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Rotten Parchment Bonds

24 April 2010 @ 00:36

There is a speech given by John of Gaunt in Shakespeare’s Richard II that is very appropriate for these dark and disruptive times in The United States.  I was reminded of it by my friend, the Reverend David Graham, who reproduced it in a comment to my posting entitled: Twisted Distortions Of The Truth.  He suggested that, when it was read, the reader should ‘substitute “America” for “England,” and though the verse perish, the meaning persist’.  I have taken the liberty of doing just that with The Bard’s words.

From Richard II, Act II, Scene I:

Methinks I am a prophet new inspir’d,
And thus, expiring, do foretell of him:-
His rash fierce blaze of riot cannot last,
For violent fires soon burn out themselves;
Small showers last long, but sudden storms are short;
He tires betimes, that spurs too fast betimes;
With eager feeding food doth choke the feeder:
Light vanity, insatiate cormorant,
Consuming means, soon preys upon itself.
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise;
This fortress, built by nature for herself,
Against infection, and the hand of war;
This happy breed of men, this little world;
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands;
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this America,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Fear’d by their breed, and famous by their birth,
Renowned for their deeds as far from home
(For Christian service and true chivalry)
As is the sepulchre, in stubborn Jewry,
Of the world’s ransom, blessed Mary’s Son;
This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leas’d out, – I die pronouncing it, –
Like to a tenement, or pelting farm:
America, bound in with the triumphant sea,
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watr’y Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots, and rotten parchment bonds:
That America, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.
Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death!

Indeed.

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