The Second Brother, Act I
Brothers of the Duke of Ferrera
EZRIL; a Jew.
VALERIA; Varini’s daughter and Orazio’s wife.
A FEMALE ATTENDANT.
Gentlemen, ladies, guards, and attendants.
SCENE I. A street in Ferrara.
MICHELE and BATTISTA meeting: MARCELLO at the side.
Fair shine this evening’s stars upon your pleasures,
Sir, well met to-night:
Methinks our path is one.
And all Ferrara’s.
There’s not a candle lit to-night at home;
And for the cups,—they’ll be less wet with wine
Than is the inmost grain of all this earth
With the now-falling dew. None sit in doors,
Except the babe, and his forgotten grandsire,
And such as, out of life, each side do lie
Against the shutter of the grave or womb.
The rest that build up the great hill of life,
From the crutch-riding boy to his sweet mother,
The deer-eyed girl, and the brown fellow of war,
To the grey head and grandest sire of all
That’s half in heaven,—all these are forth to-night;
And there they throng upon both sides the river,
Which, guessing at its hidden banks, flows on,
A water-stream betwixt two tides of flesh:—
And still the streets pour on.
And where go they?
To the feast, the wine, the lady-footed dance—
Where you, and I, and every citizen
That has a feathered and a jewelled cap,
And youthful curls to hang beside it brownly,—
To the Duke’s brother, Lord Orazio’s palace.
(aside) Orazio! what of him?
Ay, that’s a man
After the heart of Bacchus! By my life,
There is no mortal stuff, that foots the earth,
Able to wear the shape of man, like him,
And fill it with the carriage of a god.
We’re but the tools and scaffolding of men,
The lines, the sketch, and he the very thing:
And, if we share the name of manhood with him,
Thus in the woods the tattered, wool-hung briar,
And the base, bowing poplar, the winds’ slave,
Are trees,—and so’s the great and kingly oak,
Within whose branches, like a soul, does dwell
The sun’s bold eagle:—as the villain fox,
The weazel, and the sneaking cur are beasts,—
While he, whose wine is in a giant’s heart,
The royal lion has no bigger name.
Let men be trees, why then he is the oak;
Let men be beasts, he is their lion-master;
Let them be stars, and then he is a sun,
A sun whose beams are gold, the night his noon,
His summer-field a marble hall of banquets,
With jasper, onyx, amber-leaved cups
On golden straws for flowers, and, for the dew,
Wine of the richest grape. So let’s not talk
And breathe away the time, whose sands are thawed
Into such purple tears, but drink it off.
Why then, away! let’s fit our velvet arms,
And on together.—
(advancing.) Nobles of Ferrara,
My gentle lords, have pity for a man,
Whom fortune and the roundness of the world
Have, from his feeble footing on its top,
Flung to deep poverty. When I was born,
They hid my helplessness in purple wraps,
And cradled me within a jewelled crown.
But now—O bitter now!—what name of woe,
Beyond the knowledge of the lips of hell,
Is fitted to my poor and withering soul,
And its old, wretched dwelling?
What is this?
Methinks that a præ-adamite skeleton,
Burst from the grave in a stolen cloak of flesh,
Ragged and threadbare, from a witch’s back,
Who lived an hundred years, would scarcely seem
More miserably old.
A wandering beggar,
Come to Ferrara with the daily lie,
That bears him bread. Come on, and heed him not.
The stocks, old sir, grow in our streets.
Enter a Gentleman.
What’s your news, sir?
He’s coming through this street,
Orazio, wrapt, like Bacchus, in the hide
Of a specked panther, with his dancing nymphs,
And torches bright and many, as his slaves
Had gathered up the fragments of the sun
That fell just now. Hark! here his music comes.
(Enter ORAZIO, between ARMIDA and ROSAURA, attended.)
Thrice to the moon, And thrice unto the sun,
And thrice unto the lesser stars of night,
From tower and hill, by trump and cannon’s voice,
Have I proclaimed myself a deity’s son:
Not Alexander’s father, Ammon old,
But ivied Bacchus, do I call my sire.
Hymn it once more.
Strew not earth with empty stars,
Strew it not with roses,
Nor feathers from the crest of Mars,
Nor summer’s idle posies.
