Act 2, Scene I

Scene: The same. The Tent of Penius.

Enter PENIUS, REGULUS, MACER, and DRUSIUS.

Penius.
I must come?
Macer.
So the general commands, sir.
Penius.
I must bring up my regiment?
Macer.
Believe, sir,
I bring no lie.
Penius.
But did he say, I must come?
Macer.
So delivered.
Penius.
How long is't, Regulus, since I commanded
In Britain here?
Regulus.
About five years, great Penius.
Penius.
The general some five months. Are all my actions
So poor and lost, my services so barren,
That I am remembered in no nobler language
But must come up?
Macer.
I do beseech you, sir,
Weigh but the time's estate.
Penius.
Yes, good lieutenant,
I do, and his that sways it. Must come up?
Am I turn'd bare centurion? Must and shall,
Fit embassies to court my honour?
Macer.
Sir——
Penius.
Set me to lead a handful of my men
Against an hundred thousand barbarous slaves,
That have march'd name by name with Rome's best doers?
Serve 'em up some other meat; I'll bring no food
To stop the jaws of all those hungry wolves:
My regiment's mine own. I must, my language?

Enter CURIUS.

Curius.
Penius, where lies the host?
Penius.
Where Fate may find 'em.
Curius.
Are they ingirt?
Penius.
The battle's lost.
Curius.
So soon?
Penius.
No; but 'tis lost, because it must be won;
The Britons must be victors. Whoe'er saw
A troop of bloody vultures hovering
About a few corrupted carcasses,
Let him behold the silly Roman host,
Girded with millions of fierce Britain swains,
With deaths as many as they have had hopes;
And then go thither, he that loves his shame!
I scorn my life, yet dare not lose my name.
Curius.
Do not you hold it a most famous end,
When both our names and lives are sacrificed
For Rome's increase?
Penius.
Yes, Curius; but mark this too:
What glory is there, or what lasting fame
Can be to Rome or us, what full example,
When one is smother'd with a multitude,
And crowded in amongst a nameless press?
Honour got out of flint, and on their heads
Whose virtues, like the sun, exhaled all valours,
Must not be lost in mists and fogs of people,
Noteless and not of name, but rude and naked:
Nor can Rome task us with impossibilities,
Or bid us fight against a flood; we serve her,
That she may proudly say she has good soldiers,
Not slaves, to choke all hazards. Who but fools,
That make no difference betwixt certain dying,
And dying well, would fling their fames and fortunes
Into this Britain gulf, this quicksand ruin,
That, sinking, swallows us? what noble hand
Can find a subject fit for blood there? or what sword
Room for his execution? what air to cool us,
But poison'd with their blasting breaths and curses,
Where we lie buried quick above the ground,
And are with labouring sweat, and breathless pain,
Kill'd like to slaves, and cannot kill again?
Drusius.
Penius, mark ancient wars, and know that then
A captain weigh'd an hundred thousand men.
Penius.
Drusius, mark ancient wisdom, and you'll find then,
He gave the overthrow that saved his men.
I must not go.
Regulus.
The soldiers are desirous
Their eagles all drawn out, sir.
Penius.
Who drew up, Regulus?
Ha? speak! did you? whose bold will durst attempt this?
Drawn out? why, who commands, sir? on whose warrant
Durst they advance?
Regulus.
I keep mine own obedience.
Drusius.
'Tis like the general cause, their love of honour,
Relieving of their wants——
Penius.
Without my knowledge?
Am I no more? my place but at their pleasures?
Come, who did this?
Drusius.
By Heaven, sir, I am ignorant.
[Drum softly within, then enter Soldiers, with drum and colours.
Penius.
What! am I grown a shadow?—Hark! they march.
I'll know, and will be myself.—Stand! Disobedience?
He that advances one foot higher, dies for't.
Run through the regiment, upon your duties,
And charge 'em on command, beat back again;
By Heaven, I'll tithe 'em all else!
Regulus.
We'll do our best.
[Exeunt Drusius and Regulus.
Penius.
Back! cease your bawling drums there,
I'll beat the tubs about your brains else. Back!
Do I speak with less fear than thunder to ye?
Must I stand to beseech ye? Home, home!—Ha!
Do ye stare upon me? Are those minds I moulded,
Those honest valiant tempers I was proud
To be a fellow to, those great discretions
Made your names fear'd and honour'd, turn'd to wildfires?
Oh, gods, to disobedience? Command, farewell!
And be ye witness with me, all things sacred,
I have no share in these men's shames! March, soldiers,
And seek your own sad ruins; your old Penius
Dares not behold your murders.
1 Soldier.
Captain!
2 Soldier.
Captain!
3 Soldier.
Dear, honour'd captain!
Penius.
Too, too dear-loved soldiers,
Which made ye weary of me, and Heaven yet knows,
Though in your mutinies, I dare not hate you;
Take your own wills! 'tis fit your long experience
Should now know how to rule yourselves; I wrong ye,
In wishing ye to save your lives and credits,
To keep your necks whole from the axe hangs o'er ye:
Alas, I much dishonour'd ye; go, seek the Britons,
And say ye come to glut their sacrifices;
But do not say I sent ye. What ye have been,
How excellent in all parts, good and govern'd,
Is only left of my command, for story;
What now ye are, for pity. Fare ye well!
[Going.

Enter DRUSIUS and REGULUS.

Drusius.
Oh, turn again, great Penius! see the soldier
In all points apt for duty.
Regulus.
See his sorrow
For his disobedience, which he savs was haste,
And haste, he thought, to please you with. See, captain,
The toughness of his courage turn'd to water;
See how his manly heart melts.
Penius.
Go; beat homeward;
There learn to eat your little with obedience;
And henceforth strive to do as I direct ye.
[Exeunt Soldiers.
Macer.
My answer, sir.
Penius.
Tell the great general,
My compares are no faggots to fill breaches:
Myself no man that must, or shall, can carry:
Bid him be wise, and where he is, he's safe then;
And when he finds out possibilities,
He may command me. Commend me to the captains.
Macer.
All this I shall deliver.
Penius.
Farewell, Macer!
[Exit.
Curius.
Pray gods this breed no mischief!
Regulus.
It must needs,
If stout Suetonius win; for then his anger,
Besides the soldiers' loss of due and honour,
Will break together on him.
Drusius.
He's a brave fellow;
And but a little hide his haughtiness,
(Which is but sometimes neither, on some causes)
He shows the worthiest Roman this day living.
You may, good Curius, to the general
Make all things seem the best.
Curius.
I shall endeavour.
Pray for our fortunes, gentlemen; if we fall,
This one farewell serves for a funeral.
The gods make sharp our swords, and steel our hears!
Regulus.
We dare, alas, but cannot fight our parts.
[Exeunt.