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  • Title: The History of King Leir (Quarto, 1605)
  • 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
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    The History of King Leir (Quarto, 1605)

    Enter the Gallian King and Queene, and Mumford, with a
    basket, disguised like Countrey folke.
    King. This tedious iourney all on foot, sweet Loue,
    Cannot be pleasing to your tender ioynts,
    2095Which ne're were vsed to these toylesome walks.
    Cord. I neuer in my life tooke more delight
    In any iourney, then I do in this:
    It did me good, when as we hapt to light
    Amongst the merry crue of country folke,
    2100To see what industry and paynes they tooke,
    To win them commendations 'mongst their friends.
    Lord, how they labour to bestir themselues,
    And in their quirks to go beyond the Moone,
    And so take on them with such antike fits,
    2105That one would think they were beside their wits!
    Come away, Roger, with your basket.
    Mum. Soft, Dame, here comes a couple of old youthes,
    I must needs make my selfe fat with iesting at them.
    Cor. Nay, prithy do not, they do seeme to be
    Enter Leir
    & Perillus
    very faintly.
    2110Men much o'regone with griefe and misery.
    Let's stand aside, and harken what they say.
    Leir. Ah, my Perillus, now I see we both
    Shall end our dayes in this vnfruitfull soyle.
    Oh, I do faint for want of sustenance:
    2115And thou, I know, in little better case.
    No gentle tree affords one taste of fruit,
    To comfort vs, vntill we meet with men:
    No lucky path conducts our lucklesse steps
    Vnto a place where any comfort dwels.
    2120Sweet rest betyde vnto our happy soules;
    For here I see our bodies must haue end.
    Per. Ah, my deare Lord, how doth my heart lament,
    To see you brought to this extremity!
    O, if you loue me, as you do professe,
    and his three daughters.
    2125Or euer thought well of me in my life, He strips up his arme.
    Feed on this flesh, whose veynes are not so dry,
    But there is vertue left to comfort you.
    O, feed on this, if this will do you good
    Ile smile for ioy, to see you suck my bloud.
    2130Leir. I am no Caniball, that I should delight
    To slake my hungry iawes with humane flesh:
    I am no deuill, or ten times worse then so,
    To suck the bloud of such a peerelesse friend.
    O, do not think that I respect my life
    2135So dearely, as I do thy loyall loue.
    Ah, Brittayne, I shall neuer see thee more,
    That hast vnkindly banished thy King:
    And yet not thou dost make me to complayne,
    But they which were more neere to me then thou.
    2140Cor. What do I heare? this lamentable voyce,
    Me thinks, ere now I oftentimes haue heard.
    Leir. Ah, Gonorill, was halfe my Kingdomes gift
    The cause that thou didst seeke to haue my life?
    Ah, cruell Ragan, did I giue thee all,
    2145And all could not suffice without my bloud?
    Ah, poore Cordella, did I giue thee nought,
    Nor neuer shall be able for to giue?
    O, let me warne all ages that insueth,
    How they trust flattery, and reiect the trueth.
    2150Well, vnkind Girles, I here forgiue you both,
    Yet the iust heauens will hardly do the like;
    And only craue forgiuenesse at the end
    Of good Cordella, and of thee, my friend;
    Of God, whose Maiesty I haue offended,
    2155By my transgression many thousand wayes:
    Of her, deare heart, whom I for no occasion
    Turn'd out of all, through flatters persuasion:
    Of thee, kind friend, who but for me, I know,
    Hadst neuer come vnto this place of wo.
    2160Cor. Alack, that euer I should liue to see
    My noble father in this misery.
    King. Sweet Loue, reueale not what thou art as yet,
    Vntill we know the ground of all this ill.
    H2 Cor. O,
    The History of King Leir
    Cor.O, but some meat, some meat: do you not see,
    2165How neere they are to death for want of food?
    Per.Lord, which didst help thy seruants at their need,
    Or now or neuer send vs helpe with speed.
    Oh, comfort, comfort! yonder is a banquet,
    And men and women, my Lord: be of good cheare;
    2170For I see comfort comming very neere.
    O my Lord, a banquet, and men and women!
    Leir. O, let kind pity mollify their hearts,
    That they may helpe vs in our great extreames.
