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Wat Tyler, a Dramatic Poem by Robert Southey Electronic Edition Edited by Matt Hill


The Critically Edited Text of Wat Tyler

ACT II.
SCENE— BLACKHEATH. 1sd
TYLER, HOB, &c.
SONG.
' When Adam delv'd, and Eve span, 1
' Who was then the gentleman?' 2
Wretched is the infant's lot, 3
Born within the straw-roof'd cot! 4
Be he generous, wise, or brave, 5
He must only be a slave. 6
Long, long labour, little rest, 7
Still to toil to be oppress'd; 8
Drain'd by taxes of his store, 9
Punish'd next for being poor; 10
This is the poor wretch's lot, 11
Born within the straw-roof'd cot. 12
While the peasant works— to sleep; 13
What the peasant sows— to reap; 14
On the couch of ease to lie, 15
Rioting in revelry; 16
Be he villain, be he fool, 17
Still to hold despotic rule, 18
Trampling on his slaves with scorn; 19
This is to be nobly born. 20
' When Adam delv'd, and Eve span, 21
' Who was then the gentleman?' 22
JACK STRAW.
The mob are up in London— the proud courtiers 23
Begin to tremble. 24
TOM MILLER.
                   Aye, aye, 'tis time to tremble; 25
Who'll plow their fields, who'll do their drudgery now? 26
And work like horses, to give them the harvest? 27
JACK STRAW.
I only wonder we lay quiet so long. 28
We had always the same strength, and we deserved 29
The ills we met with for not using it. 30
HOB.
Why do we fear those animals called lords? 31
What is there in the name to frighten us? 32
Is not my arm as mighty as a Baron's? 33
Enter PIERS and JOHN BALL.
PIERS (to TYLER).
Have I done well, my father?— I remember'd 34
This good man lay in prison. 35
TYLER.
                               My dear child, 36
Most well; the people rise for liberty, 37
And their first deed should be to break the chains 38
That bind the virtuous:— O thou honest priest— 39
How much has thou endured! 40
JOHN BALL.
                               Why aye, my friend! 41
These squalid rags bespeak what I have suffered. 42
I was revil'd— insulted— left to languish 43
In a damp dungeon; but I bore it cheerily— 44
My heart was glad— for I have done my duty. 45
I pitied my oppressors, and I sorrowed 46
For the poor men of England. 47
TYLER.
                They have felt 48
Their strength—look round this heath! 'tis thronged with men. 49
Ardent for freedom; mighty is the event 50
That waits their fortune. 51
JOHN BALL.
                                   I would fain address them. 52
TYLER.
Do so, my friend, and teach to them their duty; 53
Remind them of their long withholden rights. 54
What ho there! silence! 55
PIERS.
                          Silence there, my friends, 56
This good man would address you. 57
HOB.
                Aye, aye, hear him— 58
He is no mealy mouthed court orator, 59
To flatter vice, and pamper lordly pride. 60
JOHN BALL.
Friends! Brethren! for ye are my brethren all; 61
Englishmen met in arms to advocate 62
The cause of freedom! hear me! pause awhile 63
In the career of vengeance; it is true 64
I am a priest; but, as these rags may speak, 65
Not one who riots in the poor man's spoil, 66
Or trades with his religion. I am one 67
Who preach the law of Christ, and in my life, 68
Would practice what he taught. The son of God 69
Came not to you in power: humble in mien, 70
Lowly in heart, the man of Nazareth 71
Preach'd mercy, justice, love: "Woe unto ye, 72
Ye that are rich:—if that ye would be saved, 73
Sell that ye have, and give unto the poor." 74
So taught the Saviour: oh, my honest friends! 75
Have ye not felt the strong indignant throb 76
Of justice in your bosoms, to behold 77
The lordly Baron feasting on your spoils? 78
Have you not in your hearts arraign'd the lot 79
That gave him on the couch of luxury 80
To pillow his head, and pass the festive day 81
In sportive feasts, and ease, and revelry? 82
Have you not often in your conscience ask'd 83
Why is the difference, wherefore should that man, 84
No worthier than myself, thus lord it over me, 85
And bid me labour, and enjoy the fruits? 86
The God within your breasts has argued thus! 87
The voice of truth has murmur'd; came ye not 88
As helpless to the world? Shines not the sun 89
With equal ray on both?— Do ye not feel 90
The self same winds of heaven as keenly parch ye? 91
Abundant is the earth—the Sire of all, 92
Saw and pronounc'd that it was very good. 93
Look round: the vernal fields smile with new flowers, 94
The budding orchard perfumes the soft breeze, 95
And the green corn waves to the passing gale. 96
There is enough for all, but your proud Baron 97
Stands up, and arrogant of strength exclaims, 98
"I am a Lord—by nature I am noble: 99
