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contending with semi-barbarism; the gorgeous worship of the Pagan world subduing to itself the more simple worship of the Druidical times; kings and courtiers surrounded with the splendour of " barbaric pearl and gold;" and, even in those days of simplicity, a wilder and a simpler life, amidst the fastnesses of mountains, and the solitude of caves-the hunters life, who " have seen nothing"
# Subtle as the fox for prey, Like warlike as the wolf,"—
but who yet, in their natural piety, know “how to adore the heavens." This is opposed to our common notion of painted savages, living in wretched huts. There was a civilisation amongst the stock from which we are descended, before the Roman refinement. Strabo says that the Britons had the same manners as the Gauls. They wore party-coloured tunics, flowered with various colours in divisions. They had chequered cloaks. They bore helmets of brass upon their heads. They had broad-swords suspended by iron or brazen chains. Some were girded with belts of gold or silver. Pliny tells us that they excelled in the arts of weaving and dyeing cloth, and wove their fine dyed wool, so as to form stripes or chequers. . This is the tartan of the Highlanders—“the garb of old Gaul.” Their round bronze shields are the ornaments of our antiquarian cabinets. We may, without any violation of historical accuracy, believe that the Romans had introduced their arts to an extent that might have made Cymbeline's palace bear some of the characteristics of a Roman villa. A highly civilised people very quickly impart the external forms of their civilisation to those whom they have colonised. The houses of the inhabitants in general might retain in a great degree their primitive rudeness. When Julius Cæsar invaded Britain, the people of the southern coasts had already learned to build houses a little more substantial and convenient than those of the inland inhabitants. “The country," he remarks, " abounds in houses, which very much resemble those of Gaul.” Now those of Gaul are thus described by Strabo :—“They build their houses of wood, in the form of a circle, with lofty tapering roofs.”—Lib. v. The foundations of some of the most substantial of these circular houses were of stone, of which there are still some remains in Cornwall, Anglesey, and other places. Strabo says, “ The forests of the Britons are their cities; for, when they have enclosed a very large circuit with felled trees, they build within it houses for themselves and hovels for their cattle.”—Lib. iv. But Cymbeline was one of the most wealthy and powerful of the ancient British kings. His capital was Camulodunum, supposed to be Maldon or Colchester. It was the first Roman colony in this island, and a place of great magnificence.
Caius Lucius is sent to Britain to demand tribute. “In a Room of State in Cymbeline's palace” we have the meeting between the King of our isle, and the Ambassador of Rome. Cymbeline, in this scene, is calm and dignified. The Queen, and Cloten her son, are violent and coarse, as their characters are drawn :
Cym. Now say, what would Augustus Cæsar with us ?
Luc. When Julius Cæsar (whose remembrance yet
Lives in men's eyes ; and will to ears and tongues
Be theme and hearing ever) was in this Britain,
And conquered it, Cassibelan, thine uncle
(Famous in Cæsar's praises, no whit less
Than in his feats deserving it), for him,
And his succession, granted Rome a tribute,
Yearly three thousand pounds; which by thee lately
Is left untender'd.
And, to kill the marvel,
Shall be so ever.
There be many Cæsars,
Ere such another Julius. Britain is
A world by itself; and we will nothing pay
For wearing our own noses.
Which then they had to take from us, to resume
We have again.-Remember, sir, my liege,
The kings your ancestors; together with
The natural bravery of your isle, which stands
As Neptune's park, ribbed and paled in
With rocks unscaleable, and roaring waters ;
With sands that will not bear your enemies' boats,
But suck them up to the top-mast. A kind of conquest
Cæsar made here; but made not here his brag
Of came, and saw, and overcame with shame
(The first that ever touch'd him) he was carried
From off our coast, twice beaten ; and his shipping
(Poor ignorant baubles !) on our terrible seas,
Like egg-shells mov'd upon their surges, crack'd
As easily 'gainst our rocks : for joy whereof,
The fam'd Cassibelan, who was once at point
(0, giglot ! fortune !) to master Cæsar's sword,
Made Lud's town with rejoicing fires bright,
And Britons strut with courage. Clo. Come, there's no more tribute to be paid : Our kingdom is stronger than it was at that time; and, as I said, there is no more such Cæsars; other of them may have crooked noses, but to owe such straight arms, none.
