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HAMLET AND THE GRAVEDIGGERS.
(Shakspeare.) ACT V. SCENE I.-A Churchyard. Ham. Hath this fellow no feeling of his business that he sings at grave-making ?
Hor. Custom hath made it in him a property of easiness.
Ham. 'Tis e'en so : the hand of little employment hath the daintier sense. I Clo. [Sings.]
But age with his stealing steps
Hath caught me in his clutch,
[Throws up a skull. Ham. That skull had a tongue in it, and could sing once : how the knave jowls it to the ground, as if it were Cain's jaw-bone, that did the first murder! It might be the pate of a politician, which this ass now o'er-reaches; one that would circumvent God, might it not ?
Hor. It might, my lord.
Ham. Or of a courtier : which could say, “Goodmorrow, sweet lord ! How dost thou, good lord ?" This might be my lord Such-a-one, that praised my lord Such-a-one's horse, when he meant to beg it; might it not?
Hor. Ay, my lord.
Ham. Why, e'en so; and now my lady Worm's; chapless, and knocked about the mazzard with a sexton's spade : here's fine revolution, if we had the trick to see't. Did these bones cost no more the breeding, but to play at loggats with 'em ? mine ache to think on't.
i Clo. [Sings.]
A pick-axe, and a spade, a spade,
For-and a shrouding sheet:
[Throws up another skull. Ham. There's another: why might not that be the the skull of a lawyer ? Where be his quiddits now, his quillets, his cases, his tenures, and his tricks? why does he suffer this rude knave now to knock him about the sconce with a dirty shovel, and will not tell him of his action of battery? Humph! This fellow might be in's time a great buyer of land, with his statutes, his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers, his recoveries : is this the fine of his fines, and the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine pate full of fine dirt ? will his vouchers vouch him no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than the length and breadth of a pair of indentures ? The very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more ? ha ?
Hor. Not a jot more, my lord.
Ham. They are sheep, and calves, which seek
O, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet. Ham. I think it be thine, indeed; for thou liest in't.
I Clo. You lie out on't, sir, and therefore it is not yours: for my part, I do not lie in't, and yet it is mine.
Ham. Thou dost lie in't, to be in't, and say it is thine : 'tis for the dead, not for the quick; therefore thou liest.
I Clo. 'Tis a quick lie, sir; 'twill away again, from me to you.
Ham. What man dost thou dig it for ?
I Clo. One that was a woman, sir ; but, rest her soul, she's dead.
Ham. How absolute the knave is! we must speak by the card, or equivocation will undo us. By the Lord, Horatio, these three years I have taken note of it ; the age is grown so picked, that the toe of the peasant comes so near the heel of the courtier, he galls his kibe.—How long hast thou been a gravemaker?
I Clo. Of all the days i' the year, I came to 't that day that our last king-Hamlet, o'ercame
Ham. How long is that since ?
? that: it was the very day that young Hamlet was born : he that was mad, and sent into England.
Ham. Ay, marry, why was he sent into England ?
I Clo. Why, because he was mad : he shall recover his wits there ; or, if he do not; 'tis no great matter there.
I Clo. 'Twill not be seen in him there; there the men are as mad as he.
Ham. How came he mad?
I Clo. 'Faith, e'en with losing his wits.
I Clo. Why, here in Denmark: I have been sexton here, man and boy, thirty years.
Ham. How long will a man lie i' the earth ere he rot ?
I Clo. 'Faith, he will last you some eight year or nine. Here's a skull now; this skull hath lain you i' the earth three and twenty years.
Ham. Whose was it ?
I Clo. A mad fellow's it was : whose do you think it was ?
Ham. Nay, I know not.
I Clo. A pestilence on him for a mad rogue? 'a poured a flagon of Rhenish on my head once. This same skull, sir, was Yorick's skull, the king's jester.
Ham. This ?
Ham. Let me see.—[Takes the skull.)-Alas, poor Yorick !-I knew him, Horatio : a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy; he hath borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how abhorred in any imagination it is ! my gorge rises at it. Here hung those lips, that I have kissed I know not how oft. Where be your gibes now ? your gambols ? your songs? your flashes of merriment, that were wont to set the table on a roar ? Not one now, to mock your own jeering ? quite chap-fallen? Now get you to my lady's chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come; make her laugh at that.Pr’ythee, Horatio, tell me one thing.
Hor. What's that my lord ?
Ham, Dost thou think Alexander looked o' this fashion i' the earth ?
Hor. E'en so.
Ham. To what base uses may we return, Horatio ! Why may not imagination trace the noble dust of Alexander, till he find it stopping a bung-hole ?
Hor. 'Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so.
Ham. No, faith, not a jot; but to follow him thither with modesty enough, and likelihood to lead it : as thus; Alexander died, Alexander was buried, Alexander returneth into dust; the dust is earth; of earth we make loam ; and why of that loam, whereto he was converted, might they not stop a beer-barrel ?
Imperial Cæsar, dead, and turn’d to clay,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,