool.

Nay, o'that I think not, for thou wou'dst joke, but an thou dost, thou hast rare impudence to do't i'th'presence of a fool.

When thy beard is somewhat blacker,
When thy years have made thee riper,
When in thy purse the pounds thou'lt tell,
And for a brothel thou'lt not sell
Thy patrimony, and thy lands,

Why marry, an I should then find nought more suiting, my charity shall bid me follow thee, and teach thee the ways o'this slippery world.

Flavia.

O tarry not, for we must hence away;
What hour is it?

Pascentius.

Near five o'th'clock.
Yon brilliant mass o'fire the golden sun,
Hath just saluted with a blushing kiss,
That partner of his bed the vasty sea.

Fool.

Yea, and your father wills that you do soon salute your beds, for he hath order'd that supper be instantly brought into the hall.

Flavia.

Good heav'n's! so soon, O my Pascentius,
Each moment lost is an eternity.

[Exeunt.

Fool.

Nay, then ye are gone and ha left your poor Fool behind. Methinks I love that young master; nay, I know not how 'tis, but my legs wou'd needs go follow him; yet master Fool, is this wisdom? for they say the legs should ne'er carry away the brains; yet let me see, cannot I, in my folly, now form this saying, and turn it to mine own conceit? I ha hit it; for it matters not what comes o'my brains, for men say they are good for naught, but my legs are; therefore, let the better o'th'two serve as guide for the other. I'll away then, and follow him.

[Exit.

END OF THE FIRST ACT.


ACT II.

SCENE I.

Rome.

Enter Aurelius and Uter, Constantius' two Brothers.

Uter.

E'en now in Rome have we for seven long years
Made this our wearisome and constant sojourn,
I would we were again in Britain.

Aurelius.

Even so good Uter stands it with myself,
Nay, an thou yearn'st to see thy native land,
How is it then with me that there have left
The jewel of my soul, my dearest Flavia!

Uter.

Nay, good my brother, patience yet a little,
All will be well, Flavia doth love you still.

Aurelius.

I cannot, will not bear this absence longer.

Enter Servant.

Servant.

A messenger, my lords, attends without
On business of great import.

Aurelius.

Whence comes he?

Servant.

From Britain.

Aurelius.

From Britain say'st thou! then admit him straight.

[Exit Serv.

Enter Messenger.

Messenger.

My gracious lord, are you the eldest son
Of our good King Constantius?

Aurelius.

Even so.

Messenger.

This packet then, I fear, will news contain
The most afflicting.

Aurelius reads.

These letters we in haste dispatch'd to tell you,
Of your dear father's death, and to forewarn you
Of your own danger — Murder most foul hath ta'en him.
Vortigern on the Scots hath laid the murder;
But under this pretence much lies conceal'd.
Till you arrive, he is to rule deputed:
But as you prize your lives return not yet.

Aurelius.

Oh! horror! horror! my dear father murder'd!

Uter.

By whom? speak Messenger, where, when, and how?

Messenger.

The plot, good Princes, hath been deeply laid.

Aurelius.

This is indeed most foul! say on, my friend,
Speak quickly, I intreat thee!

Messenger.

Then thus 'tis — Vortigern hath done the deed;
His love of splendour, pomp and sovereignty,
And his great int'rest in the people's minds,
All, all did prompt him to this hellish act.

Aurelius.

Uter, oh heavens! the father of my Flavia!
It is impossible! It cannot be!

Uter.

Oh! this indeed is damned treachery.
My dear Aurelius, let not stupor choak
The worthy feeling of a just revenge;
Courage, Aurelius! courage, my dear brother!

Aurelius.

Speak on, speak on, and end thy sad discourse!

Messenger.

Thy friends in Britain long suspected this,
And to each port did send their trusty spies,
To learn what vessels there for Rome were bound,
And haply that which did transport me here,
Was to have brought your executioners.

Aurelius.

Oh! would it had been so. Uter support me!

Uter.

Let us retire a while my gentle brother,
Hereafter we will send and question thee
On these thy tidings, and their direful cause.

[Exeunt.

SCENE II.

Rome.

Enter Aurelius, Uter, and Messenger.

Aurelius.

Our friends in England then have thought it fitting,
That on receipt o'these, your woeful letters,
We should with all speed hie us into Scotland?

Messenger.

E'en so did they instruct for weighty reasons.
“Know, Vortigern did alway hate the Scots,
“And hath oft times during your father's reign,
“Fram'd laws, most burthensome unto that people.
“But the keen tooth of hatred and revenge,
“With double fury now will shew itself;
“For every noble Scot then found in London,
“Hath suffer'd under this fell tiger's fangs,
“And this to direst rage, hath stirr'd their blood.”
Your story told, will raise you aid of thousands,
Three years of plenty have, among the Britons,
Sown seeds of luxury and baneful riot,
Therefore, they're unprepar'd, nor think of war.

Uter.

Are vessels ready to convey us thither?

Messenger.

Yes, my good lord.

Aurelius.

Come, brother, let's away then with all speed —
But wer't not better that we change these habits?

Messenger.

No! no, your Roman vestments will disguise you,
And may in Scotland greatly aid your cause.

Aurelius.

Then be it so — farewell to thee, O! Rome;
I ne'er did think that upon quitting thee,
My brimful heart wou'd thus run o'er with sorrow.

[Exeunt.

SCENE III.

A Hall, discovers Vortigern, Edmunda, Wortimer, &c. at Supper.

Vortigern.

Seek, Wortimer, thy brother and thy sister:
Tell them it suits but ill their present years,
To tarry thus, when summon'd to our presence.

Wortimerus.

My gracious father, I obey.

Edmunda.

O! dearest husband, calm thy ruffled soul,
They mean not to offend your grace; perchance
They know not of your wish for their attendance.

Vortigern.

Peace then, and with thy words, whet not I pray
That wrath, which kindles sore within my breast!
Again, dost hear me, bid thy tongue be silent,
'Twere better else thou did'st retire.

Edmunda.

I go, and though a vulture gnaw my heart,
I'd bear it all with meekness and with patience,
Rather than this my voice shou'd e'er offend thee.

[Exit.

Wortimerus.

My gracious Sir, I've search'd the chambers through,
And call'd aloud, but answer had I none,
Save but my own words, return'd upon mine ear,
In airy sound.

Vortigern.

What! scorn'd and thus defied, I will not bear it,
Send for my prating wife, and shou'd I find
That she in any wise did aid their flight,
Let her beware of my revenge. — What ho!

Enter Servant.

Vortigern.

Quick to my wife, and say I'd speak with her.
As yet from those dull sluggards sent to Rome,
No tidings have I heard. But here she comes.

Enter Edmunda.

Edmunda.

What is your pleasure, Sir?

Vortigern.

Where are my recreant son and daughter gone;
Nay, think not with those eye drops to deceive me,
Tell me I say, thou know'st full well their flight!

Edmunda.

If in these veins doth run the blood of life,
Or there be truth on earth, I know not of them.

Vortigern.

Deceive me not I say, thou speak'st most false,
I know the quality of women's eyes,
That in a breath can weep, can laugh, or frown,
Say not these waters flow for loss o'them;
I know thee well, thou hast conspir'd with them;
'Twere better thou mak'st known their hiding place.

Edmunda.

O! Sir, these tears do stop my pow'r o'speech,
Which wou'd again vouch that I uttered.

Vortigern.

It is most false, but look to't, and dost hear me,
Come not athwart me and my purposes,
Lest thou shoud'st add to that fierce hate I bear thee.

[Exit Vor.

Edmunda.

And can this be? these ears were sure deceiv'd,
Yet I sleep not, nor is my brain distemper'd,
It was not so, he said not he did hate me;
O! heav'ns, in your great mercy aid me now,
And if your pleasure be not to torment
Man's poor existence in this span of life,
Aid me to bear my weight o'miseries!
Oh! yet again! my son and daughter gone,
And tell not me the cause o'this their flight.
My brain grows hot, I can no longer bear it;
Forbid his presence too! O! I am distracted!
And sleep will quiet me, I'll to the poppy
And with its juices drench these feverous lips!
O! I ha' need of med'cine and of comfort;
Again my wits do wander, I'll retire,
And lest the bleak winds battle with my head,
I'll to my couch and lay me on its pillow.

[Exit.

SCENE IV.

A Wood.

Enter Pascentius, Flavia disguised, and Fool.

Pascentius.

