I pray you and beseech you that you will.
[Exeunt [Gower and Fluellen.]
Though it appear a little out of fashion,
There is much care and valour in this Welshman.
[Enter three soldiers, John Bates, Alexander Court,
And Michael Williams.]
Brother John Bates, is not that the morning which breaks
I think it be; but we have no great cause to desire the
approach of day.
We see yonder the beginning of the day, but I think
we shall never see the end of it. Who goes there?
Under what captain serve you?
Under Sir Thomas Erpingham.
A good old commander and a most kind gentleman. I
pray you, what thinks he of our estate?
Even as men wreck'd upon a sand, that look to be
wash'd off the next tide.
He hath not told his thought to the King?
No; nor it is not meet he should. For though I speak it to you,
I think the King is but a man as I am. The violet smells to him
as it doth to me; the element shows to him as it doth to me; all
his senses have but human conditions. His ceremonies laid by,
in his nakedness he appears but a man; and though his affections
are higher mounted than ours, yet, when they stoop, they stoop
with the like wing. Therefore, when he sees reason of fears as we
do, his fears, out of doubt, be of the same relish as ours are;
yet, in reason, no man should possess him with any appearance of
fear, lest he, by showing it, should dishearten his army.
He may show what outward courage he will; but I believe, as
cold a night as 'tis, he could wish himself in Thames up to the
neck; and so I would he were, and I by him, at all adventures, so
we were quit here.
By my troth, I will speak my conscience of the King: I think he
would not wish himself anywhere but where he is.
Then I would he were here alone; so should he be sure to be
ransomed, and a many poor men's lives saved.
I dare say you love him not so ill, to wish him here alone,
howsoever you speak this to feel other men's minds. Methinks
I could not die anywhere so contented as in the King's company,
his cause being just and his quarrel honourable.
That's more than we know.
Ay, or more than we should seek after; for we know enough, if
we know we are the King's subjects. If his cause be wrong, our
obedience to the King wipes the crime of it out of us.
But if the cause be not good, the King himself hath a heavy
reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopp'd
off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all,
"We died at such a place"; some swearing, some crying for a
surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the
debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard
there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they
charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument?
Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter
for the King that led them to it; who to disobey were against
all proportion of subjection.
So, if a son that is by his father sent about merchandise do
sinfully miscarry upon the sea, the imputation of his wickedness,
by your rule, should be imposed upon his father that sent him; or
if a servant, under his master's command transporting a sum of
money, be assailed by robbers and die in many irreconcil'd
iniquities, you may call the business of the master the author of
the servant's damnation. But this is not so. The King is not
bound to answer the particular endings of his soldiers, the father
of his son, nor the master of his servant; for they purpose not
their death, when they purpose their services. Besides, there is
no king, be his cause never so spotless, if it come to the
arbitrement of swords, can try it out with all unspotted soldiers.
Some peradventure have on them the guilt of premeditated and
contrived murder; some, of beguiling virgins with the broken seals
of perjury; some, making the wars their bulwark, that have before
gored the gentle bosom of Peace with pillage and robbery. Now, if
these men have defeated the law and outrun native punishment,
though they can outstrip men, they have no wings to fly from God.
War is his beadle, war is his vengeance; so that here men are
punish'd for before-breach of the King's laws in now the King's
quarrel. Where they feared the death, they have borne life away;
and where they would be safe, they perish. Then if they die
unprovided, no more is the King guilty of their damnation than he
was before guilty of those impieties for the which they are now
visited. Every subject's duty is the King's; but every subject's
soul is his own. Therefore should every soldier in the wars do as
every sick man in his bed, wash every mote out of his conscience;
and dying so, death is to him advantage; or not dying, the time was
blessedly lost wherein such preparation was gained; and in him that
escapes, it were not sin to think that, making God so free an
offer, He let him outlive that day to see His greatness and to
teach others how they should prepare.