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  • Title: The History of King Leir (Modern)
  • Editor: Andrew Griffin

  • Copyright Queen's Men Editions. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Anonymous
    Editor: Andrew Griffin
    Peer Reviewed

    The History of King Leir (Modern)

    581.1[Scene 7] [Video Sc.7]
    Enter the King of Gallia and Mumford, disguised like pilgrims.
    My lord, how do you brook this British air?
    "My lord"? I told you of this foolish humor
    And bound you to the contrary, you know.
    Pardon me for once, my lord, I did forget.
    "My lord" again? Then let's have nothing else
    And so be ta'en for spies, and then 'tis well.
    'Swounds, I could bite my tongue in two for anger!
    For God's sake name yourself some proper name.
    Call me Tresillus; I'll call thee Denapoll.
    Might I be made the monarch of the world,
    I could not hit upon these names, I swear.
    Then call me Will; I'll call thee Jack.
    Well, be it so, for I have well deserved to be called Jack.
    Enter Cordella
    Stand close, for here a British lady cometh.
    A fairer creature ne'er mine eyes beheld.
    This is a day of joy unto my sisters,
    600Wherein they both are married unto kings,
    And I, by birth as worthy as themselves,
    Am turned into the world to seek my fortune.
    How may I blame the fickle queen of chance
    That maketh me a pattern of her power?
    605Ah, poor, weak maid, whose imbecility
    Is far unable to endure these brunts!
    Oh, father Leir, how dost thou wrong thy child
    Who always was obedient to thy will!
    But why accuse I Fortune and my father?
    610No, no, it is the pleasure of my God,
    And I do willingly embrace the rod.
    It is no goddess, for she doth complain
    On Fortune and th'unkindness of her father.
    These costly robes, ill fitting my estate,
    615I will exchange for other meaner habit.
    Now if I had a kingdom in my hands,
    I would exchange it for a milkmaid's smock and petticoat that she and I might shift our clothes together.
    I will betake me to my thread and needle,
    620And earn my living with my fingers' ends.
    O brave! God willing, thou shalt have my custom,
    By sweet St. Denis here I sadly swear,
    For all the shirts and nightgear that I wear!
    I will profess and vow a maiden's life.
    Then I protest thou shalt not have my custom.
    I can forbear no longer for to speak,
    For if I do I think my heart will break.
    'Sblood, Will, I hope you are not in love with my sempster!
    I am in such a labyrinth of love
    630As that I know not which way to get out.
    You'll ne'er get out unless you first get in.
    I prithee, Jack, cross not my passions.
    Prithee, Will, to her and try her patience.
    Thou fairest creature, whatsoe'er thou art,
    635That ever any mortal eyes beheld,
    Vouchsafe to me, who have o'erheard thy woes,
    To show the cause of these thy sad laments.
    Ah pilgrims, what avails to show the cause
    When there's no means to find a remedy?
    To utter grief doth ease a heart o'ercharged.
    To touch a sore doth aggravate the pain.
    The silly mouse, by virtue of her teeth,
    Released the princely lion from the net.
    Kind palmer, which so much desir'st to hear
    645The tragic tale of my unhappy youth,
    Know this in brief: I am the hapless daughter
    Of Leir, sometime king of Brittany.
    Why, who debars his honorable age
    From being still the king of Brittany?
    None but himself hath dispossessed himself,
    And given all his kingdom to the kings
    Of Cornwall and of Cambria with my sisters.
    Hath he given nothing to your lovely self?
    He loved me not and therefore gave me nothing,
    655Only because I could not flatter him,
    And in this day of triumph to my sisters
    Doth Fortune triumph in my overthrow.
    Sweet lady, say there should come a king --
    As good as either of your sisters' husbands --
    660To crave your love: would you accept of him?
    Oh, do not mock with those in misery;
    Nor do not think, though Fortune have the power
    To spoil mine honor and debase my state,
    That she hath any interest in my mind,
    665For if the greatest monarch on the earth
    Should sue to me in this extremity,
    Except my heart could love and heart could like
    Better than any that I ever saw,
    His great estate no more should move my mind
    670Than mountains move by blast of every wind.
    Think not, sweet nymph, 'tis holy palmer's guise
    To grievèd souls fresh torments to devise;
    Therefore, in witness of my true intent,
    Let heaven and earth bear record of my words:
    675There is a young and lusty Gallian king,
    So like to me as I am to myself,
    That earnestly doth crave to have thy love
    And join with thee in Hymen's sacred bonds.
    [Aside] The like to thee did ne'er these eyes behold.
    680Oh, live to add new torments to my grief!
    Why didst thou thus entrap me unawares? --
    Ah, palmer, my estate doth not befit
    A kingly marriage as the case now stands.
    Whilom whenas I lived in honor's height,
    685A prince perhaps might postulate my love;
    Now misery, dishonor, and disgrace
    Hath light on me, and quite reversed the case.
    Thy king will hold thee wise if thou surcease
    The suit whereas no dowry will ensue.
    690Then be advisèd, palmer, what to do:
    Cease for thy king, seek for thyself to woo.
    Your birth's too high for any but a king.
    My mind is low enough to love a palmer
    Rather than any king upon the earth.
    Oh, but you never can endure their life,
    Which is so straight and full of penury.
    Oh, yes, I can, and happy if I might.
    I'll hold thy palmer's staff within my hand
    And think it is the scepter of a queen;
    700Sometime I'll set thy bonnet on my head
    And think I wear a rich imperial crown;
    Sometime I'll help thee in thy holy prayers
    And think I am with thee in paradise:
    Thus I'll mock Fortune as she mocketh me,
    705And never will my lovely choice repent,
    For having thee, I shall have all content.
    [Aside] 'Twere sin to hold her longer in suspense
    Since that my soul hath vowed she shall be mine. --
    Ah, dear Cordella, cordial to my heart,
    710I am no palmer as I seem to be
    But hither come in this unknown disguise
    To view th'admirèd beauty of those eyes.
    I am the king of Gallia, gentle maid,
    Although thus slenderly accompanied,
    715And yet thy vassal by imperious Love,
    And sworn to serve thee everlastingly.
    Whate'er you be, of high or low descent,
    All's one to me; I do request but this:
    That as I am, you will accept of me,
    720And I will have you whatsoe'er you be.
    Yet well I know you come of royal race;
    I see such sparks of honor in your face.
    Have palmers' weeds such power to win fair ladies?
    Faith, then I hope the next that falls is mine.
    725Upon condition I no worse might speed,
    I would forever wear a palmer's weed.
    I like an honest and plain-dealing wench
    That swears, without exceptions, "I will have you."
    These foppets that know not whether to love a man or no -- ex730cept they first go ask their mothers' leave -- by this hand, I hate them ten times worse than poison.
    What resteth, then, our happiness to procure?
    Faith, go to church to make the matter sure.
    It shall be so because the world shall say,
    735"King Leir's three daughters were wedded in one day."
    The celebration of this happy chance
    We will defer until we come to France.
    I like the wooing that's not long a doing.
    Well, for her sake, I know what I know: 740I'll never marry whilst I live except I have one of these British ladies. My humor is alienated from the maids of France.