Speak, dearest sister, say, how fares it with thee?
For those soft limbs were form'd for gentler usage,
But cheer thee up, my Flavia, whilst I'm with thee,
Thou must not faint, if there be comfort near
I'll seek it, and from out the tiger's jaw
I'll tear thee food, or if the thirsty lion
Should stand betwixt me and the bubbling brook,
This arm shou'd find a passage to his heart.
But an thou need'st nor food, nor element,
Then will I sit and comfort thy sweet tears,
And as the smaller stream doth oft times mingle,
And add its nothingness to the vast sea,
So on thy streaming cheek will I let fall
One pitying tear, one tender drop of sorrow.

Flavia.

Oh! gentle, excellent, most loving brother,
It is my aching heart which thus o'ercomes me,
Wretch that I am! what hath my mother done,
That lacking pity I could leave her thus,
How can her drooping heart bear this sad shock?
Can her meek soul my father's rage encounter;
No, no, impossible! then am I wretched.
Then O! you righteous and all powerful Judge,
If breath of man, with pure soul offer'd up,
Can touch you, or obtain your gentle hearing,
Behold a maiden for a mother begs,
And on her bended knee sues for protection.
Let some kind angel, minister of mercy,
Pour on her wounded soul the balm of comfort,
And in the place of overwhelming sorrow,
Let the dear plant of smiling joy bud forth;
And shou'd she weep, then may her dewy tears
Be those of tender peace and charity.

Fool.

By my troth, mine eyes did never water so before, sweet mistress, an thou hast charm'd thy Fool, methinks the choir o'angels needs must listen to thy pray'r; and yet these underprops o'mine do sorely ach, and wherefore shou'd they? for an I do eat, then am I loaded, and do bear it well, but now that I am empty, these porters won't carry me, this is strange, and needs more wisdom to unveil, than lies in my poor foolish brain.

Flavia.

Methinks I'd sit and rest me here a-while.

Pascentius.

Then to the shade of yon imperial oak
I'll lead thee, there thou calmly may'st repose;
Our honest knave here, he shall sing the while,
And sooth thy sad and secret melancholy.

Fool.

Why, to be brief good master, I needs wou'd sing, but that gentle lady hath crack'd the strings o'my voice; an 'twill please you weep, marry I'll take the loudest pipe, and shou'd I fail in giving entertainment, why then I'll to Paul's, and there i'the presence of Bonner, be whipp'd for a slanderer.

Pascentius.

I pray thee Fool do as I list.

Fool.

Now then I'll pipe, but by my troth you seem sad, and needs will me to sing merrily; well, an folly will please you, I'll to't straight.

Fool sings.

A Fool must needs be merry,
Lack, lack, and a well a day,
And in his shoes must bury
His sorrow and all his care;
Then is not the Fool's lot hard,
Is not his mind sore treated,
Do not his friends of's poor brains
Make physic for their senses?
Then lack, lack and well a day.
But in this our world 'tis true,
Lack, lack and well a day,
We our old friends change for new,
When they no longer suit us;
Then heigh-ho poor dobbins all,
Be sharp with men I pray you,
They carry fool's minds indeed,
Yet are but knaves I tell you.
Then lack, lack, ah! well a day.

Flavia.

Good honest Fool, I do sincerely thank thee.

Fool.

Nay, nay, say not so, an I had flatter'd, why then perchance I had merited this, but i'faith gentle lady, he that says nought, save the bare truth, doth oft times meet but a bare compliment. But an you do flatter, methinks the compliment will savour more of untruth, than did the flattery, but thus it goes with our slippery world.

Pascentius.

Who is it comes this way?

Flavia.

Let us retire,
Perchance it may be one of our pursuers.

Fool.

An thou'lt listen a while to me I'll tell thee thou need'st not fear, 'tis but the Post on's way to your father's palace.

Enter Post.

Pascentius.

Friend, thou out runnest almost speed itself;
Whither ar't bound?

Post.

I am for London, Sir.

Pascentius.

Nay stop one moment, I conjure thee stop!
Say what these tidings that demand such haste?

Post.

That which my packets do contain.

Pascentius.

An thou will tell me their contents, there's gold.

Fool.

Now, i'troth, thou'lt unlock letters, packets, and all, look, look, the knave doth handle it with good grace, sirrah an thou play'dst on David's harp, thy fingers ne'er wou'd move so glibly o'er the strings, as o'er yon gold, do'st hear me.

Post.

Thy gold indeed doth please, it fills my purse,
And though it should not, yet what matters it?
I am well fee'd for telling that alone,
Which every simple peasant soon must know,
Then thus it is; Vortigern is accus'd
Of the base murder of Constantius!

Flavia.

Heavens!

Post.

Yea, and even now the Princes marching hither
From Scotland, with them bring a numerous army.

Pascentius.

Alas my father! yet I do beseech thee,
How know they this? Who was't instructed them?

Post.

Swift messengers dispatch'd by friends to Rome,
Further I know not — therefore must away

[Exit Post.

Fool.

Go to, go to, I do believe thee; marry an thou art humble, thy purse is somewhat prouder. Good Sir, wer't not best we put on, I am faint at heart; marry 'tis pity my wits did not fill their owner, as well as those who do beg them.

Pascentius.

Let's on, and yet what course is't fit we take?
The night doth throw his sooty mantle round,
And robs us of the cheering light of day.

Flavia.

Oh! Wou'd this night cou'd pluck my sorrow from me,
Or that the long eternal sleep of death
Wou'd close life's wretched, weary pilgrimage.

Pascentius.

Oh! Sister an thou lov'st me grieve not so.

Flavia.

If charity be meek, so will I be,
And where thou lead'st, resign'd I'll follow thee.

Fool.

Marry, an you'll listen to a fool, perchance he may for once speek wisely.

Pascentius.

Out with thy council then.

Fool.

Thus it is — chance hath made me your fool, and chance will now that your fool speak something like wisdom; marry is not this the road to Scotland? Do'st understand me?

Pascentius.

Truly, I understand thee.

Fool.

To't again, what say'st thou o'joining the young Princes on their march?

Pascentius.

It is most wisely utter'd, my good Fool.
Come gentle sister, we'll to th'skirt o'th'wood,
And find some cottage that may serve to night,
As 'twere a palace — all will yet be well.

[Exeunt.

END OF THE SECOND ACT.


ACT III.

SCENE I.

An Assembly of Barons.

Vortigern.

To you have been explained our late dispatches,
Say, did we not invite these Princes home,
And tender them the crown? Yet we do find
They come with foreign aid and civil war,
To bear the sway and empire over us:
Can any present say why this shou'd be?

1st Baron.

No! they're the sons of our late King, 'tis true,
As such, the elder doth by right inherit
The crown and kingdom, and in their defence,
Our lives, yea, and our very best heart's blood
Were truly offer'd, which we now revoke.
And since they tear the bowels of our land,
And come with blood and naked sword to court us,
We'll to the field, and when bright victory
Hath with the sacred laurel bound our brows,
The Princes' heads in triumph shall be borne
Throughout our ranks; rebellion's just reward!

2nd Baron.

Then are they traitors to their God and country.

3rd Baron.

And as the crown is now untenanted,
'Tis fit the most deserving brow shou'd wear it.

1st Baron.

If any one there be that doth deserve it,
'Tis he that hath it even now in trust.

All.

Then be it his!

1st Baron.

Girt tight the drum, and sound yon brazen trumpet,
Let it proclaim aloud, our firm decree:
Aurelius and his brother both are traitors,
And 'gainst their mother country do rebel.

[Trumpet sounds.

2nd Baron.

Nay, stop not there; but let them bellow on,
'Till with their clamorous noise they shame the thunder,
And o'er the earth, and e'en to heaven proclaim,
Vortigern our King! our lawful sov'reign.

Vortigern.

The exigencies of the state demand
My quick consent, I therefore give it you.
And when the crown shall on my front be bound,
My faithful soul shall prize the sacred trust,
My arm be nerv'd to fight in its defence.

Baron.

All hail great Vortigern Britain King!

[Trumpet sounds.

Vortigern.

My lords, vain compliment would suit but ill
The present time, I therefore briefly thank you:
But ere we part I fain would crave your hearing.
Our troops have now been long disus'd to war,
Yet do not think I mean their fame to tarnish,
Or on a Briton throw the damned slur
Of shameful cowardice, no, my good lords!
But though their ribs do serve as castle walls,
And fast imprison their strong lion hearts,
Yet e'en the lion, when full gorg'd with food,
Will bask, and tamely lay him down to sleep;
Then in such sort, hath undisturbed peace,
And want of custom, (nature's substitute,
That changes e'en our very properties)
Soften'd their manhood. Then 'twere policy
That we should court the Saxons to our aid.
This too will in our Britons raise the flame
Of bright and generous emulation.
Say, lords! doth this my proposition please you?

