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

Act V. Scene IV.

The Third Part of King Henry the Sixth

Plains near Tewksbury.


Q. Mar.Great lords, wise men ne’er sit and wail their loss,

But cheerly seek how to redress their harms.

What though the mast be now blown over-board,

The cable broke, the holding anchor lost,

And half our sailors swallow’d in the flood?

Yet lives our pilot still: is ’t meet that he

Should leave the helm and like a fearful lad

With tearful eyes add water to the sea,

And give more strength to that which hath too much;

Whiles in his moan the ship splits on the rock,

Which industry and courage might have sav’d?

Ah! what a shame! ah, what a fault were this.

Say, Warwick was our anchor; what of that?

And Montague our top-mast; what of him?

Our slaughter’d friends the tackles; what of these?

Why, is not Oxford here another anchor?

And Somerset, another goodly mast?

The friends of France our shrouds and tacklings?

And, though unskilful, why not Ned and I

For once allow’d the skilful pilot’s charge?

We will not from the helm, to sit and weep,

But keep our course, though the rough wind say no,

From shelves and rocks that threaten us with wrack.

As good to chide the waves as speak them fair.

And what is Edward but a ruthless sea?

What Clarence but a quicksand of deceit?

And Richard but a ragged fatal rock?

All those the enemies to our poor bark.

Say you can swim; alas! ’tis but a while:

Tread on the sand; why, there you quickly sink:

Bestride the rock; the tide will wash you off,

Or else you famish; that’s a threefold death.

This speak I, lords, to let you understand,

In case some one of you would fly from us,

That there’s no hop’d-for mercy with the brothers

More than with ruthless waves, with sands and rocks.

Why, courage, then! what cannot be avoided

’Twere childish weakness to lament or fear.

Prince.Methinks a woman of this valiant spirit

Should, if a coward heard her speak these words,

Infuse his breast with magnanimity,

And make him, naked, foil a man at arms.

I speak not this, as doubting any here;

For did I but suspect a fearful man,

He should have leave to go away betimes,

Lest in our need he might infect another,

And make him of like spirit to himself.

If any such be here, as God forbid!

Let him depart before we need his help.

Oxf.Women and children of so high a courage,

And warriors faint! why, ’twere perpetual shame.

O brave young prince! thy famous grandfather

Doth live again in thee: long mayst thou live

To bear his image and renew his glories!

Som.And he, that will not fight for such a hope,

Go home to bed, and, like the owl by day,

If he arise, be mock’d and wonder’d at.

Q. Mar.Thanks, gentle Somerset: sweet Oxford, thanks.

Prince.And take his thanks that yet hath nothing else.

Enter a Messenger.

Mess.Prepare you, lords, for Edward is at hand,

Ready to fight; therefore be resolute.

Oxf.I thought no less: it is his policy

To haste thus fast, to find us unprovided.

Som.But he ’s deceiv’d; we are in readiness.

Q. Mar.This cheers my heart to see your forwardness.

Oxf.Here pitch our battle; hence we will not budge.

March.Enter, at a distance, KING EDWARD, CLARENCE, GLOUCESTER, and Forces.

K. Edw.Brave followers, yonder stands the thorny wood,

Which, by the heavens’ assistance, and your strength,

Must by the roots be hewn up yet ere night.

I need not add more fuel to your fire,

For well I wot ye blaze to burn them out:

Give signal to the fight, and to it, lords.

Q. Mar.Lords, knights, and gentlemen, what I should say

My tears gainsay; for every word I speak,

Ye see, I drink the water of mine eyes.

Therefore, no more but this: Henry, your sovereign,

Is prisoner to the foe; his state usurp’d,

His realm a slaughter house, his subjects slain,

His statutes cancell’d, and his treasure spent;

And yonder is the wolf that makes this spoil.

You fight in justice: then, in God’s name, lords,

Be valiant, and give signal to the fight.[Exeunt both armies.