Back to top

The Speeches at Prince Henries Barriers

The Lady of the Lake, first discouered.

A Silence, calme as are my waters, meet
Your raysd attentions, whilst my siluer feet
Touch on the richer shore; and to this seat
Vow my new duties and mine old repeat.
      Lest any yet should doubt, or might mistake
What Nymph I am; behold the ample lake
Of which I am stild; and neere it MERLINS tombe,
Graue of his cunning, as of mine the wombe.
      By this it will not aske me to proclaime
More of my selfe, whose actions, and whose name
Were so full fam'd in Brittish ARTHVRS court;
No more then it will fit me to report
What hath before bene trusted to our squire
Of me, my knight, his fate, and my desire
To meet, if not preuent his destiny,
And stile him to the court of Britany;
Now when the Iland hath regain'd her fame
Intire, and perfect, in the ancient name,
And that a monarch æquall good and great,
Wise, temperate, iust, and stout, claimes ARTHVRS seat.
Did I say æquall? O too prodigall wrong
Of my o're-thirsty, and vnæquall tongue!
How brighter farre, then when our ARTHVR liu'd
Are all the glories of this place reuiu'd!
What riches doe I see; what beauties here!
What awe! what loue! what reuerence! ioy! and feare!
What ornaments of counsaile as of court!
All that is high and great, or can comport
Vnto the stile of maiesty, that knowes
No riuall, but it selfe, this place here showes.
Onely the house of Chiualrie (how ere
The inner parts and store be full, yet here
In that which gentry should sustaine) decayd
Or rather ruin'd seemes; her buildings layd
Flat with the earth; that were the pride of time
And did the barbarous Memphian heapes out-clime.
Those Obelisks and Columnes broke, and downe,
That strooke the starres, and raisd the Brittish crowne
To be a constellation: Shields and swords,
Cob-webd, and rusty; not a helme affords
A sparke of lustre, which were wont to giue
Light to the world, and made the nation liue,
When in a day of honour fire was smit
To haue put out VVLCAN'S and haue lasted yet.
O, when this Ædifice stood great and high,
That in the carcasse hath such maiesty,
Whose very sceleton boasts so much worth,
What grace, what glories did it then send forth?
When to the structure went more noble names
Then the Ephesian temple lost in flames:
When euery stone was laid by vertuous hands;
And standing so, (O that it yet not stands!)
More truth of architecture there was blaz'd,
Then liu'd in all the ignorant Gothes haue raz'd.
There Porticos were built, and seats for knights
That watched for all aduentures, dayes and nights,
The Nieces filld with statues, to inuite
Young valures forth, by their old formes to fight.
With arkes triumphall for their actions done,
Out-striding the Collossus of the sunne.
And Trophæes, reard, of spoyled enemies,
Whose toppes pierc'd through the cloudes, and hit the skies

              Discouered as a starre aboue.

And hither hath thy voyce pierc'd. Stand not maz'd,
Thy eyes haue here on greater glories gaz'd
And not beene frighted. I, thy ARTHVR, am
Translated to a starre; and of that frame
Or constellation that was calld of mee
So long before, as showing what I should bee,
ARCTVRVS, once thy king, and now thy starre.
Such the rewards of all good princes are.
Nor let it trouble thy designe, fair dame,
That I am present to it with my flame
And influence; since the times are now deuolu'd
That MERLIN'S misticke prophesies are absolu'd,
In Brittain's name, the vnion of this Ile;
And clayme both of my scepter and my stile.
      Faire fall his vertue, that doth fill that throne
In which I ioy to find my selfe so'out-shone;
And for the greater, wish, men should him take,
As it is nobler to restore then make.
      Proceed in thy great worke; bring forth thy knight
Preserued for his times, that by the might
And magicke of his arme, he may restore
These ruin'd seates of vertue, and build more.
Let him be famous, as was TRISTRAM, TOR,
LAUNC'LOT, and all our List of knight-hood: or
Who were before, or haue beene since. His name
Strike vpon heauen, and there sticke his fame.
Beyond the paths, and searches of the sunne
Let him tempt fate; and when a world is wunne,
Submit it duely to this state, and throne,
Till time, and vtmost stay make that his owne.
      But first receiue this shield; wherein is wrought
The truth that he must follow; and (being taught
The wayes from heauen) ought not be despisd.
It is a piece, was by the fates deuisd
To arme his maiden valure; and to show
Defensiue armes th'offensiue should fore-goe.
Indowe him with it, LADY of the lake.
And for the other mysteries, here, awake
The learned MERLIN; when thou shutst him there,
Thou buriedst valure too, for letters reare
The deeds of honor high, and make them liue.
If then thou seeke to restore prowesse, giue
His spirit freedome; then present thy knight:
For armes and arts sustaine each others right.


