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A Select Collection of Old English Plays, Vol. II by Robert Dodsley

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He salves the sore, that knows the patient best:
As I do thee, my son, my chiefest care,
In whom my special praise and joy doth rest;
To me therefore these thoughts of thine declare.

Nature, my sovereign queen and parent passing dear,
Whose force I am enforced to know and 'knowledge everywhere,
This care of mine, though it be bred within my breast,
Yet it is not so ripe as yet to breed me great unrest,
So run I to and fro with hap luck as I find,
Now fast, now loose: now hot, now cold: inconstant as the wind,
I feel myself in love, yet not inflamed so,
But causes move me now and then to let such fancies go,
Which causes prevailing sets each thing else in doubt
Much like the nail, that last came in, and drives the former out.
Wherefore my suit is this: that it would please your grace
To settle this unsettled head in some assured place:
To lead me through the thick, to guide me all the way,
To point me where I may achieve my most desired pray,
For now again of late I kindle in desire,
And pleasure pricketh forth my youth to feel a greater fire.
What though I be too young to show her sport in bed,
Yet are there many in this land that at my years do wed,
And though I wed not yet, yet am I old enou'
To serve my lady to my power, and to begin to woo.

What is that lady, son, which thus thy heart doth move?

A lady, whom it might beseem high Jove himself to love.

Who taught thee her to love, or hast thou seen her face?

Nor this nor that, but I heard men talk of her apace.

What is her name?

Reason is her sire, Experience her dame,
The lady now is in her flower, and Science is her name.
Lo, where she dwells; lo, where my heart is all possest;
Lo, where my body would abide; lo, where my soul doth rest.
Her have I borne good-will these many years tofore,
But now she lodgeth in my thought a hundred parts the more,
And since I do persuade myself that this is she,
Which ought above all earthly wights to be most dear to me;
And since I wot not how to compass my desire,
And since for shame I cannot now nor mind not to retire,
Help on, I you beseech, and bring this thing about
Without your hurt to my great ease, and set all out of doubt.

Thou askest more than is in me to give,
More than thy cause, more than thy state, will bear,
They are two things to able thee to live,
And to live so, that none should be thy peer,
The first from me proceedeth everywhere;
But this by toil and practice of the mind,
Is set full far, God wot, and bought full dear,
By those that seek the fruit thereof to find,
To match thee then with Science in degree,
To knit that knot that few may reach unto,
I tell thee plain, it lieth not in me.
Why should I challenge that I cannot do?
But thou must take another way to woo,
And beat thy brain, and bend thy curious head,
Both ride and run, and travel to and fro,
If thou intend that famous dame to wed.

You name yourself the lady of this world.

It is true.

And can there be within this world a thing too hard for you?

My power it is not absolute in jurisdiction,
For I cognise another lord above,
That hath received unto his disposition
The soul of man, which he of special love
To gifts of grace and learning eke doth move.
A work so far beyond my reach and call,
That into part of praise with him myself to show
Might soon procure my well-deserved fall:
He makes the frame, and [I] receive it so,
No jot therein altered for my head;
And as I it receive, I let it go,
Causing therein such sparkles to be bred,
As he commits to me, by whom I must be led:
Who guides me first, and in me guides the rest,
All which in their due course and kind are spread
Of gifts from me such as may serve them best,
To thee, son Wit, he will'd me to inspire,
The love of knowledge and certain seeds divine,
Which ground might be a mean to bring thee here,
If thereunto thyself thou wilt incline:
The massy gold the cunning hand makes fine:
Good grounds are till'd, as well as are the worst,
The rankest flower will ask a springing time;
So is man's wit unperfit at the first.

If cunning be the key and well of wordly[382] bliss
Me-thinketh God might at the first as well endue all with this.

As cunning is the key of bliss, so it is worthy praise:
The worthiest things are won with pain in tract of time always.

And yet right worthy things there are, you will confess, I trow,
Which notwithstanding at our birth God doth on us bestow.

There are; but such as unto you, that have the great to name,
I rather that bestow, than win thereby immortal fame.

Fain would I learn what harm or detriment ensued,
If any man were at his birth with these good gifts endued.

There should be nothing left, wherein men might excel,
No blame for sin, no praise to them that had designed well:
Virtue should lose her price, and learning would abound;
And as man would admire the thing, that each-where might be found.
The great [e]state, that have of me and fortune what they will,
Should have no need to look to those, whose heads are fraught with skill.
The meaner sort, that now excels in virtues of the mind,
Should not be once accepted there, where now they succour find.
For great men should be sped of all, and would have need of none,
And he that were not born to land should lack to live upon.
These and five thousand causes mo, which I forbear to tell,
The noble virtue of the mind have caused there to dwell,
Where none may have access, but such as can get in
Through many double doors: through heat, through cold, through
thick and thin.

Suppose I would address myself to seek her out,
And to refuse no pain that lieth thereabout;
Should I be sure to speed?

Trust me, and have no doubt,
Thou canst not choose but speed with travail and with time:
These two are they that must direct thee how to climb.

With travail and with time? must they needs join in one?

Nor that nor this can do thee good, if they be took alone.

Time worketh all with ease, and gives the greatest dint:
In him soft water drops can hollow hardest flint.
Again with labour by itself great matters compass'd be,
Even at a gird, in very little time or none we see.
Wherefore in my conceit good reason it is,
Either this without that to look, or that without this.

Set case thou didst attempt to climb Parnassus hill:
Take time five hundred thousand years and longer, if thou will,
Trowest thou to touch the top thereof by standing still?
Again work out thy heart, and spend thyself with toil:
Take time withal, or else I dare assure thee of the foil.

Madam, I trust I have your licence and your leave,
With your good-will and so much help as you to me can give;
With further aid also, when you shall spy your time,
To make a proof to give attempt this famous hill to climb;
And now I here request your blessing and your prayer;
For sure, before I sleep, I will to yonder fort repair.

I bless thee here with all such gifts as nature can bestow,
And for thy sake I would they were as many hundred mo.
Take there withal this child, to wait upon thee still:
A bird of mine, some kin to thee: his name is Will.

Welcome to me, my Will, what service canst thou do?

All things forsooth, sir, when me list, and more too.

