Arthurian and Grail Plays

THE BIRTH OF MERLIN

 

ACT I

SCENE  I

[
Enter Donobert, Gloster, Cador, Edwin, Constantia, and Modestia]

   CADOR. You teach me language, sir, as one that knows
The debt of love I owe unto her vertues;
Wherein like a true courtier I have fed
My self with hope of fair success, and now
Attend your wisht consent to my long suit.
   DONOBERT. Believe me, youthful lord,
Time could not give an opportunity
More fitting your desires, always provided,
My daughters love be suited with my grant.
   CADOR. 'Tis the condition, sir, her promise seal'd.
   DONOBERT. Ist so, Constantia?
   CONSTANTIA. I was content to give him words for oathes;
He swore so oft he lov'd me--
   DONOBERT. That thou believest him?
   CONSTANTIA. He is a man, I hope.
   DONOBERT. That's in the trial, girl.
   CONSTANTIA. However, I am a woman, sir.
   DONOBERT. The law's on thy side then: sha't have a husband,
I, and a worthy one. Take her, brave Cornwal,
And make our happiness great as our wishes.
   CADOR. Sir, I thank you.
   GLOSTER. Double the fortunes of the day, my lord,
And crown my wishes too: I have a son here,
Who in my absence would protest no less
Unto your other daughter.
   DONOBERT. Ha, Gloster, is it so? what says Lord Edwin?
Will she protest as much to thee?
   EDWIN. Else must she want some of her sisters faith, sir.
   MODESTIA. Of her credulity much rather, sir:
My lord, you are a soldier, and methinks
The height of that profession should diminish
All heat of loves desires,
Being so late employ'd in blood and ruine.
   EDWIN. The more my conscience tyes me to repair
The worlds losses in a new succession.
   MODESTIA. Necessity, it seems, ties your affections then,
And at that rate I would unwillingly
Be thrust upon you; a wife is a dish soon cloys, sir.
   EDWIN. Weak and diseased appetites it may.
   MODESTIA. Most of your making have dull stomacks, sir.
   DONOBERT. If that be all, girl, thou shalt quicken him;
Be kinde to him, Modestia: Noble Edwin,
Let it suffice, what's mine in her speaks yours;
For her consent, let your fair suit go on,
She is a woman, sir, and will be won.
   EDWIN. You give me comfort, sir.

[Enter Toclio.]

   DONOBERT. Now, Toclio?
   TOCLIO. The king, my honor'd lords, requires your presence,
And calls a councel for return of answer
Unto the parling enemy, whose embassadors
Are on the way to court.
   DONOBERT. So suddenly?
Chester, it seems, has ply'd them hard at war,
They sue so fast for peace, which by my advice
They ne're shall have, unless they leave the realm.
Come, noble Gloster, let's attend the king.
It lies, sir, in your son to do me pleasure,
And save the charges of a wedding dinner;
If you'l make haste to end your love affairs,
One cost may give discharge to both my cares.
     [Exit Donobert, Gloster.]
   EDWIN. I'le do my best.
   CADOR. Now, Toclio, what stirring news at court?
   TOCLIO. Oh, my lord, the court's all fill'd with rumor, the city with news, and the country with wonder, and all the bells i'th' kingdom must proclaim it, we have a new holy-day a coming.
   CONSTANTIA. A holy-day! for whom? for thee?
   TOCLIO. Me, madam! 'sfoot! I'de be loath that any man Should make a holy-day for me yet:
In brief, 'tis thus: there's here arriv'd at court,
Sent by the Earl of Chester to the king,
A man of rare esteem for holyness,
A reverent hermit, that by miracle
Not onely saved our army,
But without aid of man o'rethrew
The pagan host, and with such wonder, sir,
As might confirm a kingdom to his faith.
   EDWIN. This is strange news, indeed; where is he?
   TOCLIO. In conference with the king, that much respects him.
   MODESTIA. Trust me, I long to see him.
   TOCLIO. Faith, you will finde no great pleasure in him, for ought that I can see, lady. They say he is half a prophet too: would he could tell me any news of the lost prince; there's twenty talents offer'd to him that finds him.
   CADOR. Such news was breeding in the morning.
   TOCLIO. And now it has birth and life, sir. If fortune bless me, I'le once more search those woods where then we lost him; I know not yet what fate may follow me. [Exit.]
   CADOR. Fortune go with you, sir. Come, fair mistriss,
Your sister and Lord Edwin are in game,
And all their wits at stake to win the set.
   CONSTANTIA. My sister has the hand yet; we had best leave them:
She will be out anon as well as I;
He wants but cunning to put in a dye.
[Exit Cador, Constantia.]
   EDWIN. You are a cunning gamester, madam.
   MODESTIA. It is a desperate game, indeed, this marriage,
Where there's no winning without loss to either.
   EDWIN. Why, what but your perfection, noble lady,
Can bar the worthiness of this my suit?
If so you please I count my happiness
From difficult obtaining, you shall see
My duty and observance.
   MODESTIA. There shall be place to neither, noble sir;
I do beseech you, let this mild reply
Give answer to your suit: for here I vow,
If e're I change my virgin name, by you
It gains or looses.
   EDWIN. My wishes have their crown.
   MODESTIA. Let them confine you then,
As to my promise you give faith and credence.
   EDWIN. In your command my willing absence speaks it. [Exit.]
   MODESTIA. Noble and vertuous: could I dream of marriage,
I should affect thee, Edwin. Oh, my soul,
Here's something tells me that these best of creatures,
These models of the world, weak man and woman,
Should have their souls, their making, life, and being,
To some more excellent use: if what the sense
Calls pleasure were our ends, we might justly blame
Great natures wisdom, who rear'd a building
Of so much art and beauty to entertain
A guest so far incertain, so imperfect:
If onely speech distinguish us from beasts,
Who know no inequality of birth or place,
But still to fly from goodness: oh, how base
Were life at such a rate! No, no, that power
That gave to man his being, speech and wisdom,
Gave it for thankfulness. To him alone
That made me thus, may I whence truly know,
I'le pay to him, not man, the love I owe. [Exit.]


