Great American Novels, Ranked by How Much We Hate Them
With your fair honors. You, Lord Archbishop,
Whose see is by a civil peace maintained,
Whose beard the silver hand of peace hath touched,
Whose learning and good letters peace hath tutored,
45Whose white investments figure innocence,
The dove and very blessèd spirit of peace,
Wherefore do you so ill translate yourself
Out of the speech of peace, that bears such grace,
Into the harsh and boist'rous tongue of war,
50Turning your books to graves, your ink to blood,
Your pens to lances, and your tongue divine
To a trumpet and a point of war?
You, Lord Archbishop—whose diocese is peaceful and law-abiding; whose beard has turned white, signifying a peaceful life; whose education and learning are the products of peaceful times; who is the dove and very blessed embodiment of peace—why are you translating yourself from the graceful language of peace into the harsh, violent language of war? You’re turning your books into coffins, your ink into blood, your pens into swords, and your holy words into a trumpet that sounds a call to arms.
Wherefore do I this? So the question stands.
Briefly, to this end: we are all diseased,
55And with our surfeiting and wanton hours
Have brought ourselves into a burning fever,
And we must bleed for it; of which disease
Our late King Richard, being infected, died.
But, my most noble Lord of Westmoreland,
60I take not on me here as a physician,
Nor do I as an enemy to peace
Troop in the throngs of military men,
But rather show awhile like fearful war
To diet rank minds sick of happiness
65And purge th' obstructions which begin to stop
Our very veins of life. Hear me more plainly.
I have in equal balance justly weighed
What wrongs our arms may do, what wrongs we suffer,
And find our griefs heavier than our offenses.
70We see which way the stream of time doth run
And are enforced from our most quiet there
By the rough torrent of occasion,
And have the summary of all our griefs,
When time shall serve, to show in articles;
75Which long ere this we offered to the King
Why am I doing this? That is the question. The short answer is this: we’re all sick. We’ve eaten and drunk too much and stayed up all night, and now we have a burning fever whose only cure is bloodletting. Richard, our late King, was infected with this disease and died from it. But, my good Lord Westmoreland, I’m not here as a physician, nor am I marching with this army as an enemy of peace. What I’m doing is making a frightening show of war, to stop people from indulging all their vices. This will clear the hardening of the arteries which threatens to kill us all. Let me speak more plainly. I’ve carefully considered the options, weighing the harm our armies are likely to cause against the harm we’re already suffering, and I find that our grievances are stronger than our offenses. We can see where things are headed, and the rough times ahead leave us with no choice but to step away from our quiet lives. We have a list of grievances which we can publish at the appropriate time. We offered that list to the King a long time ago, but we could never get an audience with him.