To see a commentary note, click on a blue square.To see a textual note, click on a red square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.
ACT II, SCENE i
EDELVITHA, ELFREDE, ELGINE
[Queen Edelvitha, who had not yet heard about the bloody battle, is concerned for her husband Alfred and disturbed by various cares and fears. Her daughters Elfrede and Elgine tell her of their horrific dreams.]
EDEL. What a band of feares alarums my breast
In ev’ry part! As a tree summon’d 595
By the musicke of a whisp’ring zephyr,
W while its leavy haires periwig the ground,
Seemes to dance and throw itselfe into the
Sporting armes of the soft embracing winds,
And, unconstant, now receives the kisses 600
Or else is batred with a shower of haile,
So my anxious mind with the least rumour
Is tost with griefe. As the sea is impulst
By diversity of tempestuous waves,
I am a wretched object fortune sports 605
Withall, fearing the Danes least my husband
By some stratagem fall into their hands,
And he become a captive to his foes.
Or, I left a disconsolate widdow
To the cruelty of barbarians, 610
What stormes of miserie will then menace
You, my chiefest care, our onely hope whilst
Prosperous, and kingdoms beauty in spight
Of all adversity. How rigidly
The mercilesse enemy will then treat you! 615
Nor will his hatred be appeased until
He hath prey’d upon your virgine purity.
ELF. Heav’n protect us from so great a mischiefe!
And yet I tremble with an inward feare
Proceeding from a dreame I had last night. 620
Sleepe had scarse stole away the day and vaild
My eyes with night, when pensively me thought
I wander’d in the umbrage [shade] of a wood.
A horrour lodg’d ith’ trees excited feare,
Which, mov’d by the wind, made a dolefull noise 625
Whilst the courting winds play’d with the green leaves.
When on a suddain from the one side rushes
Out a leopard, from the other a beare,
Both with horrible roares making towards me,
But, seeing their prey, stand dubious to which 630
It should be due. Like light’ning they return
Their rage to one another, and with a stout
Combat they dispute the victory.
I, like a statue, made immovable
By excesse of feare, stood still, to be 635
The conquerors prize, when my first enimy,
The beare, roaring with a wound received
From his adversary, falls to the ground.
The victor presently lays claime to me,
To be dismember’d by his ravenous teeth. 640
But behold, unexpectedly a young
Lion comes forth of the adjacent wood
And, demanding me, renews the combat,
And soone becomes the leopards conqueror.
Here sleepe tooke flight and left my anxious mind 645
Oprest with feare of some portended ill.
ELG. This night also represented to me
A most dreadfull imagination.
Fancy gave me the prospect of a high rock
Neare which a river did gently glide along 650
The murmuring pibles [pebbles]. A verdent plaine
Beautify’d the vally, sylver’d ore with
The thin streames of meandricall [meandering] waters.
By chance a young lambe following its dame
For suck did here commence its wanton plays. 655
The aire was cleare, the day without a cloude,
Made pleasant by a gentle breath of wind.
The dewy grasse, affording fresher bits [bites],
Might cause their straying ore the shady trees,
Where couch’t they found a shelter from the heate. 660
The sun had travail’d just halfe his journy,
And drive his chariot to the highest pitch,
Vewing the center of the world with a
Perpendicular eye. The winds were still,
Nor did the nightingall, that syren 665
Of the wood, chant forth its sweet melodies,
Nor any bird broke silence with a note,
When a suddain horror invests the place.
A dreadfull tempest from the clouded north
Benights the day. Light’ning broke thorow [through] 670
The condensed clouds. Thunder mixt with raine,
Not much unlike a cannon, furrowed
The ground and shoke the center of the earth.
Immediately from an open vallie,
Hedg’d on each side with the imbracing wood, 675
A heard of wolves most dreadfully howling
Rush forth, and, opening their ravenous jawes,
Make at both the dame and young one too.
Behold, this hungry troope had now impal’d
The inocent couple, trembling at their 680
Approaching slaughter. In the interim
Two dogs breake from the oposite vally
And swiftly run upon the salvage wolves,
Leaving the prey to perfect liberty.