SCENE II

[Flourish cornets. Enter Aurelius King of Brittain, Donobert, Gloster, Cador, Edwin, Toclio, Oswold, and Attendants.]

   AURELIUS. No tiding of our brother yet? 'Tis strange,
So ne're the court, and in our own land too,
And yet no news of him: oh, this loss
Tempers the sweetness of our happy conquests
With much untimely sorrow.
   DONOBERT. Royal sir,
His safety being unquestion'd should to time
Leave the redress of sorrow: were he dead,
Or taken by the foe, our fatal loss
Had wanted no quick herald to disclose it.
   AURELIUS. That hope alone sustains me,
Nor will we be so ingrateful unto heaven
To question what we fear with what we enjoy.
Is answer of our message yet return'd
From that religious man, the holy hermit,
Sent by the Earl of Chester to confirm us
In that miraculous act? For 'twas no less:
Our army being in rout, nay, quite o'rethrown,
As Chester writes, even then this holy man,
Arm'd with his cross and staff, went smiling on,
And boldly fronts the foe; at sight of whom
The Saxons stood amaz'd: for, to their seeming,
Above the hermit's head appear'd such brightness,
Such clear and glorious beams, as if our men
March't all in fire; wherewith the pagans fled,
And by our troops were all to death pursu'd.
   GLOSTER. 'Tis full of wonder, sir.
Oh, Gloster, he's a jewel worth a kingdom.
Where's Oswold with his answer?
   OSWOLD. 'Tis here, my royal lord.
   AURELIUS. In writing? will he not sit with us?
   OSWOLD. His orizons perform'd, he bad me say,
He would attend with all submission.
   AURELIUS. Proceed to councel then; and let some give order,
The embassadors being come to take our answer,
They have admittance. Oswold, Toclio,
Be it your charge!-- [Exeunt Oswold and Toclio.]
    And now, my lords, observe
The holy councel of this reverend hermit:

[Reads.] As you respect your safety, limit not
That onely power that hath protected you;
Trust not an open enemy too far,
He's yet a looser, and knows you have won;
Mischiefs not ended are but then begun
.
Anselme the Hermit.

   DONOBERT. Powerful and pithie, which my advice confirms:
No man leaves physick when his sickness slakes,
But doubles the receipts: the word of peace
Seems fair to blood-shot eyes, but being appli'd
With such a medicine as blinds all the sight
Argues desire of cure, but not of art.
   AURELIUS. You argue from defects; if both the name
And the condition of the peace be one,
It is to be prefer'd, and in the offer,
Made by the Saxon, I see nought repugnant.
   GLOSTER. The time of truce requir'd for thirty days
Carries suspicion in it, since half that space
Will serve to strength their weakned regiment.
   CADOR. Who in less time will undertake to free
Our country from them?
   EDWIN. Leave that unto our fortune.
   DONOBERT. Is not our bold and hopeful general
Still master of the field, their legions faln,
The rest intrencht for fear, half starv'd, and wounded,
And shall we now give o're our fair advantage?
'Fore heaven, my lord, the danger is far more
In trusting to their words then to their weapons.

