Act IV

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

ACT IV. SCENE I.

An apartment in ORLANDO'S palace.

HESPERUS alone.


       HESPERUS.  How now? This quaint attire of countenance,
(Well fitted by prim Conscience's old tailor,
Hypocrisy,) sits rarely, and I'm here,
The affable, good bridegroom. Wickedness,
How easy is thy lesson! Now I stand
Up to the throat in blood; from Mercy's records
For evermore my guilty name is raised.
But yesterday, oh blessed yesterday, I was a man;
And now—I start amazed at myself.                                                                                           10
This hand, aye this it was I gave to Sin,
His grasp hath blasted it; 'twas made for kindness,
For gentle salutation, to deal out
Merciful alms, confirm the staff of age;
To reach the crust to want, the balm to sickness,
And balsam wounds, a limb of charity.
Now the wild adder's sting, the lightning's edge,
Are blunt and tame and gentle to it. Psha!
Why then men dread the adder and the flash,
So shall they cringe to me. A step! In haste                                                                                20
I've washed, and thought me spotless. Yet I fear
Mine eye is so familiarized with blood,
It doth passo'er and disregard the stains:
That recks not. Sure I've brushed away those blushes,
And shaken hesitation from my tongue.

                                    Enter ATTENDANT.  

Menial, you're hasty in intruding thus.
Your errand?

       ATTENDANT.              Lady Olivia—

       HESPERUS.  Give me thine hand. That name
Makes him my friend who speaks it. Say't again;
Olivia, oh! how each sweet syllable                                                                                              30
Trickles along the tongue, an honied drop
Of harmony, Olivia. I'll give all
The yellow wretchedness of human wealth
Unto the subtle artist, who shall teach
A clock to tell the seconds by that word;
So shall I drive these frightful thoughts away,
And happiness—Do I look happy, sirrah?
It matters not.   Speak on.

       ATTENDANT.                            My lord, your bride—

       HESPERUS.  Well, sir, it was not I; why lookest thou so?
Beware. Why layest thine hand across thy breast?                                                                      40
Is there a wound on't? Say.

       ATTENDANT.                            A wound, my lord!
I understand not—

       HESPERUS.          Fool, I know thou dost not.
(If they would find it out, why let them dig
To hell's foundations.)  What! Because I fold
Mine arms like any man unhurt, unhurting,
Must every slave suppose 'tis to conceal
Some fearful witness of a deed?

       ATTENDANT.                       I thought not
'Twould anger thee, forgive me.

       HESPERUS.                                  Be it so;
It was too warmly said, for, as I trust,
You could not deem your master villain; never.                                                                             50
Yet say it were so, I but say suppose,
That I, whose clay is kneaded up with tears,
Had murdered, as you thought, some kindred creature,
Could not I wash the tokens of my guilt
From this outside, and show a hand as clean
As he who fingers first the air?

       ATTENDANT.                                   You might,
Till heaven's justice blasted you, be hid:
But leave these strange and ugly arguments;
The very fear would scare me from your side;
So banish them.

       HESPERUS.          Aye, they are strange indeed;                                                                         60
But mirth, believe me, mirth. Come, tell me now,
How sits this ring? Death! Are your eyes nailed there?
Ha! Does the ruby cast a sanguine shade
Across the veins?

       ATTENDANT.              Nought, save the splendid gem,
Amazed my sight; that's all.

       HESPERUS.                             My friend, 'tis thine,
Too poor a recompense for the good tidings
Your tongue is laden with; now speak them out.

       ATTENDANT.  First let me bless you for your bounty, sir.
I came to call you to the wedding train,
Which waits without; such smiles on such rare faces                                                                    70
Mine eyes have never seen:  the bride is there,
None but yourself is wanting to perfect
This sum of joy.

       HESPERUS.          Say I'll be there anon;
And, mark me, on thy life forget each word
I have just spoken, blot them utterly
Out of thy mind; I can reward a service.
I like thee well, my trusty, pleasant friend;
Nay, pr'ythee go, there is no need of thanks.               [Exit ATTENDANT.
I'll give that fellow's blab-tongue to the worms,
He's heard too much; 'twere well to call him back,                                                                       80
And fasten down his memory with a dagger.
No, I'll not soil my skin again to-day;
Down, Murder, down!
These untamed passions that I keep about me
Will thrive on nought save blood; but they must fast,
And wear a specious tameness. My Olivia,
Now my whole soul is thine,—thine and the fiends'.             [Exit.