My sleepe then vanisht from me, and with it 685
My hopes of seeing what th’ event would be.
EDEL. Dreames, the interpreters of afflicted minds,
Feede the senses with new shapes of evells,
And fancy often represents what most
Wee feare. But my son comes in haste towards us. 690
ACT II, SCENE ii
EDELVITHA, ELFREDE, EDWARD
[The queen is informed by her son Edward about the battle’s unhappy outcome and the king’s escape to the island of Athelney. Then, by her son’s urging and guidance, she hastens to a nearby castle together with her two daughters for the sake of gaining protection.]
EDEL. What newes brings he? His countenance forespeakes
Some ill, griefe sits charactered upon
His cloudy forhead. Speake, what ist? What silent?
’Tis enough. Thou hast learned to speake too well
Even by saying nothing. Now if thou 695
Never speakest I know thy language.
Alfred’s dead. She faints.
ELF. O brother, sister, lend your helpe. She falls.
ED. Resume your strength, deare mother. I bring not,
As you suppose, newes of my fathers death. 700
Nor is he vanquisht yet. He lives not lesse
In courage then th’ insolent Gothurnus.
Having lost the victory, he is gone
For refuge to the isle Athelnea.
Wherefore provide for safety by your flight. 705
Night will further your escape, and I’le beare
You company and be your guide.
EDEL. Alas! What refuge can we hope, that may
Promise a defence from the enimy?
ED. There stands a castle plac’t upon a hill, 710
Which nature hath surrounded with a rocke,
Nor is it far from hence. Lets fly to that.
EDEL. Thou bidst us seeke new miseries. I see
The name of Great’s but an empty sound.
I once was happy, now with woe oprest, 715
And straight shall in my former nothing rest.
ACT II, SCENE iii
[Alfred, in the habit of a common soldier, flees and complains about the woes of his nation and of himself.]
ALF. Who makes a crowne, beset with thornes of cares,
His idoll and fancies the splendor of his scepter
The lookinglasse of all glory, nor feares
The proteous [protean] vicissitude of fortune, 720
Let Alfrede, once King of England, be his
Object: now alone, without wife, children,
Or his army, wanting both his kingdome
And a place of residence. Alas, from
What degree of happinesse am I fallen! 725
I have had the triall of all fortunes.
That which seats us in a throne is as much
To be despisd as that which pulls us downe
To be lamented. The victorious Dane,
Like an encreasing hydra, grows great 730
With my ruine. A faithlesse nation,
Unmindfull of their league. A worshiper
Of false gods, inhuman, delighting in
Destruction, and an enimy to peace.
One that hath bin so oft a supplicant, 735
And treated as a guest, is now become
An insulter in our territories.
O Thou whose potent hand disposeth crownes,
Whose awfull rod gives destiny to kings,
Put some end to thy chastisements, nor let 740
Perpetuall punishments attend our faults.
Be mercifull to Thy believing flocke,
Disquieted on ev’ry side with an
Enimy defil’d with prophane worship.
Let the criminall expiate his crime, 745
And fidelity at length triumph ore
The fraudulent perfidy of the Danes.
Somebody is coming hither.
ACT II, SCENE iv
STRUMBO WITH A WALLET, ALFREDE
[Enter Strumbo, the son of a swineherd, going to a drinking-bout with some of his friends and bearing food and beer. Interrupted by the king (because he imagines him to be a Dane), he abandons his provisions and flees. The king, suffering from hunger and thirst, fastens on these.]
STR. My breast trembles for feare like a quagmyre, my hart goes pit-a-pat, my belly
rumbles and lets of horrible reports, my stomach croakes, my head whisses, my legs 750
shake as if they were allready preparing to runne away. As Argus was all eyes, so I am
all eares, so that the least noise almost strikes me into a dead swownd [swoon].
Thus whilst I feare the name of war abroad, it find it round about me, nor do the
Danes that are absent terrify me so much as I that am present, who am my own
ALF. This fellow is the true interpreter of his degenerous minde.
