Act II

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The Brides' Tragedy by Thomas Lovell Beddoes Edited by David Baulch
< Act I

ACT II. SCENE I.

A chamber in ORLANDO's palace.

Enter ORLANDO to his BOY asleep. 


     ORLANDO.  Boy! he is asleep;
Oh innocence, how fairly dost thou head
This pure first page of man. Peace to thy slumbers,
Sleep, for thy dreams are 'midst the seraphs' harps,
Thy thoughts beneath the wings of holiness,
Thine eyes in Paradise.
The day may come, (if haply gentle death
Say not amen to thy short prayer of being,
And lap thee in the bosom of the blest;)
I weep to think on, when the guilty world                                                                                     10
Shall like a fiend, be waiting at thy couch,
And call thee up on ev'ry dawn of crime.

        BOY.  (awakening.)  Dear master, didst thou call? I will not be
A second time so slothful.

        ORLANDO.                  Sleep, my boy,
Thy task is light and joyous, to be good.

        BOY.  Oh! if I must be good, then give me your money,
I pray thee, give me some, and you shall find
I'll buy up every tear, and make them scarcer
Than diamonds.

        ORLANDO.  Beautiful pity, thou shalt have enough;                                                              20
But you must give me your last song.

        BOY.                                               Nay, sir;
You're wont to say my rhymes are fit for girls,
And lovesick idiots; I have none you praise
Full of the heat of battle and the chase.

        ORLANDO.  Sing what you will, I'll like it.

                                            Song
 
                          A ho! A ho!
                         Love's horn doth blow,
                         And he will out a-hawking go.
                       His shafts are light as beauty's sighs,
                       And bright as midnight's brightest eyes,                                                                  30
                           And round his starry way
                       The swan-winged horses of the skies,
                       With summer's music in their manes,
                       Curve their fair necks to zephyr's reins,
                           And urge their graceful play.  

                           A ho! A ho!
                         Love's horn doth blow,
                         And he will out a-hawking go.
                       The sparrows flutter round his wrist,
                       The feathery thieves that Venus kissed                                                                  40
                           And taught their morning song,
                       The linnets seek the airy list,
                       And swallows too, small pets of Spring,
                       Beat back the gale with swifter wing,
                           And dart and wheel along.  

                           A ho! A ho!
                         Love's horn doth blow,
                         And he will out a-hawking go,
                       Now woe to every gnat that skips
                       To filch the fruit of ladies' lips,                                                                               50
                           His felon blood is shed;
                       And woe to flies, whose airy ships
                       On beauty case their anchoring bite,
                       And bandit wasp, that naughty wight,
                           Whose sting is slaughter-red.  

        ORLANDO.  Who is thy poet, boy?

        BOY.                                                    I must not tell.

        ORLANDO.  Then I will chide thee for him. Who first drew
Love as a blindfold imp, an earthen dwarf,
And armed him with blunt darts? His soul was kin
To the rough wind that dwells in the icy north,                                                                              60
The dead cold pedant, who thus dared confine
The universe's soul, for that is Love.
'Tis he that acts the nightingale, the thrush,
And all the living musics, he it is
That gives the lute, the harp and tabor speech,
That flutters on melodious wings and strikes
The mute and viewless lyres of sunny strings
Borne by the minstrel gales, mimicking vainly
The timid voice, that sent him to my breast,
That voice the wind hath treasured and doth use                                                                           70
When he bids roses open and be sweet.

        BOY.   Now I could guess.

        ORLANDO.                         What, little curious one?

        BOY.   The riddle of Orlando's feelings come
You must not frown. I know the lawn, the cot,
Aye, and the leaf-veiled lattice.

        ORLANDO.                  I shall task
Your busy watchfulness. Bear you this paper,
I would not trust it to a doubtful hand.

        BOY.  Unto the wood-nymph? You may think the road
Already footed.

        ORLANDO.           Go, and prosper then.                   [Exeunt.



ACT II. SCENE II.

The interior of  Mordred's cottage.