ACT IV. SCENE II.

The interior of the DUKE'S palace.

Enter the DUKE, HUBERT, and the HUNTSMAN.

 

       DUKE.  Your tale hath stunned me with its dreadful import,
And turned my every faculty to wonder.

       HUBERT.  You cannot doubt, my liege?

       DUKE.                                                Hubert, I'd give
The best part of my power for hope to whisper
A no to my conviction. Devilish villain!

       HUBERT.  Sure all good angels looked another way
When this foul deed was done.

       DUKE.                                 All ancient cruelties
Look pale to it and merciful:  henceforth
They that would christen human fiends must write
Hesperus, 'stead of Cain; and chiding nurses,                                                                               10
To still their peevish babes, shall offer them,
Not to the wolves, but him, the fiercer beast.

       HUBERT.  Oh! my good lord, even now my sight is dimmed
With the salt gush that came between my eyes
And that which seared them:  on her turfy couch,
Like one just lulled into a heavy sleep,
Smiling and calm she lay; the breath
Had not left fluttering up and down her bosom,
That all blood-dabbled and besprent with gore
Still held the guilty steel; the name was on it                                                                          20
Of the cursed owner.

       DUKE.                   Go, trusty Hubert,
Speed to Orlando's palace with my guard,
And drag the murderer here, e'en now I'll judge him;
Be diligent, put wings upon your feet,
Some vengeance will fall on us in the night,
If he remain unsentenced.                                          [Exeunt.  




ACT IV. SCENE III.

A banqueting hall.

LORD ERNEST, ORLANDO, CLAUDIO, OLIVIA, VIOLETTA, LORDS, LADIES, and ATTENDANTS.


       LORD ERNEST.  Sit here, my daughter; sit and welcome, all;
You shall not say my Hesperus' nuptial night
Lacks its due orgies.

       CLAUDIO.                   Look upon the bride,
How blushes open their envermeiled leaves
On her fair features.

       LORD ERNEST.                  Sit, I pray you, sirs,
We will have deep and jovial carousal;
Put on the smiles of joy, and think of nought
But present pleasure, we've had woes enough;
Bid 'em be merry, daughter.

       OLIVIA.                          Gentlemen,
My father wills me give you all a welcome,                                                                                  10
And if you love or honour our poor house,
Be glad with us.

       CLAUDIO.  We thank your courtesy, lady, and obey.

       LORD ERNEST.  Where is this dilatory bridegroom still?
He was not wont to lag; what hast thou done
To banish him, Olivia?

       OLIVIA.                         Good my lord,
I fear his heart is ill. A veil of gloom
Darkens his cheeks, an anxious watchfulness
Plays in his eyes; and when he clasped my hand
Now in the chapel, though he smiled and whispered                                                                      20
Of bliss and love, an ague thrilled his veins,
And starting back he groaned.

       LORD ERNEST.                                 Go, fetch him hither,
I warrant wine will cure him.

       ATTENDANT.                                   Here he comes.

                                    Enter HESPERUS.

       HESPERUS.  (aside)  What's all this blaze and riot? Oh, a banquet.
They should have got me here the seven sins,
And all the evil things that haunt the world;
Then what a goodly revel would we hold;
E'en Death, while hastening to the sick man's pillow,
Should pause to listen our unhallowed talk,
And think us the brood of Pestilence                                                                                            30
Met in mysterious council.

       ATTENDANT.                              Sir, your father
Has been enquiring for you, and desires
The comfort of your presence at the table.

       HESPERUS.  The comfort of my presence! Slave, thou mockest me.
Why dost thou thrust thy taper in my face?
No price is set on't.

       LORD ERNEST.                  Hither, Hesperus;
Thou dost not mark this company of kinsmen,
Met to congratulate you, and partake
Your gladness.

       HESPERUS.          Sirs, I thank you heartily.
(aside) A curse upon the gaping saucy rabble;                                                                             40
They must stare too.

