Part 6 out of 11
* * * * *
_[Don Basilio enters. Figaro in background_.]
_Rosina [startled, to herself_]--Don Basilio!
_Count [aside]_--Good Heaven!
_Bartolo [going to meet him_]--Ah! welcome, Basilio. So your accident
was not very serious? Alonzo quite alarmed me about you. He will tell
you that I was just going to see you, and if he had not detained me--
_Basilio [in astonishment_]--Senor Alonzo?
_Figaro [stamping his foot_]--Well, well! How long must I wait? Two
hours wasted already over your beard--Miserable business!
_Basilio [looking at every one in amazement_]--But, gentlemen, will you
please tell me--
_Figaro_--You can talk to him after I've gone.
_Basilio_--But still, would--
_Count_--You'd better be quiet, Basilio. Do you think you can inform
him of anything new? I've told him that you sent me for the music lesson
instead of coming himself.
_Basilio [still more astonished]_--The music lesson! Alonzo!
_Rosina [aside to Basilio]--Do_ hold your tongue, can't you?
_Count [to Bartolo]_--Let him know what you and I have agreed upon.
_Bartolo [aside to Basilio]_--Don't contradict, and say that he is not
your pupil, or you will spoil everything.
_Bartolo [aloud]_--Indeed, Basilio, your pupil has a great deal of
_Basilio [stupefied]_--My pupil! [_In a low tone_.] I came to tell you
that the Count has moved.
_Bartolo [low]_--I know it. Hush.
_Basilio [low]_--Who told you?
_Bartolo [low]_--He did, of course.
_Count [low]_--It was I, naturally. Just listen, won't you?
_Rosina [low to Basilio]_--Is it so hard to keep still?
_Figaro [low to Basilio]_--Hum! The sharper! He is deaf!
_Basilio [aside]_--Who the devil are they trying to deceive here?
Everybody seems to be in it!
_Bartolo [aloud]_--Well, Basilio--about your lawyer--?
_Figaro_--You have the whole evening to talk about the lawyer.
_Bartolo [to Basilio]_--One word; only tell me if you are satisfied with
_Basilio [startled]_--With the lawyer?
_Count [smiling]_--Haven't you seen the lawyer?
_Basilio [impatient]_--Eh? No, I haven't seen the lawyer.
_Count [aside to Bartolo]_--Do you want him to explain matters before
her? Send him away.
_Bartolo [low to the Count]_--You are right. [_To Basilio_.] But what
made you ill, all of a sudden?
_Basilio [angrily]_--I don't understand you.
_Count [secretly slipping a purse into his hands]_--Yes: he wants to
know what you are doing here, when you are so far from well?
_Figaro_--He's as pale as a ghost!
_Basilio_--Ah! I understand.
_Count_--Go to bed, dear Basilio. You are not at all well, and you make
us all anxious. Go to bed.
_Figaro_--He looks quite upset. Go to bed.
_Bartolo_--I'm sure he seems feverish. Go to bed.
_Rosina_--Why did you come out? They say that it's catching. Go to bed.
_Basilio [in the greatest amazement]_--I'm to go to bed!
_All the others together_--Yes, you must.
_Basilio [looking at them all]_--Indeed, I think I will have to
withdraw. I don't feel quite as well as usual.
_Bartolo_--We'll look for you to-morrow, if you are better.
_Count_--I'll see you soon, Basilio.
_Basilio [aside]_--Devil take it if I understand all this! And if it
weren't for this purse--
_All_--Good-night, Basilio, good-night.
_Basilio [going]_--Very well, then; good-night, _good-night_.
[_The others, all laughing, push him civilly out of the room_.]
FROM 'THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO'
OUTWITTING A HUSBAND
[The scene is the boudoir of young Countess Almaviva, the Rosina of the
previous selection. She is seated alone, when her clever maid Susanna
ushers in the young page Cherubino, just banished from the house because
obnoxious to the jealous Count.]
_Susanna_--Here's our young Captain, Madame.
_Cherubino [timidly]_--The title is a sad reminder that--that I must
leave this delightful home and the godmother who has been so kind--
_Susanna--And_ so beautiful!
_Cherubino [sighing]_--Ah, yes!
_Susanna [mocking his sigh]_--Ah, yes! Just look at his hypocritical
eyelids! Madame, make him sing his new song. [_She gives it to him_.]
Come now, my beautiful bluebird, sing away.
_Countess_--Does the manuscript say who wrote this--song?
_Susanna_--The blushes of guilt betray him.
_Cherubino_--Madame, I--I--tremble so.
_Susanna_--Ta, ta, ta, ta--! Come, modest author--since you are so
commanded. Madame, I'll accompany him.
_Countess [to Susanna]_--Take my guitar.
_[Cherubino sings his ballad to the air of 'Malbrouck.' The Countess
reads the words of it from his manuscript, with an occasional glance at
him; he sometimes looks at her and sometimes lowers his eyes as he
sings. Susanna, accompanying him, watches them both, laughing.]_
_Countess [folding the song]_--Enough, my boy. Thank you. It is very
good--full of feeling--
_Susanna_--Ah! as for feeling--this is a young man who--well!
_[Cherubino tries to stop her by catching hold of her dress. Susanna
whispers to him]_--Ah, you good-for-nothing! I'm going to tell her.
_[Aloud.]_ Well--Captain! We'll amuse ourselves by seeing how you look
in one of my dresses!
_Countess_--Susanna, how _can_ you go on so?
_Susanna [going up to Cherubino and measuring herself with him]_--He's
just the right height. Off with your coat. _[She draws it off.]_
_Countess_--But what if some one should come?
_Susanna_--What if they do? We're doing no wrong. But I'll lock the
door, just the same. _[Locks it.]_ I want to see him in a woman's
_Countess_--Well, you'll find my little cap in my dressing-room on the
_[Susanna gets the cap, and then, sitting down on a stool, she makes
Cherubino kneel before her and arranges it on his hair.]_
_Susanna_--Goodness, isn't he a pretty girl? I'm jealous. Cherubino,
you're altogether _too_ pretty.
_Countess_--Undo his collar a little; that will give a more feminine
air. [_Susanna loosens his collar so as to show his neck_.] Now push up
his sleeves, so that the under ones show more. [_While Susanna rolls up
Cherubino's sleeves, the Countess notices her lost ribbon around his
wrist_.] What is that? My ribbon?
_Susanna_--Ah! I'm very glad you've seen it, for I told him I should
tell. I should certainly have taken it away from him if the Count hadn't
come just then; for I am almost as strong as he is.
_Countess [with surprise, unrolling the ribbon]_--There's blood on it!
_Cherubino_--Yes, I was tightening the curb of my horse this morning, he
curvetted and gave me a push with his head, and the bridle stud
grazed my arm.
_Countess_--I never saw a ribbon used as a bandage before.
_Susanna_--Especially a _stolen_ ribbon. What may all those things
be--the curb, the curvetting, the bridle stud? [_Glances at his arms_.]
What white arms he has! just like a woman's. Madame, they are whiter
_Countess_--Never mind that, but run and find me some oiled silk.
[_Susanna goes out, after humorously pushing Cherubino over so that he
falls forward on his hands. He and the Countess look at each other for
some time; then she breaks the silence_.]
_Countess_--I hope you are plucky enough. Don't show yourself before the
Count again to-day. We'll tell him to hurry up your commission in
_Cherubino_--I already have it, Madame. Basilio brought it to me. [_He
draws the commission from his pocket and hands it to her_.]
_Countess_--Already! They haven't lost any time. [_She opens it._] Oh,
in their hurry they've forgotten to add the seal to it.
_Susanna [returning with the oiled silk]_--Seal what?
_Countess_--His commission in the regiment.
_Countess_--That's what I said.
_Susanna_--And the bandage?
_Countess_--Oh, when you are getting my things, take a ribbon from one
of _your_ caps. [_Susanna goes out again_]
_Countess_--This ribbon is of my favorite color. I must tell you I was
greatly displeased at your taking it.
_Cherubino_--That one would heal me quickest.
_Cherubino_--When a ribbon--has pressed the head, and--touched the skin
_Countess [hastily]_--Very strange--then it can cure wounds? I never
heard that before. I shall certainly try it on the first wound of any
_Cherubino [sadly]_--I must go away from here!
_Countess_--But not for always? [_Cherubino begins to weep._] And now
you are crying! At that prediction of Figaro?
_Cherubino_--I'm just where he said I'd be. [_Some one knocks on the
_Countess_--Who can be knocking like that?
_The Count [outside]_--Open the door!
_Countess_--Heavens! It's my husband. Where can you hide?
_The Count [outside]_--Open the door, I say.
_Countess_--There's no one here, you see.
_The Count_--But who are you talking to then?
_Countess_--To you, I suppose. [_To Cherubino._] Hide yourself,
quick--in the dressing-room!