1st Baron.

We do approve, and thank its noble author.

Vortigern.

You, my good lord, then do I here depute,
Jointly with Catagrine our second born,
That you with speed repair to Saxony;
Our eldest shall at home command the Britons,
Time needs your haste, therefore use no delay,
Your country calls, so look you quick obey.

[Exeunt.

SCENE II.

A distant View of the Sea.

Enter Aurelius and Uter, (with the Scottish army) as just disembarked, habited as Britons.

Aurelius.

O dearest soil, blest mother earth, hail to thee!
Fain wou'd my feet play wanton on thy breast,
And skip with joy to tread thee once again.
'Tis not to wound thee that I thus do come
In glitt'ring steel and dire array of war,
But as my right to claim thee for mine own.

Uter.

Brother, each lip for thee sends forth a blessing;
And with the smile that buds on ev'ry face,
Alike expands a ray of happiness.
Never did I before blame nature's work,
But now I fain wou'd quarrel with her hests,
For that in me, she caus'd a lack of years;
Else had these prayers, these blessings all been mine!
To have a crown and kingdom at command
Is but as dross; but thus to have them come,
Might from their airy beds the angels draw
To taste the joys of this our mortal earth.
Throughout the camp now all is hush'd in silence,
And Morpheus, with his leaden wings outspread,
Hath on each eyelid laid the weight of slumber.

[Exit Uter.

Aurelius.

Then, as the general, the task is mine
To thank that mighty God whose name alone
Doth carry awe, and strikes the soul with fear.
Here prostrate then I fall before thy face,
And, tho' unworthy of thy mercy, pray; —
If giant form doth more enlarge the mind,
Would that my front did with the mountains vie;
That so my heat amazed brain might work
Thoughts suiting more this vast immensity!
O most expanded, O most fertile mind!
When thou would'st copulate with thoughts like this,
Thou art mere nothingness; or when the lips
Do pour forth boisterous and high sounding words,
They back again to the poor mortal brain,
And scoff at thy presumption.
“O God! why shou'd I, a mere speck on earth,
“Tear thousands from their wives, children, and homes!
“O! wherefore from this transitory sleep,
“That now doth steal from them their inward cares,
“Should I send thousands to cold dreary death?
“'Tis true, I am a King, and what of that?
“Is not life dear to them, as 'tis to me?
“O! peasant, envy not the prince's lot;
“Thy page in life's great book is not foul charg'd,
“And like to ours besmear'd with dying breaths.
“O! had I lives myself enough to answer
“The ravenous and greedy jaws of death,
“That will on these my friends, my soldiers,
“Such havoc make, and wanton gluttony!
“Father of mercy, great God, spare this blood!
“And if I must alone receive the crown,
“Bedeck'd with purple gore, I here resign it.”

[Exit.

SCENE III.

Gates of London.

Enter Catagrinus, Hengist and Horsus, with Saxon Troops, in grand Procession.

Captain.

Here let us halt, and let the trumpet sound,

[Trumpet sounds, Officer appears on the walls.

Officer.

Say, be ye friends or foes?

Captain.

My father sent us hence to Saxony;
Go, say our embassy is now fulfill'd;

[Trumpet sounds.

Yet soft, that sound proclaims his quick approach.

Hengist.

Throughout the ranks let each man be prepar'd,
To hail our new ally, King Vortigern.

SCENE IV.

Gates open.

Vortigern appears in Robes of Majesty, followed by the Barons and British Troops.

Catagrinus kneels to Vortigern.

Vortigern.

Rise, my dear son! thou'rt welcome here again.
And you, brave Saxons, greet we to our land.

Hengist.

We come, great sir, to fight in thy defence,
And from thy kingdom wipe away rebellion.

Vortigern.

Give me thy hand, brave General, and with it,
Exchange we mutually a soldier's faith.
Here let our British troops in friendship join,
And with the Saxons share our present joy.

[Exeunt.

SCENE V.

The Country.

Enter Flavia, Pascentius, and Fool.

Pascentius.

Why sister thus shou'd grief usurp thy cheek?
O mingle not so much of lily die
With thy sweet rosy blood, thou'rt cold as death,
Pine not in silence thus!

Flavia.

I'll sit me down and court sweet music's aid.

She sings.

   She sang while from her eye ran down
      The silvery drop of sorrow,
   From grief she stole away the crown,
      Sweet patience too did borrow.
Pensive she sat while fortune frown'd,
And smiling woo'd sad melancholy.

II.

Keen anguish fain wou'd turn her heart,
   And sour her gentle mind;
But charity still kept her part,
   And meekness to her soul did bind.
            She bow'd content,
            Heav'd forth one sigh,
Sang, wept, then turn'd to melancholy.

III.

Careless her locks around her hung,
   And strove to catch each dewy tear,
The plaintive bird in pity sung,
   And breath'd his sorrow in her ear.
         Amaz'd she look'd,
         And thank'd his care,
Then sunk once more to melancholy.

Pascentius.

O! why sing thus? thou dost join woe to woe,
Thy grief methinks demands more cheering notes.

Flavia.

Oh! brother, this strange frame that keeps in life,
Is almost sick and weary of its tenant.
Tho' short hath been its course, yet fickle fortune
Hath with it wanton made, and blown it
To and fro, a toy for this merc'less world.

Pascentius.

Listen, I pray thee now, to reason's voice;
Were it not strange, if thou alone shou'd'st 'scape
The numerous ills and buffets of the world?

Fool.

I'troth, thou hast wisely spoken.

Pascentius.

Dost think so, my good Fool?

Fool.

Marry, aye, do I; an I'll tell thee why, thy speech hath not wearied the Fool, therefore 'tis a wise speech.

Pascentius.

Thou'rt then a judge?

Fool.

Aye, and a righteous one too, dost mark me, 'tis your Fool alone will make a true report.

Pascentius.

I understand thee not.

Fool.

The more's the pity. He that doth, or well speak, or write, will be prais'd by fools only, for look ye, envy doth sting those that have knowledge, and makes them fear lest their wise heads should be outwitted, therefore again, 'tis your Fool alone that is your upright judge, cause forsooth, his brains are not in plenty; but those which he hath are at's own disposal.

Pascentius.

This road methinks shou'd lead us on our way
To the Prince's camp! Fool, go you on before.

[As they retire, enter Captain and Soldiers.

Captain.

Not quite so fast, good master, prithee halt.

Flavia.

What, guards! O brother, now we are undone.

Pascentius.

Be calm, be calm, the troops are not my father's.
Wil't please you, sir, inform us whence ye came?

Captain.

From Scotland, sir.

Flavia.

Then O good heav'ns protect me!

Pascentius.

And who is your commander?

Captain.

One whose merit
Outweighs whatever yet did breathe on earth;
If ye be Britons, as your looks bespeak,
Then shew your wonted quality of justice;
Did ye not 'fore the awful face of Heaven,
Proclaim Constantius as your lawful King,
When on his head was pour'd the sacred oil?

Pascentius.

But he is now no more.

Captain.

Yet hath he two sons living,
Whose souls, for purity, I can compare
Unto this bright unspotted canopy.

Pascentius.

Are ye bound towards the camp?

Captain.

We are, and if you're upright men and true,
Thither you'll follow, and there wield the sword
For justice, truth, and your anointed King.
Yet in this hallow'd cause we wou'd not force you,
But lead into the fold with gentleness,
Each sheep that may unknowingly have strayed,
And broke from out its bounds, and flowery pasture.

Pascentius.

Proceed then, and we'll follow; tell me, sister,
Doth not your heart beat high?

Flavia.

Yea, it swells so, this little breast in truth.
Can scarce contain it. —
How shall we bear the meeting?

Fool.

I troth, merrily, merrily as I do; 'tis true I am a Briton, but then am I not a Fool? And ne'er will I put my folly to the test. Think'st thou I'll risk my brains for mine anointed King? Nay, nay, in this affair mine heels shall be my guide, and quick teach me the way to run.

[Exeunt.

SCENE VI.

A Chamber in the Palace.

Enter Edmunda, and Attendants.

Edmunda.

I will not to my chamber then I tell ye.