       LORD ERNEST.                   Come, son, and sit beside me;
They say you're ill, my boy.

       HESPERUS.                           They say the truth.

      LORD ERNEST.  What is your ailment?

       HESPERUS.                                       Life. But here is one
Born to smile misery out of the world:
Look on me, my Olivia.

       OLIVIA.                   Dearest Hesperus
Be calmer, I beseech you; all are here
My friends and yours.

       HESPERUS.                   No doubt. They drain our goblets.
A friend! What is't? A thing shall squeeze your hand,
Caress with fervent love your 'broidered sleeve,
And wring his mouth into a leering lie,                                                                                          50
While his heart damns thee. One whose love's as deep
As your gold coffer. Hast a wife? They come;
Buz, buz, lie, lie, the hungry meat-flies come,
'Dear lord, sweet lord, our only gentle lord!'
Aye, thus they sugar o'er the silent dagger,
And love, and love, till they've inhelled thy soul.
Oh! when I call for friend, bring honest poison.
Put out the lights, I like the beams o' th' moon;
And tell those revellers to tope in silence.

       LORD ERNEST.  You would not overcast our best-meant mirth,                                           60
Bid us sit palled, like mourners at your bridal,
And hide in night our kindly countenances?

       HESPERUS.  Aye, by my grave, I would. There is on earth
One face alone, one heart, that Hesperus needs;
'Twere better all the rest were not. Olivia,
I'll tell thee how we'll 'scape these prying eyes; 
We'll build a wall between us and the world,
And in some summer wilderness of flowers,
As though but two hearts beat beneath the sun,
Consume our days of love.

       LORD ERNEST.                          I pray you, friends,                                                   70
Excuse the wilful boy, his soul is wholly
Wrapt up in admiration of his bride:
We'll have her health; come, fill your goblets round,
The bride, Olivia.   

      CLAUDIO.            Happiness befall her,
May she ne'er feel a woe; we drink to her.                 [Music.

                             Enter HUBERT.      

       HUBERT.  Hush, hush; ye ill-timed sounds, let darkness come,
And with her funeral trappings hang the walls,
Or twilight lend a weak and fitful gleam,
That you may watch each other's watery cheeks.
Oh! ladies, deck your beauties with salt diamonds,                                                                        80
Wail with the midnight wind, and look as sad
As if ye heard the thunder-voice of doom.

       LORD ERNEST.  What art thou, fearful man?

       HUBERT.                                                  Woe's harbinger;
I come to bid you to a funeral;
Prepare your eyes, for they must see dire vengeance
Fall on the neck of crime.

       HESPERUS.                         Turn out that fellow;
I know him for a crazy marvel-monger,
A long-faced gossip, with his batch of wonders:
And now he'll tell you the most terrible news,
How many owls and ravens screeched last night,                                                                         90
Or how some ghost has left his marble tomb
To blab a drunken lie.

       HUBERT.                     I tell a fiend
His guilt is hid no more. Ho! there, the guard:      

                             Enter GUARDS.  

That is your prisoner.

       HESPERUS.                  You tread a scorpion:
The first that stirs brings to my sword his heart;
Ye plunge into your graves.                         [The GUARDS seize him.
                                             Ah! Floribel;
Thou draggest my steel away, thou'st frozen me;
Girl, thou art pale.

       LORD ERNEST.             How's this?
Ruffians, where do you bear my boy? Release him,
Or I'll—

       OLIVIA.  Oh! do not anger them. They're men                                                                  100
Who have sucked pity from their mothers' breasts,
They will not close their ears to my petition;
And if they'll loose him, I will pray for them
While speech is mine.

       LORD ERNEST.                  Your swords, my friends, your swords.

       HUBERT.  Stand back, my lords; let the Duke's prisoner pass.

       LORD ERNEST.  The Duke! what Duke dare seize my Hesperus?
My noble friends, my—sheath your coward swords,
And put your eyes upon the ground for fear,
Your Jove, the Duke he said;--hear ye no thunder?
But all the warriors of the universe                                                                                             110
Shall not cow me:  I'll free him; villains, back.

       HUBERT.  Oh! good old man; alas! he is a murderer.