Cym. Son, let your mother end.
Clo. We have yet many among us can gripe as hard as Cassibelan : I do not say I am one ; but I have a hand.—Why tribute ? why should we pay tribute ? if Cæsar can hide the sun from us with a blanket, or put the moon in his pocket, we will-pay him tribute for light; else, sir, no more tribute, pray you now.
Cym. You must know,
Till the injurious Romans did extort
This tribute from us, we were free : Cæsar's ambition
(Which swell’d so much that it did almost stretch
The sides o' the world), against all colour, here
Did put the yoke upon us; which to shake off
Becomes a warlike people, whom we reckon
Ourselves to be. We do say then to Cæsar,
Our ancestor was that Mulmutius, which
Ordain'd our laws; (whose use the sword of Cæsar
Hath too much mangled ; whose repair and franchise
Shall, by the power we hold, be our good deed,
Though Rome be therefore angry) ; Mulmutius made our laws,
Who was the first of Britain which did put
His brows within a golden crown, and call’d
Himself a king.
I am sorry, Cymbeline,
That I am to pronounce Augustus Cæsar
(Cæsar that hath more kings his servants than
Thyself domestic officers) thine enemy :
Receive it from me, then War, and confusion,
In Cæsar's name pronounce I 'gainst thee : look
For fury not to be resisted Thus defied,
I thank thee for myself.
Thou art welcome, Caius,
Thy Cæsar knighted me; my youth I spent
Much under him; of him I gather'd honour;
Which he to seek of me again, perforce,
Behoves me keep at utterance. I am perfect
That the Pannonians and Dalmatians, for
Their liberties, are now in arms: a precedent
Which not to read would show the Britons cold :
So Cæsar shall not find them.
Let proof speak. Clo. His majesty bids you welcome. Make pastime with us a day, or two, or longer : If you seek us afterwards in other terms, you shall find us in our salt-water girdle : if you beat us out of it, it is yours ; if you fall in the adventure, our crows shall fare the better for you; and there's an end.
Luc. So, sir.
Cym. I know your master's pleasure, and he mine :
All the remain is, welcome.
Upon the written history of the sons of Cymbeline, Shakspere has engrafted the romantic story that they were stolen from their father's care, and brought up amongst the mountain fastnesses of Wales, in the primitive simplicity of the hunter's life.
The nurture which Shakspere has assigned to these youths is in harmony with their historical prowess. There are few things finer in the Shaksperean drama than the scenes in which these bold mountaineers display the influence of their primitive habits. They are not ignorant; they are full of natural piety; they have strong affections ; but the world has been shut out from them, and the conventional usages of the world have no power over their actions. The fierce courage with which they rush to slaughter, and the exquisite tenderness with which they mourn their poor Fidele, are equally the results of their inartificial education. The very structure of the dramatic verse seems to partake of the rugged freedom of their characters :
BELARTUS, GUIDERIUS, and ARVIRAGUS.
Bel. A goodly day not to keep house with such
Whose roof's as low as ours! Stoop, boys: this gate
Instructs you how to adore the heavens; and bows you
To a morning's holy office : the gates of monarchs
Are arch'd so high that giants may jet through
And keep their impious turbans on, without
Good morrow to the sun.-Hail, thou fair heaven,
We house i' the rock, yet use thee not so hardly
As prouder livers do.
