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pikes, ere we become rakes;1 for the gods know, I speak this in hunger for bread, not in thirst for re
2 Cit. Would you proceed especially against Caius Marcius?
Cit. Against him first; he's a very dog to the commonalty.
2 Cit. Consider you what services he has done for his country?
1 Cit. Very well; and could be content to give him good report for't, but that he pays himself with being proud.
2 Cit. Nay, but speak not maliciously.
1 Cit. I say unto you, what he hath done famously, he did it to that end: though soft-conscienced men can be content to say, it was for his country, he did it to please his mother, and to be partly proud; which he is, even to the altitude of his virtue.
2 Cit. What he cannot help in his nature, you account a vice in him. You must in no way say he is
1 Cit. If I must not, I need not be barren of accusations; he hath faults, with surplus, to tire in repetition. [Shouts within.] What shouts are these? The other side o' the city is risen. Why stay we prating here? To the capitol.
Cit. Come, come.
1 Cit. Soft; who comes here?
Enter MENENIUS AGRIPPA.
2 Cit. Worthy Menenius Agrippa; one that hath always loved the people.
1 Cit. He's one honest enough; 'would all the rest were so!
1 "As lean as a rake" is an old proverbial expression. There is, as Warburton observes, a miserable joke intended: "Let us now revenge this with forks, before we become rakes;" a pike or pike-fork, being the ancient term for a pitchfork. The origin of the proverb is, doubtless, "as lean as a rache or ræcc" (pronounced rake), and signifying a greyhound.
Men. What work's, my countrymen, in hand? Where go you
With bats and clubs? The matter? Speak, I pray
1 Cit. Our business is not unknown to the senate; they have had inkling, this fortnight, what we intend to do, which now we'll show 'em in deeds. They say poor suitors have strong breaths; they shall know we have strong arms too.
Men. Why, masters, my good friends, mine honest neighbors,
you undo yourselves?
1 Cit. We cannot, sir; we are undone already.
Thither where more attends you; and you slander The helms o' the state, who care for you like fathers, When you curse them as enemies.
1 Cit. Care for us!-True, indeed!-They ne'er cared for us yet. Suffer us to famish, and their storehouses crammed with grain; make edicts for usury, to support usurers; repeal daily any wholesome act established against the rich; and provide more piercing statutes daily to chain up and restrain the poor. If the wars eat us not up, they will; and there's all the love they bear us.
Men. Either you must
Confess yourselves wondrous malicious,
But, since it serves my purpose, I will venture
To stale't1 a little more.
1 Cit. Well, I'll hear it, sir: yet you must not think to fob off our disgrace with a tale; but, an't please you, deliver.
Men. There was a time, when all the body's members
Rebelled against the belly; thus accused it :-
I' the midst o' the body, idle and inactive,
1 Cit. Well, sir, what answer made the belly? Men. Sir, I shall tell you.-With a kind of smile, Which ne'er came from the lungs, but even thus, (For, look you, I may make the belly smile, As well as speak,) it tauntingly replied
To the discontented members, the mutinous parts
They are not such as you.
1 Cit. Your belly's answer; what? Men. The kingly-crowned head, the vigilant eye, The counsellor heart," the arm our soldier,
1 i. e. render it more common: "the old copies have 'scale't a little more;' for which Theobald judiciously proposed stale. To this Warburton objects, because to scale signifies to weigh; so indeed it does, and many other things; none of which, however, bear any relation to the text. Steevens, too, prefers scale, which he proves from a variety of authorities to mean scatter, disperse, spread:' to make any of them, however, suit his purpose, he is obliged to give an unfaithful version of
2 Disgraces are hardships, injuries.
3 Where for whereas.
4 i. e. exactly.
5 The heart was anciently esteemed the seat of the understanding. See the next note. There have been, in former editions, some inaccuracies in the appropriation of some portions of this dialogue, which Mr. Singer has judiciously rectified.
Our steed the leg, the tongue our trumpeter,
Men. 'Fore me, this fellow speaks!-what then? what then?
Should by the cormorant belly be restrained,
Well, what then?
The former agents, if they did complain,
Men. Note me this, good friend; Your most grave belly was deliberate, Not rash like his accusers, and thus answered :True is it, my incorporate friends, quoth he, That I receive the general food at first, Which you do live upon and fit it is; Because I am the store-house, and the shop Of the whole body. But if you do remember, I send it through the rivers of your blood, Even to the court, the heart,-to the seat o' the brain;1 And through the cranks and offices of man, The strongest nerves, and small, inferior veins, From me receive that natural competency Whereby they live. And though that all at once, You, my good friends, (this says the belly,) mark me,— 1 Cit. Ay, sir; well, well. Men. See what I do deliver out to each; Yet I can make my audit up, that all From me do back receive the flour of all, And leave me but the bran. What say you to't?
Though all at once cannot
1 Shakspeare uses seat for throne. "I send it (says the belly) through the blood, even to the royal residence, the heart, in which the kinglycrowned understanding sits enthroned."
2 Cranks are windings; the meandering ducts of the human body.
1 Cit. It was an answer. How apply you this? Men. The senators of Rome are this good belly, And you the mutinous members. For examine Their counsels, and their cares; digest things rightly, Touching the weal of the common; you shall find, No public benefit which you receive, But it proceeds, or comes, from them to you, And no way from yourselves.-What You, the great toe of this assembly?—
do you think?
Cit. I the great toe? Why the great toe?
Of this most wise rebellion, thou go'st foremost.
Enter CAIUS MARCIUS.
Mar. Thanks.-What's the matter, you dissensious
That, rubbing the poor itch of your opinion,
We have ever your good word. Mar. He that will give good words to thee, will flatter
Beneath abhorring.-What would you have, you curs,
1 Rascal and in blood, are terms of the forest, both here used equivocally. The meaning seems to be, "Thou worthless scoundrel, though thou art in the worst plight for running of all this herd of plebeians, like a deer not in blood, thou takest the lead in this tumult in order to obtain some private advantage to thyself." "Worst in blood" has a secondary meaning of lowest in condition. The modern editions have, erroneously, a comma at blood, which obscures the sense.
2 Bale is evil or mischief, harm or injury.