The Second Brother, Act II

SCENE I.

An apartment in Varini’s palace.

Enter VALERIA and a female attendant.

Attend.
Will you not sleep, dear lady? you are weary,
And yet thus eager, quick, and silently,
Like one who listens for a midnight sign,
You wander up and down from room to room,
With that wide, sightless eye,—searching about
For what you know not. Will you not to bed?

Valer.
No, not to night: my eyes will not be closed,
My heart will not be darkened. Sleep is a traitor:
He fills the poor, defenceless eyes with blackness,
That he may let in dreams. I am not well;
My body and my mind are ill-agreed,
And comfortlessly strange; faces and forms
And pictures, friendly to my life-long knowledge,
Look new and unacquainted,—every voice
Is hollow, every word inexplicable,—
And yet they seem to be a guilty riddle,—
And every place, though unknown as a desart,
Feels like the spot where a forgotten crime
Was done by me in sleep. Night, O be kind!
I do not come to watch thy secret acts,
Or thrust myself on Nature’s mysteries
At this forbidden hour: bestow thy dews,
Thy calm, thy quiet sweetness, sacred mother,
And let me be at ease!
     Now, thou kind girl,
Take thy pale cheeks to rest.

Attend.
I am not weary:
Believe me now, I am not.

Valer.
But, my child,
Those eyelids, tender as the leaf of spring,—
Those cheeks should lay their roseate delicacy
Under the kiss of night, the feathery sleep;
For there are some, whose study of the morn
Is ever thy young countenance and hue.
Ah maid! you love.

Attend.
I’ll not deny it, madam.
O that sweet influence of thoughts and looks!
That change of being, which, to one who lives,
Is nothing less divine than divine life
To the unmade! Love? Do I love? I walk
Within the brilliance of another’s thought,
As in a glory. I was dark before,
As Venus’ chapel in the black of night:
But there was something holy in the darkness,
Softer and not so thick as other where;
And, as rich moonlight may be to the blind,
Unconsciously consoling. Then love came,
Like the out-bursting of a trodden star,
And what before was hueless and unseen
Now shows me a divinity, like that
Which, raised to life out of the snowy rock,
Surpass’d mankind’s creation, and repaid
Heaven for Pandora.

Valer.
Innocently thought,
And worthy of thy youth! I should not say
How thou art like the daisy in Noah’s meadow,
On which the foremost drop of rain fell warm
And soft at evening; so the little flower
Wrapped up its leaves, and shut the treacherous water
Close to the golden welcome of its breast,—
Delighting in the touch of that which led
The shower of oceans, in whose billowy drops
Tritons and lions of the sea were warring,
And sometimes ships on fire sunk in the blood
Of their own inmates; others were of ice,
And some had islands rooted in their waves,
Beasts on their rocks, and forest-powdering winds,
And showers tumbling on their tumbling self,—
And every sea of every ruined star
Was but a drop in the world-melting flood.—

Attend.
Lady, you utter dreams.

Valer.
Let me talk so:
I would o’erwhelm myself with any thoughts;
Ay, hide in madness from the truth. Persuade me
To hope that I am not a wretched woman,
Who knows she has an husband by his absence,
Who feels she has a father by his hate,
And wakes and mourns, imprisoned in this house,
The while she should be sleeping, mad, or dead.—
Thou canst, and pity on thine eyelid hangs,
Whose dewy silence drops consent,—thou wilt!
I’ve seen thee smile with calm and gradual sweetness,
As none, that were not good, could light their cheeks:—
Thou wilt assist me. Harden not those lips,
Those lovely kissings let them not be stone
With a denial!

Attend.
But your father’s anger,—
The watchful faith of all the servants—

Valer.
Fear not:
Lend me thy help. O come,—I see thou wilt.—
Husband, I’ll lay me on thine aching breast
For once and ever.—Haste! for see, the light
Creates for earth its day once more, and lays
The star of morn’s foundation in the east.
Come—come—

[Exeunt.

SCENE II.

Place before the ducal palace.

Guards driving ORAZIO from the gate.

Guard.
Back! desperate man: you cannot pass—

Oraz.
By heaven, I must and will:—

Guard.
By the duke’s order,
The gates are locked on all to-day.

Oraz.
By mine,
By the duke’s brother’s order, or his force,
Open at once yon gates. Slave, by my blood,
But that I think thou know’st me not, I’d make
That corpse of thine my path. Undo, I say,
The knitting of this rebel house’s arms,
And let their iron welcome be around me.
My sword is hungry: do’t.

Guard.
Advance no further:
Another step, and all our swords shake hands
Within your breast.

Oraz.
Insolent worm of earth,
To earth and worms for this!

[He draws his sword.

Guard.
Strike all! strike strong!
Strike through him right.

[They fight.

Enter EZRIL from the palace.

Ezr.
Peace, on your lives, you traitors!
What! would you stain the holy throne of justice,
The pure and peaceful temple of the law,
The sacred dwelling of Ferrara’s soul,
With the foul juices of your drunken veins?
Put up your impious swords.