But whether[383] wilt thou list, when I shall list, I trow?

Trust not to that; peradventure yea, peradventure no.

When I have need of thee, thou wilt not serve me so.

If ye bid me run, perhaps I will go.

Cock's soul, this is a boy for the nonce amongst twenty mo!

I am plain, I tell you, at a word and a blow.

Then must I prick you, child, if you be drown'd in sloth.

Agree, you twain, for I must leave you both;
Farewell, my son: farewell, mine own good Will,
Be ruled by Wit, and be obedient still;
Force thee I cannot, but as far as lies in me,
I will help thy master to make a good servant of thee.

Adieu, lady mother, with thanks for all your pain;
And now let me bethink myself again and eke again,
To match with Science is the thing that I have took in hand:
A matter of more weight, I see, than I did understand.
Will must be won to this, or else it will be hard;
Will must go break the matter first, or else my game[384] is marr'd,
Sir boy, are you content to take such part for me,
As God shall send, and help it forth as much as lies in thee?

Yea, master, by his wounds, or else cut off his head.

Come then, and let us two devise what trace were best to tread;
Nature is on my side, and Will my boy is fast.
There is no doubt I shall obtain my joys at last.



WIT _and_ WILL.

What, Will, I say, Will boy, come again, foolish elf!

I cry you mercy, sir, you are a tall man yourself.

Such a crackbrain as thou art, I never saw the like to it.

Truth, in respect of you, that are nothing else but Wit!

Canst thou tell me thy errand, because thou art gone so soon?

I can remember a long tale of a man in the moon,
With such a circumstance and such flim-flam?
I will tell, at a word, whose servant I am:
Wherefore I come, and what I have to say,
And call for her answer, before I come away.
What, should I make a broad tree of every little shrub,
And keep her a great while with a tale of a tub?

Yet thou must commend me to be rich, lusty, pleasant, and wise.

I cannot commend you, but I must make twenty lies.
Rich, quoth you? that appeareth by the port that you keep:
Even as rich as a new-shorn sheep!
Of pleasant conceits, ten bushels to the peck,
Lusty like a herring, with a bell about his neck,
Wise as a woodcock: as brag as a bodylouse,
A man of your hands, to match with a mouse!
How say you, are not these proper qualities to praise you with?

Leave these mad toys of thine, and come to the pith:
One part of the errand should have been
To give her this picture of mine to be seen,
And to request her the same to accept,
Safely until my coming to be kept,
Which I suspend till thy return, and then,
If it like her ladyship to appoint me where and when,
I will wait upon her gladly out of hand.

Sir, let me alone: your mind I understand.
I will handle the matter, so that you shall owe me thanks,
But what, if she find fault with these spindle-shanks,
Or else with these black spots on your nose?

In faith, sir boy, this talk deserveth blows.

You will not misuse your best servant, I suppose?
For, by his nails and by his fingers too,
I will mar your marriage, if you do so.[385]

I pray thee go thy ways, and leave this clatter.

First shall I be so bold to break to you a matter.

Tush, thou art disposed to spend words in waste,
And yet thou knowest this business asketh haste.

But even two words, and then I am gone.

If it be worth the hearing, say on.

I would not have you think that I, for my part,
From my promise or from your service will depart,
But yet now and then it goeth to my heart,
When I think how this marriage may be to my smart.

Why so?

I would tell you the cause, if I durst for shame.

Speak hardily what thou wilt without any blame.

I am not disposed as yet to be tame,
And therefore I am loth to be under a dame,
Now you are a bachelor, a man may soon win you,
Me-thinks there is some good fellowship in you;
We may laugh and be merry at board and at bed,
You are not so testy as those that be wed.
Mild in behaviour and loth to fall out,
You may run, you may ride and rove round about,
With wealth at your will and all thing at ease,
Free, frank and lusty: easy to please.
But when you be clogged and tied by the toe,
So fast that you shall not have pow'r to let go,
You will tell me another lesson soon after.
And cry _peccavi_ too, except your luck be the better.
Then farewell good fellowship! then come at a call!
Then wait at an inch, you idle knaves all:
Then sparing and pinching, and nothing of gift:
No talk with our master, but all for his thrift!
Solemn and sour, and angry as a wasp,
All things must be kept under lock and hasp;
All[386] that which will make me to fare full ill.
All your care shall be to hamper poor Will.

I warrant thee, for that take thou no thought,
Thou shalt be made of, whosoever be set at nought:
As dear to me, as mine own dear brother,
Whosoever be one, thou shalt be another.

Yea, but your wife will play the shrew; perde, it is she that I fear.

The message will cause her some favour to bear,
For my sake and thy sake, and for her own likewise,
If thou use thyself discreetly in this enterprise.

She hath a father, a testy, sour old man:
I doubt lest he and I shall fall out now and then.

Give him fair words, forbear him for his age;
Thou must consider him to be ancient and sage.
Shew thyself officious and serviceable still,
And then shall Reason make very much of Will.

If your wife be ever complaining, how then?

My wife will have nothing to do with my men.

If she do, believe her not in any wise.
And when you once perceive her stomach to arise,
Then cut her short at the first, and you shall see
A marvellous virtue in that medicine to be.
Give her not the bridle for a year or twain,
And you shall see her bridle it without a rein,
Break her betimes, and bring her under by force,
Or else the grey mare will be the better horse.

If thou have done, begone, and spend no time in vain.

Where shall I find you, when I come again?

At home.

Good, enough, take your ease: let me alone with this.
[_Exit Wit_.
Surely a treasure of all treasures it is
To serve such a master, as I hope him to be,
And to have such a servant as he hath of me;
For I am quick, nimble, proper and nice;
He is full good, gentle, sober and wise.
He is full both to chide or to check,
And I am as willing to serve at a beck,
He orders me well, and speaks me so fair,
That for his sake no travail I must spare.
But now am I come to the gate of this lady,
I will pause a while to frame mine errant finely.
And lo, where she cometh; yet will I not come nigh her;
But among these fellows will I stand to eye her.



