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

Act III. Scene IV.

King Lear

The Heath.Before a Hovel.

Enter LEAR, KENT, and Fool.

Kent.Here is the place, my lord; good my lord, enter:

The tyranny of the open night’s too rough

For nature to endure.[Storm still.

Lear.Let me alone.

Kent.Good my lord, enter here.

Lear.Wilt break my heart?

Kent.I’d rather break mine own. Good my lord, enter.

Lear.Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious storm

Invades us to the skin: so ’tis to thee;

But where the greater malady is fix’d,

The lesser is scarce felt. Thou’dst shun a bear;

But if thy flight lay toward the roaring sea,

Thou’dst meet the bear i’ the mouth. When the mind’s free

The body’s delicate; the tempest in my mind

Doth from my senses take all feeling else

Save what beats there. Filial ingratitude!

Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand

For lifting food to ’t? But I will punish home:

No, I will weep no more. In such a night

To shut me out! Pour on; I will endure.

In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!

Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,—

O! that way madness lies; let me shun that;

No more of that.

Kent.Good, my lord, enter here.

Lear.Prithee, go in thyself; seek thine own ease:

This tempest will not give me leave to ponder

On things would hurt me more. But I’ll go in.

[To the Fool.]In, boy; go first. You houseless poverty,—

Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.[Fool goes in.

Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,

That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,

How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,

Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you

From seasons such as these? O! I have ta’en

Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp;

Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,

That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,

And show the heavens more just.

Edg.[Within.]Fathom and half, fathom and half! Poor Tom![The Fool runs out from the hovel.

Fool.Come not in here, nuncle; here’s a spirit.

Help me! help me!

Kent.Give me thy hand. Who’s there?

Fool.A spirit, a spirit: he says his name’s poor Tom.

Kent.What art thou that dost grumble there i’ the straw?

Come forth.

Enter EDGAR disguised as a madman.

Edg.Away! the foul fiend follows me!

Through the sharp hawthorn blow the winds.

Hum! go to thy cold bed and warm thee.

Lear.Didst thou give all to thy two daughters?

And art thou come to this?

Edg.Who gives anything to poor Tom? whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame, through ford and whirlpool, o’er bog and quagmire; that hath laid knives under his pillow, and halters in his pew; set ratsbane by his porridge; made him proud of heart, to ride on a bay trotting-horse over four-inched bridges, to course his own shadow for a traitor. Bless thy five wits! Tom’s a-cold. O! do de, do de, do de. Bless thee from whirlwinds, starblasting, and taking! Do poor Tom some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes. There could I have him now, and there, and there again, and there.[Storm still.

Lear.What! have his daughters brought him to this pass?

Couldst thou save nothing? Didst thou give them all?

Fool.Nay, he reserved a blanket, else we had been all shamed.

Lear.Now all the plagues that in the pendulous air

Hang fated o’er men’s faults light on thy daughters!

Kent.He hath no daughters, sir.

Lear.Death, traitor! nothing could have subdu’d nature

To such a lowness, but his unkind daughters.

Is it the fashion that discarded fathers

Should have thus little mercy on their flesh?

Judicious punishment! ’twas this flesh begot

Those pelican daughters.

Edg.Pillicock sat on Pillicock-hill:

Halloo, halloo, loo, loo!

Fool.This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.

Edg.Take heed o’ the foul fiend. Obey thy parents; keep thy word justly; swear not; commit not with man’s sworn spouse; set not thy sweet heart on proud array. Tom’s a-cold.

Lear.What hast thou been?

Edg.A servingman, proud in heart and mind; that curled my hair, wore gloves in my cap, served the lust of my mistress’s heart, and did the act of darkness with her; swore as many oaths as I spake words, and broke them in the sweet face of heaven; one that slept in the contriving of lust, and waked to do it. Wine loved I deeply, dice dearly, and in woman out-paramoured the Turk: false of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey. Let not the creaking of shoes nor the rustling of silks betray thy poor heart to woman: keep thy foot out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets, thy pen from lenders’ books, and defy the foul fiend. Still through the hawthorn blows the cold wind; says suum, mun ha no nonny. Dolphin my boy, my boy; sessa! let him trot by.[Storm still.