LENORA and FLORIBEL.


        FLORIBEL.  My mother, you're too kind, you ought to check
These wayward humours. Oh, I know too well
I'm a poor, foolish, discontented child;
My heart doth sink when Hesperus is gone,
And leaves me nought but fears. Forgive me then,
If I have vexed you.

        LENORA.              Dear and gentle soul,
You ne'er offended me, but when you said
You had offended. When I look on thee,
If there's a thought that moistens in my eye,
Fear that thy husband cannot match such goodness,                                                                      10
Is looking out there.

        FLORIBEL.                   Fears of Hesperus!
That's not my mother's thought, cast it away:
He is the glass of all good qualities,
And what's a little virtue in all others
Looks into him and sees itself a giant;
He is a nosegay of the sweets of man,
A dictionary of superlatives;
He walks about, a music among discords,
A star in night, a prayer 'midst madmen's curses;
And if mankind, as I do think, were made                                                                                     20
To bear the fruit of him, and him alone,
It was a glorious destiny.

        LENORA.  He is a goodly man, and yet they say
Strange passions sleep within him. There's Orlando,
A gentle suitor; Floribel, he loved you,
He had no father, I have often wished
What it's too late to tell you.

        FLORIBEL.                   Mother, your Orlando
Is a good gentleman, I wish him well,
But to my husband—We'll not talk of him.
Yet you shall see I can be cool sometimes,                                                                                   30
When Hesperus deserves it, as he does
Even now for his delay.

        LENORA.                     He's here:  I'll leave you,
You shall not quarrel with him for my pleasure.                  [Exit.
 
                             Enter HESPERUS.

        HESPERUS.  Good morrow, Floribel.

        FLORIBEL.  Fair noon to Hesperus; I knew a youth,
In days of yore, would quarrel with the lark,
If with its joyous matins it foreran
His early pipe beneath his mistress' window;
Those days are passed; alas! for gallantry.

        HESPERUS.  Floribel!

        FLORIBEL.           Sir, d'ye know the gentleman?                                                                40
Give him my benison and bid him sleep
Another hour, there's one that does not miss him.

        HESPERUS.  Lady, I come to talk of other things,
To tell you all my secrets, must I wait
Until it fits your humour?

        FLORIBEL.                   As you please:
(The worst of three bad suitors, and his name
Began with an H.)

        HESPERUS.  Good morrow then, again.

        FLORIBEL.                          Heaven help you, sir,
And so adieu.

        HESPERUS.  Madam, you spoke; you said it, Floribel:                                                    50
I never thought mine ears a curse before.
Did I not love thee? Say, have I not been
The kindest?

        FLORIBEL.                   Yes indeed thou hast been. Now
A month is over. What would I not give
For those four sevens of days? But I have lived them,
And that's a bliss. You speak as if I'd lost
The little love you gave your poor one then.

        HESPERUS.  And you as if you cared not for the loss.
Oh Floribel, you'll make me curse the chance
That fashioned this sad clay and made it man;                                                                              60
It had been happier as the senseless tree
That canopies your sleep. But Hesperus,
He's but the burthen of a scornful song
Of coquetry; beware, that song may end
In a death groan.  

                              FLORIBEL. (sings.)
                      The knight he left the maid,
                         That knight of fickleness,
                       Her's was the blame he said,
                         And his the deep distress.
  
If you are weary of poor Floribel,                                                                                                70
Pray be not troubled; she can do without thee.
Oh Hesperus, come hither, I must weep;
Say you will love me still, and I'll believe it,
When I forget my folly.

        HESPERUS.                  Dear, I do;
By the bright fountains of those tears I do.

        FLORIBEL.  You don't despise me much? May I look up
and meet no frown?

        HESPERUS.          Try to look through my breast,
And see my truth. But, oh! my Floribel,
Take heed how thou dost look unkindly on me;
For grey-beards have been kneeling, and with prayers                                                                  80
Trying to pluck thee from my bosom; fairness,
And innocence and duty league against thee.
Then do't not, sweet, again; for sometimes strange
And horrid thoughts bring whispers to my soul:
They shall not harm thee, girl. I meant indeed,
Hard hearted as I was, to have disclosed
A tale of terror; but I'll back again:
Why let the old man die.  