My parents, ye know, how many fall and lapse,[387]
That do ascribe to me the cause of their mishaps?
How many seek, that come too short of their desire:
How many do attempt, that daily do retire.
How many rove about the mark on every side:
How many think to hit, when they are much too wide:
How many run too far, how many light too low:
How few to good effect their travail do bestow!
And how all these impute their losses unto me:
Should I have joy to think of marriage now, trow ye?
What saith[388] the world? my love alone, say they,
Is bought so dear, that life and goods for it must pay
Strong youth must spend itself, and yet, when all is done,
We hear of few or none, that have this lady won.
On me they make outcries, and charge me with the blood
Of those, that for my sake adventure life and good.
This grief doth wound my heart so, that suitors more as yet
I see no cause nor reason why I should admit.

Ah, daughter, say not so; there is great cause and skill,
For which you should mislike to live unmarried thus alone,
What comfort can you have remaining thus unknown?
How shall the commonwealth by you advanced be,
If you abide inclosed here, where no man may you see?
It is not for your state yourself to take the pain:
All strangers shall resort to you to entertain.
To suffer free access of all that come and go:
To be at each man's call: to travel to and fro.
What then, since God hath plac'd such treasure in your breast,
Wherewith so many thousand think by you to be refresh'd,
Needs must you have some one of high and secret trust,
By whom these things may be well-order'd and discuss'd.
To him you must disclose the depth of all your thought;
By him, as time shall serve, all matters must be wrought:
To him alone you must content yourself to be at call;
Ye must be his, he must be yours, he must be all in all.

My lord, your father tells you truth, perde,
And that in time yourself shall find and try.

I could allege more than as yet I have said,
But I must yield, and you must be obey'd.
Fall out, as it will: there is no help, I see;
Some one or other in time must marry me.

In time? nay, out of hand, madam, if it please you;
In faith, I know a younker that will ease you,
A lively young gentleman, as fresh as any flower,
That will not stick to marry you within this hour.

Such haste might haply turn to waste to some;
But I pray thee, my pretty boy, whence art thou come?

If it please your good ladyship to accept me so,
I have a solemn message to tell, ere I go;
Not anything in secret your honour to stain,
But in the presence and hearing of you twain.


The lady of this world, which lady Nature hight,
Hath one a peerless son, in whom she taketh delight,
On him she chargeth men to be attendant still,
Both kin[389] to her: his name is Wit, my name is Will.
The noble child doth feel the force of Cupid's flame,
And seeketh[390] now for ease, by counsel of his dame.
His mother taught him first to love, while he was young:
Which love with age increaseth sore, and waxeth wondrous strong;
For very fame displays your bounty more and more,
And at this pinch he burneth so as never heretofore.
Not fantasies forsooth,[391] not vain and idle toys of love;
Not hope of that which commonly doth other suitors move;
But fixed fast good-will that never shall relent,
And virtue's force, that shines in you, bad him give this attempt.
He hath no need of wealth, he wooes not for your good;
His kindred is such he need not to seek to match with noble blood,
Such store of friends that, where he list, he may command,
And none so hardy to presume his pleasure to withstand.
Yourself it is, [madam,] your virtue and your grace,
Your noble gifts, your endless praise in every place:
You alone, I say, the mark that he would hit,
The hoped joy, the dearest prey, that can befal to Wit.

I have not heard a message more trimly done.

Nor I; what age art thou of, my good son?

Between eleven and twelve, madam, more or less.

He hath been instructed this errand, as I guess.

How old is the gentleman thy master, canst thou tell?

Seventeen or thereabout, I wot not very well.

What stature, of what making, what kind of port bears he?

Such as your ladyship cannot mislike, trust me.
Well-grown, well-made, a stripling clean and tall:
Well-favoured, somewhat black, and manly therewithal;
And that you may conceive his personage the better,
Lo, here of him the very shape and lively picture!
This hath he sent to you to view and to behold:
I dare advouch no joint therein, no jot, to be controll'd.

In good faith, I thank thy master with my heart;
I perceive that nature in him hath done her part.

Farther, if it please your honour to know:
My master would be glad to run, ride, or go,
At your commandment to any place far or near,
To have but a sight of your ladyship there.
I beseech you appoint him the place and the hour,
You shall see, how readily to you he will scour.

Do so.

Yea, in any wise, daughter; for, hear you me,
He seemeth a right worthy and trim young man to be.

Commend me then to Wit, and let him understand,
That I accept with all my heart this present at his hand,
And that I would be glad, when he doth see his time,
To hear and see him face to face within this house of mine.
Then may he break his mind, and talk with me his fill;
Till then, adieu, both he and thou, mine own sweet little Will.

[_Exeunt Science, Reason, Experience_.


Ah flattering quean, how neatly she can talk,
How minionly she trips, how sadly she can walk!
Well, wanton, yet beware that ye be sound and sure,
Fair words are wont ofttimes fair women to allure,
Now must I get me home, and make report of this
To him, that thinks it long till my return, i-wis.



WIT _and_ WILL.

Say'st thou me so, boy? will she have me indeed?

Be of good cheer, sir; I warrant you to speed.

Did both her parents speak well to her of me?

As heart can think; go on, and you shall see.

How took she the picture? How liketh she my person?

She never had done toting[392] and looking thereon.

And when must I come to talk with her my fill?

Whensoever you please, and as oft as you will.

O my sweet boy, how shall I recompense
Thy faithful heart and painful diligence?
My hope, my stay, my wealth, the key of all my joy!

I pray you, sir, call me your man, and not your boy.

Thou shalt be what thou wilt, all in all.

Promise me faithfully that, if your wife brawl,
Or set her father to check me out of measure,
You will not see me abused to their pleasure.

Give me thy hand, take here my faith and troth,
I will maintain thee, howsoever the world goeth.


_The house of_ SCIENCE. WILL, WIT; _also_ REASON _and_ SCIENCE _behind_.

What shall we do? Shall we stand lingering here?

If you be a man, press in and go near.

What, if there be some other suitor there?

And if there be, yet need you not to fear;
Until I bring his head to you upon a spear.
I will not look you in the face, nor in your sight appear.

Nay, Wit, advise yourself, and pause a while,
Or else this haste of yours will you beguile.

No haste but good, take time and learn to fight,
Learn to assault, learn to defend a right:
Your match[393] is monstrous to behold and full of might,
Whom you must vanquish, not by force, but by sleight.

