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HENRY IVтH'S APOSTROPHE TO SLEEP.-SHAKS.
How many thousands of my poorest subjects
Are at this hour asleep! O Sleep, O gentle Sleep,
Nature's soft nurse, how have I frighted thee,
That thou no more wilt weigh my eyelids down,
And steep my senses in forgetfulness?
Why rather, Sleep, liest thou in smoky cribs,
Upon uneasy pallets stretching thee,
And hush'd with buzzing night-flies to thy slumber,
Than in the perfumed chambers of the great,
Under the canopies of costly state,
And lull'd with sounds of sweetest melody?
O thou dull god, why liest thou with the vile,
In loathsome beds; and leav'st the kingly couch,
A watch-case, or a common 'larum-bell?
Wilt thou, upon the high and giddy mast,
Seal up the ship-boy's eyes, and rock his brains
In cradle of the rude, imperious surge,
And in the visitation of the winds,
Who take the ruffian billows by the top,
Curling their monstrous heads, and hanging them
With deaf'ning clamors in the slippery clouds,
That, with the hurly, death itself awakes?
Canst thou, O partial Sleep! give thy repose
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude;
And, in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
THE SEVEN AGES.-SHAKS.
ALL the world's a stage;
And all the men and women merely players.
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man, in his time, plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms:
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping, like snail,
Unwillingly to school. And then, the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woful ballad
Made to his mistress' eye-brow: Then, a soldier ;
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation,
Ev'n in the cannon's mouth: And then, the justice;
In fair round belly, with good capon lined,
With eyes severe, aud beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws, and modern instances,
And so he plays his part: The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice.
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound:-Last scene of all,
That ends this strange, eventful history,
Is second childishness, and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything!
SCENE FROM THE TRAGEDY OF "ION."
The Royal Chamber. ADRASTUs on a couch, asleep.
Enter ION, with a knife.
Ion.-Why do I creep thus stealthily along
With trembling steps? Am I not arm'd by Heaven,
To execute its mandate on a king
Whom it hath doom'd? And shall I falter now,
While every moment that he breathes may crush
Some life else happy? Can I be deceived
By some foul passion, crouching in my soul,
Which takes a radiant form to lure me on?
Assure me, gods !—Yes; I have heard your voices
For I dare pray ye now to nerve my arm
And see me strike!
He's smiling in his slumber,
As if some happy thought of innocent days
Play'd at his heart-strings: must I scare it thence
With Death's sharp agony ?—He lies condemn'd
By the high judgment of supernal Powers,
And he shall know their sentence. Wake, Adrastus!
Collect thy spirits and be strong to die!
Adras.-Who dares disturb my rest? Guards! Soldiers!
Where tarry ye? Why smite ye not to earth
This bold intruder? Ha! no weapon here!-
What wouldst thou with me, ruffian?
Ion.-I am none;
But a sad instrument in Jove's great hand,
To take thy life, long forfeited-Prepare !
Thy hour is come!
Adras.-Villains! does no one hear?
Ion.-Vex not the closing minutes of thy being
With torturing hope or idle rage; thy guards,
Palsied with revelry, are scatter'd senseless,
While the most valiant of our Argive youths
Hold every passage by which human aid
Could reach thee. Present death is the award
Of Powers who watch above me, while I stand
To execute their sentence.
Adras.-Thou!-I know thee
The youth I spared this morning, in whose ear
I pour'd the secrets of my bosom. Kill me,
If thou dar'st do it; but bethink thee first
How the grim memory of thy thankless deed
Will haunt thee to the grave!
Ion.-It is most true;
Thou spar'dst my life, and therefore do the gods
Ordain me to this office, lest thy fall
Seem the chance forfeit of some single sin,
And not the great redress of Argos. Now-
Now, while I parley-spirits that have left,
Within this hour, their plague-tormented flesh
To rot untomb'd, glide by, and frown on me,
Their slow avenger,—and the chamber swarms
With looks of Furies.-Yet a moment wait,
Ye dreadful prompters! If there is a friend,
Whom dying thou wouldst greet by word or token.
Speak thy last bidding.
Adras.-I have none on earth.
If thou hast courage, end me!
Ion. Not one friend!
Ion.-If I am,
Hope nothing from my weakness; mortal arms,
And eyes unseen that sleep not, gird us round,
And we shall fall together. Be it so!
Adras.—No; strike at once; my hour is come: in thee
I recognise the minister of Jove,
And, kneeling thus, submit me to his power. [Adrastus kneels.]
Ion.-Avert thy face!
Adras.-No; let me meet thy gaze;
For breathing pity lights thy features up
Into more awful likeness of a form
Which once shone on me ;-and which now my sense
Shapes palpable—in habit of the grave,
Inviting me to the sad realm where shades
Of innocents, whom passionate regard
Link'd with the guilty, are content to pace
With them the margin of the inky flood
Mournful and calm;-'tis surely there ;-she waves Her pallid hand in circle o'er thy head, As if to bless thee-and I bless thee too, Death's gracious angel! Do not turn away. Ion.-Gods! to what office have ye doom'd me!-Now! [ION raises his arm to stab ADRASTUS, who is kneeling, and gazes steadfastly upon him. The voice of MEDON is heard without, calling "Ion! Ion!"ION drops his arm.]
Adras.-Be quick, or thou art lost!
[MEDON rushes in behind him.]
Behold thy son, Adrastus!
[ION drops the knife and stands stupified with horror.] Adras. What strange words
Are these which call my senses from the death
They were composed to welcome ?-Son! 'tis false-
I had but one-and the deep wave rolls o'er him!
Medon. That wave received, instead of the fair nurseling, One of the slaves who bore him from thy sight In wicked haste to slay; I'll give thee proofs.
Adras.-Great Jove, I thank thee !—proofs !
Are there not here the lineaments of her
Who made me happy once-the voice, now still,
That bade the long-seal'd fount of love gush out,
While with a prince's constancy he came
To lay his noble life down; and the sure,
The dreadful proof, that he whose guileless brow
Is instinct with her spirit, stood above me,
Arm'd for the traitor's deed?—It is my child!
[ION sinks on one knee before ADrastus.] [A noise without.]
Medon. The clang of arms!
Ion, (starting up.)-They come ! they come! They who are leagued with me against thy life. Here let us fall!
Adras. I will confront them yet.