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  Vortigern Studies > Vortigern > Art & Literature > Play 3 > Act 5, scene 2

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home l prologues l personae l act 1 l act 2 l act 3 l act 4 l act 5 l epilogue
scene 1 l scene 2 l scene 3 l scene 4

SCENE II. - CAESAR'S TOWER.

Enter 1st .Baron and Officer.

Bar. Is the King yet safe ?

Off. He is, my lord.

Bar. Are many troops with us ?

Off. Two thousand, full well arm'd; and braver men
Ne'er buckled on their limbs the glitt'ring steel.
0! what a sight it was to see the King !
No sooner had he reach'd the bridge, but firm,
And with a voice that rung each coward heart,
He hail'd them to come on. Here, then, he stood:
In his right hand griping his massy axe,
Whilst with the left he held the brazen chain;
Nor did he budge, until each hardy soldier
Safely within the walls had enter'd:
Then, waving thrice his cased hand in air,
And, with a nod that spread pale fear around,
And seem'd to animate his bloody plume,
Triumphantly, he bade them all defiance;
Then, slowly turning, with a horrid frown,
Soldiers! he cried, soldiers! break down tlie draw-bridge.
Like hail, in flight, we pour'd on them our arrows,
Until their blood had stain'd the moat around us
But look, my lord, here comes tlie King.

Enter VORTIGERN.

Vor. Why stand ye here, like fools, catching the air?
What! think ye this to be your mistress' chamber?

Bar. My gracious prince, we wait your orders here.

Vor. Then fight, I say.
Go, get you hence.

Bar. I'm all obedience.

Vor. No, no; thou must stay here: thou'rt my sole prop.
I sicken fast, and 'gin again to flag.
Pour forth, I pray thee now, some flatt'ring words,
For I am weary, and my lamp of life
Doth sadly linger, and would fain go out;
For, look you, my poor soul is sore diseased.

Bar. Courage, my noble sir.

Vor. Time was, alas! I needed not this spur.
But here's a secret and a stinging thorn,
That wounds my troubl'd nerves. 0! conscience! conscience !
When thou didst cry, I strove to stop thy mouth,
By boldly thrusting on thee dire ambition:
Then did I think myself, indeed, a god!
But I was sore deceiv'd; for as I passed,
And traversed in proud triumph the Basse-court,
There I saw death, clad in most hideous colours:
A sight it was, that did appal my soul;
Yea, curdled thick this mass of blood within me.
Full fifty breathless bodies struck my sight;
And some, with gaping mouths, did seem to mock me;
While others, smiling in cold death itself,
Scoffingly bade me look on that, which soon
Would wrench from off my brow this sacred crown,
And make me, too, a subject like themselves:
Subject! to whom? To thee, 0! sovereign death!
That hast for thy domain this world immense :
Church-yards and charnel-houses are thy haunts,
And hospitals thy sumptuous palaces;
And, when thou wouldst be merry, thou dost choose
The gaudy chamber of a dying King.
0! then thou dost ope wide thy boney jaws,
And, with rude laughter and fantastic tricks,
Thou clapp'st thy rattling fingers to thy sides:
And when this solemn mockery is o'er,
With icy hand thou tak'st him by the feet,
And upward so, till thou dost reach the heart,
And wrap him in the cloak of lasting night.
[1]

Bar. Let not, my lord, your thoughts sink you thus low;
But, be advis'd; for, should your gallant troops
Behold you thus, they might fall sick with fear.

Enter an Officer.

Off. My lord! my lord!

Vor. Wherefore dost tremble thus, paper-fac'd knave ?
What news should make thee break thus rudely in?

Off. Indeed, indeed, I fear to tell you, sir.

Vor. Speak, vassal, speak! my soul defies thy tongue.

0ff. Your newly married Queen -

Vor. Speak, what of her?

Off. My lord, she hath ta'en poison, and is dead.

Vor. Nay, shrink not from me now; be not afraid:
There lie, my sword! and with it all my hopes.

Lord. Yet we may hope -

Vor. 0! friend, let not thy tongue delude with hope :
Too long against th' Almighty have I fought.
Hope now is vain1 will hear none on't.

Off. Yet is the breach not made, and we are strong;
Still we may out, my lord, and beat them off.

Vor. Can wicked souls e'er stand before the just;
Can strength outweigh the mighty hand of God?
No, no; never, never! 0! repentance,
Why dost thou linger thus to ask admittance?
Thou com'st, alas! too late; thou'rt stale and nauseous.
Where, where is now the good, old murder'd king ?
In fields of bliss, where guilty souls ne'er' come.

Enter another Officer.

2nd Off. All, all is lost; the post is ta'en by storm:
The breach is made; they pour in fast upon us.

Vor. If it be so, then will I out and die:
Now aid, ye gods! but if ye will not hear,
E'en, then, on hell I call again for succour!
My friends have boldly stemm'd this tide of war;
And shall I flinch at last, and play the woman ?
Let any but Aurelius meet my arm,
And this my sword shall ope a gate so wide,
That the imprisoned soul shall take its flight,
And either seek the murder'd king above,
Or down and join me in the pit below. [Exeunt.

Notes

[1] A fac-simile of the forged MS. of the above speech faces the title.

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