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For as the soule doth rule the earthly masse,
And all the service of the bodie frame,
So love of soule doth love of bodie passe
No lesse than perfect gold surmounts the meanest

brasse. The Faerie Queene, Book iv. Canto 9.

Now sways

King. This battle fares like to the morning's war,
When dying clouds contend with growing light,
What time the shepherd, blowing of his nails,
Can neither call it perfect day nor night.

it this

like a mighty sea Forced by the tide to combat with the wind; Now sways it that


like the selfsame sea
Forced to retire by fury of the wind :
Sometime the flood prevails, and then the wind;
Now one the better, then another best ;
Both tugging to be victors, breast to breast,
Yet neither conqueror nor conquered:
So is the equal poisse of this fell war.

3 Henry VI., Act ii. Sc. 5.

Like as the tide, that comes fro th' ocean mayne
Flowes up the Shenan with contrárie forse,
And over-ruling him in his owne rayne,
Drives backe the current of his kindly course,
And makes it seeme to have some other sourse
But when the floud is spent, then backe again
His borrowed waters forst to re-disbourse,
He sends the sea his owne with double gaine,
And tribute eke withall, as to his soveraine.

Thus did the battell varie to and fro,
With divers fortune doubtfull to be deemed
Now this the better had, now had his fo;

Then he halfe vanquist, then the other seemed;
Yet victors both themselves always esteemed.

The Faerie Queene, Book iv. Canto 3. King Henry's description of the battle is very similar to the description contained in these stanzas.

Shakespeare compares the battle to a mighty sea forced by the tide to combat with the wind:

Now one the better, then another best,
Both tugging to be victors, breast to breast,

Yet neither conqueror, nor conquered. And Spenser compares the battle to the tide which, flowing up the Shenan from the ocean, overrules the current of that river, and is in turn forced back again to the sea :

Now this the better had, now had his fo;
Then he halfe vanquist, then the other seemed ;
Yet victors both themselves alwayes esteemed.

Bard. By this sword, he that makes the first thrust, I'll kill him; by this sword, I will.

Pist. Sword is an oath, and oaths must have their


Henry V., Act i. Sc. 1.

Hot. The king hath many marching in his coats.

Doug. Now, by my sword, I will kill all his coats ;
I'll murder all his wardrobe, piece by piece,
Until I meet the king.

1 Henry IV., Act v. Sc. 3.



Mow. I take it up; and by that sword I swear,
Which gently laid my knighthood on my shoulder,
I'll answer thee in any fair degree,
Or chivalrous design of knightly trial:
And when I mount, alive may I not light,
If I be traitor or unjustly fight!

Richard II., Act i. Sc. 1.

Hor: } My lord, we will not.

Ham. Never make known what you have seen to


Nay, but swear't.

In faith,
My lord, not I.

Mar. Nor I, my lord, in faith.
Ham. Upon my sword.

We have sworn, my lord, already.
Ham. Indeed, upon my sword, indeed.
Ghost. [Beneath] Swear.
Ham. Ah, ah, boy ! say’st thou so ? art thou there,

truepenny ?
Come on—you hear this

Yellow in the cellarage-
Consent to swear.

Propose the oath, my lord.
Ham. Never to speak of this that you


seen, Swear by my sword.

Ghost. [Beneath] Swear.

Ham. Hic et ubique ? then we'll shift our ground. Come hither, gentlemen, And lay your hands again upon my sword : Never to speak of this that you have heard, Swear by my sword.

Hamlet, Act i. Sc. 5. Officer. You here shall swear, upon the sword of justice.

Winter's Tale, Act iii. Sc. 2.

Leontes. It shall be possible: Swear by this sword, Thou wilt perform my bidding:

Winter's Tale, Act ii. Sc. 3. He glad of life, and will eke to wreake The guilt on him which did this mischiefe breed, Swore by his sword, that neither day nor weeke He would surceasse, but him whereso he were would seeke.

The Faerie Queene, Book vi. Canto 7. By sanglamort my sword, whose deadly dent The blood hath of so many thousands shedd, I sweare ere long shall dearely it repent, Be he twixt heuen and earth shall hide his hedd, But soone he shall be found, and shortly doen be dead.

The Faerie Queene, Book iii. Canto 10. So can they both themselves full eath perswade To faire accordaunce, and both faults to shade, Either embracing other lovingly, And swearing faith to either on his blade ; Never thenceforth to nourish enmity, But either others cause to maintaine mutually.

The Faerie Queene, Book ii. Canto 8. Bard. Why, Sir John, my face does you no harm.

Fal. No, I'll be sworn; I make as good use of it as many a man doth of a Death's-head or a memento mori: I never see thy face, but I think upon hell-fire and Dives that lived in purple; for there he is in his robes, burning, burning. If thou wert any way given to virtue, I would swear by thy face; my oath should be 'By this fire, that's God's angel :' but thou art altogether given over; and wert indeed, but for the light in thy face, the son of utter darkness.

1 Henry IV., Act iii. Sc. 3.

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You may read in Lucian, in that sweet dialogue which is entitled Toxaris, or of friendship, that the common oath of the Scythians was by the sword, and by the fire ; for that they accounted those two special Devine Powers, which should work vengeance on the perjurers. So do the Irish at this day, when they go to battle, say certain prayers or charms to their swords, making a therewith upon the earth, and thrusting the points of their blades into the ground, thinking thereby to have the better success in fight. Also they use commonly to swear by their swords.--SPENSER, A View of the State of Ireland.


It seems to have been usual for men before the Christian era to swear by or upon their swords, but amongst Christians this custom may have originated in the form of the Cross the sword presents where the guard crosses the blade, which I may now represent by the common sign of reference in books shaped like a straight sword thus,-. I have somewhere read that the blades of swords had formerly the sign of the Cross upon them, and I remember a stanza in Spenser's “Faerie Queene' which may support this statement:

The wretched man, that all this time did dwell
In dread of death, his heasts did gladly heare,
And promist to performe his precept well,
And whatsoever else he would requere.
So suffring him to rise, he made him sweare
By his owne sword, and by the crosse thereon,
To take Briana for his loving fere

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