The Winter's Tale By William Shakespeare Act IV: Scene 4

ACT IV. SCENE 4. The same. A Shepherd's Cottage.

[Enter FLORIZEL and PERDITA.]

FLORIZEL.
These your unusual weeds to each part of you
Do give a life, — no shepherdess, but Flora
Peering in April's front. This your sheep-shearing
Is as a meeting of the petty gods,
And you the queen on't.

PERDITA.
Sir, my gracious lord,
To chide at your extremes it not becomes me, —
O, pardon that I name them! — your high self,
The gracious mark o' the land, you have obscur'd
With a swain's wearing; and me, poor lowly maid,
Most goddess-like prank'd up. But that our feasts
In every mess have folly, and the feeders
Digest it with a custom, I should blush
To see you so attir'd; swoon, I think,
To show myself a glass.

FLORIZEL.
I bless the time
When my good falcon made her flight across
Thy father's ground.

PERDITA.
Now Jove afford you cause!
To me the difference forges dread: your greatness
Hath not been us'd to fear. Even now I tremble
To think your father, by some accident,
Should pass this way, as you did. O, the fates!
How would he look to see his work, so noble,
Vilely bound up? What would he say? Or how
Should I, in these my borrow'd flaunts, behold
The sternness of his presence?

FLORIZEL.
Apprehend
Nothing but jollity. The gods themselves,
Humbling their deities to love, have taken
The shapes of beasts upon them: Jupiter
Became a bull and bellow'd; the green Neptune
A ram and bleated; and the fire-rob'd god,
Golden Apollo, a poor humble swain,
As I seem now: — their transformations
Were never for a piece of beauty rarer, —
Nor in a way so chaste, since my desires
Run not before mine honour, nor my lusts
Burn hotter than my faith.

PERDITA.
O, but, sir,
Your resolution cannot hold when 'tis
Oppos'd, as it must be, by the power of the king:
One of these two must be necessities,
Which then will speak, that you must change this purpose,
Or I my life.

FLORIZEL.
Thou dearest Perdita,
With these forc'd thoughts, I pr'ythee, darken not
The mirth o' the feast: or I'll be thine, my fair,
Or not my father's; for I cannot be
Mine own, nor anything to any, if
I be not thine: to this I am most constant,
Though destiny say no. Be merry, gentle;
Strangle such thoughts as these with any thing
That you behold the while. Your guests are coming:
Lift up your countenance, as it were the day
Of celebration of that nuptial which
We two have sworn shall come.

PERDITA.
O lady Fortune,
Stand you auspicious!

FLORIZEL.
See, your guests approach:
Address yourself to entertain them sprightly,
And let's be red with mirth.

[Enter Shepherd, with POLIXENES and CAMILLO, disguised; CLOWN,
MOPSA, DORCAS, with others.]

SHEPHERD.
Fie, daughter! When my old wife liv'd, upon
This day she was both pantler, butler, cook;
Both dame and servant; welcom'd all; serv'd all;
Would sing her song and dance her turn; now here
At upper end o' the table, now i' the middle;
On his shoulder, and his; her face o' fire
With labour, and the thing she took to quench it
She would to each one sip. You are retir'd,
As if you were a feasted one, and not
The hostess of the meeting: pray you, bid
These unknown friends to us welcome, for it is
A way to make us better friends, more known.
Come, quench your blushes, and present yourself
That which you are, mistress o' the feast: come on,
And bid us welcome to your sheep-shearing,
As your good flock shall prosper.

PERDITA.
[To POLIXENES.] Sir, welcome!
It is my father's will I should take on me
The hostess-ship o' the day: —
[To CAMILLO.] You're welcome, sir!
Give me those flowers there, Dorcas. — Reverend sirs,
For you there's rosemary and rue; these keep
Seeming and savour all the winter long:
Grace and remembrance be to you both!
And welcome to our shearing!

POLIXENES.
Shepherdess —
A fair one are you! — well you fit our ages
With flowers of winter.

PERDITA.
Sir, the year growing ancient, —
Not yet on summer's death nor on the birth
Of trembling winter, — the fairest flowers o' the season
Are our carnations and streak'd gillyvors,
Which some call nature's bastards: of that kind
Our rustic garden's barren; and I care not
To get slips of them.

POLIXENES.
Wherefore, gentle maiden,
Do you neglect them?

PERDITA.
For I have heard it said
There is an art which, in their piedness, shares
With great creating nature.

POLIXENES.
Say there be;
Yet nature is made better by no mean
But nature makes that mean; so, o'er that art
Which you say adds to nature, is an art
That nature makes. You see, sweet maid, we marry
A gentler scion to the wildest stock,
And make conceive a bark of baser kind
By bud of nobler race. This is an art
Which does mend nature, — change it rather; but
The art itself is nature.

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