"The Ripest Fruit First Falls"

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Last Updated on July 28, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 176

Context: John of Gaunt, revered elder statesman, lies dying at Ely House in London, surrounded by his close kinsmen and associates, who hear his final words of concern for England under the misguided and erroneous rule of his nephew, King Richard II. Richard, instead of accepting the advice of Gaunt for reform, indicates that he will continue in his ruthless manner as he accepts the death of his uncle simply as timely and announces that he will confiscate Gaunt's estate as revenue for the Irish wars, since Bolingbroke, son and heir of Gaunt, is in exile at the king's decree.

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The ripest fruit first falls, and so doth he;
His time is spent, our pilgrimage must be;
So much for that. Now for our Irish wars–
We must supplant these rough rug-headed kerns,
Which live like venom, where no venom else
But only they have privilege to live.
And for these great affairs do ask some charge,
Towards our assistance we do seize to us
The plate, coin, revenues, and moveables,
Whereof our uncle Gaunt did stand possessed.

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