STR. O that men would follow my counsell! First I would advise ’em to eat often,
but to drinke oftner, verry seldome to chide, but never to fight. For I commend our
word selling lawyers, a sort of poeple that will vehemently wrangle and fight
desperately with words, but when it comes to blows they are silent, nay patiently 760
endure it, and verry wisely too.
ALF. Hold there. Nobody shews his wisdome in being beaten —
STR. Now if yee would know why I came hither so late ith night, ye must understand
that ’tis my humour to imitate melancholy cats that goe abroad very seldome, without
it beeing night, to hunt for a prey, and then they with ther caterwalling they meaw out 765
very tragicall notes. My chiefest designe is to passe away the night in eating and
drinking, because the day is more dangerous. However mistake not, I am not
altogeather exempted from feare, and that in no low degree. For I still fancy the
Danes to ly hid under those trees.
ALF. He that imagines trees to be warriers, what would he doe if he should see a 770
band of armed souldiers?
STR. Would you know who I am? My name is Strumbo, that merry blade, only son
and heire of a fisherman or swinheard, for my father is Jack of both trades. Our
house stands hard by in the moores, and is hid in the midst of a plat of osyers [a
tract of willows], but is verry convenient for fishing, for all this island called 775
Athelnea abounds with rivers and marishes. But because I belleve yee dont know what
I have in the wallet upon my backe, Ile tell ye — but verry briefely, because like to
fairyes and hobgoblins I am afraid to heare the cocks crow, and all’s long [sic] of
these hell-hounds the Danes, who make nothing to swallow downe whole men as we
do pottage. Here I have bread, boyl’d fishes, and a cup of stingo [strong beer]. I have 780
also flesh, butter and cheese, and if any of you are hungry or desire to sharpen his wit
with good liquor, so that he be’nt a Dane, let him follow me to the taverne.
AL. Ile speake to him, for I am both hungry and thirsty.
Ho! You —
STR. I’m undon. The Danes, the Danes — Runs out, leaves his wallet. 785
ALF. Hee’s fled, but has left me the spoyle.
Ile loose no time, but fall to this homely banquet. Opens the wallet.
How vaine’s the name of king! What doth it now
Availe me t’have held a scepter ponderous
With gold? Wher’s now my purple star’d with gems? 790
Where is my crowne, that splendor of my head?
My golden throne which darts rayes of luster
Parallels to the other sunne, whither
Now is it vanished? Can a regall
Dignity defend from hunger? Or the 795
Cold embraces of death? Can majesty
Give remoras [delays] to th’ swift houres of time,
Or command a calme when the sea rages?
Why do we so temerariously <pursue>
Ambition, kingdoms, which lost we deplore 800
With such resentment, seeming to lament
Because deprived of this lifes misery?
As a fly, playing with the bright splendor
Of a candle, uncautiously kisses
The flame which at last is its own ruine, 805
So men with guilded miseries delight,
And honours to destruction invite.
ACT II, SCENE v
ST. CUTHBERTUS IN A BEGGERS HABIT, ALFREDE
[St Cuthbert, clad as a mendicant, asks alms of the king, and is invited to join him in a meal.
CUTH. The gulfe of widemouth’d Scilla not halfe so
Greedily swallows up shipwract vessels,
No so many Graecians, when they floated 810
Uppon the tempestuous seas were dash’t
By the batteries of rough waves against
The Ceraunean rockes, as this present life
Is furnish’t with dangers and misfortunes.
Fortune as proudly insults over kings 815
As peasants, making sport with the world,
But oft proves too unkind a playfellow.
Behold, King Alfred now wanders thorow
The desolate woods without attendants,
Having onely star-light which shews his way, 820
Sits on the earth dismantled of his glory,
And satisfyes his hunger with corse meates.
But heav’n takes care of humain things, and he
That trusts in it needs not despeare of help.
It was by my aide that Alfrede ’scap’t his foes, 825
Protected in the shelter of a wood.
’Twas I compeld this rusticke ’gainst his will
To leave him these provisions which
He had design’d for some other place.
I have now assum’d this beggars habit 830
To ask an almes. I’le goe towards him.
AL. Who art thou, cloath’d in tatter’d raggs?