[Enter Oswold.]

   OSWOLD. The embassadors are come, sir.
   AURELIUS. Conduct them in.
We are resolv'd, my lords, since policy fail'd
In the beginning, it shall have no hand
In the conclusion.
That heavenly power that hath so well begun
Their fatal overthrow, I know, can end it:
From which fair hope my self will give them answer.

    [Flourish cornets. Enter Artesia with the Saxon lords.]

   DONOBERT. What's here? a woman orator?
   AURELIUS. Peace, Donobert!--Speak, what are you, lady?
   ARTESIA. The sister of the Saxon general,
Warlike Ostorius the East Anglese king;
My name Artesia, who in terms of love
Brings peace and health to great Aurelius,
Wishing she may return as fair a present
As she makes tender of.
   AURELIUS. The fairest present e're mine eyes were blest with!--
Command a chair there for this Saxon beauty:--
Sit, lady, we'l confer: your warlike brother
Sues for a peace, you say?
   ARTESIA. With endless love unto your state and person.
   AURELIUS. Ha's sent a moving orator, believe me.--
What thinkst thou, Donobert?
   DONOBERT. Believe me, sir, were I but yong agen,
This gilded pill might take my stomack quickly.
   AURELIUS. True, thou art old: how soon we do forget
Our own defects! Fair damsel,--oh, my tongue
Turns traitor, and will betray my heart--sister to
Our enemy:--'sdeath, her beauty mazes me,
I cannot speak if I but look on her.--
What's that we did conclude?
   DONOBERT. This, royal lord--
   AURELIUS. Pish, thou canst not utter it:--
Fair'st of creatures, tell the king your brother,
That we, in love--ha!--and honor to our country,
Command his armies to depart our realm.
But if you please, fair soul--Lord Donobert,
Deliver you our pleasure.
   DONOBERT. I shall, sir:
Lady, return, and certifie your brother--
   AURELIUS. Thou art too blunt and rude! return so soon?
Fie, let her stay, and send some messenger
To certifie our pleasure.
   DONOBERT. What meanes your grace?
   AURELIUS. To give her time of rest to her long journey;
We would not willingly be thought uncivil.
   ARTESIA. Great King of Brittain, let it not seem strange,
To embrace the princely offers of a friend,
Whose vertues with thine own, in fairest merit,
Both states in peace and love may now inherit.
   AURELIUS. She speakes of love agen:
Sure, 'tis my fear, she knows I do not hate her.
   ARTESIA. Be, then, thy self, most great Aurelius,
And let not envy nor a deeper sin
In these thy councellors deprive thy goodness
Of that fair honor we in seeking peace
Give first to thee, who never use to sue
But force our wishes. Yet, if this seem light,
Oh, let my sex, though worthless your respect,
Take the report of thy humanity,
Whose mild and vertuous life loud fame displayes,
As being o'recome by one so worthy praise.
   AURELIUS. She has an angels tongue.--Speak still.
   DONOBERT. This flattery is gross, sir; hear no more on't.--
Lady, these childish complements are needless;
You have your answer, and believe it, madam,
His grace, though yong, doth wear within his breast
Too grave a councellor to be seduc't
By smoothing flattery or oyly words.
   ARTESIA. I come not, sir, to wooe him.
   DONOBERT. 'Twere folly, if you should; you must not wed him.
   AURELIUS. Shame take thy tongue! Being old and weak thy self,
Thou doat'st, and looking on thine own defects,
Speak'st what thou'dst wish in me. Do I command
The deeds of others, mine own act not free?
Be pleas'd to smile or frown, we respect neither:
My will and rule shall stand and fall together.
Most fair Artesia, see the king descends
To give thee welcome with these warlike Saxons,
And now on equal terms both sues and grants:
Instead of truce, let a perpetual league
Seal our united bloods in holy marriage;
Send the East Angles king this happy news,
That thou with me hast made a league for ever,
And added to his state a friend and brother.
Speak, dearest love, dare you confirm this title?
   ARTESIA. I were no woman to deny a good
So high and noble to my fame and country.
   AURELIUS. Live, then, a queen in Brittain.
   GLOSTER. He meanes to marry her.
   DONOBERT. Death! he shall marry the devil first!
Marry a pagan, an idolater?
   CADOR. He has won her quickly.
   EDWIN. She was woo'd afore she came, sure,
Or came of purpose to conclude the match.
   AURELIUS. Who dares oppose our will? My Lord of Gloster,
Be you embassador unto our brother,
The brother of our queen Artesia;
Tell him for such our entertainment looks him,
Our marriage adding to the happiness
Of our intended joys; mans good or ill
In this like waves agree, come double still.