1st Maid.

Beseech you madam to return again,
For so did your physician order —

Edmunda.

Come hither pretty maid, look at me well;
Now say, hath he so order'd it, or not?

1st Maid.

Indeed he hath.

Edmunda.

Nay, get thee gone, — a maid, and still so false!
Go to, live I not yet? Am I then call'd?
And hath my sweet-heart death yet fondly clasp'd me;
Say! hath the heavy passing bell yet sounded,
And hail'd me to my snug and chilly chamber?

2nd Maid.

Madam, I fear your reason wanders.

Edmunda.

Aye, aye! I understand thee, it is flown;
My poor brain, alas! is sore distemper'd.

[Strikes her forehead.

Sweet, sweet, come from yon branch here's food for thee,
My pretty birds come back, I will not harm ye,
My bosom as your little nest is warm,
And is as soft, aye, and full of comfort too.
Nay stop! it is too warm, come not! 'twill burn ye.

2nd Maid.

My tears do flow for her so plenteously,
That I have left in me no power to help her.

Edmunda.

O! you great Gods! why pelt ye thus my brain,
And with your thunders loud, cause such dire outrage
Within this little ball, this, O! this nothing!
Tell me high Heaven, is this your justice?
Did I not nourish them, aye, teach them, love them?
Yes, little drops, Oh! come, cool my poor face;
Speak! aye, ye come I know to say I did.
Now, please your highness, and what wou'd you more?
Say, are not here a host of witnesses?
Longer, O let me not detain the Court,
For in such plenty they do now rush forth,
That you, Sir, you who fill yon seat of justice,
Must throw away your gown and swim for life.

1st Maid.

Will't please we lead you in?

Edmunda.

I'gin indeed to think I do need support,
For I am even weaker than a babe.
Hush! hush! come hither both, I'll tell ye something;
Now then your ears, I'm mad, ha! ha! ha!
Say! is not this Whitsuntide?

2nd Maid.

Aye an't please you madam.

Edmunda.

Then listen.

She sings

Last Whitsunday they brought me
   Roses, and lilies fair,
Violets too they gave me
   To bind my auburn hair;
But then my face look'd smiling,
   Cause that my babes were near,
Now yon stinging nettle bring,
   'Twill better suit this tear.

How like you this?

1st Maid.

Excellently well, madam.

Edmunda.

The time has been! when thus thou might'st have said,
What, must these poor eyes never see them more?
And have I need of these vile rags; off! off!
I'll follow thee to th'extreme point o'th'world,
And naked bear the icy mountains cold,
And the dread scorches o'that ball of fire
'Till I have found them i'the antipodes;
Shou'd I not meet them there, I will rail so! —
Pardon these starts! in troth I will not harm ye,
Indeed, indeed, I'm wrong'd! most sadly wrong'd!
Did these sweet notes then charm ye? then I'll die,
For look you, I will then sing sweeter far,
Than dying swan at ninety and nine years!
Lack, lack, a day! I'm faint! your arm sweet maid.
There is my gage, farewell; good night, sweet! good night! —

[Exeunt.

END OF THE THIRD ACT.


ACT IV.

SCENE I.

Aurelius' Camp.

Enter Aurelius, Uter, Pascentius, and Flavia.

Aurelius.

You then escaped disguised in man's attire?

Flavia.

'Tis true I did, but ne'er did rapier yet
Adorn a side less fitting to support it.

Aurelius.

To you Pascentius my best thanks are due.

Pascentius.

Nay, nay, 'tis little that to me you owe.

Flavia.

Indeed, but for his aid, I long ere this
Had broke my sacred vow, and wedded death.

Uter.

Brother, the enemy is near at hand,
Straight let us forth, and range our troops for battle.

Aurelius.

Go you before and swift I'll follow.
Now to thy care my dearest friend, I trust
Thy beauteous sister, and my sweetest love.
Should victory proclaim the day our own,
All will be well; but shou'd the loss be ours,
To Heav'ns just guard I must resign you both.
Two trusty servants have I placed without,
Who will conduct you westward of our camp,
If we be beaten, thither we'll retreat:
Haste! fare thee well, sweet love.

Flavia.

This token let me brace around thine arm,
Think of me in the field, nor let revenge
Blot from thy gen'rous breast the sense of pity.

Aurelius.

O! cruel fortune, so soon to wrench from me
This lovely form, to steal this beauteous hand,
And offer to my grasp this weighty steel.

[Exeunt.

SCENE II.

The Camp of Hengist.

Enter Hengist and Horsus.

Hengist.

Have Vortigern's brave sons yet ta'en their station?

Horsa.

Yea, to our right the Briton's strength is form'd.

Hengist.

Then bid them wait the enemies attack.

[Exit Hor.

Now, O ye Gods! prove but propitious to me,
And yield me but the victory this day:
A mightier force I've summon'd to this island,
And with them my fair daughter will arrive;
If then her beauty catch this vicious King,
E'en as mine own I'll hail this fertile land,
And these brave Britons by my arts and arms,
Bind to a foreign yoke.

[Exit.

SCENE III.

A Wood.

Enter Britons and Saxons, they encounter the Scots, and after a hard contest, the Scots are defeated.

Enter Aurelius and Uter.

Aurelius.

O brother! fortune frowns, the day is lost.

Uter.

But it hath cost them dear!
Rally then our troops, and march them towards the West.

[Exeunt.

SCENE IV.

Another Part of the Field.

Enter Flavia and Pascentius.

Pascentius.

Be of good cheer, tho' they have lost the day,
Yet was the victory most dearly bought,
The Scots too in good order have retir'd.

Enter Horsus.

Say, what's thy business in this bloody field,
And who's that maid who bears thee company?
It should seem that thou hast fought and conquer'd,
And hast in triumph seiz'd on this fair prize.

Pascentius.

I, Sir, am her protector.

Horsa.

If thou'lt resign her, here is gold for thee.

Pascentius.

Although my peasant habit shews me poor,
Yet covers it a soul that boldly scorns thee;
I am a Briton, Sir, will that suffice thee?

Horsa.

Vile stripling! dost thou know me?

Pascentius.

I do not.

Horsa.

Thou shalt repent this!

Pascentius.

Approach her not, if yet thou lov'st thyself.

Horsa.

Thy lack of years doth save thee from my wrath,
Thou beardless boy who thus doth ape the man,
Once more I tell thee! —

Flavia.

O Pascentius, O my brother!

Pascentius.

Fear not, he shall not harm thee gentle Flavia.

(To Horsus.)

Insolent presumptuous slave! what would'st thou?

Horsa.

I'll make thee dearly answer for thy rashness.

[They fight, and Horsus falls.

O I am wounded! speak, what is thy name?
But thou art brave, and I forgive thee this.
Good youth approach, I fain would tell thee something,
But O! I'm faint, death's cold and heavy hand
Doth rest like ice upon my parting soul.
Go to the King I pray thee,
Bid him beware of Hengist.

[Dies.

Pascentius.

I now lament the deed that I have done.

Flavia.

O sadly doth repentance sit on us.

Pascentius.

How soon this lord of the creation dies;
The errant'st coward now may spurn at him!

Flavia.

Sure he did make some mention of our father,
And bade us tell him to beware of Hengist.

Pascentius.

Something methinks he spoke to that effect,
This must our father know.

[Exeunt.

SCENE V.

A Wood.

Enter Hengist and Officer.

Hengist.

Hath Horsus yet been found?

Officer.

Thrice hath the field with greatest care been search'd,
But all in vain.

Hengist.

Then have I lost my first, my dearest friend,
If he be slain, by the great Gods I swear,
I will revenge him on these Scottishmen;
But whither are the Princes now retir'd?

Officer.

Towards Badon Hill.

Hengist.

How fare our troops?

Officer.

But ill, nay, very ill.

Hengist.

Indeed! and sayest thou so?

Officer.

The day was bloody and it cost us dear,
The Scots were firm, and fought us man to man;
Four thousand lives were lost.

Hengist.

Good Heav'ns!

Enter another Officer.

What's thy business?

2nd Officer.

Fourteen thousand troops have join'd our army,
And with them your daughter; but look, she comes!

Enter Rowena.

Hengist.

Welcome Rowena!

(Rowena kneels.)

Rowena.

O! joy once more to see my father's face.

Hengist.

Rise, rise my child!

Rowena.

First with my kisses let me 'dew this hand;
And with these arms embrace my father's neck.

Enter Soldier.

