Cymbeline "Hark, Hark, The Lark"
by William Shakespeare

Cymbeline book cover
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"Hark, Hark, The Lark"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The line from which this famous quotation is taken is similar in sense to that penned by John Lyly a few years earlier in Alexander and Campaspe (1584): "How at heaven's gates she claps her wings," (Act V, sc. i) and no doubt the image was current in Shakespeare's ear when, in 1610, he wrote Cymbeline. In the play, beautiful Princess Imogen is secretly married to a poor but worthy gentleman, Posthumus Leonatus. When word of the match reaches the ears of her father, King Cymbeline, he cruelly banishes the bridegroom from Britain because he had hoped Imogen would marry his stepson Cloten. Cloten, an arrogant, contemptible cad, forces his suit on Imogen in her husband's absence. He brings musicians to a room adjoining Imogen's bedroom and bids them play and sing.

Hark, hark, the lark at heaven's gate sings,
And Phoebus gins arise,
His steeds to water at those springs
On chaliced flowers that lies;
And winking Mary-buds begin
To ope their golden eyes.
With everything that pretty is,
My lady sweet arise.
Arise, arise.