Fiction > Harvard Classics > William Shakespeare > King Lear
William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Tragedy of King Lear.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Scene IV
[The open country. Before a hovel]
Enter LEAR, KENT, and Fool

  Kent.  Here is the place, my lord; good my lord, enter.
The tyranny of the open night’s too rough
For nature to endure.  Storm still.
  Lear.        Let me alone.        4
  Kent.  Good my lord, enter here.
  Lear.        Wilt break my heart?
  Kent.  I had rather break mine own. Good my lord, enter.
  Lear.  Thou think’st ’tis much that this contentious storm        8
Invades us to the skin; so ’tis to thee;
But where the greater malady is fix’d,
The lesser is scarce felt. Thou ’dst shun a bear;
But if thy flight lay toward the roaring sea,        12
Thou ’dst meet the bear i’ the mouth. When the mind’s free,
The body’s delicate; 1 the tempest in my mind
Doth from my senses there. Filial ingratitude!
Is it not as this mouth should tear this hand        16
For lifting food to ’t? But I will punish home.
No, I will weep no more. In such a night
To shut me out! Pour on! I will endure.
In such a night as this! O Regan, Goneril!        20
Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all,—
O, that way madness lies; let me shun that;
No more of that.
  Kent.        Good my lord, enter here.        24
  Lear.  Prithee, go in thyself; seek thine own ease.
This tempest will not give me leave to ponder
On things would hurt me more. But I’ll go in.
[To the Fool.] In, boy; go first. You houseless poverty,—        28
Nay, get thee in. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.  Exit [Fool].
Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,        32
Your loop’d 2 and window’d 3 raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,        36
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
  Edg.  [Within.]  Fathom and half, fathom and half! Poor Tom!  [The Fool runs out from the hovel.]
  Fool.  Come not in here, nuncle, here’s a spirit. Help me, help me!        40
  Kent.  Give me thy hand. Who’s there?
  Fool.  A spirit, a spirit! He says his name ’s poor Tom.
  Kent.  What art thou that dost grumble there i’ the straw? Come forth.
[Enter EDGAR, disguised as a madman]

  Edg.  Away! the foul fiend follows me!
        “Through the sharp hawthron blow the winds.”
Hum! go to thy bed, and warm thee.
  Lear.  Did’st thou give all to thy daughters, and art thou come to this?
  Edg.  Who gives anything to poor Tom? whom the foul fiend hath led through fire and through flame, and through ford and whirlpool, o’er bog and quagmire; that hath laid knives under his pillow, and halters in his pew; set ratsbane 4 by his porridge; made him proud of heart, to ride on a bay trotting-horse over four-inch’d bridges, to course his own shadow for a traitor. Bless thy five wits! Tom’s a-cold,—O, do de, do de, do de. Bless thee from whirlwinds, starblasting, and taking! 5 Do poor Tom some charity, whom the foul fiend vexes. There could I have him now,—and there,—and there again, and there.  Storm still.
  Lear.  Has his daughters brought him to this pass?
Couldst thou save nothing? Wouldst thou give ’em all?        48
  Fool.  Nay, he reserv’d a blanket, else we had been all sham’d.
  Lear.  Now, all the plagues that in the pendulous 6 air
Hang fated o’er men’s faults light on thy daughters!
  Kent.  He hath no daughters, sir.        52
  Lear.  Death, traitor! nothing could have subdu’d nature
To such a lowness but his unkind daughters.
Is it the fashion, that discarded fathers
Should have thus little mercy on their flesh?        56
Judicious punishment! ’Twas this flesh begot
Those pelican 7 daughters.
  Edg.        “Pillicock sat on Pillicock-hill.”
Alow, alow, loo, loo!        60
  Fool.  This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.
  Edg.  Take heed o’ the foul fiend. Obey thy parents; keep thy word justly; swear not; commit 8 not with man’s sworn spouse; set not thy sweet heart on proud array. Tom ’s a-cold.
  Lear.  What hast thou been?
  Edg.  A serving-man, proud in heart and mind; that curl’d my hair; wore gloves in my cap; serv’d the lust of my mistress’ heart, and did the act of darkness with her; swore as many oaths as I spake words, and broke them in the sweet face of heaven: one that slept in the contriving of lust, and wak’d to do it. Wine lov’d I dearly, dice dearly; and in woman out-paramour’d the Turk: 9 false of heart, light of ear, bloody of hand; hog in sloth, fox in stealth, wolf in greediness, dog in madness, lion in prey. Let not the creaking of shoes nor the rustling of silks betray thy poor heart to woman. Keep thy foot out of brothels, thy hand out of plackets, 10 thy pen from lenders’ books, and defy the foul fiend.
        “Still through the hawthorn blows the cold wind.”
Says suum, mun, nonny. Dolphin my boy, boy, sessa! let him trot by.  Storm still.
  Lear.  Thou wert better in a grave than to answer 11 with thy uncover’d body this extremity of the skies. Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou ow’st the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here’s three on ’s are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself; unaccommodated 12 man is no more but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you lendings! 13 come, unbutton here.  [Tearing off his clothes.]
Enter GLOUCESTER, with a torch

