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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 ‘Tamburlaine’

By Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593)

Three Selections

Alarms of battle within. Enter Cosroe, wounded, and Tamburlaine

COSROE—Barbarous and bloody Tamburlaine,

Thus to deprive me of my crown and life!

Treacherous and false Theridamas,

Even at the morning of my happy state,

Scarce being seated in my royal throne,

To work my downfall and untimely end!

An uncouth pain torments my grievèd soul,

And death arrests the organ of my voice,

Who, entering at the breach thy sword hath made,

Sacks every vein and artier of my heart.—

Bloody and insatiate Tamburlaine!

Tamburlaine—The thirst of reign and sweetness of a crown

That caused the eldest son of heavenly Ops

To thrust his doting father from his chair,

And place himself in the empyreal heaven,

Moved me to manage arms against thy state.

What better precedent than mighty Jove?

Nature that framed us of four elements,

Warring within our breasts for regiment,

Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds.

Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend

The wondrous architecture of the world,

And measure every wandering planet’s course,

Still climbing after knowledge infinite,

And always moving as the restless spheres,

Will us to wear ourselves, and never rest,

Until we reach the ripest fruit of all,—

That perfect bliss and sole delicity,

The sweet fruition of an earthly crown.


AH, fair Zenocrate!—divine Zenocrate!—

Fair is too foul an epithet for thee,

That in thy passion for thy country’s love,

And fear to see thy kingly father’s harm,

With hair disheveled wip’st thy watery cheeks;

And like to Flora in her morning pride,

Shaking her silver tresses in the air,

Rain’st on the earth resolvèd pearl in showers,

And sprinklest sapphires on thy shining face,

Where Beauty, mother to the Muses, sits

And comments volumes with her ivory pen,

Taking instructions from thy flowing eyes;

Eyes that, when Ebena steps to heaven,

In silence of thy solemn evening’s walk,

Make, in the mantle of the richest night,

The moon, the planets, and the meteors, light.

There angels in their crystal armors fight

A doubtful battle with my tempted thoughts,

For Egypt’s freedom and the Soldan’s life;

His life that so consumes Zenocrate,

Whose sorrows lay more siege unto my soul,

Than all my army to Damascus’s walls:

And neither Persia’s sovereign, nor the Turk,

Troubled my senses with conceit of foil

So much by much as doth Zenocrate.

What is beauty, saith my sufferings, then?

If all the pens that ever poets held

Had fed the feeling of their masters’ thoughts,

And every sweetness that inspired their hearts,

Their minds, and muses on admirèd themes;

If all the heavenly quintessence they still

From their immortal flowers of poesy,

Wherein, as in a mirror, we perceive

The highest reaches of a human wit;

If these had made one poem’s period,

And all combined in beauty’s worthiness,

Yet should there hover in their restless heads

One thought, one grace, one wonder, at the least,

Which into words no virtue can digest.

But how unseemly is it for my sex,

My discipline of arms and chivalry,

My nature, and the terror of my name,

To harbor thoughts effeminate and faint!

Save only that in beauty’s just applause,

With whose instinct the soul of man is touched;

And every warrior that is wrapt with love

Of fame, of valor, and of victory,

Must needs have beauty beat on his conceits:

I thus conceiving and subduing both

That which hath stooped the chiefest of the gods,

Even from the fiery-spangled veil of heaven,

To feel the lowly warmth of shepherds’ flames,

And mask in cottages of strowèd reeds,

Shall give the world to note for all my birth,

That virtue solely is the sum of glory,

And fashions men with true nobility.


TAMBURLAINE—But now, my boys, leave off and list to me,

That mean to teach you rudiments of war:

I’ll have you learn to sleep upon the ground,

March in your armor thorough watery fens,

Sustain the scorching heat and freezing cold,

Hunger and thirst, right adjuncts of the war,

And after this to scale a castle wall,

Besiege a fort, to undermine a town,

And make whole cities caper in the air.

Then next the way to fortify your men:

In champion grounds, what figure serves you best,

For which the quinque-angle form is meet,

Because the corners there may fall more flat

Whereas the fort may fittest be assailed,

And sharpest where the assault is desperate.

The ditches must be deep; the counterscarps

Narrow and steep; the walls made high and broad;

The bulwarks and the rampires large and strong,

With cavalieros and thick counterforts,

And room within to lodge six thousand men.

It must have privy ditches, countermines,

And secret issuings to defend the ditch;

It must have high argins and covered ways,

To keep the bulwark fronts from battery,

And parapets to hide the musketers;

Casemates to place the great artillery;

And store of ordnance, that from every flank

May scour the outward curtains of the fort,

Dismount the cannon of the adverse part,

Murder the foe, and save the walls from breach.

When this is learned for service on the land,

By plain and easy demonstration

I’ll teach you how to make the water mount,

That you may dry-foot march through lakes and pools,

Deep rivers, havens, creeks, and little seas,

And make a fortress in the raging waves,

Fencèd with the concave of monstrous rock,

Invincible by nature of the place.

When this is done then are ye soldiers,

And worthy sons of Tamburlaine the Great.

Calyphas—My lord, but this is dangerous to be done:

We may be slain or wounded ere we learn.

Tamburlaine—Villain! Art thou the son of Tamburlaine,

And fear’st to die, or with a curtle-axe

To hew thy flesh, and make a gaping wound?

Hast thou beheld a peal of ordnance strike

A ring of pikes, mingled with shot and horse,

Whose shattered limbs, being tossed as high as Heaven,

Hang in the air as thick as sunny motes,

And canst thou, coward, stand in fear of death?

Hast thou not seen my horsemen charge the foe,

Shot through the arms, cut overthwart the hands,

Dyeing their lances with their streaming blood,

And yet at night carouse within my tent,

Filling their empty veins with airy wine,

That, being concocted, turns to crimson blood,—

And wilt thou shun the field for fear of wounds?

View me, thy father, that hath conquered kings,

And with his horse marched round about the earth

Quite void of scars and clear from any wound,

That by the wars lost not a drop of blood,—

And see him lance his flesh to teach you all.[He cuts his arm.]

A wound is nothing, be it ne’er so deep;

Blood is the god of war’s rich livery.

Now look I like a soldier, and this wound

As great a grace and majesty to me,

As if a chain of gold, enamelèd,

Enchased with diamonds, sapphires, rubies,

And fairest pearl of wealthy India,

Were mounted here under a canopy,

And I sate down clothed with a massy robe,

That late adorned the Afric potentate,

Whom I brought bound unto Damascus’s walls.

Come, boys, and with your fingers search my wound.

And in my blood wash all your hands at once,

While I sit smiling to behold the sight.

Now, my boys, what think ye of a wound?

Calyphas—I know not what I should think of it; methinks it is a pitiful sight.

Celebinus—’Tis nothing: give me a wound, father.

Amyras—And me another, my lord.

Tamburlaine—Come, sirrah, give me your arm.

Celebinus—Here, father, cut it bravely, as you did your own.

Tamburlaine—It shall suffice thou darest abide a wound:

My boy, thou shalt not lose a drop of blood

Before we meet the army of the Turk;

But then run desperate through the thickest throngs,

Dreadless of blows, of bloody wounds, and death;

And let the burning of Larissa-walls,

My speech of war, and this my wound you see,

Teach you, my boys, to bear courageous minds,

Fit for the followers of great Tamburlaine!