Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. I. Fourteenth to Sixteenth Century
 
Bellaria’s Babe
By Robert Greene (1558–1592)
 
From Pandosto, the Triumph of Time

YET 1 at last (seeing his noblemen were importunate upon him) he (Pandosto) was content to spare the child’s life, and yet to put it to a worse death. For he found out this device, that seeing (as he thought) it came by fortune, so he would commit it to the charge of Fortune, and therefore caused a little cock-boat to be provided, wherein he meant to put the babe, and then send it to the mercies of the seas, and the destinies. From this his peers in no wise could persuade him, but that he sent presently two of his guard to fetch the child: who being come to the prison, and with weeping tears recounting their master’s message, Bellaria no sooner heard the rigorous resolution of her merciless husband, but she fell down in a swound, so that all thought she had been dead; yet at last being come to herself, she cried and screeched out in this wise.
  1
  “Alas, sweet unfortunate babe, scarce born, before envied by fortune, would the day of thy birth had been the term of thy life: then shouldest thou have made an end to care, and prevented thy father’s rigour. Thy faults cannot yet deserve such hateful revenge, thy days are too short for so sharp a doom; but thy untimely death must pay thy mother’s debts, and her guiltless crime must be thy ghastly curse. And shalt thou, sweet Babe, be committed to Fortune, when thou art already spited by Fortune? Shall the seas be thy harbour, and the hard boat thy cradle? Shall thy tender mouth, instead of sweet kisses, be nipped with bitter storms? Shalt thou have the whistling winds for thy lullaby, and the salt sea foam instead of sweet milk? Alas, what destinies would assign such hard hap? What father would be so cruel? Or what gods will not revenge such rigour? Let me kiss thy lips, sweet infant, and wet thy tender cheeks with my tears, and put this chain about thy little neck, that if fortune save thee, it may help to succour thee. Thus, since thou must go to surge in the gastful 2 seas, with a sorrowful kiss I bid thee farewell, and I pray the gods thou mayest fare well.”  2
  Such, and so great was her grief, that her vital spirits being suppressed with sorrow, she fell again down into a trance, having her senses so sotted 3 with care, that after she was revived yet she lost her memory, and lay for a great time without moving, as one in a trance. The guard left her in this perplexity, and carried the child to the king, who, quite devoid of pity, commanded that without delay it should be put in the boat, having neither sail nor rudder to guide it, and so to be carried into the midst of the sea, and there left to the wind and wave as the destinies, please to appoint. The very shipmen, seeing the sweet countenance of the young babe, began to accuse the king of rigour, and to pity the child’s hard fortune: but fear constrained them to that which their nature did abhor; so that they placed it in one of the ends of the boat, and with a few green boughs made a homely cabin to shroud it as they could from wind and weather: having thus trimmed the boat, they tied it to a ship, and so haled it into the main sea, and then cut in sunder the cord; which they had no sooner done, but there arose a mighty tempest, which tossed the little boat so vehemently in the waves, that the shipmen thought it could not continue long without sinking, yea the storm grew so great, that with much labour and peril they got to the shore.  3
 
Note 1. Bellaria’s babe.  Bellaria, imprisoned by her husband, gives birth in prison to a child, and Pandosto, in spite of his nobles’ entreaties, condemns both to death. [back]
Note 2. gastful = frightful. [back]
Note 3. sotted = besotted (sopitus). [back]
 
 
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