Percy Bysshe Shelley: Charles I Scene 2

Updated May 6, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Scene 2: A Chamber in Whitehall.

Enter the King, Queen, Laud, Lord Straftord, Lord Cottington, and other lords; Archy; Also St. John, with some gentlemen of the Inns of Court.

Thanks, gentlemen. I heartily accept
This token of your service: your gay masque
Was performed gallantly. And it shows well
When subjects twine such flowers of [observance?]
With the sharp thorns that deck the English crown.
A gentle heart enjoys what it confers,
Even as it suffers that which it inflicts,
Though Justice guides the stroke.
Accept my hearty thanks.[1]
And gentlemen,
Call your poor Queen your debtor. Your quaint pageant
Rose on me like the figures of past years,
Treading their still path back to infancy,
More beautiful and mild as they draw nearer
The quiet cradle. I could have almost wept
To think I was in Paris, where these shows
Are well devised—such as I was ere yet
My young heart shared a portion of the burthen,
The careful weight, of this great monarchy.
There, gentlemen, between the sovereign's pleasure
And that which it regards, no clamour lifts
Its proud interposition.
In Paris ribald censurers dare not move
Their poisonous tongues against these sinless sports;
And HIS smile
Warms those who bask in it, as ours would do
If ... Take my heart's thanks: add them, gentlemen,
To those good words which, were he King of France,
My royal lord would turn to golden deeds.
Madam, the love of Englishmen can make
The lightest favour of their lawful king
Outweigh a despot's.—We humbly take our leaves,
Enriched by smiles which France can never buy.
My Lord Archbishop,
Mark you what spirit sits in St. John's eyes?
Methinks it is too saucy for this presence.
Yes, pray your Grace look: for, like an unsophisticated [eye] sees
everything upside down, you who are wise will discern the shadow of an
idiot in lawn sleeves and a rochet setting springes to catch woodcocks
in haymaking time. Poor Archy, whose owl-eyes are tempered to the
error of his age, and because he is a fool, and by special ordinance
of God forbidden ever to see himself as he is, sees now in that deep
eye a blindfold devil sitting on the ball, and weighing words out
between king and subjects. One scale is full of promises, and the
other full of protestations: and then another devil creeps behind the
first out of the dark windings [of a] pregnant lawyer's brain, and
takes the bandage from the other's eyes, and throws a sword into the
left-hand scale, for all the world like my Lord Essex's there.
A rod in pickle for the Fool's back!
Ay, and some are now smiling whose tears will make the brine; for the
Fool sees—
Insolent! You shall have your coat turned and be whipped out of the
palace for this.
When all the fools are whipped, and all the Protestant writers, while
the knaves are whipping the fools ever since a thief was set to catch
a thief. If all turncoats were whipped out of palaces, poor Archy
would be disgraced in good company. Let the knaves whip the fools, and
all the fools laugh at it. [Let the] wise and godly slit each other's
noses and ears (having no need of any sense of discernment in their
craft); and the knaves, to marshal them, join in a procession to
Bedlam, to entreat the madmen to omit their sublime Platonic
contemplations, and manage the state of England. Let all the honest
men who lie [pinched?][2] up at the prisons or the pillories, in custody
of the pursuivants of the High-Commission Court, marshal them.
These stiff Scots
His Grace of Canterbury must take order
To force under the Church's yoke.—You, Wentworth,
Shall be myself in Ireland, and shall add
Your wisdom, gentleness, and energy,
To what in me were wanting.—My Lord Weston,
Look that those merchants draw not without loss
Their bullion from the Tower; and, on the payment
Of shipmoney, take fullest compensation
For violation of our royal forests,
Whose limits, from neglect, have been o'ergrown
With cottages and cornfields. The uttermost
Farthing exact from those who claim exemption
From knighthood: that which once was a reward
Shall thus be made a punishment, that subjects
May know how majesty can wear at will
The rugged mood.—My Lord of Coventry,
Lay my command upon the Courts below
That bail be not accepted for the prisoners
Under the warrant of the Star Chamber.
The people shall not find the stubbornness
Of Parliament a cheap or easy method
Of dealing with their rightful sovereign:
And doubt not this, my Lord of Coventry,
We will find time and place for fit rebuke.—[3]
My Lord of Canterbury.
