Arthurian and Grail Plays
THE BIRTH OF MERLIN
[Enter Clown, Merlin, and a little antick Spirit.]
MERLIN. How now, uncle? why do you search your pockets so? Do you miss any thing?
CLOWN. Ha! Cousin Merlin, I hope your beard does not overgrow your honesty; I pray, remember, you are made up of sisters thread; I am your mothers brother, whosoever was your father.
MERLIN. Why, wherein can you task my duty, uncle?
CLOWN. Your self or your page it must be, I have kept no other company, since your mother bound your head to my protectorship; I do feel a fault of one side; either it was that sparrowhawk, or a cast of Merlins, for I finde a covy of cardecu's sprung out of my pocket.
MERLIN. Why, do you want any money, uncle? Sirrah, had you any from him?
CLOWN. Deny it not, for my pockets are witness against you.
SPIRIT. Yes, I had, to teach you better wit to look to it.
CLOWN. Pray, use your fingers better, and my wit may serve as it is, sir.
MERLIN. Well, restore it.
SPIRIT. There it is.
CLOWN. I, there's some honesty in this; 'twas a token from your invisible father, cousin, which I would not have to go invisibly from me agen.
MERLIN. Well, you are sure you have it now, uncle?
CLOWN. Yes, and mean to keep it now from your pages filching fingers too.
SPIRIT. If you have it so sure, pray show it me agen.
CLOWN. Yes, my little juggler, I dare show it. Ha, cleanly conveyance agen! ye have no invisible fingers, have ye? 'Tis gone, certainly.
SPIRIT. Why, sir, I toucht you not.
MERLIN. Why, look you, uncle, I have it now: how ill do you look to it! here, keep it safer.
CLOWN. Ha, ha, this is fine, yfaith. I must keep some other company, if you have these slights of hand.
MERLIN. Come, come, uncle, 'tis all my art, which shall not offend you, sir, onely I give you a taste of it to show you sport.
CLOWN. Oh, but 'tis ill jesting with a mans pocket, tho'. But I am glad to see you cunning, cousin, for now will I warrant thee a living till thou diest. You have heard the news in Wales here?
MERLIN. Uncle, let me prevent your care and counsel,
'Twill give you better knowledge of my cunning.
You would prefer me now, in hope of gain,
To Vortiger, King of the Welch Brittains,
To whom are all the artists summon'd now,
That seeks the secrets of futurity:
The bards, the druids, wizards, conjurers,
Not an auraspex with his whisling spells,
No capnomanster with his musty fumes,
No witch or juggler, but is thither sent,
To calculate the strange and fear'd event
Of his prodigious castle, now in building,
Where all the labors of the painful day
Are ruin'd still i'th' night, and to this place
You would have me go.
CLOWN. Well, if thy mother were not my sister, I would say she was a witch that begot thee; but this is thy father, not thy mother wit. Thou hast taken my tale into thy mouth, and spake my thoughts before me; therefore away, shuffle thy self amongst the conjurers, and be a made man before thou comest to age.
MERLIN. Nay, but stay, uncle, you overslip my dangers:
The prophecies and all the cunning wizards
Have certifi'd the king that this his castle
Can never stand, till the foundation's laid
With mortar temper'd with the fatal blood
Of such a childe whose father was no mortal.
CLOWN. What's this to thee? If the devil were thy father, was not thy mother born at Carmarden? Diggon for that, then; and then it must be a childes blood, and who will take thee for a childe with such a beard of thy face? Is there not diggon for that too, cousin?
MERLIN. I must not go: lend me your ear a while,
I'le give you reasons to the contrary.
[Enter two Gentlemen.]
1 GENTLEMAN. Sure, this is an endless piece of work the king has sent us about!
2 GENTLEMAN. Kings may do it, man; the like has been done to finde out the unicorn.
1 GENTLEMAN. Which will be sooner found, I think, then this fiend begotten childe we seek for.
2 GENTLEMAN. Pox of those conjurers that would speak of such a one, and yet all their cunning could not tell us where to finde him.
