Paris. The King’s palace.
(King; Lords; Bertram Count Roussillon; Parolles; Lafew; Helen)English French
The King bids farewell to some Lords who are leaving to fight in the war between Florence and Savoy. Lord Lafew introduces Helena to doctor the King. She finally convinces the incredulous King to try her cure. If Helena fails, she is willing to be punished severely; but if she wins, the King promises to marry her to the man of her choice (except of royal blood). (212 lines)
Enter the King, with divers young Lords taking leave for the Florentine war, (Bertram) Count Roussillon, and Parolles. Flourish cornets. KING. 1. LORD. DUM. 2. LORD. DUM. BER. PAR.
Farewell, young lords, these warlike principles
Do not throw from you; and you, my lords, farewell.
Share the advice betwixt you; if both gain all,
The gift doth stretch itself as ’tis receiv’d,
And is enough for both.
’Tis our hope, sir,
After well-ent’red soldiers, to return
And find your Grace in health.
No, no, it cannot be; and yet my heart
Will not confess he owes the malady
That doth my life besiege. Farewell, young lords,
Whether I live or die, be you the sons
Of worthy Frenchmen. Let higher Italy
(Those bated that inherit but the fall
Of the last monarchy) see that you come
Not to woo honor, but to wed it, when
The bravest questant shrinks. Find what you seek,
That fame may cry you loud. I say farewell.
Health, at your bidding, serve your Majesty!
Those girls of Italy, take heed of them.
They say our French lack language to deny
If they demand. Beware of being captives
Before you serve.
Our hearts receive your warnings.
Farewell.—Come hither to me.
The King retires apart with some Lords. KING.
O my sweet lord, that you will stay behind us!
’Tis not his fault, the spark.
O, ’tis brave wars!
Most admirable! I have seen those wars.
I am commanded here, and kept a coil with,
“Too young” and “the next year” and “’tis too early.”
And thy mind stand to’t, boy, steal away bravely.
I shall stay here the forehorse to a smock,
Creaking my shoes on the plain masonry,
Till honor be bought up, and no sword worn
But one to dance with! By heaven, I’ll steal away.
There’s honor in the theft.
Commit it, Count.
I am your accessary, and so farewell.
I grow to you, and our parting is a tortur’d body.
Sweet Monsieur Parolles!
Noble heroes! My sword and yours are kin. Good sparks and lustrous, a word, good metals: you shall find in the regiment of the Spinii one Captain Spurio, with his cicatrice, an emblem of war, here on his sinister cheek; it was this very sword entrench’d it. Say to him I live, and observe his reports for me.
We shall, noble captain.
Mars dote on you for his novices!
Exeunt Lords. 1. LORD. DUM. 2. LORD. DUM.
What will ye do?
Stay the King.
Use a more spacious ceremony to the noble lords; you have restrain’d yourself within the list of too cold an adieu. Be more expressive to them, for they wear themselves in the cap of the time, there do muster true gait; eat, speak, and move under the influence of the most receiv’d star, and though the devil lead the measure, such are to be follow’d. After them, and take a more dilated farewell.
And I will do so.
Worthy fellows, and like to prove most sinewy swordmen.
Exeunt Bertram and Parolles. BER. PAR.
Enter Lafew. LAF.
The King comes forward. KING.
Pardon, my lord, for me and for my tidings.
I’ll see thee to stand up.
Then here’s a man stands that has brought his pardon.
I would you had kneel’d, my lord, to ask me mercy,
And that at my bidding you could so stand up.
I would I had, so I had broke thy pate,
And ask’d thee mercy for’t.
Good faith, across!
But, my good lord, ’tis thus: will you be cur’d
Of your infirmity?
O, will you eat
No grapes, my royal fox? Yes, but you will
My noble grapes, and if my royal fox
Could reach them. I have seen a medicine
That’s able to breathe life into a stone,
Quicken a rock, and make you dance canary
With spritely fire and motion, whose simple touch
Is powerful to araise King Pippen, nay,
To give great Charlemain a pen in ’s hand
And write to her a love-line.
What her is this?
Why, Doctor She! My lord, there’s one arriv’d,
If you will see her. Now by my faith and honor,
If seriously I may convey my thoughts
In this my light deliverance, I have spoke
With one, that in her sex, her years, profession,
Wisdom, and constancy, hath amaz’d me more
Than I dare blame my weakness. Will you see her—
For that is her demand—and know her business?
That done, laugh well at me.
Now, good Lafew,
Bring in the admiration, that we with thee
May spend our wonder too, or take off thine
By wond’ring how thou took’st it.
Nay, I’ll fit you,
And not be all day neither.
Goes to the door. LAF.
Thus he his special nothing ever prologues.
Nay, come your ways.
