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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

From ‘Perkin Warbeck’

By John Ford (1586–c. 1640)

  • [Perkin Warbeck and his followers are presented to King Henry VII. by Lord Dawbeny as prisoners.]

  • DAWBENY—Life to the King, and safety fix his throne.

    I here present you, royal sir, a shadow

    Of Majesty, but in effect a substance

    Of pity; a young man, in nothing grown

    To ripeness, but th’ ambition of your mercy;

    Perkin, the Christian world’s strange wonder!
    King Henry—Dawbeny,

    We observe no wonder; I behold (’tis true)

    An ornament of nature, fine and polished,

    A handsome youth, indeed, but not admire him.

    How come he to thy hands?
    Dawbeny—From sanctuary.

    At Bewley, near Southampton; registered,

    With these few followers, for persons privileged.

    King Henry—I must not thank you, sir! you were to blame

    To infringe the liberty of houses sacred;

    Dare we be irreligious?
    Dawbeny—Gracious lord!

    They voluntarily resigned themselves,

    Without compulsion.
    King Henry—So? ’twas very well

    ’Twas very well. Turn now thine eyes,

    Young man! upon thyself and thy past actions:

    What revels in combustion through our kingdom

    A frenzy of aspiring youth has danced;

    Till wanting breath, thy feet of pride have slipt

    To break thy neck.
    Warbeck—But not my heart; my heart

    Will mount till every drop of blood be frozen

    By death’s perpetual winter. If the sun

    Of Majesty be darkened, let the sun

    Of life be hid from me, in an eclipse

    Lasting and universal. Sir, remember

    There was a shooting in of light when Richmond

    (Not aiming at the crown) retired, and gladly,

    For comfort to the Duke of Bretagne’s court.

    Richard, who swayed the sceptre, was reputed

    A tyrant then; yet then, a dawning glimmer’d

    To some few wand’ring remnants, promising day

    When first they ventur’d on a frightful shore

    At Milford Haven.
    Dawbeny—Whither speeds his boldness?

    Check his rude tongue, great sir.
    King Henry—Oh, let him range:

    The player’s on the stage still; ’tis his part:

    He does but act.—What followed?
    Warbeck—Bosworth Field:

    Where at an instant, to the world’s amazement,

    A morn to Richmond and a night to Richard

    Appear’d at once. The tale is soon applied:

    Fate which crowned these attempts, when least assured,

    Might have befriended others, like resolved.

    King Henry—A pretty gallant! thus your aunt of Burgundy,

    Your duchess aunt, informed her nephew: so

    The lesson, prompted, and well conned, was molded

    Into familiar dialogue, oft rehearsed,

    Till, learnt by heart, ’tis now received for truth.

    Warbeck—Truth in her pure simplicity wants art

    To put a feigned blush on; scorn wears only

    Such fashion as commends to gazers’ eyes

    Sad ulcerated novelty, far beneath; in such a court

    Wisdom and gravity are proper robes

    By which the sovereign is best distinguished

    From zanies to his greatness.
    King Henry—Sirrah, shift

    Your antic pageantry, and now appear

    In your own nature; or you’ll taste the danger

    Of fooling out of season.
    Warbeck—I expect

    No less than what severity calls justice,

    And politicians safety; let such beg

    As feed on alms: but if there can be mercy

    In a protested enemy, then may it

    Descend to these poor creatures whose engagements

    To the bettering of their fortunes have incurred

    A loss of all to them, if any charity

    Flow from some noble orator; in death

    I owe the fee of thankfulness.
    King Henry—So brave?

    What a bold knave is this!

    We trifle time with follies.

    Urswick, command the Dukeling and these fellows

    To Digby, the Lieutenant of the Tower.

    Warbeck—Noble thoughts

    Meet freedom in captivity: the Tower,

    Our childhood’s dreadful nursery!

    King Henry—Was ever so much impudence in forgery?

    The custom, sure, of being styled a king

    Hath fastened in his thought that he is such.