Act 4, Scene III

Scene: The Tent of PENIUS.

Enter PENIUS, DRUSIUS, and REGULUS.

Regulus.
The soldier shall not grieve you.
Penius.
Pray ye forsake me;
Look not upon me, as ye love your honours!
I am so cold a coward, my infection
Will choke your virtues like a damp else.
Drusius.
Dear captain!
Regulus.
Most honoured sir!
Penius.
Most hated, most abhorred!
Say so, and then ye know me, nay, ye please me.
Oh, my dear credit, my dear credit!
Regulus.
Sure
His mind is dangerous.
Drusius.
The good gods cure it!
Penius.
My honour, got through fire, through stubborn breaches,
Through battles that have been as hard to win as heaven,
Through Death himself, in all his horrid trims,
Is gone for ever, ever, ever, gentlemen!
And now I am left to scornful tales and laughters,
To hootings at, pointing with fingers, "That's he,
That's the brave gentleman forsook the battle,
The most wise Penius, the disputing coward."
Oh, my good sword, break from my side, and kill me;
Cut out the coward from my heart!
Regulus.
You are none.
Penius.
He lies that says so; by Heaven, he lies, lies basely,
Baser than I have done! Come, soldiers, seek me;
I have robb'd ye of your virtues! Justice seek me,
I have broke my fair obedience! lost! Shame take me,
Take me, and swallow me, make ballads of me,
Shame, endless shame! and pray do you forsake me!
Drusius.
What shall we do?
Penius.
Good gentlemen, forsake me;
You were not wont to be commanded. Friends, pray do it,
And do not fear; for, as I am a coward,
I will not hurt myself (when that mind takes me,
I'll call to you, and ask your help), I dare not.
[Throws himself upon the ground.

Enter PETILLIUS.

Petillius.
Good-morrow, gentlemen! Where's the tribune?
Regulus.
There.
Drusius.
Whence come you, good Petillius?
Petillius.
From the general.
Drusius.
With what, for Heaven's sake?
Petillius.
With good counsel, Drusius,
And love, to comfort him.
Drusius.
Good Regulus,
Step to the soldier and allay his anger;
For he is wild as winter.
[Exeunt Drusius and Regulus.
Petillius.
Oh, are you there? have at you!—Sure he's dead,
[Half aside.
It cannot be he dare out-live this fortune;
He must die, 'tis most necessary; men expect it,
And thought of life in him goes beyond coward.
Forsake the field so basely? Fy upon't!
So poorly to betray his worth? So coldly
To cut all credit from the soldier? Sure
If this man mean to live (as I should think it
Beyond belief), he must retire where never
The name of Rome, the voice of arms, or honour,
Was known or heard of yet. He's certain dead,
Or strongly means it; he's no soldier else,
No Roman in him; all he has done but outside,
Fought either drunk or desperate. Now he rises.—
How does lord Penius?
Penius.
As you see.
Petillius.
I am glad on't;
Continue so still. The lord general,
The valiant general, great Suetonius——
Penius.
No more of me is spoken my name's perished.
Petillius.
He that commanded fortune and the day,
By his own valour and discretion
(When, as some say, Penius refused to come,
But I believe 'em not), sent me to see you.
Penius.
Ye are welcome; and pray see me, see me well;
You shall not see me long.
Petillius.
I hope so, Penius.—
[Aside.
The gods defend, sir!
Penius.
See me and understand me: This is he,
Left to fill up your triumph; he that basely
Whistled his honour off to th' wind, that coldly
Shrunk in his politic head, when Rome, like reapers,
Sweat blood and spirit for a glorious harvest,
And bound it up, and brought it off; that fool,
That having gold and copper offered him,
Refused the wealth, and took the waste; that soldier,
That being courted by loud Fame and Fortune,
Labour in one hand that propounds us gods,
And in the other Glory that creates us,
Yet durst doubt and be damned!
Petillius.
It was an error.
Penius.
A foul one, and a black one.
Petillius.
Yet the blackest
May be washed white again.
Penius.
Never.
Petillius.
Your leave, sir;
And I beseech you note me, for I love you,
And bring alone, all comfort: Are we gods,
Allied to no infirmities? are our natures
More than men's natures? When we slip a little
Out of the way of virtue, are we lost?
Is there no medicine called sweet mercy?
Penius.
None, Petillius;
There is no mercy in mankind can reach me,
Nor is it fit it should: I have sinned beyond it.
Petillius.
Forgiveness meets with all faults.
Penius.
'Tis all faults,
All sins I can commit, to be forgiven;
'Tis loss of whole man in me, my discretion,
To be so stupid, to arrive at pardon!
Petillius.
Oh, but the general——
Penius.
He is a brave gentleman,
A valiant, and a loving; and I dare say
He would, as far as honour durst direct him,
Make even with my fault; but 'tis not honest
Nor in his power: Examples that may nourish
Neglect and disobedience in whole bodies,
And totter the estates and faiths of armies,
Must not be played withal; nor out of pity
Make a general forget his duty;
Nor dare I hope more from him than is worthy.
Petillius.
What would you do?
Penius.
Die.
Petillius.
So would sullen children,
Women that want their wills, slaves disobedient,
That fear the law. Die? Fy, great captain! you
A man to rule men, to have thousand lives
Under your regiment, and let your passion
Betray your reason? I bring you all forgiveness,
The noblest kind commends, your place, your honour—
Penius.
Pr'ythee no more; 'tis foolish. Didst not thou
(By Heaven, thou didst; I overheard thee, there,
There where thou stand'st now) deliver me for rascal,
Poor, dead, cold, coward, miserable, wretched,
If I out-lived this ruin?
Petillius.
I?
Penius.
And thou didst it nobly,
Like a true man, a soldier; and I thank thee,
I thank thee, good Petillius, thus I thank thee!
Petillius.
Since you are so justly made up, let me tell you,
'Tis fit you die indeed.
Penius.
Oh, how thou lovest me!
Petillius.
For say he had forgiven you, say the people's whispers
Were tame again, the time run out for wonder,
What must your own command think, from whose swords
You have taken off the edges, from whose valours
The due and recompense of arms; nay, made it doubtful
Whether they knew obedience? must not these kill you?
Say they are won to pardon you, by mere miracle
Brought to forgive you, what old valiant soldier,
What man that loves to fight, and fight for Rome,
Will ever follow you more? Dare you know these ventures?
If so, I bring you comfort; dare you take it?
Penius.
No, no. Petillius, no.
Petillius.
If your mind serve you,
You may live still; but how?—yet pardon me:
You may out-wear all too;—but when?—and certain
There is a mercy for each fault, if tamely
A man will take't upon conditions.
Penius.
No, by no means: I am only thinking now, sir
(For I am resolved to go), of a most base death,
Fitting the baseness of my fault. I'll hang.
Petillius.
You shall not: you are a gentleman I honour,
I would else flatter you, and force you live,
Which is far baser. Hanging? 'tis a dog's death,
And end for slaves.
Penius.
The fitter for my baseness.
Petillius.
Besides, the man that's hanged preaches his end,
And sits a sign for all the world to gape at.
Penius.
That's true; I'll take a fitter; poison.
Petillius.
No,
'Tis equal ill; the death of rats and women,
Lovers, and lazy boys, that fear correction;
Die like a man.
Penius.
Why, my sword, then.
Petillius.
Ay, if your sword be sharp, sir.
There's nothing under Heaven that's like your sword;
Your sword's a death indeed!
Penius.
It shall be sharp, sir.
Petillius.
Why, Mithridates was an arrant ass
To die by poison, if all Bosphorus
Could lend him swords: Your sword must do the deed:
'Tis shame to die chok'd, fame to die and bleed.
Penius.
Thou hast confirm'd me; and, my good Petillius,
Tell me no more I may live.
Petillius.
'Twas my commission;
But now I see you in a nobler way,
A way to make all even.
Penius.
Farewell, captain!
Be a good man, and fight well: be obedient;
Command thyself, and then thy men. Why shakest thou?
Petillius.
I do not, sir.
Penius.
I would thou hadst, Petillius!
I would find something to forsake the world with,
Worthy the man that dies: A kind of earthquake
Through all stem valours but mine own.
Petillius.
I feel now
A kind of trembling in me.
Penius.
Keep it still;
As thou lovest virtue keep it.
Petillius.
And, brave captain,
The great and honour'd Penius!—
Penius.
That again!
Oh, how it heightens me! again, Petillius!
Petillius.
Most excellent commander—
Penius.
Those were mine!
Mine, only mine!
Petillius.
They are still.
Penius.
Then, to keep 'em
For ever falling more, have at ye!—Heavens,
Ye everlasting powers, I am yours:
The work is done,
[Falls upon his sword.
That neither fire, nor age, nor melting envy,
Shall ever conquer. Carry my last words
To the great general: Kiss his hands, and say,
My soul I give to Heaven, my fault to justice,
Which I have done upon myself; my virtue,
If ever there was any in poor Penius,
Made more, and happier, light on him!—I faint—
And where there is a foe, I wish him fortune.
I die: Lie lightly on my ashes, gentle earth!
[Dies.
Petillius.
And on my sin! Farewell, great Penius!—
The soldier is in fury; now I am glad
[Noise within.
'Tis done before he comes. This way for me,
The way of toil;—for thee, the way of honour!
[Exit.