The fool is here.
I crave permission of your Majesty
To order that this insolent fellow be
Chastised: he mocks the sacred character,
Scoffs at the state,[4] and—
What, my Archy?
He mocks and mimics all he sees and hears,
Yet with a quaint and graceful licence—Prithee
For this once do not as Prynne would, were he
Primate of England. With your Grace's leave,[5]
He lives in his own world; and, like a parrot
Hung in his gilded prison from the window
Of a queen's bower over the public way,
Blasphemes with a bird's mind:—his words, like arrows
Which know no aim beyond the archer's wit,
Strike sometimes what eludes philosophy.—
Go, sirrah, and repent of your offence
Ten minutes in the rain; be it your penance
To bring news how the world goes there.
Poor Archy!
He weaves about himself a world of mirth
Out of the wreck of ours.[6]
I take with patience, as my Master did,
All scoffs permitted from above.
My lord,
Pray overlook these papers. Archy's words
Had wings, but these have talons.
And the lion
That wears them must be tamed. My dearest lord,
I see the new-born courage in your[7] eye
Armed to strike dead the Spirit of the Time,
Which spurs to rage the many-headed beast.[8]
Do thou persist: for, faint but in resolve,
And it were better thou hadst still remained
The slave of thine own slaves, who tear like curs
The fugitive, and flee from the pursuer;
And Opportunity, that empty wolf,
Flies at his throat who falls. Subdue thy actions
Even to the disposition of thy purpose,
And be that tempered as the Ebro's steel;
And banish weak-eyed Mercy to the weak,
Whence she will greet thee with a gift of peace
And not betray thee with a traitor's kiss,
As when she keeps the company of rebels,
Who think that she is Fear. This do, lest we
Should fall as from a glorious pinnacle
In a bright dream, and wake as from a dream
Out of our worshipped state.
Beloved friend,
God is my witness that this weight of power,
Which He sets me my earthly task to wield
Under His law, is my delight and pride
Only because thou lovest that and me.
For a king bears the office of a God
To all the under world; and to his God
Alone he must deliver up his trust,
Unshorn of its permitted attributes.
[It seems] now as the baser elements
Had mutinied against the golden sun
That kindles them to harmony, and quells
Their self-destroying rapine. The wild million
Strike at the eye that guides them; like as humours
Of the distempered body that conspire
Against the spirit of life throned in the heart,—
And thus become the prey of one another,
And last of death—
That which would be ambition in a subject
Is duty in a sovereign; for on him,
As on a keystone, hangs the arch of life,
Whose safety is its strength. Degree and form,
And all that makes the age of reasoning man
More memorable than a beast's, depend on this—
That Right should fence itself inviolably
With Power; in which respect the state of England
From usurpation by the insolent commons
Cries for reform.
Get treason, and spare treasure. Fee with coin
The loudest murmurers; feed with jealousies
Opposing factions,—be thyself of none;
And borrow gold of many, for those who lend
Will serve thee till thou payest them; and thus
Keep the fierce spirit of the hour at bay,
Till time, and its coming generations
Of nights and days unborn, bring some one chance,
Or war or pestilence or Nature's self,—
By some distemperature or terrible sign,
Be as an arbiter betwixt themselves.
Nor let your Majesty
Doubt here the peril of the unseen event.
How did your brother Kings, coheritors
In your high interest in the subject earth,
Rise past such troubles to that height of power
Where now they sit, and awfully serene
Smile on the trembling world? Such popular storms
Philip the Second of Spain, this Lewis of France,
And late the German head of many bodies,
And every petty lord of Italy,
Quelled or by arts or arms. Is England poorer
Or feebler? or art thou who wield'st her power
Tamer than they? or shall this island be—
[Girdled] by its inviolable waters—
To the world present and the world to come
Sole pattern of extinguished monarchy?
Not if thou dost as I would have thee do.
Your words shall be my deeds:
You speak the image of my thought. My friend
(If Kings can have a friend, I call thee so),
Beyond the large commission which [belongs]
Under the great seal of the realm, take this:
And, for some obvious reasons, let there be
No seal on it, except my kingly word
And honour as I am a gentleman.
Be—as thou art within my heart and mind—
Another self, here and in Ireland:
Do what thou judgest well, take amplest licence,
