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Pericles, Prince of Tyre

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Act I, Scene 4

Tarsus. A room in the Governor’s house.


[Enter CLEON, the governor of Tarsus, with DIONYZA,] [p]and others]

  • Cleon. My Dionyza, shall we rest us here,
    And by relating tales of others' griefs,
    See if 'twill teach us to forget our own?
  • Dionyza. That were to blow at fire in hope to quench it; 420
    For who digs hills because they do aspire
    Throws down one mountain to cast up a higher.
    O my distressed lord, even such our griefs are;
    Here they're but felt, and seen with mischief's eyes,
    But like to groves, being topp'd, they higher rise. 425
  • Cleon. O Dionyza,
    Who wanteth food, and will not say he wants it,
    Or can conceal his hunger till he famish?
    Our tongues and sorrows do sound deep
    Our woes into the air; our eyes do weep, 430
    Till tongues fetch breath that may proclaim them louder;
    That, if heaven slumber while their creatures want,
    They may awake their helps to comfort them.
    I'll then discourse our woes, felt several years,
    And wanting breath to speak help me with tears. 435
  • Cleon. This Tarsus, o'er which I have the government,
    A city on whom plenty held full hand,
    For riches strew'd herself even in the streets;
    Whose towers bore heads so high they kiss'd the clouds, 440
    And strangers ne'er beheld but wondered at;
    Whose men and dames so jetted and adorn'd,
    Like one another's glass to trim them by:
    Their tables were stored full, to glad the sight,
    And not so much to feed on as delight; 445
    All poverty was scorn'd, and pride so great,
    The name of help grew odious to repeat.
  • Cleon. But see what heaven can do! By this our change,
    These mouths, who but of late, earth, sea, and air, 450
    Were all too little to content and please,
    Although they gave their creatures in abundance,
    As houses are defiled for want of use,
    They are now starved for want of exercise:
    Those palates who, not yet two summers younger, 455
    Must have inventions to delight the taste,
    Would now be glad of bread, and beg for it:
    Those mothers who, to nousle up their babes,
    Thought nought too curious, are ready now
    To eat those little darlings whom they loved. 460
    So sharp are hunger's teeth, that man and wife
    Draw lots who first shall die to lengthen life:
    Here stands a lord, and there a lady weeping;
    Here many sink, yet those which see them fall
    Have scarce strength left to give them burial. 465
    Is not this true?
  • Dionyza. Our cheeks and hollow eyes do witness it.
  • Cleon. O, let those cities that of plenty's cup
    And her prosperities so largely taste,
    With their superfluous riots, hear these tears! 470
    The misery of Tarsus may be theirs.

[Enter a Lord]

  • Lord. Where's the lord governor?
  • Cleon. Here.
    Speak out thy sorrows which thou bring'st in haste, 475
    For comfort is too far for us to expect.
  • Lord. We have descried, upon our neighbouring shore,
    A portly sail of ships make hitherward.
  • Cleon. I thought as much.
    One sorrow never comes but brings an heir, 480
    That may succeed as his inheritor;
    And so in ours: some neighbouring nation,
    Taking advantage of our misery,
    Hath stuff'd these hollow vessels with their power,
    To beat us down, the which are down already; 485
    And make a conquest of unhappy me,
    Whereas no glory's got to overcome.
  • Lord. That's the least fear; for, by the semblance
    Of their white flags display'd, they bring us peace,
    And come to us as favourers, not as foes. 490
  • Cleon. Thou speak'st like him's untutor'd to repeat:
    Who makes the fairest show means most deceit.
    But bring they what they will and what they can,
    What need we fear?
    The ground's the lowest, and we are half way there. 495
    Go tell their general we attend him here,
    To know for what he comes, and whence he comes,
    And what he craves.
  • Lord. I go, my lord.


  • Cleon. Welcome is peace, if he on peace consist;
    If wars, we are unable to resist.

[Enter PERICLES with Attendants]

  • Pericles. Lord governor, for so we hear you are,
    Let not our ships and number of our men 505
    Be like a beacon fired to amaze your eyes.
    We have heard your miseries as far as Tyre,
    And seen the desolation of your streets:
    Nor come we to add sorrow to your tears,
    But to relieve them of their heavy load; 510
    And these our ships, you happily may think
    Are like the Trojan horse was stuff'd within
    With bloody veins, expecting overthrow,
    Are stored with corn to make your needy bread,
    And give them life whom hunger starved half dead. 515
  • All. The gods of Greece protect you!
    And we'll pray for you.
  • Pericles. Arise, I pray you, rise:
    We do not look for reverence, but to love,
    And harbourage for ourself, our ships, and men. 520
  • Cleon. The which when any shall not gratify,
    Or pay you with unthankfulness in thought,
    Be it our wives, our children, or ourselves,
    The curse of heaven and men succeed their evils!
    Till when,—the which I hope shall ne'er be seen,— 525
    Your grace is welcome to our town and us.
  • Pericles. Which welcome we'll accept; feast here awhile,
    Until our stars that frown lend us a smile.