Soldier.

From London, Vortigern is on his march!
And comes in haste to greet your late success.

Hengist.

'Tis well! go straight, put all in readiness.
Retire! I wou'd be private with my daughter.

Officer.

We obey, my lord.

[Exeunt Officers.

Hengist.

Daughter, thou heard'st but now o'th'King's approach.

Rowena.

Your Officer so express'd it!

Hengist.

True! and do'st hear, much rests with thee to do.

Rowena.

If ought, dear father, my poor services
Can aid thee, but command; — and I'll obey.

Hengist.

Thus then it is — I shall prepare a feast,
And greet the King with joy and merriment;
Women I know have very many ways,
And subtle traps to catch the hearts of men:
So practice all your arts to win his love.

Rowena.

But shou'd I fail?

Hengist.

Nay, do not fear it; I do know him well.
Come to my tent, and there we'll weigh this business.

[Exeunt.

SCENE VI.

A magnificent Feast, Vortigern on a Throne, Hengist, Wortimerus, Catagrinus, Lords and Ladies, with Attendants.

Vortigern.

To mirth we dedicate this noble feast!
And you brave Hengist we do greet withal.

Hengist.

O! my most gracious King, I am unworthy.

Vortigern.

Thou did'st fight manfully, and bravely conquer.
Wine there! a health to Hengist! would that Horsus
Were likewise here!

Lords

The King doth drink.

Hengist.

Thou sentest for me, noble Sir, to fight;
I have done nought save that I promised;
Had I play'd other than the soldier's part,
Then had I tarnished the Saxon name.

[Hengist speaks to one of the Lords aside.

Vortigern.

Thou, Hengist, at our hands hast well deserv'd;
We will consider, and reward thy labours.

Enter Rowena.

Ye heavenly powers! what lovely maid is this,
Whose form might raise the blush in Dian's cheek?

Hengist.

Rowena, Sir, my daughter, and your slave.

(Rowena kneels.)

Rowena.

All hail, great King!

Vortigern.

O thou most lovely maiden!
Here let me pledge thee in this golden cup.
On its smooth brim I pray thee print a kiss,
That so I may inhale the roseate sweets,
And taste the nectar of those vermil lips.

[Takes the cup and drinks.

This seat is empty, fair Rowena, take it,
And wou'd it were that which Jove's wife doth hold!

Captain.

It is Edmunda's place, the queen's, our mother's.

Vortigern.

Peace! she is unworthy of that station.

Wortimerus.

She, Sir, is queen, and tho' she is not present,
Most righteously the law awards it her.
She that usurps it, breaks that sacred law —

Vortigern.

How, do ye murmur, must I then humble
And stoop the neck to bear my children's yoke?
Begone, I say, lest that my present wrath
Make me forget the place by blood I hold,
And break the tie 'twixt father and his child.

Wortimerus.

We shall retire, my lord!

Vortigern.

Here sit, bright maid, if I presage not vainly,
Thou shalt, ere long, have right to take this place.

Rowena.

How can I merit love of such a King?
An humble vassal only.

Vortigern.

Thy meekness and fair looks have won my soul,
O! let thy tongue here title me thy lord!

Rowena.

Already, Sir, have I avow'd you King.

Vortigern.

And therefore here I do proclaim thee Queen.
Good Hengist speak! wilt thou consent hereto?

Hengist.

My lord! that honour is too weighty.

Vortigern.

Then speak, my lords, what say ye to my choice?
True, I am married, and my wife doth live;
Yet none methinks by law can here be bound,
When the dread wrath of Heav'n doth shew itself,
And on his wedded wife doth send down madness.

1st Lord.

Methinks the law shou'd then proclaim it void.

Vortigern.

Be it then void; and here I pledge myself,
To take this lovely maiden to my wife.
To thee, good Hengist, we resign all Kent,
As a sure earnest of our future bounty;
Proclaim it in the camp, and let each man
Receive in largess from our royal coffers,
That massy ore, which long hath lain entomb'd,
And now shall well reward our soldier's toils.

2nd Lord.

The law allows not this, it is not justice.

3rd Lord.

That power lies in the Barons, not the King.

Vortigern.

What! dare ye then dispute it?

All but 1st. Lord.

We do.

3rd Lord.

And while the pow'r remains that's vested in us,
We ne'er will countenance such vile injustice,
That tramples on our dearest country's rights.

Vortigern.

Take heed, lest you repent this your rashness.

[Exeunt Lords.

SCENE closes, Vortigern comes forward.

Vortigern.

O! these vile petty kings do make more uproar
E'en than above, the thund'ring god himself.
To-morrow be the nuptials then proclaim'd;
And that Guorongus, that proud lord of Kent,
Who boldly in our presence call'd for justice,
His lands, his property, and all his titles,
We do invest in Hengist and his line.

[Hengist bows.

Vor. to Row.

Give me thy hand; let us retire, my Queen!

[Exeunt.

SCENE VII.

An Anti-Chamber.

Enter Wortimerus and Catagrinus.

Wortimerus.

Shall we in quiet tamely suffer this?
See our most excellent and gentle mother,
In bold defiance of all sacred laws,
So basely treated?

Captain.

Do they then think our substance form'd of flint;
Or that our hearts are adamant itself?
Where is our brother? our dearest sister?
I fear, indeed, they had just cause for flight.

Wortimerus.

Let's to the Princes, and our troops will follow.
They like not the rude treatment of these Saxons!

Captain.

I do accept thine offer.

Enter Lords.

2nd Lord.

Most gentle Princes, whither are ye bound?

Wortimerus.

To quit oppression, and to seek for justice.

3rd Lord.

Under your banners then we do enlist.

Captain.

Speak, what hath now been done that thus ye quit
Your King, your country, and your weighty trust?

2nd Lord.

The King, on the pretext of malady,
Most basely hath divorc'd your mother from him,
And means to take Rowena for his wife.

Wortimerus.

Gods!

2nd Lord.

And, her proud father, Hengist, to enrich,
He hath despoil'd me of mine heritage,
And from my sweet, my lovely babes cut off
Their rights, and ta'en from me my vast estate.

Wortimerus.

Then look you quick repair towards our camp,
Thither in secret we'll convey our mother;
So fare ye well, good lords.

[Exeunt.

SCENE VIII.

Enter Aurelius, Uter, Pascentius, and Flavia.

Aurelius.

Though bloody battle calls us forth again,
I'll rather part with life, with all on earth,
Than leave thee, Flavia, unprotected.

Uter.

Hengist hath pitch'd on t'other side of Badon;
The noise of arms, and distant hum of soldiers,
Bespeak their hasty preparation;
'Twere best to attack them early in the morn.

Aurelius.

Then be it so.

Pascentius.

And yet I must not 'gainst my father arm!

Flavia.

Indeed, thou'dst arm against thy sister too;
Who wou'd protect me then, or calm my fear;
Who sit and tell me tales of hope? O! no one:
It were too much, you cannot, must not leave me.

Enter Officer.

Officer.

Two sons of Vortigern do crave admittance.

Enter Wortimerus and Catagrinus.

Wortimerus.

My brother and my sister here!

Captain.

O! joy unthought of! Oh! unlook'd-for bliss!

Flavia.

Say! speak! how fares it with my gentle mother?

Wortimerus.

Beseech thee, ask me not of her sad story.

Flavia.

Sad, say'st thou? Heav'n forefend; she is not dead?

Wortimerus.

Calm thyself, dearest sister, she lives still.

Flavia.

O! where, where, tell me, that with these moist tears
I may rain comfort on her wounded soul.

Wortimerus.

Let us retire.

SCENE IX.

Enter the Saxon and British Armies; they fight, and the Saxons are routed.

Enter Hengist and Officer.

Hengist.

All, all is lost. Fly, fly, to the king's tent,
Bid him to London speedily repair;
Away, away, tarry not on your life.
A curse upon his sons for quitting us;
Shou'd they but follow up this victory,
My hopes, my every wish, for ever's blasted.

Enter Wortimerus.

Hengist.

Vile traitor both to your liege king and father,
What blasted fiend, blacker than hell itself,
Cou'd prompt thee to this damned treachery?

Wortimerus.

Can'st thou, vile Saxon, thou base braggart, ask it?
'Tis thou, and on thy soul I'll prove it so.

Hengist.

Ask where's thy queen, and then I'll answer thee!

Wortimerus.

Dares thus thy tongue with notes unmannerly
My heart-strings tear asunder? Fiend, have at thee.