_Cherubino_--Ah, after this morning, he'd kill me if he found me _here_.
[_He runs into the dressing-room on the right, which is also Susanna's
room; the Countess, after locking him in and taking the key, admits
_Count_--You don't usually lock yourself in, Madame.
_Countess_--I--I--was gossiping with Susanna. She's gone. [_Pointing to
her maid's room._]
_Count_--And you seem very much agitated, Madame.
_Countess_--Not at all, I assure you! We were talking about you. She's
just gone--as I told you.
_Count_--I must say, Madame, you and I seem to be surrounded by spiteful
people. Just as I'm starting for a ride, I'm handed a note which informs
me that a certain person whom I suppose far enough away is to visit you
_Countess_--The bold fellow, whoever he is, will have to come here,
then; for I don't intend to leave my room to-day.
[_Something falls heavily in the dressing-room where Cherubino is._]
_Count_--Ah, Madame, something dropped just then!
_Countess_--I didn't hear anything.
_Count_--You must be very absent-minded, then. Somebody is in that room!
_Countess_--Who do you think could be there?
_Count_--Madame, that is what I'm asking _you_. I have just come in.
_Countess_--Probably it's Susanna wandering about.
_Count [pointing]_--But you just told me that she went that way.
_Countess_--This way or that--I don't know which.
_Count_--Very well, Madame, I must see her.--Come here, Susanna.
_Countess_--She cannot. Pray wait! She's but half dressed. She's trying
on things that I've given her for her wedding.
_Count_--Dressed or not, I wish to see her at once.
_Countess_--I can't prevent your doing so anywhere else, but here--
_Count_--You may say what you choose--I _will_ see her.
_Countess_--I thoroughly believe you'd like to see her in that state!
_Count_--Very well, Madame. If Susanna can't come out, at least she can
talk. [_Turning toward the dressing-room._] Susanna, are you there?
Answer, I command you.
_Countess_ [_peremptorily_]--Don't answer, Susanna! I forbid you! Sir,
how can you be such a petty tyrant? Fine suspicions, indeed!
[_Susanna slips by and hides behind the Countess's bed without being
noticed either by her or by the Count._]
_Count_--They are all the easier to dispel. I can see that it would be
useless to ask you for the key, but it's easy enough to break in the
door. Here, somebody!
_Countess_--Will you really make yourself the laughing-stock of the
chateau for such a silly suspicion?
_Count_--- You are quite right. I shall simply force the door myself. I
am going for tools.
_Countess_--Sir, if your conduct were prompted by love, I'd forgive your
jealousy for the sake of the motive. But its cause is only your vanity.
_Count_--Love _or_ vanity, Madame, I mean to know who is in that room!
And to guard against any tricks, I am going to lock the door to your
maid's room. You, Madame, will kindly come with me, and without any
noise, if you please. [_He leads her away._] As for the Susanna in the
dressing-room, she will please wait a few minutes.
_Countess_ [_going out with him_]--Sir, I assure you--
_Susanna_ [_coming out from behind the bed and running to the
dressing-room_]--Cherubino! Open quick! It's Susanna. [_Cherubino
hurries out of the dressing-room._] Escape--you haven't a minute
_Cherubino_--Where can I go?
_Susanna_--I don't know, I don't know at all! but do go somewhere!
_Cherubino_ [_running to the window, then coming back_]--The window
isn't so very high.
_Susanna_ [_frightened and holding him back_]--He'll kill himself!
_Cherubino_--Ah, Susie, I'd rather jump into a gulf than put the
Countess in danger. [_He snatches a kiss, then runs to the window,
hesitates, and finally jumps down into the garden._]
_Susanna_--Ah! [_She falls fainting into an arm-chair. Recovering
slowly, she rises, and seeing Cherubino running through the garden she
comes forward panting._] He's far away already! ... Little scamp! as
nimble as he is handsome! [_She next runs to the dressing-room._] Now,
Count Almaviva, knock as hard as you like, break down the door. Plague
take me if I answer you. [_Goes into the dressing-room and shuts
[_Count and Countess return._]
_Count_--Now, Madame, consider well before you drive me to extremes.
_Countess_--I--I beg of you--!
_Count_ [_preparing to burst open the door_]--You can't cajole me now.
_Countess_ [_throwing herself on her knees_]--Then I will open it! Here
is the key.
_Count_--So it is _not_ Susanna?
_Countess_--No, but it's no one who should offend you.
_Count_--If it's a man I kill him! Unworthy wife! You wish to stay shut
up in your room--you shall stay in it long enough, I promise you. _Now_
I understand the note--my suspicions are justified!
_Countess_--Will you listen to me one minute?
_Count_--Who is in that room?
_Count_--Cherubino! The little scoundrel!--just let me catch him! I
don't wonder you were so agitated.
_Countess_--I--I assure you we were only planning an innocent joke.
[_The Count snatches the key, and goes to the dressing-room door; the
Countess throws herself at his feet._]
_Countess_--Have mercy, Count! Spare this poor child; and although the
disorder in which you will find him--
_Count_--What, Madame? What do you mean? What disorder?
_Countess_--He was just changing his coat--his neck and arms are bare--
[_The Countess throws herself into a chair and turns away her head._]
_Count_ [_running to the dressing-room_]--Come out here, you young
_Count_ [_seeing Susanna come out of the dressing-room_]--Eh! Why, it
_is_ Susanna! [_Aside._] What, a lesson!
_Susanna_ [_mocking him_]--"I will kill him! I will kill him!" Well,
then, why don't you kill this mischievous page?
_Count_ [_to the Countess, who at the sight of Susanna shows the
greatest surprise_]--So _you_ also play astonishment, Madame?
_Countess_--Why shouldn't I?
_Count_--But perhaps she wasn't alone in there. I'll find out. [_He goes
into the dressing-room._]
_Countess_--- Susanna, I'm nearly dead.
_Count_ [_aside, as he returns_]--No one there! So this time I really am
wrong. [_To the Countess, coldly._] You excel at comedy, Madame.
_Susanna_--And what about me, sir?
_Count_--And so do you.
_Countess_--Aren't you glad you found her instead of Cherubino?
[_Meaningly._] You are generally pleased to come across her.
_Susanna_--Madame ought to have let you break in the doors, call the
_Count_--Yes, it's quite true--I'm at fault--I'm humiliated enough! But
why didn't you answer, you cruel girl, when I called you?
_Susanna_--I was dressing as well as I could--with the aid of pins, and
Madame knew why she forbade me to answer. She had her lessons.
_Count_--Why don't you help me get pardon, instead of making me out as
bad as you can?
_Countess_--Did I marry you to be eternally subjected to jealousy and
neglect? I mean to join the Ursulines, and--
_Countess_--I am no longer the Rosina whom you loved so well. I am only
poor Countess Almaviva, deserted wife of a madly jealous husband.
_Count_--I assure you, Rosina, this man, this letter, had excited me
_Countess_--I never gave my consent.
_Count_--What, you knew about it?
_Countess_--This rattlepate Figaro, without my sanction--
_Count_--He did it, eh! and Basilio pretended that a peasant brought it.
Crafty wag, ready to impose on everybody!
_Countess_--You beg pardon, but you never grant pardon. If I grant it,
it shall only be on condition of a general amnesty.
_Count_--Well, then, so be it. I agree. But I don't understand how your
sex can adapt itself to circumstances so quickly and so nicely. You were
certainly much agitated; and for that matter, you are yet.
_Countess_--Men aren't sharp enough to distinguish between honest
indignation at unjust suspicion, and the confusion of guilt.
_Count_--We men think we know something of politics, but we are only
children. Madame, the King ought to name you his ambassador to
London.--And now pray forget this unfortunate business, so
humiliating for me.
_Countess_--For us both.
_Count_--Won't you tell me again that you forgive me?
_Countess_--Have I said _that_, Susanna?
_Count_--Ah, say it now.
_Countess_--Do you deserve it, culprit?
_Count_--Yes, honestly, for my repentance.
_Countess [giving him her hand_]--How weak I am! What an example I set
you, Susanna! He'll never believe in a woman's anger.
_Susanna_--You are prisoner on parole; and you shall see we are
FRANCIS BEAUMONT and JOHN FLETCHER
"The names of Beaumont and Fletcher," says Lowell, in his lectures on
'Old English Dramatists,' "are as inseparably linked together as those
of Castor and Pollux. They are the double star of our poetical
firmament, and their beams are so indissolubly mingled that it is vain
to attempt any division of them that shall assign to each his rightful
share." Theirs was not that dramatic collaboration all too common among
the lesser Elizabethan dramatists, at a time when managers, eager to
satisfy a restless public incessantly clamoring for novelty, parceled
out single acts or even scenes of a play among two or three playwrights,
to put together a more or less congruous piece of work. Beaumont and
Fletcher joined partnership, not from any outward necessity, but
inspired by a common love of their art and true congeniality of mind.