My error I acknowledge, though too late
To expiate it; There's no resisting fate.
      Arise, great soule; Fate by surreption got
May stead vs for the time, but lasteth not.
      O, doe not rise with storme, and rage. Forgiue
Repented wrongs. I'am cause thou now shalt liue
Æternally, for being deprest a while,
Want makes vs know the price of what we auile.

                Arising out of the tombe.

I Neither storme, nor rage; 'tis earth; blame her
That feeles these motions when great spirits stirre.
She is affrighted, and now chid by heauen,
Whilst we walke calmely on, vpright and euen.
      Call forth the faire MELIADVS, thy knight,
They are his fates that make the elements fight:
And these but vsuall throwes, when time sends forth
A wonder or a spectacle of worth.
At common births the world feeles nothing new;
At these she shakes; Mankind liues in a few.


The heauens, the fates, and thy peculiar starres,
MELIADVS, shew thee; and conclude all iarres.

MELIADVS, and his sixe assistants here discouered.


I, Now the spheares are in their tunes againe.
What place is this so bright that doth remaine
Yet vndemolishd? or but late built! O
I read it now. St. GEORGE'S Portico!
The supreme head of all the world, where now
Knighthood liues honord with a crowned brow.
A noble Scene, and fit to shew him in
That must of all worlds fame the ghirland winne.


Do's he not sit like MARS, or one that had
The better of him, in his armor clad?
And those his sixe assistants, as the pride
Of the old Græcian Heroes had not died?
Or like APOLLO, raisd to the worlds view,
The minute after he the Python slew.


'Tis all too little, LADY, you can speake.
My thought growes great of him, and faine would breake.
Inuite him forth, and guide him to his tent,
That I may read this shield his fates present.


Glory of knights, and hope of all the earth,
Come forth; your fostresse bids; who from your birth
Hath bred you to this hower, and for this throne.
This is the field to make your vertue knowne.
      If he were now (he sayes) to vow his fires
Of faith, of loue, of seruice, then his squires
Had vttered nothing for him: But he hopes
In the first tender of himselfe, his scopes
Were so well read, as it were no decor'me,
Where truth is studied, there to practise forme.


