MIRROR FOR MAGISTRATES: A PRIMARY SOURCE MATERIAL FOR WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE'S KING LEAR
Cordila shewes how by despaire when she was in prison she slue herselfe. The yeare before Christ. 800.
If any wofull wight have cause, to waile her woe;
Or griefes are past do pricke us princes tel our fal:
My selfe likewyse must needes constrained eke do so,
And shew my like misfortunes and mishaps withall.
Should I keepe close my heavy haps and thrall?
Then did I wrong: I wrongde my selfe and thee,
Which of my facts, a witnes true maist bee.
A woman yet must blushe when bashfull is the case,
Though truth bid tell the tale and story as it fell:
But sith that I mislike not audience, time, nor place
Therefore, I cannot still keepe in my counsaile well:
No greater ease of hart then griefes to tell,
It daunteth all the dolours of our minde,
Our carefull hartes thereby great comfort finde.
For why to tell that may recounted be againe,
And tell it as our eares may compasse ease:
That is the salve and medicine of our paine,
Which cureth corsies all and sores of our disease:
It doth our pinching panges, and paines apease:
It pleades the part of an assured frende,
And telles the trade, like vices to amende.
Therefore if I more willing be to tell my fall,
And shew mishaps to ease my burdened brest and minde:
That others haply may avoide and shunne like thrall,
And thereby in distresse more ayde and comfort finde.
They maye keepe measure where as I declinde,
And willing be to flye like bruite and blame:
As I to tell, or thou to wryte the same.
For sith I see thee prest to heare that wilt recorde,
What I Cordila tell to ease my inward smart:
I will recite my storie tragicall ech worde,
To thee that giv'st an eare to heare and ready art,
And lest I set the horse behinde the cart,
I minde to tell eche thinge in order so,
As thou maiste see and shewe whence sprang my wo.
My grandsyre Bladud hight, that found the Bathes by skill,
A fethered king that practisde for to flye and soare:
Whereby he felt the fall God wot against his will,
And never went, roade, raignde nor spake, nor flew no more.
Who dead his sonne my father Leire therefore,
Was chosen king, by right apparent heyre,
Which after built the towne of Leicestere.
He had three daughters, first the eldest hight Gonerell:
Next after hir, my sister Ragan was begote:
The third and last was, I the yongest namde Cordell,
And of us all, our father Leire in age did dote.
So minding hir that lov'de him best to note,
Because he had no sonne t'enjoye his lande:
He thought to give, where favoure most he fande.
What though I youngest were, yet men me judgde more wise
Then either Gonorell, or Ragan had more age,
And fairer farre: wherefore my sisters did despise
My grace, and giftes, and sought my prayse t'aswage:
But yet though vice gainst vertue die with rage,
It cannot keepe her underneth to drowne,
But still she flittes above, and reapes renowne.
Yet nathelesse, my father did me not mislike:
But age so simple is, and easy to subdue:
As childhode weake, thats voide of wit and reason quite:
They thinke thers nought, you flatter fainde, but all is true:
Once olde and twyse a childe, tis said with you,
Which I affirme by proofe, that was definde:
In age my father had a childishe minde.
He thought to wed us unto nobles three, or Peres:
And unto them and theirs, devide and part the lande:
For both my sisters first he sent as first their yeares
Requirde their mindes, and love, and favour t'understand.
(Quoth he) all doubtes of duty to abande,
I must assaye and eke your frendships prove:
Now tell me eche how much you do me love.
Which when they aunswered, they lov'de him well and more
Then they themselves did love, or any worldly wight:
He praised them and sayd he would agayne therefore,
The loving kindnes they deserv'de in fine requite:
So founde my sisters favour in his sight,
By flattery fayre they won their fathers hart:
Which after turned, him and mee to smart.
But not content with this he minded me to prove,
For why he wonted was to love me wonders wel:
How much dost thou (q he) Cordile thy father love?
I wil (sayd I) at once my love declare and tell:
I lov'de you ever as my father well,
No otherwyse, if more to know you crave:
We love you chiefly for the goodes you have.
Thus much I said, the more their flattery to detect,
But he me aunswered therunto again with Ire,
Because thou dost thy fathers aged yeare neglect,
That lov'de the more of late then thy deserts require,
Thou never shalt, to any part aspire
Of this my realme, emong thy sisters twayne,
But ever shalt undotid ay remayne.
