Cymbeline "Golden Lads And Girls All Must As Chimney-sweepers Come To Dust"
by William Shakespeare

Cymbeline book cover
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"Golden Lads And Girls All Must As Chimney-sweepers Come To Dust"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Imogen, daughter of King Cymbeline of Britain, marries Posthumus Leonatus, a poor but worthy gentleman. Her father, enraged, banishes the bridegroom. Posthumus goes to Rome where he meets a crafty villain, Iachimo, who involves Posthumus in a wager concerning Imogen's faithfulness. Iachimo goes to Britain and underhandedly secures false "proofs" that, when shown to Posthumus, convince him that his wife is untrue. He sends a letter to his servant in Britain, Pisanio, ordering him to put Imogen to death. But Pisanio wisely refuses to believe the letter and instead, helps Imogen escape the court of her father. He advises her to dress as a page and gives her a vial of a sleep-inducing drug, thinking it a "sovereign restorative." Imogen, lost in Wales, encounters Belarius who twenty years earlier had kidnaped the two infant sons of King Cymbeline. They are named Guiderius and Arviragus and are of course Imogen's brothers. She, disguised as a boy and calling herself Fidele, falls ill and swallows some of the restorative. Thinking her dead, the two boys, before burying her under some flowers and shrubs, sing a lovely song over her body. Guiderius sings the first stanza.

Fear no more the heat o' th' sun,
Nor the furious winter's rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone and ta'en thy wages.
Golden lads and girls all must
As chimney-sweepers come to dust.