Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > Cymbeline
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William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
 
Cymbeline
 
Act V. Scene III.
 
Another Part of the Field.
 
Enter POSTHUMUS and a British Lord.
  Lord.  Cam’st thou from where they made the stand?
  Post.        I did:
Though you, it seems, come from the fliers.        5
  Lord.        I did.
  Post.  No blame be to you, sir; for all was lost,
But that the heavens fought. The king himself
Of his wings destitute, the army broken,
And but the backs of Britons seen, all flying        10
Through a strait lane; the enemy full-hearted,
Lolling the tongue with slaughtering, having work
More plentiful than tools to do ’t, struck down
Some mortally, some slightly touch’d, some falling
Merely through fear; that the strait pass was damm’d        15
With dead men hurt behind, and cowards living
To die with lengthen’d shame.
  Lord.        Where was this lane?
  Post.  Close by the battle, ditch’d, and wall’d with turf;
Which gave advantage to an ancient soldier,        20
An honest one, I warrant; who deserv’d
So long a breeding as his white beard came to,
In doing this for his country; athwart the lane,
He, with two striplings,—lads more like to run
The country base than to commit such slaughter,—        25
With faces fit for masks, or rather fairer
Than those for preservation cas’d, or shame,
Made good the passage; cried to those that fled,
‘Our Britain’s harts die flying, not our men:
To darkness fleet souls that fly backwards. Stand!        30
Or we are Romans, and will give you that
Like beasts which you shun beastly, and may save,
But to look back in frown: stand, stand!’ These three,
Three thousand confident, in act as many,—
For three performers are the file when all        35
The rest do nothing,—with this word, ‘Stand, stand!’
Accommodated by the place, more charming
With their own nobleness,—which could have turn’d
A distaff to a lance,—gilded pale looks,
Part shame, part spirit renew’d; that some, turn’d coward        40
But by example,—O! a sin of war,
Damn’d in the first beginners,—’gan to look
The way that they did, and to grin like lions
Upon the pikes o’ the hunters. Then began
A stop i’ the chaser, a retire, anon,        45
A rout, confusion thick; forthwith they fly
Chickens, the way which they stoop’d eagles; slaves,
The strides they victors made. And now our cowards—
Like fragments in hard voyages—became
The life o’ the need; having found the back door open        50
Of the unguarded hearts, Heavens! how they wound;
Some slain before; some dying; some their friends
O’er-borne i’ the former wave; ten, chas’d by one,
Are now each one the slaughter-man of twenty;
Those that would die or ere resist are grown        55
The mortal bugs o’ the field.
  Lord.        This was strange chance:
A narrow lane, an old man, and two boys!
  Post.  Nay, do not wonder at it; you are made
Rather to wonder at the things you hear        60
Than to work any. Will you rime upon ’t,
And vent it for a mockery? Here is one:
‘Two boys, an old man twice a boy, a lane,
Preserv’d the Britons, was the Romans’ bane.’
  Lord.  Nay, be not angry, sir.        65
  Post.        ’Lack! to what end?
Who dares not stand his foe, I’ll be his friend;
For if he’ll do, as he is made to do,
I know he’ll quickly fly my friendship too.
You have put me into rime.        70
  Lord.        Farewell; you’re angry.  [Exit.
  Post.  Still going?—This is a lord! O noble misery!
To be i’ the field, and ask, ‘what news?’ of me!
To-day how many would have given their honours
To have sav’d their carcases! took heel to do ’t,        75
And yet died too! I, in mine own woe charm’d,
Could not find death where I did hear him groan,
Nor feel him where he struck: being an ugly monster,
’Tis strange he hides him in fresh cups, soft beds,
Sweet words; or hath more ministers than we        80
That draw his knives i’ the war. Well, I will find him;
For being now a favourer to the Briton,
No more a Briton, I have resum’d again
The part I came in; fight I will no more,
But yield me to the veriest hind that shall        85
Once touch my shoulder. Great the slaughter is
Here made by the Roman; great the answer be
Britons must take. For me, my ransom’s death;
On either side I come to spend my breath,
Which neither here I’ll keep nor bear agen,        90
But end it by some means for Imogen.
 
Enter two British Captains, and Soldiers.
  First Cap.  Great Jupiter be prais’d! Lucius is taken.
’Tis thought the old man and his sons were angels.
  Sec. Cap.  There was a fourth man, in a silly habit,        95
That gave th’ affront with them.
  First Cap.        So ’tis reported;
But none of ’em can be found. Stand! who is there?
  Post.  A Roman,
Who had not now been drooping here, if seconds        100
Had answer’d him.
  Sec. Cap.        Lay hands on him; a dog!
A lag of Rome shall not return to tell
What crows have peck’d them here. He brags his service
As if he were of note: bring him to the king.        105
 
Enter CYMBELINE, attended: BELARIUS, GUIDERIUS, ARVIRAGUS, PISANIO, and Roman Captives.  The Captains present POSTHUMUS to CYMBELINE, who delivers him over to a Gaoler; then exeunt omnes.
 
 
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