Part 2 out of 2
Thwart me in deed at every step I take:
When just about to wreak a just revenge
Upon that old arch-traitor of you all,
Filch from my vengeance him I hate; and him
I loved--the first and only face--till this--
I cared to look on in your ugly court--
And now when palpably I grasp at last
What hitherto but shadow'd in my dreams--
Affiances and interferences,
The first who dares to meddle with me more--
Princes and chamberlains and counsellors,
Touch her who dares!--
That dare I--
SEG. (seizing him by the throat).
His strength's a lion's--
(Voices within. The King! The King!--)
And on a sudden how he stands at gaze
As might a wolf just fasten'd on his prey,
Glaring at a suddenly encounter'd lion.
And I that hither flew with open arms
To fold them round my son, must now return
To press them to an empty heart again!
(He sits on the throne.)
That is the King?--My father?
(After a long pause.)
I have heard
That sometimes some blind instinct has been known
To draw to mutual recognition those
Of the same blood, beyond all memory
Divided, or ev'n never met before.
I know not how this is--perhaps in brutes
That live by kindlier instincts--but I know
That looking now upon that head whose crown
Pronounces him a sovereign king, I feel
No setting of the current in my blood
Tow'rd him as sire. How is't with you, old man,
Tow'rd him they call your son?--
Your sorrow, then?
Beholding what I do.
Ay, but how know this sorrow that has grown
And moulded to this present shape of man,
As of your own creation?
Ev'n from birth.
But from that hour to this, near, as I think,
Some twenty such renewals of the year
As trace themselves upon the barren rocks,
I never saw you, nor you me--unless,
Unless, indeed, through one of those dark masks
Through which a son might fail to recognize
The best of fathers.
Be that as you will:
But, now we see each other face to face,
Know me as you I know; which did I not,
By whatsoever signs, assuredly
You were not here to prove it at my risk.
You are my father.
And is it true then, as Clotaldo swears,
'Twas you that from the dawning birth of one
Yourself brought into being,--you, I say,
Who stole his very birthright; not alone
That secondary and peculiar right
Of sovereignty, but even that prime
Inheritance that all men share alike,
And chain'd him--chain'd him!--like a wild beast's whelp.
Among as savage mountains, to this hour?
Answer if this be thus.
In all that I have done that seems to you,
And, without further hearing, fairly seems,
Unnatural and cruel--'twas not I,
But One who writes His order in the sky
I dared not misinterpret nor neglect,
Who knows with what reluctance--
Oh, those stars,
Those stars, that too far up from human blame
To clear themselves, or careless of the charge,
Still bear upon their shining shoulders all
The guilt men shift upon them!
Nay, but think:
Not only on the common score of kind,
But that peculiar count of sovereignty--
If not behind the beast in brain as heart,
How should I thus deal with my innocent child,
Doubly desired, and doubly dear when come,
As that sweet second-self that all desire,
And princes more than all, to root themselves
By that succession in their people's hearts,
Unless at that superior Will, to which
Not kings alone, but sovereign nature bows?
And what had those same stars to tell of me
That should compel a father and a king
So much against that double instinct?
Which I have brought you hither, at my peril,
Against their written warning, to disprove,
By justice, mercy, human kindliness.
And therefore made yourself their instrument
To make your son the savage and the brute
They only prophesied?--Are you not afear'd,
Lest, irrespective as such creatures are
Of such relationship, the brute you made
Revenge the man you marr'd--like sire, like son.
To do by you as you by me have done?
You never had a savage heart from me;
I may appeal to Poland.
Then from whom?
If pure in fountain, poison'd by yourself
When scarce begun to flow.--To make a man
Not, as I see, degraded from the mould
I came from, nor compared to those about,
And then to throw your own flesh to the dogs!--
Why not at once, I say, if terrified
At the prophetic omens of my birth,
Have drown'd or stifled me, as they do whelps
Too costly or too dangerous to keep?
That, living, you might learn to live, and rule
Yourself and Poland.
By the means you took
To spoil for either?
Nay, but, Segismund!