Unlike many of their brother dramatists, whom the necessities of a lowly
origin drove to seek a livelihood in writing for the theatres, Beaumont
and Fletcher were of gentle birth, and sprung from families eminent at
the bar and in the Church.
[Illustration: Francis Beaumont]
Beaumont was born at Grace-Dieu in Leicestershire, 1584, the son of a
chief justice. His name is first mentioned as a gentleman commoner at
Broadgate Hall, now Pembroke College, Oxford. At sixteen he was entered
a member of the Inner Temple, but the dry facts of the law did not
appeal to his romantic imagination. Nowhere in his work does he draw
upon his barrister's experience to the extent that makes the plays of
Middleton, who also knew the Inner Temple at first hand, a storehouse of
information in things legal. His feet soon strayed, therefore, into the
more congenial fields of dramatic invention.
Fletcher was born in Rye, Sussex, the son of a minister who later became
Bishop of London. Giles Fletcher the Younger, and Phineas Fletcher, both
well-known poets in their day, were his cousins. His early life is as
little known as that of Beaumont, and indeed as the lives of most of the
other Elizabethan dramatists. He was a pensioner at Benet College, now
Corpus Christi, Cambridge, in 1591, and in 1593 he was "Bible-clerk"
there. Then we hear nothing of him until 'The Woman Hater' was brought
out in 1607. The play has been ascribed to Beaumont alone, to Fletcher
alone, and to the two jointly. Whoever may be the author, it is the
firstling of his dramatic muse, and worth merely a passing mention. How
or when their literary friendship began is not known; but since both
were friends of Jonson, both prefixing commendatory verses to the great
realist's play of 'The Fox,' it is fair to assume that through him they
were brought together, and that both belonged to that brilliant circle
of wits, poets, and dramatists who made famous the gatherings at the
They lived in the closest intimacy on the Bankside, near the Globe
Theatre in Southwark, sharing everything in common, even the bed, and
some say their clothing,--which is likely enough, as it can be
paralleled without going back three centuries. It is certain that the
more affluent circumstances of Beaumont tided his less fortunate friend
over many a difficulty; and the astonishing dramatic productivity of
Fletcher's later period was probably due to Beaumont's untimely death,
making it necessary for Fletcher to rely on his pen for support.
In 1613 Beaumont's marriage to a Kentish heiress put an end to the
communistic bachelor establishment. He died March 6th, 1616, not quite
six weeks before Shakespeare, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.
Fletcher survived him nine years, dying of the plague in 1625. He was
buried, not by the side of the poet with whose name his own is forever
linked, but at St. Saviour's, Southwark.
"A student of physiognomy," says Swinburne, "will not fail to mark the
points of likeness and of difference between the faces of the two
friends; both models of noble manhood.... Beaumont the statelier and
serener of the two, with clear, thoughtful eyes, full arched brows, and
strong aquiline nose, with a little cleft at the tip; a grave and
beautiful mouth, with full and finely curved lips; the form of face a
very pure oval, and the imperial head, with its 'fair large front' and
clustering hair, set firm and carried high with an aspect of quiet
command and knightly observation. Fletcher with more keen and fervid
face, sharper in outline every way, with an air of bright ardor and
glad, fiery impatience; sanguine and nervous, suiting the complexion and
color of hair; the expression of the eager eyes and lips almost rivaling
that of a noble hound in act to break the leash it strains at;--two
heads as lordly of feature and as expressive of aspect as any gallery of
great men can show."
It may not be altogether fanciful to transfer this description of their
physical bearing to their mental equipment, and draw some conclusions as
to their several endowments and their respective share in the work that
goes under their common name. Of course it is impossible to draw hard
and fast lines of demarkation, and assign to each poet his own words.
They, above all others, would probably have resented so dogmatic a
procedure, and affirmed the dramas to be their joint offspring,--even as
a child partakes of the nature of both its parents.
Their plays are organic structures, with well worked-out plots and for
the most part well-sustained characters. They present a complete fusion
of the different elements contributed by each author; never showing that
agglomeration of incongruous matter so often found among the work of the
lesser playwrights, where each hand can be singled out and held
responsible for its share. Elaborate attempts, based on verse tests,
have been made to disentangle the two threads of their poetic fabric.
These attempts show much patient analysis, and are interesting as
evidences of ingenuity; but they appeal more to the scholar than to the
lover of poetry. Yet a sympathetic reading and a comparison of the plays
professedly written by Fletcher alone, after Beaumont's death, with
those jointly produced by them in the early part of Fletcher's career,
shows the different qualities of mind that went to the making of the
work, and the individual characteristics of the men that wrote it. Here
Swinburne's eloquence gives concreteness to the picture.
In the joint plays there is a surer touch, a deeper, more pathetic note,
a greater intensity of emotion; there is more tragic pathos and passion,
more strong genuine humor, nobler sentiments. The predominance of these
graver, sweeter qualities may well be attributed to Beaumont's
influence. Although a disciple of Jonson in comedy, he was a close
follower of Shakespeare in tragedy, and a student of the rhythms and
metres of Shakespeare's second manner,--of the period that saw 'Hamlet,'
'Macbeth,' and the plays clustering around them. Too great a poet
himself merely to imitate, Beaumont yet felt the influence of that still
greater poet who swayed every one of the later dramatists, with the
single exception perhaps of Jonson. But in pure comedy, mixed with farce
and mock-heroic parody, he belongs to the school of "rare Ben."
Fletcher, on the other hand, is more brilliant, more rapid and supple,
readier in his resources, of more startling invention. He has an
extraordinary swiftness and fluency of speech; and no other dramatist,
not even Shakespeare, equals him in the remarkable facility with which
he reproduces in light, airy verse the bantering conversations of the
young beaux and court-gentlemen of the time of James I. His peculiar
trick of the redundant syllable at the end of many of his lines is
largely responsible in producing this effect of ordinary speech, that
yet is verse without being prosy. There is a flavor about Fletcher's
work peculiarly its own. He created a new form of mixed comedy and
dramatic romance, dealing with the humors and mischances of men, yet
possessing a romantic coloring. He had great skill in combining his
effects, and threw a fresh charm and vividness over his fanciful world.
The quality of his genius is essentially bright and sunny, and therefore
he is best in his comic and romantic work. His tragedy, although it has
great pathos and passion, does not compel tears, nor does it subdue by
its terror. It lacks the note of inevitableness which is the final
touchstone of tragic greatness.
Their first joint play, 'Philaster, or Love Lies a-Bleeding,' acted in
1608, is in its detached passages the most famous. Among the others,
'The Maid's Tragedy,' produced about the same time, is their finest play
on its purely tragic side, although the plot is disagreeable. 'King and
No King' attracts because of the tender character-drawing of Panthea.
'The Scornful Lady' is noteworthy as the best exponent, outside his own
work, of the school of Jonson on its grosser side. 'The Knight of the
Burning Pestle' is at once a burlesque on knight-errantry and a comedy
Among the tragedies presumably produced by Fletcher alone, 'Bonduca' is
one of the best, followed closely by 'The False One,' 'Valentinian,' and
'Thierry and Theodoret.' 'The Chances' and 'The Wild Goose Chase' may be
taken as examples of the whole work on its comic side. 'The Humorous
Lieutenant' is the best expression of the faults and merits of Fletcher,
whose comedies Swinburne has divided into three groups: pure comedies,
heroic or romantic dramas, and mixed comedy and romance. To the first
group belong 'Rule a Wife and Have a Wife,' Fletcher's comic
masterpiece, 'Wit without Money,' 'The Wild Goose Chase,' 'The Chances,'
'The Noble Gentleman.' The second group includes 'The Knight of Malta,'
full of heroic passion and Catholic devotion, 'The Pilgrim,' 'The Loyal
Subject,' 'A Wife for a Month,' 'Love's Pilgrimage,' 'The Lover's
Progress.' The third group comprises 'The Spanish Curate,' 'Monsieur
Thomas,' 'The Custom of the Country,' 'The Elder Brother,' 'The Little
French Lawyer,' 'The Humorous Lieutenant,' 'Women Pleased,' 'Beggar's
Bush,' 'The Fair Maid of the Inn.'
Fletcher had a part with Shakespeare in the 'Two Noble Kinsmen,' and he
wrote also in conjunction with Massinger, Rowley, and others; Shirley,
too, is believed to have finished some of his plays.