         FLORIBEL.                   Oh no, no, no;
We will let no one die, but cherish them
With love like ours, and they will soon be well:                                                                              90
Stay and I'll tell you how to save him.

        HESPERUS.                                Thou!
Excellent loveliness,
Thou save him! But I must be gone or else
Those looks will lure a secret from my breast,
That threatens both. I'll home and think of something.
Meet me to-morrow in the sweet-briar thicket
When twilight fades to evening. I'm in haste.                    [Exit.

       FLORIBEL.  My better thoughts go with thee. It is true
He hath too much of human passion in him,
But I will hold him dear, and if again                                                                                           100
My wicked senses grow so cruel quick
As to suspect his kindness, I'll be sure
My eyes have got false sight, my ears false hearing,
And my whole mind's become a rebel traitress.  

                       Enter ORLANDO'S BOY.

       BOY.  These for fair Floribel; you are the one
I hear my master talk of, surely, lady;
And yet his words are feeble shadowers
Of such pure beauty. Please you read his thoughts.

        FLORIBEL.  You hold a courtly language for such years,
But be you ware of compliment akin                                                                                           110
To falsehood.

                       (reads.) From the sad-souled Orlando.
Fie sir; your gifts are dangerous. Look you here,
As I disperse the wicked syllables
Met in this little parliament of words,
And give them to the light and careless winds,
So do I bid him tear the thoughts of me
Out of his breast, and hold me as a thing
Further from him than misery.

        BOY.  It is ungently done; nay, I must say so,
To hurt the generous blossoms of his love;                                                                                  120
I am sorry that a hand so beautiful
Can be so fell.

        FLORIBEL.           Boy, thou dost not know
The fears that urge me. Had my Hesperus
Seen these or thee, I know not what of ill
Must have befallen us.

        BOY.              Lady, you must not weep;
I have a ballad which my master hears
In his sad moods; it has the art to raise
A dimple on the cheek of moody care.
I'll sing it you.

        FLORIBEL.           Young one, I almost love thee.   [Kisses him.
 
                      Enter HESPERUS.  

        HESPERUS.  Why, Floribel,—Girl! Painted fickleness!                                                  130
Madam, I'm rude; but Hesperus did not think
He could intrude on—what was Floribel.

        FLORIBEL.  Nor doth he ever.

        HESPERUS.          If he does not now,
Be sure he won't again. Oh girl, girl, girl,
Thou'st killed my heart:  I thought thee once, good fool,
I will not tell thee what, thou'lt laught at me.

        FLORIBEL.  By heaven!

        HESPERUS.          Don't name it:  do not be forsworn.
But why should I regard thy words or oaths?

        FLORIBEL.  Hesperus, Hesperus!

        HESPERUS.          Nay, I should be sorry
To cheat the longing boy; he fills thine arms                                                                         140
Excellent well, believe it. Urchin, seek me
When that mis-featured butter-print of thine
Is bearded; I will trim thee with a sword.

        FLORIBEL.  Hesperus, thou art mad.

        HESPERUS.  Better be mad than treacherous. Aye, 'twas well
To tear the letters; there might be a husband;
No, he shall be no more.

        FLORIBEL.           But listen to me,
These lips that thou hast kissed,—

        HESPERUS.                  I, and a thousand,
Men, boys, and monsters.

        FLORIBEL.                   And these arms thou callest
Beloved and fair—

        HESPERUS.          And fickle and adulterous.                                                                     150
Enough of woman:  boy, your paramour
Is troublesome, sirrah, milk-blooded imp,
Raise her; she loves your silken limbs; I give you
All that is mine of her.

        FLORIBEL.                   Oh! save me, dearest.

        HESPERUS.  She speaks to you, sir. I beseech you both,
Go on; don't heed me:  oh, I joy to see
Your love-tricks.