Lear.Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies. Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here’s three on ’s are sophisticated; thou art the thing itself; unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings! Come; unbutton here.[Tearing off his clothes.

Fool.Prithee, nuncle, be contented; ’tis a naughty night to swim in. Now a little fire in a wide field were like an old lecher’s heart; a small spark, all the rest on ’s body cold. Look! here comes a walking fire.

Enter GLOUCESTER with a torch

Edg.This is the foul fiend Flibbertigibbet: he begins at curfew, and walks till the first cock; he gives the web and the pin, squints the eye, and makes the harelip; mildews the white wheat, and hurts the poor creature of earth.

  • Swithold footed thrice the old;
  • He met the night-mare, and her nine-fold;
  • Bid her alight,
  • And her troth plight,
  • And aroint thee, witch, aroint thee!
  • Kent.How fares your Grace?

    Lear.What’s he?

    Kent.Who’s there? What is ’t you seek?

    Glo.What are you there? Your names?

    Edg.Poor Tom; that eats the swimming frog; the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt, and the water; that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages, eats cow-dung for sallets; swallows the old rat and the ditch-dog; drinks, the green mantle of the standing pool; who is whipped from tithing to tithing, and stock-punished, and imprisoned; who hath had three suits to his back, six shirts to his body, horse to ride, and weapon to wear;

    But mice and rats and such small deer

    Have been Tom’s food for seven long year.

    Beware my follower. Peace, Smulkin! peace, thou fiend.

    Glo.What! hath your Grace no better company?

    Edg.The prince of darkness is a gentleman;

    Modo he’s call’d, and Mahu.

    Glo.Our flesh and blood, my lord, is grown so vile,

    That it doth hate what gets it.

    Edg.Poor Tom’s a-cold.

    Glo.Go in with me. My duty cannot suffer

    To obey in all your daughters’ hard commands:

    Though their injunction be to bar my doors,

    And let this tyrannous night take hold upon you,

    Yet have I ventur’d to come seek you out

    And bring you where both fire and food is ready.

    Lear.First let me talk with this philosopher.

    What is the cause of thunder?

    Kent.Good my lord, take his offer; go into the house.

    Lear.I’ll talk a word with this same learned Theban.

    What is your study?

    Edg.How to prevent the fiend, and to kill vermin.

    Lear.Let me ask you one word in private.

    Kent.Importune him once more to go, my lord;

    His wits begin to unsettle.

    Glo.Canst thou blame him?[Storm still.

    His daughters seek his death. Ah! that good Kent;

    He said it would be thus, poor banish’d man!

    Thou sayst the king grows mad; I’ll tell thee, friend,

    I am almost mad myself. I had a son,

    Now outlaw’d from my blood; he sought my life,

    But lately, very late; I lov’d him, friend,

    No father his son dearer; true to tell thee,[Storm continues.

    The grief hath craz’d my wits. What a night’s this!

    I do beseech your Grace,—

    Lear.O! cry you mercy, sir.

    Noble philosopher, your company.

    Edg.Tom’s a-cold.

    Glo.In, fellow, there, into the hovel: keep thee warm.

    Lear.Come, let’s in all.

    Kent.This way, my lord.

    Lear.With him;

    I will keep still with my philosopher.

    Kent.Good my lord, soothe him; let him take the fellow.

    Glo.Take him you on.

    Kent.Sirrah, come on; go along with us.

    Lear.Come, good Athenian.

    Glo.No words, no words: hush.

    Edg.Child Rowland to the dark tower came,

    His word was still, Fie, foh, and fum,

    I smell the blood of a British man.[Exeunt.