[Enter Hermit.]

Who's this? the hermit? Welcome, my happiness!
Our countries hope, most reverent holy man,
I wanted but thy blessing to make perfect
The infinite sum of my felicity.
   HERMIT. Alack, sweet prince, that happiness is yonder,
Felicity and thou art far asunder;
This world can never give it.
   AURELIUS. Thou art deceiv'd: see here what I have found,
Beauty, alliance, peace, and strength of friends,
All in this all exceeding excellence:
The league's confirm'd.
   HERMIT. With whom, dear lord?
   AURELIUS. With the great brother of this beauteous woman,
The royal Saxon king.
   HERMIT. Oh, then I see,
And fear thou art too near thy misery.
What magick could so linck thee to this mischief?
By all the good that thou hast reapt by me,
Stand further from destruction.
   AURELIUS. Speak as a man, and I shall hope to obey thee.
   HERMIT. Idolaters, get hence! fond king, let go:
Thou hug'st thy ruine and thy countries woe.
   DONOBERT. Well spoke, old father; too him, bait him soundly.
Now, by heavens blest Lady, I can scarce keep patience.
   1. SAXON LORD. What devil is this?
   2. SAXON LORD. That cursed Christian, by whose hellish charmes
Our army was o'rethrown.
   HERMIT. Why do you dally, sir? Oh, tempt not heaven;
Warm not a serpent in your naked bosom:
Discharge them from your court.
   AURELIUS. Thou speak'st like madness!
Command the frozen shepherd to the shade,
When he sits warm i'th' sun; the fever sick
To add more heat unto his burning pain:
These may obey, 'tis less extremity
Then thou enjoynst to me. Cast but thine eye
Upon this beauty, do it, I'le forgive thee,
Though jealousie in others findes no pardon;
Then say thou dost not love; I shall then swear
Th'art immortal and no earthly man.
Oh, blame then my mortallity, not me.
   HERMIT. It is thy weakness brings thy misery,
Unhappy prince.
   AURELIUS. Be milder in thy doom.
   HERMIT. 'Tis you that must indure heavens doom, which faln
Remember's just.
   ARTESIA. Thou shalt not live to see it.--How fares my lord?
If my poor presence breed dislike, great prince,
I am no such neglected soul, will seek
To tie you to your word.
   AURELIUS. My word, dear love! may my religion,
Crown, state, and kingdom fail, when I fail thee.
Command Earl Chester to break up the camp
Without disturbance to our Saxon friends;
Send every hour swift posts to hasten on
The king her brother, to conclude this league,
This endless happy peace of love and marriage;
Till when provide for revels, and give charge
That nought be wanting which make our triumphs
Sportful and free to all. If such fair blood
Ingender ill, man must not look for good.
[Exit all but Hermit. Florish.]

[Enter Modestia, reading in a book.]

   MODESTIA. How much the oft report of this blest hermit
Hath won on my desires; I must behold him:
And sure this should be he. Oh, the world's folly,
Proud earth and dust, how low a price bears goodness!
All that should make man absolute shines in him.
Much reverent sir, may I without offence
Give interruption to your holy thoughts?
   HERMIT. What would you, lady?
   MODESTIA. That which till now ne're found a language in me:
I am in love.
   HERMIT. In love? with what?
   MODESTIA. With vertue.
   HERMIT. There's no blame in that.
   MODESTIA. Nay, sir, with you, with your religious life,
Your vertue, goodness, if there be a name
To express affection greater, that,
That would I learn and utter: reverent sir,
If there be any thing to bar my suit,
Be charitable and expose it; your prayers
Are the same orizons which I will number.
Holy sir,
Keep not instruction back from willingness,
Possess me of that knowledge leads you on
To this humility; for well I know,
Were greatness good, you would not live so low.
   HERMIT. Are you a virgin?
   MODESTIA. Yes, sir.
   HERMIT. Your name?
   MODESTIA. Modestia.
   HERMIT. Your name and vertues meet, a modest virgin:
Live ever in the sanctimonious way
To heaven and happiness. There's goodness in you,
I must instruct you further. Come, look up,
Behold yon firmament: there sits a power,
Whose foot-stool is this earth. Oh, learn this lesson,
And practise it: he that will climb so high,
Must leave no joy beneath to move his eye. [Exit.]
   MODESTIA. I apprehend you, sir: on heaven I fix my love,
Earth gives us grief, our joys are all above;
For this was man in innocence naked born,
To show us wealth hinders our sweet return. [Exit.]