        FLORIBEL.           By the solemn spousal tie,
I charge you, hear me.

        HESPERUS.                  Lady, I will tell you,
Though it is needless, what I meant to say,
And leave you then for ever. You remember                                                                              160
A loving dupe you entertained some while,
One Hesperus, you must; oh! that you ever
Forgot him. Well, I will be brief.  He gave you,
And bid you keep it as you would his love,
A little bird, a sweet red-bosomed creature,
To toy with in his absence:  (then he knew not
You had another playmate for your chamber.)
This bird, it was a creature that I loved,
Yet it did not deceive me; I have thought
There was a spirit in it—never mind;                                                                                          170
I dreamed I spoke to one, who valued me
And my poor feelings. Unto you I gave it,
And you have lost it; in my way I passed
Its silent wicker house. Now I have spoken,
Perhaps was tedious:  but I'm still so foolish,
That I will say, good bye.

        FLORIBEL.                   Oh stay, my love.

        HESPERUS.  He will, the lovely cub.

        FLORIBEL.                          Thee, thee I mean.

        HESPERUS.  I am no lover, I. Madam, we're strangers;
And yet I knew some while ago a form
Like thine, as fair, as delicate. Oh heaven!                                                                                180
To think of it. But she was innocent,
Innocent, innocent.

        FLORIBEL.           The angels know
I am as spotless.

        HESPERUS.          Go to them; I'm not one;
Perhaps this pap-faced chit may be. Nay, girl,
Wet not thy cheeks:  I've seen a player weep.
I will not go, for if I do, the flock
Of her warm suitors will be toying here;
Yet I'll not stay; for she will melt and pray
Till I'm a fool again. Strain not your lungs
With laughter when I'm gone. Oh woman, woman. [Exit.                                                          190

       FLORIBEL.  Poor boy, thou has undone me:  lead me in. [Exeunt.




ACT II. SCENE III.

An apartment in ORLANDO'S palace.  

Enter HESPERUS.


       HESPERUS.  Oh thou sad self, thou wretched half of Hesperus,
Thou'rt lost indeed, there's nought of life about thee,
But the one thought, that thou hast saved a father.
Now I do think that if I met a goodness
In woman's shape, a fair one I'd not ask,
But something that would soothe and comfort me,
I could almost love her.

                             Enter ORLANDO and OLIVIA.

        ORLANDO.  My brother Hesperus, our poor home is honoured
By thy loved father's presence and thine own.
Here is a living welcome, prithee know her,                                                                                  10
Olivia.

        HESPERUS.  Blessedness you should have said.
A music waits upon her every step,
That my heart leaps to.

        OLIVIA.         Courtly, sir, and kind.

        HESPERUS.  And fond I would have made it. Oh fair lady,
A smile of thine will give me health again.

        ORLANDO.  Sister, thou needs no witness to these blushes.
School her, sir, in the arts of compliment,
You'll find her an apt learner.                                    [Exit.

       OLIVIA.  Had I a right to pray to you, I would.

        HESPERUS.  Pray, lady? Didst thou ever see the goddess                                                    20
Step from her dignity of stone, or leave
The hallowed picture in its tinted stole
And crouch unto her suppliant? Oh no;
If there is aught so poor a thing as I
Can please you with, command it and you bless me.

        OLIVIA.  Try, I beseech thee, try not to detest,
Not utterly to detest a silly girl,
Whose only merit is that she'd be thine.

        HESPERUS.  Hate thee, thou virtue?

        OLIVIA.                Well, if it must be,
Play the deceiver for a little while;                                                                                        30
Don't tell me so.

        HESPERUS.          By Truth's white name I'll tell thee,
Olivia, there was once an idle thought
That aped affection in my heart; nay, nay,
Not in my heart; it was a dream or so;
A dream within a dream; a pale, dim warmth;
But thou hast dawned like summer on my soul,
Or like a new existence.

        OLIVIA.                'Twere delightful,
If credible; but you are all too gallant.

