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History of Henry VIII

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Act IV, Scene 2



[Enter KATHARINE, Dowager, sick; led between] [p]GRIFFITH, her gentleman usher, and PATIENCE, her woman]

  • Queen Katharine. O Griffith, sick to death!
    My legs, like loaden branches, bow to the earth, 2560
    Willing to leave their burthen. Reach a chair:
    So; now, methinks, I feel a little ease.
    Didst thou not tell me, Griffith, as thou led'st me,
    That the great child of honour, Cardinal Wolsey, Was dead?
  • Griffith. Yes, madam; but I think your grace, 2565
    Out of the pain you suffer'd, gave no ear to't.
  • Queen Katharine. Prithee, good Griffith, tell me how he died:
    If well, he stepp'd before me, happily
    For my example.
  • Griffith. Well, the voice goes, madam: 2570
    For after the stout Earl Northumberland
    Arrested him at York, and brought him forward,
    As a man sorely tainted, to his answer,
    He fell sick suddenly, and grew so ill
    He could not sit his mule. 2575
  • Griffith. At last, with easy roads, he came to Leicester,
    Lodged in the abbey; where the reverend abbot,
    With all his covent, honourably received him;
    To whom he gave these words, 'O, father abbot, 2580
    An old man, broken with the storms of state,
    Is come to lay his weary bones among ye;
    Give him a little earth for charity!'
    So went to bed; where eagerly his sickness
    Pursued him still: and, three nights after this, 2585
    About the hour of eight, which he himself
    Foretold should be his last, full of repentance,
    Continual meditations, tears, and sorrows,
    He gave his honours to the world again,
    His blessed part to heaven, and slept in peace. 2590
  • Queen Katharine. So may he rest; his faults lie gently on him!
    Yet thus far, Griffith, give me leave to speak him,
    And yet with charity. He was a man
    Of an unbounded stomach, ever ranking
    Himself with princes; one that, by suggestion, 2595
    Tied all the kingdom: simony was fair-play;
    His own opinion was his law: i' the presence
    He would say untruths; and be ever double
    Both in his words and meaning: he was never,
    But where he meant to ruin, pitiful: 2600
    His promises were, as he then was, mighty;
    But his performance, as he is now, nothing:
    Of his own body he was ill, and gave
    The clergy in example.
  • Griffith. Noble madam, 2605
    Men's evil manners live in brass; their virtues
    We write in water. May it please your highness
    To hear me speak his good now?
  • Griffith. This cardinal,
    Though from an humble stock, undoubtedly
    Was fashion'd to much honour from his cradle.
    He was a scholar, and a ripe and good one;
    Exceeding wise, fair-spoken, and persuading: 2615
    Lofty and sour to them that loved him not;
    But to those men that sought him sweet as summer.
    And though he were unsatisfied in getting,
    Which was a sin, yet in bestowing, madam,
    He was most princely: ever witness for him 2620
    Those twins Of learning that he raised in you,
    Ipswich and Oxford! one of which fell with him,
    Unwilling to outlive the good that did it;
    The other, though unfinish'd, yet so famous,
    So excellent in art, and still so rising, 2625
    That Christendom shall ever speak his virtue.
    His overthrow heap'd happiness upon him;
    For then, and not till then, he felt himself,
    And found the blessedness of being little:
    And, to add greater honours to his age 2630
    Than man could give him, he died fearing God.
  • Queen Katharine. After my death I wish no other herald,
    No other speaker of my living actions,
    To keep mine honour from corruption,
    But such an honest chronicler as Griffith. 2635
    Whom I most hated living, thou hast made me,
    With thy religious truth and modesty,
    Now in his ashes honour: peace be with him!
    Patience, be near me still; and set me lower:
    I have not long to trouble thee. Good Griffith, 2640
    Cause the musicians play me that sad note
    I named my knell, whilst I sit meditating
    On that celestial harmony I go to.

[Sad and solemn music]

  • Griffith. She is asleep: good wench, let's sit down quiet, 2645
    For fear we wake her: softly, gentle Patience.
    [The vision. Enter, solemnly tripping one after]
    another, six personages, clad in white robes,
    wearing on their heads garlands of bays, and golden
    vizards on their faces; branches of bays or palm in 2650
    their hands. They first congee unto her, then
    dance; and, at certain changes, the first two hold
    a spare garland over her head; at which the other
    four make reverent curtsies; then the two that held
    the garland deliver the same to the other next two, 2655
    who observe the same order in their changes, and
    holding the garland over her head: which done,
    they deliver the same garland to the last two, who
    likewise observe the same order: at which, as it
    were by inspiration, she makes in her sleep signs 2660
    of rejoicing, and holdeth up her hands to heaven:
    and so in their dancing vanish, carrying the
    garland with them. The music continues]
  • Queen Katharine. Spirits of peace, where are ye? are ye all gone,
    And leave me here in wretchedness behind ye? 2665
  • Queen Katharine. It is not you I call for:
    Saw ye none enter since I slept?
  • Queen Katharine. No? Saw you not, even now, a blessed troop 2670
    Invite me to a banquet; whose bright faces
    Cast thousand beams upon me, like the sun?
    They promised me eternal happiness;
    And brought me garlands, Griffith, which I feel
    I am not worthy yet to wear: I shall, assuredly. 2675
  • Griffith. I am most joyful, madam, such good dreams
    Possess your fancy.