And stick not even at questionable means.
Hear me, Wentworth. My word is as a wall
Between thee and this world thine enemy—
That hates thee, for thou lovest me.
I own
No friend but thee, no enemies but thine:
Thy lightest thought is my eternal law.
How weak, how short, is life to pay—
Peace, peace.
Thou ow'st me nothing yet.
My lord, what say
Those papers?
Your Majesty has ever interposed,
In lenity towards your native soil,
Between the heavy vengeance of the Church
And Scotland. Mark the consequence of warming
This brood of northern vipers in your bosom.
The rabble, instructed no doubt
By London, Lindsay, Hume, and false Argyll
(For the waves never menace heaven until
Scourged by the wind's invisible tyranny),
Have in the very temple of the Lord
Done outrage to His chosen ministers.
They scorn the liturgy of the Holy Church,
Refuse to obey her canons, and deny
The apostolic power with which the Spirit
Has filled its elect vessels, even from him
Who held the keys with power to loose and bind,
To him who now pleads in this royal presence.—
Let ample powers and new instructions be
Sent to the High Commissioners in Scotland.
To death, imprisonment, and confiscation,
Add torture, add the ruin of the kindred
Of the offender, add the brand of infamy,
Add mutilation:[9] and if this suffice not,
Unleash the sword and fire, that in their thirst
They may lick up that scum of schismatics.
I laugh at those weak rebels who, desiring
What we possess, still prate of Christian peace,
As if those dreadful arbitrating messengers[10]
Which play the part of God 'twixt right and wrong,
Should be let loose against the[11] innocent sleep
Of templed cities and the smiling fields,
For some poor argument of policy
Which touches our own profit or our pride
(Where it indeed were Christian charity
To turn the cheek even to the smiter's hand):[12]
And, when our great Redeemer, when our God,
When He who gave, accepted, and retained
Himself in propitiation of our sins,[13]
Is scorned in His immediate ministry,[14]
With hazard of the inestimable loss
Of all the truth and discipline which is
Salvation to the extremest generation
Of men innumerable, they talk of peace![15]
Such peace as Canaan found, let Scotland now:
For, by that Christ who came to bring a sword,
Not peace, upon the earth, and gave command
To His disciples at the Passover
That each should sell his robe and buy a sword,-
Once strip that minister of naked wrath,
And it shall never sleep in peace again
Till Scotland bend or break.
My Lord Archbishop,
Do what thou wilt and what thou canst in this.
Thy earthly even as thy heavenly King
Gives thee large power in his unquiet realm.
But we want money, and my mind misgives me
That for so great an enterprise, as yet,
We are unfurnished.
Yet it may not long
Rest on our wills.
The expenses
Of gathering shipmoney, and of distraining
For every petty rate (for we encounter
A desperate opposition inch by inch
In every warehouse and on every farm),
Have swallowed up the gross sum of the imposts;
So that, though felt as a most grievous scourge
Upon the land, they stand us in small stead
As touches the receipt.
'Tis a conclusion
Most arithmetical: and thence you infer
Perhaps the assembling of a parliament.
Now, if a man should call his dearest enemies
T0 sit in licensed judgement on his life,
His Majesty might wisely take that course.
It is enough to expect from these lean imposts
That they perform the office of a scourge,
Without more profit.
Fines and confiscations,
And a forced loan from the refractory city,
Will fill our coffers: and the golden love
Of loyal gentlemen and noble friends
For the worshipped father of our common country,
With contributions from the catholics,
Will make Rebellion pale in our excess.
Be these the expedients until time and wisdom
Shall frame a settled state of government.
And weak expedients they! Have we not drained
All, till the ... which seemed
A mine exhaustless?
And the love which IS,
If loyal hearts could turn their blood to gold.
Both now grow barren: and I speak it not
As loving parliaments, which, as they have been
In the right hand of bold bad mighty kings
The scourges of the bleeding Church, I hate.
Methinks they scarcely can deserve our fear.
Oh! my dear liege, take back the wealth thou gavest:
With that, take all I held, but as in trust
For thee, of mine inheritance: leave me but
This unprovided body for thy service,
And a mind dedicated to no care
Except thy safety:—but assemble not
A parliament. Hundreds will bring, like me,
Their fortunes, as they would their blood, before—
No! thou who judgest them art but one. Alas!