        HESPERUS.  I knew it must be so:  you'll not believe me,
But doubt and say 'tis sudden. Do not minute                                                                              40
The movements of the soul, for some there are
Of pinion unimpeded, thrice word-swift,
Outsoar the sluggish flesh; and these, Olivia,
Anticipating their death-given powers, can grasp
A century of feeling and of thought;
Outlive the old world's age, and be at once
In the present, past, and future; while the body
Lives half a pulse's stroke. To see and love thee
Was but one soul's step.

        OLIVIA.                Then thou canst endure me;
Thou dost not hate the forward maid? My prayer                                                                        50
Through many a year has been for that one word;
And I have kept the precious thought of thee,
Hidden almost from myself. But I'll not speak,
For I have told too much, too childishly.

        HESPERUS.  Dear, I could weep, but that my brain is dry,
To think upon thee. Me—'Twere well to court
The yellow pestilence, or woo the lightning
Unto thy bosom; but to hold me dear—
It is a crime of hell; forget you thought it.

        OLIVIA.  'Tis sweeter than a virtue, I must love thee.                                                           60

        HESPERUS.  And love me truly?

        OLIVIA.         Heaven grant me life
To prove it.

        HESPERUS.  Then thou shalt be mine own; but not till death.
We'll let this life burn out, no matter how;
Though every sand be moistened with our tears,
And every day be rain-wet in our eyes;
Though thou shouldst wed some hateful avarice,
And I grow hoary with a daubed deceit,
A smiling treachery in woman's form,
Sad to the soul, heart-cankered and forlorn;                                                                                  70
No matter, all no matter.
Though madness rule our thoughts, despair our hearts,
And misery live with us, and misery talk,
Our guest all day, our bed-fellow all night;
No matter, all no matter.
For when our souls are born then will we wed;
Our dust shall mix and grow into one stalk,
Our breaths shall make one perfume in one bud,
Our blushes meet each other in a rose,
Our sweeter voices swell some sky-bird's throat                                                                          80
With the same warbling, dwell in some soft pipe,
Or bubble up along some sainted spring's
Musical course, and in the mountain trees
Slumber our deeper tones, by tempests waked:
We will be music, spring, and all fair things
The while our spirits make a sweeter union
Than melody and perfume in the air.
Wait then, if thou dost love me.

        OLIVIA.                Be it so;
You'll let me pray for death; if it will bring
Such joys as these! Though once I thought to live                                                                        90
An happy bride; but I must learn new feelings.

        HESPERUS.  New feelings! Aye to watch the lagging clock,
And bless each moment as it parts from thee,
To court the blighting grasp of tardy age,
And search thy forehead for a silver tress
As for a most prized jewel.

        OLIVIA.                       I cannot think
Of that cold bed diseases make for us,
That earthy sleep; oh! 'tis a dreadful thing.

        HESPERUS.  The very air,
I thank it, (the same wild and busy air                                                                                         100
That numbers every syllable I speak,
In the same instant my lips shape its sound
With the first lisps of him, who died before
The world began its story;) steals away
A little from my being,
And at each slightest tremor of a leaf
My hearse moves one step nearer. Joy, my love,
We're nearer to our bridal sheets of lead
Than when your brother left us here just now
By twenty minutes' talk.

        OLIVIA.                It is not good                                                                                         110
Thus to spurn life, the precious gift of heaven,
And watch the coming light of dissolution
With such a desperate hope. Can we not love
In secret, and be happy in our thoughts,
Till in devotion's train, th' appointed hour
Lead us with solemnly rejoicing hearts
Unto our blessed end?

        HESPERUS.                  End! thou sayest.
And do those cherries ripen for the worms,
Those blue enchantments beam to light the tomb?
Was that articulate harmony, (Love uses                                                                                    120
Because he seems both Love and Innocence
When he sings to it,) that summer of sweet breath
Created but to perish and so make
The deads' home loveliest?

