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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,
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 Caesar 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 Caesar with us?
Luc. When Julius Caesar (whose remembrance yet
Queen. And, to kill the marvel,
Ere such another Julius. Britain is A world by itself; and we will nothing pay For wearing our own noses. Queen. That opportunity, 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 Caesar 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 1) to master Caesar's sword, Made Lud's town with rejoicing fires bright, And Britons strut with courage. Co. 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 Caesars; 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 1 why should we pay tribute 1 if Caesar 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 : Caesar'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 Caesar, Our ancestor was that Mulmutius, which Ordain’d our laws; (whose use the sword of Caesar 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. Luc. I am sorry, Cymbeline, That I am to pronounce Augustus Caesar
(Caesar that hath more kings his servants than Thyself domestic officers) thine enemy: Receive it from me, then —War, and confusion, In Cesar's name pronounce I gainst thee: look For fury not to be resisted:—Thus defied, I thank thee for myself. Cym. Thou art welcome, Caius, Thy Caesar 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 Caesar shall not find them. Luc. 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:—
BELARIUS, GUIDERIUs, and ARVIRAGUs.
Bel. A goodly day not to keep house with such
Gui. Hail, heaven :
Arv. Hail, heaven
Bel. Now for our mountain sport: up to yon hill,
Gui. Out of your proof you speak: we, poor unfledged,
Arv. What should we speak of
Bel. How you speak |
And when a soldier was the theme my name
Gui. Uncertain favour !
Bel. My fault being nothing (as I have told you oft)
Lucius, a Captain, and other Officers, and a Soothsayer.
Cap. To them, the legions garrison'd in Gallia,
Luc. But what from Rome 7
Cap. The senate hath stirr'd up the confiners,
Luc. When expect you them?
Makes our hopes fair. Command, our present numbers
Sooth. Last night the very gods show'd me a vision:
Luc. Dream often so,
The cave of Belarius hears the din of the coming strife. One of the youths has