1 GENTLEMAN. In Wales they say assuredly he lives; come, let's enquire further.
MERLIN. Uncle, your perswasions must not prevail with me: I know mine enemies better then you do.
CLOWN. I say, th'art a bastard then, if thou disobey thine uncle: was not Joan Go-too't, thy mother, my sister? If the devil were thy father, what kin art thou to any man alive but bailys and brokers? and they are but brothers in law to thee neither.
1 GENTLEMAN. How's this? I think we shall speed here.
2 GENTLEMAN. I, and unlook't for too: go ne're and listen to them.
CLOWN. Hast thou a beard to hide it? wil't thou show thy self a childe? wil't thou have more hair then wit? Wil't thou deny thy mother, because no body knows thy father? Or shall thine uncle be an ass?
1 GENTLEMAN. Bless ye, friend: pray, what call you this small gentlemans name?
CLOWN. Small, sir? a small man may be a great gentleman; his father may be of an ancient house, for ought we know, sir.
2 GENTLEMAN. Why? do you not know his father?
CLOWN. No, nor you neither, I think, unless the devil be in ye.
1 GENTLEMAN. What is his name, sir?
CLOWN. His name is my cousin, sir, his education is my sisters son, but his maners are his own.
MERLIN. Why ask ye, gentlemen? my name is Merlin.
CLOWN. Yes, and a goshawk was his father, for ought we know; for I am sure his mother was a wind-sucker.
2 GENTLEMAN. He has a mother, then?
CLOWN. As sure as I have a sister, sir.
1 GENTLEMAN. But his father you leave doubtful.
CLOWN. Well, sir, as wise men as you doubt whether he had a father or no?
1 GENTLEMAN. Sure, this is he we seek for.
2 GENTLEMAN. I think no less: and, sir, we let you know
The king hath sent for you.
CLOWN. The more childe he; and he had bin rul'd by me,
He should have gone before he was sent for.
1 GENTLEMAN. May we not see his mother?
CLOWN. Yes, and feel her too, if you anger her; a devilish thing, I can tell ye, she has been. Ile go fetch her to ye. [Exit.]
2 GENTLEMAN. Sir, it were fit you did resolve for speed,
You must unto the king.
MERLIN. My service, sir,
Shall need no strict command, it shall obey
Most peaceably; but needless 'tis to fetch
What is brought home: my journey may be staid,
The king is coming hither
With the same quest you bore before him; hark,
This drum will tell ye. [Within drums beat a low march.]
1 GENTLEMAN. This is some cunning indeed, sir.
[Florish. Enter Vortiger, reading a letter, Proximus, with drum and Soldiers, etc.]
VORTIGER. Still in our eye your message, Proximus,
We keep to spur our speed:
Ostorius and Octa we shall salute
With succor against Prince Uter and Aurelius,
Whom now we hear incamps at Winchester.
There's nothing interrupts our way so much
As doth the erection of this fatal castle,
That spite of all our art and daily labor,
The night still ruines.
PROXIMUS. As erst I did affirm, still I maintain,
The fiend begotten childe must be found out,
Whose blood gives strength to the foundation;
It cannot stand else.
[Enter Clown and Joan, Merlin.]
VORTIGER. Ha! Is't so?
Then, Proximus, by this intelligence
He should be found: speak, is this he you tell of?
CLOWN. Yes, sir, and I his uncle, and she his mother.
VORTIGER. And who is his father?
CLOWN. Why, she, his mother, can best tell you that, and yet I think the childe be wise enough, for he has found his father.
VORTIGER. Woman, is this thy son?
JOAN. It is, my lord.
VORTIGER. What was his father? Or where lives he?
MERLIN. Mother, speak freely and unastonisht;
That which you dar'd to act, dread not to name.
JOAN. In which I shall betray my sin and shame.
But since it must be so, then know, great king,
All that my self yet knows of him is this:
In pride of blood and beauty I did live,
My glass the altar was, my face the idol;
Such was my peevish love unto my self,
That I did hate all other; such disdain
Was in my scornful eye that I suppos'd
No mortal creature worthy to enjoy me.
