Gateway to the Classics: The World's Story: England by Eva March Tappan
The World's Story: England by  Eva March Tappan

A Messenger from Rome

[43 A.D.]

[CYMBELINE, or Cunobelinus, was a grandson of Cassivellaunus. So much of a foundation has Shakespeare for his "Cymbeline"; the rest of the play is purely imaginative.

Whenever Cæsar overcame a tribe, it was his custom to demand that tribute be paid to him. In the following scene, Caius Lucius, a messenger from the Roman Emperor, has come to the court of Cymbeline in 43 A.D. to demand that the tribute, which the king had of late "left untender'd," shall be paid.
The Editor. ]

SCENE I. BRITAIN. A Room of State in Cymbeline's Palace.

(Enter, at one side,  CYMBELINE, QUEEN, CLOTEN, and  LORDS; at the other,  CAIUS LUCIUS and Attendants.)

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 conquer'd 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.

Queen.             And, to kill the marvel,

Shall be so ever.

Clo.                 There be many Cæsars

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's, 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, ribbéd and paléd in

With rocks unscalable 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,—

O, 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 Cæsar: other of them may
have crooked noses; but to owe such straight arms, none.

Cym. Son, let your mother end.

Clo. We have yet 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 color here

Did put the yoke upon's; which to shake off

Becomes a warlike people, whom we reckon

Ourselves to be.

Clo.               We do.

Cym.                        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.

Luc.             I am sorry, Cymbeline,

That I am to pronounce Augustus Cæsar,—

Cæsar, that bath 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.

by William Shakespeare

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