These fields are mine, for I was born to them, 100
I was born in the castle—you, poor wretches, 101
Whelp'd in the cottage, are by birth my slaves." 102
Almighty God! such blasphemies are utter'd! 103
Almighty God! such blasphemies believ'd! 104
TOM MILLER.
This is something like a sermon. 105
JACK STRAW.
                Where's the bishop 106
Would tell you truths like these? 107
HOB.
There was never a bishop among all the apostles. 108
JOHN BALL.
My brethren! 109
PIERS.
Silence, the good priest speaks. 110
JOHN BALL.
My brethren, these are truths, and weighty ones: 111
Ye are all equal: nature made ye so. 112
Equality is your birth-right;—when I gaze 113
On the proud palace, and behold one man 114
In the blood-purpled robes of royalty, 115
Feasting at ease, and lording over millions, 116
Then turn me to the hut of poverty, 117
And see the wretched lab'rer worn with toil, 118
Divide his scanty morsel with his infants, 119
I sicken, and indignant at the sight, 120
" Blush for the patience of humanity." 121
JACK STRAW.
We will assert our rights. 122
TOM MILLER.
                We'll trample down 123
These insolent oppressors. 124
JOHN BALL.
                In good truth 125
Ye have cause for anger: but, my honest friends, 126
Is it revenge or justice that ye seek? 127
MOB.
Justice, justice! 128
JOHN BALL.
                Oh then remember mercy; 129
And though your proud oppressors spar'd not you, 130
Shew you excel them in humanity. 131
They will use every art to disunite you, 132
To conquer separately, by stratagem, 133
Whom in a mass they fear— but be ye firm— 134
Boldly demand your long-forgotten rights, 135
Your sacred, your inalienable freedom— 136
Be bold—be resolute—be merciful! 137
And while you spurn the hated name of slaves, 138
Shew you are men! 139
MOB.
Long live our honest priest! 140
JACK STRAW.
He shall be made archbishop. 141
JOHN BALL.
My brethren, I am plain John Ball, your friend, 142
Your equal: by the law of Christ enjoined 143
To serve you, not command. 144
JACK STRAW.
            March we for London. 145
TYLER.
Mark me, my friends—we rise for liberty— 146
Justice shall be our guide: let no man dare 147
To plunder in the tumult. 148
MOB
Lead us on— 149
Liberty!—Justice! 150
(Exeunt, with cries of Liberty— no Poll Tax — no War.)
SCENE CHANGES TO THE TOWER. 150sd
KING RICHARD, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY,
SIR JOHN TRESILIAN,
WALWORTH, PHILPOT.
KING
What must we do? the danger grows more imminent— 151
The mob increases— 152
PHILPOT.
                Every moment brings 153
Fresh tidings of our peril. 154
KING.
                   It were well 155
To yield them what they ask. 156
ARCHBISHOP.
               Aye, that my liege 157
Were politic. Go boldly forth to meet them, 158
Grant all they ask—however wild and ruinous— 159
Mean time the troops you have already summoned, 160
Will gather round them. Then my Christian power 161
Absolves you of your promise. 162
WALWORTH.
Were but their ringleaders cut off—the rabble 163
Would soon disperse. 164
PHILPOT.
               United in a mass 165
There's nothing can resist them—once divide them, 166
And they will fall an easy sacrifice. 167
ARCHBISHOP.
Lull them by promises—bespeak them fair— 168
Go forth, my liege—spare not, if need requires, 170
A solemn oath, to ratify the treaty. 171
KING
I dread their fury. 172
ARCHBISHOP.
               'Tis a needless dread, 173
There is divinity about your person; 174
It is the sacred privilege of Kings, 175
Howe'er they act, to render no account 176
To man. The people have been taught this lesson, 177
Nor can they soon forget it. 178
KING.
               I will go— 179
I will submit to everything they ask; 180
My day of triumph will arrive at last. 181
(Shouts without.)
Enter Messenger.
MESSENGER.
The mob are at the city gates. 182
ARCHBISHOP.
               Haste, haste, 183
Address them ere too late. I'll remain here, 184
For they detest me much. 185
(Shouts again. )
Enter another Messenger.
MESSENGER.
The Londoners have opened the city gates, 186
The rebels are admitted. 187
KING.
Fear then must give me courage; my Lord Mayor, 188
Come you with me. 189
(Exeunt. Shouts without.)
SCENE— SMITHFIELD. 189sd
WAT TYLER, JOHN BALL, PIERS, &c. Mob.
PIERS.
So far triumphant are we: how these nobles, 190
These petty tyrants, who so long oppress'd us, 191
Shrink at the first resistance! 192
HOB.
               They were powerful 193
Only because we fondly thought them so. 194
Where is Jack Straw? 195
TYLER.
Jack Straw is gone to the tower 196
To seize the king, and so to end resistance. 197
JOHN BALL.