[They fight, Hengist falls.

Hengist.

Thine hand be blasted for this fatal blow.
And must then all my hopes lie buried here?

Wortimerus.

Yea, and thou need'st not much of Kent's domain,
A little mole-hill now will serve!

Hengist.

Yet chance one lives, that may avenge this deed;
'Tis the brave Horsus, 'tis my noble friend.

Wortimerus.

He fought his last, —
On him were found the secrets of thy plot:
Wou'dst thou not have enthrall'd my countrymen;
Was not thy daughter to have basely poison'd
Her king, and husband, and then wert not thou
To have seiz'd the crown? O! villain! villain! traitor!

Hengist.

Yea, all, had I but liv'd a little longer.
Hell, swallow me not up! nor ope thy jaws
So wide. The fiends do tug and strain my heart-strings.
They burst, they crack — Oh! curs'd ambition! Oh!

[Dies.

Enter Catagrinus.

Captain.

All, all is ours, the ranks are broken —
They fly before us, come, let's follow them.
Good heav'ns, who's this?

[Looking to the body of Hengist.

Wortimerus.

Hengist himself.

Captain.

What, was it thou that this vile monster fell'd?

Wortimerus.

Ay, marry; but he fought indeed like one
That begg'd a little time to save his soul.

Captain.

Our father hath towards London ta'en his flight,
But yet Rowena is our prisoner.

Wortimerus.

That's well indeed! come let us on and join them.

[Exeunt.

SCENE X.

Vortigern's Palace.

Enter Vortigern and 1st. Baron.

1st Baron.

Speed, my most gracious lord, think on your safety,
They course your troops, and dreadful is the carnage.

Vortigern.

Where are my sons?

1st Baron.

Let not your tongue curse me when I shall say.

Vortigern.

Speak quick!

1st Baron.

With all their troops they join'd the enemy,
And took with them their mother.

Enter Officer.

Vortigern.

Well, Sir, and what more tidings do you bring?

Officer.

To London's lofty walls they follow'd us.

Vortigern.

I care not an' they follow'd you to hell:
Speak, vassal! coward, speak! where is Rowena?

Officer.

Alas, I fear me, Sir, she's ta'en a prisoner.

Vortigern.

Then all is lost indeed! — Thou sweetest death!
Bury but in this bosom thy fell dart,
And I will bless thee for the gentle deed.

Officer.

Shall I go forth, my lord, and man the walls?

Vortigern.

Do as thou wilt, —
Good friend, I'd speak with thee.

Officer.

What, Sir, are your commands?

Vortigern.

Thou art an old and ever faithful servant.

Officer.

My means have not kept pace with my desires.

Vortigern.

I know thee well! wou'dst thou not serve me, friend?

Officer.

Aye, my good lord! put me but to the test,
And you shall see me smile at death himself.

Vortigern.

I take thee at thy word; hold here my sword,
And but one friendly office render me;
Flinch not, strike deep and home; here lies my heart.

Officer.

O! if each drop that were to issue from thee,
Were a most precious jewel, and the whole
Were my reward, by heav'n I wou'd not do't!

Vortigern.

Thou coward, what, afraid? O! shame, fie on't.

Officer.

Consider, Sir, your Queen yet lives.

Vortigern.

Thou art in the right; to arms then; out,
Bring me my burnished shield, my weighty ax,
And man the northern gate, let every bell
Sound forth each brazen note until it rouse
Our tombed fathers from their silent graves,
To come and aid us at this pinch of time.
Ring till the very steeples totter down.
Mark well my orders, he that flinches, dies.
If ought of murmur's heard, choak it with death.
Away, away, and now for victory.

END OF THE FOURTH ACT.


ACT V.

SCENE I.

Apartment in Vortigern's Palace.

Edmunda on a Couch, Flavia and Pascentius

Soft Music.

Edmunda.

Indeed, my gentle maid, indeed, thou'rt kind,
And by those tears that glaze thy lovely eyes,
'Twould seem that truly thou did'st pity me.

Flavia.

Pity thee, O Gods!

Edmunda.

Nay, wherefore weep ye both,
'Tis long, long since I was thus kindly treated,
Your pardon, but I fear you scoff at me.

Pascentius.

Doth she yet know you?

Flavia.

Wou'd to Heaven she did.

Edmunda.

And yet there was a maid that once did love me,
Heigh ho! she went alack! I know not whither,
Thou ne'er did'st see her, else what I shall say
Methinks wou'd make thee vain, but yet indeed,
Thou seem'st right well to ape her pretty manners.

Flavia.

This is too much, I cannot bear all this.

Edmunda.

Nay, nay, why shou'd'st thou wail and tremble so?
'Till this I thought that grief was only mine;
It is not fair to rob me of all comfort,
I thought thee honest, but indeed the world
Doth flatter, fawn, and stroke upon the face,
And sadly censure when the back is turn'd.

Pascentius.

O! dearest mother, say, dost thou not know me?

Edmunda.

Aye, aye, right well, thou'rt one by name a man:
Thy form is well enough, and thou may'st pass;
But hast thou a heart for melting pity?
For better be a brute, —
Than lack it under that most godlike form:
And yet I do thee wrong, — for even now
Thou didst add graces to that manly cheek,
With scalding tears! and for whom do you this?
For one that neither asks, nor merits it.

Enter Wortimerus and Catagrinus.

Wortimerus.

How doth she now?

Pascentius.

Alas! she wanders yet, her mind's diseas'd.

Flavia.

I am that maiden lost, your loving daughter.

Edmunda.

Bring here my glasses, stand before me here!
Now, now, I'll judge thee well, I'll see this straight,
And first her look was mild, in this thou'lt do;
Then she was kind, most excellent, and good,
Well, and so seemest thou; now for the last,
O! her heart was, — but thine I cannot see,
There thou deceivest me, I know thee not.
Yet if thou be my daughter,
On thy forehead is a mark, —
Away then with those locks from off thy front:
Now, let me look! O! gods, 'tis she, 'tis she.

Pascentius.

She faints, she faints! this shock is too afflicting
For her poor shatter'd, and disabled frame.

Flavia.

O! dearest, kindest, and most gentle mother.

Edmunda.

Indeed, my brain is something cooler now,
I shou'd know you, Sir, and you too, nay all!
I'm very faint, alas, this joy o'ercomes me!

Flavia.

Sweet mother, you need rest, we'll lead you in.

Edmunda.

Then be it so, and wilt thou sit and watch me?

Flavia.

Aye, and I'll kneel and pray, and sometimes weep.

Edmunda.

Lead then, I'll in to rest, come follow me.

[Exeunt.

Enter Aurelius and Uter.

Aurelius.

The breach is made, the southern gate is forc'd,
Yet still doth he hold out, and hath ta'en flight
E'en to the tower, and there he'll wait the siege.

Uter.

Aurelius, your fair prisoner is no more.

Aurelius.

How say'st thou?

Uter.

Rowena hath ta'en poison and is dead.

Aurelius.

Then hath a wicked soul taken its flight
From the most lovely frame that e'er was form'd,
To charm or to deceive.

[Exeunt.

SCENE II.

Cæsar's Tower.

Enter 1st. Baron and Officer.

Baron.

Is the King yet safe?

Officer.

He is, my lord.

Baron.

Are many troops with us?

Officer.

Two thousand full well arm'd; and braver men
Ne'er buckled on their limbs the glitt'ring steel.
O! what a sight it was to see the King.
No sooner had he reach'd the bridge, but firm,
And with a voice that wrung each coward heart,
He hail'd them to come on. Here then he stood,
In his right hand griping his massy ax,
Whilst with the left he held the brazen chain, —
Nor did he budge until each hardy soldier
Safely within the walls had entered.
Then waving thrice his cased hand in air,
And with a nod that spread pale fear around,
And seem'd to animate his bloody plume,
Triumphantly he bad them all defiance;
Then slowly turning with a horrid frown,
Soldiers, he cry'd, soldiers! break down the draw-bridge.
Like hail, in flight we pour'd on them our arrows,
Until their blood had stain'd the moat around us, —
But look, my lord, here comes the King.

Enter Vortigern.

Vortigern.

Why stand ye here, like fools, catching the air,
What! think ye this to be your mistress' chamber?

Baron.

My gracious Prince, we wait your orders here.

Vortigern.

Then fight I say.
Go get ye hence. —

Baron.

I go.

Vortigern.

