Bohemia. A desert country near the sea.
Enter ANTIGONUS with a Child, and a Mariner
Thou art perfect then, our ship hath touch'd upon
The deserts of Bohemia?
Ay, my lord: and fear
We have landed in ill time: the skies look grimly
And threaten present blusters. In my conscience,
The heavens with that we have in hand are angry
And frown upon 's.
Their sacred wills be done! Go, get aboard;
Look to thy bark: I'll not be long before
I call upon thee.
Make your best haste, and go not
Too far i' the land: 'tis like to be loud weather;
Besides, this place is famous for the creatures
Of prey that keep upon't.
Go thou away:
I'll follow instantly.
I am glad at heart
To be so rid o' the business.
Come, poor babe:
I have heard, but not believed,
the spirits o' the dead
May walk again: if such thing be, thy mother
Appear'd to me last night, for ne'er was dream
So like a waking. To me comes a creature,
Sometimes her head on one side, some another;
I never saw a vessel of like sorrow,
So fill'd and so becoming: in pure white robes,
Like very sanctity, she did approach
My cabin where I lay; thrice bow'd before me,
And gasping to begin some speech, her eyes
Became two spouts: the fury spent, anon
Did this break-from her: 'Good Antigonus,
Since fate, against thy better disposition,
Hath made thy person for the thrower-out
Of my poor babe, according to thine oath,
Places remote enough are in Bohemia,
There weep and leave it crying; and, for the babe
Is counted lost for ever, Perdita,
I prithee, call't. For this ungentle business
Put on thee by my lord, thou ne'er shalt see
Thy wife Paulina more.' And so, with shrieks
She melted into air. Affrighted much,
I did in time collect myself and thought
This was so and no slumber. Dreams are toys:
Yet for this once, yea, superstitiously,
I will be squared by this. I do believe
Hermione hath suffer'd death, and that
Apollo would, this being indeed the issue
Of King Polixenes, it should here be laid,
Either for life or death, upon the earth
Of its right father. Blossom, speed thee well!
There lie, and there thy character: there these;
Which may, if fortune please, both breed thee, pretty,
And still rest thine. The storm begins; poor wretch,
That for thy mother's fault art thus exposed
To loss and what may follow! Weep I cannot,
But my heart bleeds; and most accursed am I
To be by oath enjoin'd to this. Farewell!
The day frowns more and more: thou'rt like to have
A lullaby too rough: I never saw
The heavens so dim by day. A savage clamour!
Well may I get aboard! This is the chase:
I am gone for ever.
Exit, pursued by a bear
Enter a OLD SHEPHERD
I would there were no age between sixteen and
three-and-twenty, or that youth would sleep out the
rest; for there is nothing in the between but
getting wenches with child, wronging the ancientry,
stealing, fighting--Hark you now! Would any but
these boiled brains of nineteen and two-and-twenty
hunt this weather? They have scared away two of my
best sheep, which I fear the wolf will sooner find
than the master: if any where I have them, 'tis by
the seaside, browsing of ivy. Good luck, an't be thy
will what have we here! Mercy on 's, a barne a very
pretty barne! A boy or a child, I wonder? A
pretty one; a very pretty one: sure, some 'scape:
though I am not bookish, yet I can read
waiting-gentlewoman in the 'scape. This has been
some stair-work, some trunk-work, some
behind-door-work: they were warmer that got this
than the poor thing is here. I'll take it up for
pity: yet I'll tarry till my son come; he hallooed
but even now. Whoa, ho, hoa!
What, art so near? If thou'lt see a thing to talk
on when thou art dead and rotten, come hither. What
ailest thou, man?
I have seen two such sights, by sea and by land!
but I am not to say it is a sea, for it is now the
sky: betwixt the firmament and it you cannot thrust
a bodkin's point.
Why, boy, how is it?