        OLIVIA.  But what's to live without my Hesperus?
A life of dying. 'Tis to die each moment
In every several sense. To look despair,
Feel, taste, breathe, eat, be conscious of despair.
No, I'll be nothing rather.

        HESPERUS.                  Nothing but mine!
Thou flower of love, I'll wear thee in my bosom;                                                                         130
With thee the wrath of man will be no wrath,
Conscience and agony will smile like pleasure,
And sad remembrance lose its gloomy self
In rapturous expectation.

        OLIVIA.                Let me look on thee;
Pray pardon me, mine eyes are very fools.

        HESPERUS.  Jewels of pity, azure stars of beauty
Which lost affection steers by; could I think
To dim your light with sorrow? Pardon me,
And I will serve you ever. Sweet, go in;
Somewhat I have to think on.

                                                                          [Exit OLIVIA.

                                                 Floribel,                                                                                    140
I would not have thee cross my path to-night;
There is an indistinct dread purpose forming,
Something, whose depth of wickedness appears
Hideous, incalculable, but inevitable;
Now it draws nearer, and I do not shudder;
Avaunt! haunt me no more; I dread it not,
But almost—hence! I must not be alone.                   [Exit.




ACT II. SCENE IV.  

A tapestried chamber in the same.

HESPERUS discovered in a disturbed slumber.


      
HESPERUS.  (starting from his couch.)
Who speaks? Who whispers there? A light! a light!
I'll search the room, something hath called me thrice,
With a low muttering voice of toadish hisses,
And thrice I slept again. But still it came
Nearer and nearer, plucked my mantle from me,
And made mine heart an ear, in which it poured
Its loathed enticing courtship. Ho! a light.  

                       Enter ATTENDANT with a torch.

Thou drowsy snail, thy footsteps are asleep,
Hold up the torch.

        ATTENDANT.              My lord, you are disturbed.
Have you seen aught?

        HESPERUS.                  I lay upon my bed,                                                                           10
And something in the air, out-jetting night,
Converting feeling to intenser vision,
Featured its ghastly self upon my soul
Deeper than sight.

        ATTENDANT.              This is Delusion surely;
She's busy with men's thoughts at all night hours,
And to the waking subtle apprehension
The darkling chamber's still and sleepy air
Hath breath and motion oft.

        HESPERUS.  Lift up the hangings, mark the doors, the corners;
Seest nothing yet? No face of fiendlike mirth                                                                               20
More frightful than the fixed and doggish grin
Of a dead madman?

        ATTENDANT.  Nought I see, my lord,
Save the long, varied crowd of warlike shapes
Set in the stitched picture.

        HESPERUS.          Heard ye then?
There was a sound, as though some marble tongue
Moved on its rusty hinge, syllabling harshly
The hoarse death-rattle into speech.

        ATTENDANT.  The wind is high, and through the silent rooms
Murmurs his burthen, to an heedless ear
Almost articulate.

        HESPERUS.          Thou sleepest, fool,                                                                         30
A voice has been at my bedside to-night,
Its breath is burning on my forehead still,
Still o'er my brain its accents, wildly sweet,
Hover and fall. Away and dream again.
I'll watch myself.

                                     [He takes the torch and turns to the hangings.

                                                           Exit ATTENDANT.

                                Aye, these are living colours,
Those cheeks have worn their youth these hundred years,
Those flowers are verdant in their worsted spring
And blooming still;
While she, whose needle limned so cunningly,
Sleeps and dreams not. It is a goodly state,                                                                                  40
And there is one I wish had ta'en her bed
In the stone dormitory.
                                         (Blindfold moth,
Thou shalt not burn thy life; there, I have saved thee,
If thou art grateful, mingle with the air
That feeds the lips of her I thought of once,
Choak her, moth, choak her. I could not be content,
If she were safe in heaven.)
                                                Yon stout dagger
Is fairly fashioned for a blade of stitches,
And shines, methinks, most grimly; well, thou art
An useful tool sometimes, thy tooth works quickly,                                                                        50
And if thou gnawest a secret from the heart,
Thou tellest it not again:  ha! the feigned steel
Doth blush and steam. There is a snuff of blood.