    Per.God saue you, friends; & if this blessed banquet
    2175Affordeth any food or sustenance,
    Euen for his sake that saued vs all from death,
    Vouchsafe to saue vs from the gripe of famine. She bringeth him to the table
    Cor. Here father, sit and eat, here, sit & drink:
    And would it were far better for your sakes.
    2180Perillus takes Leir by the hand to the table.
    Per. Ile giue you thanks anon: my friend doth faynt,
    And needeth present comfort. Leir drinks.
    Mum. I warrant, he ne're stayes to say grace:
    O, theres no sauce to a good stomake.
    2185Per.The ble}}d God of heauen hath thought vpon vs.
    Leir. The thanks be his, and these kind courteous folke,
    By whose humanity we are preserued. They eat hungerly, Leirdrinkes.
    Cor.And may that draugh tbe vnto him, as was
    That which old Eson dranke, which did renue
    2190His withered age, and made him young againe.
    And may that meat be vnto him, as was
    That which Elias ate, in strength whereof
    He walked fourty dayes, and neuer faynted.
    Shall I conceale me longer from my father?
    2195Or shall I manifest my selfe to him?
    King. Forbeare a while, vntill his strength returne,
    Lest being ouer ioyed with seeing thee,
    His poore weake sences should forsake their office,
    And so our cause of ioy be turnd to sorrow.
    2200Per.What chere, my Lord? how do you feele your selfe?
    Leir. Me thinks, I neuer ate such sauory meat:
    It is as pleasant as the blessed Manna,
    and his three daughters.
    That raynd from heauen amongst the Israelites:
    It hath recall'd my spirits home agayne,
    2205And made me fresh, as earst I was before.
    But how shall we congratulate their kindnesse?
    Per. Infayth, I know not how sufficiently;
    But the best meane that I can think on, is this:
    Ile offer them my dublet in requitall;
    2210For we haue nothing else to spare.
    Leir. Nay, stay, Perillus, for they shall haue mine.
    Per. Pardon, my Lord, I sweare they shall haue mine.
    Perillus proffers his dublet: they will not take it.
    Leir. Ah, who would think such kindnes should remayne
    2215Among such strange and vnacquainted men:
    And that such hate should harbour in the brest
    Of those, which haue occasion to be best?
    Cor. Ah, good old father, tell to me thy griefe,
    Ile sorrow with thee, if not adde reliefe.
    2220Leir. Ah, good young daughter, I may call thee so;
    For thou art like a daughter I did owe.
    Cor. Do you not owe her still? what, is she dead?
    Leir. No, God forbid: but all my interest's gone,
    By shewing my selfe too much vnnaturall:
    2225So haue I lost the title of a father,
    And may be call'd a stranger to her rather.
    Cor. Your title's good still; for tis alwayes knowne,
    A man may do as him list with his owne.
    But haue you but one daughter then in all?
    2230Leir. Yes, I haue more by two, then would I had.
    Cor. O, say not so, but rather see the end:
    They that are bad, may haue the grace to mend:
    But how haue they offended you so much?
    Leir. If from the first I should relate the cause,
    2235 'Twould make a heart of Adamant to weepe;
    and thou, poore soule, kind-hearted as thou art,
    Dost weepe already, ere I do begin.
    Cor. For Gods loue tell it, and when you haue done,
    Ile tell the reason why I weepe so soone.
    2240Leir. Then know this first, I am a Brittayne borne,
    And had three daughters by one louing wife:
    H3 And
    The History of King Leir
    And though I say it, of beauty they were sped;
    Especially the youngest of the three,
    For her perfections hardly matcht could be:
    2245On these I doted with a ielous loue,
    And thought to try which of them lou'd me best,
    By asking them, which would do most for me?
    The first and second flattred me with words,
    And vowd they lou'd me better then their liues:
    2250The youngest sayd, she loued me as a child
    Might dō: her answere I esteem'd most vild,
    And presently in an outragious mood,
    I turned her from me to go sinke or swym:
    And all I had, euen to the very clothes,
    2255I gaue in dowry with the other two:
    And she that best deseru'd the greatest share,
    I gaue her nothing, but disgrace and care.
    Now mark the sequell: When I had done thus,
    I soiournd in my eldest daughters house,
    2260Where for a time I was intreated well,
    And liu'd in state sufficing my content:
    But euery day her kindnesse did grow cold,
    Which I with patience put vp well ynough,
    And seemed not to see the things I saw:
    2265But at the last she grew so far incenst
    With moody fury, and with causlesse hate,
    That in most vild and contumelious termes,
    She bade me pack, and harbour somewhere else.
