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Link to Copy at Gutenberg




by William Shakespeare

Dramatis Personae


      Lear, King of Britain.

      King of France.

      Duke of Burgundy.

      Duke of Cornwall.

      Duke of Albany.

      Earl of Kent.

      Earl of Gloucester.

      Edgar, son of Gloucester.

      Edmund, bastard son to Gloucester.

      Curan, a courtier.

      Old Man, tenant to Gloucester.


      Lear's Fool.

      Oswald, steward to Goneril.

      A Captain under Edmund's command.


      A Herald.

      Servants to Cornwall.


      Goneril, daughter to Lear.

      Regan, daughter to Lear.

      Cordelia, daughter to Lear.


      Knights attending on Lear, Officers, Messengers, Soldiers,



Link to Copy at Gutenberg

No, no, no, no! Come, let's away to prison.

     We two alone will sing like birds i' th' cage.

     When thou dost ask me blessing, I'll kneel down

     And ask of thee forgiveness. So we'll live,

     And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh

     At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues

     Talk of court news; and we'll talk with them too-

     Who loses and who wins; who's in, who's out-

     And take upon 's the mystery of things,

     As if we were God's spies; and we'll wear out,

     In a wall'd prison, packs and sects of great ones

     That ebb and flow by th' moon.


      Take them away.


     Upon such sacrifices, my Cordelia,

     The gods themselves throw incense. Have I caught thee?

     He that parts us shall bring a brand from heaven

     And fire us hence like foxes. Wipe thine eyes.

     The goodyears shall devour 'em, flesh and fell,

     Ere they shall make us weep! We'll see 'em starv'd first.



   Pale, at its ghastly noon,
   Pauses above the death-still wood--the moon;
   The night-sprite, sighing, through the dim air stirs;
    The clouds descend in rain;
    Mourning, the wan stars wane,
   Flickering like dying lamps in sepulchres!
   Haggard as spectres--vision-like and dumb,
    Dark with the pomp of death, and moving slow,
   Towards that sad lair the pale procession come
    Where the grave closes on the night below.

   With dim, deep-sunken eye,
   Crutched on his staff, who trembles tottering by?
   As wrung from out the shattered heart, one groan
   Breaks the deep hush alone!
   Crushed by the iron fate, he seems to gather
    All life's last strength to stagger to the bier,
   And hearken--Do these cold lips murmur "Father?"
    The sharp rain, drizzling through that place of fear,
   Pierces the bones gnawed fleshless by despair,
   And the heart's horror stirs the silver hair.

   Fresh bleed the fiery wounds
    Through all that agonizing heart undone--
   Still on the voiceless lips "my Father" sounds,
    And still the childless Father murmurs "Son!"
   Ice-cold--ice-cold, in that white shroud he lies--
    Thy sweet and golden dreams all vanished there--
   The sweet and golden name of "Father" dies
   Into thy curse,--ice-cold--ice-cold--he lies!
    Dead, what thy life's delight and Eden were!

   Mild, as when, fresh from the arms of Aurora,
    While the air like Elysium is smiling above,
   Steeped in rose-breathing odors, the darling of Flora
    Wantons over the blooms on his winglets of love.
   So gay, o'er the meads, went his footsteps in bliss,
    The silver wave mirrored the smile of his face;
   Delight, like a flame, kindled up at his kiss,
    And the heart of the maid was the prey of his chase.

   Boldly he sprang to the strife of the world,
    As a deer to the mountain-top carelessly springs;
   As an eagle whose plumes to the sun are unfurled,
    Swept his hope round the heaven on its limitless wings.
   Proud as a war-horse that chafes at the rein,
    That, kingly, exults in the storm of the brave;
   That throws to the wind the wild stream of its mane,
    Strode he forth by the prince and the slave!

   Life like a spring day, serene and divine,
    In the star of the morning went by as a trance;
   His murmurs he drowned in the gold of the wine,
    And his sorrows were borne on the wave of the dance.

   Worlds lay concealed in the hopes of his youth!--
    When once he shall ripen to manhood and fame!
   Fond father exult!--In the germs of his youth
    What harvests are destined for manhood and fame!

   Not to be was that manhood!--The death-bell is knelling,
    The hinge of the death-vault creaks harsh on the ears--
   How dismal, O Death, is the place of thy dwelling!
    Not to be was that manhood!--Flow on, bitter tears!
   Go, beloved, thy path to the sun,
    Rise, world upon world, with the perfect to rest;
   Go--quaff the delight which thy spirit has won,
    And escape from our grief in the Halls of the Blest.

   Again (in that thought what a healing is found!)
    To meet in the Eden to which thou art fled!--
   Hark, the coffin sinks down with a dull, sullen sound,
    And the ropes rattle over the sleep of the dead.
   And we cling to each other!--O Grave, he is thine!
    The eye tells the woe that is mute to the ears--
   And we dare to resent what we grudge to resign,
    Till the heart's sinful murmur is choked in its tears.
   Pale at its ghastly noon,
   Pauses above the death-still wood--the moon!
   The night-sprite, sighing, through the dim air stirs:
    The clouds descend in rain;
    Mourning, the wan stars wane,
   Flickering like dying lamps in sepulchres.
   The dull clods swell into the sullen mound;
    Earth, one look yet upon the prey we gave!
   The grave locks up the treasure it has found;
   Higher and higher swells the sullen mound--
    Never gives back the grave!

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