[graphic][merged small]

WITH vexation for having so foolishly given away a kingdom, his wits began to be unsettled, and while he said he knew not what, he vowed revenge against his unnatural daughters, and to make examples of them that should be a terror to the earth.

While he was thus idly threatening what his weak arm could never execute, night came on, and a loud storm of thunder and lightning with rain: and his daughters still persisting in their resolution not to admit his followers, he called for his horse, and chose rather to encounter the utmost fury of the storm abroad, than stay under the same roof with these ungrateful daughters. And they, saying that the injuries which wilful men procure to themselves are their just punishment, suffered him to go in that condition, and shut their doors upon him.

The winds were high, and the rain and storm increased. when the old man sallied forth to combat the elements less sharp than his daughter's unkindness. For many

miles about there was scarce a bush; and there upon a heath, exposed to the fury of the storm, in a dark night, did king Lear wander out, and defy the winds and the thunder; and he bid the winds to blow the earth into the sea, or swell the waves of the sea till they drowned the earth, that no token might remain of such an ungrateful animal as man. The old king was now left with no other companion than the poor fool, who still abided with him, with his merry conceits striving to outjest misfortune, saying, it was but a naughty night to swim in, and truly the king had better go in, and ask his daughter's blessing:

But he that has a little tiny wit

With heigh, ho, the wind and the rain !
Must make content with his fortunes fit,

Though the rain it raineth every day: and swearing it was a brave night to cool a lady's pride.

Thus poorly accompanied, this once great monarch was found by his ever-faithful servant, the good Earl of Kent, now transformed to Caius, who ever followed close at his side, though the king did not know him to be the earl; and he said, “Alas! sir, are you here? creatures, that love night, love not such nights as these. This dreadful storm has driven the beasts to their hiding-places. Man's nature cannot endure the affliction or the fear.” And Lear rebuked him and said, these lesser evils were not felt, where a greater malady was fixed. When the mind is at ease the body has leisure to be delicate; but the tempest in his mind did take all feeling else from his senses, but of that which beat at heart. And he spoke of filial ingratitude, and said it was all one, as if the mouth should tear the hand for lifting food to it; for parents were hands, and food, and everything to children.

But the good Caius still persisting in his entreaties that the king would not stop in the open air, at last

[ocr errors]

persuaded him to enter a little wretched hovel which stood upon the heath, where the fool first entering, suddenly ran back terrified, saying that he had seen a spirit. But, upon examination, this spirit proved to be nothing more than a poor bedlam beggar, who had crept into this deserted hovel for shelter, and with his talk about devils, frightened the fool—one of those poor lunatics, who are either mad or feign to be so, the better to extort charity from the compassionate country people; who go about the country, calling themselves poor Tom and poor Turlygod, saying, “ Who gives anything to poor Tom ?” sticking pins and nails and sprigs of rosemary into their arms to make them bleed; and with such horrible actions, partly by prayers and partly with lunatic curses, they move or terrify the ignorant country-folks into giving them alms. This poor fellow was such a one; and the king seeing him in so wretched a plight, with nothing but a blanket about his loins to cover his nakedness, could not be persuaded, but that the fellow was some father who had given away all to his daughters, and brought himself to that pass; for nothing, he thought, could bring a man to such wretchedness but the having unkind daughters.

And from this and many such wild speeches which he uttered, the good Caius plainly perceived that he was not in his perfect mind, but that his daughters' ill-usage had really made him go mad. And now the loyalty of this worthy Earl of Kent showed itself in more essential services than he had hitherto found opportunity to perform. For, with the assistance of some of the king's attendants who remained loyal, he had the person of his royal master removed at daybreak to the castle of Dover, where his own friends and influence, as Earl of Kent, chiefly lay; and himself embarking for France, hastened to the court of Cordelia, and did there in such moving terms represent the pitiful condition of her royal father, and set out in such lively colours the inhumanity of her

sisters, that this good and loving child, with many tears besought the king, her husband, that he would give her leave to embark for England with a sufficient power to subdue these cruel daughters and their husbands, and restore the old king, her father, to his throne; which being granted, she set forth, and with a royal army landed at Dover.

Lear, having, by some chance, escaped from the guardians, which the good Earl of Kent had put over him to take care of him in his lunacy, was found by some of Cordelia’s train, wandering about the fields near Dover, in a pitiable condition, stark mad, and singing aloud to himself, with a crown upon his head which he had made of straw, and nettles, and other wild weeds that he had picked up in the cornfields. By the advice of the doctors, Cordelia, though earnestly desirous of seeing her father, was prevailed upon to put off the meeting till, by sleep and the operation of herbs which they gave him, he should be restored to greater composure. By the aid of these skilful doctors, to whom Cordelia promised all her gold and jewels for the recovery of the old king, Lear was soon in a condition co see his daughter. A tender sight it was to see the meeting between this father and daughter; to see the struggles between the joy of this poor old king at beholding again his once darling child, and the shame at receiving such filial kindness from her, whom he had cast off for so small a fault, in his displeasure; both these passions struggling with the remains of his malady, which in his half-crazed brain sometimes made him, that he scarcely remembered where he was, or who it was that so kindly kissed him and spoke to him; and then he would beg the standers-by not to laugh at him, if he were mistaken in thinking this lady to be his daughter Cordelia!

And then to see him fall on his knees to beg pardon of his child; and she, good lady, kneeling all the while

to ask a blessing from him, and telling him that it did not become him to kneel, but it was her duty, for she was his child, his true and very child, Cordelia! And she kissed him (as she said) to kiss away all her sisters' unkindness, and said that they might be ashamed of themselves, to turn their old kind father, with his white beard, out into the cold air, when her enemy's dog, though it had bit her (as she prettily expressed it), should have staid by her fire such a night as that, and warmed himself.

And she told her father, how she had come from France, on purpose to bring him assistance; and he said that she must forget and forgive, for he was old and foolish, and did not know what he did; but that to be sure she had great cause not to love him, but her sisters

And Cordelia said that she had no cause more than they had. So we will leave this old king in the protection of his dutiful and loving child, where, by the help of sleep and medicine, she and her physicians at length succeeded in winding up the untuned and jarring senses, which the cruelty of his other daughters had so violently shaken.—Lamb's Tales from Shalespeare.”

had none.



THRICE welcome, little English Flower:

My mother country's white and red,
In rose or lily, till this hour,

Never to me such beauty spread:
Transplanted from thine island-bed,

A treasure in a grain of earth,
Strange as a spirit from the dead,

Thine embryo sprang to earth.
Thrice welcome, little English Flower!

Whose tribes beneath our natal skies,
Shut close their leaves while vapours lower;

But, when the sun's gay beams arise,

« VorigeDoorgaan »