Thus with the peacock I beheld my train,
But never saw the blackness of my feet;
Oft have I chid the winds for breathing on me,
And curst the sun, fearing to blast my beauty.
In midst of this most leaprous disease,
A seeming fair yong man appear'd unto me,
In all things suiting my aspiring pride,
And with him brought along a conquering power,
To which my frailty yielded; from whose embraces
This issue came; what more he is, I know not.
VORTIGER. Some incubus or spirit of the night
Begot him then, for, sure, no mortal did it.
MERLIN. No matter who, my lord; leave further quest,
Since 'tis as hurtful as unnecessary
More to enquire: go to the cause, my lord,
Why you have sought me thus?
VORTIGER. I doubt not but thou knowst; yet, to be plain,
I sought thee for thy blood.
MERLIN. By whose direction?
PROXIMUS. By mine;
My art infalable instructed me,
Upon thy blood must the foundation rise
Of the kings building; it cannot stand else.
MERLIN. Hast thou such leisure to enquire my fate,
And let thine own hang careless over thee?
Knowst thou what pendelous mischief roofs thy head,
How fatal, and how sudden?
Bearded abortive, thou foretel my danger!
My lord, He trifles to delay his own.
MERLIN. No, I yield my self: and here before the king
Make good thine augury, as I shall mine.
If thy fate fall not, thou hast spoke all truth,
And let my blood satisfie the kings desires:
If thou thy self wilt write thine epitaph,
Dispatch it quickly, there's not a minutes time
'Twixt thee and thy death.
PROXIMUS. Ha, ha, ha! [A stone falls and kills Proximus.]
MERLIN. I, so thou mayest die laughing.
VORTIGER. Ha! This is above admiration: look, is he dead?
CLOWN. Yes, sir, here's brains to make morter on, if you'l use them. Cousin Merlin, there's no more of this stone fruit ready to fall, is there? I pray, give your uncle a little fair warning.
MERLIN. Remove that shape of death. And now, my lord,
For clear satisfaction of your doubts,
Merlin will show the fatal cause that keeps
Your castle down and hinders your proceedings.
Stand there, and by an apparition see
The labor and end of all your destiny.
Mother and uncle, you must be absent.
CLOWN. Is your father coming, cousin?
MERLIN. Nay, you must be gone.
JOAN. Come, you'l offend him, brother.
CLOWN. I would fain see my brother i'law; if you were married, I might lawfully call him so.
[Merlin strikes his wand. Thunder and lightning; two dragons appear, a white and a red; they fight a while, and pause.]
VORTIGER. What means this stay?
MERLIN. Be not amaz'd, my lord, for on the victory,
Of loss or gain, as these two champions ends,
Your fate, your life, and kingdom all depends;
Therefore observe it well.
VORTIGER. I shall: heaven be auspicious to us.
[Thunder: the two dragons fight agen, and the white dragon drives off the red.]
VORTIGER. The conquest is on the white dragons part.
Now, Merlin, faithfully expound the meaning.
MERLIN. Your grace must then not be offended with me.
VORTIGER. It is the weakest part I found in thee,
To doubt of me so slightly. Shall I blame
My prophet that foretells me of my dangers?
Thy cunning I approve most excellent.
MERLIN. Then know, my lord, there is a dampish cave,
The nightly habitation of these dragons,
Vaulted beneath where you would build your castle,
Whose enmity and nightly combats there
Maintain a constant ruine of your labors.
To make it more plain, the dragons, then,
Your self betoken and the Saxon king;
The vanquisht red is, sir, your dreadful emblem.
VORTIGER. Oh, my fate!
MERLIN. Nay, you must hear with patience, royal sir.
You slew the lawful king Constantius:
'Twas a red deed, your crown his blood did cement.
The English Saxon, first brought in by you
For aid against Constantius brethren,
Is the white horror who now, knit together,
Have driven and shut you up in these wilde mountains;
And though they now seek to unite with friendship,
It is to wound your bosom, not embrace it,
And with an utter extirpation
To rout the Brittains out, and plant the English.