Bel. Now for our mountain sport : up to yon hill,
Your legs are young ; I'll tread these flats. Consider
When you above perceive me like a crow,
That it is place which lessens and sets off ;
And you may then revolve what tales I have toil you
Of courts, of princes, of the tricks in war:
This service is not service, so being done,
But being so allow'd : to apprehend thus,
Draws us a profit from all things we see :
And often, to our comfort, shall we find
The sharded beetle in a safer hold
Than is the full-wing'd eagle. Oh, this life
Is nobler, than attending for a check ;
Richer, than doing nothing for a bribe ;
Prouder, than rustling in unpaid-for silk :
Such gains the cap of him that makes him fine,
Yet keeps his book uncrossid ; no life to ours.
Gui. Out of your proof you speak : we, poor unfledged,
Have never wing'd from view o' the nest ; nor known not
What air's from home. Haply, this life is best,
If quiet life be best ; sweeter to you,
That have a sharper known ; well corresponding
With your stiff age ; but unto us it is
A cell of ignorance ; travelling abed ;
A prison for a debtor, that not dares
To stride a limit.
Arv. What should we speak of
When we are old as you ? when we shall hear
The rain and wind beat dark December, how,
In this our pinching cave, shall we discourse
The freezing hours away? We have seen nothing ;
We are beastly ; subtle as the fox, for prey;
Like warlike as the wolf, for what we eat.
Our valour is to chase what flies ; our cage
We make a quire, as doth the prison'd bird,
And sing our bondage freely.
How you speak !
Did you but know the city's usuries,
And felt them knowingly: the art o' the court,
As hard to leave, as keep; whose top to climb
Is certain falling, or so slippery that
The fear's as bad as falling: the toil of the war
A pain that only seems to seek out danger
l' the name of fame and honour: which dies i' the search;
And hath as oft a slanderous epitaph
As record of fair act; nay, many times,
Doth ill deserve by doing well ; what's worse
Must court'sy at the censure:-0, boys, this story
The world may read in me: My body's marked
With Roman swords; and my report was once
First with the best of note : Cymbeline lov'd me;
And when a soldier was the theme my name
Was not far off : Then was I as a tree
Whose boughs did bena with fruit : but, in one night,
A storm, or robbery, call it what you will,
Shook down my mellow hangings, nay, my leaves,
And left me bare to weather.
Uncertain favour !
Bel. My fault being nothing (as I have told you oft)
But that two villains, whose false oaths prevail'd
Before my perfect honour, swore to Cymbeline
I was confederate with the Romans; so,
Follow'd by banishment; and, this twenty years,
This rock and these demesnes have been my world;
Where I have liv'd at honest freedom; paid
More pious debts to heaven, than in all
The fore-end of my time.--But, up to the mountains ;
This is not hunters' language :-He that strikes
The venison first shall be the lord o' the feast;
'To him the other two shall minister ;
And we will fer no poison, which attends
In place of greater state. I'll meet you in the valleys.
The Roman legions at length tread the British soil
Lucius, a Captain, and other Officers, and a Soothsayer.
Cap. To them, the legions garrison'd in Gallia,
After your will, have crossd the sea ; attending
You here at Milford-Haven, with your ships :
They are here in readiness.
But what from Rome ?
Cap. The senate hath stirr'd up the confiners,
And gentlemen of Italy; most willing spirits
That promise noble service: and they come
Under the conduct of bold Iachimo,
When expect you them?
Cap. With the next benefit o' the wind.
Makes our hopes fair. Command, our present numbers
Be muster'd ; bid the captains look to 't.-Now, sir,
What have you dream’d, of late, of this war's purpose ?
Sooth. Last night the very gods show'd me a vision:
(I fast, and pray'd, for their intelligence,) Thus:-
I saw Jove's bird, the Roman eagle, wing'd
From the spungy south to this part of the west,
There vanish'd in the sunbeams : which portends
(Unless my sins abuse my divination)
Success to the Roman host.
Dream often so,
And never false.
The cave of Belarius hears the din of the coming strife. One of the youths has