Madam, stand to your promise; if I win, I am sped,
Am I not?

Yea, truly.

Good enough, if we fight not, I would we were dead,
No man shall stay us, that bears a head.

Young man, a word or twain, and then adieu:
Your years are few, your practice green and new;
Mark what I say, and ye shall find it true:
You are the first that shall this rashness rue.
Be ruled here: our counsel do thereafter.
Lay good ground, your work shall be the faster.
This headlong haste may sooner miss than hit;
Take heed both of witless[394] Will and wilful Wit.
We have within a gentleman, our retainer and our friend,
With servants twain, that do on him attend--
Instruction, Study, Diligence: these three
At your commandment in this attempt shall be.
Hear them instead of us, and as they shall devise,
So hardily cast your[395] cards in this enterprise.
I will send them to you, and leave you for now.

The more company the merrier; boy, what say'st thou?

It is a good fault to have more than enou':
I care not, so as we may put the knaves down,
I would we were at it, I pass not how soon.

If it shall please you to send those three hither,
We will follow your counsel, and go together.

I warrant her a shrew, whosoever be another,
God make the daughter good, I like not the mother. [_Aside_.

Yet would not I for no good to have forgone her. [_Aside_.

Marry, sir, indeed she talks and takes on her,
Like a dame, nay, like a duchess or a queen,
With such a solemnity as I have not seen.

She is a queen, I tell thee, in her degree.

Let her be what she list, with a vengeance, for me!
I will keep me out of her reach, if I can. [_Aside_.

If this marriage go forward, thou must be her man.

Marriage or marriage not, beshrew me then,
I have but one master, and I will serve no mo,
And if he anger me, I will forsake him too.

She shall not hurt thee, unless her cause be juster.

By the faith of my body, sir, I intend not to trust her.


Take[397] me this woman, that talks so roundly,
That be so wise, that reason so soundly:
That look so narrow, that speak so shrill:
Their words are not so cursed, but their deeds are ill.

It is but thy fancy, I see no such thing in her.

Perhaps you had never occasion to try her?

That were great marvel in so many years.

She hath won the mastery of you, it appears.

Well, quiet yourself; thou shalt take no wrong,
Methink our three companions tarry very long.



Sir, we are come to know your pleasure.

You are come in good time, Instruction, our treasure;
This gentleman craveth your acquaintance and aid.
What you may do for him, let him not be denay'd.

Welcome, good fellows, will ye dwell with me?

If all parties be pleased, content are we.

Welcome, Instruction, with all my heart.

What, three new servants! then, farewell, my part. [_Aside_.

I heartily thank you, and look what I can do;
I[398] shall be always ready to pleasure you.

Consider and talk together with these,
And you shall find in your travail great ease.
Take here of me, before I take my leave,
This glass of crystal clear, which I you give,
Accept it, and reserve it for my sake most sure,
Much good to you in time it may procure.
Behold yourself therein, and view and pry:
Mark what defects it will discover and descry;
And so with judgment ripe and curious eye,
What is amiss endeavour to supply,

Farewell to you, right honourable sir:
And commend me to my love, my heart's desire,
Let her think on me, when she sees me not, and wish me well.

Farewell, master Reason, think upon us, when you see us not,
And in any wise let not Will be forgot.

Since I must take advice and counsel of you three,
I must intreat you all to dwell in house with me,
And look what order you shall prescribe as needful,
To keep the same you shall find me as heedful:

[I] come.

[I] go.




Tush, tush, Instruction, your talk is of no force:
You tell us a tale of a roasted horse,
Which, by his wounds, except we set to it,
As fast as we make, these[399] fellows will undo it,
Their talk is nothing but soft, and fair, and tarry;
If you follow their counsel, you shall never marry.

To follow our counsel your charge and promise was.

I would I had never known you, by the mass.
Must I look so long, and spend my life with toil?
Nay, sure, I will either win it, or take the foil.

The surer is your ground, the better you shall bear it.

Ground us no ground; let him win it, and wear it.

Good sir, be ruled, and leave this peevish elf.

I had even as lief ye bad me hang myself;
Leave him? no, no, I would you all knew,
You be but loiterers to him, my Will tells me true.
I could be content with a week, yea a month or twain,
But three or four years! marry, that were a pain.
So long to keep me, and lie like a hog.

A life, with all my heart, I would not wish a dog.

Will a week serve?


A month?



Not so.

No, nor so many mo.

Then, farewell all, for, as I hope to thrive,
I will prove him, ere I sleep, if I be alive,
And if ye be mine, and good fellows all three,
Go thither out of hand, and take your chance with me.

For my part, I know I can do you no good.

You are a proper man of your hands, by the rood!
Yet well fare him, that never his master forsaketh.

What say'st thou, Study?

My head acheth.

Out upon thee, coward! speak, Diligence.

Against Instruction's mind, I am loth to go hence,
Yet I will make one, rather than you should lack.

Perhaps we may find them at this time in bed.

So much the rather look you to be sped,
Care for no more, but once to come within her,
And when you have done, then let another win her.

To come within her, child? what meanest thou by that?

One mass for a penny, you know what is what!

Heard you ever such a counsel of such a Jack sprat?

Why, sir, do ye think to do any good,
If ye stand in a corner like Robin Hood?
Nay, you must stout it, and face it out with the best:
Set on a good countenance, make the most of the least,
Whosoever skip in, look to your part,
And while you live, beware of a false heart.

Both blame and shame rash boldness doth breed.

You must adventure both: spare to speak, spare to speed.
What tell you me of shame? it is shame to steal a horse.

More haste than good speed makes many fare the worse.

But he that takes not such time, while he may,
Shall leap at a whiting, when time is away.

But he that leaps, before he look, good son,
May leap in the mire, and miss when he hath done.

[_Enter Science, Season, and Experience_.

Methink I hear the voice of Will, Wit's boy.

I see her come, her sorrow and my joy,
My salve and yet my sore, my comfort and my care,
The causer of my wound, and yet the well of my welfare;
O happy wight, that have the saint of your request,
O hopeless hope, that holdeth me from that which likes me best!
Twixt hope and fear I stand, to mar or else to make,
This day to be relieved quite, or else my death-wound to take.

