The Birth of Merlin, or, the Childe Hath Found His Father

Loud musick. Enter Aurelius, Artesia, Ostorius, Octa, Proximus, Toclio, Oswold, Hermit.

Why is the court so dull? me thinks, each room
And angle of our palace should appear
Stuck full of objects fit for mirth and triumphs,
To show our high content. Oswold, fill wine!
Must we begin the revels? Be it so, then!
Reach me the cup: Ile now begin a health
To our lov'd queen, the bright Artesia,
The royal Saxon king, our warlike brother.
Go and command all the whole court to pledge it.
Fill to the hermit there! Most reverent Anselme,
Wee'l do thee honor first, to pledge my queen.

I drink no healths, great king, and if I did,
I would be loath to part with health to those
That have no power to give it back agen.

Mistake not, it is the argument of love
And duty to our queen and us.

But he ows none, it seems.

I do to vertue, madam: temperate minds
Covets that health to drink, which nature gives
In every spring to man; he that doth hold
His body but a tenement at will,
Bestows no cost, but to repair what's ill:
Yet if your healths or heat of wine, fair princes,
Could this old frame or these cras'd limbes restore,
Or keep out death or sickness, then fill more,
I'le make fresh way for appetite; if no,
On such a prodigal who would wealth bestow?

He speaks not like a guest to grace a wedding.

Enter Toclio.

No, sir, but like an envious imposter.

A Christian slave, a cinick.

What vertue could decline your kingly spirit
To such respect of him whose magick spells
Met with your vanquisht troops, and turn'd your arms
To that necessity of fight, which, thro dispair
Of any hope to stand but by his charms,
Had been defeated in a bloody conquest?

'Twas magick, hellbred magick did it, sir,
And that's a course, my lord, which we esteem
In all our Saxon wars unto the last
And lowest ebbe of servile treachery.

Sure, you are deceiv'd, it was the hand of heaven
That in his vertue gave us victory.
Is there a power in man that can strike fear
Thorough a general camp, or create spirits
In recreant bosoms above present sense?

To blind the sense there may, with apparition
Of well arm'd troops within themselves are air,
Form'd into humane shapes, and such that day
Were by that sorcerer rais'd to cross our fortunes.

There is a law tells us that words want force
To make deeds void; examples must be shown
By instances alike, e're I believe it.

'Tis easily perform'd, believe me, sir:
Propose your own desires, and give but way
To what our magick here shall straight perform,
And then let his or our deserts be censur'd.

We could not wish a greater happiness
Then what this satisfaction brings with it.
Let him proceed, fair brother.

He shall, sir.
Come, learned Proximus, this task be thine:
Let thy great charms confound the opinion
This Christian by his spells hath falsly won.

Great king, propound your wishes, then:
What persons, of what state, what numbers, or how arm'd,
Please your own thoughts; they shall appear before you.

Strange art! What thinkst thou, reverent hermit?

Let him go on, sir.

Wilt thou behold his cunning?

Right gladly, sir; it will be my joy to tell,
That I was here to laugh at him and hell.

I like thy confidence.

His sawcy impudence! Proceed to th'trial.

Speak your desires, my lord, and be it place't
In any angle underneath the moon,
The center of the earth, the sea, the air,
The region of the fire, nay, hell it self,
And I'le present it.

Wee'l have no sight so fearful, onely this:
If all thy art can reach it, show me here
The two great champions of the Trojan War,
Achilles and brave Hector, our great ancestor,
Both in their warlike habits, armor, shields,
And weapons then in use for fight.

'Tis done, my lord, command a halt and silence,
As each man will respect his life or danger.
Armel, Plesgeth!

Enter Spirits.

Quid vis?

Attend me.

The apparition comes; on our displeasure,
Let all keep place and silence. (Within drums beat marches.

Enter Proximus, bringing in Hector, attir'd and arm'd after the Trojan manner, with target, sword, and battel-ax, a trumpet before him, and a spirit in flame colours with a torch; at the other door Achilles with his spear and falchon, a trumpet, and a spirit in black before him; trumpets sound alarm, and they manage their weapons to begin the fight: and after some charges, the hermit steps between them, at which seeming amaz'd the spirits tremble. Thunder within.

What means this stay, bright Armel, Plesgeth?
Why fear you and fall back?
Renew the alarms, and enforce the combat,
Or hell or darkness circles you for ever.

We dare not.


Our charms are all dissolv'd: Armel, away!
'Tis worse then hell to us, whilest here we stay. (Exit all.

What! at a non-plus, sir? command them back, for shame.

What power o're-aws my spells? Return, you hell-hounds!
Armel, Plesgeth, double damnation seize you!
By all the infernal powers, the prince of devils
Is in this hermits habit: what else could force
My spirits quake or tremble thus?

Weak argument to hide your want of skill:
Does the devil fear the devil, or war with hell?
They have not been acquainted long, it seems.
Know, mis-believing pagan, even that power,
That overthrew your forces, still lets you see,
He onely can controul both hell and thee.

Disgrace and mischief! Ile enforce new charms,
New spells, and spirits rais'd from the low abyss
Of hells unbottom'd depths.

We have enough, sir;
Give o're your charms, wee'l finde some other time
To praise your art. I dare not but acknowledge
That heavenly power my heart stands witness to:
Be not dismaid, my lords, at this disaster,
Nor thou, my fairest queen: we'l change the scene
To some more pleasing sports. Lead to your chamber.
How'ere in this thy pleasures finde a cross,
Our joy's too fixed here to suffer loss.

Which I shall adde to, sir, with news I bring:
The prince, your brother, lives.