I would you did but see how it chafes, how it rages,
how it takes up the shore! but that's not the
point. O, the most piteous cry of the poor souls!
sometimes to see 'em, and not to see 'em; now the
ship boring the moon with her main-mast, and anon
swallowed with yest and froth, as you'ld thrust a
cork into a hogshead. And then for the
land-service, to see how the bear tore out his
shoulder-bone; how he cried to me for help and said
his name was Antigonus, a nobleman. But to make an
end of the ship, to see how the sea flap-dragoned
it: but, first, how the poor souls roared, and the
sea mocked them; and how the poor gentleman roared
and the bear mocked him, both roaring louder than
the sea or weather.
Name of mercy, when was this, boy?
Now, now: I have not winked since I saw these
sights: the men are not yet cold under water, nor
the bear half dined on the gentleman: he's at it
Would I had been by, to have helped the old man!
I would you had been by the ship side, to have
helped her: there your charity would have lacked footing.
Heavy matters! heavy matters! but look thee here,
boy. Now bless thyself: thou mettest with things
dying, I with things newborn. Here's a sight for
thee; look thee, a bearing-cloth for a squire's
child! look thee here; take up, take up, boy;
open't. So, let's see: it was told me I should be
rich by the fairies. This is some changeling:
open't. What's within, boy?
You're a made old man: if the sins of your youth
are forgiven you, you're well to live. Gold! all gold!
This is fairy gold, boy, and 'twill prove so: up
with't, keep it close: home, home, the next way.
We are lucky, boy; and to be so still requires
nothing but secrecy. Let my sheep go: come, good
boy, the next way home.
Go you the next way with your findings. I'll go see
if the bear be gone from the gentleman and how much
he hath eaten: they are never curst but when they
are hungry: if there be any of him left, I'll bury
That's a good deed. If thou mayest discern by that
which is left of him what he is, fetch me to the
sight of him.
Marry, will I; and you shall help to put him i' the ground.
'Tis a lucky day, boy, and we'll do good deeds on't.
Antigonus had left Sicily on his chore to abandon the infant before Cleomenes and Dion had returned from the oracle so he was ignorant of the events that had unfolded in Sicily. He was far away. The ship taking him to Bohemian territories encountered a ferocious storm in the upper Adriatic, the most desolate and rugged parts of the Bohemian territories.
"You are certain then that we have reached the Bohemian coast?" Antigonus asked the captain.
"Yes, my lord, and I fear we reached our destination at an unfortunate time. The skies look grim and threaten gales. In my conscience I think the heavens know what we are up to and are angry at us."
Due to the rockiness of the jagged coastline Antigonus used a small rowing boat from the ship to abandon the baby on the shore
"Their sacred wills be done!" Antigonus said. "You stay aboard and look after the ship. It won't be long before I'm back."
"Be as quick as you can and don't venture too far inland, it’s certain to be stormy and this place is notorious for wild animals."
"Stay with the ship I’ll be back quickly."
"I'm so glad this will soon be over," the captain sighed.
As Antigonus held the baby in his rams he spoke to it softly: "Come, poor babe. I have heard, but not believed that the spirits of the dead may walk again. If such things are true, your mother appeared to me last night for never was a dream so real. She came to me forlorn, sometimes her head on one side, sometimes on another. I never saw so much sorrow in a person, yet it was strangely becoming. In a pure white robe she looked like the epitome of saintliness. She approached my bunk and bowed before me three times. She attempted to speak to me but couldn't contain her terrible tears. Finally she spoke to me. Good Antigonus, fate, despite your protestations, has made you the person who will discard my poor babe. Fulfilling an oath you will abandon my poor child in a remote Bohemian forest, left to cry and wail. This babe, lost for ever, I call Perdita- meaning 'lost one'. For carrying out this cruel act, put on you by my husband, you will never see your wife Paulina again. With a few wails Hermione melted into the air. Terrified, I collected myself and thought of what was real and what was sleep. Dreams are just illusions but this time I think there was something in it and I will be guided. I believe Hermione has died since we left Sicily, suffering under Apollo's judgement, and you babe are indeed a child of King Polixenes. And so it is right that you should be left here on the land of your father. Well, little bud, let's hope you survive."
Antigonus placed the child on the ground with a box containing some valuables and the story of the reason behind the abandonment, noting that she should be called Perdita.
