Verse > Anthologies > Ralph Waldo Emerson, ed. > Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry
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Ralph Waldo Emerson, comp. (1803–1882).  Parnassus: An Anthology of Poetry.  1880.
 
Bonduca
By Francis Beaumont (1584–1616) and John Fletcher (1579–1625)
 
          [Bonduca the British queen, taking occasion from a defeat of the Romans to impeach their valor, is rebuked by Caratac.]

QUEEN BONDUCA, I do not grieve your fortune.
If I grieve, ’tis at the bearing of your fortunes;
You put too much wind to your sail: discretion
And hardy valor are the twins of honor,
And nursed together, make a conqueror;        5
Divided, but a talker. ’Tis a truth,
That Rome has fled before us twice, and routed;—
A truth we ought to crown the gods for, lady,
And not our tongues.
You call the Romans fearful, fleeing Romans,        10
And Roman girls:—
Does this become a doer? are they such?
Where is your conquest then?
Why are your altars crowned with wreaths of flowers,
The beast with gilt horns waiting for the fire?        15
The holy Druidés composing songs
Of everlasting life to Victory?
Why are these triumphs, lady? for a May-game?
For hunting a poor herd of wretched Romans?
Is it no more? shut up your temples, Britons,        20
And let the husbandman redeem his heifers;
Put out our holy fires; no timbrel ring;
Let’s home and sleep; for such great overthrows
A candle burns too bright a sacrifice;
A glow-worm’s tail too full a flame.        25
You say, I doat upon these Romans;—
Witness these wounds, I do; they were fairly given:
I love an enemy, I was born a soldier;
And he that in the head of ’s troop defies me,
Rending my manly body with his sword,        30
I make a mistress. Yellow-tressèd Hymen
Ne’er tied a longing virgin with more joy,
Than I am married to that man that wounds me:
And are not all these Roman? Ten struck battles
I sucked these honored scars from, and all Roman.        35
Ten years of bitter nights and heavy marches,
When many a frozen storm sung through my cuirass,
And made it doubtful whether that or I
Were the more stubborn metal, have I wrought through,
And all to try these Romans. Ten times a night        40
I have swum the rivers, when the stars of Rome
Shot at me as I floated, and the billows
Tumbled their watery ruins on my shoulders,
Charging my battered sides with troops of agues,
And still to try these Romans; whom I found        45
As ready, and as full of that I brought,
(Which was not fear nor flight,) as valiant,
As vigilant, as wise, to do and suffer,
Ever advanced as forward as the Britons;
Have I not seen these Britons        50
Run, run, Bonduca?—not the quick rack swifter;
The virgin from the hated ravisher
Not half so fearful;—not a flight drawn home,
A round stone from a sling, a lover’s wish,
E’er made that haste they have. By heavens!        55
I have seen these Britons that you magnify,
Run as they would have out-run time, and roaring,—
Basely for mercy, roaring; the light shadows,
That in a thought scour o’er the fields of corn,
Halted on crutches to them. Yes, Bonduca,        60
I have seen thee run too, and thee, Nennius;
Yea, run apace, both; then when Penyus,
The Roman girl, cut through your armèd carts,
And drove them headlong on ye down the hill;—
Then when he hunted ye like Britain foxes,        65
More by the scent than sight: then did I see
These valiant and approvèd men of Britain,
Like boding owls, creep into tods of ivy,
And hoot their fears to one another nightly.
I fled too,        70
But not so fast; your jewel had been lost then,
Young Hengo there; he trasht me, Nennius:
For when your fears outrun him, then stept I,
And in the head of all the Romans’ fury
Took him, and, with my tough belt to my back,        75
I buckled him;—behind him, my sure shield;—
And then I followed. If I say I fought
Five times in bringing off this bud of Britain,
I lie not, Nennius. Neither had ye heard
Me speak this, or ever seen the child more,        80
But that the son of Virtue, Penyus,
Seeing me steer through all these storms of danger,
My helm still on my head, my sword my prow,
Turned to my foe my face, he cried out nobly,
“Go, Briton, bear thy lion’s whelp off safely;        85
Thy manly sword has ransomed thee: grow strong,
And let me meet thee once again in arms:
Then if thou stand’st, thou art mine.” I took his offer,
And here I am to honor him.
 
There’s not a blow we gave since Julius landed,        90
That was of strength and worth, but like records
They file to after-ages. Our Registers
The Romans are, for noble deeds of honor;
And shall we burn their mentions with upbraidings?
Had we a difference with some petty Isle,        95
Or with our neighbors, lady, for our landmarks,
The taking in of some rebellious Lord,
Or making a head against commotions,
After a day of blood, peace might be argued:
But where we grapple for the ground we live on,        100
The Liberty we hold as dear as life,
The gods we worship, and next those, our honors,
And with those swords that know no end of battle:
Those men beside themselves allow no neighbor;
Those minds that, where the day is, claim inheritance;        105
And where the sun makes ripe the fruits, their harvest;
And where they march, but measure out more ground
To add to Rome, and here in the bowels on us;
It must not be; no, as they are our foes,
And those that must be so until we tire ’em,        110
Let’s use the peace of Honor, that’s fair dealing;
But in our ends, our swords.
 
 
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