Another part of the field of battle between the British and Roman camps.
(Posthumus; British Lord; First British Captain; Second British Captain; British Soldiers; Cymbeline; Belarius; Guiderius; Arviragus; Pisanio; Roman captives)
Posthumus recounts to a British Lord how Belarius and the two boys made a stand that turned the tide of battle, saving Britain and Cymbeline’s life. Despite his best efforts, Posthumus has not managed to get himself killed in the battle. He is taken captive as a Roman. (102 lines)
Enter Posthumus and a British Lord.
Cam’st thou from where they made the stand?
Though you it seems come from the fliers?
No blame be to you, sir, for all was lost
But that the heavens fought; the King himself
Of his wings destitute, the army broken,
And but the backs of Britains seen, all flying
Through a strait lane; the enemy full-hearted,
Lolling the tongue with slaught’ring—having work
More plentiful than tools to do’t—strook down
Some mortally, some slightly touch’d, some falling
Merely through fear, that the strait pass was damm’d
With dead men hurt behind, and cowards living
To die with length’ned shame.
Where was this lane?
Close by the battle, ditch’d, and wall’d with turf,
Which gave advantage to an ancient soldier
(An honest one, I warrant), who deserv’d
So long a breeding as his white beard came to,
In doing this for ’s country. Athwart the lane,
He, with two striplings (lads more like to run
The country base than to commit such slaughter,
With faces fit for masks, or rather fairer
Than those for preservation cas’d, or shame),
Made good the passage, cried to those that fled,
“Our Britain’s harts die flying, not our men.
To darkness fleet souls that fly backwards. Stand,
Or we are Romans and will give you that
Like beasts which you shun beastly, and may save
But to look back in frown. Stand, stand!” These three,
Three thousand confident, in act as many—
For three performers are the file when all
The rest do nothing—with this word “Stand, stand!”
Accommodated by the place, more charming
With their own nobleness, which could have turn’d
A distaff to a lance, gilded pale looks;
Part shame, part spirit renew’d, that some, turn’d coward
But by example (O, a sin in war,
Damn’d in the first beginners!), gan to look
The way that they did, and to grin like lions
Upon the pikes o’ th’ hunters. Then began
A stop i’ th’ chaser; a retire; anon
A rout, confusion thick. Forthwith they fly
Chickens, the way which they stoop’d eagles; slaves,
The strides they victors made: and now our cowards,
Like fragments in hard voyages, became
The life o’ th’ need. Having found the back door open
Of the unguarded hearts, heavens, how they wound
Some slain before, some dying, some their friends
O’erborne i’ th’ former wave. Ten chas’d by one
Are now each one the slaughter-man of twenty.
Those that would die or ere resist are grown
The mortal bugs o’ th’ field.
This was strange chance.
A narrow lane, an old man, and two boys!
Nay, do not wonder at it; you are made
Rather to wonder at the things you hear
Than to work any. Will you rhyme upon’t,
And vent it for a mock’ry? Here is one:
“Two boys, an old man (twice a boy), a lane,
Preserv’d the Britains, was the Romans’ bane.”
Nay, be not angry, sir.
’Lack, to what end?
Who dares not stand his foe, I’ll be his friend;
For if he’ll do as he is made to do,
I know he’ll quickly fly my friendship too.
You have put me into rhyme.
Farewell, you’re angry.
Still going? This is a lord! O noble misery,
To be i’ th’ field, and ask “what news?” of me!
Today how many would have given their honors
To have sav’d their carcasses! Took heel to do’t,
And yet died too! I, in mine own woe charm’d,
Could not find death where I did hear him groan,
Nor feel him where he strook. Being an ugly monster,
’Tis strange he hides him in fresh cups, soft beds,
Sweet words; or hath more ministers than we
That draw his knives i’ th’ war. Well, I will find him;
For being now a favorer to the Britain,
No more a Britain, I have resum’d again
The part I came in. Fight I will no more,
But yield me to the veriest hind that shall
Once touch my shoulder. Great the slaughter is
Here made by th’ Roman; great the answer be
Britains must take. For me, my ransom’s death.
On either side I come to spend my breath;
Which neither here I’ll keep nor bear again,
But end it by some means for Imogen.
Enter two British Captains and Soldiers.
Great Jupiter be prais’d! Lucius is taken.
’Tis thought the old man and his sons were angels.
There was a fourth man, in a silly habit,
That gave th’ affront with them.
So ’tis reported;
But none of ’em can be found. Stand! Who’s there?
Who had not now been drooping here, if seconds
Had answer’d him.
Lay hands on him; a dog!
A leg of Rome shall not return to tell
What crows have peck’d them here. He brags his service
As if he were of note. Bring him to th’ King.
Enter Cymbeline, Belarius, Guiderius, Arviragus, Pisanio, and Roman captives.
The Captains present Posthumus to Cymbeline, who delivers him over to a Jailer.
Then exeunt omnes.