‘Tis not the primrose-sandalled moon,
Nor cold and silent morn,
Nor he that climbs the dusty noon,
Nor mower war with scythe that drops,
Stuck with helmed and turbaned tops
Of enemies new shorn.
Ye cups, ye lyres, ye trumpets know,
Pour your music, let it flow,
‘Tis Bacchus’ son who walks below.
Now break that kiss, and answer me, my Hebe;
Has our great sire a planet in the sky,—
One of these lights?
Not yet, I think, my lord.
My lord ? my love! I am the Lord of Love;
So call me by my dukedom.—He has not?
We’ll make him one, my nymph: when those bright eyes
Are closed, and that they shall not be, I swear,
‘Till I have loved them many thousand hours,—
But when they are, their blue enchanted fire
Cupid shall take upon a torch of heaven,
And light the woody sides of some dim world,
Which shall be Bacchus’ godson-star.
Their fire is but unsteady, weak, and watery,
To guess by your love’s wavering.
Wine in a ruby!
I’ll solemnize their beauty in a draught,
Pressed from the summer of an hundred vines.
Look on’t, my sweet. Rosaura, this same night
I will immortalize those lips of thine,
That make a kiss so spicy. Touch the cup:
Ruby to ruby! Slave, let it be thrown,
At midnight, from a boat into mid-sea:
Rosaura’s kiss shall rest unravished there,
While sea and land lie in each other’s arms,
And curl the world.
Beggar, stand back, I say.
No; I will shadow your adored mortal,
And shake my rags at him. Dost fear the plague?
Musk-fingered boy, aside!
What madman’s this?
Keep him away from me!
His hideous raggedness tears the soft sight,
Where it is pictured.
Your clutch is like the grasping of a wave:
Off from my shoulder!—Now, my velvet fellow,
Let’s measure limbs. Well, is your flesh to mine
As gold to lead, or but the common plaister
That wraps up bones? Your skin is not of silk;
Your face not painted with an angel’s feather
With tints from morning’s lip, but the daubed clay;
These veiny pipes hold a dog’s lap of blood.
Let us shake hands; I tell thee, brother skeleton,
We’re but a pair of puddings for the dinner
Of Lady worm; you served in silks and gems,
I garnished with plain rags. Have I unlocked thee?
Prince! but we must shake hands.
Look you, the round earth’s sleeping like a serpent,
Who drops her dusty tail upon her crown
Just here. Oh, we are like two mountain peaks,
Of two close planets, catching in the air:
You, King Olympus, a great pile of summer,
Wearing a crown of gods; I, the vast top
Of the ghosts’ deadly world, naked and dark,
With nothing reigning on my desolate head
But one old spirit of a murdered god,
Palaced within the corpse of Saturn’s father.
Then let’s come near and hug. There’s nothing like thee
But I thy contrast.—Thou’rt a prince, they say?
That you shall learn. You knaves, that wear my livery,
Will you permit me still to be defiled
By this worm’s venom? Tread upon his neck,
And let’s walk over him.
Forbear, my lord!
I am a king of that most mighty empire,
That’s built o’er all the earth, upon kings’ crowns;
And poverty’s its name; whose every hut
Stands on a coronet, or star, or mitre,
The glorious corner-stones.—But you are weary,
And would be playing with a woman’s cheek:
Give me a purse then, prince.
No, not a doit:
The metal, I bestow, shall come in chains.
Well, I can curse. Ay, prince, you have a brother—
The Duke,—he’ll scourge you.
Nay, the second, sir,
Who, like an envious river, flows between
Your footsteps and Ferrara’s throne.
Asia, and Africa, the sea he went on,
Have many mouths,—and in a dozen years,
(His absence’ time) no tidings or return,
Tell me We are but two.
If he were in Ferrara—
Stood he before me there,
By you, in you,—as like as you’re unlike,
Straight as you’re bowed, young as you are old
And many years nearer than him to death,
The falling brilliancy of whose white sword
Your ancient locks so silverly reflect,—
I would deny, outswear, and overreach,
And pass him with contempt, as I do you.—
Jove! how we waste the stars: set on, my friends.
But the old ruffian?
Think of him to-morrow.
See, Venus rises in the softening heaven:
Let not your eyes abuse her sacred beams,
By looking through their gentleness on ought
But lips, and eyes, and blushes of dear love.