                                                    [Grasps his dagger convulsively.

Who placed this iron aspic in my hand?
Speak! who is at my ear?

                                                    [He turns, and addresses his shadow.

                                            I know thee now,
I know the hideous laughter of thy face.
'Tis Malice' eldest imp, the heir of hell,
Red-handed Murther. Slow it whispers me,
Coaxingly with its serpent voice. Well sung,
Syren of Acheron!
                                I'll not look on thee;                                                                                     60
Why does thy frantic weapon dig the air
With such most frightful vehemence? Back, back,
Tell the dark grave I will not give it food.
Back to thy home of night. What! playest thou still?
Then thus I banish thee. Out, treacherous torch,
Sure thou wert kindled in infernal floods,
Or thy bright eye would blind at sights like this.

                                     [Dashes the torch on the ground.

Tempt me no more; I tell thee Floribel
Shall never bleed. I pray thee, guilty word,
Tempt me no more.                                    [Wraps himself in his mantle.

                                  I'm deaf, my ears are safe,                                                                              70
I do not hear thee woo me to the deed;
Thou tellest to one without auricular sense
Olivia's beauties and that bad one's faults.
Oh! bring me thoughts of pity. Come, come, come,
Or I am lost.

                       Bad goblin, must I fly thee?

                                                                          [Exit.




ACT II. SCENE V.

A hall in the same.  

LORD ERNEST, ORLANDO, CLAUDIO, OLIVIA.


       LORD ERNEST.  Saw ye my son?

        OLIVIA.                               Some hours ago we parted,
And he was strange, though gentle, in his talk.

        ORLANDO.  I passed him in the garden, just at twilight;
He stood with eyes wide open, but their sense
Dreamed, in dumb parley with some fancied thing;
For his lips moved, and he did walk and gaze,
Now frown most mournfully, now smile most madly,
And weep, and laugh, groan deep and gnash his teeth,
And now stand still with such a countenance,
As does the marble sorrow o'er a tomb.                                                                                      10
At last he tore his feet, as they were roots,
Up from the earth, and sighed like one o'ercome;
Then with his fingers thrust upon his eyes,
And dashed unclosed away, he seemed to snatch
Some loathly object out of them, and leapt
Into the thicket's gloom.

        LORD ERNEST.           Who saw him since?

        CLAUDIO.  In most distempered wildness he hath left
His chamber now.

        LORD ERNEST.           Go seek him, every one,
I do beseech you, 'tis a fearful period
I know too truly. On his nurse's breast                                                                                        20
Some twenty years ago, he lay and mused
Upon her singing and bright merry lips;
A viewless bolt dropped on her, and she died
Most hideously; close in the infant's face
Looked all the horrors of her bursting eyes;
And as the months bring round that black remembrance,
His brain unsettles, bloody thoughts oppress
And call him from his bed. Search all the darkness,
Each one a several way; dear daughter, in.                        [Exeunt.




ACT II. SCENE VI.

A suicide's grave.

ORLANDO and CLAUDIO.


        CLAUDIO.  There is a plague in this night's breath, Orlando,
The dews fall black and blistering from yon cloud
Anchored above us; dost thou mark how all
The smokes of heaven avoid it and crowd on
Far from its fatal darkness? Some men say
That the great king of evil sends his spirits
In such a winged car, to stir ill minds
Up to an act of death.

        ORLANDO.                         We may not think so,
For there's a fascination in bad deeds
Oft pondered o'er, that draws us to endure them,                                                                         10
And then commit. Beware of thine own soul,
'Tis but one devil ever tempts a man,
And his name's Self. Know'st thou these rankling hemlocks?

        CLAUDIO.  I've seen the ugsome reptiles battening on them,
While healthy creature sicken at the sight.

