Page images

P. Henry. O villain! thy lips are scarce wiped since thou drank'st last. Fal. All's one for that. A plague of all cowards, still say


(He drinks.) P. Henry. What's the matter ?

Fal. What's the matter! There be four of us here have ta’en a thousand pounds this morning.

P. Henry. Where is it, Jack? where is it?

Fal. Where is it? Taken from us it is; a hundred upon poor

four of us. P. Henry. What! a hundred, man?

Fal. I am a rogue, if I were not at half-sword with a dozen of them two hours together. I have 'scaped by miracle. I am eight times thrust through the doublet; four through the hose; my buckler cut through and through; my sword hacked like a hand-saw ; look here : [shows his sword.] I never dealt better since I was a man; all would not do. A plague of all cowards ! Let them speak; if they speak more or less than truth, they are villains, and the sons of darkness.

P. Henry. Speak, sirs; how was it?
Gadshill. We four set upon some dozen-
Fal. Sixteen, at least, my lord.
Gads. And bound them.
Peto. No, no, they were not bound.

Fal. You rogue, they were bound, every man of them; or I am a Jew else an Ebrew Jew.

Gads. As we were sharing, some six or seven fresh men set upon us,

Fal. And unbound the rest; and then come in the other.
P. Henry. What! fought ye with them all ?

Fal. All? I know not what ye call all ; but if I fought not with fifty of them, I am a bunch of radish; if there were not two or three and fifty upon poor old Jack, then I am no twolegged creature. Poins. I


Heaven you have not murdered some of them. Fal. Nay, that's past praying for; I have peppered two of them: two I am sure I have paid ; two rogues in buckram suits. I tell thee what, Hal,—if I tell thee a lie, spit in my face, and call me a horse. Thou knowest my old ward ; [Draws his sword and takes a fighting position,] here I lay, and thus I bore my point. Four rogues in buckram let drive at me

P. Henry. What! four? Thou saidst but two, even now.
Fal. Four, Hal; I told thee four.
Poins. Ay, ay, he said four.
Fal. These four came all a-front, and mainly thrust at me. I

made no more ado, but took all their seven points in my target, thus.

P. Henry. Seven ? Why, there were but four, even now.
Fal. In buckram.
Poins. Ay, four, in buckram suits.
Fal. Seven, by these hilts, or I am a villain else.
P. Henry. Pr’ythee, let him alone : we shall have more anon.
Fal. Dost thou hear me, Hal?
P. Henry. Ay, and mark thee, too, Jack.

Fal. Do so, for it is worth the listening to. These nine in buckram, that I told thee of

P. Henry. So, two more already.

Fal. Their points being broken, began to give me ground; but I followed me close, came in foot and hand; and, with a thought, seven of the eleven I paid.

P. Henry. Oh, monstrous ! eleven buckram men grown out of two !

Fal. But, as ill-luck would have it, three mis-begotten knaves, in Kendal green, came at my back, and let drive at me ;-for it was so dark, Hal, that thou couldst not see thy hand.

P. Henry. These lies are like the father of them; gross as a mountain, open, palpable. Why, thou clay-brained villain; thou knotty-pated fool ; thou greasy tallow-keech

Fal. What, art thou mad ? art thou mad ? Is not the truth the truth?

P. Henry. Why, how couldst thou know these men in Kendal green, when it was so dark thou couldst not see thy hand ? Come, tell us your reason. What sayst thou to this ?

Poins. Come! your reason, Jack; your reason.

Fal. What, upon compulsion ? No; were I at the strappado, or all the racks in the world, I would not tell you on compulsion. Give you a reason on compulsion! If reasons were as plenty as blackberries, I would give no man a reason on compulsion.

P. Henry. I'll no longer be guilty of this sîn ; this ganguine coward, this bed-presser, this horseback-breaker, this huge hill of flesh

Fal. Away! you starveling, you eel-skin, you dried neat's tongue, you stock-fish-Oh for breath to utter what is like thee! -you tailor's yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck

P. Henry. Well, breathe a while, and then to 't again; and when thou hast tired thyself in base comparisons, hear me speak but this.

Poins. Mark, Jack.

P. Henry. We two saw you four set on four; you bound them, and were masters of their wealth. Mark, now, how plain a tale shall put you down. Then did we two set on you four, and, with a word, out-faced you from your prize, and have it; yea, and can show it you here in the house ; -and, Falstaff, you carried yourself away as nimbly, with as quick dexterity, and roared for mercy, and still ran and roared, as ever I heard a calf. What a slave art thou, to hack thy sword as thou hast done, and then say it was in fight! What trick, what device, what starting-hole, canst thou now find out to hide thee from this open and apparent shame?

