Wales. A mountainous country with a cave.
(Belarius; Guiderius; Arviragus)
A mountainous country with a cave. Belarius praises the quiet, healthful, honest life here, with its freedom from the folly and security of the court. But the boys feel that they lead ignorant and animalistic lives; they desire to discover the complexity and danger of court-life. Belarius tells how he was once highly honored at Cymbeline’s court before he was exiled as the result of a plot against him. Alone, Belarius reflects on how the boys are actually Cymbeline’s sons, whom he kidnapped in revenge when he was banished. (112 lines)
Enter from their cave Belarius, Guiderius, and Arviragus.
A goodly day not to keep house with such
Whose roof’s as low as ours! Stoop, boys, this gate
Instructs you how t’ adore the heavens, and bows you
To a morning’s holy office. The gates of monarchs
Are arch’d so high that giants may jet through
And keep their impious turbands on without
Good morrow to the sun. Hail, thou fair heaven!
We house i’ th’ rock, yet use thee not so hardly
As prouder livers do.
Now for our mountain sport: up to yond hill,
Your legs are young; I’ll tread these flats. Consider,
When you above perceive me like a crow,
That it is place which lessens and sets off,
And you may then revolve what tales I have told you
Of courts, of princes, of the tricks in war.
This service is not service, so being done,
But being so allowed. To apprehend thus
Draws us a profit from all things we see;
And often, to our comfort, shall we find
The sharded beetle in a safer hold
Than is the full-wing’d eagle. O, this life
Is nobler than attending for a check;
Richer than doing nothing for a bable;
Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk:
Such gain the cap of him that makes him fine,
Yet keeps his book uncross’d. No life to ours.
Out of your proof you speak; we poor unfledg’d
Have never wing’d from view o’ th’ nest, nor know not
What air’s from home. Happ’ly this life is best,
If quiet life be best; sweeter to you
That have a sharper known; well corresponding
With your stiff age; but unto us it is
A cell of ignorance, traveling a-bed,
A prison, or a debtor that not dares
To stride a limit.
What should we speak of
When we are old as you? When we shall hear
The rain and wind beat dark December, how,
In this our pinching cave, shall we discourse
The freezing hours away? We have seen nothing.
We are beastly: subtle as the fox for prey,
Like warlike as the wolf for what we eat;
Our valor is to chase what flies. Our cage
We make a choir, as doth the prison’d bird,
And sing our bondage freely.
How you speak!
Did you but know the city’s usuries,
And felt them knowingly; the art o’ th’ court,
As hard to leave as keep; whose top to climb
Is certain falling, or so slipp’ry that
The fear’s as bad as falling; the toil o’ th’ war,
A pain that only seems to seek out danger
I’ th’ name of fame and honor which dies i’ th’ search,
And hath as oft a sland’rous epitaph
As record of fair act; nay, many times
Doth ill deserve by doing well; what’s worse,
Must curtsy at the censure. O boys, this story
The world may read in me: my body’s mark’d
With Roman swords, and my report was once
First with the best of note. Cymbeline lov’d me,
And when a soldier was the theme, my name
Was not far off. Then was I as a tree
Whose boughs did bend with fruit; but in one night,
A storm or robbery (call it what you will)
Shook down my mellow hangings, nay, my leaves,
And left me bare to weather.
My fault being nothing (as I have told you oft)
But that two villains, whose false oaths prevail’d
Before my perfect honor, swore to Cymbeline
I was confederate with the Romans. So
Followed my banishment, and this twenty years
This rock and these demesnes have been my world,
Where I have liv’d at honest freedom, paid
More pious debts to heaven than in all
The fore-end of my time. But up to th’ mountains!
This is not hunters’ language. He that strikes
The venison first shall be the lord o’ th’ feast,
To him the other two shall minister,
And we will fear no poison, which attends
In place of greater state. I’ll meet you in the valleys.
Exeunt Guiderius and Arviragus.
How hard it is to hide the sparks of nature!
These boys know little they are sons to th’ King,
Nor Cymbeline dreams that they are alive.
They think they are mine, and though train’d up thus meanly
I’ th’ cave wherein they bow, their thoughts do hit
The roofs of palaces, and nature prompts them
In simple and low things to prince it much
Beyond the trick of others. This Polydore,
The heir of Cymbeline and Britain, who
The King his father call’d Guiderius—Jove!
When on my three-foot stool I sit and tell
The warlike feats I have done, his spirits fly out
Into my story; say, “Thus mine enemy fell,
And thus I set my foot on ’s neck,” even then
The princely blood flows in his cheek, he sweats,
Strains his young nerves, and puts himself in posture
That acts my words. The younger brother, Cadwal,
Once Arviragus, in as like a figure
Strikes life into my speech, and shows much more
His own conceiving.—Hark, the game is rous’d!—
O Cymbeline, heaven and my conscience knows
Thou didst unjustly banish me; whereon,
At three and two years old, I stole these babes,
Thinking to bar thee of succession, as
Thou refts me of my lands. Euriphile,
Thou wast their nurse; they took thee for their mother,
And every day do honor to her grave.
Myself, Belarius, that am Morgan call’d,
They take for natural father.—The game is up.