The Second Brother
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
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.
An apartment in Varini’s palace.
Enter VALERIA and a female attendant.
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?
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.
I am not weary:
Believe me now, I am not.
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.
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.
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.—
Lady, you utter dreams.
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!
But your father’s anger,—
The watchful faith of all the servants—
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.
Place before the ducal palace.
Guards driving ORAZIO from the gate.
Back! desperate man: you cannot pass—
By heaven, I must and will:—
By the duke’s order,
The gates are locked on all to-day.
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.
Advance no further:
Another step, and all our swords shake hands
Within your breast.
Insolent worm of earth,
To earth and worms for this!
[He draws his sword.
Strike all! strike strong!
Strike through him right.
Enter EZRIL from the palace.
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.
Pardon our hasty and forgetful choler:
We but defend our duke against the outrage
Of this intemperate brawler.
Cut him to shreds, and fling him to the dogs.—
You wait upon the duke, sir?
I am one
Of Lord Marcello’s followers.
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.
Are you then—?
I am Lord Orazio.—
Be quick!—O nature, what a snail of men!
The morn is frosty, sir: I love not waiting.—
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!
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.
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.
Heart-withered, pale-scalped grandfather of lies!
Age-hidden monster! Tell me what thou meanest,
And then I’ll stab thee for thy falsehood.—
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.
O reddest hour of wrath and cruelty!
Banished!—Why not to death?
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!
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.
Impossible and vain!
Content thee with thy doom, and look for love
Over the sea-wide grave. Let us be gone!
[Exit with Guards.
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.
Not in the city? Have you asked the guards
At bridge and gate,—the palace sentinels?
We have,—in vain: they have not seen her pass.
And did you say Valeria,—my Valeria,—
Heaven’s love,—earth’s beauty?
(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.—
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?
The wood of wolves:—
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.
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.
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.
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.
Enter EZRIL and attendants.
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!
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.
A veil and mantle.—
Where’s she they should have wrapped?
‘Twas all we found.
On the grass this purple cloak was dropped,
Beside the river.
And the veil,—which way?
Further on shore, or near those deadly waves?
The veil, my lord,—
‘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.
My love, art dead?
Wilt thou not ope thy lips, lift up thine eyes?
It is the air, the sun—
(to Varini.) We’ve found the corpse.
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!—
Hast looked upon her?
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.
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.
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.
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!
I care not whither.
Thou canst not drag me deeper, wrap me darker,
Or torture me as my own thoughts have done.
A room in the ducal palace.
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.
Ferrara’s nobles wait on you, to proffer
The homage of their coronets.
I shall not see them.
It was the ancient usage of the state,
In every age.—
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.
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!
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—
They are departing, with the unequal pace
Of discontent and wonder.
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.
‘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.
‘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.
Will you not
First cast this ragged and unseemly garb,
And hang your sides with purple?
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?
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.
A dungeon of Cyclopean architecture: ORAZIO lying on the ground.
Enter MARCELLO and EZRIL.
Thou hast her then, in secret and secure?
Not firmer or more quietly this body
Holds its existing spirit.
Thanks, thanks: my gratitude is snail-paced slow,
So heavy is its burthen.—See’st thou yonder?
The husband: where his sorrow, strong in error,
Has spurned him down.
I’ll raise the broken man:
Ay, I will place my feet upon his soul,
And weigh him up.—Leave us alone, good 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?
Didst thou say, Rise? I stand. Where am I now,
Alive, and in Ferrara.
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.
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?
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.—
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.—
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.—
The wonted wheel.—
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.
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.
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!
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?
There is a way,
Which, if thy heart’s religion could permit,—
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.
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!
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.
Not its success
I doubt, but its impiety. O be quick
To fear perdition!
Can I fear aught further
Than what I feel?
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.
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.
Must it be so?
To-morrow night in the Cathedral vault
Valeria will be buried: meet me there.
Thou wilt not fail?
I will not, on my life.
Then she is mine again,
All and for ever.
(aside.) As thou shalt be mine.
The Campo Santo. Night.
Enter MARCELLO, EZRIL, and MELCHIOR leading VALERIA.
Whither, and by what law of man or nature,
Do ye thus lead me? Awe of sacred justice,
Dread of the clenched punishment that follows
The tremulous shoulder of pale, muffled guilt,—
Do they not gaze from every silent bed
In this sad place?
Sheathe that nurse’s tongue.
There’s wooing ‘twixt the moon and Death to night:
This is his cabinet.
‘Beseech you, lady,
Break not this still submission, and so force us
To stir our power from ‘ts feigned, complacent sleep.
Force! dost thou know me, that thou threaten’st force?
Why, thou’rt some wealthy sinner, very like,
Whose gloves are worn with lips of richest princes:—
It recks not here. The unfashionable worm,
Respectless of the crown-illumined brow,
The cheek’s bewitchment, or the sceptred clench,
With no more eyes than Love, creeps courtier-like,
On his thin belly, to his food,—no matter
How clad or nicknamed it might strut above,
What age or sex,—it is his dinner-time.
—Now with what name, what coronal’s shade, wilt scare
Our rigour to the wing?
I have a plea,
As dewy-piteous as the gentle ghost’s
That sits alone upon a forest-grave,
Thinking of no revenge: I have a mandate,
As magical and potent as e’er ran
Silently through a battle’s myriad veins,
Undid their fingers from the hanging steel,
And drew them up in prayer: I AM A WOMAN.
O motherly remembered be the name,
And, with the thought of loves and sisters, sweet
And comforting! therefore be piteous to me.
O let my hand touch yours! I could do more
By its sad tremors than my tongue.
We own a mood of marble. There’s no earth
In any crevice of my well-built spirit,
Whence woman’s rain could wake the weedy leaves
Of the eye-poison, pity.
If I were
Another man than this, Nature’s cast child,
Renounced by Life and Death of common men,
And placed by wrongs upon an island-peak,
Methinks I could relent.
Draw up thyself.
This bearskin, charity, is a great coat
For ragged, shivering sin: thine Indian hate,
That shivers, like the serpent’s noontide tongue,
With poisonous, candid heat, must trample on it.
O icy hearts! but no; soft ice doth melt,
And warms contritely;—I renounce the words,
And roll away the tender side of Heaven
To bare its lightnings. I am innocent,—
As white as any angel’s lily wing;
And if you wrong me, mark! I will not weep,
Nor pray against your souls, nor curse your lives,
Nor let my madness wake all things that are
To roll destruction on you,—but be silent,
Secret, as happiness, to man and God,
And let the judgment ripen silently,
Under your feet and o’er you,—mighty, quiet,
Deadly and tedious, as a silent hell.
Now, what ye dare, begin!
Our purpose glides,
Calm and remorseless as this human orb,
Whose moon, thou see’st, bestows an equal beam
Upon the odorous gardens we passed by,
And the gaunt lips of this new-opened grave.
Canst thou reproach our want of charity,
Beholding this, and all the thoughts it lends?
‘Tis a fit oracle for such an hour,
And has the caverns of its inspirations,
More true than Delphian, underneath our being.
Let’s speak to it.
What would’st thou?
It may teach
This tremulous lady resignation, sir.—
Ho, there! thou maker of this earthen bed;
Thou porter of the gates, art thou below?
Whose grave is this thou digg’st?
* * * * * *