Seek for your safety, sir, and spend no time
To build the airy castles; for Prince Uter,
Armed with vengeance for his brothers blood,
Is hard upon you. If you mistrust me,
And to my words crave witness, sir, then know,
Here comes a messenger to tell you so. [Exit Merlin.]
MESSENGER. My lord! Prince Uter!
VORTIGER. And who else, sir?
MESSENGER. Edol, the great general.
VORTIGER. The great devil! they are coming to meet us?
MESSENGER. With a full power, my lord.
VORTIGER. With a full vengeance,
They mean to meet us; so! we are ready
To their confront. At full march, double footing,
We'l loose no ground, nor shall their numbers fright us:
If it be fate, it cannot be withstood;
We got our crown so, be it lost in blood. [Exeunt.]
[Enter Prince Uter, Edol, Cador, Edwin, Toclio, with drum and Soldiers.]
PRINCE. Stay, and advice; hold, drum!
EDOL. Beat, slave! why do you pause?
Why make a stand? where are our enemies?
Or do you mean we fight amongst our selves?
PRINCE. Nay, noble Edol,
Let us here take counsel, it cannot hurt,
It is the surest garison to safety.
EDOL. Fie on such slow delays! so fearful men,
That are to pass over a flowing river,
Stand on the bank to parly of the danger,
Till the tide rise, and then be swallowed.
Is not the king in field?
CADOR. Proud Vortiger, the trator, is in field.
EDWIN. The murderer and usurper.
EDOL. Let him be the devil, so I may fight with him.
For heavens love, sir, march on! Oh, my patience!
Will you delay, untill the Saxons come
To aid his party? [A tucket.]
PRINCE. There's no such fear: prithee, be calm a while.
Hark! it seems by this, he comes or sends to us.
EDOL. If it be for parly, I will drown the summons,
If all our drums and hoarseness choke me not.
PRINCE. Nay, prithee, hear.--From whence art thou?
CAPTAIN. From the King Vortiger.
EDOL. Traitor, there's none such: alarum, drum; strike, slave,
Or, by mine honor, I will break thy head,
And beat thy drums heads both about thine ears.
PRINCE. Hold, noble Edol,
Let's hear what articles he can inforce.
EDOL. What articles or what conditions
Can you expect to value half your wrong,
Unless he kill himself by thousand tortures,
And send his carcase to appease your vengeance
For the foul murder of Constantius,
And that's not a tenth part neither.
PRINCE. 'Tis true,
My brothers blood is crying to me now;
I do applaud thy counsel: hence, be gone!-- [Exit Captain.]
We'l hear no parly now but by our swords.
EDOL. And those shall speak home in death killing words:
Alarum to the fight; sound, sound the alarum. [Exeunt.]
[Alarum. Enter Edol, driving all Vortigers force before him, then Exit. Enter Prince Uter pursuing Vortiger.]
VORTIGER. Dost follow me?
PRINCE. Yes, to thy death I will.
VORTIGER. Stay, be advis'd;
I would not be the onely fall of princes,
I slew thy brother.
PRINCE. Thou didst, black traitor,
And in that vengeance I pursue thee.
VORTIGER. Take mercy for thy self, and flie my sword,
Save thine own life as satisfaction,
Which here I give thee for thy brothers death.
PRINCE. Give what's thine own: a traitors heart and head,
That's all thou art right lord of. The kingdom
Which thou usurp'st, thou most unhappy tyrant,
Is leaving thee; the Saxons which thou broughtst
To back thy usurpations, are grown great,
And where they seat themselves, do hourly seek
To blot the records of old Brute and Brittains
From memory of men, calling themselves
Hingest-men, and Hingest-land, that no more
The Brittain name be known: all this by thee,
Thou base destroyer of thy native countrey.
EDOL. What, stand you talking? [Fight.]
PRINCE. Hold, Edol.
EDOL. Hold out, my sword,
And listen not to king or princes word;
There's work enough abroad, this task is mine. [Alarum.]
PRINCE. Prosper thy valour, as thy vertues shine. [Exeunt.]
[Enter Cador and Edwin.]