We should be too much out of love with Heaven,
Did this vile world show many such as thee,
Thou perfect, just, and honourable man!
Never shall it be said that Charles of England
Stripped those he loved for fear of those he scorns;
Nor will he so much misbecome his throne
As to impoverish those who most adorn
And best defend it. That you urge, dear Strafford,
Inclines me rather—
To a parliament?
Is this thy firmness? and thou wilt preside
Over a knot of ... censurers,
To the unswearing of thy best resolves,
And choose the worst, when the worst comes too soon?
Plight not the worst before the worst must come.
Oh, wilt thou smile whilst our ribald foes,
Dressed in their own usurped authority,
Sharpen their tongues on Henrietta's fame?
It is enough! Thou lovest me no more!
Oh, Henrietta!
Money we have none:
And all the expedients of my Lord of Strafford
Will scarcely meet the arrears.
Without delay
An army must be sent into the north;
Followed by a Commission of the Church,
With amplest power to quench in fire and blood,
And tears and terror, and the pity of hell,
The intenser wrath of Heresy. God will give
Victory; and victory over Scotland give
The lion England tamed into our hands.
That will lend power, and power bring gold.
We must begin first where your Grace leaves off.
Gold must give power, or—
I am not averse
From the assembling of a parliament.
Strong actions and smooth words might teach them soon
The lesson to obey. And are they not
A bubble fashioned by the monarch's mouth,
The birth of one light breath? If they serve no purpose,
A word dissolves them.
The engine of parliaments
Might be deferred until I can bring over
The Irish regiments: they will serve to assure
The issue of the war against the Scots.
And, this game won—which if lost, all is lost—
Gather these chosen leaders of the rebels,
And call them, if you will, a parliament.
Oh, be our feet still tardy to shed blood.
Guilty though it may be! I would still spare
The stubborn country of my birth, and ward
From countenances which I loved in youth
The wrathful Church's lacerating hand.
Have you o'erlooked the other articles?
Hazlerig, Hampden, Pym, young Harry Vane,
Cromwell, and other rebels of less note,
Intend to sail with the next favouring wind
For the Plantations.
Where they think to found
A commonwealth like Gonzalo's[16] in the play,
Gynaecocoenic and pantisocratic.
What's that, sirrah?
New devil's politics.
Hell is the pattern of all commonwealths:
Lucifer was the first republican.
Will you hear Merlin's prophecy, how three [posts?]
'In one brainless skull, when the whitethorn is full,
Shall sail round the world, and come back again:
Shall sail round the world in a brainless skull,
And come back again when the moon is at full:'—
When, in spite of the Church,
They will hear homilies of whatever length
Or form they please.
So please your Majesty to sign this order
For their detention.
If your Majesty were tormented night and day by fever, gout,
rheumatism, and stone, and asthma, etc., and you found these diseases
had secretly entered into a conspiracy to abandon you, should you
think it necessary to lay an embargo on the port by which they meant
to dispeople your unquiet kingdom of man?
If fear were made for kings, the Fool mocks wisely;
But in this case—[WRITING]. Here, my lord, take the warrant,
And see it duly executed forthwith.—
That imp of malice and mockery shall be punished.
Ay, I am the physician of whom Plato prophesied, who was to be accused
by the confectioner before a jury of children, who found him guilty
without waiting for the summing-up, and hanged him without benefit of
clergy. Thus Baby Charles, and the Twelfth-night Queen of Hearts, and
the overgrown schoolboy Cottington, and that little urchin Laud—who
would reduce a verdict of 'guilty, death,' by famine, if it were
impregnable by composition—all impannelled against poor Archy for
presenting them bitter physic the last day of the holidays.
Is the rain over, sirrah?
When it rains
And the sun shines, 'twill rain again to-morrow:
And therefore never smile till you've done crying.
But 'tis all over now: like the April anger of woman, the gentle sky
has wept itself serene.
What news abroad? how looks the world this morning?
Gloriously as a grave covered with virgin flowers. There's a rainbow
in the sky. Let your Majesty look at it, for
'A rainbow in the morning
Is the shepherd's warning;'
and the flocks of which you are the pastor are scattered among the
mountain-tops, where every drop of water is a flake of snow, and the
breath of May pierces like a January blast.
