Methinks I could not die anywhere so contented
Methinks I could not die anywhere
so contented as in the King’s company, his
cause being just and his quarrel honorable.
That’s more than we know.
Ay, or more than we should seek after, for we
know enough if we know we are the King’s subjects.
If his cause be wrong, our obedience to the
King wipes the crime of it out of us.
I am afeard there are few die well that die
in a battle, for how can they charitably dispose
of anything when blood is their argument?
But if the cause be not good, the King
himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all
those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in a
battle, shall join together at the latter day, and cry
all “We died at such a place,” some swearing, some
crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left
poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe,
some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard
there are few die well that die in a battle, for how
can they charitably dispose of anything when blood
is their argument? Now, if these men do not die
well, it will be a black matter for the king that led
them to it, who to disobey were against all proportion
So, if a son that is by his father sent about
merchandise do sinfully miscarry upon the sea,
the imputation of his wickedness, by your rule,
should be imposed upon his father that sent him.
Or if a servant, under his master’s command transporting
a sum of money, be assailed by robbers and
die in many irreconciled iniquities, you may call the
business of the master the author of the servant’s
damnation. But this is not so. The King is not bound
to answer the particular endings of his soldiers, the
father of his son, nor the master of his servant, for
they purpose not their death when they purpose
their services. Besides, there is no king, be his cause
never so spotless, if it come to the arbitrament of
swords, can try it out with all unspotted soldiers.
Some, peradventure, have on them the guilt of
premeditated and contrived murder; some, of beguiling
virgins with the broken seals of perjury;
some, making the wars their bulwark, that have
before gored the gentle bosom of peace with pillage
and robbery. Now, if these men have defeated the
law and outrun native punishment, though they can
outstrip men, they have no wings to fly from God.
War is His beadle, war is His vengeance, so that here
men are punished for before-breach of the King’s
laws in now the King’s quarrel. Where they feared
the death, they have borne life away; and where they
would be safe, they perish. Then, if they die unprovided,
no more is the King guilty of their damnation
than he was before guilty of those impieties for the
which they are now visited. Every subject’s duty is
the King’s, but every subject’s soul is his own.
Therefore should every soldier in the wars do as
every sick man in his bed: wash every mote out of
his conscience. And, dying so, death is to him
advantage; or not dying, the time was blessedly lost
wherein such preparation was gained. And in him
that escapes, it were not sin to think that, making
God so free an offer, He let him outlive that day to
see His greatness and to teach others how they
’Tis certain, every man that dies ill, the ill
upon his own head; the King is not to answer it.
I do not desire he should answer for me, and yet
I determine to fight lustily for him.