[Music ceases]

  • Patience. Do you note
    How much her grace is alter'd on the sudden?
    How long her face is drawn? how pale she looks,
    And of an earthy cold? Mark her eyes!
  • Griffith. She is going, wench: pray, pray. 2685

[Enter a Messenger]

  • Queen Katharine. You are a saucy fellow:
    Deserve we no more reverence? 2690
  • Griffith. You are to blame,
    Knowing she will not lose her wonted greatness,
    To use so rude behavior; go to, kneel.
  • Messenger. I humbly do entreat your highness' pardon;
    My haste made me unmannerly. There is staying 2695
    A gentleman, sent from the king, to see you.
  • Queen Katharine. Admit him entrance, Griffith: but this fellow
    Let me ne'er see again.
    [Exeunt GRIFFITH and Messenger]
    [Re-enter GRIFFITH, with CAPUCIUS] 2700
    If my sight fail not,
    You should be lord ambassador from the emperor,
    My royal nephew, and your name Capucius.
  • Capucius. Madam, the same; your servant.
  • Queen Katharine. O, my lord, 2705
    The times and titles now are alter'd strangely
    With me since first you knew me. But, I pray you,
    What is your pleasure with me?
  • Capucius. Noble lady,
    First mine own service to your grace; the next, 2710
    The king's request that I would visit you;
    Who grieves much for your weakness, and by me
    Sends you his princely commendations,
    And heartily entreats you take good comfort.
  • Queen Katharine. O my good lord, that comfort comes too late; 2715
    'Tis like a pardon after execution:
    That gentle physic, given in time, had cured me;
    But now I am past an comforts here, but prayers.
    How does his highness?
  • Queen Katharine. So may he ever do! and ever flourish,
    When I shall dwell with worms, and my poor name
    Banish'd the kingdom! Patience, is that letter,
    I caused you write, yet sent away?

[Giving it to KATHARINE]

  • Queen Katharine. Sir, I most humbly pray you to deliver
    This to my lord the king.
  • Queen Katharine. In which I have commended to his goodness 2730
    The model of our chaste loves, his young daughter;
    The dews of heaven fall thick in blessings on her!
    Beseeching him to give her virtuous breeding—
    She is young, and of a noble modest nature,
    I hope she will deserve well,—and a little 2735
    To love her for her mother's sake, that loved him,
    Heaven knows how dearly. My next poor petition
    Is, that his noble grace would have some pity
    Upon my wretched women, that so long
    Have follow'd both my fortunes faithfully: 2740
    Of which there is not one, I dare avow,
    And now I should not lie, but will deserve
    For virtue and true beauty of the soul,
    For honesty and decent carriage,
    A right good husband, let him be a noble 2745
    And, sure, those men are happy that shall have 'em.
    The last is, for my men; they are the poorest,
    But poverty could never draw 'em from me;
    That they may have their wages duly paid 'em,
    And something over to remember me by: 2750
    If heaven had pleased to have given me longer life
    And able means, we had not parted thus.
    These are the whole contents: and, good my lord,
    By that you love the dearest in this world,
    As you wish Christian peace to souls departed, 2755
    Stand these poor people's friend, and urge the king
    To do me this last right.
  • Capucius. By heaven, I will,
    Or let me lose the fashion of a man!
  • Queen Katharine. I thank you, honest lord. Remember me 2760
    In all humility unto his highness:
    Say his long trouble now is passing
    Out of this world; tell him, in death I bless'd him,
    For so I will. Mine eyes grow dim. Farewell,
    My lord. Griffith, farewell. Nay, Patience, 2765
    You must not leave me yet: I must to bed;
    Call in more women. When I am dead, good wench,
    Let me be used with honour: strew me over
    With maiden flowers, that all the world may know
    I was a chaste wife to my grave: embalm me, 2770
    Then lay me forth: although unqueen'd, yet like
    A queen, and daughter to a king, inter me.
    I can no more.

[Exeunt, leading KATHARINE]