    Then was I fayne for refuge to repayre
    2270Vnto my other daughter for reliefe,
    Who gaue me pleasing and most courteous words;
    But in her actions shewed her selfe so sore,
    As neuer any daughter did before:
    She prayd me in a morning out betime,
    2275To go to a thicket two miles from the Court,
    Poynting that there she would come talke with me:
    There she had set a shaghayrd murdring wretch,
    To massacre my honest friend and me.
    Then iudge your selfe, although my tale be briefe,
    2280If euer man had greater cause of griefe.
    King. Nor
    and his three daughters.
    King. Nor neuer like impiety was done,
    Since the creation of the world begun.
    Leir. And now I am constraind to seeke reliefe
    Of her, to whom I haue bin so vnkind;
    2285Whose censure, if it do award me death,
    I must confesse she payes me but my due:
    But if she shew a louing daughters part,
    It comes of God and her, not my desert.
    Cor. No doubt she will, I dare be sworne she will.
    2290Leir. How know you that, not knowing what she is?
    Cor. My selfe a father haue a great way hence,
    Vsde me as ill as euer you did her;
    Yet, that his reuerend age I once might see,
    Ide creepe along, to meet him on my knee.
    2295Leir. O, no mens children are vnkind but mine.
    Cor. Condemne not all, because of others crime:
    But looke, deare father, looke, behold and see
    Thy louing daughter speaketh vnto thee. She kneeles.
    Leir. O, stand thou vp, it is my part to kneele,
    2300And aske forgiuenesse for my former faults. he kneeles.
    Cor. O, if you wish I should inioy my breath,
    Deare father rise, or I receiue my death. he riseth.
    Leir. Then I will rise, to satisfy your mind,
    But kneele againe, til pardon be resignd. he kneeles.
    2305Cor. I pardon you: the word beseemes not me:
    But I do say so, for to ease your knee.
    You gaue me life, you were the cause that I
    Am what I am, who else had neuer bin.
    Leir. But you gaue life to me and to my friend,
    2310Whose dayes had else, had an vntimely end.
    Cor. You brought me vp, when as I was but young,
    And far vnable for to helpe my selfe.
    Leir. I cast thee forth, when as thou wast but young,
    And far vnable for to helpe thy selfe.
    2315Cor. God, world and nature say I do you wrong,
    That can indure to see you kneele so long.
    King. Let me breake off this louing controuersy,
    Which doth reioyce my very soule to see.
    Good father, rise, she is your louing daughter, He riseth.
    H4 And
    The History of King Leir
    2320And honours you with as respectiue duty,
    As if you were the Monarch of the world.
    Cor. But I will neuer rise from off my knee, She kneeles.
    Vntill I haue your blessing, and your pardon
    Of all my faults committed any way,
    2325From my first birth vnto this present day.
    Leir. The blessing, which the God of Abraham gaue
    Vnto the trybe of Iuda, light on thee,
    And multiply thy dayes, that thou mayst see
    Thy childrens children prosper after thee.
    2330Thy faults, which are iust none that I do know,
    God pardon on high, and I forgiue below. she riseth.
    Cor. Now is my heart at quiet, and doth leape
    Within my brest, for ioy of this good hap:
    And now (deare father) welcome to our Court,
    2335And welcome (kind Perillus) vnto me,
    Myrrour of vertue and true honesty.
    Leir. O, he hath bin the kindest friend to me,
    That euer man had in aduersity.
    Per. My toung doth faile, to say what heart doth think,
    2340I am so rauisht with exceeding ioy.
    King. All you haue spoke: now let me speak my mind,
    And in few words much matter here conclude: he kneeles.
    If ere my heart do harbour any ioy,
    Or true content repose within my brest,
    2345Till I haue rooted out this viperous sect,
    And repossest my father of his Crowne,
    Let me be counted for the periurdst man,
    That euer spake word since the world began. rise.
    Mum. Let me pray to, that neuer pray'd before; Mumfordkneeles.
    2350If ere I resalute the Brittish earth,
    (As (ere't be long) I do presume I shall)
    And do returne from thence without my wench,
    Let me be gelded for my recompence. rise.
    King. Come, let's to armes for to redresse this wrong:
    2355Till I am there, me thinks, the time seemes long. Exeunt.