A line-by-line translation

Pericles

Pericles Translation Act 1, Scene 2

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Enter PERICLES

PERICLES

[To Lords without] Let none disturb us.— Why should this change of thoughts, The sad companion, dull-eyed melancholy, Be my so used a guest as not an hour, In the day's glorious walk, or peaceful night, The tomb where grief should sleep, can breed me quiet? Here pleasures court mine eyes, and mine eyes shun them, And danger, which I fear'd, is at Antioch, Whose aim seems far too short to hit me here: Yet neither pleasure's art can joy my spirits, Nor yet the other's distance comfort me. Then it is thus: the passions of the mind, That have their first conception by mis-dread, Have after-nourishment and life by care; And what was first but fear what might be done, Grows elder now and cares it be not done. And so with me: the great Antiochus, 'Gainst whom I am too little to contend, Since he's so great can make his will his act, Will think me speaking, though I swear to silence; Nor boots it me to say I honour him. If he suspect I may dishonour him: And what may make him blush in being known, He'll stop the course by which it might be known; With hostile forces he'll o'erspread the land, And with the ostent of war will look so huge, Amazement shall drive courage from the state; Our men be vanquish'd ere they do resist, And subjects punish'd that ne'er thought offence: Which care of them, not pity of myself, Who am no more but as the tops of trees, Which fence the roots they grow by and defend them, Makes both my body pine and soul to languish, And punish that before that he would punish.

PERICLES

[Speaking to Lords outside] Don't let anyone come in here. 

[To himself]
Why am I so changed? Why am I sad, downcast, and melancholy every hour of every day? Neither a beautiful day nor a quiet night (which should be where I put my worries to rest) can give me peace. Even when I'm surrounded by things I should enjoy, I can't get rid of this fear of danger waiting for me at Antioch—but there's no way the king could reach me here! And yet, nothing can cheer me up, not even the reality of distance. That's the way the mind works: once we start worrying about something, it only gets worse and worse, until we convince ourselves that the danger is real. Just like that, my fear of Antiochus, who is a much more powerful king than I am—and can put his desires into action—has been blown out of proportion. Even though I haven't said a word, he'll assume I've told his secret. And it won't help for me to say I'm loyal to him, if he's already decided I'm not. If he's determined to keep his secret under wraps, all he has to do is kill me. He'll infiltrate my country with his armies, wage war, and overthrow the government. He'll punish my subjects, too, even though they never did anything to hurt him. I'm more worried about them than I am about myself; I'm just the treetops that protect the roots by which the people grow, and help defend them. It's concern for them that makes my body sick and my soul tired with wanting to punish Antiochus before he punishes us.

Enter HELICANUS, with other Lords

FIRST LORD

Joy and all comfort in your sacred breast!

FIRST LORD

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SECOND LORD

And keep your mind, till you return to us,Peaceful and comfortable!

SECOND LORD

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HELICANUS

Peace, peace, and give experience tongue. They do abuse the king that flatter him: For flattery is the bellows blows up sin; The thing which is flatter'd, but a spark, To which that blast gives heat and stronger glowing; Whereas reproof, obedient and in order, Fits kings, as they are men, for they may err. When Signior Sooth here does proclaim a peace, He flatters you, makes war upon your life. Prince, pardon me, or strike me, if you please; I cannot be much lower than my knees.

HELICANUS

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PERICLES

All leave us else; but let your cares o'erlookWhat shipping and what lading's in our haven,And then return to us. [Exeunt Lords] Helicanus, thouHast moved us: what seest thou in our looks?

PERICLES

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HELICANUS

An angry brow, dread lord.

HELICANUS

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PERICLES

If there be such a dart in princes' frowns,How durst thy tongue move anger to our face?

PERICLES

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HELICANUS

How dare the plants look up to heaven, from whenceThey have their nourishment?

HELICANUS

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PERICLES

Thou know'st I have powerTo take thy life from thee.

PERICLES

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HELICANUS

[Kneeling] I have ground the axe myself;Do you but strike the blow.

HELICANUS

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PERICLES

Rise, prithee, rise. Sit down: thou art no flatterer: I thank thee for it; and heaven forbid That kings should let their ears hear their faults hid! Fit counsellor and servant for a prince, Who by thy wisdom makest a prince thy servant, What wouldst thou have me do?

PERICLES

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HELICANUS

To bear with patienceSuch griefs as you yourself do lay upon yourself.

HELICANUS

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PERICLES

Thou speak'st like a physician, Helicanus, That minister'st a potion unto me That thou wouldst tremble to receive thyself. Attend me, then: I went to Antioch, Where as thou know'st, against the face of death, I sought the purchase of a glorious beauty. From whence an issue I might propagate, Are arms to princes, and bring joys to subjects. Her face was to mine eye beyond all wonder; The rest— hark in thine ear— as black as incest: Which by my knowledge found, the sinful father Seem'd not to strike, but smooth: but thou know'st this, 'Tis time to fear when tyrants seem to kiss. Such fear so grew in me, I hither fled, Under the covering of a careful night, Who seem'd my good protector; and, being here, Bethought me what was past, what might succeed. I knew him tyrannous; and tyrants' fears Decrease not, but grow faster than the years: And should he doubt it, as no doubt he doth, That I should open to the listening air How many worthy princes' bloods were shed, To keep his bed of blackness unlaid ope, To lop that doubt, he'll fill this land with arms, And make pretence of wrong that I have done him: When all, for mine, if I may call offence, Must feel war's blow, who spares not innocence: Which love to all, of which thyself art one, Who now reprovest me for it,—

PERICLES

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HELICANUS

Alas, sir!

HELICANUS

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PERICLES

Drew sleep out of mine eyes, blood from my cheeks, Musings into my mind, with thousand doubts How I might stop this tempest ere it came; And finding little comfort to relieve them, I thought it princely charity to grieve them.

PERICLES

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HELICANUS

Well, my lord, since you have given me leave to speak. Freely will I speak. Antiochus you fear, And justly too, I think, you fear the tyrant, Who either by public war or private treason Will take away your life. Therefore, my lord, go travel for a while, Till that his rage and anger be forgot, Or till the Destinies do cut his thread of life. Your rule direct to any; if to me. Day serves not light more faithful than I'll be.

HELICANUS

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PERICLES

I do not doubt thy faith;But should he wrong my liberties in my absence?

PERICLES

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HELICANUS

We'll mingle our bloods together in the earth,From whence we had our being and our birth.

HELICANUS

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PERICLES

Tyre, I now look from thee then, and to Tarsus Intend my travel, where I'll hear from thee; And by whose letters I'll dispose myself. The care I had and have of subjects' good On thee I lay whose wisdom's strength can bear it. I'll take thy word for faith, not ask thine oath: Who shuns not to break one will sure crack both: But in our orbs we'll live so round and safe, That time of both this truth shall ne'er convince, Thou show'dst a subject's shine, I a true prince.

PERICLES

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Exeunt

Pericles
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Bailey sincox
About the Translator: Bailey Sincox

Bailey Sincox is a PhD student in English at Harvard University, where she researches the theatre of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Her teaching experience includes accessible online courses with edX on Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice. She holds a Master's from the University of Oxford and a Bachelor's from Duke University.