       LORD ERNEST.  A murderer! (drops his sword.)  This is a baby's arm.

       OLIVIA.  Save him, oh save him! I am very faint.

                      [ORLANDO, VIOLETTA, and ATTENDANTS, carry her out.

       HESPERUS.  Hence with that voice! So shrieked—I must not think.

       HUBERT.  Look to Lord Ernest. The Duke sits in council
Waiting your presence, lords. On, to the palace.      

       [Exeunt CLAUDIO, HUBERT, HESPERUS, GUARDS, LORDS, and LADIES.
                                                          Manent LORD ERNEST and ATTENDANTS.

         LORD ERNEST.  Where is he? What! Ye traitors, let him pass,
Chained, guarded? By this light—gird on your swords.
My hairs are grey, but yet I've blood enough—                                                                            120
Did they not speak of crime? These limbs aren't mine,
But some consumptive girl's. —Aye, it was murder!
I'll see the Duke—support me to the palace.                      [Exeunt.




ACT IV. SCENE IV.

A street before the ducal palace.

Two GUARDS attending the body of FLORIBEL. LENORA hanging over it.


       1st GUARD. 'Tis time to bear the body to the council,
The criminal is there already.

       2nd GUARD.                         Stay;
'Twere sacrilege to shake yon mourner off,
And she will perish in the wintry night
If unattended:  yet this poor dumb witness
Is needful at the trial. While she sleeps
With careful hands convey her to the Duke's,
And bid the women tend her.

       1st GUARD.                        Soft! She breaks
Her trance, and rises like a new-born thing
Fresh from the realm of spirits.

       2nd GUARD.                         Hush! She speaks.                                                                  10

       LENORA.  I dreamed, and in that visioned agony
'Twas whispered by strange voices, like the deads',
I was the mother of this Floribel,
And still a wanderer upon man's earth;
No, no, I am her ghost, shade of her essence,
Thrust into some strange shape of womanhood
Until the tomb is open. What are these?
Good sir, have you a tear to throw away,
A little sigh to spare unto the wind?
I've heard that there are hearts yet in the world,                                                                           20
Perhaps you have one.

       1st GUARD.           Lady, for your sorrow
It aches most deeply.

       LENORA.                            Prithee, look you here.
Cold, cold; 'tis all in vain:  those lustrous eyes
Will never beam again beneath the stars;
Darkened for ever; and those wan, dead lips:
They'll put her in the earth and let the world,
The pitiless bad world tread o'er her beauty,
While I—ye airs of heaven, why will ye feed me?
Why, ye officious ministers, bestow
The loathed blessing of a cursed existence?                                                                                 30
There's many a one now leans upon the cheek
Of his dead spouse, a-listening for her pulse,
And hears no motion but his bursting heart;
Give him my life and bid him wipe his eyes.
Look here, look here,
I've heard them call her flower; oh! had she been
The frailest rose that whitens in the blast,
Thus bruised and rifled by a ruffian hand,
I might have kept her living in my tears
A very little while, until I die;                                                                                                40
And then—now tell me this and I will bless thee,
Where thinkest our spirits go?

       1st GUARD.                          Madam, I know not;
Some say they hang like music in the air,
Some say that they sleep in flowers of Paradise,
Some that they lie ingirt by cloudy curtains;
Or 'mong the stars.

       LENORA.                            Oh! not among the stars,                                                          50
For, if she's there, my sight's so dimmed with tears,
I ne'er shall find her out,
But wander through the sparkling labyrinth
Wearied, alone; oh! say not 'mong the stars.
Why do ye move her?

       1st GUARD.           We must bear her hence
Unto the Duke.

       LENORA.                  What! is it not enough
That she is dead?

       1st GUARD.    No hand shall offer hurt
And in short space we'll bring her back again,
Unto your cottage.

       LENORA.                        Thanks! They shall not harm her;
Soldier, I will repay this kindness nobly;
Hark you; I'm going far off, to Paradise,
And if your child, or wife, or brother's there,
I'll bring them to you in your dreams some night.
Farewell; I will go search about for Comfort,                                                                                60
Him, that, enrobed in mouldering cerements, sits
At the grey tombstone's head beneath the yew;
Men call him Death, but Comfort is his name.                    [Exeunt.