Strike, you myrtle-crowned boys,
Ivied maidens, strike together:
Magic lutes are these, whose noise
Our fingers gather,
Threaded thrice with golden strings
From Cupid’s bow;
And the sounds of its sweet voice
Not air, but little busy things,
Pinioned with the lightest feather
Of his wings,
Rising up at every blow
Round the chords, like flies from roses
Zephyr-touched; so these light minions
Hover round, then shut their pinions,
And drop into the air, that closes
Where music’s sweetest sweet reposes.
[Exit Orazio with his retinue.
(solus.) Then who hath solitude, like mine, that is not
The last survivor of a city’s plague,
Eating the mess he cooked for his dead father?
Who is alone but I? there’s fellowship
In churchyards and in hell: but I!—no lady’s ghost
Did ever cling with such a grasp of love
Unto its soft dear body, as I hung
Rooted upon this brother. I went forth
Joyfully, as the soul of one who closes
His pillowed eyes beside an unseen murderer,
And like its horrible return was mine,
To find the heart, wherein I breathed and beat,
Cold, gashed, and dead. Let me forget to love,
And take a heart of venom: let me make
A stair-case of the frightened breasts of men,
And climb into a lonely happiness!
And thou, who only art alone as I,
Great solitary god of that one sun,
I charge thee, by the likeness of our state,
Undo these human veins that tie me close
To other men, and let your servant griefs
Unmilk me of my mother, and pour in
Salt scorn and steaming hate!
How now, my lord?
Much better, my kind Jew. They’ve weeded out
A troublesome wild plant that grew upon me,
My heart: I’ve trampled it to dust, and wept it
Wetter than Nilus’ side. Out of the sun!
And let him bake it to a winged snake.
—Well, you’ve been shouldered from the palace steps,
And spurned as I?—No matter.
Nay, my lord!
Come with me: lay aside these squalid wrappings;
Prepare that honoured head to fit a crown,
For ’twill be empty of your brother soon.
What starry chance has dropped out of the skies?
What’s this? Oh! now if it should but be so,
I’ll build a bridge to heaven. Tell me, good Jew;
Excellent Ezril, speak.
At your command
I sought the ducal palace, and, when there,
Found all the wild-eyed servants in the courts
Running about on some dismaying errand,
In the wild manner of a market crowd,
Waked, from the sunny dozing at their stalls,
By one who cries “the city is on fire;”
Just so they crossed, and turned, and came again.
I asked of an old man, what this might mean;
And he, yet grappling with the great disaster
As if he would have killed it, like a fable,
By unbelief, coldly, as if he spoke
Of something gone a century before,
Told me, the Duke in hunting had been thrown,
And lay on his last bed.
Ha! well! what next?
You are the cup-bearer of richest joy.—
But it was a report, a lie.—Have done—
I read it on your lip.
It was too true.
I went to his bedside, and there made trial
Of my best skill in physic, with the zeal
Due to my sovereign.
Impious, meddling fool!
To thrust yourself ‘twixt heaven and its victim!
My lord, I think you would not have said so
In the sad chamber of the writhing man.
He lay in a red fever’s quenchless flames,
Burning to dust: despairing of my skill,
I sat myself beside his heart, and spoke
Of his next brother. When he heard of you,
He bade be summoned all his counsellors,
To witness his bequeathing his dominion
Wholly to you.
Why did you let me wait?
Come, let’s be quick: he keeps beneath his pillow
A kingdom, which they’ll steal if we’re too late.
We must o’ertake his death.
A saloon in Orazio’s palace, brilliantly lighted: at the bottom of the stage open folding-doors, through which a banqueting-room is seen, with a table, at which ORAZIO and his guests, feasting, are partially visible.
Music and Song.
Will you sleep these dark hours, maiden,
Beneath the vine that rested
Its slender boughs, so purply-laden,
All the day around that elm
Which yon dark hill wears for an helm,
Pasture-robed and forest-crested?
There the night of lovely hue
Peeps the fearful branches through,
And ends in those two eyes of blue.
ORAZIO and ARMIDA come forward.
What! wrap a frown in myrtle, and look sad
Beneath the shadow of an ivy wreath?
This should not be, my lord.
I’m weary of their laughter’s empty din.
