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

Enter Hermit, Modestia, and Edwin.

Oh, reverent sir, by you my heart hath reacht
At the large hopes of holy piety,
And for this I craved your company,
Here in your sight religiously to vow
My chaste thoughts up to heaven, and make you now
The witness of my faith.

Angels assist thy hopes.

What meanes my love? thou art my promis'd wife.

To part with willingly what friends and life
Can make no good assurance of.

Oh, finde remorse, fair soul, to love and merit,
And yet recant thy vow.

This world and I are parted now for ever.

To finde the way to bliss, oh, happy woman,
Th'ast learn'd the hardest lesson well, I see.
Now show thy fortitude and constancy:
Let these thy friends thy sad departure weep,
Thou shalt but loose the wealth thou could'st not keep.
My contemplation calls me, I must leave ye.

O, reverent sir, perswade not her to leave me.

My lord, I do not, nor to cease to love ye;
I onely pray her faith may fixed stand;
Marriage was blest, I know, with heavens own hand. (Exit.

You hear him, lady, 'tis not a virgins state,
But sanctity of life, must make you happy.

Good sir, you say you love me; gentle Edwin,
Even by that love I do beseech you, leave me.

Think of your fathers tears, your weeping friends,
Whom cruel grief makes pale and bloodless for you.

Would I were dead to all.

Why do you weep?

Oh, who would live to see
How men with care and cost seek misery?

Why do you seek it then? What joy, what pleasure
Can give you comfort in a single life?

The contemplation of a happy death,
Which is to me so pleasing that I think
No torture could divert me: What's this world,
Wherein you'd have me walk, but a sad passage
To a dread judgement-seat, from whence even now
We are but bail'd, upon our good abearing,
Till that great sessions come, when Death, the cryer,
Will surely summon us and all to appear,
To plead us guilty or our bail to clear?
What musick's this? (Soft musick.

Enter two Bishops, Donobert, Gloster, Cador, Constancia, Oswold, Toclio.

Oh, now resolve, and think upon my love!
This sounds the marriage of your beauteous sister,
Vertuous Constancia, with the noble Cador.
Look, and behold this pleasure.

Cover me with night,
It is a vanity not worth the sight.

See, see, she's yonder.
Pass on, son Cador, daughter Constancia,
I beseech you all, unless she first move speech,
Salute her not.--Edwin, what good success?

Nothing as yet, unless this object take her.

See, see, her eye is fixt upon her sister;
Seem careless all, and take no notice of her:--
On afore there; come, my Constancia.

Not speak to me, nor dain to cast an eye,
To look on my despised poverty?
I must be more charitable;--pray, stay, lady,
Are not you she whom I did once call sister?

I did acknowledge such a name to one,
Whilst she was worthy of it, in whose folly,
Since you neglect your fame and friends together,
In you I drown'd a sisters name for ever.

Your looks did speak no less.

It now begins to work, this sight has moved her.

I knew this trick would take, or nothing.

Though you disdain in me a sisters name,
Yet charity, me thinks, should be so strong
To instruct e're you reject. I am a wretch.
Even follies instance, who perhaps have er'd,
Not having known the goodness bears so high
And fair a show in you; which being exprest,
I may recant this low despised life,
And please those friends whom I mov'd to grief.

She is coming, yfaith; be merry, Edwin.

Since you desire instruction, you shall have it.
What ist should make you thus desire to live
Vow'd to a single life?

Because I know I cannot flie from death.
Oh, my good sister, I beseech you, hear me:
This world is but a masque, catching weak eyes
With what is not our selves but our disguise,
A vizard that falls off, the dance being done,
And leaves Deaths glass for all to look upon;
Our best happiness here lasts but a night,
Whose burning tapers makes false ware seem right.
Who knows not this, and will not now provide
Some better shift before his shame be spy'd,
And knowing this vain world at last will leave him,
Shake off these robes that help but to deceive him?

Her words are powerful, I am amaz'd to hear her!

Her soul's inchanted with infected spells.
Leave her, best girl; for now in thee
Ile seek the fruits of age, posterity.--
Out o' my sight! sure, I was half asleep
Or drunk, when I begot thee.

Good sir, forbear. What say you to that, sister?
The joy of children, a blest mothers name!
Oh, who without much grief can loose such fame?

Who can enjoy it without sorrow rather?
And that most certain where the joy's unsure,
Seeing the fruit that we beget endure
So many miseries, that oft we pray
The heavens to shut up their afflicted day;
At best we do but bring forth heirs to die,
And fill the coffins of our enemy.

Oh, my soul!

Hear her no more, Constancia,
She's sure bewitcht with error; leave her, girl.

Then must I leave all goodness, sir: away,
Stand off, I say.

How's this?

I have no father, friend, no husband now;
All are but borrowed robes, in which we masque
To waste and spend the time, when all our life
Is but one good betwixt two ague-days,
Which from the first e're we have time to praise,
A second fever takes us: Oh, my best sister,
My souls eternal friend, forgive the rashness
Of my distemper'd tongue; for how could she,
Knew not her self, know thy felicity,
From which worlds cannot now remove me?

Art thou mad too, fond woman? what's thy meaning?

To seek eternal happiness in heaven,
Which all this world affords not.

Think of thy vow, thou art my promis'd wife.

Pray, trouble me no further.

Strange alteration!

Why do you stand at gaze, you sacred priests?
You holy men, be equal to the gods,
And consummate my marriage with this woman.

Her self gives barr, my lord, to your desires
And our performance; 'tis against the law
And orders of the Church to force a marriage.

How am I wrong'd! Was this your trick, my lord?

I am abus'd past sufferance;
Grief and amazement strive which sense of mine
Shall loose her being first. Yet let me call thee daughter.

Me, wife.

Your words are air, you speak of want to wealth,
And wish her sickness, newly rais'd to health.

Bewitched girls, tempt not an old mans fury,
That hath no strength to uphold his feeble age,
But what your sights give life to: oh, beware,
And do not make me curse you.

(Kneel.) MODESTIA. Dear father,
Here at your feet we kneel, grant us but this,
That, in your sight and hearing, the good hermit
May plead our cause; which, if it shall not give
Such satisfaction as your age desires,
We will submit to you.

You gave us life;
Save not our bodies, but our souls, from death.

This gives some comfort yet: Rise with my blessings.--
Have patience, noble Cador, worthy Edwin;
Send for the hermit that we may confer.
For, sure, religion tyes you not to leave
Your careful father thus; if so it be,
Take you content, and give all grief to me. (Exeunt.

On to Scene III
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