CUTH. I am, as you see, a needy old man
And, what’s worse, miserable, for I am
Almost dead with the common disease of 835
Hunger, whilst salvage beasts fill their panches
With their accustomed nutriment.
AL. Come neere. Fellows in misery ought to be
Companions. Poverty makes thee
Miserable, and riches me. We call 840
As well those miserable that have lost
Their riches as those that never had ’em.
Sit down by me. The grownd will afford us
A table, and heav’n provide us meat.
ACT II, SCENE vi
STRUMBO, ST. CUTHBERT, ALFREDE
[Strumbo enters a tree-trunk next to the eating men, so as to reclaim part of the beer before it is entirely gone. About to leave, St. Cuthbert betrays him to the king, who gives him gold in exchange for the food that has been consumed.]
STR. Ah Strumbo, what a sad spectacle do’st thou behold? How miserably miserable845
am I, who left but one, and now find two Danish suckers of my English aile. What shall I
doe? If I trap [lay a trap] to get it from ’em I’m a lost man. If I let ’em alone, ’t will
all be drunke of before I shall get a sup of it. I am resolv’d to perish to prevent
perishing. I had rather dy sweetly drinking then miserably without it. Wherefore I
must venture upon something. — Why doe I thus delay time, when thers so great 850
need of hast? The body of that tree which stands behind them is hollow. I’e enter
into it, if fortune do’nt crosse me. In this tower, if once I chance to get my aile,
Ile set it to my nose and leave not one sup in the bottle. Well I’le do’t. Gets into
the tree. Now I am in a castle of defence.
CUTH. Let heav’n speake my thankes. 855
AL. And who must I give thanks to?
STR. To me.
CUTH. Whats the greatest misery a pore man can endure.
STR. To thirst.
CUTH. By your meanes I have overcome it. 860
STR. Let me do so too by yours.
CUTH. To wit, that mortall enimy hunger.
STR. To wit, thirst, that greater enimy.
CUTH. I am now satisfy’d with eating, I have made a feast.
STR. And I a fast, for whose sake I dont know. I am sure my mouth makes water 865
being thus tantalis’d.
CUTH. I must now returne from whence I came.
STR. I must stay yet to empty the bottle.
CUTH. If you have any command to impose on me, Ile performe it.
AL. All I request is that I have your prayers. 870
CUTH. Farewell, you shall have them. The body of this tree will instruct you farther.
STR. I’m undon. For this man by his discovery hath already disembodied me, and
the other will presently make me nobody. Now what difference is there betwixt the
body of this tree and me who strait shall be nothing but a body, I meane headlesse?
AL. Why said he “the body of that tree will instruct you farther? Is there anybody 875
peradventure hid there?
STR. A miserable wretch.
AL. It may be ther’s gold.
STR. It drops from the mine of my britch.
AL. Or ist some monument set in this place? 880
STR. The superscription will presently apeare, HERE LIES STRUMBO &c.
AL. Ile see what there is.
STR. O that I were a hare! Now — now I perish, oh!
AL. Speake. Who art thou in the tree?
STR. I am an oracle, but certainly foretelling my owne death. 885
AL. Feare nothing. Thou art safe, I am thy friend.
STR. My friend? You are a Dane.
AL. I know this voice, ’tis the fellows that left me this provision. Come out, I am no
Dane. Here, take money for the meat I have eaten.
STR. (Peeps out of the tree.) What’s this I heare? Are you not a Dane? And have you 890
money for me too? In what region do I live? Am I myselfe? Or have I lost my
AL. Gives Strumbo some gold. Recollect your selfe. ’Tis gold, ’tis yours, and I am yours.
STR. O best of men, let me embrace your feete. Here, here, bore it through pull out
this tongue which even now cald you a Dane. You are no Dane, but ’twas I that 895
wanted braine. Nor are you of Spaine, nor a Neopolitaine. What then are you? A
man of nobler straine.
AL. Joy transports him beyond himselfe.
How he’s delighted with gold and ravish’t
At the sight of it! Poore fellow, he 890
Considers not how miserable they are
Who are in love with money.