                               Enter Two CITIZENS.

         1st CITIZEN.  Well met sir, come you from the trial?

       2nd CITIZEN.                                                                   Aye;
In wonder that the stones do not come down
To crush that monster of all wickedness,
The wretched Hesperus; there he stands
Biting his chains and writhing in his rage
Like a mad tiger.

       1st CITIZEN.          Is he yet condemned?

       2nd CITIZEN.  Death is his sentence.

       1st CITIZEN.                                       See, the criminal                                                        70
And his old father; what a sight of pity. 

       Enter HESPERUS guarded, ORLANDO, HUBERT, LORD ERNEST, and MOB.      

HESPERUS.  Well, gaping idiots; have ye stared enough;
Have ye yet satisfied your pious minds
By thanking your most bounteous stars ye're not
A prodigy like this? Get home and tell
Your wives, and put me in your tales and ballads;
Go home and live.

       LORD ERNEST.             Oh hush my son,
Get some good priest of Charity to draw
Tears of repentance from your soul, and wake
The sleeping virtue.

       HESPERUS.                  Who's this greybeard driveller?                                                        80
Go, find your wits, old fellow, that bald skull
Is full of leaks; hence! look in last night's bowl;
Search all your money-bags:  don't come abroad
Again without them; 'tis amiss.

       LORD ERNEST.                                 Oh Heavens!
Is this the son, o'er whose sleeping smiles
Often I bent, and mingling with my prayers
Thanksgivings, blessed the loan of so much virtue.

       HESPERUS.  That's right; weep on, weep on; for thou art he
Who slew his only child, his first-born child.

       ORLANDO.  Oh look upon his galling agony,                                                                        90
These desperate yearnings of paternal love,
And try to have an heart.

       HESPERUS.                         You're merry, friend;
Troth 'tis a goodly jest:  what, dost thou think
These limbs, the strength of nature's armoury,
That but exist to dare, and dare the things
That make the blood of bravery turn pale
For very terror, such a minion's work,
The offspring of those dribbling veins? Go to,
Thou'rt a sad idiot.

       LORD ERNEST.  Oh! hear him not, thou ever-present Justice,                                             100
And close thy watchful eyelid, thou that weighest
Th' allotted scale of crime.

       HESPERUS.                         Come hither, age;
I have a whisper for your secrecy;
Consider; who am I?

       LORD ERNEST.                  Thou wast my son,
The pulse of my dead heart, light of my eyes,
But now—

       HESPERUS.   Thy son! I would I'd have time to laugh.
No, no; attend. The night, that gave me being,
There was unearthly glee upon the winds,
There were strange gambols played beneath the moon,
The madman smiled uncouthly in his sleep,                                                                                  110
And the children shrunk aghast at goblin sights;
Then came a tap against the rattling casement,
Not the owl's wing, or struggle of the blast;
Thy dotardship snored loudly, and meanwhile
An incubus begot me.

       LORD ERNEST.                  Lead me home,
My eyes are dim; I cannot see the way:
I fain would sleep.                 [Exit with some of the Citizens.
       HESPERUS.            Go, some one, tell his nurse
To get him swaddling clothes.

       ORLANDO.                                        Prodigious wretch!
Rebel to man and heaven! On thee shall fall
The cureless torture of the soul, the woe                                                                                     120
Hell nurses for the deepest damned.

       HESPERUS.                                       'Tis pity
So much good cursing should be thrown away:
Well spit, my reptile! Officers, lead on:
Shall I, in bondage, stand to glut the sight
Of those poor marvel-dealing things? Away,
I'll shut them out; the red death on you all.                  [Going.
Ah! my good fellow, are you of the train
That wait upon Olivia?

       ATTENDANT.                       I'm her servant.

       HESPERUS.  How fares she?

       ATTENDANT.                            Very ill; she wastes,
Careless of living.

       HESPERUS.          Tell her, on my love                                                                               130
I charge her live; oh heaven, she must not die,
There are enough accusers in the tomb.
Tell her—Shame, shame, they shall not see me weep.

                                                                                       [Exeunt.

< Act III

Published @ RC

August 2007

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