Here let us rest awhile, and pause all three:

Daughter, sit down, belike this same is he.

Be of good cheer, sir; be ruled by me.
Women are best pleased, till they be used homely,
Look her in the face, and tell your tale stoutly.

O pearl of passing price, sent down from God on high,
The sweetest beauty to entice, that hath been seen with eye:
The well of wealth to all, that no man doth annoy:
The key of kingdoms and the seal of everlasting joy.
The treasure and the store, whom all good things began,
The nurse of lady Wisdom's love, the link of man and man.
What words shall me suffice to utter my desire?
What heat of talk shall I devise, for to express my fire?
I burn and yet I freeze, I flame and cool as fast,
In hope to win and for to lese, my pensiveness doth last;
Why should my dull spirit appal my courage so?
O, salve my sore, or sle me quite, by saying yea or no!
You are the mark at whom I shoot to hit or miss,
My life it stays on you alone, to you my suit it is,
A suit[400] not much unmeet with you some grace[401] to find,
Dame Nature's son, my name is Wit, that fancieth you by kind,
And here I come this day to wait and to attend,
In hope to have my hoped prey,[402] or else my life to end.

Good cause there is, wherefore I should embrace,
This loving heart which you have borne to me,
And glad I am, that we be both in place,
Each one of us each other's looks to see.
Your picture and your person doth agree,
Your prince-like port and eke your noble face;
Wherein so many signs of virtue be:
That I must needs be moved in your case.

Friend Wit, are you the man indeed, which you intend?[403]
Can you be well content, until your life doth end,
To join and knit most sure with this my daughter here,
And unto her alone your fixed faith to bear?

As I am bent to this, so let my suit be sped,
If I do fail, ten thousand plagues and more light on my head!

There are, that promise fair, and mean as well,
As any heart[404] can think, or tongue can tell:
Which at the first are hot, and kindle in desire,
But in one month or twain quite quenched is the fire.
Such is the train[405] of youth, whom fancy's force doth lead,
Whose love is only at the plunge, and cannot long proceed.

Credit my words, and ye shall find me true.

Suppose you keep not touch, who should this bargain rue?

I will be sworn here solemnly before you both.

Who breaketh promise, will not stick likewise to break his oath.

I will be bound in all that ever I can make.

What good were that to us, if we th'advantage take?

Will neither promise serve, nor oath, nor bands?[406]
What other assurance will ye ask at my hands?

My master is a gentleman, I tell you, and his word,
I would you knew it, shall with his deeds accord.

We know not whom to trust, the world is so ill.

Indeed, sir, as you say, you may mend, when ye will;
But in good earnest, madam, speak--off or on?
Shall we speed at your hand, or shall we be gone?
I love not these delays; say so, if we shall have you,
If not, say no; and let another crave you.

Soft and fair, sir boy, you talk, you wot not what. [_Aside_.

Can you abide to be driven off with this and that,
Can they ask any more than good assurance at your hands? [_Aside_.

All is now too little, son, as the matter stands.

If all be too little, both goods and lands,
I know not what will please you, except Darby's bands.[407]

I have an enemy, my friend Wit, a mortal foe to me;
And therewithal the greatest plague that can befal to thee.

Must I fight with him?

Can you fight, if need be?

If any such thing fall, count the charge to me,
Trouble not yourself.

Hold thy peace, elf.

Hear out my tale; I have a mortal foe,
That lurketh in the wood hereby, as you come and go;
This monstrous giant bears a grudge to me and mine,
And will attempt to keep thee back from this desire of thine.
The bane of youth, the root of ruin and distress:[408]
Devouring those that sue to me, his name is Tediousness.
No sooner he espies the noble Wit begin:
To stir and pain itself the love of me to win.
But forth he steps, and with strong hands by might and main.
He beats and buffets down the force and liveliness of brain.
That done, in deep despair he drowns him villainously:
Ten thousand suitors in a year are cast away thereby.
Now, if your mind be surely fixed so,
That for no toil nor cost my love you will forego,
Bethink you well, and of this monster take good heed,
Then may you have with me the greater hope to speed.
Herein use good advice, to make you strong and stout,
To feud and keep him off a while, until his rage be out.
Then when you feel yourself well able to prevail,
Bid you the battle, and that so courageously assail.
If you can win the field, present me with his head,
I ask no more, and I forthwith shall be your own to bed.

Ill might I thrive, and lack that likes me best,
If I be not a scourge to him, that breedeth[409] your unrest.
Madam, assure yourself, he lives not in the land,
With whom I would not in your cause encounter hand to hand.
And as for Tediousness that wretch, your common foe,
Let me alone, we twain shall cope, before I sleep, I trow.

Lustily spoken, let me claw thee by the back:
How say you now sir, here are three against twain!

Go, that go list, I will at home remain,
I have more need to take a nap in my bed.

Do so, and, hear you, couch a cod's-head! [_Aside_.

Well, since it will none otherwise frame,
Let us twain, Study, return[410] from whence we came.


And let us three bestir ourselves like men;
Unlikely things are brought to pass by courage now and then.
My Will, be always prest, and ready at an inch,
To save thyself, to succour me, to help at every pinch.
Both twain on either side assault him, if ye can,
And you shall see me in the middes, how I will play the man;
This is the deadly den, as far as I perceive,
Approach we near, and valiantly let us the onset give.
Come forth, thou monster fell, in drowsy darkness hid,
For here is Wit, Dame Nature's son, that doth thee battle bid.



What princox have we here, that dares me to assail?
Alas, poor boy, and weenest thou against me to prevail?
Full small was he thy friend, whoever sent thee hither,
For I must drive thee back with shame, or slay thee altogether.

Great boast, small roast: I warrant thee, do thy best,
Thy head must serve my turn this day to set my heart at rest.

And I must have a leg of thee, if I can catch it.

First I must quite this brain of thine, if I can reach it.
[_Fight, strike at Will_.
Well shifted, Will; now have at thee, sir knave.

These friscols shall not serve your turn for all your vaunts so brave;
Ho, ho! did I not tell thee thou cam'st to thy pain!

Help, help, help, our master is slain.

