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

Act I. Scene IV.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Tarsus.A Room in the Governor’s House.

Enter CLEON, DIONYZA, and Attendants.

Cle.My Dionyza, shall we rest us here,

And by relating tales of others’ griefs,

See if ’twill teach us to forget our own?

Dio.That were to blow at fire in hope to quench it;

For who digs hills because they do aspire

Throws down one mountain to cast up a higher.

O my distressed lord! even such our griefs are;

Here they’re but felt, and seen with mischief’s eyes,

But like to groves, being topp’d, they higher rise.

Cle.O Dionyza,

Who wanteth food, and will not say he wants it,

Or can conceal his hunger till he famish?

Our tongues and sorrows do sound deep

Our woes into the air; our eyes do weep

Till tongues fetch breath that may proclaim them louder;

That if heaven slumber while their creatures want,

They may awake their helps to comfort them.

I’ll then discourse our woes, felt several years,

And wanting breath to speak help me with tears.

Dio.I’ll do my best, sir.

Cle.This Tarsus, o’er which I have the government,

A city on whom plenty held full hand,

For riches strew’d herself even in the streets;

Whose towers bore heads so high they kiss’d the clouds,

And strangers ne’er beheld but wonder’d at;

Whose men and dames so jetted and adorn’d,

Like one another’s glass to trim them by:

Their tables were stor’d full to glad the sight,

And not so much to feed on as delight;

All poverty was scorn’d, and pride so great,

The name of help grew odious to repeat.

Dio.O! ’tis too true.

Cle.But see what heaven can do! By this our change,

These mouths, whom but of late earth, sea, and air

Were all too little to content and please,

Although they gave their creatures in abundance,

As houses are defil’d for want of use,

They are now starv’d for want of exercise;

Those palates who, not yet two summers younger,

Must have inventions to delight the taste,

Would now be glad of bread, and beg for it;

Those mothers who, to nousle up their babes,

Thought nought too curious, are ready now

To eat those little darlings whom they lov’d.

So sharp are hunger’s teeth, that man and wife

Draw lots who first shall die to lengthen life.

Here stands a lord, and there a lady weeping;

Here many sink, yet those which see them fall

Have scarce strength left to give them burial.

Is not this true?

Dio.Our cheeks and hollow eyes do witness it.

Cle.O! let those cities that of plenty’s cup

And her prosperities so largely taste,

With their superfluous riots, hear these tears:

The misery of Tarsus may be theirs.

Enter a Lord.

Lord.Where’s the lord governor?


Speak out thy sorrows which thou bring’st in haste,

For comfort is too far for us to expect.

Lord.We have descried, upon our neighbouring shore,

A portly sail of ships make hitherward.

Cle.I thought as much.

One sorrow never comes but brings an heir

That may succeed as his inheritor;

And so in ours. Some neighbouring nation,

Taking advantage of our misery,

Hath stuff’d these hollow vessels with their power,

To beat us down, the which are down already;

And make a conquest of unhappy me,

Whereas no glory’s got to overcome.

Lord.That’s the least fear; for by the semblance

Of their white flags display’d, they bring us peace,

And come to us as favourers, not as foes.

Cle.Thou speak’st like him ’s untutor’d to repeat:

Who makes the fairest show means most deceit.

But bring they what they will and what they can,

What need we fear?

The ground’s the lowest and we are half way there.

Go tell their general we attend him here,

To know for what he comes, and whence he comes,

And what he craves.

Lord.I go, my lord.[Exit.

Cle.Welcome is peace if he on peace consist;

If wars we are unable to resist.

Enter PERICLES, with Attendants.

Per.Lord governor, for so we hear you are,

Let not our ships and number of our men,

Be like a beacon fir’d to amaze your eyes.

We have heard your miseries as far as Tyre,

And seen the desolation of your streets:

Nor come we to add sorrow to your tears,

But to relieve them of their heavy load;

And these our ships, you happily may think

Are like the Trojan horse was stuff’d within

With bloody veins, expecting overthrow,

Are stor’d with corn to make your needy bread,

And give them life whom hunger starv’d half dead.

All.The gods of Greece protect you!

And we’ll pray for you.

Per.Arise, I pray you, rise:

We do not look for reverence, but for love,

And harbourage for ourself, our ships, and men.

Cle.The which when any shall not gratify,

Or pay you with unthankfulness in thought,

Be it our wives, our children, or ourselves,

The curse of heaven and men succeed their evils!

Till when—the which, I hope, shall ne’er be seen—

Your Grace is welcome to our town and us.

Per.Which welcome we’ll accept; feast here awhile,

Until our stars that frown lend us a smile.[Exeunt.