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Enter, in mourning habits, VIRGILIA, VOLUMNIA, leading young MARCIUS, VALERIA, and Attendants.
My wife comes foremost; then the honored mould
Wherein this trunk was framed, and in her hand
The grandchild to her blood. But, out, affection!
All bond and privilege of nature, break!
Let it be virtuous to be obstinate.-
What is that curt'sy worth, or those doves'
Which can make gods forsworn?-I melt, and am not
Of stronger earth than others.-My mother bows;
As if Olympus to a molehill should
In supplication nod; and my young boy
Hath an aspect of intercession, which
Great nature cries, Deny not.-Let the Volces
Plough Rome, and harrow Italy; I'll never
Be such a gosling to obey instinct; but stand,
As if a man were author of himself,
And knew no other kin.
Vir. My lord and husband! Cor. These eyes are not the same I wore in Rome. Vir. The sorrow, that delivers us thus changed, Makes you think so.1
Like a dull actor now,
I have forgot my part, and I am out,
Even to a full disgrace. Best of my flesh,
Forgive my tyranny; but do not say,
For that, Forgive our Romans.-O, a kiss
Long as my exile, sweet as my revenge!
Now, by the jealous queen of heaven, that kiss
I carried from thee, dear; and my true lip
Hath virgined it e'er since. You gods! I prate,
And the most noble mother of the world
Leave unsaluted. Sink, my knee, i' the earth;
1 "Virgilia makes a voluntary misinterpretation of her husband's words. He says, 'These eyes are not the same,' meaning that he saw things with other eyes, or other dispositions. She lays hold on the word eyes, to turn his attention on their present appearance."
Of thy deep duty more impression show
Than that of common sons.
O, stand up blessed!
Whilst, with no softer cushion than the flint,
I kneel before thee; and unproperly
Show duty, as mistaken all the while
Between the child and parent.
What is this?
Your knees to me? to your corrected son?
Then let the pebbles on the hungry beach1
Fillip the stars; then let the mutinous winds
Strike the proud cedars 'gainst the fiery sun;
Murdering impossibility to make
What cannot be, slight work.
Thou art my warrior; I holp to frame thee. Do you know this lady? Cor. The noble sister of Publicola,
Like a great seamark, standing every flaw.*
And saving those that eye thee!
The moon of Rome; chaste as the icicle,
That's curded by the frost from purest snow,
And hangs on Dian's temple. Dear Valeria!2
Vol. This is a poor epitome of yours,
Which by the interpretation of full time
May show like all yourself.
The god of soldiers, With the consent of supreme Jove,3 inform Thy thoughts with nobleness; that thou mayst prove To shame unvulnerable, and stick i' the war
Vol. Your knee, sirrah.
Cor. That's my brave boy.
Vol. Even he, your wife, this lady, and myself, Are suitors to you.
I beseech you, peace;
Or, if you'd ask, remember this before;
3 Jupiter was the tutelary god of Rome.
4 A flaw is a violent blast or sudden gust of wind.
1 The hungry beach the sterile beach.
2 Though the scheme to solicit Coriolanus was originally proposed by Valeria, Plutarch has allotted her no address when she appears with his wife and mother on this occasion. The Poet has followed him.
The things, I have forsworn to grant, may never
Be held by you denials. Do not bid me
Dismiss my soldiers, or capitulate
Again with Rome's mechanics.-Tell me not
Wherein I seem unnatural. Desire not
To allay my rages and revenges, with
Your colder reasons.
O, no more, no more!
You have said you will not grant us any thing;
For we have nothing else to ask, but that
Which you deny already. Yet we will ask;
That, if you fail in our request, the blame
May hang upon your hardness; therefore hear us.
Cor. Aufidius, and you Volces, mark; for we'll Hear nought from Rome in private.-Your request?
