Arthurian and Grail Plays
THE BIRTH OF MERLIN
[Thunder, then musick.]
[Enter Joan fearfully, the Devil following her.]
JOAN. Hence, thou black horror! is thy lustful fire
Kindled agen? Not thy loud throated thunder
Nor thy adulterate infernal musick
Shall e're bewitch me more: oh, too too much
Is past already.
DEVIL. Why dost thou fly me?
I come a lover to thee, to imbrace
And gently twine thy body in mine arms.
JOAN. Out, thou hell-hound!
DEVIL. What hound so e're I be,
Fawning and sporting as I would with thee,
Why should I not be stroakt and plaid withal?
Will't thou not thank the lion might devour thee,
If he shall let thee pass?
JOAN. Yes, thou art he;
Free me, and Ile thank thee.
DEVIL. Why, whither wouldst?
I am at home with thee, thou art mine own,
Have we not charge of family together?
Where is your son?
JOAN. Oh, darkness cover me!
DEVIL. There is a pride which thou hast won by me,
The mother of a fame, shall never die.
Kings shall have need of written chronicles
To keep their names alive, but Merlin none;
Ages to ages shall like sabalists
Report the wonders of his name and glory,
While there are tongues and times to tell his story.
JOAN. Oh, rot my memory before my flesh,
Let him be called some hell or earth-bred monster,
That ne're had hapless woman for a mother!
Sweet death, deliver me! Hence from my sight:
Why shouldst thou now appear? I had no pride
Nor lustful thought about me, to conjure
And call thee to my ruine, when as at first
Thy cursed person became visible.
DEVIL. I am the same I was.
JOAN. But I am chang'd.
DEVIL. Agen Ile change thee to the same thou wert,
To quench my lust.--Come forth, by thunder led,
My coajutors in the spoils of mortals. [Thunder.]
Claspe in your ebon arms that prize of mine,
Mount her as high as palled Hecate;
And on this rock Ile stand to cast up fumes
And darkness o're the blew fac'd firmament:
From Brittain and from Merlin Ile remove her.
They ne're shall meet agen.
JOAN. Help me some saving hand,
If not too late, I cry: let mercy come!
MERLIN. Stay, you black slaves of night, let loose your hold,
Set her down safe, or by th'infernal Stix,
Ile binde you up with exorcisms so strong,
That all the black pentagoron of hell
Shall ne're release you. Save your selves and vanish! [Exit Spirit.]
DEVIL. Ha! What's he?
MERLIN. The childe has found his father. Do you not know me?
JOAN. Oh, help me, gentle son.
MERLIN. Fear not, they shall not hurt you.
DEVIL. Relievest thou her to disobey thy father?
MERLIN. Obedience is no lesson in your school;
Nature and kind to her commands my duty;
The part that you begot was against kinde,
So all I ow to you is to be unkind.
DEVIL. Ile blast thee, slave, to death, and on this rock
Stick thee an eternal monument.
MERLIN. Ha, ha, thy powers too weak; what art thou, Devil,
But an inferior lustful incubus,
Taking advantage of the wanton flesh,
Wherewith thou dost beguile the ignorant?
Put off the form of thy humanity,
And cral upon thy speckled belly, serpent,
Or Ile unclasp the jaws of Achoron,
And fix thee ever in the local fire.
DEVIL. Traitor to hell! curse that I e're begot thee!
MERLIN. Thou didst beget thy scourge: storm not, nor stir;
The power of Merlins art is all confirm'd
In the Fates decretals. Ile ransack hell,
And make thy masters bow unto my spells.
Thou first shall taste it.-- [Thunder and lightning in the rock.]
Tenibrarum princeps, devitiarum & infirorum deus, hunc incubum in ignis eterni abisum accipite, aut in hoc carcere tenebroso in sempeternum astringere mando.
[The rock incloses him.]
So! there beget earthquakes or some noisom damps,
For never shalt thou touch a woman more.--
How chear you, mother?
JOAN. Oh, now my son is my deliverer,
Yet I must name him with my deepest sorrow. [Alarum afar off.]
MERLIN. Take comfort now: past times are ne're recal'd;
I did foresee your mischief, and prevent it.
Hark, how the sounds of war now call me hence
To aid Pendragon that in battail stands
Against the Saxons, from whose aid
Merlin must not be absent. Leave this soyl,
And Ile conduct you to a place retir'd,
Which I by art have rais'd, call'd Merlins Bower.
There shall you dwell with solitary sighs,
With grones and passions your companions,
To weep away this flesh you have offended with,
And leave all bare unto your aierial soul:
And when you die, I will erect a monument
Upon the verdant plains of Salisbury,
No king shall have so high a sepulchre,
With pendulous stones that I wil hang by art,
Where neither lime nor morter shalbe us'd,
A dark enigma to the memory,
For none shall have the power to number them,--
A place that I will hollow for your rest,
Where no night-hag shall walk, nor ware-wolf tread,
Where Merlins mother shall be sepulcher'd. [Exeunt.]
[Enter Donobert, Gloster, and Hermit.]
DONOBERT. Sincerely, Gloster, I have told you all:
My daughters are both vow'd to single life,
And this day gone unto the nunnery,
Though I begot them to another end,
And fairly promis'd them in marriage,
One to Earl Cador, t'other to your son,
My worthy friend, the Earl of Gloster.