No, let his actions speake him; and this shield
Let downe from heauen, that to his youth will yeeld
Such copy of incitement: Not the deedes
Of antique knights, to catch their fellowes steedes,
Or ladies palfreyes rescue from the force
Of a fell gyant, or some score to vn-horse.
These were bold stories of our ARTHVRS age;
But here are other acts; another stage
And scene appeares; it is not since as then:
No gyants, dwarfes, or monsters here, but men.
His arts must be to gouerne, and giue lawes
To peace no lesse then armes. His fate here drawes
An empire with it, and describes each state
Preceding there, that he should imitate.
      First, faire MELIADVS, hath shee wrought an Ile,
The happiest of the earth (which to your stile
In time must adde) and in it placed high
Britayne, the only name, made CAESAR flie.
Within the neerer parts, as apt, and due
To your first speculation, you may view
The eye of iustice shooting through the land,
Like a bright planet strengthned by the hand
Of first, and warlike EDWARD; then th'increase
Of trades and tillage, vnder lawes and peace,
Begun by him, but settled and promou'd
By the third Heroe of his name, who lou'd
To set his owne aworke, and not to see
The fatnesse of his land a portion bee
For strangers. This was he erected first
The trade of clothing, by which arte were nurst
Whole millions to his seruice, and releeu'd
So many poore, as since they haue beleeu'd
The golden fleece, and need no forrayne mine,
If industrie at home doe not decline.
      To proue which true, obserue what treasure here
The wise and seuenth HENRY heapt each yeere,
To be the strength and sinewes of a warre,
When MARS should thunder, or his peace but iarre,
And here how the eighth HENRY, his braue sonne,
Built forts, made generall musters, trayn'd youth on
In exercise of armes, and girt his coast
With strength; to which (whose fame no tongue can boast
Vp to her worth, though all best tongues be glad
To name her still) did great ELIZA adde
A wall of shipping, and became thereby
The ayde, or feare of all the nations nigh.
These, worthyest Prince, are set you neere to reade,
That ciuill arts the martiall must precede.
That lawes and trade bring honors in and gayne,
And armes defensiue a safe place maintayne.
But when your fate shall call you forth to'assure
Your vertue more (though not to make secure)
View here, what great examples shee hath plac'd.
      First, two braue Britayne Heroes, that were grac'd
To fight their Sauiours battailes, and did bring
Destruction on the faithlesse; one a king,
RICHARD, surnamed with the lyons heart.
The other, EDWARD, and the first, whose part
(Then being but Prince) it was to lead these warres
In the age after, but with better starres.
For here though Coeur de lion like a storme
Powre on the Saracens, and doth performe
Deedes past an angell, arm'd with wroth and fire,
Ploughing whole armies vp, with zealous ire,
And walled cities, while he doth defend
That cause that should all warres begin and end;
Yet when with pride, and for humane respect
The Austrian cullors he doth here deiect
With too much scorne, behold at length how fate
Makes him a wretched prisoner to that state;
And leaues him, as a marke of Fortunes spight,
When Princes tempt their starres beyond their light:
Whilst vpright EDWARD shines no lesse then he,
Vnder the wings of golden victorie,
Nor lets out no lesse riuers of the bloud
Of Infidels, but makes the field a floud,
And marches through it, with S. GEORGES crosse,
Like Israels host to the Ægyptians losse,
Through the red sea: the earth beneath him cold
And quaking such an enemie to behold.
For which, his temper'd zeale, see Prouidence
Flying in here, and armes him with defence
Against th'assassinate made vpon his life
By a foule wretch, from whom he wrests the knife,
And giues him a iust hire: which yet remaynes
A warning to great chiefes, to keepe their traynes
About 'hem still, and not, to priuacie,
Admit a hand that may vse treacherie.
      Neerer then these, not for the same high cause,
Yet for the next (what was his right by lawes
Of nations due) doth fight that MARS of men,
The black Prince EDWARD, 'gainst the French, who then
At Cressey field had no more yeeres then you.
Here his glad father has him in the view
As he is entring in the schoole of warre,
And powres all blessings on him from a farre,
That wishes can; whilst he (that close of day)
Like a yong lyon, newly taught to prey,
Inuades the herds, so fled the french, and teares
From the Bohemian crowne the plume he weares,
Which after for his crest he did preserue
To his fathers vse, with this fit word, I SERVE.
But here at Poictiers he was MARS indeed.
Neuer did valour with more streame succeed
Then he had there. He flow'd out like a sea
Vpon their troupes, and left their armes no way:
Or like a fire carryed with high windes,
Now broad, and spreading, by and by it findes
A vent upright, to looke which way to burne.
Then shootes along againe, or rounde doth turne,
Till in the circling spoile it hath embrac'd
All that stood nigh, or in the reach to wast:
Such was his rage that day; but then forgot
Soone as his sword was sheath'd, it lasted not,
After the King, the Dauphine, and french Peeres
By yeelding to him, wisely quit their feares,
Whom he did vse with such humanitie,
As they complayn'd not of captiuitie;
But here to England without shame came in.
To be his captiues was the next to win.
      Yet rests the other thunder-bolt of warre,
HARRY the fift, to whom in face you are
So like, as Fate would haue you so in worth,
Illustrious Prince. This vertue ne're came forth,
But Fame flue greater for him, then shee did
For other mortalls; Fate her selfe did bid
To saue his life: The time it reach'd vnto,
Warre knew not how to giue'him enough to doe.
His very name made head against his foes.
And here at Agin-Court where first it rose,
It there hangs still a comet ouer France,
Striking their malice blind, that dare aduance
A thought against it, lightned by your flame
That shall succeed him both in deedes and name.
      I could report more actions yet of weight
Out of this orbe, as here of eightie eight,
Against the proud Armada, stil'd by Spaine,
The Inuincible; that couer'd all the mayne,
As if whole Ilands had broke loose, and swame;
Or halfe of Norway with her firre-trees came,
To ioyne the continents, it was so great;
Yet by the auspice of ELIZA beat:
That deare-belou'd of heauen, whom to preserue
The windes were call'd to fight, and stormes to serue.
One tumor drown'd another, billowes stroue
To out-swell ambition, water ayre out-droue,
Though shee not wanted on that glorious day,
An euer-honor'd HOWARD to display
S.GEORGES ensigne; and of that high race
A second, both which ply'd the fight and chase:
And sent first bullets, then a fleet of fire,
Then shot themselues like ordinance; and a tire
Of ships for pieces, through the enemies moone,
That wan'd before it grew, and now they soone
Are rent, spoild, scatterd, tost with all disease,
And for their thirst of Britayne drinke the seas.
The fish were neuer better fed than then,
Although at first they fear'd the bloud of men
Had chang'd their element; and NEPTVNE shooke
As if the Thunderer had his palace tooke.
      So here in Wales, Low Countries, France, and Spayne,
You may behold both on the land and mayne
The conquests got, the spoiles, the trophæes reard
By British kings, and such as noblest heard
Of all the nation, which may make to'inuite
Your valure vpon need, but not to'incite
Your neighbour Princes, giue them all their due,
And be prepar'd if they will trouble you.
He doth but scourge him selfe, his sword that drawes
Without a purse, a counsaile and a cause.
      But all these spurres to vertue, seedes of praise
Must yeeld to this that comes. Here's one will raise
Your glorie more, and so aboue the rest,
As if the acts of all mankind were prest
In his example. Here are kingdomes mixt
And nations ioyn'd, a strength of empire fixt
Conterminate with heauen; The golden veine
Of SATVRNES age is here broke out againe.
HENRY but ioyn'd the Roses, that ensign'd
Particular families, but this hath ioyn'd
The Rose and Thistle, and in them combin'd
A vnion, that shall neuer be declin'd.
Ireland that more in title, then in fact
Before was conquer'd, is his Lawrels act.
The wall of shipping by ELIZA made,
Decay'd (as all things subiect are to fade)
He hath new built, or so restor'd, that men
For noble vse, preferre it afore then:
Royall, and mightie IAMES, whose name shall set
A goale for all posteritie to sweat,
In running at, by actions hard and high:
This is the height at which your thoughts must fly.
He knowes both how to gouerne, how to saue,
What subiects, what their contraries should haue,
What can be done by power, and what by loue,
What should to Mercie, what to Iustice moue:
All Arts he can, and from the hand of Fate
Hath he enforc'd the making of his owne date.
Within his proper vertue hath he plac'd
His guards 'gainst Fortune, and there fixed fast
The wheele of chance, about which Kings are hurl'd,
And whose outragious raptures fill the world.


