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1 Cit. Soft; who comes here?
Enter Menenius Agrippa.
1 Cit. Worthy Menenius Agrippa; one that hath always loved the people.
I Cit. He's one honest enough; 'Would, all the rest were so!
Men. What work's, my countrymen, in hand? Where go you With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray you.
1 Cit. Our business is not unknown to the senate; they have had. inkling, this fortnight, what we intend to do, which now we'll show 'em in deeds. They say, poor suitors have, strong breaths; they shall know, we have strong arms too.
Men. Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbours, Will you undo yourselves?
1 Cit. We cannot, sir, we are undone already.
Men. I tell you, friends, most charitable care Have the patricians of you. For your wants, Your suffering in this dearth, you may as well Strike at the heaven with your staves, as lift them Against the Roman state; whose course will on The way it takes, cracking ten thousand curbs Of more strong link asunder, than can ever Appear in your impediment: For the dearth, The gods, not the patricians, make it; and Your knees to them, not arms, must help. Alack, You are transported by calamity Thither where more attends you; and you slander The helms o'the state, who care for you like fathers, When you curse them as enemies.
1 Cit. Care for us!—True, indeed!—They ne'er cared for us yet. Suffer us to famish, and their store-houses crammed with grain; make edicts for usury, to support usurers: repeal daily any wholesome act established against the rich; and provide more piercing statutes daily, to chain up and restrain the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will; and there's all the love they bear us.
Men. Either you must
1 Cit. Well, I'll hear it, sir: yet you must not think to fob off our disgrace with a tale :* but, an't please you, deliver.
Men. There was a time, when all the body's members Rebell'd against the belly; thus accus'd it:— That only like a gulf it did remain I' the midst o'the body, idle and inactive, Still cupboarding the viand, never bearing Lake labour with the rest; where the other instruments0 Did see, and hear, devise, instruct, walk, feel, And, mutually participate,7 did minister Unto the appetite and affection common Of the whole body. The belly answered,—
1 Cit. Well, sir, what answer made the belly?
Men. Sir, I shall tell you.—With a kind of smile, Which ne'er came from the lungs,9 but even thus,
4 J vtil venture
To scale 't a little more.] To scale is to disperse. The word is still used in the North. The sense of the old reading is, Though some of you have beard the story, I will spread it yet wider, and diffuse it among the rest.
'—— disgrace vdth a tale:] Disgrace* are hardships, injuries.
6 —— where the other instruments—] Where for whereas.
'participate,] Here means participant, or participating.
(For, look you, I may make the belly smile,
As well as speak,) it tauntingly replied
To the discontented members, the mutinous parts
That envied his receipt; even so most fitly9
As you malign our senators, for that
They are not such as you.
1 Cit. Your belly's answer: What! The kingly-crowned head, the vigilant eye, The counsellor heart, the arm our soldier, Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter, With other muniments and petty helps In this our fabrick, if that they
Men. What then?—
'Fore me, this fellow speaks!—what then? what then?
1 Cit. Should by the cormorant belly be restrain'd, Who is the sink o'the body,
Men. Well, what then?—
1 Cit. The former agents, if they did complain, What could the belly answer?
Men. I will tell you;
If you'll bestow a small (of what you have little,) Patience, a while, you'll hear the belly's answer.
1 Cit. You are long about it.
Men. Note me this, good friend;
Your most grave belly was deliberate,
• Which ne'er came from the lungs,] With a smile not indicating pleasure, but contempt.
9 — even to most fitly—] i. e. exactly.
1 Cit. Ay, sir; well, well.
Men. Though all at once cannot
See what I do deliver out to each;
1 Cit. It was an answer: How apply you this?
Men. The senators of Rome are this good belly, And you the mutinous members: For examine Their counsels, and their cares; digest things rightly, Touching the weal o'the common; you shall find, No publick benefit which you receive, But it proceeds, or comes, from them to you, And no way from yourselves.—What do you think? You, the great toe of this assembly ?—
1 Cit. I the great toe? Why the great toe?
Men. For that being one o'the lowest, basest, poorest, Of this most wise rebellion, thou go'st foremost: Thou rascal, that art worst in blood, to run Lead'st first to win some vantage.— But make you ready your stiff bats and clubs; Rome and her rats are at the point of battle, The one side must have bale.2—Hail, noble Marcius!
Enter Caius Marcius.
Mar. Thanks.—What's the matter, you dissentious rogues,
1 the cranks and offices of man,] Cranks are windings.
7 The one side must have bale.] Bale is an old Saxon word, for misery or calamity.