Then to the king of Albany for wife he gave
My sister Gonerell, the eldest of us all:
And eke my sister Ragan for Hinnine to have,
Which then was Prince of Camber and Cornwall:
These after him should have his kingdome all
Betwene them both, he gave it franke and free:
But nought at all, he gave of dowry mee.
At last it chaunst the king of Fraunce to here my fame,
My beuty brave, was blazed al abrode eche where:
And eke my vertues praisde me to my fathers blame
Did for my sisters flattery me lesse favour beare.
Which when this worthy king my wrongs did heare,
He sent ambassage likte me more then life,
T'intreate he might me have to be his wife.
My father was content with all his harte, and sayde,
He gladly should obtaine his whole request at will
Concerning me, if nothing I herin denayde:
But yet he kept by their intisment hatred still
(Quoth he) your prince his pleasure to fulfill,
I graunt and give my daughter as you crave:
But nought of me for dowry can she have.
King Aganippus well agreed to take me so,
Hee deemde that vertue was of dowries all the best:
And I contentid was to Fraunce my father fro
For to depart, & hoapte t'enjoye some greater rest.
I maried was, and then my joyes encreaste,
I gate more favoure in this Prince his sight,
Then ever Princesse of a princely wight.
But while that I these joyes enjoyd, at home in Fraunce,
My father Leire in Britayne waxed aged olde,
My sisters yet them selves the more aloft t'advaunce,
Thought well they might, be by his leave, or sans so bolde,
To take the realme & rule it as they wolde.
They rose as rebels voyde of reason quite,
And they depriv'de him of his crowne and right.
Then they agreed, it should be into partes equall
Devided: and my father threscore knightes & squires
Should alwayes have, attending on him still at call.
But in sixe monthes so much encreasid hateful Ires,
That Gonerell denyde all his desires,
So halfe his garde she and her husband refte:
And scarce alowde the other halfe they lefte.
Eke as in Scotlande thus he lay lamenting fates,
When as his daughter so, sought all his utter spoyle:
The meaner upstarte gentles, thought themselves his mates
And better eke, see here an aged Prince his foyle.
Then was he fayne for succoure his, to toyle,
With all his knightes, to Cornewall there to lye:
In greatest nede, his Ragans love to trie.
And when he came to Cornwall, Ragan then with joye,
Received him and eke hir husband did the like:
There he abode a yeare and liv'de without anoy,
But then they tooke, all his retinue from him quite
Save only ten, and shewde him dayly spite,
Which he bewailde complaining durst not strive,
Though in disdayne they laste alowde but five.
On this he deemde him selfe was far that tyme unwyse,
When from his doughter Gonerell to Ragan hee:
Departed erste yet eache did him poore king despise,
Wherfore to Scotlande once againe with hir to bee
And bide he went: but beastly cruell shee,
Bereav'de him of his servauntes all save one,
Bad him content himselfe with that or none.
Eke at what time he askte of eache to have his garde,
To garde his grace where so he walkte or wente:
They calde him doting foole and all his hestes debarde,
Demaunded if with life he could not be contente.
Then he to late his rigour did repente,
Gainst me and sayde, Cordila nowe adieu:
I finde the wordes thou toldste me to to true.
And to be short, to Fraunce he came alone to mee,
And tolde me how my sisters him our father usde
Then I besought my king with teares upon my knee,
That he would aide my father thus by them misusde
Who nought at all my humble heste refusde:
But sent to every coaste of Fraunce for ayde,
Wherwith my father home might be conveide.
The soldiours gathered from eche quarter of the land,
Came at the length to know the king his mind & will
Who did commit them to my fathers aged hand,
And I likewise of love and reverent mere goodwill
Desirde my king, he would not take it ill,
If I departed for a space withall:
To take a parte, or ease my fathers thrall.
This had: I partid with my father from my fere,
We came to Britayne with our royal campe to fight:
And manly fought so long our enemies vanquisht were
By martial feates, & force by subjects sword & might.
The Brityshe kinges were faine to yelde our right,
And so my father well this realme did guide,
Three yeares in peace and after that he dide.
Then I at Leircester in Janus temple made,
His tombe and buried there his kingly regall corse,
As sondry tymes in life before he often bade:
For of our fathers will we then did greatly force,
We had of conscience eke so much remorce,
That we supposde those childrens lives to ill,
Which brake their fathers testament, and will.