Enter Helen. HEL.
This haste hath wings indeed.
Nay, come your ways;
This is his Majesty, say your mind to him.
A traitor you do look like, but such traitors
His Majesty seldom fears. I am Cressid’s uncle,
That dare leave two together; fare you well.
Now, fair one, does your business follow us?
Ay, my good lord.
Gerard de Narbon was my father,
In what he did profess, well found.
I knew him.
The rather will I spare my praises towards him,
Knowing him is enough. On ’s bed of death
Many receipts he gave me; chiefly one,
Which as the dearest issue of his practice,
And of his old experience th’ only darling,
He bade me store up, as a triple eye,
Safer than mine own two, more dear. I have so,
And hearing your high Majesty is touch’d
With that malignant cause wherein the honor
Of my dear father’s gift stands chief in power,
I come to tender it, and my appliance,
With all bound humbleness.
We thank you, maiden,
But may not be so credulous of cure,
When our most learned doctors leave us, and
The congregated college have concluded
That laboring art can never ransom nature
From her inaidible estate; I say we must not
So stain our judgment, or corrupt our hope,
To prostitute our past-cure malady
To empirics, or to dissever so
Our great self and our credit, to esteem
A senseless help when help past sense we deem.
My duty then shall pay me for my pains.
I will no more enforce mine office on you,
Humbly entreating from your royal thoughts
A modest one, to bear me back again.
I cannot give thee less, to be call’d grateful.
Thou thought’st to help me, and such thanks I give
As one near death to those that wish him live.
But what at full I know, thou know’st no part,
I knowing all my peril, thou no art.
What I can do can do no hurt to try,
Since you set up your rest ’gainst remedy.
He that of greatest works is finisher
Oft does them by the weakest minister:
So holy writ in babes hath judgment shown,
When judges have been babes; great floods have flown
From simple sources; and great seas have dried
When miracles have by the great’st been denied.
Oft expectation fails, and most oft there
Where most it promises; and oft it hits
Where hope is coldest, and despair most fits.
I must not hear thee; fare thee well, kind maid,
Thy pains not us’d must by thyself be paid.
Proffers not took reap thanks for their reward.
Inspired merit so by breath is barr’d.
It is not so with Him that all things knows
As ’tis with us that square our guess by shows;
But most it is presumption in us when
The help of heaven we count the act of men.
Dear sir, to my endeavors give consent,
Of heaven, not me, make an experiment.
I am not an imposture that proclaim
Myself against the level of mine aim,
But know I think, and think I know most sure,
My art is not past power, nor you past cure.
Art thou so confident? Within what space
Hop’st thou my cure?
The greatest grace lending grace,
Ere twice the horses of the sun shall bring
Their fiery torcher his diurnal ring,
Ere twice in murk and occidental damp
Moist Hesperus hath quench’d her sleepy lamp,
Or four and twenty times the pilot’s glass
Hath told the thievish minutes how they pass,
What is infirm from your sound parts shall fly,
Health shall live free, and sickness freely die.
Upon thy certainty and confidence
What dar’st thou venter?
Tax of impudence,
A strumpet’s boldness, a divulged shame,
Traduc’d by odious ballads; my maiden’s name
Sear’d otherwise; ne worse of worst—extended
With vildest torture, let my life be ended.
Methinks in thee some blessed spirit doth speak
His powerful sound within an organ weak;
And what impossibility would slay
In common sense, sense saves another way.
Thy life is dear, for all that life can rate
Worth name of life in thee hath estimate:
Youth, beauty, wisdom, courage, all
That happiness and prime can happy call.
Thou this to hazard needs must intimate
Skill infinite, or monstrous desperate.
Sweet practicer, thy physic I will try,
That ministers thine own death if I die.
If I break time, or flinch in property
Of what I spoke, unpitied let me die,
And well deserv’d. Not helping, death’s my fee,
But if I help, what do you promise me?
Make thy demand.
But will you make it even?
Ay, by my sceptre and my hopes of heaven.
Then shalt thou give me with thy kingly hand
What husband in thy power I will command.
Exempted be from me the arrogance
To choose from forth the royal blood of France,
My low and humble name to propagate
With any branch or image of thy state;
But such a one thy vassal, whom I know
Is free for me to ask, thee to bestow.
Here is my hand, the premises observ’d,
Thy will by my performance shall be serv’d.
So make the choice of thy own time, for I,
Thy resolv’d patient, on thee still rely.
More should I question thee, and more I must—
Though more to know could not be more to trust—
From whence thou cam’st, how tended on, but rest
Unquestion’d welcome and undoubted blest.—
Give me some help here ho!—If thou proceed
As high as word, my deed shall match thy deed.
Flourish. Exeunt. KING. HEL.