Methinks, these fellows, with their ready jests,
Are like to tedious bells, that ring alike
Marriage or death. I would we were alone—
They will soon be gone:
One half-hour more—
No, it could not be so:—
I think and think—Sweet, did you like the feast?
Methought, ’twas gay enough.
Now, I did not.
‘Twas dull: all men spoke slow and emptily.
Strange things were said by accident. Their tongues
Uttered wrong words: one fellow drank my death,
Meaning my health; another called for poison,
Instead of wine; and, as they spoke together,
Voices were heard, most loud, which no man owned:
There were more shadows too than there were men;
And all the air more dark and thick than night
Was heavy, as ’twere made of something more
Than living breaths.—
Nay, you are ill, my lord:
‘Tis merely melancholy.
There were deep hollows
And pauses in their talk; and then, again,
On tale, and song, and jest, and laughter rang,
Like a fiend’s gallop. By my ghost, ’tis strange.—
Come, my lord, join your guests; they look with wonder
Upon your lonely mood.
It is the trick
Of these last livers to unbuild belief:
They’d rob the world of spirit. Then each look,
Ay, every aspect of the earth and sky,
Man’s thought and hope, are lies.—Well; I’ll return,
And look at them again.
(He approaches the door of the inner room: from Which MICHELE advances.)
You’re tired, my lord.
Our visit’s long: break off, good gentlemen:
The hour is late.
Nay, I beseech you, stay:
My pleasure grows on yours. I’m somewhat dull;
But let me not infect you.
(Exeunt Michele and Armida through the folding-door: Orazio is following them, but is stopped by the entry of an Attendant, from the side.
What with you?
A lady, in the garment of a nun,
Desires to see you.
Lead her in: all such
I thank for their fair countenance.
Enter VALERIA, introduced by Attendant, who withdraws.
Your will with me?
I am the bearer of another’s will:
A woman, whose unhappy fondness yet
May trouble her lord’s memory,—Valeria,—
Your’s for a brief, blessed time, who now dwells
In her abandoned being patiently,
But not unsorrowing, sends me.
My wronged wife!
Too purely good for such a man as I am!
If she remembers me, then Heaven does too,
And I am not yet lost. Give me her thoughts,—
Ay, the same words she put into thine ears,
Safe and entire, and I will thank thy lips
With my heart’s thanks. But tell me how she fares.
Well; though the common eye, that has a tear,
Would drop it for the paleness of her skin,
And the wan shivering of her torch of life;
Though she be faint and weak, yet very well:
For not the tincture, or the strength of limb,
Is a true health, but readiness to die.—
But let her be, or be not.—
Best of ladies!
And, if thy virtues did not glut the mind,
To the extinction of the eye’s desire,
Such a delight to see, that one would think
Our looks were thrown away on meaner things,
And given to rest on thee!
These words, my lord,
Are charitable; it is very kind
To think of her sometimes: for, day and night,
As they flow in and out of one another,
She sits beside and gazes on their streams,
So filled with the strong memory of you,
That all her outward form is penetrated,
Until the watery portrait is become
Not hers, but yours:—and so she is content
To wear her time out.
Softest peace enwrap her!
Content be still the breathing of her lips!
Be tranquil ever, thou blest life of her!
And that last hour, that hangs ‘tween heaven and earth,
So often travelled by her thoughts and prayers,
Be soft and yielding ‘twixt her spirit’s wings!
Think’st thou, Orazio, that she dies but once?
All round and through the spaces of creation,
No hiding-place of the least air, or earth,
Or sea, invisible, untrod, unrained on,
Contains a thing alone. Not e’en the bird,
That can go up the labyrinthine winds
Between its pinions, and pursues the summer,—
Not even the great serpent of the billows,
Who winds him thrice around this planet’s waist,—
Is by itself, in joy or suffering.
But she whom you have ta’en, and, like a leaven,
With your existence kneaded, must be ever
Another—scarce another—self of thine.
If she has read her heart aloud to you,
Or you have found it open by some chance,
Tell me, dear lady, is my name among
Her paged secrets? does she, can she love me?—
No, no; that’s mad:—does she remember me?
She breathes away her weary days and nights
Among cold, hard-eyed men, and hides behind
A quiet face of woe: but there are things,—
A song, a face, a picture, or a word,—
Which, by some semblance, touch her heart to tears.