It was well judg'd: fain would I spare the shedding 198
Of human blood: gain we that royal puppet, 199
And all will follow fairly: depriv'd of him, 200
The nobles lose their pretext, nor will dare 201
Rebel against the people's majesty. 202
Enter Herald.
HERALD.
Richard the Second, by the grace of God, 203
Of England, Ireland, France, and Scotland, King, 204
And of the town of Berwick upon Tweed, 205
Would parley with Wat Tyler. 206
TYLER.
                                     Let him know 207
Wat Tyler is in Smithfield. 208
(Exit Herald.)
               I will parley 209
With this young monarch; as he comes to me 210
Trusting my honour, on your lives I charge you 211
Let none attempt to harm him. 212
JOHN BALL
               The faith of courts 213
Is but a weak dependence! You are honest— 214
And better is it even to die the victim 215
Of credulous honesty, than live preserved 216
By the cold policy that still suspects. 217
Enter KING, WALWORTH, PHILPOT, &c.
KING.
I would speak to thee, Wat Tyler: bid the mob 218
Retire awhile. 219
PIERS.
               Nay, do not go alone— 220
Let me attend you. 221
TYLER.
               Wherefore should I fear? 222
Am I not arm'd with a just cause?—retire, 223
And I will boldly plead the cause of Freedom. 224
(Advances.)
KING.
Tyler, why have you kill'd my officer? 225
And led my honest subjects from their homes, 226
Thus to rebel against the Lord's anointed? 227
TYLER.
Because they were oppress'd. 228
KING.
               Was this the way 229
To remedy the ill?— you should have tried 230
By milder means—petition'd at the throne— 231
The throne will always listen to petitions. 232
TYLER.
               King of England, 233
Petitioning for pity is most weak, 234
The sovereign people ought to demand justice. 235
I kill'd your officer, for his lewd hand 236
Insulted a maid's modesty: your subjects 237
I lead to rebel against the Lord's anointed, 238
Because his ministers have made him odious: 239
His yoke is heavy, and his burden grievous. 240
Why do we carry on this fatal war, 241
To force upon the French a king they hate; 242
Tearing our young men from their peaceful homes; 243
Forcing his hard-earn'd fruits from the honest peasant; 244
Distressing us to desolate our neighbours? 245
Why is this ruinous poll tax imposed, 246
But to support your court's extravagance, 247
And your mad title to the crown of France? 248
Shall we sit tamely down beneath these evils 249
Petitioning for pity? 250
               King of England! 251
Why are we sold like cattle in your markets— 252
Deprived of every privilege of man? 253
Must we lie tamely at our tyrant's feet, 254
And, like your spaniels, lick the hand that beats us? 255
You sit at ease in your gay palaces, 256
The costly banquet courts your appetite, 257
Sweet music sooths your slumbers; we the while, 258
Scarce by hard toil can earn a little food, 259
And sleep scarce shelter'd from the cold night wind: 260
Whilst your wild projects wrest the little from us 261
Which might have cheer'd the wintry hour of age: 262
The Parliament for ever asks more money: 263
We toil and sweat for money for your taxes: 264
Where is the benefit, what food reap we 265
From all the councils of your government? 266
Think you that we should quarrel with the French? 267
What boots to us your victories, your glory? 268
We pay, we fight, you profit at your ease. 269
Do you not claim the country as your own? 270
Do you not call the venison of the forest, 271
The birds of heaven your own?—prohibiting us, 272
Even tho' in want of food, to seize the prey 273
Which nature offers?—King! is all this just? 274
Think you we do not feel the wrongs we suffer? 275
The hour of retribution is at hand, 276
And tyrants tremble—mark me, King of England. 277
WALWORTH.
(Comes behind him, and stabs him.)
Insolent rebel, threatening the King! 278
PIERS.
Vengeance! vengeance! 279
HOB.
Seize the King. 280
KING.
I must be bold. (Advancing.) 281
               My friends and loving subjects, 282
I will grant all you ask: you shall be free— 283
The tax shall be repeal'd— all, all you wish. 284
Your leader menaced me, he deserv'd his fate. 285
Quiet your angers; on my royal word 286
Your grievances shall all be done away. 287
Your vassalage abolish'd.—A free pardon 288
Allow'd to all: so help me God it shall be. 289
JOHN BALL.
Revenge, my brethren, beseems not Christians. 290
Send us these terms sign'd with your seal of state. 291
We will await in peace: deceive us not.— 292
Act justly, so to excuse your late foul deed. 293
KING.
The charter shall be drawn out: on mine honour, 294
All shall be justly done. 295
END OF ACT THE SECOND. 295sd