I, This is hee, MELIADVS, whom you
Must only serue, and giue your selfe vnto:
And by your diligent practice to obay
So wise a Master learne the arte of sway.
      MERLIN, aduance the shield vpon his tent.
And now prepare, faire Knight, to proue th'euent
Of your bold Challenge. Bee your vertue steeld,
And let your drumme giue note you keepe the field.
Is this the land of Britaine so renowned
For deeds of Armes, or are their hearings drownd
That none doe answere?


                                             Stay, me thinkes I see
A person in yond' caue. Who should that bee?
I know her ensignes now: 'Tis Cheualrie
Possess'd with sleepe, dead as a lethargie:
If any charme will wake her, 'tis the name
Of our MELIADVS. I'll vse his Fame.
      Lady, MELIADVS, lord of the Iles,
Princely MELIADVS, and whom Fate now stiles
The faire MELIADVS, hath hung his shield
Vpon his tent, and here doth keepe the field,
According to his bold and princely word;
And wants employment for his pike, and sword.


Were it from death that name would wake mee. Say
Which is the Knight? O I could gaze a day
Vpon his armour that hath so reuiu'd
My spirits, and tels me that I am long liu'd
In his apparance. Breake, you rustie dores,
That haue so long beene shut, and from the shores
Of all the world, come knight-hood like a flood
Vpon these lists, to make the field, here, good,
And your owne honours, that are now call'd forth
Against the wish of men to proue your worth.

                         THE BARRIERS.
                After which MERLIN speakes.

Nay, stay your valure, 'tis a wisdome high
In Princes to vse fortune reuerently.
He that in deeds of Armes obeyes his blood
Doth often tempt his destinie beyond good.
Looke on this throne, and in his temper view
The light of all that must haue grace in you:
His equall Iustice, vpright Fortitude
And settled Prudence, with that Peace indued
Of face, as minde, alwayes himselfe and euen.
So HERCVLES, and good men beare vp heauen.
      I dare not speake his vertues for the feare
Of flattring him, they come so high and neare
To wonders: yet thus much I prophesy
Of him and his. All eares your selues apply.
      You, and your other you, great King and Queene,
Haue yet the least of your bright Fortune seene,
Which shal rise brighter euery houre with Time,
And in your pleasure quite forget the crime
Of change; your ages night shall be her noone.
And this yong Knight, that now puts forth so soone
Into the world, shall in your names atchieue
More ghyrlands for this state, and shall relieue
Your cares in gouernment; while that yong lord
Shall second him in Armes, and shake a sword
And launce against the foes of God and you.
Nor shall lesse ioy your royall hopes pursue
In that most princely Mayd, whose forme might call
The world to warre, and make it hazard all
His valure for her beautie, she shall bee
Mother of nations, and her Princes see
Riuals almost to these. Whilst you sit high,
And lead by them, behold your Britaine fly
Beyond the line, when what the seas before
Did bound, shall to the sky then stretch his shore.
Additional Information:
Originally written and performed on Jan. 6, 1610 at the investiture of Prince Henry of Wales.

Reprinted in Ben Jonson. 11 vols. Ed. C. H. Herford Percy and Evelyn Simpson. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925-1963. 7: 321-36.