STR. Here I stand, and there I am, plac’t betwixt thirst and hunger, ’twixt Scylla
and Charybdis. That is, my gold and my aile so divide me that I am dubious
which to prefer before the other, whether this that is palpable, or that which is 895
potable. I’le therefore unite both into one. For you have seene how I have got gold
for my aile, now I must get aile for my gold. And then this will become palpable,
and this potable.
ACT II, SCENE vii
CRABULA, STRUMBO, ALFREDE
[Strumbo’s mother Crabula searches for him, and he goes back into the tree to avoid her. Finally he betrays himself by coughing. Bent on giving him a whipping, his mother produces rods she had been carrying in concealment, and when the king tries to intervene on his behalf she drives him off with reproaches.]
CRA. Ho! Strumbo! Strumbo!
STR. What do I heare? Wo’s me! ’Tis the voice of my old and toothless mother. 900
CRA. Strumbo, Strumbo. Rogue, villain, where art?
STR. This is thunder and light’ning? What shall I doe now? I thought ’twas for
something my buttocks itch’t. I shall be flea’d with rods in pisse. O that all this
gold (as much as ’tis) could ransome from her rage! I have no way but to try once
again the sanctuary of my old tree. Thou (my deare bottle) shall goe along with me 905
to mitigate my sorrows. Now I conjure you to say nothing.
AL. I will not —
STR. St, no more.
CRA. I am so weary I can scarce stand upon my legs. I am so ou - out of breath that
I thinke I have little left in my body. I have a cough too so troublesome that it almost 910
shakes out all my teeth. I am as hoarse as an asse in bawling after this bastardly
STR. To wit, me. She recons up my titles. But what are you, mother, if I am a bastard?
CRA. If once I find him out, I’le make him — He shall remember it as long as he
lives. For I’le so bang him and belabour his sides that he shall neither be able to 915
walke, sit, or ly abed.
STR. Then, it seemes, I must stand as long as I live.
CRA. This arch rogue that hath suffer’d all our things at home which I gave him
in charge to be spoyld. Nay, I had made ready some flesh and fishes. All this he has
stole away, and a great bottle of aile out of my sellar which I kept for my own tooth. 920
STR. ’Tis twenty yeares agoe since she had ere a one.
CRA. And this he will liberally drinke of with his fellow tiplers.
AL. She hath nam’d almost the very same cheere I had.
CRA. I have search’t all the taverns, all the ailhouses, every baudihouse, all corners
and by places, but to no purpose. One may as soone find a needle in a bottle of hay 925
as this owle, this night-walking vultur. Strumbo drinks.
STR. Now, my aile, or never infuse some courage into me. I had never more need
both of thy counsell and assistance that I may the better endure whatsoever misery
falls upon mee.
CRA. I don’t see what I should doe in these unfrequented places. Ile home again. 930
For now ’tis almost day. Ile take some other course to correct him for his misdeedes.
STR. Let her goe with a mischiefe, that intends so much to me. But — (he coughs.)
What now — (coughs again.) I am undon (again.) I have betray’d myselfe (again.)
CRA. I have at last found out my youth. The noyse came from this tree. Ho! Come
out, thou threepeny rascall. Come out, thou filching thiefe, thou ailestealer. 935
STR. I entreat you, o my (coughs.) Here what I shall say (again,) not so much in
my defense (again) as in my just excuse (again), if I have not ben mercifull (again).
CRA. Sayst thou so, beast? Thou shall receive a just punishment from me.
AL. I must try if I can dissuade this woman. Cease to be so cruell against your son.
CRA. And who art thou, simple fellow, who corrects me? A fellow-drunkard of his, 940
and it may be a conspirator in his theevery. Goe about your owne business. I know
what I have to doe.
ACT II, SCENE viii
DENEVULPHE, STRUMBO, CRABULA, ALFREDE
[Aroused by the commotion, Strumbo’s father Denevulph, an old swineherd, is informed about the whole business by his son, who also shows him the gold given by the king. At the sight of which, Crabula fawns upon her son, and hands him the rods so as to wrench the gold away. And as soon as she lays hold of it, she immediately departs. The king recounts is history to the old man, and is given hospitality, albeit without being recognized. Strumbo thinks about getting the gold back from his mother.]