Textual Notes

75  So taught the Saviour:
See Matthew 19:21-22, which tells the story of the rich young man: "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions."


93  pronounc'd that it was very good:
Recalling Genesis 1, which gives an account of the Biblical creation including God's judgment on what he had created: he "saw that it was good."


108  There was never a bishop among all the apostles:
The status of bishops in the church of Protestant England was much contested, and bishops were seen often as representatives of unwanted and unsanctioned hierarchy. Hob's statement, expressing that there were no bishops in the original church established by Christ, was often used as an argument against them. In the years following the French Revolution, British radicals opposed hierarchy in most of its forms, though still fearing mob rule.


136  Your sacred, your inalienable freedom:
Southey's use of the phrase "inalienable freedom" in Wat Tyler is anachronistic. The Oxford English Dictionary places the earliest uses of "unalienable" and "inalienable" in the early seventeenth century. Southey here echoes the language of the American Declaration of Independence (1776) and Thomas Paine's Rights of Man (1791-2).


150  Sir John Tresilian:
The King's sergeant at the beginning of Richard II's reign, made chief justice in 1381. He tried the Essex rebels at Chelmsford, and on July 14 he tried and sentenced John Ball. In 1387 he was hanged at Tyburn for treason.


150  Philpot:
Sir John Philpot (also Philipot, died 1384) was a wealthy merchant and a member of the Grocers' Company of London.  With Nicholas Brembre and William Walworth, he headed the opposition to John of Gaunt. In 1377, Philpot and Walworth were appointed as joint-treasurers for the taxes collected for the war efforts in France. He and Walworth loaned the King a substantial sum of money against the security of several crowns and royal jewels. Mayor of London 1378-9, Philpot was knighted for his subsequent involvement in the suppression of the rebels in 1381.


161  Then my Christian power:
Here the Archbishop offers absolution for the King while advising him to break his promise.


175   sacred privilege of Kings:
Referring to the doctrine of the divine right of kings, which held that kings received their authority from God at birth, were representatives of God on earth, and were answerable only to God.


186  city gates:
Referring to London's seven gates: Ludgate, Newgate, Aldersgate, Cripplegate, Moorgate, Bishopsgate, Aldgate.


240   His yoke is heavy:
Invoking Matthew 11:28-30: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."


268  boots:
matters.

Collation of Witnesses

Line 1 sd

Scene—Blackheath ]   SCENE I—Blackheath   Works 1860

 

Line 32

"name" is unclear in the Sherwin edition, but all other witnesses affirm this reading.

 

Line 39

has ]   hast  Works 1860

 

Line 95

soft ]   sweet  Cleave 1835

 

Line 112

made ye so ]   made you so    Mendam 1850

 

Line 131

Shew ]   Show  Works 1860  

 

Line 150 sd SCENE CHANGES TO THE TOWER  ] SCENE II.— The Tower  Works 1860

SCENE CHANGES TO THE TOWER./KING RICHARD, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, SIR JOHN TRESILIAN, WALWORTH,/PHILPOT. ]   SCENE—The Tower./ KING RICHARD, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY, SIR JOHN/TRESILIAN, PHILPOT, &c.  Cleave 1835

 

Line 156

yield  ]   grant  Works 1860, Cleave 1835

 

Line 189 sd

SCENE— SMITHFIELD.] Works 1860 SCENE III.—Smithfield.

 

Lines 234-235

Petitioning for pity is most weak,/ The sovereign people ought to demand justice.  ] Petitioning for pity is most weak,/ The sovereign people ought to demand justice.   Works 1860, Mendam 1850

 

Line 259

food ]  good  Works 1860  

 

Line 290

beseems]  becomes  Mendam 1850  

 

Line 295 sd

END OF ACT THE SECOND ]   Works 1860, Mendam 1850


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Published @ RC

August 2004