Leaving aside Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher's plays are the best
dramatic expression of the romantic spirit of Elizabethan England. Their
luxurious, playful fancy delighted in the highly colored, spicy tales of
the Southern imagination which the Renaissance was then bringing into
England. They drew especially upon Spanish material, and their plays are
rightly interpreted only when studied in reference to this Spanish
foundation. But they are at the same time true Englishmen, and above all
true Elizabethans; which is as much as to say that, borne along by the
eager, strenuous spirit of their time, reaching out toward new
sensations and impressions, new countries and customs, and dazzled by
the romanesque and fantastic, they took up this exotic material and made
it acceptable to the English mind. They satisfied the curiosity of their
time, and expressed its surface ideas and longings. This accounts for
their great popularity, which in their day eclipsed even Shakespeare's,
as it accounts also for their shortcomings. They skimmed over the
surface of passion, they saw the pathos and the pity of it but not the
terror; they lacked Shakespeare's profound insight into the well-springs
of human action, and sacrificed truth of life to stage effect. They
shared with him one grave fault which is indeed the besetting sin of
dramatists, resulting in part from the necessarily curt and outline
action of the drama, in part from the love of audiences for strong
emotional effects; namely, the abrupt and unexplained moral revolutions
of their characters. Effects are too often produced without apparent
causes; a novelist has space to fill in the blanks. The sudden
contrition of the usurper in 'As You Like It' is a familiar instance;
Beaumont and Fletcher have plenty as bad. Probably there was more of
this in real life during the Middle Ages, when most people still had
much barbaric instability of feeling and were liable to sudden
revulsions of purpose, than in our more equable society. On the other
hand, virtue often suffers needlessly and acquiescingly.
In their speech they indulged in much license, Fletcher especially; he
was prone to confuse right and wrong. The strenuousness of the earlier
Elizabethan age was passing away, and the relaxing morality of Jacobean
society was making its way into literature, culminating in the entire
disintegration of the time of Charles II., which it is very shallow to
lay entirely to the Puritans. There would have been a time of great
laxity had Cromwell or the Puritan ascendancy never existed. Beaumont
and Fletcher, in their eagerness to please, took no thought of the
after-effects of their plays; morality did not enter into their scheme
of life. Yet they were not immoral, but merely unmoral. They lacked the
high seriousness that gives its permanent value to Shakespeare's tragic
work. They wrote not to embody the everlasting truths of life, as he
did; not because they were oppressed with the weight of a new message
striving for utterance; not because they were aflame with the passion
for the unattainable, as Marlowe; not to lash with the stings of bitter
mockery the follies and vices of their fellow-men, as Ben Jonson; not
primarily to make us shudder at the terrible tragedies enacted by
corrupted hearts, and the needless unending sufferings of persecuted
virtue, as Webster; nor yet to give us a faithful picture of the
different phases of life in Jacobean London, as Dekker, Heywood,
Middleton, and others. They wrote for the very joy of writing, to give
vent to their over-bubbling fancy and their tender feeling.
They are lyrical and descriptive poets of the first order, with a
wonderful ease and grace of expression. The songs scattered throughout
their plays are second only to Shakespeare's. The volume and variety of
their work is astonishing. They left more than fifty-two printed plays,
and all of these show an extraordinary power of invention; the most
diverse passions, characters, and situations enter into the work, their
stories stimulate our curiosity, and their characters appeal to our
sympathies. Especially in half-farcical, half-pathetic comedy they have
no superior; their wit and spirit here find freest play. Despite much
coarseness, their work is full of delicate sensibility, and suffused
with a romantic grace of form and a tenderness of expression that
endears them to our hearts, and makes them more lovable than any of
their brother dramatists, with the possible exception of genial Dekker.
The spirit of chivalry breathes through their work, and the gentleman
and scholar is always present. For in contradiction to most of their
fellow-workers, they were not on the stage; they never took part in its
more practical affairs either as actors or managers; they derived the
technical knowledge necessary to a successful playwright from their
intimacy with stage folk.
As poets, aside from their dramatic work, they occupy a secondary place.
Beaumont especially has left, beyond one or two exquisite lyrics, little
that is noteworthy, except some commendatory verses addressed to Jonson.
On the other hand, Fletcher's 'Faithful Shepherdess,' with Jonson's 'Sad
Shepherd' and Milton's 'Comus,' form that delightful trilogy of the
first pastoral poems in the English language.
The popularity of Beaumont and Fletcher in the seventeenth century, as
compared to that of Shakespeare, has been over-emphasized; for between
1623 and 1685 they have only two folio editions, those of 1647 and 1679,
as against four of Shakespeare. Their position among the Elizabethans is
unique. They did not found a school either in comedy or tragedy.
Massinger, who had more in common with them than any other of the
leading dramatists, cannot be called their disciple; for though he
worked in the same field, he is more sober and severe, more careful in
the construction of his plots, more of a satirist and stern judge of
society. With the succeeding playwrights the decadence of the
Elizabethan drama began.
THE FAITHFUL SHEPHERDESS
[Clorin, a shepherdess, watching by the grave of her lover, is found by
CLORIN--Hail, holy earth, whose cold arms do embrace
The truest man that ever fed his flocks
By the fat plains of fruitful Thessaly.
Thus I salute thy grave, thus do I pay
My early vows, and tribute of mine eyes,
To thy still loved ashes: thus I free
Myself from all ensuing heats and fires
Of love: all sports, delights, and jolly games,
That shepherds hold full dear, thus put I off.
Now no more shall these smooth brows be begirt
With youthful coronals, and lead the dance.
No more the company of fresh fair maids
And wanton shepherds be to me delightful:
Nor the shrill pleasing sound of merry pipes
Under some shady dell, when the cool wind
Plays on the leaves: all be far away,
Since thou art far away, by whose dear side
How often have I sat, crowned with fresh flowers
For summer's queen, whilst every shepherd's boy
Puts on his lusty green, with gaudy hook,
And hanging script of finest cordevan!
But thou art gone, and these are gone with thee,
And all are dead but thy dear memory;
That shall outlive thee, and shall ever spring,
Whilst there are pipes, or jolly shepherds sing.
And here will I, in honor of thy love,
Dwell by thy grave, forgetting all those joys
That former times made precious to mine eyes,
Only remembering what my youth did gain
In the dark hidden virtuous use of herbs.
That will I practice, and as freely give
All my endeavors, as I gained them free.
Of all green wounds I know the remedies
In men or cattle, be they stung with snakes,
Or charmed with powerful words of wicked art;
Or be they love-sick, or through too much heat
Grown wild, or lunatic; their eyes, or ears,
Thickened with misty film of dulling rheum:
These I can cure, such secret virtue lies
In herbs applied by a virgin's hand.
My meat shall be what these wild woods afford,
Berries and chestnuts, plantains, on whose cheeks
The sun sits smiling, and the lofty fruit
Pulled from the fair head of the straight-grown pine.
On these I'll feed with free content and rest,
When night shall blind the world, by thy side blessed
[_A Satyr enters_.]
_Satyr_--Through yon same bending plain
That flings his arms down to the main,
And through these thick woods have I run,
Whose bottom never kissed the sun.
Since the lusty spring began,
All to please my master Pan,
Have I trotted without rest
To get him fruit; for at a feast
He entertains this coming night
His paramour the Syrinx bright:
But behold a fairer sight!
By that heavenly form of thine,
Brightest fair, thou art divine,
Sprung from great immortal race
Of the gods, for in thy face
Shines more awful majesty
Than dull weak mortality
Dare with misty eyes behold,
And live: therefore on this mold
Lowly do I bend my knee
In worship of thy deity.
Deign it, goddess, from my hand
To receive whate'er this land
From her fertile womb doth send
Of her choice fruits; and--but lend
Belief to that the Satyr tells--
Fairer by the famous wells
To this present day ne'er grew,
Never better, nor more true.
Here be grapes, whose lusty blood
Is the learned poet's good;
Sweeter yet did never crown
The head of Bacchus: nuts more brown
Than the squirrels' teeth that crack them;
Deign, O fairest fair, to take them.
For these, black-eyed Driope
Hath oftentimes commanded me
With my clasped knee to climb.
See how well the lusty time
Hath decked their rising cheeks in red,
Such as on your lips is spread.
Here be berries for a queen;
Some be red, some be green;
These are of that luscious meat
The great god Pan himself doth eat:
All these, and what the woods can yield,
The hanging mountain, or the field,
I freely offer, and ere long
Will bring you more, more sweet and strong;
Till when humbly leave I take,
Lest the great Pan do awake,
That sleeping lies in a deep glade,
Under a broad beech's shade.
I must go, I must run,
Swifter than the fiery sun.
_Clorin_--And all my fears go with thee.
What greatness, or what private hidden power,
Is there in me to draw submission
From this rude man and beast? sure. I am mortal,
The daughter of a shepherd; he was mortal,
And she that bore me mortal; prick my hand
And it will bleed; a fever shakes me, and
The self-same wind that makes the young lambs shrink,
Makes me a-cold: my fear says I am mortal:
Yet I have heard (my mother told it me)
And now I do believe it, if I keep
My virgin flower uncropped, pure, chaste, and fair,
No goblin, wood-god, fairy, elf, or fiend,
Satyr, or other power that haunts the groves,
Shall hurt my body, or by vain illusion
Draw me to wander after idle fires,
Or voices calling me in dead of night
To make me follow, and so tole me on
Through mire, and standing pools, to find my ruin.
