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his fauourites; so that ere I was aware, I had left my selfe nothing but the name of a king: which he shortly wearie of too, with manie indignities, if any thing may be called an indignitie, which was laide vpon me, threw me out of my seate, and put out my eies; and then, proud in his tirannie, let me goe, neither imprisoning nor killing me: but rather delighting to make me feele my miserie ; miserie in deede, if euer there were any; full of wretchednesse, fuller of disgrace, and fullest of guiltines. And as he came to the crowne by so vniust meanes, as vniustlie he kept it, by force of straunger souldiers in cittadels, the nestes of tirannie, and murderers of libertie; disarming all his own countrimen, that no man durst shew himselfe a well-willer of mine ; to say the truth, (I thinke) few of them being so, considering my cruell folly to my good sonne, and foolish kindnesse to my vnkind bastard: but if there were any who felt a pitty of so great a fall, and had yet any sparkes of vnslaine duety lefte in them towards me, yet durst they not shewe it, scarcely with giuing mee almes at their doores; which yet was the onely sustenaunce of my distressed life, no body daring to showe so much charitie, as to lende mee a hande to guide my darke steppes: till this sonne of mine, (God knowes, woorthy of a more vertuous, and more fortunate father,) forgetting my abhominable wronges, not recking daunger, and neglecting the present good way hee was in of doing himselfe good, came hether to doo this kind office you see him performe towardes me, to my vnspeakable griefe ; not only because his kindnes is a glasse euen to my blind eies, of my naughtines, but that, aboue ah griefes, it greeues me he should desperatlie aduenture the losse of his well deseruing life for mine, that yet owe more to fortune for my deserts; as if hee would cary mudde in a chest of christall. For well I know, he that now raigneth, howe much soeuer (and with good reason) he despiseth me, of all men despised, yet hee will not let slippe any aduantage to make away him, whose iust title, enobled by courage and goodnes, may one day shake the seate of a neuer-secure tyrannie. And for this cause I craued of him to leade mee to the toppe of this rocke, indeede I must confesse, with meaning to free him from so serpentine a companion as I am. But he finding what I purposed, onely therein since hee was borne, shewed himselfe disobedient vnto mee. And now, gentlemen, you haue the true storie, which I pray you publish to the world, that my mischieuous proceedings may bee the glorie of his filiall pietie, the onely reward now left for so greate a merite. And if it may be, let me obtaine that of you, which my sonne denies me: for neuer was there more pity in sauing any, then in ending me; both because therein my agonies shall ende, and so shall you preserue this excellent young man, who els wilfully followes his owne ruine.
“ The matter in it selfe lamentable, lamentably expressed by the old prince, which needed not take to himselfe the gestures of pitie, since his face coulde not put of the markes thereof, greatly moued the two princes to compassion, which coulde not stay in such harts as theirs without seeking remedie. But by and by the occasion was presented: for Plexirtus (so was the bastard called) came thether with fortie horse, onely of purpose to murder this brother; of whose comming he had soon aduertisement, and thought no eyes of susficient
credite in such a matter, but his owne; and therefore came himselfe to be actor, and spectator. And as soone as hee came, not regarding the weake (as hee thought) garde of but two men, commaunded some of his followers to set their handes to his, in the killing of Leonatus. But the young prince, though not otherwise armed but with a sworde, howe falsely soeuer he was dealt with by others, would not betray him selfe; but brauely drawing out, made the death of the first that assayled him warne his fellowes to come more warily after him. But then Pyrocles and Musidorus were quickly become parties, (so inst a defence deserving as much as old friendship) and so did behave them among that companie, more iniurious than valiant, that many of them lost their liues for their wicked maister
“ Yet perhaps had the number of them at last prevailed, if the king of Pontus (lately by them made so) had not come vnlooked for to their succour. Who, having had a dreame which had fixt his imagi. nation vehemently vpon some great daunger presently to follow those two princes whom hee most dearely loued, was come in all hast, fol. lowing as wel as he could their track with a hundreth horses, in that countrie which he thought, considering who then raigned, a fitte place inough to make the stage of any tragedie.
“ But then the match had beene so ill made for Plexirtus, that his ill-led life, and worse gotten honour, should haue tumbled together to destruction, had there not come in Tydeus and Telenor, with forty or fifty in their suité, to the defence of Plexirtús. These two were brothers, of the noblest house of that country, brought vppe from their infancy with Plexirtus : men of such prowesse, as not to knowe feare in themselues, and yet to teach it others that shoulde deale with them; for they had often made their liues triumph ouer most terrible daun. gers ; neuer dismaied, and euer fortunate; and truely no more setled in valure, then disposed to goodnes and iustice, if either they had lighted on a better friend, or coulde haue learned to make friendship a childe, and not the father of vertue. But bringing vp, rather than choise, hauing first knit their mindes vnto him, (indeede crafty inough, either to hide his faultes, or never to showe them, but when they might pay home,) they willingly helde out the course, rather to satisfie him then all the woride; and rather to be good friendes, then good men: so as though they did not like the euill hee did, yet they liked him that did the euill; and though not councellors of the of. fence, yet protectors of the offender. Now they hauing heard of this scdaine going out, with so small a company, in a countrey full of euill-wishing mindes toward him, though they knew not the cause, followed him ; till they founde him in such case as they were to venture their lives, or else he to loose his: which they did with such force of minde and bodie, that truely I may iustiy say, Pyrocles and Musidorus had never till then found any, that could make thein so well repeate their hardest lesson in the feates of armes. And briefly so they did, that if they ouercame not, yet
were they not onercome, but carried
away that vigratefull maister of theirs to a place of security ; howsoeuer the princes laboured to the contrary. But this matter being thus farre begun, it became not the constancy of the princes so to leaue it; but in all hast making forces both in Pontus and Phrigia, they had in fewe daies lefte him but onely that one strong place VOL. XIV.