"Lie here with this document telling who you are and there’s some trinkets which may, if fate is kind, pay for your upbringing and leave something for a dowry. The storm is breaking! Poor wretch, exposed to all kinds of ill because of your mother's conduct. Weep I cannot, but my heart bleeds and most accursed am I to be bound by oath to fulfill this horror. Farewell, poor babe, the storm gets worse! A tragic lullaby. I never saw a day so dark! What's that noise? I must flee or I too am a goner- something's coming this way."
It was a hungry and angry bear. It chased Antigonus and within seconds it was on top of him.
Fate did watch over Perdita, for minutes after she had been abandoned by Antigonus, an Old Shepherd was in the vicinity, idly chatting to himself.
"Personally I wish there was no age between ten and twenty-three,” the Old Shepherd said, “or that the young would sleep through the other years. For after that there is nothing in between but unwanted children, upsetting the elderly, stealing and fighting. Mind you, would anybody but these nineteen and twenty-two year olds hunt in this weather? They have scared away two of my best sheep, which I fear the wolf will find sooner than me. If I find them anywhere it will be by the seaside, grazing on ivy. God's luck be with me!"
What the Old Shepherd then found was Perdita and the box.
"What have we here? Mercy on us! A baby, a very pretty baby! A boy or a girl, I wonder? A pretty one, a very pretty one. Surely, some result of mischief. Though I am not bookish, I can see gentlefolk in this- some jiggery-pokery! Those who begot this poor child are certainly in better circumstances than the infant. I'll take pity on the wee thing. I'll wait till my son comes. He is looking here, too. He called out just a minute ago. Whoa, ho, hoa!" the Old Shepherd called for his son.
The Old Shepherd's son was a pleasant and decent young man, but a bit simple. For that reason nobody ever referred to him by an actual name, but just Clown. Even his father had long since used that term. The Old Shepherd only had to wait a few minutes before Clown appeared.
"Hilloa, loa!" Clown said.
"So near? You are about to see something that will be talked about long after you've gone. Come and look. What's up with you, man?"
"I've just seen two horrendous things, one at sea and one on land. But I can't say it's the sea since it rose up to the sky so close a needle wouldn't fit between the sea and the sky."
"Why, boy, what was it?"
"I would take you down to the shore for you to see for yourself how the waves rage, pounding on the shore, but that's not the point. Oh, the screams of the poor souls! I saw them then I didn't see them! Then the ship was tossed skyward and then swallowed. And then for what happened on dry land! A bear ate a man, feasted on his shoulder bone as he called to me for help, told me his name was Antigonus, from Sicily. The people on the ship screamed and the sea ignored them. The poor old gentleman screamed and the bear simply mocked him."
"In the name of mercy, when was this, boy?"
"Now! I have barely winked since I saw these things. The sailors are not yet cold under the water, and the bear has only half-finished the gentleman."
"Had I been there, I would have helped the old man!"
"You should have been by the ship, to have helped her, although your charity would have been useless no matter how hard you tried."
"Heavy matters! Heavy matters! But look here, boy. Now bless yourself. You've just come across things dying and I stumble upon the new-born. Here's a sight for sore eyes! Look here, a christening blanket for an aristocrat. Look, look at this box. Pick it up, boy, pick it up! Open it. Let’s see what's inside. It was told to me I would become rich through the fairies. This is some piece of fairy business. Open it. What's in it, boy?"
"You're made, old man. If the sins of your youth are forgiven, you'll live well until the end of your days. Gold! All gold!"
"This is fairy gold, boy, so we better be quiet about it or we will bring bad luck on ourselves if we talk about it. Home, home, the quickest way. We are lucky, boy, and to remain so requires nothing but secrecy. Let my sheep go! Come, good boy, straight home."
"You go home with your discoveries," Clown said. "I'll go see if the bear has finished with the gentleman and how much he has eaten. They are never fierce except when they are hungry. If there's anything left of him, I'll bury it."
"That's a good deed. If you can discern who he is or what title he held by what's left of him, let me have a look first."
"By the Virgin, I will, and you can help me bury him"
"It’s a lucky day, boy, and we'll do good deeds."