Harold: A Drama

Act II

Scene I

Alfred Tennyson

Seashore. Ponthieu. Night.

HAROLD and his MEN, wrecked.

Friends, in that last inhospitable plunge
Our boat hath burst her ribs; but ours are whole;
I have but bark’d my hands.

                        I dug mine into
My old fast friend the shore, and clinging thus
Felt the remorseless outdraught of the deep
Haul like a great strong fellow at my legs,
And then I rose and ran. The blast that came
So suddenly hath fallen as suddenly—
Put thou the comet and this blast together—

Put thou thyself and mother-wit together.
Be not a fool!

Enter FISHERMEN with torches, HAROLD going up to one of them, ROLF.
                Wicked sea-will-o’-the-wisp!
Wolf of the shore! dog, with thy lying lights
Thou hast betray’d us on these rocks of thine!

Ay, but thou liest as loud as the black herring-pond behind thee. We be fishermen; I came to see after my nets.

To drag us into them. Fishermen? devils!
Who, while ye fish for men with your false fires,
Let the great Devil fish for your own souls.

Nay then, we be liker the blessed Apostles; they were fishers of men, Father Jean says.

I had liefer that the fish had swallowed me,
Like Jonah, than have known there were such devils.
What’s to be done?

[To his MENgoes apart with them.

Rolf, what fish did swallow Jonah?

A whale!

Then a whale to a whelk we have swallowed the King of England. I saw him over there. Look thee, Rolf, when I was down in the fever, she was down with the hunger, and thou didst stand by her and give her thy crabs, and set her up again, till now, by the patient Saints, she’s as crabb’d as ever.

And I’ll give her my crabs again, when thou art down again.

I thank thee, Rolf. Run thou to Count Guy; he is hard at hand. Tell him what hath crept into our creel, and he will fee thee as freely as he will wrench this outlander’s ransom out of him—and why not? for what right had he to get himself wrecked on another man’s land?

Thou art the human-heartedest, Christian-charitiest of all crab-catchers. Share and share alike!


Fellow, dost thou catch crabs?

As few as I may in a wind, and less than I would in a calm. Ay!

I have a mind that thou shalt catch no more.


I have a mind to brain thee with mine axe.

Ay, do, do, and our great Count-crab will make his nippers meet in thine heart; he’ll sweat it out of thee, he’ll sweat it out of thee. Look, he’s here! He’ll speak for himself! Hold thine own, if thou canst!


Guy, Count of Ponthieu?

                                Harold, Earl of Wessex!

Thy villains with their lying lights have wreck’d us!

Art thou not Earl of Wessex?

                        In mine earldom
A man may hang gold bracelets on a bush,
And leave them for a year, and coming back
Find them again.

                Thou art a mighty man
In thine own earldom!

                Were such murderous liars
In Wessex—if I caught them, they should hang
Cliff-gibbeted for sea-marks; our sea-mew
Winging their only wail!

                        Ay, but my men
Hold that the shipwreckt are accursed of God;—
What hinders me to hold with mine own men?

The Christian manhood of the man who reigns!

Ay, rave thy worst, but in our oubliettes
Thou shalt or rot or ransom. Hale him hence!

[To one of his ATTENDANTS.
Fly thou to William; tell him we have Harold.

Harold: A Drama - Contents     |     Act II - Scene II

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