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Cymbeline

Cymbeline Translation Act 3, Scene 3

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Enter, from the cave, BELARIUS; GUIDERIUS, and ARVIRAGUS following

BELARIUS

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.

BELARIUS

This is a beautiful day to get outside, especially given how low our roof is! Stoop, boys. This doorway teaches you how to pray by making you bow in the morning. The doorways of kings have such high arches that giants can rush through them and keep their unholy turbans on, without saying good morning to the sun by bowing and taking off their hats. Hello, beautiful sky! We live in a rock, but we treat you better than people proud of their fancy houses do.

GUIDERIUS

Hail, heaven!

GUIDERIUS

Hello, sky!

ARVIRAGUS

Hail, heaven!

ARVIRAGUS

Hello, sky!

BELARIUS

Now for our mountain sport: up to yond 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 told 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. O, this life Is nobler than attending for a cheque, Richer than doing nothing for a bauble, Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk: Such gain the cap of him that makes 'em fine, Yet keeps his book uncross'd: no life to ours.

BELARIUS

Now, time for our mountain exercises. Go up to that hill. You have young legs. I'll stay on this plane. Think, when I seem as small as a crow from up there, that it's just context that makes you seem more or less important. And then think about the stories I told you about courts, about princes, about war. Nothing you do has meaning in itself, but in how people perceive it. Thinking this way makes us learn from everything we see. We'll often be comforted by seeing a dung beetle in a safer situation than an eagle. This life is more noble than working for pay, more enjoyable than doing nothing in return for a tiny reward, and brings you more self respect than wearing silk you can't pay for. People like that are bowed to by the people who make their expensive clothes, but can't pay them for their services. That's no life at all compared to ours.

GUIDERIUS

Out of your proof you speak: we, poor unfledged, Have never wing'd from view o' the nest, nor know 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 a-bed; A prison for a debtor, that not dares To stride a limit.

GUIDERIUS

We only know what you tell us. We're like poor chicks who have never flown out of sight of the nest and don't know what the air is like farther away from home. Maybe this life is the best one, if a quiet life is the best kind. It seems easier to you because you've experienced a harder kind of life. It's right for your old age. But to us it's a place that keeps us ignorant, like we're traveling without leaving our beds, like we're in jail for debt and don't dare to break out.

ARVIRAGUS

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.

ARVIRAGUS

What will we talk about when we're as old as you are? When we hear the rain and wind in dark December? Will we spend hours talking in our cold, narrow cave? We have seen nothing. We are like animals, as clever as a fox looking for prey, as brave as a wolf in killing what we need to eat. We use our bravery to chase things that run away. We make our cage into a choir, like captive birds, singing freely about being slaves. 

BELARIUS

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 o' the war, A pain that only seems to seek out danger I' 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:— O boys, this story The world may read in me: my body's mark'd With Roman swords, and my report was once First with the best of note: Cymbeline loved me, And when a soldier was the theme, my name Was not far off: then was I as a tree Whose boughs did bend 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.

BELARIUS

What are you saying? If you just knew about and had experienced the city's corruption, the craft of being in court, a craft that is as hard to give up as it is to keep doing... Advancing in court will certainly lead to disaster, or if it doesn't, the fear of a downfall is as bad as a downfall. Or the hard work of war—work that only leads to finding danger in the name of fame and honor, which are lost while you're looking for them. And you're just as likely to have lies written on your tombstone as a true report of your brave deeds. No, often you get slandered for acting well. And you'll have to just bow and accept a scolding. Oh boys, I'm living proof of this story. My body is scarred by Roman swords, and I was once known as one of the best men. Cymbeline loved me, and whenever people were talking about soldiers, they would mention me. I was like a tree whose branches were full of fruit. But one night a storm or robbery, whatever you want to call it, shook down all my ripe fruit, no, more, even my leaves, and left me naked in bad weather.

GUIDERIUS

Uncertain favour!

GUIDERIUS

Luck is so unpredictable!

BELARIUS

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 my banishment, and this twenty years This rock and these demesnes have been my world; Where I have lived 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 fear no poison, which attends In place of greater state. I'll meet you in the valleys.

BELARIUS

I was not at fault—as I have often told you—but two evil men, whose lying promises were trusted more than my honorable reputation, swore that I was collaborating with the Romans. So I was banished, and for twenty years this rock and this land have been my whole world. I have lived here in honest freedom, and have prayed more than in all the rest of my life before. But get up to the mountains! We're not talking like hunters. Whoever hits a deer first will be named the lord of the feast and the other two will serve him. We won't be afraid of being poisoned, unlike those in nobler places. I'll meet you in the valley.

Exeunt GUIDERIUS and ARVIRAGUS

How hard it is to hide the sparks of nature! These boys know little they are sons to the king; Nor Cymbeline dreams that they are alive. They think they are mine; and though train'd up thus meanly I' the cave wherein they bow, their thoughts do hit The roofs of palaces, and nature prompts them In simple and low things to prince it much Beyond the trick of others. This Polydore, The heir of Cymbeline and Britain, who The king his father call'd Guiderius,— Jove! When on my three-foot stool I sit and tell The warlike feats I have done, his spirits fly out Into my story: say 'Thus, mine enemy fell, And thus I set my foot on 's neck;' even then The princely blood flows in his cheek, he sweats, Strains his young nerves and puts himself in posture That acts my words. The younger brother, Cadwal, Once Arviragus, in as like a figure, Strikes life into my speech and shows much more His own conceiving.— Hark, the game is roused! O Cymbeline! heaven and my conscience knows Thou didst unjustly banish me: whereon, At three and two years old, I stole these babes; Thinking to bar thee of succession, as Thou reft'st me of my lands. Euriphile, Thou wast their nurse; they took thee for their mother, And every day do honour to her grave: Myself, Belarius, that am Morgan call'd, They take for natural father. The game is up.

It's so hard to hide people's natures! These boys have no idea they're the sons of the king, and Cymbeline has no idea they're alive. They think they're my sons, and even though I've raised them humbly in this cave that makes them bow, their ambitions reach high enough to hit the roofs of palaces. Even when they're doing simple and low things they seem much more like princes than anyone else. Polydore, Cymbeline's and Britain's heir, was called Guiderius by his father. By Jove! When I sit on my stool and tell them about the deeds I did at war, he puts himself entirely into the story. When I say, "My enemy fell in this way, and I put my foot on his neck in this way," his noble blood flows into his face and he sweats and acts my words out. His younger brother, Cadwal, once called Arviragus, also acts out my stories but adds his own twist to them. Listen, they've found a deer! Oh Cymbeline! The gods and my conscience know you were wrong to banish me. So, when they were three and two years old, I stole these babies. I thought I would take your heirs from you, the way you took my lands. Euriphile, you were their nurse. They thought you were their mother, and visit her grave every day. They think I, Belarius, now called Morgan, am their birth father. The hunt has started.

Exit

Cymbeline
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