where he was. For feare hauing beene the onely knot that had fastned his people vnto him, that once vntied by a grea er force, they all scattered from him; like so many birdes, whose cage had beene broken.
“In which season the blinde king, hauing in the chiefe cittie of his realme set the crown vppon his son Leonatus head, with many teares (both of joy and sorr w) setting forth to the whole people his owne fault and his sonnes vertue. after he had kist him, and forst his sonne to accept honour of him, as of his new-become subject, euen in a moment died : as it should seeme. his heart broken with vukindenes and affliction, stretched so farre beyond his limits with this excesse of comfort, as it was able no longer to keepe «afe his vitall spirites. But the new king, hauing no lesse Jouingly performed all duties to him dead, then aliue pursued on the siege of his vnnaturall brother, asmuch for the reuenge of his father, as for the establishing of his owne quiet In which siege truely I cannot but acknowledge the prowesse of those two brothers, then whome the princes neuer found in all their trauaile two of greater hability to performe, nor of habler skil for conduct.
“ But Plexirtus finding, that if nothing else, famine would at last bring him to destruction, thought better by humblenes to creepe, where by pride he could not marche. For certainely so had nature formed him, and the exercise of craft conformed him, to all turning. nes of sleights, that though no man had lesse goodnes in his soule than he, no man could better find the places whence arguments might grow of goodnesse to another: though no man felt lesse pitie, no man could tel better how to stir pitie: no man more impudent to deny, where proofes were not manifest; no man more ready to confesse with a repenting manner of aggrauating his owne euill, where denial would but make the fault fowler. Now he tooke this way, tha: hauing gotten a pasport for one (that pretended he would put Plexirtus aliue into his hands) to speake with the king his brother, he himselfe (though much against the minds of the valiant brothers, who rather wished to die in braue defence,) with a rope about his necke, barefooted, came to offer himselfe to the discretion of Leonatus. Where, what submission he vsed, how cunningly in making greater the faulte he made the faultines the lesse, how artificially he could set out the torments of his owne conscience, with the burdensome comber he had found of his ambitious desires, how finely seeming to desire nothing but death, as ashamed to live, he begd life in the refusing it, I am not cunning inough to be able to expresse: but so fell out of it, that though at first sight Leonatus saw him w.th a other eie than as the murderer of his father, and anger already began to paint reuenge in many colours, ere long he had not onely gotten pitie, but pardon; and if not an excuse of the faulte past, yet an opinion of a future amendment: while the poor villaines chiefe ministers of his wickednes, now betraied by the author thereof, were deliuered to many cruell sorts of death; he so handling it, that it rather seemed, hee had more come into the defence of an vnreme. diable mischiefe already committed, then that they had done it at first by his consent. Malone.
A LAMENTABLE SONG
OF THE DEATH OF
KING LEIR AND HIS THREE DAUGHTERS.
KING LEIR* once ruled in this land,
With princely power and peace;
That might his joys increase.
Three daughters fair had he,
As fairer could not be.
So on a time it pleas'd the king
A question thus to move,
Could show the dearest love:
Quoth he, then let me hear
The kindest will appear.
To whom the eldest thus began;
Dear father, mind, quoth she,
My blood shall render'd be:
Shall here be cut in twain,
The smallest grief sustain.
And so will I, the second said;
Dear father, for your sake,
I'll gently undertake:
With diligence and love ;
Discomforts may remove.
* King Leir &c.] This ballad is given from an ancient copy in The Golden Gar. land, black letter, to the tune of-When flying fame. It is here reprinted from Dr. Percy's Reliques of ancient English Poetry, vol. I, third edit. Steevens.
In doing so, you glad my soul,
The aged king reply'd;
How is thy love ally'd ?
Which to your grace I owe,
And that is all I ll show.
And wilt thou show no more, quoth he,
Than doth thy duty bind ?
When as no more I find :
Thou art no child of mine; Nor any part of this my realm
By favour shall be thine.
Thy eldest sisters' loves are more
Than well I can demand,
My kingdome and my land,
That lovingly I may
Until my dying day.
Thus flattering speeches won renown
By these two sisters here:
Yet was her love more dear:
Through many an English town:
She gentler fortunes found; Though poor and bare, yet she was deem'
The fairest on the ground:
And this fair lady seen,
Her father, old king Leir, this while
With his two daughters staid ; Forgetful of their promis'd loves,
Full soon the same decay'd;