Pentapolis. An open place by the seaside.
(Pericles; First Fisherman; Second Fisherman; Third Fisherman)
The shipwrecked Pericles makes it to shore, railing against the heavens. He comes across three fishermen, who are not particularly sympathetic. One of them tells him that he has arrived at Pentapolis, and that there is a joust in honor of the King’s daughter’s birthday coming up. Pericles wishes he could attend, something that becomes possible when the fishermen drag up his armor in their nets. Though it is rusty and filthy from its stay in the sea, Pericles determines to try his luck at the tourney. (107 lines)
Enter Pericles wet.
Yet cease your ire, you angry stars of heaven!
Wind, rain, and thunder, remember earthly man
Is but a substance that must yield to you;
And I (as fits my nature) do obey you.
Alas, the seas hath cast me on the rocks,
Wash’d me from shore to shore, and left me breath
Nothing to think on but ensuing death.
Let it suffice the greatness of your powers
To have bereft a prince of all his fortunes;
And having thrown him from your wat’ry grave,
Here to have death in peace is all he’ll crave.
Enter three Fishermen.
What ho, Pilch!
Ha, come and bring away the nets!
What, Patch-breech, I say!
What say you, master?
Look how thou stir’st now! Come away, or I’ll fetch th’ with a wanion.
Faith, master, I am thinking of the poor men that were cast away before us even now.
Alas, poor souls, it griev’d my heart to hear what pitiful cries they made to us to help them, when, well-a-day, we could scarce help ourselves.
Nay, master, said not I as much when I saw the porpoise how he bounc’d and tumbled? They say they’re half fish, half flesh. A plague on them, they ne’er come but I look to be wash’d. Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.
Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones. I can compare our rich misers to nothing so fitly as to a whale: ’a plays and tumbles, driving the poor fry before him, and at last devour them all at a mouthful. Such whales have I heard on a’ th’ land, who never leave gaping till they swallow’d the whole parish, church, steeple, bells, and all.
A pretty moral.
But, master, if I had been the sexton, I would have been that day in the belfry.
Because he should have swallow’d me too, and when I had been in his belly, I would have kept such a jangling of the bells, that he should never have left till he cast bells, steeple, church, and parish up again. But if the good King Simonides were of my mind—
We would purge the land of these drones, that rob the bee of her honey.
How from the finny subject of the sea
These fishers tell the infirmities of men,
And from their wat’ry empire recollect
All that may men approve or men detect!—
Peace be at your labor, honest fishermen.
Honest, good fellow, what’s that? If it be a day fits you, search out of the calendar, and nobody look after it.
May see the sea hath cast upon your coast—
What a drunken knave was the sea to cast thee in our way!
A man whom both the waters and the wind,
In that vast tennis-court, hath made the ball
For them to play upon, entreats you pity him.
He asks of you that never us’d to beg.
No, friend, cannot you beg? Here’s them in our country of Greece gets more with begging than we can do with working.
Canst thou catch any fishes then?
I never practic’d it.
Nay then thou wilt starve sure; for here’s nothing to be got now-a-days unless thou canst fish for’t.
What I have been I have forgot to know,
But what I am, want teaches me to think on:
A man throng’d up with cold, my veins are chill
And have no more of life than may suffice
To give my tongue that heat to ask your help;
Which if you shall refuse, when I am dead,
For that I am a man, pray you see me buried.
Die, keth ’a? Now gods forbid’t, and I have a gown here! Come put it on, keep thee warm. Now, afore me, a handsome fellow! Come, thou shalt go home, and we’ll have flesh for holidays, fish for fasting-days, and, moreo’er, puddings and flapjacks, and thou shalt be welcome.
I thank you, sir.
Hark you, my friend. You said you could not beg?
I did but crave.
But crave? Then I’ll turn craver too, and so I shall scape whipping.
Why, are your beggars whipt then?
O, not all, my friend, not all; for if all your beggars were whipt, I would wish no better office than to be beadle. But, master, I’ll go draw up the net.
Exit with Third Fisherman.
How well this honest mirth becomes their labor!
Hark you, sir; do you know where ye are?
Why, I’ll tell you. This is call’d Pentapolis, and our king the good Simonides.
The good Simonides, do you call him?
Ay, sir, and he deserves so to be call’d for his peaceable reign and good government.
He is a happy king, since he gains from his subjects the name of good by his government. How far is his court distant from this shore?
Marry, sir, half a day’s journey. And I’ll tell you, he hath a fair daughter, and tomorrow is her birthday, and there are princes and knights come from all parts of the world to just and tourney for her love.
Were my fortunes equal to my desires, I could wish to make one there.
O, sir, things must be as they may; and what a man cannot get, he may lawfully deal for his wive’s soul.
Enter the two other Fishermen drawing up a net.
Help, master, help! Here’s a fish hangs in the net, like a poor man’s right in the law; ’twill hardly come out. Ha, bots on’t, ’tis come at last, and ’tis turn’d to a rusty armor.
An armor, friends? I pray you let me see it.
Thanks, Fortune, yet, that after all thy crosses,
Thou givest me somewhat to repair myself;
And though it was mine own, part of my heritage,
Which my dead father did bequeath to me,
With this strict charge, even as he left his life,
“Keep it, my Pericles, it hath been a shield
’Twixt me and death”—and pointed to this brace—
“For that it sav’d me, keep it. In like necessity—
The which the gods protect thee from!—may defend thee.”
It kept where I kept, I so dearly lov’d it,
Till the rough seas, that spares not any man,
Took it in rage, though calm’d have given’t again.
I thank thee for’t. My shipwrack now’s no ill,
Since I have here my father gave in his will.
What mean you, sir?
To beg of you, kind friends, this coat of worth,
For it was sometime target to a king;
I know it by this mark. He loved me dearly,
And for his sake I wish the having of it;
And that you’d guide me to your sovereign’s court,
Where with it I may appear a gentleman;
And if that ever my low fortunes better,
I’ll pay your bounties; till then, rest your debtor.
Why, wilt thou tourney for the lady?
I’ll show the virtue I have borne in arms.
Why, d’ ye take it, and the gods give thee good an’t!
Ay, but hark you, my friend, ’twas we that made up this garment through the rough seams of the waters. There are certain condolements, certain vails. I hope, sir, if you thrive, you’ll remember from whence you had them.
Believe’t, I will.
By your furtherance I am cloth’d in steel,
And, spite of all the rapture of the sea,
This jewel holds his building on my arm.
Unto thy value I will mount myself
Upon a courser, whose delightful steps
Shall make the gazer joy to see him tread.
Only, my friend, I yet am unprovided
Of a pair of bases.
We’ll sure provide. Thou shalt have my best gown to make thee a pair; and I’ll bring thee to the court myself.
Then honor be but a goal to my will,
This day I’ll rise, or else add ill to ill.