You know not--cannot know--happily wanting
The sad experience on which knowledge grows,
How the too early consciousness of power
Spoils the best blood; nor whether for your long
Constrain'd disheritance (which, but for me,
Remember, and for my relenting love
Bursting the bond of fate, had been eternal)
You have not now a full indemnity;
Wearing the blossom of your youth unspent
In the voluptuous sunshine of a court,
That often, by too early blossoming,
Too soon deflowers the rose of royalty.
Ay, but what some precocious warmth may spill,
May not an early frost as surely kill?
But, Segismund, my son, whose quick discourse
Proves I have not extinguish'd and destroy'd
The Man you charge me with extinguishing,
However it condemn me for the fault
Of keeping a good light so long eclipsed,
Reflect! This is the moment upon which
Those stars, whose eyes, although we see them not,
By day as well as night are on us still,
Hang watching up in the meridian heaven
Which way the balance turns; and if to you--
As by your dealing God decide it may,
To my confusion!--let me answer it
Unto yourself alone, who shall at once
Approve yourself to be your father's judge,
And sovereign of Poland in his stead,
By justice, mercy, self-sobriety,
And all the reasonable attributes
Without which, impotent to rule himself,
Others one cannot, and one must not rule;
But which if you but show the blossom of--
All that is past we shall but look upon
As the first out-fling of a generous nature
Rioting in first liberty; and if
This blossom do but promise such a flower
As promises in turn its kindly fruit:
Forthwith upon your brows the royal crown,
That now weighs heavy on my aged brows,
I will devolve; and while I pass away
Into some cloister, with my Maker there
To make my peace in penitence and prayer,
Happily settle the disorder'd realm
That now cries loudly for a lineal heir.
When the crown falters on your shaking head,
And slips the sceptre from your palsied hand,
And Poland for her rightful heir cries out;
When not only your stol'n monopoly
Fails you of earthly power, but 'cross the grave
The judgment-trumpet of another world
Calls you to count for your abuse of this;
Then, oh then, terrified by the double danger,
You drag me from my den--
Boast not of giving up at last the power
You can no longer hold, and never rightly
Held, but in fee for him you robb'd it from;
And be assured your Savage, once let loose,
Will not be caged again so quickly; not
By threat or adulation to be tamed,
Till he have had his quarrel out with those
Who made him what he is.
Subdue the kindled Tiger in your eye,
Nor dream that it was sheer necessity
Made me thus far relax the bond of fate,
And, with far more of terror than of hope
Threaten myself, my people, and the State.
Know that, if old, I yet have vigour left
To wield the sword as well as wear the crown;
And if my more immediate issue fail,
Not wanting scions of collateral blood,
Whose wholesome growth shall more than compensate
For all the loss of a distorted stem.
That will I straightway bring to trial--Oh,
After a revelation such as this,
The Last Day shall have little left to show
Of righted wrong and villainy requited!
Nay, Judgment now beginning upon earth,
Myself, methinks, in sight of all my wrongs,
Appointed heaven's avenging minister,
Accuser, judge, and executioner
Sword in hand, cite the guilty--First, as worst,
The usurper of his son's inheritance;
Him and his old accomplice, time and crime
Inveterate, and unable to repay
The golden years of life they stole away.
What, does he yet maintain his state, and keep
The throne he should be judged from? Down with him,
That I may trample on the false white head
So long has worn my crown! Where are my soldiers?
Of all my subjects and my vassals here
Not one to do my bidding? Hark! A trumpet!
(He pauses as the trumpet sounds as in Act I., and masked Soldiers
gradually fill in behind the Throne.)
KING (rising before his throne).
Ay, indeed, the trumpet blows
A memorable note, to summon those
Who, if forthwith you fall not at the feet
Of him whose head you threaten with the dust,
Forthwith shall draw the curtain of the Past
About you; and this momentary gleam
Of glory that you think to hold life-fast,
So coming, so shall vanish, as a dream.
He prophesies; the old man prophesies;
And, at his trumpet's summons, from the tower
The leash-bound shadows loosen'd after me
My rising glory reach and over-lour--
But, reach not I my height, he shall not hold,
But with me back to his own darkness!
(He dashes toward the throne and is enclosed by the soldiers.)
Hold off! Unhand me!--Am not I your king?