And I was Queene the kingdome after stil to holde,
Till five yeares past I did this Iland guyde:
I had the Britaynes at what becke and bay I wolde,
Till that my loving king myne Aganippus dyde.
But then my seate it faltered on eache syde,
Two churlishe Impes began with me to Jarre,
And for my crowne wagde with mee mortal warre.
The one hight Morgan th'elder sonne of Gonerell
My sister, and that other Conidagus hight
My sister Ragans sonne, that lov'de me never well:
Both nephewes mine, yet wolde against mee Cordell fight,
Because I lov'de always that semed right:
Therefore they hated mee, and did pursue,
Their aunte and Queene as she had bene a Jewe.
This Morgane was that time the Prince of Albany,
And Conidagus king of Cornewale and of Wales:
Both which, at once provided their artillery,
To worke me wofull wo, & mine adherentes bales:
What nede I fill thyne eares with longer tales?
They did prevayle by might and powre so fast
That I was taken prisoner at last.
In spitefull sorte, they used then my captive corse,
No favour shewde to me, extincte was mine estate.
Of kindred, princesse bloud, or pere was no remorce,
But as an abjecte vile and worse they did me hate,
To lie in darksome dongeon was my fate:
As t'were a thiefe mine aunswers to abide,
Gainst right and justice, under Jaylours guyde.
For libertie at lengthe I suid, to subjectes were:
But they kept me in pryson close devoyde of truste,
If I might once escape, they were in dreade and feare,
Their fawning frendes with me would prove untrue & just.
They told me take it paciently I must,
And be contented that I had my life:
Sith with their mothers I began the strife.
Whereby I sawe might nothing me prevaile to pray,
Or pleade, or prove, defende, excuse or pardon crave.
They herde me not, despisde my plaintes, sought my decay,
I might no law, nor love, nor right, nor justice have:
No frendes, no faith, nor pitie could me save:
But I was from all hope of licence barde,
Condemde my cause like never to be herde.
Was ever lady in such wofull wreckfull wo:
Depriv'de of princely powre, bereft of libertie,
Depriv'de in all these worldly pompes, hir pleasures fro,
And brought from wealthe, to nede, distresse, and misery?
From palace proude, in prison poore to lye:
From kingdomes twayne, to dungion one no more:
From Ladies wayting, unto vermine store.
From light to darke, from holsom ayre to lothsom smell:
From odewr swete, to sweate: from ease, to grievous payne:
From sight of princely wights, to place where theves do dwell:
From deinty beddes of downe, to be of strawe full fayne:
From bowres of heavenly hewe, to dennes of dayne:
From greatest haps, that worldly wightes atchieve:
To more distresse then any wretche alive.
When first I left the crowne of Fraunce, did me exalte,
And eke my noble king, myne Aganippus true:
And came to England for their heynous factes, and faulte:
Which from his right and kingdom quite our father threw,
To take this realme, to raigne and treason knew:
I thinke of all mysfortunes was the worste,
Or else I deeme, was some of us accurste.
For marke my haplesse fall that drawes at length to ende,
As in this pryson vile, on live I lingering laye:
When I had mourned long, but founde no faithfull frende
That could me helpe, or ayde, or comforte any way,
Was serv'de at meate, as those their kings betray,
With fare God wot was simple, bare and thinne,
Could not sustayne the corps it entred in.
And when the sighes, & teares, & plaintes nigh burst my hart,
And place, and stenche and fare nighe poysond every pore:
For lacke of frendes to tell my seas of gritlesse smarte,
And that mine eyes had sworne to take swete slepe no more,
I was content sith cares opprest me sore,
To leave my foode, take mourning plaintes & crie,
And lay me downe, let griefe and nature trie.
Thus as I pyning lay my carkas on couch of straw,
And felt that payne erst never creature earthly knew:
Me thought by night a gryzely ghost in darkes I sawe,
Eke nerer still to me with stealing steps she drewe.
She was of coloure pale, a deadly hewe:
Hir clothes resembled thousand kindes of thrall,
And pictures playne, of hastened deathes withall.
I musing lay in paynes and wondred what she was,
Mine eye stode still, myne haire rose up for feare an ende.
My fleshe it shoke and trembled: yet I cryde alasse,
What wight art thou, a foe or else what fawning frende?
If death thou art, I praye thee make an ende.
But th'arte not death: art thou some fury sente?
My wofull corps with paynes to more tormente?
