Kyle Shelton's modern rendering of  Sidney's Source for Lear, paragraph 1



The Original

     It was in the kingdom of Galacia, the season being (as in the depth of winter) very cold, and as then suddenly grown to so extreme and foul a storm, that never any winter (I think) brought forth a fouler child: so that the Princes were even compelled by the hail, that the pride of the wind blew into their faces, to seek some shrouding place within a certain hollow rock offering it unto them, they made it their shield against the tempest's fury. And so staying there, till the violence thereof was passed, they heard the speech of a couple, who, not perceiving them (being hid within that rude canopy) held a strange and pitiful disputation which made them step out; yet in such sort, as they might see unseen. There they perceived an aged man, and a young, scarcely come to the age of a man, both poorly arrayed, extremely weather-beaten; the old man blind, the young man leading him: and yet through all those miseries, in both these seemed to appear a kind of nobleness, not suitable to that affliction. But the first words they heard were these of the old man. Well Leonatus (said he) since I cannot persuade thee to lead me to that which should end my grief, & thy trouble, let me now entreat thee to leave me: fear not, my misery cannot be greater than it is, & and nothing doth become me but misery: fear not the danger of my blind steps. I cannot fall worse than I am. And do not, I pray thee, do not obstinately continue to infect thee with my wretchedness. But fly, fly from this region, only worthy of me. Dear father (answered he) do not take away from me the only remnant of my happiness: while I have power to do you service, I am not wholly miserable. Ah my son (said he, and with that he groaned, as if sorrow strove to break his heart), how evil fits it me to have such a son, and how much doth thy kindness upbraid my wickedness? These doleful speeches, and some others to like purpose (well showing they had not been borne to the fortune they were in), moved the Princes to go out unto them, and ask the younger what they were? Sirs (answered he, with a good grace, and made the more agreeable by a certain noble kind of piteousness) I see well you are strangers, that know not our misery so well here known, that no man dare know, but that we must be miserable. Indeed our state is such, as though nothing is so needful unto us as pity, yet nothing is more dangerous unto us, than to make ourselves so known as may stir pity. But your presence promiseth, that cruelty shall not overrun hate. And if it did, in truth our state is sunk below the degree of fear.

Modern Version

      It was in the kingdom of Galacia. In the dead of the cold winter that came about the foulest storm that I can remember.
      The princes were compelled by the hail and the wind in their faces to seek shelter and found a place in a hollow rock. While resting and waiting for the storm to pass, they heard the speech of two people, who, not knowing they were there that was full of despair.  At the sound of the sad conversation, they stepped out to hear more of the conversation and saw an old man and a boy, barely at the age of manhood.
      Both men were in tattered clothing and extremely weather beaten and the younger led the older, who was blind.  Though they were ill-clothed, there was an air of nobility about them both, not suited to their appearance.
      The old man spoke first.
      “Well, Leonatus,” he said,” since I cannot persuade you to lead me to that which would end my grief, and your trouble, let me now beg of you to leave me. Don’t worry, my misery cannot not be worse than it is. And I don’t deserve anything but misery. And don’t worry about my blind steps, I cannot be injured more than I am. And, please don’t keep yourself weighed down with my wretchedness. Fly, Fly from this dark wintry cave, that is what I, not you, deserve.”
      “Dad,” said the boy, “don’t take away the only thing that makes me happy. While I am able to serve you, I am not unhappy.”
      The old man replied, groaning as if with a broken heart.
      “My son, it fits my evil to have such a good son and how your kindness contrasts my wickedness,” he said.
      Because their words did not sound as though they had been born to their poor trappings, the princes moved out and asked the younger boy who they were.
      With a nobility and grace, the boy answered the princes.
      “You are strangers and you don’t know what has brought us to this place that no man should have to face,” he said. “Though you may want to pity us, as would be natural, that is most dangerous to us. But that you are here promises that you will not be cruel in the face of our hatred. If you will be cruel, then our fears are real.”

by Kyle Shelton 
in partial fulfullment of EH 203,
Fall 2000   Dr. Gates

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To cite this page:

Sidney, Sir Philip. The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia. Available on-line in an extract entitled, "Shakespeare's  King Lear: Source for the Gloucester Plot."  Hypertext. ed. Joanne E. Gates.  Modern translation of paragraph 1 by Kyle Shelton.  Available from December 2000.  [Access date]  <>.