Those lost, I am lost: they are lost, all's lost.
Answer me this, then: Ist a sin to marry?
HERMIT. Oh no, my lord.
DONOBERT. Go to, then, Ile go no further with you;
I perswade you to no ill; perswade you, then,
That I perswade you well.
GLOSTER. 'Twill be a good office in you, sir.
[Enter Cador and Edwin.]
DONOBERT. Which since they thus neglect,
My memory shall lose them now for ever.--
See, see, the noble lords, their promis'd husbands!
Had fate so pleas'd, you might have call'd me father.
EDWIN. Those hopes are past, my lord; for even this minute
We saw them both enter the monastery,
Secluded from the world and men for ever.
CADOR. 'Tis both our griefs we cannot, sir:
But from the king take you the times joy from us:
The Saxon king Ostorius slain and Octa fled,
That woman-fury, Queen Artesia,
Is fast in hold, and forc't to re-deliver
London and Winchester (which she had fortifi'd)
To princely Uter, lately styl'd Pendragon,
Who now triumphantly is marching hither
To be invested with the Brittain crown.
DONOBERT. The joy of this shall banish from my breast
All thought that I was father to two children,
Two stubborn daughters, that have left me thus.
Let my old arms embrace, and call you sons,
For, by the honor of my fathers house,
I'le part my estate most equally betwixt you.
EDWIN, CADOR. Sir, y'are most noble!
[Florish. Trompet. Enter Edol with drum and colours, Oswold bearing the standard, Toclio the sheild, with the red dragon pictur'd in'em, two Bishops with the crown, Prince Uter, Merlin, Artesia bound, Guard, and Clown.]
PRINCE. Set up our sheild and standard, noble soldiers.
We have firm hope that, tho' our dragon sleep,
Merlin will us and our fair kingdom keep.
CLOWN. As his uncle lives, I warrant you.
GLOSTER. Happy restorer of the Brittains fame,
Uprising sun, let us salute thy glory:
Ride in a day perpetual about us,
And no night be in thy thrones zodiack.
Why do we stay to binde those princely browes
With this imperial honor?
PRINCE. Stay, noble Gloster:
That monster first must be expel'd our eye,
Or we shall take no joy in it.
DONOBERT. If that be hindrance, give her quick judgement,
And send her hence to death; she has long deserv'd it.
EDOL. Let my sentence stand for all: take her hence,
And stake her carcase in the burning sun,
Till it be parcht and dry, and then fley off
Her wicked skin, and stuff the pelt with straw
To be shown up and down at fairs and markets:
Two pence a piece to see so foul a monster
Will be a fair monopoly, and worth the begging.
ARTESIA. Ha, ha, ha!
EDOL. Dost laugh, Erictho?
ARTESIA. Yes, at thy poor invention.
Is there no better torture-monger?
DONOBERT. Burn her to dust.
ARTESIA. That's a phoenix death, and glorious.
EDOL. I, that's to good for her.
PRINCE. Alive she shall be buried, circled in a wall.
Thou murdress of a king, there starve to death.
ARTESIA. Then Ile starve death when he comes for his prey,
And i'th' mean time Ile live upon your curses.
EDOL. I, 'tis diet good enough; away with her.
ARTESIA. With joy, my best of wishes is before;
Thy brother's poison'd, but I wanted more. [Exit.]
PRINCE. Why does our prophet Merlin stand apart,
Sadly observing these our ceremonies,
And not applaud our joys with thy hid knowledge?
Let thy divining art now satisfie
Some part of my desires; for well I know,
'Tis in thy power to show the full event,
That shall both end our reign and chronicle.
Speak, learned Merlin, and resolve my fears,
Whether by war we shal expel the Saxons,
Or govern what we hold with beauteous peace
In Wales and Brittain?
MERLIN. Long happiness attend Pendragons reign!
What heaven decrees, fate hath no power to alter:
The Saxons, sir, will keep the ground they have,
And by supplying numbers still increase,
Till Brittain be no more. So please your grace,
I will in visible apparitions
Present you prophecies which shall concern
Succeeding princes which my art shall raise,
Till men shall call these times the latter days.
PRINCE. Do it, my Merlin,
And crown me with much joy and wonder.
[Merlin strikes. Hoeboys. Enter a king in armour, his sheild quarter'd with thirteen crowns. At the other door enter divers princes who present their crowns to him at his feet, and do him homage; then enters Death and strikes him; he, growing sick, crowns Constantine. Exeunt.]
MERLIN. This king, my lord, presents your royal son,
Who in his prime of years shall be so fortunate,
That thirteen several princes shall present
Their several crowns unto him, and all kings else
Shall so admire his fame and victories,
That they shall all be glad,
Either through fear or love, to do him homage;
But death (who neither favors the weak nor valliant)
In the middest of all his glories soon shall seize him,
Scarcely permitting him to appoint one
In all his purchased kingdoms to succeed him.
PRINCE. Thanks to our prophet
For this so wish'd for satisfaction;
And hereby now we learn that always fate
Must be observ'd, what ever that decree:
All future times shall still record this story,
Of Merlin's learned worth and Arthur's glory. [Exeunt Omnes.]