And music, starting up among the strings
Of a wind-shaken harp, undoes her secresy,—
Rolls back her life to the first starry hour
Whose flower-fed air you used, to speak of love;
And then she longs to throw her bursting breast,
And shut out sorrow with Orazio’s arms,—
Thus,—O my husband!
Sweetest, sweetest woman!
Valeria, thou dost squeeze eternity
Into this drop of joy. O come, come, come!
Let us not speak;—give me my wife again!—
O thou fair creature, full of my own soul!
We’ll love, we’ll love, like nothing under heaven,—
Like nought but Love, the very truest god.
Here’s lip-room on thy cheek:—there, shut thine eye,
And let me come, like sleep, and kiss its lid.
Again.—What shall I do? I speak all wrong,
And lose a soul-full of delicious thought
By talking.—Hush! Let’s drink each other up
By silent eyes. Who lives, but thou and I,
My heavenly wife?
I’ll watch thee thus, till I can tell a second,
By thy cheek’s change. O what a rich delight!
There’s something very gentle in thy cheek,
That I have never seen in other women:
And, now I know the circle of thine eye,
It is a colour like to nothing else
But what it means,—that’s heaven. This little tress,
Thou’lt give it me to look on and to wear,
But first I’ll kiss its shadow on thy brow.
That little, fluttering dimple is too late,
If he is for the honey of thy looks:
As sweet a blush, as ever rose did copy,
Budded and opened underneath my lips,
And shed its leaves; and now those fairest cheeks
Are snowed upon them. Let us whisper, sweet,
And nothing be between our lips and ears
But our own secret souls.—
(A horn without.
Heaven of the blest, they’re here!
Who, what, Valeria?
Thou’rt pale and tremblest: what is it?
A bitter kernel to our taste of joy,
Our foolish and forgetful joy. My father!
Enter VARINI and attendants.
Turn out those slaves,—
Burst the closed doors, and occupy the towers.—
Varini’s self! what can his visit bring!
Look there; he’s walking hither like a man,
But is indeed a sea of stormy ruin,
Filling and flooding o’er this golden house
From base to pinnacle, swallowing thy lands,
Thy gold, thine all.—Embrace me into thee,
Or he’ll divide us.
Never! calm thyself.—
Now, Count Varini, what’s your business here?
If as a guest, though uninvited, welcome!
If not, then say, what else?
A master, spendthrift!
Open those further doors,—
What? in my palace!
Thine! what is thine beneath the night or day?
Not e’en that beggar’s carcase,—for within that
The swinish devils of filthy luxury
Do make their stye.—No lands, no farms, no houses,—
Thanks to thy debts, no gold. Go out! Thou’rt nothing,
Besides a grave and a deep hell.
Thou hast Valeria: the world may shake thee off,
But thou wilt drop into this breast, this love,—
And it shall hold thee.
What? lost already!
O that curst steward! I have fallen, Valeria,
Deeper than Lucifer, though ne’er so high,—
Into a place made underneath all things,
So low and horrible that hell’s its heaven.
Thou shalt not have the idiot, though she be
The very fool and sickness of my blood.—
Gentlemen, here are warrants for my act,—
His debts, bonds, forfeitures, taxes and fines,
O’erbalancing the worth of his estates,
Which I have bought: behold them!—For the girl,
Abandoned, after marriage, by the villain,—
I am her father: let her be removed;
And, if the justice of my rightful cause
Ally you not, at least do not resist me.
What are these writings?
Bills under the Duke’s seal,
All true and valid.—Poor Orazio!
Why, the rogue pities me! I’m down indeed.
Help me! Oh! some of you have been beloved,
Some must be married.—Will you let me go?
Will you stand frozen there, and see them cut
Two hearts asunder?—Then you will,—you do.—
Are all men like my father? are all fathers
So far away from men? or all their sons
So heartless?—you are women, as I am;
Then pity me, as I would pity you,
And pray for me! Father! ladies! friends!—
But you are tearless as the desart sands.—
Orazio, love me! or, if thou wilt not,
Yet I will love thee: that you cannot help.
My best Valeria! never shalt thou leave me,
But with my life. O that I could put on
These feeble arms the proud and tawny strength
Of the lion in my heart!
Out with the girl at once!
Forgive them, sir, we all of us beseech.
Lady, among you all she’s but one sire,
And he says no—Away!
