The Second Brother, Act III

SCENE I.

A room in the ducal palace.

MARCELLO alone.

Marc.
I have them all at last; swan-necked Obedience;
And Power that strides across the muttering people,
Like a tall bridge; and War, the spear-maned dragon:—
Such are the potent spirits he commands,
Who sits within the circle of a crown!
Methought that love began at woman’s eye:
But thou, bright imitation of the sun,
Kindlest the frosty mould around my heart-roots,
And, breathing through the branches of my veins,
Makest each azure tendril of them blossom
Deep, tingling pleasures, musically hinged,
Dropping with starry sparks, goldenly honied,
And smelling sweet with the delights of life.
At length I am Marcello.

Enter EZRIL.

Ezr.
Mighty Duke,
Ferrara’s nobles wait on you, to proffer
The homage of their coronets.

Marc.
I shall not see them.

Ezr.
It was the ancient usage of the state,
In every age.—

Marc.
Henceforth, be it forgotten!
I will not let the rabble’s daily sight
Be my look’s playmate. Say unto them, Ezril,
Their sovereigns of foretime were utter men,
False gods, that beat an highway in their thoughts
Before my car; idols of monarchy,
Whose forms they might behold. Now I am come,
Be it enough that they are taught my name,
Permitted to adore it, swear and pray
In it and to it: for the rest I wrap
The pillared caverns of my palace round me,
Like to a cloud, and rule invisibly
On the god-shouldering summit of mankind.
Dismiss them so.

Ezr.
‘Tis dangerous,—

Marc.
Begone!
Each minute of man’s safety he does walk
A bridge, no thicker than his frozen breath,
O’er a precipitous and craggy danger
Yawning to death!

[Exit Ezril.

A perilous sea it is,
‘Twixt this and Jove’s throne, whose tumultuous waves
Are heaped, contending ghosts! There is no passing,
But by those slippery, distant stepping-stones,
Which frozen Odin trod, and Mahomet,
With victories harnessed to his crescent sledge,
And building waves of blood upon the shallows,
O’erpassed triumphant: first a pile of thrones
And broken nations, then the knees of men,
From whence, to catch the lowest root of heaven,
We must embrace the winged waist of fame,
Or nest within opinion’s palmy top
‘Till it has mixed its leaves with Atlas’ hair,
Quicker to grow than were the men of Cadmus—

Re-enter EZRIL.

Ezr.
They are departing, with the unequal pace
Of discontent and wonder.

Marc.
Send them home
To talk it with their wives: sow them with books
Of midnight marvels, witcheries, and visions:
Let the unshaven Nazarite of stars
Unbind his wondrous locks, and grandame’s earthquake
Drop its wide jaw; and let the church-yard’s sleep
Whisper out goblins. When the fools are ripe
And gaping to the kernel, thou shalt steal,
And lay the egg of my divinity
In their fermenting sides.—Where is my brother?
The first I’ll aim at.

Ezr.
‘Mid the poisonous dregs of this deep building,
Two days and their two nights have had his breath
All of one colour to his darkened eyes.
No voice has fed his ears, and little food
His speech-robbed lips.

Marc.
‘Tis well. This is a man
Whose state has sunk i’th’ middle of his thoughts:
And in their hilly shade, as in a vale,
I’ll build my church, making his heart the quarry.
Take him his meal, and place a guard around
The wood below: the rest of my instructions,
For we must juggle boldly, shall be whispered
Secretly in my closet.

Ezr.
Will you not
First cast this ragged and unseemly garb,
And hang your sides with purple?

Marc.
No: these rags
Give my delight a sting. I’ll sit in them;
And, when I’ve stretched my dukedom through men’s souls,
Fix on its shore my chair, and from it bid
Their doubts lie down.—Wilt help me?

Ezr.
Duke, thou art
A fathomless and undiscovered man,
Thinking above the eagle’s highest wings,
And underneath the world. Go on: command:
And I am thine to do.

[Exeunt

SCENE II.

A dungeon of Cyclopean architecture: ORAZIO lying on the ground.

Enter MARCELLO and EZRIL.

Marc.
Thou hast her then, in secret and secure?

Ezr.
Not firmer or more quietly this body
Holds its existing spirit.

Marc.
Excellent Ezril!
Thanks, thanks: my gratitude is snail-paced slow,
So heavy is its burthen.—See’st thou yonder?

Ezr.
The husband: where his sorrow, strong in error,
Has spurned him down.

Marc.
I’ll raise the broken man:
Ay, I will place my feet upon his soul,
And weigh him up.—Leave us alone, good Ezril.—

Exit Ezril.