Guard.
Pardon our hasty and forgetful choler:
We but defend our duke against the outrage
Of this intemperate brawler.

Oraz.
Cut him to shreds, and fling him to the dogs.—
You wait upon the duke, sir?

Ezr.
I am one
Of Lord Marcello’s followers.

Oraz.
Pray you then,
Speak to your Lord Marcello: let him know
These house-dogs, these his ducal latch-holders
Dare keep the bolt against his brother’s knock.

Ezr.
Are you then—?

Oraz.
I am Lord Orazio.—
Be quick!—O nature, what a snail of men!
The morn is frosty, sir: I love not waiting.—

Ezr.
Now all the mercy of the heavens forbid
That thou should’st be that rash and wretched neighbour
Of the duke’s crown, his brother!

Oraz.
Marcello is my brother; I am his;
If coming of one mother brother us:
He is the duke, and I Orazio;
He elder, younger I.—If Jove and Neptune,
And the third Pluto, being Saturn’s boys,
Lying in Rheas’ womb and on her breast,
Were therefore brethren, so are he and I,—
Marcello’s mother’s son, his grandame’s grandson,
Marcello’s father’s babe, his uncle’s nephew,
His nephew’s uncle, brother of his brother,
Or what you like,—if this same word of brother
Sours the sore palate of a royal ear.

Ezr.
Better thou wert the brother of his foe
Than what thou art, a man of the same getting;
As, out of the same lump of sunny Nile,
Rises a purple-winged butterfly,
And a cursed serpent crawls.

Oraz.
Heart-withered, pale-scalped grandfather of lies!
Age-hidden monster! Tell me what thou meanest,
And then I’ll stab thee for thy falsehood.—

Ezr.
Hold him!
Your swords between us!—Now, the duke condemns thee;
And by his mother’s, and his father’s grave,
And by the dead, that lies within this palace,
His brother’s sacred corpse, he dreadly swears;
And by the heaven those three loved souls
Dwell and are blest in, twice he dreadly swears:
By which dread oath, and hate of all thy crimes,
The duke condemns thee,—mixing in his sentence,
Sweet mercy, tearful love, and justice stern,—
To banishment for ever from this hour.

Oraz.
O reddest hour of wrath and cruelty!
Banished!—Why not to death?

Ezr.
The pious hope,
That bitter solitude and suffering thought
Will introduce repentance to thy woes,
And that conduct thee to religious fear
And humbleness, the lark that climbs heaven’s stairs
But lives upon the ground:—Go forth, Orazio;
Seek not the house or converse of a citizen,
But think thyself outside the walls of life:
If in Ferrara, after this decree,
Your darkest, deepest, and most fearful fear
Falls on thy shoulder, digs beneath thy feet,
And opens hell for thee.—So, pass away!

Oraz.
Stay, for an instant; listen to a word:
O lead me to his throne! Let me but look
Upon the father in my brother’s face!
Let me but speak to him this kindred voice,
Our boyish thoughts in the familiar words
Of our one bed-room; let me show to him
That picture which contains our double childhood,
Embracing in inexplicable love,
Within each other’s, in our mother’s, arms;
Thou’lt see rejoicing, O thou good old man,
The rigour melting through his changed eyes
Off his heart’s roots, between whose inmost folds
Our love is kept.

Ezr.
Impossible and vain!
Content thee with thy doom, and look for love
Over the sea-wide grave. Let us be gone!

[Exit with Guards.

Oraz.
Let me write to him,—send a message to him,—
A word, a touch, a token! old, benevolent man,
Stay with me then to comfort and advise:
Leave one of these beside me: throw me not
Alone into despair!—He’s gone; they’re gone;
They never will come back; ne’er shall I hear
The sweet voice of my kinsmen or my friends:
But here begins the solitude of death.
I was,—I am; O what a century
Of darkness, rocks, and ghostly tempest opens
Between those thoughts! Within it there are lost
Dearest Valeria,—Marcello, whose heart came
From the same place as mine,—and all mankind;
Affection, charity, joy: and nothing’s cast
Upon this barren rock of present time,
Except Orazio’s wreck! here let it lie.

[Throws himself down.

Enter VARINI and Attendants.

Varin.
Not in the city? Have you asked the guards
At bridge and gate,—the palace sentinels?

Attend.
We have,—in vain: they have not seen her pass.

Varin.
And did you say Valeria,—my Valeria,—
Heaven’s love,—earth’s beauty?