Else why should this rough thing, who never knew
Manners nor smooth humanity, whose heats
Are rougher than himself, and more misshapen,
Thus mildly kneel to me? Sure there's a power
In that great name of Virgin, that binds fast
All rude uncivil bloods, all appetites
That break their confines. Then, strong Chastity,
Be thou my strongest guard; for here I'll dwell
In opposition against fate and hell.
Care-charming Sleep, thou easer of all woes,
Brother to Death, sweetly thyself dispose
On this afflicted prince; fall, like a cloud,
In gentle showers; give nothing that is loud
Or painful to his slumbers; easy, light,
And as a purling stream, thou son of Night,
Pass by his troubled senses; sing his pain,
Like hollow murmuring wind or silver rain;
Into this prince gently, oh, gently slide,
And kiss him into slumbers like a bride!
God Lyaeus, ever young,
Ever honored, ever sung,
Stained with blood of lusty grapes,
In a thousand lusty shapes,
Dance upon the mazer's brim,
In the crimson liquor swim;
From thy plenteous hand divine,
Let a river run with wine.
God of youth, let this day here
Enter neither care nor fear!
Lay a garland on my hearse
Of the dismal yew;
Maidens, willow-branches bear;
Say I died true.
My love was false, but I was firm
From my hour of birth:
Upon my buried body lie
Lightly, gentle earth!
Dearest, do not you delay me,
Since thou know'st I must be gone;
Wind and tide, 'tis thought, doth stay me,
But 'tis wind that must be blown
From that breath, whose native smell
Indian odors far excel.
Oh then speak, thou fairest fair!
Kill not him that vows to serve thee;
But perfume this neighboring air,
Else dull silence, sure, will starve me:
'Tis a word that's quickly spoken,
Which being restrained, a heart is broken.
May I find a woman fair,
And her mind as clear as air:
If her beauty go alone,
'Tis to me as if 'twere none.
May I find a woman rich,
And not of too high a pitch:
If that pride should cause disdain,
Tell me, lover, where's thy gain?
May I find a woman wise,
And her falsehood not disguise:
Hath she wit as she hath will,
Double armed she is to ill.
May I find a woman kind,
And not wavering like the wind:
How should I call that love mine,
When 'tis his, and his, and thine?
May I find a woman true,
There is beauty's fairest hue,
There is beauty, love, and wit:
Happy he can compass it!
ODE TO MELANCHOLY
Hence, all you vain delights,
As short as are the nights
Wherein you spend your folly!
There's naught in this life sweet,
If man were wise to see 't,
But only melancholy;
Oh, sweetest melancholy!
Welcome, folded arms, and fixed eyes,
A sigh that piercing mortifies,
A look that's fastened to the ground,
A tongue chained up without a sound!
Fountain heads, and pathless groves,
Places which pale passion loves!
Moonlight walks when all the fowls
Are warmly housed, save bats and owls!
A midnight bell, a parting groan!
These are the sounds we feed upon;
Then stretch our bones in a still gloomy valley;
Nothing's so dainty sweet as lovely melancholy.
TO MY DEAR FRIEND, MASTER BENJAMIN JONSON,
UPON HIS 'FOX'
If it might stand with justice to allow
The swift conversion of all follies, now
Such is my mercy, that I could admit
All sorts should equally approve the wit
Of this thy even work, whose growing fame
Shall raise thee high, and thou it, with thy name;
And did not manners and my love command
Me to forbear to make those understand
Whom thou, perhaps, hast in thy wiser doom
Long since firmly resolved, shall never come
To know more than they do,--I would have shown
To all the world the art which thou alone
Hast taught our tongue, the rules of time, of place,
And other rites, delivered with the grace
Of comic style, which only is fat more
Than any English stage hath known before.
But since our subtle gallants think it good
To like of naught that may be understood,
Lest they should be disproved, or have, at best,
Stomachs so raw, that nothing can digest
But what's obscene, or barks,--let us desire
They may continue, simply to admire
Fine clothes and strange words, and may live, in age
To see themselves ill brought upon the stage,
And like it; whilst thy bold and knowing Muse
Contemns all praise, but such as thou wouldst choose.
ON THE TOMBS IN WESTMINSTER
Mortality, behold, and fear!
What a change of flesh is here!
Think how many royal bones
Sleep within this heap of stones:
Here they lie had realms and lands,
Who now want strength to stir their hands;
Where from their pulpits, soiled with dust,
They preach, "In greatness is no trust."
Here's an acre sown indeed
With the richest, royal'st seed,
That, the earth did e'er suck in
Since the first man died for sin:
Here the bones of birth have cried,
"Though gods they were, as men they died:"
Here are sands, ignoble things,
Dropt from the ruined sides of kings:
Here's a world of pomp and state
Buried in dust, once dead by fate.
FROM 'PHILASTER, OR LOVE LIES A-BLEEDING'
Lady--Here is my Lord Philaster.
_Arethusa_--Oh, 'tis well.
Withdraw yourself. _Exit Lady_.
_Philaster_--Madam, your messenger
Made me believe you wished to speak with me.
_Arethusa_--'Tis true, Philaster, but the words are such
I have to say, and do so ill beseem
The mouth of woman, that I wish them said,
And yet am loath to speak them. Have you known
That I have aught detracted from your worth?
Have I in person wronged you? or have set
My baser instruments to throw disgrace
Upon your virtues?
_Philaster_--Never, madam, you.
_Arethusa_--Why then should you, in such a public place,
Injure a princess, and a scandal lay
Upon my fortunes, famed to be so great,
Calling a great part of my dowry in question?
_Philaster_--Madam, this truth which I shall speak will be
Foolish: but, for your fair and virtuous self,
I could afford myself to have no right
To any thing you wished.
I must enjoy these kingdoms.
_Arethusa_--Both, or I die; by fate, I die, Philaster,
If I not calmly may enjoy them both.
_Philaster_--I would do much to save that noble life,
Yet would be loath to have posterity
Find in our stories, that Philaster gave
His right unto a sceptre and a crown
To save a lady's longing.
_Arethusa_--Nay, then, hear:
I must and will have them, and more--
_Arethusa_--Or lose that little life the gods prepared
To trouble this poor piece of earth withal.
_Philaster_--Madam, what more?
_Arethusa_--Turn, then, away thy face.
_Philaster_--I can endure it. Turn away my face!
I never yet saw enemy that looked
So dreadfully, but that I thought myself
As great a basilisk as he; or spake
So horribly, but that I thought my tongue
Bore thunder underneath, as much as his;
Nor beast that I could turn from: shall I then
Begin to fear sweet sounds? a lady's voice,
Whom I do love? Say, you would have my life:
Why, I will give it you; for 'tis to me
A thing so loathed, and unto you that ask
Of so poor use, that I shall make no price:
If you entreat, I will unmovedly hear.
_Arethusa_--Yet, for my sake, a little bend thy looks.
_Arethusa_--Then know, I must have them and thee.
_Arethusa_--Thy love; without which, all the land
Discovered yet will serve me for no use
But to be buried in.
_Arethusa_--With it, it were too little to bestow
On thee. Now, though thy breath do strike me dead,
(Which, know, it may,) I have unript my breast.
_Philaster_--Madam, you are too full of noble thoughts
To lay a train for this contemned life,
Which you may have for asking: to suspect
Were base, where I deserve no ill. Love you!
By all my hopes I do, above my life!
But how this passion should proceed from you
So violently, would amaze a man
That would be jealous.
_Arethusa_--Another soul into my body shot
Could not have filled me with more strength and spirit
Than this thy breath. But spend not hasty time
In seeking how I came thus: 'tis the gods,
The gods, that make me so; and sure, our love
Will be the nobler and the better blest,
In that the secret justice of the gods
Is mingled with it. Let us leave, and kiss:
Lest some unwelcome guest should fall betwixt us,
And we should part without it.
_Philaster_--'Twill be ill
I should abide here long.
_Arethusa_--'Tis true: and worse
You should come often. How shall we devise
To hold intelligence, that our true loves,
On any new occasion, may agree
What path is best to tread?
_Philaster_--I have a boy,
Sent by the gods, I hope, to this intent,
Yet not seen in the court. Hunting the buck,
I found him sitting by a fountain's side,
Of which he borrowed some to quench his thirst,
And paid the nymph again as much in tears.
A garland lay him by, made by himself
Of many several flowers bred in the vale,
Stuck in that mystic order that the rareness
Delighted me; but ever when he turned
His tender eyes upon 'em, he would weep,
As if he meant to make 'em grow again.
Seeing such pretty helpless innocence
Dwell in his face, I asked him all his story.