        ORLANDO.  Five months ago they were an human heart
Beating in Hugo's breast. A parricide
Here sleeps self-slaughtered. 'Twas a thing of grace,
In his early infancy; I've known him oft
Outstep his pathway that he might not crush                                                                                 20
The least small reptile. But there is a time
When goodness sleeps; it came, and vice was grafted
On his young thoughts, and grew, and flourished there,
Envenomed passions clustered round that prop;
A double fruit they bore; a double fruit of death.

        CLAUDIO.  Enough, Orlando,
The imps of darkness listen, while we tell
A dead man's crimes. Even now I heard a stir
As if the buried turned them in their shrouds
For mere unquiet. Home, it is the time                                                                                         30
When the hoarse fowl, the carrier-bird of woe,
Brings fevers from the moon, and maddening dreams;
The hour's unholy, and who hath not sent
After the parted sun his orisons,
Falls 'neath the sway of evil.                              [Exeunt.
  
       HESPERUS.  Hail, shrine of blood, in double shadows veiled,
Where the Tartarian blossoms shed their poison
And load the air with wicked impulses;
Hail, leafless shade, hallowed to sacrilege,
Altar of death! Where is thy deity?                                                                                             40
With him I come to covenant, and thou,
Dark power, that sittest in the chair of night,
Searching the clouds for tempests with thy brand,
Proxy of Hades; list and be my witness,
And bid your phantoms all, (the while I speak
What if they but repeat in sleeping ears,
Will strike the hearer dead, and mad his soul;)
Spread wide and black and thick their cloudy wings,
Lest the appalled sky do pale to day.
Eternal people of the lower world,                                                                                               50
Ye citizens of Hades' capitol,
That by the rivers of remorseful tears
Sit and despair for ever;
Ye negro brothers of the deadly winds,
Ye elder souls of night, ye mighty sins,
Sceptred damnations, how may man invoke
Your darkling glories? Teach my eager soul
Fit language for your ears. Ye that have power
O'er births and swoons and deaths, the soul's attendants,
(Wont to convey her from her human home                                                                                 60
Beyond existence, to the past or future,
To lead her through the starry blossomed meads
Where the young hours of morning by the lark
With earthly airs are nourished, through the groves
Of silent gloom, beneath whose breathless shades
The thousand children of Calamity
Play murtherously with men's hearts:)  Oh pause,
Your universal occupations leave,
Lay down awhile the infant miseries,
That to the empty and untenanted clay                                                                                         70
Ye carry from the country of the unborn;
And grant the summoned soul one moment more
To linger on the threshold of its flesh;
For I would task you.
                                   Bear this breath of mine,
This inner Hesperus away, and bring
Another guest to its deserted home;
The mind of him whose dust is on my feet,
And let his daring spirit inhabit there
But for a passing day.
                                    'Tis here. A wind
Is rushing through my veins, and I become                                                                                   80
As a running water.
I see a shadowy image of myself,
Yet not my perfect self, a brother self,
That steps into my bosom. Am I  born
Newly, or newly dead? I'll think a little.
Have I e'er lived before, or thought or acted?
Why no; it was the morning doze of being,
I slept content with dreams; but now I wake
And find it noon, a time for stirring deeds.
Yes, this is life that trembles in my veins,                                                                                     90
Yes, this is courage warms my heart's full tide:
Hesperus is a man, a demon-man,
And there's a thing he lives for, shall amaze
The emulous bad powers.
                                         Lead me on,
Mysterious guide, companion wickedness;
Olivia calls me forward, and to reach her,
What if we tread upon a world of hearts?
Come, ye ill blasts, ye killing visitants
Of sleeping men, wild creatures of the air,
We'll walk together; come, ye beauteous snakes,                                                                        100
Ye lovely fanged monsters of the woods,
We'll grovel in the dust and ye shall hiss
Your tunes of murder to me.                       [An ignis fatuus rises.
                                            Lo, she's here
To light our sports, the Hebe of the dead,
Alecto 'mid her nest of living hair
Bearing a star of Tartarus. Lead on.                                        [Exit.

< Act I

Published @ RC

August 2007

City