No, no, thou must stay here, thou'rt my sole prop;
I sicken fast, and 'gin again to flag.
Pour forth, I pray thee now, some flatt'ring words,
For I am weary, and my lamp of life
Doth sadly linger, and wou'd fain go out,
For look you, my poor soul is sore diseas'd.

Baron.

Courage, my noble Sir. —

Vortigern.

Time was, alas! I needed not this spur.
But here's a secret, and a stinging thorn,
That wounds my troubled nerves, O! conscience! conscience!
When thou didst cry, I strove to stop thy mouth,
By boldly thrusting on thee dire ambition,
Then I did think myself indeed a god!
But I was sore deceiv'd, for as I pass'd,
And travers'd in proud triumph the Basse-court,
There I saw death clad in most hideous colours,
A sight it was that did appal my soul,
Yea, curdled thick this mass of blood within me.
Full fifty breathless bodies struck my sight,
And some with gaping mouths did seem to mock me,
Whilst others smiling in cold death itself,
Scoffingly bad me look on that, which soon
Wou'd wrench from off my brow this sacred crown,
And make me too a subject like themselves;
Subject! to whom? To thee, O sovereign death!
Who hast for thy domain this world immense;
Church-yards and charnel-houses are thy haunts,
And hospitals thy sumptuous palaces,
And when thou would'st be merry, thou dost chuse
The gaudy chamber of a dying King.
O! then thou dost ope wide thy hideous jaws,
And with rude laughter, and fantastic tricks,
Thou clap'st thy rattling fingers to thy sides;
And when this solemn mockery is ended,
With icy hand thou tak'st him by the feet,
And upward so, till thou dost reach the heart,
And wrap him in the cloak of lasting night.

Baron.

Let not, my lord! your thoughts sink you thus low,
But be advis'd, for should your gallant troops
Behold you thus, they might fall sick with fear.

Enter an Officer.

Officer.

My lord! my lord!

Vortigern.

Wherefore dost tremble thus, paper-fac'd knave!
What news shou'd make thee break thus rudely in?

Officer.

Indeed, indeed, I fear to tell you, Sir.

Vortigern.

Speak, vassal, speak! my soul defies thy tongue.

Officer.

Your newly married Queen —

Vortigern.

Speak, what of her?

Officer.

My lord, she hath ta'en poison, and is dead.

Vortigern.

Nay, shrink not from me now, be not afraid,
There, lie my sword! and with it all my hopes.

Lord.

Yet we may hope —

Vortigern.

O! friend, let not thy tongue delude with hope,
Too long against the Almighty have I fought.
Hope now is vain — I will not hear of it.

Officer.

Yet is the breach not made, and we are strong,
Still we may out, my lord, and beat them off.

Vortigern.

Can wicked souls e'er stand before the just;
Can strength outweigh the mighty hand of God?
No, no, never, never — O! repentance,
Why dost thou linger thus to ask admittance?
Thou com'st, alas! too late, thou'rt stale and nauseous.
Where, where is now the good old murder'd King?
In fields of bliss, where guilty souls ne'er come.

Enter another Officer.

2nd Officer.

All, all is lost, the post is ta'en by storm;
The breach is made, they pour in fast upon us.

Vortigern.

If it be so, then will I out and die;
Now aid, ye gods! but if ye will not hear,
E'en then on hell I call again for succour!
My friends have boldly stemm'd this tide of war,
And shall I flinch at last and play the woman?
Let any but Aurelius meet my arm,
And this my sword shall ope a gate so wide,
That the imprison'd soul shall take its flight,
And either seek the murder'd King above,
Or down and join me in the pit below.

[Exeunt.

SCENE III.

The Basse-Court of the Tower.

Enter Aurelius and Uter.

Uter.

Where, brother, are the sons of Vortigern?

Aurelius.

I bade them with their gentle mother stay,
For much 'twould have offended righteous Heav'n,
If 'gainst their father they had join'd with us.
For here there always is a sacred tie,
Which suffers not a son's uplifted hand,
To strike a father, be he ne'er so vile.
Did he not give him birth, and nourish him?
And when thy direst foe becomes thy slave,
Say, shouldst thou use revenge? No, rather shame him
With pity and all-softening charity;
Then on a golden bed thou lay'st thy soul,
And art on earth a blessed angel.

Uter.

Brother, I do commend thee for this deed,
Worthy a Prince, worthy a Briton too.
But come! now, for this tyrant Vortigern!

Enter Officer.

Aurelius.

What's the news?

Officer.

Th'ill fated King doth flee tow'rds Cæsar's Tow'r,
And half his troops have fall'n into our hands.

Aurelius.

Did ye obey mine orders?

Officer.

Aye, my good lord, in ev'ry circumstance.

Aurelius.

Then Uter look, you march towards that same tow'r;
Let me, ye gods! but meet with this vile traitor,
And shou'd his soul not shrink beneath this sword,
Heav'n has no justice.

[Exeunt.

SCENE the Gate of Cæsar's Tower.

Enter Lord and Troops.

Lord.

In, in, for they do scar our very backs,
And score us cowards in our hasty flight.

Enter Vortigern.

Vortigern.

Give me another sword, I have so clogg'd
And badged this with blood, and slipp'ry gore,
That it doth mock my gripe. A sword, I say.

Lord.

Here, here, my noble lord!

Vortigern.

As with their bloods I stain'd my reeking blade,
From summit of the Tow'r the raven croak'd,
Th'heavy-wing'd crow did chatter o'er my head,
And seem'd to bear black laurels for this brow!
Yet did not erst the sun-defying eagle
O'er the world-conquering Macedonian hero,
Flutter, and lead his way to victory?
Then from thy jarring throat spit pestilence, —
And bird of hell, I'll take thee for my guide.

Lord.

The troops are enter'd, — please you follow them?

Vortigern.

I love not to be shut in walls of flint;
My soul likes better this vast field of air!
Let them come on.

Lord.

Consider, my dear lord, think of your safety.

Vortigern.

Must we then die? then wherefore in a door,
And rot with famine and with pale-fac'd hunger?
No, it were better die nobly, full-stomach'd,
Than linger out a six week's tedious siege. —
Do as you list, here firmly will I stand.

Lord.

Is it your pleasure they shall then proceed?

Vortigern.

Aye, e'en to it straight. —
Nay stop! why shou'd all these be doom'd to death?
The crime is mine, not theirs. —

Enter Aurelius.

Aurelius.

Villain and traitor, at thy word I take thee.

Vortigern.

Ah! — thy face the semblance of thy father's bears!
Thine eyes do pierce more than thy steel-clad arm.
Were fifty brave souls in that body cas'd,
Proudly I'd scorn them all, but alas! thy looks —

Aurelius.

Thou perjured wretch! thou most abhorred villain!

Vortigern.

Prate on, prate on; 'tis true I merit this;
But go not yet too far, lest, stripling boy,
You shou'd to indignation raise this blood,
Which thou hast turn'd from out its wonted course,
And make it fall on thee.

Aurelius.

Alike, I do defy thy rage and thee;
Where is my father!

Vortigern.

Curse upon thee, thou grat'st my soul,
O! if around this tatter'd conscience, e'er
Did cling repentance, I now cast it off.

[They fight and pause.

Yet stand aloof, and hear me yet a while?

Aurelius.

I will not.

Vortigern.

'Twere better that thou should'st, lest waxing warm
I rise, and pour upon thy unform'd limbs
That rage which 'gins to swell within my veins,
And lays a double murder on my soul.

Aurelius.

Come on, come on, I say!

[They fight, Vortigern is thrown to the ground.

Now, tyrant, now, I have thee in my power.

Vortigern.

Dost think I'll blanch my face, and be a coward?
A lily coward? No! strike then —
I ne'er will ask thy mercy.

Aurelius.

Now, traytor, where's my father?

Vortigern.

Murdered.

Aurelius.

And by whom?

Vortigern.

Is not the crown thine own?

Aurelius.

Aye, and is so by right; then speak, I say.

Vortigern.

I will not, boy, had'st thou ten thousand voices,
And lungs of brass to give them utterance,
I would not answer ought.

Aurelius.

Then die!

(Flavia comes forward.)

Flavia.

O stop, Aurelius!
He is still my father!

Vortigern.

My daughter here! then curse thy tardy hand,
That lingers so in doing of its office;
Strike, strike, I do beseech thee, for I'm sick,
And do abhor the very light of Heaven.

Flavia.

O! mercy! on my knees I beg for mercy.

Vortigern.