DEN. What noyse, what disorder is this I heare? What a stir my wife keepes, as if she
were preparing some tragedy! Strumbo, whats the reason thy mother is so highly incensed
against tree? 945
STR. Because she’s a pestilent creature and I am born in a cuntry where trees make war
CRA. Do you answer so of your mother?
DEN. Pray, wife, moderate your passion, suspend your anger till I know all things in
their order. Whats the matter, Strumbo, that thou are so threatned? 950
STR. O father, it hapned this night that, without the knowledge of my mother, I went
aborad to meete some friends. To this designe I had need of meat and aile to strenghten
me in my journey, which I confesse I secretly tooke away. Presently I met with this man,
to me the best of men, who being almost star’v with hunger, after I had refresh’t with
my meat and aile, thrust this gold into my hand and freely gave it me.955
DEN. What now have you, wife, to say against him?
CRA. Nothing at all. I am now pacify’d now I see the money. O Strumbo, my onely son,
thy mother’s deare and darling, give me thy money that I may keepe it for thee.
STR. Ile keep it for you, mother, rather then you for me. For why should you keepe
anything for me that am a villaine, a three peny rascall, a filching thiefe, and, what’s 960
worse, an aile stealer?
CRA. My Strumbo, do’nt torment your mother with new afflictions. Here, take you
these rods and revenge your selfe. All that I said shall be unsaid, and all that I have don
undon. I give you the victory, give me the money. My deare hart, my joy, my pretty
soule — 965
STR. Ho! Victory, victory, victory! I have won the day. Now I walke above the thundring
clouds and thrust my head amongst the stars. ’Tis enough to subdue an enimy, ’tis
noble to hew clemency to the conquered. Wherefore to you, mother, I deliver my
money, but to be kept for me. Gives her the gold.
CRA. This will buy new rods to be kept for you. Farewell, my busines calls me home. 970
AL. Old women, I see, are not free from the desire of gold.
STR. Now I judge myselfe worthy of a father, or at least of these rods, who foolishly
have parted with my money, which at any time would have saved my backside from a
DEN. Put that care out of your mind. He that contems money shall never want it, and 975
those that too much seeke after it will always be in pursuite.
AL. This old man alone caries a generous mind.
STR, I seeke not after money, nor money after mee, because I came to it when least
I espected it, and lost it without any difficulty at all. Therefore what which I did
neither seeke to get nor to lose I must hereafter seeke to regain and to keepe it. 980
My arguments in forme.
AL. To wit in barbara.
DEN. No more of this. Now I desire to know what fortune hath brought this stranger
hither, who hath bin so beneficiall to you.
AL. The sad event of war hath brought me hither. I am a souldier enlisted under 985
King Alfred’s banners. Fortune hath now made the Danes our conquerours and forc’t
the king to an unseemly flight, so that the whole kingdome lyes a prey to mercilesse
hands. Gothurnus, every where victorious, reekes with bloud, and his insolent fury
spares none. I, shelter’d by the wood and the darknesse of the night, have with much
adoe evaded the pursute of his soldiers. Now ’tis my sole desire to become a 990
companion of your tranquility, and change the inquietude of armes into the
quietnesse of a cuntry life.
DEN. O sad and dolefull fate of a kingdome,
Whose ruin’s to much to be lamented!
Doe’s time run sway on such unconstant 995
Slipery wheeles that no day can assure
A certain happinesse? Not an hower,
Nor a moment can promise the durance [continuation]
Of a life compleatly happy? O the
Quietnesse of a poore cottage, to be 1000
Envied even by kings, lesse happy
Then those that laboriously till the earth,
If they knew their owne good. They buld not
Edifices obvious [exposed] to ev’ry
Thunderclap, nor are their towers shaken 1005
By the winds. Wherfore (my guest) embrace that
Quiet peace, lodg’d onely under the roofe
Of a poore cottage. Live here in safety
Till better times apeare. Strumbo, drive you
The hogs where they are us’d to feed. 1010
STR. Having lost my money, I’m now again
Become a swinheard, but I’le be anan [anon],
Having lost my hogs, a monied man.
Go to Act III