Oraz.
(starting up) Mine eternally!
Let heaven unscabbard each star-hilted lightning,
And clench ten thousand hands at once against me,—
Earth shake all graves to one, and rive itself
From Lybia to the North! in spite of all
That threatens, I will stun the adulterous gods,—
She’s mine! Valeria’s mine! dash me to death,—
From death to the eternal depth of fire,—
I laugh and triumph on the neck of fate:
For still she’s mine for ever! give me her,
Or I will drag thee to a sea-side rock,
That breaks the bottoms of the thunder-clouds,
And taking thee by this old, wicked hair,
Swing thee into the winds.—

Varin.
I would, wild man,
That I could quench thine eyes’ mad thirst with her.
She’s gone, fled, lost. O think not any more—
Let us forget what else is possible,—
Yea hope impossibly! the city streets,
The quay, the gardens,—is there yet a place
Within night’s skirt unsearched?

Oraz.
The wood of wolves:—

Varin.
Merciful god! that frightful forest grows
Under the darksome corner of the sky
Where death’s scythe hangs: its murder-shading trees
Are hairs upon Hell’s brow. Away: away!
And never dare to turn on me again
Those eyes, unfilled with—speak to me never,
Until you cry—”Behold Valeria!”
And drop her on my bosom.

Oraz.
We’ll wind the gordian paths off the trees’ roots,
Untie the hilly mazes, and seek her
Till we are lost. Help, ho!

[Exit with attendants.

Varin.
Blessings of mine
Feather your speed! and my strong prayers make breaches
Through the air before you!

[He sits down on the palace-step.

Now I’ll close my eyes,
And, seated on this step, await their coming.
Strange and delightful meetings, on strange lands,
Of dead-esteemed friends have happened oft,
And such a blessed and benevolent chance
Might bring her here unheard; for on the earth
She goes with her light feet, still as the sparrow
Over the air, or through the grass its shade.
Behind me would she steal, unknown, until
Her lip fell upon mine. It might be so:
I’ll wait awhile, and hope it.

Enter VALERIA.

Valer.
I know not what it means. None speak to me:
The crowded street, and solid flow of men,
Dissolves before my shadow and is broken.
I pass unnoticed, though they search for me,
As I were in the air and indistinct
As crystal in a wave. There lies a man:—
Shall I intreat protection and concealment,
And thaw the pity of his wintry head?
—No time: they come like arrows after me:—
I must avoid them.

[Exit.

Enter EZRIL and attendants.

Ezr.
Pursue, o’ertake, stay, seize that hurrying girl:
Muffle her face and form, and through the bye-ways
Convey her to the palace. Hasten, hounds!

[Exeunt.

Varin.
Thou magical deceiver, precious Fancy!
Even now, out of this solitude and silence,
Seemed,—it was thy creation,—music flowing,
And a conviction of some unseen influence;
I could have pointed to that empty spot,
And said, there stands the presence of my daughter!
The air seemed shaken by that voice of hers,—
But ’tis all hushed.

[Some of his attendants return.

How now? speak some of you.
What’s here?

Attend.
A veil and mantle.—

Varin.
Both Valeria’s!
Where’s she they should have wrapped?

Attend.
‘Twas all we found.

Varin.
Where?

Attend.
On the grass this purple cloak was dropped,
Beside the river.

Varin.
And the veil,—which way?
Further on shore, or near those deadly waves?

Attend.
The veil, my lord,—

Varin.
‘Tis drenched and dropping wet:
Would I were drowned beside her! thou wert white;
And thy limbs’ wond’rous victory over snow
Did make the billows thirsty to possess them.
They drank thee up, thou sweet one, cruelly!
Who was in heaven then?

Enter ORAZIO and Attendants, bearing a corpse that is carried up the stage.

Oraz.
My love, art dead?
Wilt thou not ope thy lips, lift up thine eyes?
It is the air, the sun—

Attend.
(to Varini.) We’ve found the corpse.

Orazio.
Her corpse! O no! she is Valeria still:
She’s scarce done living yet: her ghost’s the youngest!
To-morrow, she’ll be—Oh what she will be?
No she,—a corpse, and then—a skeleton!—

Varin.
Hast looked upon her?

Attend.
Death has marred her features,—
So swollen and discoloured their delight,
As if he feared that Life should know her sweet one,
And take her back again.

Varin.
If it be so,
I’ll see her once: that beauty being gone,
And the familiar tokens altered quite,
She’s strange,—a being made by wicked Death,
And I’ll not mourn her. Lead me to the corpse.

[Exit with attendants.

Oraz.
Henceforth, thou tender pity of mankind,
Have nought to do with weeping: let war’s eyes
Sweat with delight; and tears be ta’en from grief,
And thrown upon the rocky cheek of hate!
For mark! that water, the soft heap of drops,—
Water, that feigns to come from very heaven
In the round shape of sorrow,—that was wont to wash
Sin from the new-born babe, is hard and bloody;
A murderer of youth; cold death to those
Whose life approved thy godhead, piteous virtue!

Enter EZRIL and guards.

Ezr.
Here still, unhappy man? then take the doom
You wooe so obstinately.—To the dungeon,—
To the deepest chamber of the dayless rock:
Away, and down with him!

Oraz.
I care not whither.
Thou canst not drag me deeper, wrap me darker,
Or torture me as my own thoughts have done.

[Exeunt.

[Kelsall, 1851]