Poins. Come, let's hear, Jack. What trick hast thou now?

Fal. Why, I knew ye, as well as he that made ye. Why, hear ye, my masters. Was it for me to kill the heir-apparent? Should I turn upon the true prince? Why, thou knowest I am as valiant as Hercules; but beware instinct; the lion will not touch the true prince: instinct is a great matter; I was a coward on instinct. I shall think the better of myself and thee, during my life; I for a valiant lion, and thou for a true prince. But, lads, I am glad you have the money. Hostess, clap to the doors. Watch to-night, pray to-morrow. Gallants, lads, boys, hearts of gold, all the titles of good fellowship come to you! What, shall we be merry? Shall we have a play extempore?

P. Henry. Content; and the argument shall be thy running away.

Fal. Ah! no more of that, Hal, an thou lovest me.





THERE was a man
A Roman soldier, for some daring deed
That trespass'd on the laws, in dungeon low
Chain'd down. His was a noble spirit, rough,

But generous, and brave, and kind.
2 He had a son; it was a rosy boy,

A little, faithful copy of his sire
In face and gesture. From infancy the child
Had been his father's solace and his care.

Every sport
The father shared and heighten'd. But at length
The rigorous law had grasp'd him, and condemn'd
To fetters and to darkness.


The captive's lot He felt in all its bitterness; the walls Of his deep dungeon answer'd many a sigh And heart-heaved groan. His tale was known, and touch'd His jailer with compassion; and the boy, Thenceforth a frequent visitor, beguiled His father's lingering hours, and brought a balm With his loved presence that in every wound Dropp'd healing


But in this terrific hour
He was a poison’d'arrow in the breast
Where he had been a cure. With earliest morn
Of that first day of darkness and amaze,
He came.

The iron door was closed, for them
Never to open more! The day, the night,
Dragg'd slowly by; nor did they know the fate
Impending o'er the city.

Well they heard
The pent-up thunders in the earth beneath,
And felt its giddy rocking; and the air
Grew hot at length, and thick; but in his straw
The boy was sleeping; and the father hoped
The earthquake might pass by; nor would be wake,
From his sound rest, the unfearing child, nor tell
The dangers of their state.



On his low couch
The fetter'd soldier sunk, and, with deep awe,
Listen’d to the fearful sounds. With upturn'd eye,
To the great gods he breathed a prayer; then strove
To calm himself, and lose in sleep a while
His useless terrors. But he could not sleep:
His body burn'd with feverish heat; his chains
Clank'd loud, although he moved not; deep in earth
Groan'd unimaginable thunders; sounds,
Fearful and ominous, arose and died,
Like the sad moanings of November's wind
In the blank midnight.


Deepest horror chill'd
His blood, that burn'd before; cold, clammy sweats
Came o'er him; then, anon, a fiery thrill
Shot through his veins. Now on his couch he shrunk,
And shiver'd as in fear; now upright leap'd,
As though he heard the battle-trumpet sound
And long'd to cope with death. He slept, at last,-
A troubled, dreamy sleep. Well had he slept
Never to waken more! His hours are few,

But terrible his agony. 8.

Soon the storm
Burst forth; the lightnings glanced; the air
Shook with the thunders. They awoke; they sprung
Amazed upon their feet. The dungeon glow'd
A moment as in sunshine, and was dark;
Again, a flood of white flame fills the cell,
Dying away upon the dazzled eye,
In darkening, quivering tints, as stunning sound
Dies, throbbing, ringing in the ear. Silence,

And blackest darkness ! 9.

With intensest awe
The soldier's frame was fill’d; and many a thought
Of strange foreboding hurried through his mind,
As underneath he felt the fever'd earth
Jarring and lifting, and the massive walls
Heard harshly grate and strain; yet knew he not,
While evils undefined and yet to come
Glanced through his thoughts, what deep and cureless


Fate had already given. 10.

Whe'e, man of woe!
Where, wretched father! is thy boy? Thou call'st
His name in vain : he cannot answer thee.

11. Loudly the father call’d upon his child:

No voice replied. Trembling and anxiously
He search'd their couch of straw; with headlong haste
Trod round his stinted limits, and, low bent,
Groped darkling on the earth: no child was there.
Again he call’d; again, at farthest stretch
Of his accurséd fetters, till the blood
Seem'd bursting from his ears, and from his eyes
Fire flash'd; he strain'd, with arm extended far,

« PreviousContinue »