CADOR. Bright victory her self fights on our part,
And, buckled in a golden beaver, rides
Triumphantly before us.
EDWIN. Justice is with her,
Who ever takes the true and rightful cause.
Let us not lag behinde them.
CADOR. Here comes the prince. How goes our fortunes, sir?
PRINCE. Hopeful and fair, brave Cador.
Proud Vortiger, beat down by Edols sword,
Was rescu'd by the following multitudes,
And now for safety's fled unto a castle
Here standing on the hill: but I have sent
A cry of hounds as violent as hunger,
To break his stony walls; or, if they fail,
We'l send in wilde fire to dislodge him thence,
Or burn them all with flaming violence. [Exeunt.]
[Blazing star appears.]
[Florish tromp. Enter Prince Uter, Edol, Cador, Edwin, Toclio, with drum and Soldiers.]
PRINCE. Look, Edol:
Still this fiery exalation shoots
His frightful horrors on th'amazed world;
See, in the beam that's 'bout his flaming ring,
A dragons head appears, from our whose mouth
Two flaming flakes of fire stretch east and west.
EDOL. And see, from forth the body of the star
Seven smaller blazing streams directly point
On this affrighted kingdom.
CADOR. 'Tis a dreadful meteor.
EDWIN. And doth portend strange fears.
PRINCE. This is no crown of peace; this angry fire
Hath something more to burn then Vortiger;
If it alone were pointed at his fall,
It would pull in his blasing piramids
And be appeas'd, for Vortiger is dead.
EDOL. These never come without their large effects.
PRINCE. The will of heaven be done! our sorrow's this,
We want a mistick Pithon to expound
This fiery oracle.
CADOR. Oh no, my lord,
You have the best that ever Brittain bred;
And durst I prophecy of your prophet, sir,
None like him shall succeed him.
PRINCE. You mean Merlin?
CADOR. True, sir, wonderous Merlin;
He met us in the way, and did foretell
The fortunes of this day successful to us.
EDWIN. He's sure about the camp; send for him, sir.
CADOR. He told the bloody Vortiger his fate,
And truely too, and if I could give faith
To any wizards skill, it should be Merlin.
[Enter Merlin and Clown.]
CADOR. And see, my lord, as if to satisfie
Your highness pleasure, Merlin is come.
The comet's in his eye, disturb him not.
EDOL. With what a piercing judgement he beholds it!
MERLIN. Whither will heaven and fate translate this kingdom?
What revolutions, rise and fall of nations
Is figur'd yonder in that star, that sings
The change of Brittians state and death of kings?
Ha! He's dead already; how swiftly mischief creeps!
Thy fatal end, sweet prince, even Merlin weeps.
PRINCE. He does foresee some evil, his action shows it,
For, e're he does expound, he weeps the story.
EDOL. There's another weeps too. Sirrah, dost thou understand what thou lamentst for?
CLOWN. No, sir, I am his uncle, and weep because my cousin weeps; flesh and blood cannot forbear.
PRINCE. Gentle Merlin, speak thy prophetick knowledge
In explanation of this fiery horror,
From which we gather from thy mounful tears
Much sorrow and disaster in it.
MERLIN. 'Tis true,
Fair prince, but you must hear the rest with patience.
PRINCE. I vow I will, tho' it portend my ruine.
MERLIN. There's no such fear.
This brought the fiery fall of Vortiger,
And yet not him alone: this day is faln
A king more good, the glory of our land,
The milde and gentle, sweet Aurelius.
PRINCE. Our brother!
EDWIN. Forefend it heaven!
MERLIN. He at his palace royal, sir,
At Winchester, this day is dead and poison'd.
CADOR. By whom? Or what means, Merlin?
MERLIN. By the traiterous Saxons.
EDOL. I ever fear'd as much: that devil Ostorius
And the damn'd witch Artesia, sure, has done it.
PRINCE. Poison'd! oh, look further, gentle Merlin,
Behold the star agen, and do but finde
Revenge for me, though it cost thousand lives,
And mine the foremost.
MERLIN. Comfort your self, the heavens have given it fully:
All the portentious ills to you is told.