DRUSIUS, REGULUS, and Soldiers, are heard without.

Soldier.
Kill him, kill him, kill him!
Drusius.
What will ye do?
Regulus.
Good soldiers, honest soldiers——
Soldier.
Kill him, kill him, kill him!
Drusius.
Kill us first: we command too.
Regulus.
Valiant soldiers,
Consider but whose life ye seek.—Oh, Drusius,
Bid him be gone; he dies else.—[Drusius enters.]—Shall Rome say,
Ye most approved soldiers, her dear children
Devoured the fathers of the fights? shall rage
And stubborn fury guide those swords to slaughter,
To slaughter of their own, to civil ruin?
Drusius.
Oh, let 'em in; all's done, all's ended, Regulus;
Penius has found his last eclipse. Come, soldiers,
Come and behold your miseries; come bravely,
Full of your mutinous and bloody angers,
And here bestow your darts.—Oh, only Roman,
Oh, father of the wars!

Enter REGULUS and Soldiers.

Regulus.
Why stand ye stupid?
Where be your killing furies? whose sword now
Shall first be sheathed in Penius? Do ye weep?
Howl out, ye wretches, ye have cause; howl ever!
Who shall now lead ye fortunate? whose valour
Preserve ye to the glory of your country?
Who shall march out before ye, coyed and courted,
By all the mistresses of war, care, counsel,
Quick-eyed experience, and victory twined to him?
Who shall beget ye deeds beyond inheritance
To speak your names, and keep your honours living,
When children fall, and Time, that takes all with him,
Build houses for ye to oblivion?
Drusius.
Oh, ye poor desperate fools, no more now soldiers.
Go home, and hang your arms up; let rust rot 'em;
And humble your stem valours to soft prayers!
For ye have sunk the frame of all your virtues;
The sun that warmed your bloods is set for ever.—
I'll kiss thy honoured cheek. Farewell, great Penius,
Thou thunderbolt, farewell!—Take up the body:
To-morrow morning to the camp convey it,
There to receive due ceremonies. That eye,
That blinds himself with weeping, gets most glory.
[Exeunt, bearing out the body. A dead march.