He told me that his parents gentle died,
Leaving him to the mercy of the fields,
Which gave him roots; and of the crystal springs,
Which did not stop their courses; and the sun,
Which still, he thanked him, yielded him his light.
Then took he up his garland, and did show
What every flower, as country-people hold,
Did signify, and how all, ordered thus,
Expressed his grief; and, to my thoughts, did read
The prettiest lecture of his country-art
That could be wished: so that methought I could
Have studied it. I gladly entertained
Him, who was glad to follow: and have got
The trustiest, loving'st, and the gentlest boy
That ever master kept. Him will I send
To wait on you, and bear our hidden love.
THE STORY OF BELLARIO
(For I must call thee still so), tell me why
Thou didst conceal thy sex. It was a fault,
A fault, Bellario, though thy other deeds
Of truth outweighed it: all these jealousies
Had flown to nothing, if thou hadst discovered
What now we know.
_Bellario_--My father oft would speak
Your worth and virtue; and as I did grow
More and more apprehensive, I did thirst
To see the man so praised. But yet all this
Was but a maiden-longing, to be lost
As soon as found; till, sitting in my window,
Printing my thoughts in lawn, I saw a god,
I thought (but it was you), enter our gates:
My blood flew out and back again, as fast
As I had puffed it forth and sucked it in
Like breath; then was I called away in haste
To entertain you. Never was a man
Heaved from a sheep-cote to a sceptre, raised
So high in thoughts as I. You left a kiss
Upon these lips then, which I mean to keep
From you for ever; I did hear you talk,
Far above singing. After you were gone,
I grew acquainted with my heart, and searched
What stirred it so: alas, I found it love!
Yet far from lust; for, could I but have lived
In presence of you, I had had my end.
For this I did delude my noble father
With a feigned pilgrimage, and dressed myself
In habit of a boy; and, for I knew
My birth no match for you, I was past hope
Of having you; and, understanding well
That when I made discovery of my sex
I could not stay with you, I made a vow,
By all the most religious things a maid
Could call together, never to be known,
Whilst there was hope to hide me from men's eyes.
For other than I seemed, that I might ever
Abide with you. Then sat I by the fount,
Where first you took me up.
_King_--Search out a match
Within our kingdom, where and when thou wilt,
And I will pay thy dowry; and thyself
Wilt well deserve him.
_Bellario_--Never, sir, will I
Marry; it is a thing within my vow:
But if I may have leave to serve the princess,
To see the virtues of her lord and her,
I shall have hope to live.
Cannot be jealous, though you had a lady
Drest like a page to serve you; nor will I
Suspect her living here.--Come, live with me;
Live free as I do. She that loves my lord,
Cursed be the wife that hates her!
FROM 'THE MAID'S TRAGEDY'
CONFESSION OF EVADNE TO AMINTOR
Evadne--Would I could say so [farewell] to my black disgrace!
Oh, where have I been all this time? how friended,
That I should lose myself thus desperately,
And none for pity show me how I wandered?
There is not in the compass of the light
A more unhappy creature: sure, I am monstrous;
For I have done those follies, those mad mischiefs,
Would dare a woman. Oh, my loaden soul,
Be not so cruel to me; choke not up
The way to my repentance!
O my lord!
_Evadne_--My much-abused lord! [_Kneels._]
_Amintor_--This cannot be!
_Evadne_--I do not kneel to live; I dare not hope it;
The wrongs I did are greater. Look upon me,
Though I appear with all my faults.
This is a new way to beget more sorrows:
Heaven knows I have too many. Do not mock me:
Though I am tame, and bred up with my wrongs,
Which are my foster-brothers, I may leap,
Like a hand-wolf, into my natural wildness,
And do an outrage: prithee, do not mock me,
_Evadne_--My whole life is so leprous, it infects
All my repentance. I would buy your pardon,
Though at the highest set, even with my life:
That slight contrition, that's no sacrifice
For what I have committed.
_Amintor_--Sure, I dazzle:
There cannot be a faith in that foul woman,
That knows no God more mighty than her mischiefs.
Thou dost still worse, still number on thy faults,
To press my poor heart thus. Can I believe
There's any seed of virtue in that woman
Left to shoot up that dares go on in sin
Known, and so known as thine is? O Evadne!
Would there were any safety in thy sex,
That I might put a thousand sorrows off,
And credit thy repentance! but I must not:
Thou hast brought me to that dull calamity,
To that strange misbelief of all the world
And all things that are in it, that I fear
I shall fall like a tree, and find my grave,
Only remembering that I grieve.
Give me your griefs: you are an innocent,
A soul as white as Heaven; let not my sins
Perish your noble youth. I do not fall here
To shadow by dissembling with my tears,
(As all say women can,) or to make less
What my hot will hath done, which Heaven and you
Know to be tougher than the hand of time
Can cut from man's remembrances; no, I do not;
I do appear the same, the same Evadne,
Drest in the shames I lived in, the same monster.
But these are names of honor to what I am:
I do present myself the foulest creature,
Most poisonous, dangerous, and despised of men,
Lerna e'er bred, or Nilus. I am hell,
Till you, my dear lord, shoot your light into me,
The beams of your forgiveness; I am soul-sick,
And wither with the fear of one condemned,
Till I have got your pardon.
Those heavenly powers that put this good into thee
Grant a continuance of it! I forgive thee:
Make thyself worthy of it; and take heed,
Take heed, Evadne, this be serious.
Mock not the powers above, that can and dare
Give thee a great example of their justice
To all ensuing ages, if thou playest
With thy repentance, the best sacrifice.
_Evadne_--I have done nothing good to win belief,
My life hath been so faithless. All the creatures
Made for Heaven's honors have their ends, and good ones,
All but the cozening crocodiles, false women:
They reign here like those plagues, those killing sores,
Men pray against; and when they die, like tales
Ill told and unbelieved, they pass away,
And go to dust forgotten. But, my lord,
Those short days I shall number to my rest
(As many must not see me) shall, though too late,
Though in my evening, yet perceive a will,
Since I can do no good, because a woman,
Reach constantly at something that is near it;
I will redeem one minute of my age,
Or, like another Niobe, I'll weep,
Till I am water.
_Amintor_--I am now dissolved:
My frozen soul melts. May each sin thou hast,
Find a new mercy! Rise; I am at peace.
Hadst thou been thus, thus excellently good,
Before that devil-king tempted thy frailty,
Sure thou hadst made a star. Give me thy hand:
From this time I will know thee; and as far
As honor gives me leave, be thy Amintor.
When we meet next, I will salute thee fairly,
And pray the gods to give thee happy days:
My charity shall go along with thee,
Though my embraces must be far from thee.
I should have killed thee, but this sweet repentance
Locks up my vengeance: for which thus I kiss thee--
The last kiss we must take; and would to Heaven
The holy priest that gave our hands together
Had given us equal virtues! Go, Evadne;
The gods thus part our bodies. Have a care
My honor falls no farther: I am well, then.
_Evadne_--All the dear joys here, and above hereafter,
Crown thy fair soul! Thus I take leave, my lord;
And never shall you see the foul Evadne,
Till she have tried all honored means, that may
Set her in rest and wash her stains away.
THE DEATH OF THE BOY HENGO
[_Scene: A field between the British and the Roman camps._]
_Caratach_--How does my boy?
_Hengo_--I would do well; my heart's well;
I do not fear.
_Caratach_--My good boy!
_Hengo_--I know, uncle,
We must all die: my little brother died;
I saw him die, and he died smiling; sure,
There's no great pain in't, uncle. But pray tell me,
Whither must we go when we are dead?
_Caratach [aside]_--Strange questions!
Why, the blessed'st place, boy! ever sweetness
And happiness dwell there.
_Hengo_--Will you come to me?
_Caratach_--Yes, my sweet boy.
_Hengo_--Mine aunt too, and my cousins?
_Caratach_--All, my good child.
_Hengo_--No Romans, uncle?
_Hengo_--I should be loath to meet them there.
_Caratach_--No ill men,
That live by violence and strong oppression,
Come thither: 'tis for those the gods love, good men.
_Hengo_--Why, then, I care not when I go, for surely
I am persuaded they love me: I never
Blasphemed 'em, uncle, nor transgressed my parents;
I always said my prayers.
_Caratach_--Thou shalt go, then;
Indeed thou shalt.
_Hengo_--When they please.
_Caratach_--That's my good boy!
Art thou not weary, Hengo?
I have heard you say you have marched all day in armor.
_Caratach_--I have, boy.
_Hengo_--Am not I your kinsman?
_Hengo_--And am not I as fully allied unto you
In those brave things as blood?
_Caratach_--Thou art too tender.
_Hengo_--To go upon my legs? they were made to bear me.
I can play twenty miles a day; I see no reason
But, to preserve my country and myself,
I should march forty.