And you would strangle him!--
But I am breaking with an inward Fire
Shall scorch you off, and wrap me on the wings
Of conflagration from a kindled pyre
Of lying prophecies and prophet-kings
Above the extinguish'd stars--Reach me the sword
He flung me--Fill me such a bowl of wine
As that you woke the day with--
And shall close,--
But of the vintage that Clotaldo knows.
SCENE I.--The Tower, etc., as in Act I. Scene I.
Segismund, as at first, and Clotaldo
Princes and princesses, and counsellors
Fluster'd to right and left--my life made at--
But that was nothing
Even the white-hair'd, venerable King
Seized on--Indeed, you made wild work of it;
And so discover'd in your outward action,
Flinging your arms about you in your sleep,
Grinding your teeth--and, as I now remember,
Woke mouthing out judgment and execution,
On those about you.
Ay, I did indeed.
Ev'n now your eyes stare wild; your hair stands up--
Your pulses throb and flutter, reeling still
Under the storm of such a dream--
That seem'd as swearable reality
As what I wake in now.
Imagination in a sleeping brain
Out of the uncontingent senses draws
Sensations strong as from the real touch;
That we not only laugh aloud, and drench
With tears our pillow; but in the agony
Of some imaginary conflict, fight
And struggle--ev'n as you did; some, 'tis thought,
Under the dreamt-of stroke of death have died.
And what so very strange too--In that world
Where place as well as people all was strange,
Ev'n I almost as strange unto myself,
You only, you, Clotaldo--you, as much
And palpably yourself as now you are,
Came in this very garb you ever wore,
By such a token of the past, you said,
To assure me of that seeming present.
Ay; and even told me of the very stars
You tell me here of--how in spite of them,
I was enlarged to all that glory.
Ay, By the false spirits' nice contrivance thus
A little truth oft leavens all the false,
The better to delude us.
For you know
'Tis nothing but a dream?
Nay, you yourself
Know best how lately you awoke from that
You know you went to sleep on?--
Why, have you never dreamt the like before?
Never, to such reality.
Are oftentimes the sleeping exhalations
Of that ambition that lies smouldering
Under the ashes of the lowest fortune;
By which, when reason slumbers, or has lost
The reins of sensible comparison,
We fly at something higher than we are--
Scarce ever dive to lower--to be kings,
Or conquerors, crown'd with laurel or with gold,
Nay, mounting heaven itself on eagle wings.
Which, by the way, now that I think of it,
May furnish us the key to this high flight
That royal Eagle we were watching, and
Talking of as you went to sleep last night.
Last night? Last night?
Ay, do you not remember
Envying his immunity of flight,
As, rising from his throne of rock, he sail'd
Above the mountains far into the West,
That burn'd about him, while with poising wings
He darkled in it as a burning brand
Is seen to smoulder in the fire it feeds?
Last night--last night--Oh, what a day was that
Between that last night and this sad To-day!
And yet, perhaps,
Only some few dark moments, into which
Imagination, once lit up within
And unconditional of time and space,
Can pour infinities.
And I remember
How the old man they call'd the King, who wore
The crown of gold about his silver hair,
And a mysterious girdle round his waist,
Just when my rage was roaring at its height,
And after which it all was dark again,
Bid me beware lest all should be a dream.
Ay--there another specialty of dreams,
That once the dreamer 'gins to dream he dreams,
His foot is on the very verge of waking.
Would it had been upon the verge of death
That knows no waking--
Lifting me up to glory, to fall back,
Stunn'd, crippled--wretcheder than ev'n before.
Yet not so glorious, Segismund, if you
Your visionary honour wore so ill
As to work murder and revenge on those
Who meant you well.
Who meant me!--me! their Prince
Chain'd like a felon--
Stay, stay--Not so fast,
You dream'd the Prince, remember.
Then in dream
Revenged it only.
True. But as they say
Dreams are rough copies of the waking soul
Yet uncorrected of the higher Will,
So that men sometimes in their dreams confess
An unsuspected, or forgotten, self;
One must beware to check--ay, if one may,
Stifle ere born, such passion in ourselves
As makes, we see, such havoc with our sleep,
And ill reacts upon the waking day.