Help, help, help, &c.

Where are these lusty bloods, that make their match with me?
Here lies a pattern for them all, to look at and to see.
To teach them to conspire against my force and might;
To promise, for their woman's love, to vanquish me in fight:
Now let them go and crake, how wisely they have sped,
Such is the end of those, that seek this curious dame to wed.

[_Exit_ TED.



Rub and chafe him:
For God's love, haste; see, lo, where he doth lie.

He is not cold, I warrant him, I.


_Give a leg, give an arm; arise, arise.
Hold up[411] thy head, lift us thy eyes,

1 A leg to stand upright:

2 An arm to fight amain,

1 The head to hold thy brains in plight,

2 The eyes to look again.
Awake, ye drowned powers.
Ye sprites, for-dull with toil:
Resign to me this care of yours,
And from dead sleep recoil.
Think not upon your loathsome luck,
But arise, and dance with us a-pluck.

[Both sing, Give a leg, as is before.

2 What, though thou hast not hit
The top of thy desire,
Time is not so far spent as yet
To cause thee to retire.
Arise, and ease thyself of pain,
And make thee strong to fight again_.


_Let not thy foes rejoice;
Let not thy friends lament;
Let not thy lady's rueful voice
In sobs and sighs be spent;
Thy faith is plight, forget it not,
Twixt her and thee to knit the knot_.


_Give a leg, &c.
This is no deadly wound:
It may be cured well.
See here what physic we have found
Thy sorrows to expel.

[Wit lifting himself up, sitting on the ground.

The way is plain, the mark is fair,
Lodge not thyself in deep despair_.

What noise is this, that ringeth in my ears,
Her noise that grieveth my mishap with tears?
Ah, my mishap, my desperate mishap,
On[413] whom ill-fortune poureth down all mishap at a clap,
What shall become of me, where shall I hide my head?
O, what a death is it to live for him that would be dead?
But since it chanceth so, whatever wight thou be,
That findeth me here in heavy plight, go, tell her this from me.
Causeless I perish here, and cause to curse I have.
The time that erst I lived to love, and now must die her slave,
The match was over-much for me, she understood,
Alas, why hath she this delight to lap in guiltless blood?
How did I give her cause to show me this despite,
To match me where she wist full well I should be slain in fight?
But go, and tell her plain, although too late for me,
Accursed be the time and hour, which first I did her see.
Accursed be the wight, that will'd me first thereto,
And cursed be they all at once, that had therewith to do.
Now get thee hence in haste, and suffer me to die.
Whom scornful chance and lawless love have slain most traitorously.

O noble Wit, the miracle of God and eke of Nature:
Why cursest thou thyself and every other creature?
What causeth thee thine innocent dear lady to accuse?
Who would lament it more than she to hear this woful news?
Why wilt thou die, whereas thou may'st be sure of health?
Whereas thou seest a plain pathway to worship and to wealth.
Not every foil doth make a fall, nor every soil doth slay;
Comfort thyself: be sure thy luck will mend from day to day.

These gentlewomen of good skill are[414] come to make you sound,
They know which way to salve your sore, and how to cure your wound.
Good sir, be ruled by her then, and pluck your spirit to you:
There is no doubt, but you shall find your loving lady true.

Ah, Will, art thou alive that doth my heart some ease,
The sight of thee, sweet boy, my sorrows doth appease:
How hast thou 'scap'd? what fortune thee befel?

It was no trusting to my hands, my heels did serve me well,
I ran with open mouth to cry for help amain,
And, as good fortune would, I hit upon these twain.

I thank both thee and them; what will ye have me do?

To rise and dance a little space with us two.

What then?

That done, repair again to Study and Instruction;
Take better hold by their advice, your foe to set upon.

Can any recompense recover this my fall?

My life to yours, it may be mended all.

Speak, Will.

I have no doubt, sir, it shall be, as you would wish.

But yet this repulse of mine they will lay in my dish.

No man shall let them know thereof, unless yourself do it.

On that condition, a God's name, fall we to it.

Nay, stand we to it, and let us fall no more.

Will dancing serve, and I will dance, until my bones be sore,
Pipe us up a galliard, minstrel, to begin.

[_Let Will call for dances, one after another_.

Come, damsel, in good faith, and let me have you in,
Let him practise in dancing all things to make himself breathless.[415]

Enough at once, now leave, and let us part.

This exercise hath done me good, even to the very heart.
Let us be bold with you more acquaintance to take,
And dance a round yet once more for my sake,
Enough is enough; farewell, and at your need
Use my acquaintance, if it may stand you in stead.
Right worthy damsels both, I know you seek no gains
In recompense of this desert your undeserved pains.
But look what other thing my service may devise,
To show my thankful heart in any enterprise.
Be ye as bold therewith, as I am bold on you,
And thus with hearty thanks I take my leave as now.

Farewell, friend Wit, and since you are relieved,
Think not upon your foil, whereat you were so griev'd,
But take your heart to you, and give attempt once more:
I warrant you to speed much better than before.




One dance for thee and me; my boy, come on.

Dance you, sir, if you please, and I will look upon.

This gear doth make me sweat, and breathe apace.

Sir, ease yourself awhile; here is a resting-place.

Home, Will, and make my bed, for I will take a nap.

Sure, and it please your mastership, here in my dame's lap.

IDLENESS _singeth_.

_Come, come, lie down, and thou shall see,
None like to me to entertain
Thy bones and thee oppressed with pain.
Come, come, and ease thee in my lap,
And if it please thee, take a nap;
A nap, that shall delight thee so,
That fancies all will thee forego.
By musing still, what canst thou find,
But wants of will and restless mind?
A mind that mars and mangles all,
And breedeth jars to work thy fall!
Come, gentle Wit, I thee require,
And thou shalt hit thy chief desire:
Thy chief desire, thy hoped prey;
First ease thee here, and then away_.

WIT. [_Falls down into her lap_.
My bones are stiff, and I am wearied sore,
And still me-think I faint and feeble more and more;
Wake me again in time, for I have things to do,
And as you will me for mine ease, I do assent thereto.