_Caratach_--What wouldst thou be, living
To wear a man's strength!
_Hengo_--Why, a Caratach,
A Roman-hater, a scourge sent from Heaven
To whip these proud thieves from our kingdom. Hark!
* * * * *
[_They are on a rock in the rear of a wood._]
_Caratach_--Courage, my boy! I have found meat: look, Hengo,
Look where some blessed Briton, to preserve thee,
Has hung a little food and drink: cheer up, boy;
Do not forsake me now.
_Hengo_--O uncle, uncle,
I feel I cannot stay long! yet I'll fetch it,
To keep your noble life. Uncle, I am heart-whole,
And would live.
_Caratach_--Thou shalt, long, I hope.
_Hengo_--But my head, uncle!
Methinks the rock goes round.
[_Enter Macer and Judas, and remain at the side of the stage._]
_Macer_--Mark 'em well, Judas.
_Judas_--Peace, as you love your life.
_Hengo_--Do not you hear
The noise of bells?
_Caratach_--Of bells, boy! 'tis thy fancy;
Alas, thy body's full of wind!
They ring a strange sad knell, a preparation
To some near funeral of state: nay, weep not,
Mine own sweet uncle; you will kill me sooner.
_Caratach_--O my poor chicken!
_Hengo_--Fie, faint-hearted uncle!
Come, tie me in your belt and let me down.
_Caratach_--I'll go myself, boy.
_Hengo_--No, as you love me, uncle:
I will not eat it, if I do not fetch it;
The danger only I desire: pray, tie me.
_Caratach_--I will, and all my care hang o'er thee! Come, child,
My valiant child!
_Hengo_--Let me down apace, uncle,
And you shall see how like a daw I'll whip it
From all their policies; for 'tis most certain
A Roman train: and you must hold me sure, too;
You'll spoil all else. When I have brought it, uncle,
We'll be as merry--
_Caratach_--Go, i' the name of Heaven, boy!
[_Lets Hengo down by his belt._]
_Hengo_--Quick, quick, uncle! I have it.
[_Judas shoots Hengo with an arrow_.] Oh!
_Caratach_--What ail'st thou?
_Hengo_--Oh, my best uncle, I am slain!
_Caratach [to Judas]_--I see you,
And Heaven direct my hand! destruction
Go with thy coward soul!
[_Kills Judas with a stone, and then draws up Hengo. Exit Macer._]
How dost thou, boy?--
O villain, pocky villain!
_Hengo_--Oh, uncle, uncle,
Oh, how it pricks me!--am I preserved for this?--
Extremely pricks me!
_Caratach_--Coward, rascal coward!
Dogs eat thy flesh!
_Hengo_--Oh, I bleed hard! I faint too; out upon't,
How sick I am!--The lean rogue, uncle!
I have laid him sure enough.
_Hengo_--Have you knocked his brains out?
_Caratach_--I warrant thee, for stirring more: cheer up, child.
_Hengo_--Hold my sides hard; stop, stop; oh, wretched fortune,
Must we part thus? Still I grow sicker, uncle.
_Caratach_--Heaven look upon this noble child!
_Hengo_--I once hoped
I should have lived to have met these bloody Romans
At my sword's point, to have revenged my father,
To have beaten 'em,--oh, hold me hard!--but, uncle--
_Caratach_--Thou shalt live still, I hope, boy. Shall I draw it?
_Hengo_--You draw away my soul, then. I would live
A little longer--spare me, Heavens!--but only
To thank you for your tender love: good uncle,
Good noble uncle, weep not.
_Caratach_--O my chicken,
My dear boy, what shall I lose?
_Hengo_--Why, a child,
That must have died however; had this 'scaped me,
Fever or famine--I was born to die, sir.
_Caratach_--But thus unblown, my boy?
_Hengo_--I go the straighter
My journey to the gods. Sure, I shall know you
When you come, uncle.
_Hengo_--And I hope
We shall enjoy together that great blessedness
You told me of.
_Caratach_--Most certain, child.
_Hengo_--I grow cold;
Mine eyes are going.
_Caratach_--Lift 'em up.
_Hengo_--Pray for me;
And, noble uncle, when my bones are ashes,
Think of your little nephew!--Mercy!
You blessed angels, take him!
_Hengo_--Kiss me: so.
Farewell, farewell! [_Dies._]
_Caratach_--Farewell, the hopes of Britain!
Thou royal graft, farewell for ever!--Time and Death,
Ye have done your worst. Fortune, now see, now proudly
Pluck off thy veil and view thy triumph; look,
Look what thou hast brought this land to!--O fair flower,
How lovely yet thy ruins show, how sweetly
Even death embraces thee! the peace of Heaven,
The fellowship of all great souls, be with thee!
FROM 'THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN'
BY SHAKESPEARE AND FLETCHER
Roses, their sharp spines being gone,
Not royal in their smells alone,
But in their hue;
Maiden-pinks, of odor faint,
Daisies smell-less yet most quaint,
And sweet thyme true;
Primrose, first-born child of Ver,
Merry spring-time's harbinger,
With her bells dim;
Oxlips in their cradles growing,
Marigolds on death-beds blowing,
All, dear Nature's children sweet,
Lie 'fore bride and bridegroom's feet,
Blessing their sense!
Not an angel of the air,
Bird melodious or bird fair,
Be absent hence!
The crow, the slanderous cuckoo, nor
The boding raven, nor chough hoar,
Nor chattering pie,
May on our bride-house perch or sing,
Or with them any discord bring,
But from it fly!
The translation from a defective Arabic manuscript of the 'Book of the
Thousand Nights and A Night,' first into the French by Galland, about
1705, and presently into various English versions, exerted an immediate
influence on French, German, and English romance. The pseudo-Oriental or
semi-Oriental tale of home-manufacture sprang into existence right and
left with the publishers of London and Paris, and in German centres of
letters. Hope's 'Anastasius, or Memoirs of a Modern Greek,' Lewis's 'The
Monk,' the German Hauff's admirable 'Stories of the Caravan, the Inn,
and the Palace,' Rueckert's 'Tales of the Genii,' and William Beckford's
'History of the Caliph Vathek,' are among the finest performances of the
sort: productions more or less Eastern in sentiment and in their details
of local color, but independent of direct originals in the Persian or
Arabic, so far as is conclusively known.
[Illustration: WILLIAM BECKFORD]
William Beckford, born at London in 1759 (of a strong line which
included a governor of Jamaica), dying in 1844, is a figure of
distinction merely as an Englishman of his time, aside from his one
claim to literary remembrance. His father's death left him the richest
untitled citizen of England. He was not sent to a university, but
immense care was given to his education, in which Lord Chatham
personally interested himself; and he traveled widely. The result of
this, on a very receptive mind with varied natural gifts, was to make
Beckford an ideal dilettante. His tastes in literature, painting, music
(in which Mozart was his tutor), sculpture, architecture, and what not,
were refined to the highest nicety. He was able to gratify each of them
as such a man can rarely have the means to do. He built palaces and
towers of splendor instead of merely a beautiful country seat. He tried
to reproduce Vathek's halls in stone and stucco, employing relays of
workmen by day and night, on two several occasions and estates, for many
months. Where other men got together moderate collections of _bibelots_,
Beckford amassed whole museums. If a builder's neglect or a fire
destroyed his rarities and damaged his estates to the extent of forty or
fifty thousand pounds, Beckford merely rebuilt and re-collected. These
tastes and lavish expenditures gradually set themselves in a current
toward things Eastern. His magnificent retreat at Cintra in Portugal,
his vast Fonthill Abbey and Lansdowne Hill estates in England, were only
appanages of his sumptuous state. England and Europe talked of him and
of his properties. He was a typical egotist: but an agreeable and
gracious man, esteemed by a circle of friends not called upon to be his
sycophants; and he kept in close touch with the intellectual life of
He wrote much, for an amateur, and in view of the tale which does him
most honor, he wrote with success. At twenty he invited publicity with a
satiric _jeu d'esprit,_ 'Biographical Memoirs of Extraordinary
Painters'; and his 'Italy, with Sketches of Spain and Portugal,' and
'Recollections of an Excursion to the Monasteries of Alcobaba and
Baltalha,' were well received. But these books could not be expected to
survive even three generations; whereas 'Vathek,' the brilliant, the
unique, the inimitable 'Vathek,' took at once a place in literature
which we may now almost dare to call permanent. This story, not a long
one,--indeed, no more than a novelette in size,--was originally written
in French, and still lives in that language; in which an edition, hardly
the best, has lately been issued under the editorship of M. Mallarme.
