A generous few, the vet’ran
Of many a hapless fight, with a, fierce
Heroic fire, inspirited each other:
Resolv’d on death, disdaining to survive
Their dearest country. “If we fall,” I cry’d,
“Let us not tamely fall, like passive cowards!
No—let us live, or let us die—like men!
Come on, my friends. To Alfred we will cut
Our glorious way: or as we nobly perish,
Will offer to the genius of our country—
Whole hecatombs of Danes.” As if one soul
Have mov’d them all, around their heads they flash’d
Their flaming falchions—“lead us to those Danes!
Our Country!—Vengeance!” was the general cry.
I will tell you, Sir, by the way of private, and under seal. I am a gentleman; and live here, obscure, and to myself; but, were I known to his Majesty, and the Lords, observe me, I would undertake, upon this poor head and life, for the public benefit or the state, not only to spare the entire lives of his subjects in general, but to save the one half, nay three parts of his yearly charge, in holding war, and against what enemy soever. And how would I do it, think you? Why thus, Sir. I would select nineteen more to myself, throughout the land; gentlemen they should be; of good spirit, strong and able constitution. I would chuse them by an instinct that I have. And I would teach these nineteen, the special rules; as your Punto, your Reverso, your Stoccaio, your Imbroccato, your Passada, your Montonto; till they could all play very near, or altogether, as well as myself. This done, say the enemy were forty thousand strong. We twenty, would come into the field the tenth of March or thereabouts; and we would challenge twenty of the enemy; they could not, in their honour refuse us: Well, we would kill them; challenge twenty more, kill them: twenty more, kill them: twenty more, kill them too. And thus, would we kill, every man, his twenty a day; that’s twenty score; twenty score; that’s two hundred; two hundred a day; five days, a thousand: forty thousand—forty times five—five times forty—two hundred days kill them all up by computation. And this I will venture my poor gentleman-like carcase to perform (provided there by no treason practised upon) by fair and discreet manhood; that is, civilly by the sword.
—Let me think—
What can this mean—Is it to me aversion?
Or is it, as I feared, she loves another?
Ha! yes—perhaps the king, the young count Tancred?
They were bred up together—surely that,
That cannot be—Has he not given his hand,
In the most solemn manner, to Constantia?
Does not his crown depend upon the deed?
No—if they lov’d, and this old statesman knew it,
He could not to a king prefer a subject.