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Before the Palace of ANTIOCH.
To sing a song of old was sung,
From ashes ancient Gower is come;
Assuming man's infirmities,
To glad your ear, and please your eye.
It hath been sung at festivals,
On ember-eves, and holy ales;
And lords and ladies of their lives
Have read it for restoratives:
'Purpose to make men glorious;
Et quo antiquius, eb melius.
If you, born in these latter times,
When wit's more ripe, accept my rhymes,
And that to hear an old man sing,
May to your wishes pleasure bring,
I life would wish, and that I might
Waste it for you, like taper-light.-
This city then, Antioch the great
Built up for his chiefest seat;
The fairest in all Syria
(I tell you what mine authors say):
This king unto him took a pheere,
Who died and left a female heir,
So buxom, blithe, and full of face,
As heaven had lent her all his grace;
With whom the father liking took,
And her to incest did provoke:
Bad father! to entice his own
To evil, should be done by none.
By custom, what they did begin,
Was, with long use, account no sin.
The beauty of this sinful dame,
Made many princes thither frame,
To seek her as a bedfellow,
In marriage-pleasures playfellow:
Which to prevent, he made a law
(To keep her still, and men in awe),
That whoso ask'd her for his wife,
His riddle told not, lost his life:
So for her many a wight did die,
As yon grim looks do testify.
What now ensues, to the judgment of your eye
I give, my cause who best can justify.
SCENE 1. ANTIOCH. A Room in the Palace.
Enter ANTIOCHUS, PERICLES, and Attendants. Ant. Young prince of Tyre, you have at large receiv'd
The danger of the task you undertake.
Per. I have, Antiochus, and with a soul Embolden'd with the glory of her praise, Think death no hazard, in this enterprise.
Ant. Bring in our daughter, clothed like a bride,
For the embracements even of Jove himself;
At whose conception (till Lucina reign'd),
Nature this dowry gave, to glad her presence,
The senate-house of planets all did sit,
To knit in her their best perfections.
Enter the Daughter of ANTIOCHUS.
Per. See, where she comes, apparell'd like the spring,
Graces her subjects, and her thoughts the king
Of every virtue gives renown to men!
Her face, the book of praises, where is read
Nothing but curious pleasures, as from thence
Sorrow were ever rais'd, and testy wrath
Could never be her mild companion.
Ye gods that made me man, and sway in love,
That have inflam'd desire in my breast,
To taste the fruit of yon celestial tree,
Or die in the adventure, be my helps,
As I am son and servant to your will,
To compass such a boundless happiness!
Ant. Prince Pericles,
Per. That would be son to great Antiochus.
Ant. Before thee stands this fair Hesperides,
With golden fruit, but dangerous to be touch'd;
For death-like dragons here affright thee hard:
Her face, like heaven, enticeth thee to view
A countless glory, which desert must gain:
And which, without desert, because thine eye
Presumes to reach, all thy whole heap must die.
Yon sometime famous princes, like thyself,
Drawn by report, advent'rous by desire,
Tell thee with speechless tongues, and semblance pale,
That, without covering, save yon field of stars,
They here stand martyrs, slain in Cupid's wars;
And with dead cheeks advise thee to desist,
For going on death's act, whom none resist.
Per. Antiochus, I thank thee, who hath taught
My frail mortality to know itself,
And by those fearful objects to prepare
This body, like to them, to what I must:
For death remember'd, should be like a mirror,
Who tells us, life's but breath; to trust it, error.
I'll make my will then; and as sick men do,
Who know the world, see heaven, but feeling woe,
Gripe not at earthly joys, as erst they did;
So I bequeath a happy peace to you,
And all good men, as every prince should do;
My riches to the earth, from whence they came;
But my unspotted fire of love to you.
[To the Daughter of Antiochus.
Thus ready for the way of life or death,
I wait the sharpest blow, Antiochus,
Read the conclusion, then; Which read and not expounded, 'tis decreed, As these before thee, thou thyself shalt bleed. Daugh. In all, save that, may'st thou prove prosperous! In all, save that, I wish thee happiness!
Per. Like a bold champion, I assume the lists, Nor ask advice of any other thought
But faithfulness, and courage.
[He reads the Riddle.]
1 am no viper, yet I feed
On mother's flesh, which did me breed:
1 sought a husband, in which labour,
I found that kindness in a father.
He's father, son, and husband mild,
I mother, wife, and yet his child.
How they may be, and yet in two,
As you will live, resolve it you.
Sharp physic is the last: but, O you powers!
That give heaven countless eyes to view men's acts,
Why cloud they not their sights perpetually,
If this be true, which makes me pale to read it?
Fair glass of light, I lov'd you, and could still,
[Takes hold of the Hand of the Princess.
Were not this glorious casket stor'd with ill:
But I must tell you,-now, my thoughts revolt;
For he's no man on whom perfections wait,
That knowing sin within, will touch the gate.
You're a fair viol, and your sense the strings:
Who, finger'd to make man his lawful music,
Would draw heaven down, and all the gods to hearken;
But, being play'd upon before your time,
Hell only danceth at so harsh a chime:
Good sooth, I care not for you.
Ant. Prince Pericles, touch not, upon thy life,
For that's an article within our law,
As dangerous as the rest. Your time's expir'd;
Either expound now, or receive your sentence.
Per. Great king,
Few love to hear the sins they love to act;
Twould 'braid yourself too near for me to tell it.
Who has a book of all that monarchs do,
He's more secure to keep it shut, than shown;
For vice repeated, is like the wand'ring wind,
Blows dust in others' eyes, to spread itself;
And yet the end of all is bought thus dear,
The breath is gone, and the sore eyes see clear:
To stop the air would hurt them. The blind mole casts
Copp'd hills towards heaven, to tell, the earth is wrong'd
By man's oppression; and the poor worm doth die for't,
Kings are earth's gods: in vice their law's their will;
And if Jove stray, who dares say, Jove doth ill?
It is enough you know; and it is fit,
What being more known grows worse, to smother it.
All love the womb that their first beings bred,
Then give my tongue like leave to love my head.
Ant. Heaven, that I had thy head! he has found the
But I will gloze with him. [Aside] Young prince of
Though by the tenour of our strict edíct,
Your exposition misinterpreting,
We might proceed to cancel of your days;
Yet hope succeeding from so fair a tree
As your fair self, doth tune us otherwise:
Forty days longer we do respite you;
If by which time our secret be undone,
This mercy shows, we'll joy in such a son;
And until then, your entertain shall be,
As doth befit our honour, and your worth.
[Exeunt Ant. his Daugh, and Attend.
Per. How courtesy would seem to cover sin!
When what is done is like an hypocrite,
The which is good in nothing but in sight.
If it be true that I interpret false,