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

Act III. Scene III.

The Winter’s Tale

Bohemia.A desert Country near the Sea.

Enter ANTIGONUS, with the Child; and a Mariner.

Ant.Thou art perfect, then, cur ship hath touch’d upon

The desarts of Bohemia?

Mar.Ay, my lord; and fear

We have landed in ill time: the skies look grimly

And threaten present blusters. In my conscience,

The heavens with that we have in hand are angry,

And frown upon ’s.

Ant.Their sacred wills be done! Go, get aboard;

Look to thy bark: I’ll not be long before

I call upon thee.

Mar.Make your best haste, and go not

Too far i’ the land: ’tis like to be loud weather;

Besides, this place is famous for the creatures

Of prey that keep upon ’t.

Ant.Go thou away:

I’ll follow instantly.

Mar.I am glad at heart

To be so rid of the business.[Exit.

Ant.Come, poor babe:

I have heard, but not believ’d, the spirits o’ the dead

May walk again: if such thing be, thy mother

Appear’d to me last night, for ne’er was dream

So like a waking. To me comes a creature,

Sometimes her head on one side, some another;

I never saw a vessel of like sorrow,

So fill’d, and so becoming: in pure white robes,

Like very sanctity, she did approach

My cabin where I lay; thrice bow’d before me,

And, gasping to begin some speech, her eyes

Became two spouts: the fury spent, anon

Did this break from her: ‘Good Antigonus,

Since fate, against thy better disposition,

Hath made thy person for the thrower-out

Of my poor babe, according to thine oath,

Places remote enough are in Bohemia,

There weep and leave it crying; and, for the babe

Is counted lost for ever, Perdita,

I prithee, call ’t: for this ungentle business,

Put on thee by my lord, thou ne’er shalt see

Thy wife Paulina more:’ and so, with shrieks,

She melted into air. Affrighted much,

I did in time collect myself, and thought

This was so and no slumber. Dreams are toys;

Yet for this once, yea, superstitiously,

I will be squar’d by this. I do believe

Hermione hath suffer’d death; and that

Apollo would, this being indeed the issue

Of King Polixenes, it should here be laid,

Either for life or death, upon the earth

Of its right father. Blossom, speed thee well![Laying down Child.

There lie; and there thy character: there these;[Laying down a bundle.

Which may, if fortune please, both breed thee, pretty,

And still rest thine. The storm begins: poor wretch!

That for thy mother’s fault art thus expos’d

To loss and what may follow. Weep I cannot,

But my heart bleeds, and most accurs’d am I

To be by oath enjoin’d to this. Farewell!

The day frowns more and more: thou art like to have

A lullaby too rough. I never saw

The heavens so dim by day. A savage clamour!

Well may I get aboard! This is the chase:

I am gone for ever.[Exit, pursued by a bear.

Enter a Shepherd.

Shep.I would there were no age between sixteen and three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the rest; for there is nothing in the between but getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry, stealing, fighting. Hark you now! Would any but these boiled brains of nineteen and two-and-twenty hunt this weather? They have scared away two of my best sheep; which I fear the wolf will sooner find than the master: if anywhere I have them, ’tis by the sea-side, browsing of ivy. Good luck, an ’t be thy will! what have we here?[Taking up the Child.]Mercy on ’s, a barne; a very pretty barne! A boy or a child, I wonder? A pretty one; a very pretty one; sure some scape: though I am not bookish, yet I can read waiting-gentlewoman in the scape. This has been some stair-work, some trunk-work, some behind-door-work; they were warmer that got this than the poor thing is here. I’ll take it up for pity; yet I’ll tarry till my son come; he hollaed but even now. Whoa, ho, hoa!

Enter Clown.

Clo.Hilloa, loa!

Shep.What! art so near? If thou ’lt see a thing to talk on when thou art dead and rotten, come hither. What ailest thou, man?

Clo.I have seen two such sights by sea and by land! but I am not to say it is a sea, for it is now the sky: betwixt the firmament and it you cannot thrust a bodkin’s point.

Shep.Why, boy, how is it?

Clo.I would you did but see how it chafes, how it rages, how it takes up the shore! but that’s not to the point. O! the most piteous cry of the poor souls; sometimes to see ’em, and not to see ’em; now the ship boring the moon with her mainmast, and anon swallowed with yest and froth, as you’d thrust a cork into a hogshead. And then for the land-service: to see how the bear tore out his shoulderbone; how he cried to me for help and said his name was Antigonus, a nobleman. But to make an end of the ship: to see how the sea flap-dragoned it: but, first, how the poor souls roared, and the sea mocked them; and how the poor gentleman roared, and the bear mocked him, both roaring louder than the sea or weather.

Shep.Name of mercy! when was this, boy?

Clo.Now, now; I have not winked since I saw these sights: the men are not yet cold under water, nor the bear half dined on the gentleman: he’s at it now.

Shep.Would I had been by, to have helped the old man!

Clo.I would you had been by the ship’s side, to have helped her: there your charity would have lacked footing.

Shep.Heavy matters! heavy matters! but look thee here, boy. Now bless thyself: thou mettest with things dying, I with things new born. Here’s a sight for thee; look thee, a bearing-cloth for a squire’s child! Look thee here: take up, take up, boy; open ’t. So, let’s see: it was told me, I should be rich by the fairies: this is some changeling.—Open ’t. What’s within, boy?

Clo.You’re a made old man: if the sins of your youth are forgiven you, you’re well to live. Gold! all gold!

Shep.This is fairy gold, boy, and ’twill prove so: up with ’t, keep it close: home, home, the next way. We are lucky, boy; and to be so still, requires nothing but secrecy. Let my sheep go. Come, good boy, the next way home.

Clo.Go you the next way with your findings. I’ll go see if the bear be gone from the gentleman, and how much he hath eaten: they are never curst but when they are hungry. If there be any of him left, I’ll bury it.

Shep.That’s a good deed. If thou mayst discern by that which is left of him what he is, fetch me to the sight of him.

Clo.Marry, will I; and you shall help to put him i’ the ground.

Shep.’Tis a lucky day, boy, and we’ll do good deeds on ’t.[Exeunt.