IDLENESS. [_Lulls him_.
Welcome, with all my heart: sir boy, hold here this fan,
And softly cool his face; sleep soundly, gentleman.
This char is char'd[416] well now, Ignorance, my son,
Thou seest all this, how featly[417] it is done;
But wot'st thou why?

Nay, bumfay,[418] mother, not I.
Well, I wot 'tis a gay worched trick and trim:
Chould rejouce my heart to chance coots[419] with him.

Dost thou remember how many I have served in the like sort?

It doth my heart good to think on this sport.

Wilt thou see this proper fellow served so?

Chould give tway pence to see it and tway pence mo.

Come off, then, let me see thee in his doublet and his[420] hose.

You shall see a tall fellow, mother, I suppose.

Help off with this sleeve softly for fear of waking,
We shall leave the gentleman in a pretty taking.
Give me thy coat, hold this in thy hand:
This fellow would be married to Science, I understand.
But, ere we leave him, tell me another tale!
Now let us make him look somewhat stale.
There lie, and there be: the proverb is verified,
I am neither idle, nor yet well-occupied.

Mother, must I have his coat? now, mother, I must.
Chalt be a lively lad with hey tisty-tust.

Sleep sound, and have no care to occupy thy head,
As near unto thy body now, as if thou had'st been dead.
For Idleness hath won, and wholly thee possess'd,
And utterly disabled thee from having thy request.
Come on with me, my son, let us go couch again,
And let this lusty ruffling Wit here like a fool remain.




Up and to go, why sleep I here so sound?
How falls it out that I am left upon the naked ground?
God grant that all be well, whilst I lay dreaming here:
Me-thinks all is not as it was, nor as I would it were.
And yet I wot not why, but so my fancies gives me,
That some one thing or other in my tire[421] that grieves me,
They are but fancies, let them go: to Science now will I;
My suit and business yet once again to labour and apply.

[_Enter Science and Reason_.

What is become, trow ye, of Wit, our spouse that would be?

Daughter, I fear all is not as it should be.

Yes, yes, have ye no doubt, all is and shall be well.

What one art thou? thereof how canst thou tell?

Reason, most noble sir, and you, my lady dear:
How have you done in all this time, since first I saw you here?

The fool is mad, I ween; stand back, and touch me not.

You speak not as you think, or have you me forgot?

I never saw thee in my life until this time, I wot;
Thou art some mad-brain or some fool, or some disguised sot.[422]

God's fish-hooks?[423] and know you not me?

I had been well at ease indeed to be acquainted with thee!

Hop haliday![424] marry, this is pretty cheer,
I have lost myself, I cannot tell where!
An old-said saw it is, and too true, I find,
Soon hot, soon cold: out of sight, out of mind.
What, madam, what meaneth this sudden change?
What means this scornful look, this countenance so strange?
Is it[425] your fashion so to use your lovers at the first:
Or have all women this delight to scold and to be curs'd?

Good fellow, whence art thou? what is thy name?

I ween ye are disposed to make at me some game.
I am the son of lady Nature; my name is Wit.

Thou shalt say so long enough, ere we believe it.

Thou Wit? nay, thou art some mad-brain out of thy wit.

Unto yourselves this trial I remit.
Look on me better, and mark my person well.

Thy look is like to one, that came out of hell.

If thou be Wit, let see, what tokens thou canst tell.
How cam'st thou first acquainted here? what said we?
How did we like thy suit, what entertainment made we?

What tokens?

Yea, what tokens? speak, and let us know.

Tokens good store I can rehearse a-row:
First, as I was advised by my mother Nature,
My lackey Will presented you with my picture.

Stay there, now look, how these two faces agree!

This is the very same that you received from me.

From thee? why look, they are no more like,
Than chalk to cheese, than black to white.

To put thee out of doubt, if thou think we say not true,
It were good for thee in a glass thy face to view.

Well-remembered, and a glass I have indeed,
Which glass you gave me to use at need.

Hast thou the glass, which I to Wit did give?

I have it in my purse, and will keep it, while I live.

This makes[426] me muse how should he come thereby?

Sir, muse no more, for it is even I,
To whom you gave the glass, and here it is.

We are content thou try thy case by this.

WIT. [_Looking in the glass_.
Either my glass is wonderfully spotted,
Or else my face is wonderfully blotted.
This is not my coat; why, where had I this weed?
By the mass, I look like a very fool indeed.
O haps of haps, O rueful chance to me!
O Idleness, woe-worth the time, that I was ruled by thee!
Why did I lay my head within thy lap to rest?
Why was I not advis'd by her, that wish'd and will'd[427] me best?
O ten times treble[428] blessed wights, whose corps in grave do lie:
That are not driven to behold these wretched cares which I[429]!
On me you[430] furies all, on me, have poured out your spite,
Come now and slay me at the last, and rid my sorrows quite.
What coast shall me receive? where shall I show my head?
The world will say this same is he that, if he list, had sped.
This same is he, that took an enterprise in hand;
This same is he that scarce one blow his enemy did withstand.
This same is he, that fought and fell in open field:
This same is he that in the song of Idleness did yield.
This same is he that was in way to win the game:
To join himself whereby he should have won immortal fame;
And now is wrapp'd in woe, and buried in despair.
O happy case for thee, if death would rid thee quite of care!




Who calls for Shame?

Here is a merchant,[431] Shame, for thee to tame.

A shame come to you all, for I am almost lame
With trudging up and down to them that lose their game.

And here is one, whom thou must rightly blame,
That hath preferr'd his folly to his fame.

Who? this good fellow? what call you his name?

Wit, that on wooing to lady Science came.

Come aloft, child, let me see, what friscols you can fet;[432]

[If] he hath deserved it, let him be well-bet.

O, spare me with the whip, and sle me with thy knife:
Ten thousand times more dear to me were present death than life.

Nay, nay, my friend, thou shalt not die as yet.

Remember in what case dame Nature left thee, Wit;
And how thou hast abus'd the same--
Thou hast deceived all our hope, as all the world may see.

A shame
Come to it!--

Remember, what fair words and promises thou diddest make,
That for my daughter's love no pains thou wouldest forsake.
Remember in what sort we had a care of thee:
Thou hast deceived all our hope, as all the world may see.

A shame come to it.