The sheep have mistaken the wolf for their shepherd, my poor boy; and
the shepherd, the wolves for their watchdogs.
But the rainbow was a good sign, Archy: it says that the waters of the
deluge are gone, and can return no more.
Ay, the salt-water one: but that of tears and blood must yet come
down, and that of fire follow, if there be any truth in lies.—The
rainbow hung over the city with all its shops,...and churches, from
north to south, like a bridge of congregated lightning pieced by the
masonry of heaven—like a balance in which the angel that distributes
the coming hour was weighing that heavy one whose poise is now felt in
the lightest hearts, before it bows the proudest heads under the
meanest feet.
Who taught you this trash, sirrah?
A torn leaf out of an old book trampled in the dirt.—But for the
rainbow. It moved as the sun moved, and...until the top of the
Tower...of a cloud through its left-hand tip, and Lambeth Palace look
as dark as a rock before the other. Methought I saw a crown figured
upon one tip, and a mitre on the other. So, as I had heard treasures
were found where the rainbow quenches its points upon the earth, I set
off, and at the Tower— But I shall not tell your Majesty what I found
close to the closet-window on which the rainbow had glimmered.
Speak: I will make my Fool my conscience.
Then conscience is a fool.—I saw there a cat caught in a rat-trap. I
heard the rats squeak behind the wainscots: it seemed to me that the
very mice were consulting on the manner of her death.
Archy is shrewd and bitter.
Like the season,
So blow the winds.—But at the other end of the rainbow, where the
gray rain was tempered along the grass and leaves by a tender
interfusion of violet and gold in the meadows beyond Lambeth, what
think you that I found instead of a mitre?
Vane's wits perhaps.
Something as vain. I saw a gross vapour hovering in a stinking ditch
over the carcass of a dead ass, some rotten rags, and broken
dishes—the wrecks of what once administered to the stuffing-out and
the ornament of a worm of worms. His Grace of Canterbury expects to
enter the New Jerusalem some Palm Sunday in triumph on the ghost of
this ass.
Enough, enough! Go desire Lady Jane
She place my lute, together with the music
Mari received last week from Italy,
In my boudoir, and—
I'll go in.[17]
MY beloved lord,
Have you not noted that the Fool of late
Has lost his careless mirth, and that his words
Sound like the echoes of our saddest fears?
What can it mean? I should be loth to think
Some factious slave had tutored him.
Oh, no!
He is but Occasion's pupil.[18] Partly 'tis[19]
That our minds piece the vacant intervals
Of his wild words with their own fashioning,—
As in the imagery of summer clouds,
Or coals of[20] the winter fire, idlers find
The perfect shadows of their teeming thoughts:
And partly, that the terrors of the time
Are sown by wandering Rumour in all spirits;
And in the lightest and the least, may best
Be seen the current of the coming wind.
Your brain is overwrought with these deep thoughts.
Come, I will sing to you; let us go try
These airs from Italy; and, as we pass
The gallery, we'll decide where that Correggio
Shall hang—the Virgin Mother
With her child, born the King of heaven and earth,
Whose reign is men's salvation.[21] And you shall see
A cradled miniature of yourself asleep,
Stamped on the heart by never-erring love;
Liker than any Vandyke ever made,
A pattern to the unborn age of thee,
Over whose sweet beauty I have wept for joy
A thousand times, and now should weep for sorrow,
Did I not think that after we were dead
Our fortunes would spring high in him, and that
The cares we waste upon our heavy crown
Would make it light and glorious as a wreath
Of Heaven's beams for his dear innocent brow.
Dear Henrietta!

And...thanks 1870; omitted 1824.


pinched marked as doubtful by Rossetti. 1870; Forman, Dowden; penned Woodberry.


In Paris...rebuke 1870; omitted 1824.


state 1870; stake 1824.


With your Grace's leave 1870; omitted 1824.


Go...ours spoken by THE QUEEN, 1824.


your 1824; thine 1870.


Which...beast 1870; omitted 1824.


Beloved...mutilation 1870; omitted 1824.


arbitrating messengers 1870; messengers of wrath 1824.


the 1870; omitted 1524.


Parentheses inserted 1870.


When He...sins 1870; omitted 1824.


ministry 1870; ministers 1824.


With...innumerable 1870; omitted 1824.


Gonzalo's 1870; Gonzaga Boscombe manuscript.


For by...I'll go in 1870; omitted 1824.


Oh...pupil 1870; omitted 1824.


Partly 'tis 1870; It partly is 1824.


of 1870; in 1824.


and, as...salvation 1870; omitted 1824.

Sources +