But its history is complicated by one of the most notable acts of
literary treachery and theft on record. During the author's slow and
finicky composition of it at Lausanne, he was sending it piecemeal to
his friend Robert Henley in England for Henley to make an English
version, of course to be revised by himself. As soon as Henley had all
the parts, he published a hasty and slipshod translation, before
Beckford had seen it or was even ready to publish the French original;
and not only did so, but published it as a tale translated by himself
from a genuine Arabic original. This double violation of good faith of
course enraged Beckford, and practically separated the two men for the
rest of their lives; indeed, the wonder is that Beckford would ever
recognize Henley's existence again. The piracy was exposed and set
aside, and Beckford in self-defense issued the story himself in French
as soon as he could; indeed, he issued it in two versions with curious
and interesting differences, one published at Lausanne and the other at
Paris. The Lausanne edition is preferable.
'Vathek' abides to-day accredited to Beckford in both French and
English; a thing to keep his memory green as nothing else of his work or
personality will. The familiar legend that in its present form it was
composed at a single sitting, with such ardor as to entail a severe
illness, and "without the author's taking off his clothes," cannot be
reconciled with the known facts. But the intensely vivid movement of it
certainly suggests swift production; and it could easily be thought that
any author had sketched such a story in the heat of some undisturbed
sitting, and filled, finished, and polished it at leisure. It is an
extraordinary performance; even in Henley's unsatisfactory version it is
irresistible. We know that Beckford expected to add liberally to it by
inserting sundry subordinate tales, put into the mouths of some of the
personages appearing in the last scene. It is quite as well that he did
not. Its distinctive Orientalism, perhaps less remarkable than the
unfettered imagination of its episodes, the vividness of its characters,
the easy brilliancy of its literary manner--these things, with French
diction and French wit, alternate with startling descriptive
impressiveness. It is a French combination of Cervantes and Dante, in an
Oriental and bizarre narrative. It is not always delicate, but it is
never vulgar, and the sprightly pages are as admirable as the weird
ones. Its pictures, taken out of their connection, seem irrelevant, and
are certainly unlike enough; but they are a succession of surprises and
fascinations. Such are the famous description of the chase of Vathek's
court after the Giaour; the moonlit departure of the Caliph for the
Terrace of Istakhar; the episodes of his stay under the roof of the Emir
Fakreddin; the pursuit by Carathis on "her great camel Alboufaki,"
attended by "the hideous Nerkes and the unrelenting Cafour"; Nouronihar
drawn to the magic flame in the dell at night; the warning of the good
Jinn; and the tremendous final tableau of the Hall of Eblis.
The man curious in letters regards with affection the evidences of
vitality in a brief production little more than a century old; unique in
English and French literature, and occupying to-day a high rank among
the small group of _quasi_-Oriental narratives that represent the direct
workings of Galland on the Occidental literary temperament. Today
'Vathek' surprises and delights persons whose mental constitution puts
them in touch with it, just as potently as ever it did. And simply as a
wild story, one fancies that it will appeal quite as effectually, no
matter how many editions may be its future, to a public perhaps
unsympathetic toward its elliptical satire, its caustic wit, its
fantastic course of narrative, and its incongruous wavering between the
flippant, the grotesque, and the terrific.
THE INCANTATION AND THE SACRIFICE
From 'The History of the Caliph Vathek'
By secret stairs, known only to herself and her son, she [Carathis]
first repaired to the mysterious recesses in which were deposited the
mummies that had been brought from the catacombs of the ancient
Pharaohs. Of these she ordered several to be taken. From thence she
resorted to a gallery, where, under the guard of fifty female negroes,
mute, and blind of the right eye, were preserved the oil of the most
venomous serpents, rhinoceros horns, and woods of a subtle and
penetrating odor, procured from the interior of the Indies, together
with a thousand other horrible rarities. This collection had been formed
for a purpose like the present by Carathis herself, from a presentiment
that she might one day enjoy some intercourse with the infernal powers,
to whom she had ever been passionately attached, and to whose taste she
was no stranger.
To familiarize herself the better with the horrors in view the Princess
remained in the company of her negresses, who squinted in the most
amiable manner from the only eye they had, and leered with exquisite
delight at the skulls and skeletons which Carathis had drawn forth from
Whilst she was thus occupied, the Caliph, who, instead of the visions he
expected, had acquired in these insubstantial regions a voracious
appetite, was greatly provoked at the negresses: for, having totally
forgotten their deafness, he had impatiently asked them for food; and
seeing them regardless of his demand, he began to cuff, pinch, and push
them, till Carathis arrived to terminate a scene so indecent....
"Son! what means all this?" said she, panting for breath. "I thought I
heard as I came up, the shriek of a thousand bats, tearing from their
crannies in the recesses of a cavern.... You but ill deserve the
admirable provision I have brought you."
"Give it me instantly!" exclaimed the Caliph: "I am perishing for
"As to that," answered she, "you must have an excellent stomach if it
can digest what I have been preparing."
"Be quick," replied the Caliph. "But oh, heavens! what horrors! What do
"Come, come," returned Carathis, "be not so squeamish, but help me to
arrange everything properly, and you shall see that what you reject
with such symptoms of disgust will soon complete your felicity. Let us
get ready the pile for the sacrifice of to-night, and think not of
eating till that is performed. Know you not that all solemn rites are
preceded by a rigorous abstinence?"
The Caliph, not daring to object, abandoned himself to grief, and the
wind that ravaged his entrails, whilst his mother went forward with the
requisite operations. Phials of serpents' oil, mummies, and bones were
soon set in order on the balustrade of the tower. The pile began to
rise; and in three hours was as many cubits high. At length darkness
approached, and Carathis, having stripped herself to her inmost garment,
clapped her hands in an impulse of ecstasy, and struck light with all
her force. The mutes followed her example: but Vathek, extenuated with
hunger and impatience, was unable to support himself, and fell down in a
swoon. The sparks had already kindled the dry wood; the venomous oil
burst into a thousand blue flames; the mummies, dissolving, emitted a
thick dun vapor; and the rhinoceros' horns beginning to consume, all
together diffused such a stench, that the Caliph, recovering, started
from his trance and gazed wildly on the scene in full blaze around him.
The oil gushed forth in a plenitude of streams; and the negresses, who
supplied it without intermission, united their cries to those of the
Princess. At last the fire became so violent, and the flames reflected
from the polished marble so dazzling, that the Caliph, unable to
withstand the heat and the blaze, effected his escape, and clambered up
the imperial standard.
In the mean time, the inhabitants of Samarah, scared at the light which
shone over the city, arose in haste, ascended their roofs, beheld the
tower on fire, and hurried half-naked to the square. Their love to their
sovereign immediately awoke; and apprehending him in danger of perishing
in his tower, their whole thoughts were occupied with the means of his
safety. Morakanabad flew from his retirement, wiped away his tears, and
cried out for water like the rest. Bababalouk, whose olfactory nerves
were more familiarized to magical odors, readily conjecturing that
Carathis was engaged in her favorite amusements, strenuously exhorted
them not to be alarmed. Him, however, they treated as an old poltroon;
and forbore not to style him a rascally traitor. The camels and
dromedaries were advancing with water, but no one knew by which way to
enter the tower. Whilst the populace was obstinate in forcing the doors,
a violent east wind drove such a volume of flame against them, as at
first forced them off, but afterwards rekindled their zeal. At the same
time, the stench of the horns and mummies increasing, most of the crowd
fell backward in a state of suffocation. Those that kept their feet
mutually wondered at the cause of the smell, and admonished each other
to retire. Morakanabad, more sick than the rest, remained in a piteous
condition. Holding his nose with one hand, he persisted in his efforts
with the other to burst open the doors, and obtain admission. A hundred
and forty of the strongest and most resolute at length accomplished
Carathis, alarmed at the signs of her mutes, advanced to the staircase,
went down a few steps, and heard several voices calling out
"You shall in a moment have water!"
Being rather alert, considering her age, she presently regained the top
of the tower, and bade her son suspend the sacrifice for some
"We shall soon be enabled to render it more grateful. Certain dolts of
your subjects, imagining, no doubt, that we were on fire, have been rash
enough to break through those doors, which had hitherto remained
inviolate, for the sake of bringing up water. They are very kind, you
must allow, so soon to forget the wrongs you have done them: but that is
of little moment. Let us offer them to the Giaour. Let them come up: our
mutes, who neither want strength nor experience, will soon dispatch
them, exhausted as they are with fatigue."
"Be it so," answered the Caliph, "provided we finish, and I dine."
In fact, these good people, out of breath from ascending eleven thousand
stairs in such haste, and chagrined at having spilt, by the way, the
water they had taken, were no sooner arrived at the top than the blaze
of the flames and the fumes of the mummies at once overpowered their
senses. It was a pity! for they beheld not the agreeable smile with
which the mutes and the negresses adjusted the cord to their necks:
these amiable personages rejoiced, however, no less at the scene. Never
before had the ceremony of strangling been performed with so much
facility. They all fell without the least resistance or struggle; so
that Vathek, in the space of a few moments, found himself surrounded by