Classic Novels, Ranked in Order of How Easy They Are to Study
BATES, COURT, and WILLIAMS exit.
210Upon the king! Let us our lives, our souls, our debts, our careful wives, our children, and our sins lay on the king!
We must bear all. O hard condition,
Twin-born with greatness, subject to the breath
Of every fool, whose sense no more can feel
215But his own wringing. What infinite heart’s ease
Must kings neglect that private men enjoy?
And what have kings that privates have not too,
Save ceremony, save general ceremony?
And what art thou, thou idol ceremony?
220What kind of god art thou, that suffer’st more
Of mortal griefs than do thy worshippers?
What are thy rents? What are thy comings in?
O ceremony, show me but thy worth!
What is thy soul of adoration?
225Art thou aught else but place, degree, and form,
Creating awe and fear in other men,
Wherein thou art less happy, being feared,
Than they in fearing?
What drink’st thou oft, instead of homage sweet,
230But poisoned flattery? Oh, be sick, great greatness,
And bid thy ceremony give thee cure!
Think’st thou the fiery fever will go out
With titles blown from adulation?
Will it give place to flexure and low bending?
235Canst thou, when thou command’st the beggar’s knee,
Command the health of it? No, thou proud dream,
That play’st so subtly with a king’s repose.
I am a king that find thee, and I know
'Tis not the balm, the scepter, and the ball,
240The sword, the mace, the crown imperial,
The intertissued robe of gold and pearl,
The farcèd title running 'fore the king,
The throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp
Upon the king! “Let’s lay everything upon the king: our lives, our souls, our debts, our anxious wives, our children, and our sins.” I must bear responsibility for all of it. What a painful condition responsibility is. It goes along with being born to greatness, but it makes you get badmouthed by every fool who only has his own suffering to care about. What infinite peace do king’s give up that private men enjoy? What do kings have that private men do not, besides the pomp of their position? And what is this useless ceremony of kings? What kind of god is ceremony, which suffers more than its worshippers do? What income, what profit does it bring in? Oh, ceremony, only show me your value! Why are you adored? Do you amount to anything besides position, status, and ritual, which inspire awe and fear in others? You’re less happy, being feared, than they are in fearing you. What do you get to drink, instead of sweet obedience, but poisonous flattery? Try being sick, great greatness, and see if ceremony can cure you! Do you think fiery fever can be put out by the windy puff of titles? Will it be chased away by bowing and scraping? You can command a beggar to bow on bended knee, but can you take possession of his health? No, vain illusion, so intricately bound up with a king’s rest. I who understand you, gorgeous ceremony, because I’m a
The outward symbols of kingshipking and I know that neither the balm, the scepter, and the ball, the robe layered in gold and pearls, the fancy title that precedes the king, the throne he sits on, nor the tide of pomp that beats upon the high shore of this world —not all of these put together, not all of these laid down at night in an imperial bed, can cause the king to rest so soundly as does the miserable wretch who turns in at night with a full stomach and an empty mind, fed on the bread of his daily struggle. He never wakes to horrifying darkness, born of hell, but sweats in the hot sun from dawn to