With that she spake: I am (q she) thy frend Despaire
Which in distresse eache worldly wight with spede do ayde:
I rid them from their foes, if I to them repayre,
To long from thee by other caytives was I stayde.
Now if thou arte to die no whit affrayde,
Here shalt thou choose of instrumentes, beholde:
Shall ridde thy restlesse life, of this be bolde.
And therwithall she spred her garmentes lap asyde,
Under the which a thousand thinges I sawe with eyes:
Both knyves, sharpe swordes, poynadoes all bedyde
With bloud, and poysons prest which she could well devise.
There is no hope (q she) for thee to ryse,
And get thy crowne or libertie againe:
But for to live, long lasting pining payne.
Loe here (q she) the blade that Did' of Carthage highte,
Whereby she was from thousand panges of paine let passe:
With this shee slewe her self, after Aeneas flighte:
When he to sea from Tyrian shores departed was,
Do chouse of these thou seest from woes to passe,
Or bid the ende prolonge thy painefull dayes,
And I am pleasde from thee to get my wayes.
With that was I (poore wretche) content to take the knife,
But doubtfull yet to dye, and fearefull faine would bide:
So still I laye in study with my selfe at bate and strife,
What thing were best of both these deepe extreames untride.
My hope all reasons of dispayre denide,
And she againe replide to prove it best
To die, for still in life my woes increast.
She calde to minde the joyes in Fraunce I whilom had:
She tolde me what a troupe of Ladies was my trayne,
And how the Lordes of Fraunce & Britaynes both were glad,
Of late to wayte on mee and subjects all were fayne,
She tould I had bin Queene of kingdomes twayne,
And how my nephewes had my seate and crowne:
I could not ryse, for ever fallen downe.
A thousand thinges, beside recited then dispaire:
She tould the woes in warres that I had heapt of late:
Rehearst the pryson vile, in steede of Pallace faire:
My lodging low and mouldy meates my mouth did hate,
She shewde me all the dongeon where I sate,
The dankeishe walles, the darkes and bad me smell:
And bide the savour if I like it well.
Whereby I wretch devoyde of comfort quite and hope,
And pleasures past comparde with present paynes I had:
For fatall knife slipt forth my fearfull hand did grope,
Dispaire in this to ayde my senselesse limmes was glad,
And gave the blade to ende my woes she bad.
I will (quoth I) but first with all my hart:
Ile pray the Gods, revenge my wofull smart.
If any wronge deserve the wrecke I pray you skyes,
And starres of light, if you my wofull plight do rue:
O Phoebus cleare I thee beseech and praye likewyse,
Beare witnes of my plaints well knowne to Gods are true.
You see from whence these injuries they grue,
Then let like vengeaunce hap and light on those
Which undeserved were my deadly foes.
God graunt a mortall strife betwene them both may fall,
That one the other may without remorse distroye:
That Conidagus may, his cosin Morgan thrall,
Because he first decreast my wealth, bereft my joye.
I praye you Gods be never he a Roy,
But caitife may be payde with such a frende:
As shortly may him bring, to sodayne ende.
Farewell my Realme of Fraunce, farewell Adieu:
Adieu mes nobles tous, and England now farewell:
Farewell Madames my Ladies, car ie suis pardu:
Il me fault aler desespoir m' adonne conseil
De me tuer, no more your Queene farewell.
My nephewes mee oppresse with maine and might,
A captive poore, against justice all and right.
And therewithal the sight did faile my dazeling eyne,
I nothing sawe save sole Dispaire bad mee dispatch,
Whom I behelde, she caught the knife from mee I weene,
And by hir elbowe carian death for me did watch.
Come on (quoth I) thou hast a goodly catch,
And therewithal Dispaire the stroke did strike:
Whereby I dyde, a damned creature like.
Which I alasse lament, bid those alive beware,
Let not the losse of goodes or honour them constrayne:
To play the fooles, and take such carefull carke and care,
Or to dispaire for any pryson pine and payne.
If they be giltlesse let them so remayne,
Farre greater folly is it for to kill,
Themselves dispayring, then is any ill.
Sith first thereby their enmies have, that they desire:
By which they prove to deadly foes unwares a frende:
And next they cannot live, to former blisse t'aspyre
If God do bring their foes in time to sodayne ende:
They lastly as the damned wretches sende,
Their soules to hell, when as they undertake
To kill a corps: which God did lively make.