Remember, how Instruction should have been followed still,
And how thou wouldest be ruled by none but by Will
How Idleness hath crept, and reigneth in thy breast,
How Ignorance her son hath wholly thee possess'd.

A shame come to it.

O woful wretch, to whom shall I complain?
What salve may serve to salve my sore, or to redress my pain?

Nay, I can tell thee more: remember, how
Thou was subdued of Tediousness right now.
Remember with what crakes thou went unto his den,
Against the good advice and counsel of thy men,
What Recreation did for thee in these thy rueful haps,
And how the second time thou fell into the lap.[433]

A shame come to thee!

O, let me breathe a while, and hold thy heavy hand,
My grievous faults with Shame enough I understand.
Take ruth and pity on my plaint, or else I am forlorn;
Let not the world continue thus in laughing me to scorn.
Madam, if I be he, to whom you once were bent,
With whom to spend your time sometime you were content:
If any hope be left, if any recompense
Be able to recover this forepassed negligence,
O, help me now poor wretch in this most heavy plight,
And furnish me yet once again with Tediousness to fight.

Father, be good to these young tender years,
See, how he doth bewail his folly past with tears!

Hold, slave, take thou his coat for thy labour,
We are content, at her request, to take you to our favour.
Come in, and dwell with us, till time shall serve:
And from Instruction['s] rule look that thou never swerve.
Within we shall provide to set you up once more,
This scourge hath taught you, what default was in you heretofore.


Once in my life I have an odd half-hour to spare,
To ease myself of all my travail and my care.
I stood not still so long this twenty days, I ween,
But ever more sent forth on messages I have been.
Such trudging and such toil, by the mass, was never seen;
My body is worn out, and spent with labour clean.
And this it is that makes me look so lean.
That lets my growth, and makes me seem a squall;[434]
What then, although my stature be not tall,
Yet I am as proper as you, so neat and cleanly,
And have my joints at commandment full of activity.
What should a servant do with all this flesh and bones,
That, makes them run with leaden heels, and stir themself like stones?
Give me a proper squire much after my pitch,
And mark how he from place to place will squich;[435]
Fair or foul, thick or thin, mire or dusty;
Cloud or rain, light or dark, clear or misty:
Ride or run, to or fro, bad or good:
A neat little fellow on his business will scud.
These great lubbers[436] are neither active nor wise,
That feed till they sleep, and sleep out their eyes.
So heavy, so dull, so untoward in their doing,
That it is a good sight to see them leave working.
But all this while, while I stand prating here,
I see not my master; I left him snorting here.




Mine own dear Wit, the hope of mine avail,
My care, my comfort, my treasure and my trust,
Take heart of grace our enemy to assail,
Lay up these things, which you have heard discuss'd;
So doing, undoubtingly you cannot fail
To win the field, to 'scape all these unhappy shewers;[437]
To glad your friends, to cause your foes to wail;
To match with us, and then the gain is yours.
Here in this closet ourself will sit and see
Your manly feats and your success in fight:
Strike home courageously for you and me;
Learn where and how to fend, and how to smite.
In any wise, be ruled by these three;
They shall direct both you and Will aright.
Farewell, and let our loving counsel be
At every hand before you in your fight.

Here in my sight, good madam, sit and view:
That, when I list, I may look upon you.
This face, this noble face, this lively hue,
Shall harden me, shall make our enemy rue.
O faithful mates, that have this care of me,
How shall I ever recompense your pains with gold or fee?
Come now, and, as you please, enjoin me how to do it,
And you shall see me prest and serviceable to it.

Why, master, whither [a]way? what haste? am I no body?

What, Will, we may not miss thee for no money.

Welcome, good Will, and do as thou art bid;
This day or never must Tediousness be rid.

God speed us well, I will make one at all assays.

Thou shalt watch to take him at certain bays,
Come not in the throng, but save thyself always.
You twain on either side first with your sword and buckler;
After the first conflict, fight with your sword and daggers;
You, sir, with a javelin and your target in your hand,
See how ye can his deadly strokes withstand.
Keep at the foin;[438] come not within his reach,
Until you see, what good advantage you may catch.
Then hardily leave him not, till time you strike him dead,
And, of all other parts, especially save your head.

Is this all, for I would fain have done?

I would we were at it, I care not how soon.

Now, when ye please; I have no more to tell,
But heartily to pray for you, and wish you well.

I thank you; go thou, and bid the battle, Will.

Come out, thou monster fell, that hast desire to spill
The knot and linked love of Science and of Wit,
Come, try the quarrel in the field, and fight with us a fit.



A doughty dust[439] these four boys will do:
I will eat them by morsels, two and two!
Thou fightest for a wife! a rod, a rod!
Had I wist this, I would have laid on load,
And beat thy brain and this my club together,
And made thee safe enough for returning hither.

A foul whoreson! what a sturdy thief it is!
But we will pelt thee, knave, until for woe thou piss.

Let me come to that elf.

Nay, nay, thou shalt have work enough to save thyself.


Take breath, and change your weapons; play the men.

Somewhat it was that made thee come again.
Thou stickest somewhat better to thy tackling, I see,
But what, no force; ye are but Jack-Sprat to me.

Have hold, here is a morsel for thee to eat. [_Strikes_.

Here is a pelt to make your knave's heart fret.

There is a blow able to fell a hog.

And here is a foin behind for a mad dog!

[_Let Will trip you[440] down_.

Hold, hold, hold, the lubber is down!


Strike off his head, while I hold him by the crown.

Thou monstrous wretch, thou mortal foe to me and mine,
Which evermore at my good luck and fortune did'st repine,
Take here thy just desert and payment for thy hire.
Thy head this day shall me prefer unto my heart's desire.

O noble Wit, the praise, the game is thine.

Hove up his head upon your spear, lo, here a joyful sign!


O valiant knight, O conquest full of praise!

O bliss[441] of God to see these happy days!

You, you, my faithful squires, deserve no less,
Whose tried trust, well-known to me in my distress.
And certain hope of your fix'd faith and fast good-will,
Made me attempt this famous fact, most needful to fulfil:
To you I yield great thanks, to me redounds the gain,
Now home apace, and ring it out, that Tediousness is slain.
Say all at once, _Tediousness is slain_.



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