Act 1, Scene I

Scene: The British Camp.

Enter BONDUCA, Daughters, HENGO, NENNIUS, and Soldiers.

The hardy Romans? Oh, ye gods of Britain,
The rust of arms, the blushing shame of soldiers!


Are these the men that conquer by inheritance?
The fortune-makers? these the Julians,
That with the sun measure the end of nature,
Making the world but one Rome, and one Cæsar?
Shame, how they flee! Cæsar's soft soul dwells in 'em,
Their mothers got 'em sleeping, Pleasure nursed 'em;
Their bodies sweat with sweet oils, love's allurements,
Not lusty arms. Dare they send these to seek us,
These Roman girls? Is Britain grown so wanton?
Twice we have beat 'em, Nennius, scatter'd 'em:
And through their big-boned Germans on whose pikes
The honour of their actions sits in triumph,
Made themes for songs to shame 'em: And a woman,
A woman beat 'em, Nennius; a weak woman,
A woman, beat these Romans!

So it seems;
A man would shame to talk so.
Who's that?
Cousin, do you grieve my fortunes?
No. Bonduca;
If I grieve, 'tis the bearing of your fortunes:
You put too much wind to your sail; discretion
And hardy valour are the twins of honour,
And, nursed together, make a conqueror;
Divided, but a talker. 'Tis a truth,
That Rome has fled before us twice, and routed;
A truth we ought to crown the gods for, lady,
And not our tongues; a truth is none of ours,
Nor in our ends, more than the noble bearing;
For then it leaves to be a virtue, lady,
And we, that have been victors, beat ourselves,
When we insult upon our honour's subject.
My valiant cousin, is it foul to say
What liberty and honour bid us do,
And what the gods allow us?
No, Bonduca;
So what we say exceed not what we do.
You call the Romans "fearful, fleeing Romans,
And Roman girls, the lees of tainted pleasures:"
Does this become a doer? are they such?
They are no more.
Where is your conquest then?
Why are your altars crown'd with wreaths of flowers?
The beasts with gilt horns waiting for the fire?
The holy Druides composing songs
Of everlasting life to victory?
Why are these triumphs, lady? for a May-game?
For hunting a poor herd of wretched Romans?
Is it no more? Shut up your temples, Britons,
And let the husbandman redeem his heifers,
Put out your holy fires, no timbrel ring,
Let's home and sleep; for such great overthrows,
A candle bums too bright a sacrifice,
A glow-worm's tall too full of flame.—Oh, Nennius,
Thou hadst a noble uncle knew a Roman,
And how to speak him, how to give him weight
In both his fortunes.
By the gods, I think
You dote upon these Romans, Caratach!
Witness these wounds, I do; they were fairly given:
I love an enemy; I was born a soldier;
And he that in the head on's troop defies me,
Bending my manly body with his sword,
I make a mistress. Yellow-tressed Hymen
Ne'er tied a longing virgin with more joy,
Than I am married to that man that wounds me:
And are not all these Roman? Ten struck battles
I suck'd these honour'd scars from, and all Roman;
Ten years of bitter nights and heavy marches,
(When many a frozen storm sung through my cuirass,
And made it doubtful whether that or I
Were the more stubborn metal) have I wrought through,
And all to try these Romans. Ten times a-night
I have swam the rivers, when the stars of Rome
Shot at me as I floated, and the billows
Tumbled their watry ruins on my shoulders,
Charging my batter'd sides with troops of agues;
And still to try these Romans, whom I found
(And, if I lie, my wounds be henceforth backward,
And be you witness, gods, and all my dangers)
As ready, and as full of that I brought,
(Which was not fear, nor flight) as valiant,
As vigilant, as wise, to do and suffer,
Ever advanced as forward as the Britons,
Their sleeps as short, their hopes as high as ours,
Ay, and as subtle, lady. 'Tis dishonour,
And, follow'd, will be impudence, Bonduca,
And grow to no belief, to taint these Romans.
Have not I seen the Britons——
Run, run, Bonduca! not the quick rack swifter!
The virgin from the hated ravisher
Not half so fearful; not a flight drawn home.
A round stone from a sling, a lover's wish,
E'er made that haste that they have. By the gods,
I have seen these Britons, that you magnify,
Run as they would have out-run time, and roaring,
Basely for mercy roaring; the light shadows,
