Henry IV, Part 2 Translation Prologue
Enter RUMOR all painted with tongues
Open your ears, for which of you will stop The vent of hearing when loud Rumor speaks? I, from the orient to the drooping west, Making the wind my post-horse, still unfold The acts commenced on this ball of earth. Upon my tongues continual slanders ride, The which in every language I pronounce, Stuffing the ears of men with false reports. I speak of peace while covert enmity Under the smile of safety wounds the world. And who but Rumor, who but only I, Make fearful musters and prepared defense, Whiles the big year, swoll'n with some other grief, Is thought with child by the stern tyrant war, And no such matter? Rumor is a pipe Blown by surmises, jealousies, conjectures, And of so easy and so plain a stop That the blunt monster with uncounted heads, The still-discordant wav'ring multitude, Can play upon it. But what need I thus My well-known body to anatomize Among my household? Why is Rumor here? I run before King Harry’s victory, Who in a bloody field by Shrewsbury Hath beaten down young Hotspur and his troops, Quenching the flame of bold rebellion Even with the rebels' blood. But what mean I To speak so true at first? My office is To noise abroad that Harry Monmouth fell Under the wrath of noble Hotspur’s sword, And that the King before the Douglas' rage Stooped his anointed head as low as death. This have I rumored through the peasant towns Between that royal field of Shrewsbury And this worm-eaten hold of ragged stone, Where Hotspur’s father, old Northumberland, Lies crafty-sick. The posts come tiring on, And not a man of them brings other news Than they have learnt of me. From Rumor’s tongues They bring smooth comforts false, worse than true wrongs.
Open your ears! For which of you would even be able to block your ears when loud Rumor is speaking? I make the wind like my horse, carrying me from the east, to where the sun sets in the west, as I continue to narrate about the things happening in this world. My tongue always tells lies, and I tell lies in any language, filling up men's ears with these untruths. I say that everything is peaceful when in fact hidden anger lies behind kind smiles, ready to bring harm to the world. And who is there but Rumor—who is there but me—who can make men raise armies in fear and prepare defenses, ready to fight in some war, when in fact the world is troubled by other problems that year? Rumor is like a pipe. The only types of breath that can blow into it are suspicion, jealousy, and speculation. It's such an easy pipe to play that even the common people can play it—that stupid monster with so many heads, that is always noisy and always uncertain. But why am I telling you, my audience, about my role and purpose of lying and making things up? You already know that, you're watching a play. Why is Rumor here? I come to tell you about the King's victory, how he defeated young Hotspur and his troops in a bloody battle near Shrewsbury, and now has put out the fire of rebellion with the rebels' own blood. But why am I telling you the truth already? I am supposed to be spreading the rumor that Prince Hal was killed by the angry, noble Hotspur.I am also meant to relate that the King has been killed by Douglas, in his rage. I have already spread this rumor through the rustic towns between Shrewsbury and here—this dirty, old, stone castle, where Hotspur's father, old Northumberland, is pretending to be ill. The messengers will keep arriving, and they all bring with them the news that they have heard from me. It is from my tongues that they will announce false reports to comfort them, which are far worse than honest reports of grief and sadness.
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