And comes to grace this high and heaven-knit marriage.

Why dost thou flatter me, to make me think
Such happiness attends me?

Enter Prince Uter and Oswold.

His presence speaks my truth, sir.

Force me, 'tis he: look, Gloster.

A blessing beyond hope, sir.

Ha! 'tis he: welcome, my second comfort.
Artesia, dearest love, it is my brother,
My princely brother, all my kingdoms hope:
Oh, give him welcome, as thou lov'st my health.

You have so free a welcome, sir, from me,
As this your presence has such power, I swear,
O're me, a stranger, that I must forget
My countrey, name, and friends, and count this place
My joy and birth-right.

'Tis she! 'tis she, I swear! oh, ye good gods, 'tis she!
That face within those woods where first I saw her,
Captived my senses, and thus many moneths
Bar'd me from all society of men.
How came she to this place,
Brother Aurelius? Speak that angels name,
Her heaven-blest name, oh, speak it quickly, sir.

It is Artesia, the royal Saxon princess.

A woman, and no deity, no feigned shape,
To mock the reason of admiring sense,
On whom a hope as low as mine may live,
Love, and enjoy, dear brother, may it not?

She is all the good or vertue thou canst name,
My wife, my queen.

Ha! your wife!

Which you shall finde, sir, if that time and fortune
May make my love but worthy of your tryal.


What troubles you, dear brother?
Why with so strange and fixt an eye dost thou
Behold my joys?

You are not well, sir.

Yes, yes.--Oh, you immortal powers,
Why has poor man so many entrances
For sorrow to creep in at, when our sense
Is much too weak to hold his happiness?
Oh, say, I was born deaf: and let your silence
Confirm in me the knowing my defect;
At least be charitable to conceal my sin,
For hearing is no less in me, dear brother.

No more!
I see thou art a rival in the joys
Of my high bliss. Come, my Artesia;
The day's most prais'd when 'tis ecclipst by night,
Great good must have as great ill opposite.

Stay, hear but a word; yet now I think on't,
This is your wedding-night, and were it mine,
I should be angry with least loss of time.

Envy speaks no such words, has no such looks.

Sweet rest unto you both.

Lights to our nuptial chamber.

Could you speak so,
I would not fear how much my grief did grow.

Lights to our chamber; on, on, set on! (Exeunt. Manet Prince.

`Could you speak so,
I would not fear how much my griefs did grow.'
Those were her very words; sure, I am waking:
She wrung me by the hand, and spake them to me
With a most passionate affection.
Perhaps she loves, and now repents her choice,
In marriage with my brother. Oh, fond man,
How darest thou trust thy traitors thoughts, thus to
Betray thy self? 'twas but a waking dream
Wherein thou madest thy wishes speak, not her,
In which thy foolish hopes strives to prolong
A wretched being. So sickly children play
With health lov'd toys, which for a time delay,
But do not cure the fit. Be, then, a man,
Meet that destruction which thou canst not flie.
From not to live, make it thy best to die,
And call her now, whom thou didst hope to wed,
Thy brothers wife: thou art too nere a kin,
And such an act above all name's a sin
Not to be blotted out; heaven pardon me!
She's banisht from my bosom now for ever.
To lowest ebbes men justly hope a flood;
When vice grows barren, all desires are good.

Enter Waiting Gentlewoman with a jewel.

The noble prince, I take it, sir?

You speak me what I should be, lady.

Know, by that name, sir, Queen Artesia greets you.

Alas, good vertue, how is she mistaken!

Commending her affection in this jewel, sir.

She binds my service to her: ha! a jewel; 'tis
A fair one, trust me, and methinks, it much
Resembles something I have seen with her.

It is an artificial crab, sir.

A creature that goes backward.

True, from the way it looks.

There is no moral in it alludes to her self?

'Tis your construction gives you that, sir;
She's a woman.

And, like this, may use her legs and eyes
Two several ways.

Just like the sea-crab,
Which on the mussel prayes, whilst he bills at a stone.

Pretty in troth. Prithee, tell me, art thou honest?

I hope I seem no other, sir.

And those that seem so are sometimes bad enough.

If they will accuse themselves for want of witness,
Let them, I am not so foolish.

I see th'art wise.
Come, speak me truly: what is the greatest sin?

That which man never acted; what has been done
Is as the least, common to all as one.

Dost think thy lady is of thy opinion?

She's a bad scholar else; I have brought her up,
And she dares owe me still.

I, 'tis a fault in greatness, they dare owe
Many, e're they pay one. But darest thou
Expose thy scholar to my examining?

Yes, in good troth, sir, and pray put her to't too;
'Tis a hard lesson, if she answer it not.

Thou know'st the hardest?

As far as a woman may, sir.

I commend thy plainness.
When wilt thou bring me to thy lady?

Next opportunity I attend you, sir.

Thanks, take this, and commend me to her.

Think of your sea-crab, sir, I pray. (Exit.

Oh, by any means, lady.--
What should all this tend to?
If it be love or lust that thus incites her,
The sin is horrid and incestuous;
If to betray my life, what hopes she by it?
Yes, it may be a practice 'twixt themselves,
To expel the Brittains and ensure the state
Through our destructions; all this may be
Valid, with a deeper reach in villany
Then all my thoughts can guess at;--however,
I will confer with her, and if I finde
Lust hath given life to envy in her minde,
I may prevent the danger: so men wise
By the same step by which they fell, may rise.
Vices are vertues, if so thought and seen,
And trees with foulest roots branch soonest green. (Exit.

On to Act III, Scene I
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