William Shakespeare: Henry VI (Pt 3), Act II, Scene II
Flourish. Enter King Henry VI, Queen Margaret, Prince Edward, Clifford, and Northumberland, with drum and trumpets
Welcome, my lord, to this brave town of York. Yonder's the head of that arch-enemy That sought to be encompass'd with your crown: Doth not the object cheer your heart, my lord?
Ay, as the rocks cheer them that fear their wreck: To see this sight, it irks my very soul. Withhold revenge, dear God! 'tis not my fault, Nor wittingly have I infringed my vow.
My gracious liege, this too much lenity And harmful pity must be laid aside. To whom do lions cast their gentle looks? Not to the beast that would usurp their den. Whose hand is that the forest bear doth lick? Not his that spoils her young before her face. Who 'scapes the lurking serpent's mortal sting? Not he that sets his foot upon her back. The smallest worm will turn being trodden on, And doves will peck in safeguard of their brood. Ambitious York doth level at thy crown, Thou smiling while he knit his angry brows: He, but a duke, would have his son a king, And raise his issue, like a loving sire; Thou, being a king, blest with a goodly son, Didst yield consent to disinherit him, Which argued thee a most unloving father. Unreasonable creatures feed their young; And though man's face be fearful to their eyes, Yet, in protection of their tender ones, Who hath not seen them, even with those wings Which sometime they have used with fearful flight, Make war with him that climb'd unto their nest, Offer their own lives in their young's defence? For shame, my liege, make them your precedent! Were it not pity that this goodly boy Should lose his birthright by his father's fault, And long hereafter say unto his child, 'What my great-grandfather and his grandsire got My careless father fondly gave away'? Ah, what a shame were this! Look on the boy; And let his manly face, which promiseth Successful fortune, steel thy melting heart To hold thine own and leave thine own with him.
Full well hath Clifford play'd the orator, Inferring arguments of mighty force. But, Clifford, tell me, didst thou never hear That things ill-got had ever bad success? And happy always was it for that son Whose father for his hoarding went to hell? I'll leave my son my virtuous deeds behind; And would my father had left me no more! For all the rest is held at such a rate As brings a thousand-fold more care to keep Than in possession and jot of pleasure. Ah, cousin York! would thy best friends did know How it doth grieve me that thy head is here!
My lord, cheer up your spirits: our foes are nigh, And this soft courage makes your followers faint. You promised knighthood to our forward son: Unsheathe your sword, and dub him presently. Edward, kneel down.
My gracious father, by your kingly leave, I'll draw it as apparent to the crown, And in that quarrel use it to the death.
Enter a Messenger
Royal commanders, be in readiness: For with a band of thirty thousand men Comes Warwick, backing of the Duke of York; And in the towns, as they do march along, Proclaims him king, and many fly to him: Darraign your battle, for they are at hand.
I would your highness would depart the field: The queen hath best success when you are absent.
My royal father, cheer these noble lords And hearten those that fight in your defence: Unsheathe your sword, good father; cry 'Saint George!'
March. Enter Edward, George, Richard, Warwick, Norfolk, Montague, and Soldiers
Now, perjured Henry! wilt thou kneel for grace, And set thy diadem upon my head; Or bide the mortal fortune of the field?
Go, rate thy minions, proud insulting boy! Becomes it thee to be thus bold in terms Before thy sovereign and thy lawful king?
I am his king, and he should bow his knee; I was adopted heir by his consent: Since when, his oath is broke; for, as I hear, You, that are king, though he do wear the crown, Have caused him, by new act of parliament, To blot out me, and put his own son in.
Why, how now, long-tongued Warwick! dare you speak? When you and I met at Saint Alban's last, Your legs did better service than your hands.
Northumberland, I hold thee reverently. Break off the parley; for scarce I can refrain The execution of my big-swoln heart Upon that Clifford, that cruel child-killer.
Ay, like a dastard and a treacherous coward, As thou didst kill our tender brother Rutland; But ere sunset I'll make thee curse the deed.
My liege, the wound that bred this meeting here Cannot be cured by words; therefore be still.
Then, executioner, unsheathe thy sword: By him that made us all, I am resolved That Clifford's manhood lies upon his tongue.
Say, Henry, shall I have my right, or no? A thousand men have broke their fasts to-day, That ne'er shall dine unless thou yield the crown.
If that be right which Warwick says is right, There is no wrong, but every thing is right.
But thou art neither like thy sire nor dam; But like a foul mis-shapen stigmatic, Mark'd by the destinies to be avoided, As venom toads, or lizards' dreadful stings.
Iron of Naples hid with English gilt, Whose father bears the title of a king,— As if a channel should be call'd the sea,— Shamest thou not, knowing whence thou art extraught, To let thy tongue detect thy base-born heart?
A wisp of straw were worth a thousand crowns, To make this shameless callet know herself. Helen of Greece was fairer far than thou, Although thy husband may be Menelaus; And ne'er was Agamemnon's brother wrong'd By that false woman, as this king by thee. His father revell'd in the heart of France, And tamed the king, and made the dauphin stoop; And had he match'd according to his state, He might have kept that glory to this day; But when he took a beggar to his bed, And graced thy poor sire with his bridal-day, Even then that sunshine brew'd a shower for him, That wash'd his father's fortunes forth of France, And heap'd sedition on his crown at home. For what hath broach'd this tumult but thy pride? Hadst thou been meek, our title still had slept; And we, in pity of the gentle king, Had slipp'd our claim until another age.
But when we saw our sunshine made thy spring, And that thy summer bred us no increase, We set the axe to thy usurping root; And though the edge hath something hit ourselves, Yet, know thou, since we have begun to strike, We'll never leave till we have hewn thee down, Or bathed thy growing with our heated bloods.
And, in this resolution, I defy thee; Not willing any longer conference, Since thou deniest the gentle king to speak. Sound trumpets! let our bloody colours wave! And either victory, or else a grave.