That in a thought scur o'er the fields of corn,
Halted on crutches to 'em.
Oh, ye powers,
What scandals do I suffer!
Yes, Bonduca,
I have seen thee run too; and thee, Nennius;
Yea, run apace, both; then, when Penius
(The Roman girl!) cut-through your armed carts,
And drove 'em headlong on ye, down the hill;
Then, when he hunted ye like Britain foxes,
More by the scent than sight; then did I see
These valiant and approved men of Britain,
Like boding owls, creep into tods of ivy,
And hoot their fears to one another nightly.
And what did you then, Caratach?
I fled too,
But not so fast; your jewel had been lost then,
Young Hengo there; he trasht me, Nennius:
For, when your fears out-run him., then stept I,
And in the head of all the Roman fury
Took him, and, with my tough belt, to my back
I buckled him; behind him my sure shield;
And then I follow'd. If I say I fought
Five times in bringing off this bud of Britain,
I lie not, Nennius. Neither had you heard
Me speak this, or ever seen the child more,
But that the sun of virtue, Penius,
Seeing me steer through all these storms of danger,
My helm still in my hand (my sword), my prow
Turn'd to my foe (my face), he cried out nobly,
"Go, Briton, bear thy lion's whelp off safely;
Thy manly sword has ransom'd thee; grow strong,
And let me meet thee once again in arms;
Then, if thou stand'st, thou'rt mine." I took his offer,
And here I am to honour him.
Oh, cousin,
From what a flight of honour hast thou check'd me!
What wouldst thou make me, Caratach?
See, lady,
The noble use of others in our losses.
Does this afflict you? Had the Romans cried this.
And, as we have done theirs, sung out these fortunes,
Rail'd on our base condition, hooted at us,
Made marks as far as th' earth was ours, to show us
Nothing but sea could stop our flights, despised us,
And held it equal whether banqueting
Or beating of the Britons were more business,
It would have gall'd you.
Let me think we conquer'd.
Do; but so think, as we may be conquer'd;
And where we have found virtue, though in those
That came to make us slaves, let's cherish it.
There's not a blow we gave since Julius landed,
That was of strength and worth, but, like records,
They file to after-ages. Our registers
The Romans are, for noble deeds of honour;
And shall we burn their mentions with upbraidings?
No more; I see myself. Thou hast made me, cousin,
More than my fortunes durst, for they abused me,
And wound me up so high, I swell'd with glory:
Thy temperance has cured that tympany,
And given me health again, nay, more, discretion.
Shall we have peace? for now I love these Romans.
Thy love and hate are both unwise ones, lady.
Your reason?
Is not peace the end of arms?
Not where the cause implies a general conquest:
Had we a difference with some petty isle,
Or with our neighbours, lady, for our land-marks,
The taking in of some rebellious lord,
Or making head against commotions,
After a day of blood, peace might be argued;
But where we grapple for the ground we live on,
The liberty we hold as dear as life,
The gods we worship, and, next those, our honours,
And with those swords that know no end of battle:
Those men, beside themselves, allow no neighbour;
Those minds that where the day is, claim inheritance,
And where the sun makes ripe the fruits, their harvest,
And where they march, but measure out more ground
To add to Rome, and here i' th' bowels on us;
It must not be. No, as they are our foes,
And those that must be so until we tire 'em,
Let's use the peace of honour, that's fair dealing,
But in our hands our swords. That hardy Roman
That hopes to graft himself into my stock,
Must first begin his kindred under-ground,
And be allied in ashes.
As thou hast nobly spoken, shall be done;
And Hengo to thy charge I here deliver:
The Romans shall have worthy wars.
They shall:
And, little sir, when your young bones grow stiffer,
And when I see you able in a morning
To beat a dozen boys, and then to breakfast,
I'll tie you to a sword.
And what then, uncle?
Then you must kill, sir, the next valiant Roman
That calls you knave.
And must I kill but one?
An hundred, boy, I hope.
I hope five hundred.
That is a noble boy!—Come, worthy lady,
Let's to our several charges, and henceforth
Allow an enemy both weight and worth.