'Twas I, 'twas I, this hand thy father murdered.

Aurelius.

And say'st thou this, e'en to my face?

Vortigern.

Aye, to thy face, and in thy ears I'll din it,
'Till thou for mercy's sake shalt strike the blow.

Enter Wortimerus, Catagrinus, Soldiers, Lords, &c.

Wortimerus.

What! my father?

Aurelius.

My Flavia, for thy sake I grant him life.

Vortigern.

In charity then I pray ye bear me hence!

Aurelius.

Aye, lead him towards the Friars.

Vortigern.

Yea, where ye list, but take me from this sight.

[Vor. is led out.

Aurelius.

How fares Edmunda?

Wortimerus.

Her mind is somewhat better, yet she's feeble.

Aurelius.

Well! of your father doth she e'er say ought?

Wortimerus.

Aye, truly, but she haply thinks him dead.

Enter Uter.

Uter.

Of all, the King hath truly made confession,
To you he justly renders up the crown,
And bade me hail you rightful King of Britain.

(All Kneel.)

All.

Hail to Aurelius,
Lawful King of Britain.

Pascentius enters.

Pas. to Aur.

Vortigern on thee bestows our sister,
And bade me, in his name, present her hand —

Aurelius.

Which I do kiss, and with the self same breath,
Do hail her wife, and Britain's lovely Queen.

All.

All hail to Flavia, Queen of Britain.

Aurelius.

Much, we confess, we owe to all here present;
Each distinct service we shall well repay,
As best befits the dignity of our state;
To-morrow, Lords, we'll meet at Westminster,
For your ripe ages, and experience,
Must teach our young and giddy years the way,
To sow content after these dismal times.

[Curtain drops.

"Fool comes forward.”

“Methinks but now I heard some gentles say,
“Where's master Fool? I'troth he's run away.
“Right! for look you, when there be danger near,
“He then most courage hath who most doth fear;
“Besides, observe, I came not here to fight,
“Let him that dares, say nay, for I am right;
“I will not out and risk a knocking down,
“For though I like our King, I like my crown;
“Besides, there is a time for Fools to play,
“But then they must have nought, save good to say.
“Chance you will ask if this be tragedy,
“We kill indeed, yet still 'tis comedy;
“For none save bad do fall, which draws no tear,
“Nor lets compassion sway your tender ear;
“Play! we'll grant it — the story ye have read,
“For 'tis well chronicled in Hollinshed;
“Give then your plaudits, and when that be done,
“Your Fool shall bow, and thank ye ev'ry one.”

FINIS.


EPILOGUE.

Written by the late ROBERT MERRY, Esq.

Spoken by Mrs. Jordan.

Ye solemn critics! wheresoe'er you're seated,
To grant a favour may you be entreated?
For which I'll pay you proper adoration,
And strive to please you — that is my vocation:
Then do not frown, but give due share of praise,
Nor rend from Shakespeare's tomb the sacred bays.
The scatter'd flow'rs! he left benignly save!
Posthumous flow'rs! the garland of the grave!
What tho' he liv'd two hundred years ago,
He knew you very well, as I will shew:
His pencil sketch'd you, and that seldom errs;
You're all, whate'er you think, his characters.
How! — do you doubt it? — cast your eyes around,
In ev'ry corner of this house they're found.
Observe the jolly grazier in the pit,
Why, he is Falstaff, fat, and full of wit; —
In fun and feasting places his delight,
And with his Dolly emulates the Knight.
Look at that youth, whose countenance of woe
Denotes a tender-hearted Romeo;
He only wishes, tho' he dare not speak,
To be a glove to touch his Juliet's cheek;
While she, from yonder terrace, smiles serene,
And longs with him to play the garden scene.
But O! I tremble now, — there sits a man,
Rugged and rough, a very Caliban!
He growls out his displeasure — 'tis a shame!
Do, dear Miranda! make the monster tame.
And you, my pretty Beatrice, don't fret,
Your Benedick is fond of a coquette.
For tho' he vows he'll think no more about you,
He means to marry — he can't live without you.
Kind faithful Imogens are here, to charm us,
Mad Edgars, Ancient Pistols to alarm us,
And Hotspurs too, who seek the glorious boon,
“To pluck bright honour from the pale-fac'd moon.”
Besides, we have our Touchstones, Shylocks dire,
Iagos false, and many a shallow Squire.
Nay, there are ladies, who in their own houses,
Are Desdemonas, plagu'd with jealous spouses.
'Tis true, there is some change, I must confess,
Since Shakespeare's time, at least in point of dress.
The ruffs are gone, and the long female waist
Yields to the Grecian more voluptuous taste;
While circling braids the copious tresses bind,
And the bare neck spreads beautiful behind.
Our senators and peers no longer go
Like men in armour glitt'ring in a row;
But, for the cloak and pointed beard we note
The close-cropt head, and little short great-coat.
Yet is the modern Briton still the same,
Eager to cherish, and adverse to blame;
Foe to deception, ready to defend,
A kind protector and a gen'rous friend.


Notes

three years
Vortigern was originally presented at Drury Lane on 2 April 1796. The exact date of publication of Vortigern is unclear, but newspaper notices in the Sun on 4 April 1799 and the Morning Herald on 23 May 1799 call it “this day published.”
The fate which it underwent
According to William Henry Ireland (and most other commentators), the first few acts went well. When John Philip Kemble, however, playing Vortigern, recited the line, “And when this solemn mockery is o'er” (Vortigern 5.2; the printed text has “ended” for “o'er”), the audience reacted with laughter. As Ireland put it in his Confessions: “No sooner was the above line uttered in the most sepulchral tone of voice possible, . . . than the most discordant howl echoed from the pit that ever assailed the organs of hearing.” The cast struggled to get through the rest of the play, which was a disaster. As a newspaper, the True Briton, put it, “When Barrymore came forward to announce the second representation of the Play for Monday night, there was the most violent contest we ever witnessed in a Theatre. It lasted for a quarter of an hour.” Vortigern would not be played again until 1997.
the Editor
Samuel Ireland, William's father, published Vortigern and Henry II.
agreeably to his promise
Samuel Ireland had published most of the Shakespeare papers at the end of 1795 (with a 1796 date) in Miscellaneous Papers. He promised that the two full-length dramas would follow, but the disastrous performance of Vortigern intervened.
a professed trader on the subject of Shakespeare
Edmond Malone, famous as a scholarly editor of Shakespeare's works. He published An Inquiry into the Authenticity of Certain Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments, Published Dec. 24, M DCC XCV. and Attributed to Shakspeare, Queen Elizabeth, and Henry, Earl of Southampton two days before Vortigern appeared on the stage.
long before promised
Malone had advertised his Inquiry as early as 28 December 1795, but it did not appear until the end of March. Samuel Ireland was convinced the delay was intentional: as he wrote in a private letter of 20 March 1796, “his book is not yet pubd tho' I am credibly informed it is ready — the reason is Clear, he means to withhold it till ye day of representation of Vortigern.”
induce him to believe
Samuel Ireland remained convinced that Vortigern and the rest of the papers were genuine, even after William's confession. As Samuel wrote in a private letter on 5 July 1796, “he has publicly avowed himself author of all the papers, deeds &c., to wch I give no credit not even to a Syllable — it is his Vanity, that has urged him to this.”
all its imperfections on its head
A quotation from Hamlet: the Ghost complains that he was killed and “sent to my account / With all my imperfections on my head” (1.5).
PROLOGUE, INTENDED FOR VORTIGERN
Henry James Pye, then poet laureate, delivered the first draft of this prologue on 23 January 1796. Samuel Ireland worried that it drew too much attention to the questions about the play's authenticity, and the reference to the audience as “this tribunal” seemed to grant them the power to damn the play as inauthentic. He demanded several changes, and finally rejected Pye's prologue in favor of the one by Sir James Bland Burgess.
taper
“A wax candle; a light” (Johnson's Dictionary).
How poets spelt two centuries ago
Many of the arguments against Vortigern and the other Shakespeare papers were concerned with Ireland's strangely antiquated spelling. The believers were convinced that Elizabethan spelling was too irregular to be used as the basis of a critique. As Samuel Ireland wrote of Malone and others of his faction, “Their opposition is I hear to be principally supported by the Orthography of Shakspear is not that of the period in wch he lived — As the orthography was then quite unfixed — I think it will be no easy matter to point out by what rule any individual could set down, & be governed by any fashion or mode of spelling.”
philomel
A poetical name for the nightingale.