Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
The Cupbearers Dilemma: Whether to Poison the Kings Guest, or to Vex the King
By Robert Greene (15581592)
From Pandosto, the Triumph of Time
AH,1 Franion, treason is loved of many, but the traitor hated of all; unjust offences may for a time escape without danger, but never without revenge. Thou art servant to a king, and must obey at command; yet, Franion, against law and conscience, it is not good to resist a tyrant with arms, nor to please an unjust king with obedience. What shalt thou do? Folly refused gold, and frenzy preferment; wisdom seeketh after dignity, and counsel keepeth for gain. Egistus is a stranger to thee, and Pandosto thy sovereign: thou hast little cause to respect the one, and oughtest to have great care to obey the other. Think this, Franion, that a pound of gold is worth a tun of lead, great gifts are little gods, and preferment to a mean man is a whetstone to courage; there is nothing sweeter than promotion, nor lighter than report: care not then though most count thee a traitor, so all call thee rich. Dignity, Franion, advanceth thy posterity, and evil report can but hurt thyself. Know this, where eagles build, falcons may prey; where lions haunt, foxes may steal. Kings are known to command, servants are blameless to consent: fear not thou then to lift at Egistus, Pandosto shall bear the burden. Yea, but, Franion, conscience is a worm that ever biteth, but never ceaseth: that which is rubbed with the stone Galactites will never be hot. Flesh dipped in the Sea Ægeum will never be sweet: the herb Trigion being once bit with an asp, never groweth: and conscience once stained with innocent blood, is always tied to a guilty remorse. Prefer thy content before riches, and a clear mind before dignity: so being poor, thou shalt have rich peace, or else rich, thou shalt enjoy disquiet.
Note 1. The Cupbearers Dilemma. Pandosto, king of Bohemia, husband to Bellaria, is jealous of Egistus, king of Sicily, and endeavours to make his cupbearer, Franion, poison him. The extract is Franions soliloquy. [back]