Have pity, my sweet father! my good father!
Have pity, as my gentle mother would,
Were she alive,—thy sainted wife! O pardon,
If I do wish you had been rent asunder,
Thus dreadfully; for then I had not been;—
Not kissed and wept upon my father’s hand,
And he denied me!—you can make me wretched:—
Be cruel still, but I will never hate you.—
Orazio, I’ll tell thee what it is:
The world is dry of love; we’ve drunk it all
With our two hearts—
Take on thy last dear hand this truest kiss,
Which I have brought thee from my deepest soul.—
Farewell, my wife!—
They cannot part us long.—
What’s life? our love is an eternity:
O blessed hope!
(She is forced out.
Now then, sir; speak to me:
The rest is sport,—like rain against a tower
Unpalsied by the ram. Go on: what’s next?
Your palaces are mine, your sheep-specked pastures,
Forest and yellow corn-land, grove and desart,
Earth, water, wealth: all, that you yesterday
Were mountainously rich and golden with,
I, like an earthquake, in this minute take.
Go, go: I will not pick thee to the bones:
Starve as you will.
How, sir! am I not wealthy?
Why, if the sun could melt the brazen man
That strode over Corinth, and whose giant form
Stretched its swart limbs along sea, island, mountain,
While night appeared its shadow,—if he could,—
Great, burning Phœbus’ self—could melt ought of him,
Except the snow drift on his rugged shoulder,
Thou hast destroyed me!
Thanks to these banquets of Olympus’ top
From whence you did o’erturn whole Niles of wine,
And made each day as rainy as that hour
When Perseus was begot, I have destroyed thee,
Or thou thyself; for, such a luxury
Would wring the gold out of its rocky shell,
And leave the world all hollow.—So, begone;
My lord, and beggar!
Noble, old Varini,
Think, is it fit to crush into the dirt
Even the ruins of nobility?
Take comfort, sir.
Who am I now?
How long is a man dying or being born?
Is’t possible to be a king and beggar
In half a breath? or to begin a minute
I’ th’ west, and end it in the furthest east?
O no! I’ll not believe you. When I do,
My heart will crack to powder.—Can you speak?
Then do: shout something louder than my thoughts,
For I begin to feel.
Enter a Messenger.
News from the court:
Was he not ill, and on a perilous bed?
Speak life and death,—thou hast them on thy tongue,—
One’s mine, the other his:—a look, a word,
A motion;—life or death?
The Duke is dead.
(Battista and the other guests kneel to Orazio,
Then we salute in thee another sovereign.
Me then, who just was shaken into chaos,
Thou hast created! I have flown, somehow,
Upwards a thousand miles: my heart is crowned.—
Your hands, good gentlemen; sweet ladies, yours:—
And what new godson of the bony death,—
Of fire, or steel, or poison,—shall I make
For old Varini?
Your allegiance, sirs,
Wanders: Orazio is a beggar still.
Is it not true then that the duke is dead?
Not dead? O slave!
The Duke is dead, my lords;
And, on his death-bed, did bestow his crown
Upon his second brother, Lord Marcello,—
Ours, and Ferrara’s, Duke.
I’ll not believe it:
Marcello is abroad.
His blest return,
This providential day, has saved our lives
From thine abhorred sway. Orazio, go:
And, though my clemency is half a crime,
I spare your person.
I’ll to the palace.
When we meet next, be blessed if thou dost kiss
The dust about my ducal chair.
I shall be there,
To cry Long live Marcello! in thine ear.—
Pray pardon me the breaking of this feast,
Ladies,—and so, good night.
Your wish is echoed by our inmost will:
Good night to Count Varini.
What are they, sirrah?
There is a banquet in the inner room:
Shall we remove the plate?
Leave it alone:
Wine in the cups, the spicy meats uncovered,
And the round lamps each with a star of flame
Upon their brink; let winds begot on roses,
And grey with incense, rustle through the silk
And velvet curtains:—then set all the windows,
The doors and gates, wide open; let the wolves,
Foxes, and owls, and snakes, come in and feast;
Let the bats nestle in the golden bowls,
The shaggy brutes stretch on the velvet couches,
The serpent twine him o’er and o’er the harp’s
Delicate chords:—to Night, and all its devils,
We do abandon this accursed house.