  Fool.  Prithee, nuncle, be contented; ’tis a naughty night to swim in. Now a little fire in a wild field were like an old lecher’s heart; a small spark, all the rest on ’s body cold. Look, here comes a walking fire.
  Edg.  This is the foul [fiend] Flibbertigibbet; he begins at curfew, and walks till the first cock; he gives the web and the pin, 14 squints the eye, and makes the hare-lip; mildews the white wheat, and hurts the poor creature of earth.
        “St. Withold footed thrice the ’old; 15
He met the night-mare, and her ninefold; 16
      Bid her alight,
      And her troth plight,
And, aroint 17 thee, witch, aroint thee!”
  Kent.  How fares your Grace?        68
  Lear.  What’s he?
  Kent.  Who’s there? What is ’t you seek?
  Glou.  What are you there? Your names?
  Edg.  Poor Tom, that eats the swimming frog, the toad, the tadpole, the wall-newt, and the water; that in the fury of his heart, when the foul fiend rages, eats cow-dung for salads; swallows the old rat and the ditch-dog; drinks the green mantle of the standing pool; who is whipp’d from tithing 18 to tithing, and stock’d punish’d, and imprison’d; who hath three suits to his back, six shirts to his body,
        Horse to ride, and weapon to wear;
But mice and rats, and such small deer,
Have been Tom’s food for seven long year.
Beware my follower. Peace, Smulkin; peace, thou fiend!
  Glou.  What, hath your Grace no better company?
  Edg.  The prince of darkness is a gentleman.
Modo he’s call’d, and Mahu.
  Glou.  Our flesh and blood, my lord, is grown so vile        76
That it doth hate what gets it.
  Edg.  Poor Tom’s a-cold.
  Glou.  Go in with me; my duty cannot suffer
To obey in all your daughters’ hard commands.        80
Though their injunction be to bar my doors
And let this tyrannous night take hold upon you,
Yet have I ventur’d to come seek you out,
And bring you where both fire and food is ready.        84
  Lear.  First let me talk with this philosopher.
What is the cause of thunder?
  Kent.  Good my lord, take his offer; go into the house.
  Lear.  I’ll talk a word with this same learned Theban.        88
What is your study?
  Edg.  How to prevent the fiend, and to kill vermin.
  Lear.  Let me ask you one word in private.
  Kent.  Importune him once more to go, my lord;        92
His wits begin to unsettle.
  Glou.        Canst thou blame him?  Storm still.
His daughters seek his death. Ah, that good Kent!
He said it would be thus, poor banish’d man!        96
Thou say’st the King grows mad; I’ll tell thee, friend,
I am almost mad myself. I had a son,
Now outlaw’d from my blood; he sought my life,
But lately, very late. I lov’d him, friend,        100
No father his son dearer; true to tell thee,
The grief hath craz’d my wits. What a night’s this!
I do beseech your Grace,—
  Lear.        O, cry you mercy, 19 sir.        104
Noble philosopher, your company.
  Edg.  Tom’s a-cold.
  Glou.  In, fellow, there, into the hovel; keep thee warm.
  Lear.  Come, let’s in all.        108
  Kent.        This way, my lord.
  Lear.        With him;
I will keep still with my philosopher.
  Kent.  Good my lord, soothe him; let him take the fellow.        112
  Glou.  Take him you on.
  Kent.  Sirrah, come on; go along with us.
  Lear.  Come, good Athenian.
  Glou.  No words, no words: hush.        116
          “Child Rowland to the dark tower came;
His word was still,—‘Fie, foh, and fum,
  I smell the blood of a British man.”’
Note 1. Sensitive. [back]
Note 2. Full of holes. [back]
Note 3. Full of holes. [back]
Note 4. Poison for rats. [back]
Note 5. Infection. [back]
Note 6. Suspended. [back]
Note 7. The pelican was believed to feed on its mother’s blood. [back]
Note 8. Sin. [back]
Note 9. I. e., the Sultan. [back]
Note 10. Opening in a petticoat. [back]
Note 11. Encounter. [back]
Note 12. Unfurnished. [back]
Note 13. I. e., clothes. [back]
Note 14. An eye-disease; cataract. [back]
Note 15. Wold, open country. [back]
Note 16. Nine familiar spirits (?). [back]
Note 17. Avaunt. [back]
Note 18. District. [back]
Note 19. Beg your pardon. [back]


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