Now hear a happy story, sir, from me
To you and to your fair posterity.
CLOWN. Me thinks, I see something like a peel'd onion; it makes me weep agen.
MERLIN. Be silent, uncle, you'l be forc't else.
CLOWN. Can you not finde in the star, cousin, whether I can hold my tongue or no?
EDOL. Yes, I must cut it out.
CLOWN. Phu, you speak without book, sir, my cousin Merlin knows.
MERLIN. True, I must tie it up. Now speak your pleasure, uncle.
CLOWN. Hum, hum, hum, hum.
MERLIN. So, so.--
Now observe, my lord, and there behold,
Above yon flame-hair'd beam that upward shoots,
Appears a dragons head, out of whose mouth
Two streaming lights point their flame-feather'd darts
Contrary ways, yet both shall have their aims:
Again behold, from the ignifirent body
Seven splendant and illustrious rays are spred,
All speaking heralds to this Brittain isle,
And thus they are expounded: The dragons head
Is the herogliphick that figures out
Your princely self, that here must reign a king;
Those by-form'd fires that from the dragons mouth
Shoot east and west, emblem two royal babes,
Which shall proceed from you, a son and daughter.
Her pointed constellation, northwest bending,
Crowns her a queen in Ireland, of whom first springs
That kingdoms title to the Brittain kings.
CLOWN. Hum, hum, hum.
MERLIN. But of your son thus fate and Merlin tells:
All after times shall fill their chronicles
With fame of his renown, whose warlike sword
Shall pass through fertile France and Germany;
Nor shall his conquering foot be forc't to stand,
Till Romes imperial wreath hath crown'd his fame
With monarch of the west, from whose seven hills,
With conquest and contributory kings,
He back returns to inlarge the Brittain bounds,
His heraldry adorn'd with thirteen crowns.
CLOWN. Hum, hum, hum.
MERLIN. He to the world shall add another Worthy,
And, as a loadstone, for his prowess draw
A train of marshal lovers to his court:
It shall be then the best of knight-hoods honor,
At Winchester to fill his castle hall,
And at his royal table sit and feast
In warlike orders, all their arms round hurl'd,
As if they meant to circumscribe the world. [He touches the Clowns mouth with his wand.]
CLOWN. Hum, hum, hum: oh, that I could speak a little!
MERLIN. I know your mind, uncle; agen be silent. [Strikes agen.]
PRINCE. Thou speakst of wonders, Merlin; prithee, go on,
Declare at full this constellation.
MERLIN. Those seven beams pointing downward, sir, betoken
The troubles of this land, which then shall meet
With other fate: war and dissension strives
To make division, till seven kings agree
To draw this kingdom to a hepterchy.
PRINCE. Thine art hath made such proof that we believe
Thy words authentical: be ever neer us,
My prophet and the guide of all my actions.
MERLIN. My service shall be faithful to your person,
And all my studies for my countries safety.
CLOWN. Hum, hum, hum.
MERLIN. Come, you are releast, sir.
CLOWN. Cousin, pray, help me to my tongue agen; you do not mean I shall be dumb still, I hope?
MERLIN. Why, hast thou not thy tongue?
CLOWN. Ha! yes, I feel it now, I was so long dumb, I could not well tell whether I spake or no.
PRINCE. Is't thy advice we presently pursue
The bloody Saxons, that have slain my brother?
MERLIN. With your best speed, my lord;
Prosperity will keep you company.
CADOR. Take, then, your title with you, royal prince,
'Twill adde unto our strength: long live King Uter!
EDOL. Put the addition to't that heaven hath given you:
The dragon is your emblem, bear it bravely,
And so live long and ever happy, styl'd
Uter-Pendragon, lawful king of Brittain.
PRINCE. Thanks, Edol, we imbrace the name and title,
And in our sheild and standard shall the figure
Of a red dragon still be born before us,
To fright the bloody Saxons. Oh, my Aurelius,
Sweet rest thy soul; let thy disturbed spirit
Expect revenge; think what it would, it hath:
The dragon's coming in his fiery wrath. [Exeunt.]