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

Act I. Scene II.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Tyre.A Room in the Palace.


Per.[To those without.]Let none disturb us.—Why should this change of thoughts,

The sad companion, dull-ey’d melancholy,

Be my so us’d a guest, as not an hour

In the day’s glorious walk or peaceful night—

The tomb where grief should sleep—can breed me quiet?

Here pleasures court mine eyes, and mine eyes shun them,

And danger, which I feared, is at Antioch,

Whose arm seems far too short to hit me here;

Yet neither pleasure’s art can joy my spirits,

Nor yet the other’s distance comfort me.

Then it is thus: the passions of the mind,

That have their first conception by mis-dread,

Have after-nourishment and life by care;

And what was first but fear what might be done,

Grows elder now and cares it be not done.

And so with me: the great Antiochus,—

’Gainst whom I am too little to contend,

Since he’s so great can make his will his act,—

Will think me speaking, though I swear to silence;

Nor boots it me to say I honour him,

If he suspect I may dishonour him;

And what may make him blush in being known,

He’ll stop the course by which it might be known.

With hostile forces he’ll o’erspread the land,

And with the ostent of war will look so huge,

Amazement shall drive courage from the state,

Our men be vanquish’d ere they do resist,

And subjects punish’d that ne’er thought offence:

Which care of them, not pity of myself,—

Who am no more but as the tops of trees,

Which fence the roots they grow by and defend them,—

Make both my body pine and soul to languish,

And punish that before that he would punish.

Enter HELICANUS and other Lords.

First Lord.Joy and all comfort in your sacred breast!

Sec. Lord.And keep your mind, till you return to us,

Peaceful and comfortable.

Hel.Peace, peace! and give experience tongue.

They do abuse the king that flatter him;

For flattery is the bellows blows up sin;

The thing the which is flatter’d, but a spark,

To which that blast gives heat and stronger glowing;

Whereas reproof, obedient and in order,

Fits kings, as they are men, for they may err:

When Signior Sooth here does proclaim a peace,

He flatters you, makes war upon your life.

Prince, pardon me, or strike me, if you please;

I cannot be much lower than my knees.

Per.All leave us else; but let your cares o’erlook

What shipping and what lading’s in our haven,

And then return to us.[Exeunt Lords.

Helicanus, thou

Hast mov’d us; what seest thou in our looks?

Hel.An angry brow, dread lord.

Per.If there be such a dart in prince’s frowns,

How durst thy tongue move anger to our face?

Hel.How dare the plants look up to heaven, from whence

They have their nourishment?

Per.Thou know’st I have power

To take thy life from thee.

Hel.[Kneeling.]I have ground the axe myself;

Do you but strike the blow.

Per.Rise, prithee, rise;

Sit down; thou art no flatterer:

I thank thee for it; and heaven forbid

That kings should let their ears hear their faults hid!

Fit counsellor and servant for a prince,

Who by thy wisdom mak’st a prince thy servant,

What wouldst thou have me do?

Hel.To bear with patience

Such griefs as you yourself do lay upon yourself.

Per.Thou speak’st like a physician, Helicanus,

That minister’st a potion unto me

That thou wouldst tremble to receive thyself,

Attend me then: I went to Antioch,

Where as thou know’st, against the face of death

I sought the purchase of a glorious beauty,

From whence an issue I might propagate

Are arms to princes and bring joys to subjects.

Her face was to mine eye beyond all wonder;

The rest, hark in thine ear, as black as incest;

Which by my knowledge found, the sinful father

Seem’d not to strike, but smooth; but thou know’st this,

’Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss.

Which fear so grew in me I hither fled,

Under the covering of a careful night,

Who seem’d my good protector; and, being here,

Bethought me what was past, what might succeed.

I knew him tyrannous; and tyrants’ fears

Decrease not, but grow faster than the years.

And should he doubt it, as no doubt he doth,

That I should open to the listening air

How many worthy princes’ bloods were shed,

To keep his bed of blackness unlaid ope,

To lop that doubt he’ll fill this land with arms,

And make pretence of wrong that I have done him;

When all, for mine, if I may call ’t, offence,

Must feel war’s blow, who spares not innocence:

Which love to all, of which thyself art one,

Who now reprov’st me for it,—

Hel.Alas! sir.

Per.Drew sleep out of mine eyes, blood from my cheeks,

Musings into my mind, with thousand doubts

How I might stop this tempest, ere it came;

And finding little comfort to relieve them,

I thought it princely charity to grieve them.

Hel.Well, my lord, since you have given me leave to speak,

Freely will I speak. Antiochus you fear,

And justly too, I think, you fear the tyrant,

Who either by public war or private treason

Will take away your life.

Therefore, my lord, go travel for a while,

Till that his rage and anger be forgot,

Or till the Destinies do cut his thread of life.

Your rule direct to any; if to me,

Day serves not light more faithful than I’ll be.

Per.I do not doubt thy faith;

But should he wrong my liberties in my absence?

Hel.We’ll mingle our bloods together in the earth,

From whence we had our being and our birth.

Per.Tyre, I now look from thee then, and to Tarsus

Intend my travel, where I’ll hear from thee,

And by whose letters I’ll dispose myself.

The care I had and have of subjects’ good

On thee I’ll lay, whose wisdom’s strength can bear it.

I’ll take thy word for faith, not ask thine oath;

Who shuns not to break one will sure crack both.

But in our orbs we’ll live so round and safe,

That time of both this truth shall ne’er convince,

Thou show’dst a subject’s shine, I a true prince.[Exeunt.