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SCENE I. London. A Room in Ely-house. Gaunt on a couch; the Duke Of York,1 and others standing by him.
Gaunt. Will the king come? that I may breathe my last In wholesome counsel to his unstayed youth.
York. Vex not yourself, nor strive not with your breath;For all in vain comes counsel to his ear.
Gaunt. O, but they say, the tongues of dying men Enforce attention, like deep harmony: Where words are scarce, they are seldom spent in vain, For they breathe truth, that breathe their words in pain. He, that no more must say, is listened more
Than they whom youth and ease have taught to gloze; More are men's ends marked, than their lives before:
The setting sun and music at the close,2
York. No; it is stopped with other flattering sounds,
1 Edmond, duke of York, was the fifth son of Edward III., and was born, in 1441, at Langley, near St* Albans, Herts; whence he had his surname. "He was of an indolent disposition, a lover of pleasure, and averse to business; easily prevailed upon to lie still and consult his own quiet, and never acting with spirit upon any occasion."—LowtK's William of WyktTiam, p. 205.
2 Mason suggests the following punctuation of this passage. He considers the word last as a verb.
The setting sun, and music at the close,
Limps after, in base imitation. Where doth the world thrust forth a vanity, (So it be new, there's no respect how vile,) That is not quickly buzzed into his ears? Then all too late comes counsel to be heard, Where will doth mutiny with wit's regard.1 Direct not him, whose way himself will choose;'Tis breath thou lack'st, and that breath wilt thou lose.
Gaunt. Methinks I am a prophet new inspired; And thus, expiring, do foretell of him. His rash, fierce blaze of riot cannot last; For violent fires soon burn out themselves: Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short; He tires betimes, that spurs too fast betimes; With eager feeding, food doth choke the feeder: Light vanity, insatiate cormorant, Consuming means, soon preys upon itself. This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise; This fortress, built by nature for herself, Against infection, and the hand of war; This happy breed of men, this little world; This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands; This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings, Feared by their breed,2 and famous by their birth, Renowned for their deeds as far from home, (For Christian service, and true chivalry,) As is the sepulchre in stubborn Jewry, Of the world's ransom, blessed Mary's Son: This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land, Dear for her reputation through the world, Is now leased out, (I die pronouncing it,)
1 Where the will rebels against the notices of the understanding.
2 i. e. by reason of their breed. The quarto of 1598 reads thus:—
"Feared by their breed, and famous for their birth."
Like to a tenement, or pelting1 farm:
Enter King Richard and Queen ;2 Aumerle, Bushy,
York. The king is come: deal mildly with his youth; For young, hot colts, being raged,5 do rage the more. Queen. How fares our noble uncle, Lancaster?K. Rich. What comfort, man? How is't with aged Gaunt?
Gaunt. O, how that name befits my composition! Old Gaunt, indeed; and gaunt in being old. Within me grief hath kept a tedious fast; And who abstains from meat, that is not gaunt? For sleeping England long time have I watched; Watching breeds leanness; leanness is all gaunt. The pleasure, that some fathers feed upon, Is my strict fast, I mean—my children's looks; And, therein fasting, hast thou made me gaunt: Gaunt am I for the grave, gaunt as a grave, Whose hollow womb inhabits nought but bones.
1 "In this 22d yeare of King Richard, the common fame ranne that the king had letten to farme the realme unto Sir William Scrope, earle of Wiltshire, and then treasurer of England, to S>r John Bushey, Sir John Bagot, and Sir Henry Greene, Knightes,"—Fabian. Pdting is paltry, pitiful, petty.
2 Shakspeare has deviated from historical truth in the introduction of Richard's queen as a woman; for Anne, his first wife, was dead before the period at which the commencement of the play is laid; and Isabella, his second wife, was a child at the time of his death.
3 i. e. William lord Ross, of Hamlake, afterwards lord treasurer to Henry IV.
4 William lord Willoughby, of Eresby. 5 Ritson proposes to read:—
« being reined, do rage the more."
K. Rich. Can sick men play so nicely with their names?
Gaunt. No; misery makes sport to mock itself:
K. Rich. Should dying men flatter with those that live?
Gaunt. No, no; men living, flatter those that die. K. Rich. Thou, now a dying, say'st—thou flatter'st me.
Gaunt. O, no; thou diest, though I the sicker be.
K. Rich. I am in health, 1 breathe, and see thee ill. Gaunt. Now, He that made me, knows I see thee ill; 111 in myself to see, and in thee, seeing ill. Thy deathbed is no lesser than thy land, Wherein thou liest in reputation sick; And thou, too careless patient as thou art, Committ'st thy anointed*body to the cure Of those physicians that first wounded thee: A thousand flatterers sit within thy crown, Whose compass is no bigger than thy head; And yet, incaged in so small a verge, The waste is no whit lesser than thy land; O, had thy grandsire, with a prophet's eye, Seen how his son's son should destroy his sons, From forth thy reach he would have laid thy shame, Deposing thee before thou wert possessed, Which art possessed1 now to depose thyself. Why, cousin, wert thou regent of the world, It were a shame to let this land by lease; But, for thy world, enjoying but this land, Is it not more than shame, to shame it so? Landlord of England art thou now, not king; Thy state of law is bondslave to the law;2 And thou
K. Rich. a lunatic, lean-witted fool,
2 « Thy legal state, that rank in the state and these large desmesnes, which the constitution allotted thee, are now bondslave to the law; being subject to the same legal restrictions as every ordinary, pelting farm that has been let on lease.'"
Presuming on an ague's privilege,
Dar'st with thy frozen admonition
Make pale our cheek; chasing the royal blood,
With fury, from his native residence.
Now, by my seat's right royal majesty,
Wert thou not brother to great Edward's son,
This tongue that runs so roundly in thy head,
Should run thy head from thy unreverent shoulders.
Gaunt. O, spare me not, my brother Edward's son,
SThorn fair befall in heaven 'mongst happy souls!)
[Exit, borne out by his Attendants
K. Rich. And let them die, that age and sullens have; For both hast thou, and both become the grave.
York. I do beseech your majesty, impute his words To wayward sickliness and age in him. He loves you, on my life, and holds you dear As Harry duke of Hereford, were he here.
K.Rich. Right; you say true; as Hereford's love, so his; As theirs, so mine; and all be as it is.
North. My liege, old Gaunt commends him to you!
i L e. let them love to live, &c. Vol. in. 49