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Cymbeline, King of Britain

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Act III, Scene 3

Wales: a mountainous country with a cave.


[Enter, from the cave, BELARIUS; GUIDERIUS,] [p]and ARVIRAGUS following]

  • Belarius. A goodly day not to keep house, with such
    Whose roof's as low as ours! Stoop, boys; this gate
    Instructs you how to adore the heavens and bows you
    To a morning's holy office: the gates of monarchs 1605
    Are arch'd so high that giants may jet through
    And keep their impious turbans on, without
    Good morrow to the sun. Hail, thou fair heaven!
    We house i' the rock, yet use thee not so hardly
    As prouder livers do. 1610
  • Belarius. Now for our mountain sport: up to yond hill;
    Your legs are young; I'll tread these flats. Consider,
    When you above perceive me like a crow, 1615
    That it is place which lessens and sets off;
    And you may then revolve what tales I have told you
    Of courts, of princes, of the tricks in war:
    This service is not service, so being done,
    But being so allow'd: to apprehend thus, 1620
    Draws us a profit from all things we see;
    And often, to our comfort, shall we find
    The sharded beetle in a safer hold
    Than is the full-wing'd eagle. O, this life
    Is nobler than attending for a cheque, 1625
    Richer than doing nothing for a bauble,
    Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk:
    Such gain the cap of him that makes 'em fine,
    Yet keeps his book uncross'd: no life to ours.
  • Guiderius. Out of your proof you speak: we, poor unfledged, 1630
    Have never wing'd from view o' the nest, nor know not
    What air's from home. Haply this life is best,
    If quiet life be best; sweeter to you
    That have a sharper known; well corresponding
    With your stiff age: but unto us it is 1635
    A cell of ignorance; travelling a-bed;
    A prison for a debtor, that not dares
    To stride a limit.
  • Arviragus. What should we speak of
    When we are old as you? when we shall hear 1640
    The rain and wind beat dark December, how,
    In this our pinching cave, shall we discourse
    The freezing hours away? We have seen nothing;
    We are beastly, subtle as the fox for prey,
    Like warlike as the wolf for what we eat; 1645
    Our valour is to chase what flies; our cage
    We make a quire, as doth the prison'd bird,
    And sing our bondage freely.
  • Belarius. How you speak!
    Did you but know the city's usuries 1650
    And felt them knowingly; the art o' the court
    As hard to leave as keep; whose top to climb
    Is certain falling, or so slippery that
    The fear's as bad as falling; the toil o' the war,
    A pain that only seems to seek out danger 1655
    I' the name of fame and honour; which dies i'
    the search,
    And hath as oft a slanderous epitaph
    As record of fair act; nay, many times,
    Doth ill deserve by doing well; what's worse, 1660
    Must court'sy at the censure:—O boys, this story
    The world may read in me: my body's mark'd
    With Roman swords, and my report was once
    First with the best of note: Cymbeline loved me,
    And when a soldier was the theme, my name 1665
    Was not far off: then was I as a tree
    Whose boughs did bend with fruit: but in one night,
    A storm or robbery, call it what you will,
    Shook down my mellow hangings, nay, my leaves,
    And left me bare to weather. 1670
  • Belarius. My fault being nothing—as I have told you oft—
    But that two villains, whose false oaths prevail'd
    Before my perfect honour, swore to Cymbeline
    I was confederate with the Romans: so 1675
    Follow'd my banishment, and this twenty years
    This rock and these demesnes have been my world;
    Where I have lived at honest freedom, paid
    More pious debts to heaven than in all
    The fore-end of my time. But up to the mountains! 1680
    This is not hunters' language: he that strikes
    The venison first shall be the lord o' the feast;
    To him the other two shall minister;
    And we will fear no poison, which attends
    In place of greater state. I'll meet you in the valleys. 1685
    How hard it is to hide the sparks of nature!
    These boys know little they are sons to the king;
    Nor Cymbeline dreams that they are alive.
    They think they are mine; and though train'd 1690
    up thus meanly
    I' the cave wherein they bow, their thoughts do hit
    The roofs of palaces, and nature prompts them
    In simple and low things to prince it much
    Beyond the trick of others. This Polydore, 1695
    The heir of Cymbeline and Britain, who
    The king his father call'd Guiderius,—Jove!
    When on my three-foot stool I sit and tell
    The warlike feats I have done, his spirits fly out
    Into my story: say 'Thus, mine enemy fell, 1700
    And thus I set my foot on 's neck;' even then
    The princely blood flows in his cheek, he sweats,
    Strains his young nerves and puts himself in posture
    That acts my words. The younger brother, Cadwal,
    Once Arviragus, in as like a figure, 1705
    Strikes life into my speech and shows much more
    His own conceiving.—Hark, the game is roused!
    O Cymbeline! heaven and my conscience knows
    Thou didst unjustly banish me: whereon,
    At three and two years old, I stole these babes; 1710
    Thinking to bar thee of succession, as
    Thou reft'st me of my lands. Euriphile,
    Thou wast their nurse; they took thee for
    their mother,
    And every day do honour to her grave: 1715
    Myself, Belarius, that am Morgan call'd,
    They take for natural father. The game is up.