Open Source Shakespeare

Cymbeline, King of Britain

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Act V, Scene 3

Another part of the field.


[Enter POSTHUMUS LEONATUS and a British Lord]

  • Lord. Camest thou from where they made the stand?
  • Posthumus Leonatus. I did.
    Though you, it seems, come from the fliers.
  • Lord. I did. 3025
  • Posthumus Leonatus. No blame be to you, sir; for all was lost,
    But that the heavens fought: the king himself
    Of his wings destitute, the army broken,
    And but the backs of Britons seen, all flying
    Through a straight lane; the enemy full-hearted, 3030
    Lolling the tongue with slaughtering, having work
    More plentiful than tools to do't, struck down
    Some mortally, some slightly touch'd, some falling
    Merely through fear; that the straight pass was damm'd
    With dead men hurt behind, and cowards living 3035
    To die with lengthen'd shame.
  • Lord. Where was this lane?
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Close by the battle, ditch'd, and wall'd with turf;
    Which gave advantage to an ancient soldier,
    An honest one, I warrant; who deserved 3040
    So long a breeding as his white beard came to,
    In doing this for's country: athwart the lane,
    He, with two striplings-lads more like to run
    The country base than to commit such slaughter
    With faces fit for masks, or rather fairer 3045
    Than those for preservation cased, or shame—
    Made good the passage; cried to those that fled,
    'Our Britain s harts die flying, not our men:
    To darkness fleet souls that fly backwards. Stand;
    Or we are Romans and will give you that 3050
    Like beasts which you shun beastly, and may save,
    But to look back in frown: stand, stand.'
    These three,
    Three thousand confident, in act as many—
    For three performers are the file when all 3055
    The rest do nothing—with this word 'Stand, stand,'
    Accommodated by the place, more charming
    With their own nobleness, which could have turn'd
    A distaff to a lance, gilded pale looks,
    Part shame, part spirit renew'd; that some, 3060
    turn'd coward
    But by example—O, a sin in war,
    Damn'd in the first beginners!—gan to look
    The way that they did, and to grin like lions
    Upon the pikes o' the hunters. Then began 3065
    A stop i' the chaser, a retire, anon
    A rout, confusion thick; forthwith they fly
    Chickens, the way which they stoop'd eagles; slaves,
    The strides they victors made: and now our cowards,
    Like fragments in hard voyages, became 3070
    The life o' the need: having found the backdoor open
    Of the unguarded hearts, heavens, how they wound!
    Some slain before; some dying; some their friends
    O'er borne i' the former wave: ten, chased by one,
    Are now each one the slaughter-man of twenty: 3075
    Those that would die or ere resist are grown
    The mortal bugs o' the field.
  • Lord. This was strange chance
    A narrow lane, an old man, and two boys.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Nay, do not wonder at it: you are made 3080
    Rather to wonder at the things you hear
    Than to work any. Will you rhyme upon't,
    And vent it for a mockery? Here is one:
    'Two boys, an old man twice a boy, a lane,
    Preserved the Britons, was the Romans' bane.' 3085
  • Lord. Nay, be not angry, sir.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. 'Lack, to what end?
    Who dares not stand his foe, I'll be his friend;
    For if he'll do as he is made to do,
    I know he'll quickly fly my friendship too. 3090
    You have put me into rhyme.
  • Lord. Farewell; you're angry.
  • Posthumus Leonatus. Still going?
    [Exit Lord]
    This is a lord! O noble misery, 3095
    To be i' the field, and ask 'what news?' of me!
    To-day how many would have given their honours
    To have saved their carcasses! took heel to do't,
    And yet died too! I, in mine own woe charm'd,
    Could not find death where I did hear him groan, 3100
    Nor feel him where he struck: being an ugly monster,
    'Tis strange he hides him in fresh cups, soft beds,
    Sweet words; or hath more ministers than we
    That draw his knives i' the war. Well, I will find him
    For being now a favourer to the Briton, 3105
    No more a Briton, I have resumed again
    The part I came in: fight I will no more,
    But yield me to the veriest hind that shall
    Once touch my shoulder. Great the slaughter is
    Here made by the Roman; great the answer be 3110
    Britons must take. For me, my ransom's death;
    On either side I come to spend my breath;
    Which neither here I'll keep nor bear again,
    But end it by some means for Imogen.

[Enter two British Captains and Soldiers]

  • First British Captain. Great Jupiter be praised! Lucius is taken.
    'Tis thought the old man and his sons were angels.
  • Second British Captain. There was a fourth man, in a silly habit,
    That gave the affront with them.
  • First British Captain. So 'tis reported: 3120
    But none of 'em can be found. Stand! who's there?
  • Posthumus Leonatus. A Roman,
    Who had not now been drooping here, if seconds
    Had answer'd him.
  • Second British Captain. Lay hands on him; a dog! 3125
    A leg of Rome shall not return to tell
    What crows have peck'd them here. He brags
    his service
    As if he were of note: bring him to the king.
    PISANIO, Soldiers, Attendants, and Roman Captives.
    The Captains present POSTHUMUS LEONATUS to
    CYMBELINE, who delivers him over to a Gaoler:
    then exeunt omnes]