Vol. Should we be silent and not speak, our raiment, And state of bodies, would bewray what life We have led since thy exile. Think with thyself, How more unfortunate than all living women Are we come hither; since that thy sight, which should Make our eyes flow with joy, hearts dance with comforts, Constrains them weep, and shake with fear and sor
Making the mother, wife, and child, to see
The son, the husband, and the father, tearing
His country's bowels out. And to poor we,
Thine enmity's most capital; thou barr'st us
Our prayers to the gods, which is a comfort
That all but we enjoy. For how can we,
Alas! how can we for our country pray,
Whereto we are bound; together with thy victory,
Whereto we are bound? Alack! or we must lose
The country, our dear nurse; or else thy person,
Our comfort in the country. We must find
An evident calamity, though we had
Our wish, which side should win; for either thou
Must, as a foreign recreant, be led
With manacles through our streets, or else
Triumphantly tread on thy country's ruin;
And bear the palm, for having bravely shed
Thy wife and children's blood. For myself, son,
I purpose not to wait on fortune, till
These wars determine;1 if I cannot persuade thee
Rather to show a noble grace to both parts,
Than seek the end of one, thou shalt no sooner
March to assault thy country, than to tread
(Trust to 't, thou shalt not) on thy mother's womb,
That brought thee to this world.
Ay, and on mine, That brought you forth this boy, to keep your name Living to time. He shall not tread on me; I'll run away till I am bigger, but then I'll fight. Cor. Not of a woman's tenderness to be, Requires nor child nor woman's face to see. I have sat too long. Vol. Nay, go not from us thus. If it were so, that our request did tend To save the Romans, thereby to destroy
The Volces whom you serve, you might condemn us, As poisonous of your honor. No; our suit
Is, that you reconcile them; while the Volces
May say, This mercy we have showed; the Romans,
This we received; and each in either side
Give the all-hail to thee, and cry, Be blessed
For making up this peace! Thou know'st, great son,
The end of war's uncertain; but this certain,
That, if thou conquer Rome, the benefit
Which thou shalt thereby reap, is such a name,
Whose repetition will be dogged with curses;
Whose chronicle thus writ,-The man was noble,
But with his last attempt he wiped it out;
Destroyed his country; and his name remains
To the ensuing age, abhorred. Speak to me, son.
Thou hast affected the fine strains of honor,
To imitate the graces of the gods;
To tear with thunder the wide cheeks o' the air,
And yet to charge thy sulphur with a bolt
That should but rive an oak. Why dost not speak?
Think'st thou it honorable for a noble man
Still to remember wrongs?-Daughter, speak you;
He cares not for your weeping.-Speak thou, boy;
Perhaps thy childishness will move him more
Than can our reasons.-There is no man in the world
More bound to his mother: yet here he lets me prate
Like one i'the stocks. Thou hast never in thy life
Showed thy dear mother any courtesy ;
When she, (poor hen!) fond of no second brood,
Has clucked thee to the wars, and safely home,
Loaden with honor. Say, my request's unjust,
And spurn me back; but, if it be not so,
Thou art not honest; and the gods will plague thee,
That thou restrain'st from me the duty, which
To a mother's part belongs.-He turns away.
Down, ladies; let us shame him with our knees.
To his surname Coriolanus 'longs more pride
Than pity to our prayers. Down; an end.
This is the last ;-so we will home to Rome,
And die among our neighbors.-Nay, behold us;
This boy, that cannot tell what he would have,
But kneels, and holds up hands, for fellowship,
Does reason our petition with more strength
Than thou hast to deny't.-Come, let us go;
This fellow had a Volcian to his mother;
His wife is in Corioli; and his child,
Like him, by chance.-Yet give us our despatch;
I am hushed until our city be afire,
And then I'll speak a little.
O mother, mother! [Holding VOLUMNIA by the hands, silent. What have you done? Behold, the heavens do ope, The gods look down, and this unnatural scene They laugh at. O my mother, mother! O! You have won a happy victory to Rome; But, for your son, believe it, O, believe it,
1 "Keeps me in a state of ignominy, talking to no purpose."
2 i. e. does argue for us and our petition.