Lie there: I see the winding, darkening path
Into thine heart, its mouth and its recess,
As clear as if it were a forest’s cavern,
Open to my approach. Henceforth be thou
Another habitation of my life,
Its temple, its Olympus, next in birth to,
And pressing close beneath the unknown cloud
In which it reigns!
     Ho! sleep’st thou here?
Mak’st thou the branch-dividing, light noon-air
Thy bed-room? Rise! what dost thou on the ground?

Oraz.
Didst thou say, Rise? I stand. Where am I now,
And how?

Marc.
Alive, and in Ferrara.

Oraz.
Why, first there is a life, and then a death,
And then a life again, whose roof is death;
So I have heard. ‘Tis true: and though I am
Beside you, there’s a grave divides our beings,
Which is the second gate of birth to me.—
Leave me to weep and groan.

Marc.
What ails thee thus?
Thy nature is o’erturned, thy features all
Forget joy’s offices. These sinking eyes,
Whose sight is but a secondary service,
The ashy hiding of thy cheeks,—its cause?

Oraz.
Am I so like to marble in my form,
So wicked at the heart? No; thou art bad:
A charitable man would never ask.
And if thou e’er hadst love, or been once human,—
Loved, grieved, or hoped,—thou’dst feel what I have lost.
My wife is dead! thou know’st not what I mean,
And therefore art accurst. Now let me weep.—

Marc.
Thou dost me wrong. Lament! I’d have thee do’t:
The heaviest raining is the briefest shower.
Death is the one condition of our life:
To murmur were unjust; our buried sires
Yielded their seats to us, and we shall give
Our elbow-room of sunshine to our sons.
From first to last the traffic must go on;
Still birth for death. Shall we remonstrate then?
Millions have died that we might breathe this day:
The first of all might murmur, but not we.
Grief is unmanly too.—

Oraz.
Because ’tis godlike.
I never felt my nature so divine,
As at this saddest hour. Thou’dst have me busy
In all the common usage of this world:
To buy and sell, laugh, jest, and feast, and sleep,
And wake and hunger that I might repeat ’em;
Perchance to love, to woo, to wed again.—

Marc.
The wonted wheel.—

Oraz.
O how I hate thee for’t!
I’ve passed through life’s best feelings;—they are her’s;
Humanity’s behind me. Ne’er I’ll turn,
But, consecrated to this holy grief,
Live in her memory: heaven has no more.

Marc.
Yes, she is there. Let not thy woes be impious,
Lest ye should never meet; but anchor thee
On the remembrance that thou there wilt meet
Her deepest self, her spirit.

Oraz.
Thou talk’st to me of spirits and of souls:—
What are they? what know I or you of them?
I love no ghost: I loved the fairest woman,
With too much warmth and beauty in her cheek,
And gracious limbs, to hold together long.
To-day she’s cold and breathless, and to-morrow
They’ll lay her in the earth; there she will crumble:
Another year no place in all the world,
But this poor heart, will know of her existence.
Can she come back, O can she ever be
The same she was last night in my embrace?
No comfort else, no life!

Marc.
She can.

Oraz.
What didst thou speak?
Blaspheme not nature: wake not hope to stab it:
O take not comfort’s sacred name in vain!
Wilt say it now again?

Marc.
There is a way,
Which, if thy heart’s religion could permit,—

Oraz.
What’s that but she? Do it, whate’er it is;
I take the sin to me. Come, what will come,—
And what but pain can come?—for that will be
All paradise concentrate in a minute,
When she,—but she is dead; I saw her corpse;—
Upon my soul thou liest unfathomably:
No god could do it.

Marc.
I have earned the taunt.
Seven heavens do fold the secret from thine eye:
Be happily incredulous. Perchance
It were a cursed and unhallowed rite:
Let’s think it all a fiction. So farewell!

Oraz.
Thou dost not go; thou shalt not leave me thus:
No; by the power thou speakest of, I do swear
It shall be tried: if unsuccessful, then
We shall be what we are.

Marc.
Not its success
I doubt, but its impiety. O be quick
To fear perdition!

Oraz.
Can I fear aught further
Than what I feel?

Marc.
The sting of grief speaks here,
And not the tongue of thought. A month, a year
Pass in reflection: after such a time,
If thou demand’st the same, I’ll then assist thee.

Oraz.
What? dost thou think I’ll live another month
Without her? No. I did not seek this knowledge:
Thou hast created hope, unbidden, in me;
Therefore, I charge thee, let it not be killed!
I pray not, I beseech thee not, again;
But I command thee, by my right to bliss,
Which I have lost in trusting thee, to do it,
Without an instant’s loss.

Marc.
Must it be so?
To-morrow night in the Cathedral vault
Valeria will be buried: meet me there.

Oraz.
Thou wilt not fail?

Marc.
I will not, on my life.

Oraz.
Then she is mine again,
All and for ever.

Marc.
(aside.) As thou shalt be mine.

[Exeunt severally.

[Kelsall, 1851]