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SCENE I. SIR THOMAS LUCY'S parlour at Charlcote.

SIR THOMAS seated in an elbow chair, turned somewhat aside from the head of the table. LADY LUCY seated near him. MOLES standing near the door.


The bended back beseems the baser birth
In presence of the great ones of the earth.
Incurve thy chine with meet humility,
Then in a standing posture list to me.

MOLES [bowing awkwardly].

Aye, aye, Sir Thomas.


Know, rude forester,

There's something rotten in the state of Charlcote.

Sound stands the mansion still, 't is true, with roof
Impervious to the beams and rains of heaven,
Nor yet bereft of soaring pinnacle,

Or portalled lodge, or zone of stately trees;

The thicket blooms and fruits; nor hath the plough

Profaned or daisied mead or lawny dell.

But where the sylvan people? Where the troops
Of stag and doe and delicate fawn that erst

Did gambol in these groves? And, consequently, Where be the haunch and pasty? Smoked these still Upon the board 't were somewhat, but the board

Is emptier than the forest avenue,

Where still a remnant lingers, which dislodged,

All should be dire depopulation.

Whence, in the name of Zernebock, this nuisance!

[Rises and approaches MOLES. Storms the Wild Huntsman with his swarthy pack Along my woodland alleys? Do the hounds That erst with horrid fangs Acteon tore Seek in these shades a quadrupedal prey?

Say, doth the broom-bestriding sorceress,
Companioned with foul incubi, entwine
Her skinny arms round the reluctant deer,
And drag it to her Sabbath and her Satan?

Or twangs the bow and speeds the silver shaft

Of the Queen-Huntress? Hast thou e'er beheld

A covert-breaking stag impetuous

Burst from the brake and scour adown the glade,
Followed by a giant's shadow with a spear?

[MOLES scratches his head.


Truly, Sir Thomas, you have dazed the man,
Crushing with flowery opulence of phrase

His weak intelligence, as she of Naxos

Perished 'neath garlands heaped to honour her.


Have I then, aiming at a lowly mark,

Despatched my arrow toward the skies? Yet, rustic,

Haply thou deem'st the gold of my discourse

By thee with diamond should be repaid:
O no! the pebble shall serve well enough.
As well array thy cap with plumes, and change
Jerkin for doublet in thy master's presence.
Rack not thy brain for tropes rhetorical,
Such do but misbecome the borrel man
Who ne'er hath learned moral philosophy,
Or the division of a battle known

More than a spinster. Yet, who wotteth not
Of some forgotten nook, some cornered cranny,
Some entrance to huge learning's labyrinth,

Where even I, our Stratford's Pittacus,

Must grope without his eyes? Thy special sphere
Is vermin, as avoucheth my barn-door,

With hawk and stoat thick tapestried by thee.
I hold thee then well seen in venery,
And in the lore of woodcraft perfected,
And now, my keeper mad, our constable
By many much suspected for a Papist,
Do seek thy oracle, as erst was sought

Dodona's oak, or Libyan Ammon's shrine.
If aught of spark celestial glow in thee,
Puff it to flame, be by contráry office
This trouble's candle and extinguisher.

What bane our board of venison bereaves?


Sir Thomas, I be thinking it be thieves.


Rehearse the villains' appellations.


There is but one, his name is Everybody.

Each pounces on whatever he can find,

Wood, wheat, wool, poultry, hare and hart and hind.


Yet must thou their iniquity bewray,

And shine the Phosphor of their reckoning day :

If frank, thy tongue my treasury unlocks :

If stockish, steel thy legs against the stocks.

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