And, by the bye, for one test, Segismund,
Between such swearable realities--
Since Dreaming, Madness, Passion, are akin
In missing each that salutary rein
Of reason, and the guiding will of man:
One test, I think, of waking sanity
Shall be that conscious power of self-control,
To curb all passion, but much most of all
That evil and vindictive, that ill squares
With human, and with holy canon less,
Which bids us pardon ev'n our enemies,
And much more those who, out of no ill will,
Mistakenly have taken up the rod
Which heaven, they think, has put into their hands.
I think I soon shall have to try again--
Sleep has not yet done with me.
Such a sleep.
Take my advice--'tis early yet--the sun
Scarce up above the mountain; go within,
And if the night deceived you, try anew
With morning; morning dreams they say come true.
Oh, rather pray for me a sleep so fast
As shall obliterate dream and waking too.
(Exit into the tower.)
So sleep; sleep fast: and sleep away those two
Night-potions, and the waking dream between
Which dream thou must believe; and, if to see
Again, poor Segismund! that dream must be.--
And yet, and yet, in these our ghostly lives,
Half night, half day, half sleeping, half awake,
How if our waking life, like that of sleep,
Be all a dream in that eternal life
To which we wake not till we sleep in death?
How if, I say, the senses we now trust
For date of sensible comparison,--
Ay, ev'n the Reason's self that dates with them,
Should be in essence or intensity
Hereafter so transcended, and awake
To a perceptive subtlety so keen
As to confess themselves befool'd before,
In all that now they will avouch for most?
One man--like this--but only so much longer
As life is longer than a summer's day,
Believed himself a king upon his throne,
And play'd at hazard with his fellows' lives,
Who cheaply dream'd away their lives to him.
The sailor dream'd of tossing on the flood:
The soldier of his laurels grown in blood:
The lover of the beauty that he knew
Must yet dissolve to dusty residue:
The merchant and the miser of his bags
Of finger'd gold; the beggar of his rags:
And all this stage of earth on which we seem
Such busy actors, and the parts we play'd,
Substantial as the shadow of a shade,
And Dreaming but a dream within a dream!
Was it not said, sir,
By some philosopher as yet unborn,
That any chimney-sweep who for twelve hours
Dreams himself king is happy as the king
Who dreams himself twelve hours a chimney-sweep?
A theme indeed for wiser heads than yours
To moralize upon--How came you here?--
Not of my own will, I assure you, sir.
No matter for myself: but I would know
About my mistress--I mean, master--
Oh, Now I remember--Well, your master-mistress
Is well, and deftly on its errand speeds,
As you shall--if you can but hold your tongue.
I'd rather be at home again.
Where you shall be the quicker if while here
You can keep silence.
I may whistle, then?
Which by the virtue of my name I do,
And also as a reasonable test
Of waking sanity--
Well, whistle then;
And for another reason you forgot,
That while you whistle, you can chatter not.
Only remember--if you quit this pass--
(His rhymes are out, or he had call'd it spot)--
A bullet brings you to.
I must forthwith to court to tell the King
The issue of this lamentable day,
That buries all his hope in night.
But a moment--but a word!
When shall I see my mis--mas--
All in good time; and then, and not before,
Never to miss your master any more.
Such talk of dreaming--dreaming--I begin
To doubt if I be dreaming I am Fife,
Who with a lad who call'd herself a boy
Because--I doubt there's some confusion here--
He wore no petticoat, came on a time
Riding from Muscovy on half a horse,
Who must have dreamt she was a horse entire,
To cant me off upon my hinder face
Under this tower, wall-eyed and musket-tongued,
With sentinels a-pacing up and down,
Crying All's well when all is far from well,
All the day long, and all the night, until
I dream--if what is dreaming be not waking--
Of bells a-tolling and processions rolling
With candles, crosses, banners, San-benitos,
Of which I wear the flamy-finingest,
Through streets and places throng'd with fiery faces
To some back platform--
Oh, I shall take a fire into my hand
With thinking of my own dear Muscovy--
Only just over that Sierra there,
By which we tumbled headlong into--No-land.
Now, if without a bullet after me,
I could but get a peep of my old home
Perhaps of my own mule to take me there--
All's still--perhaps the gentlemen within
Are dreaming it is night behind their masks--
God send 'em a good nightmare!--Now then--Hark!
Voices--and up the rocks--and armed men
Climbing like cats--Puss in the corner then.
(Enter Soldiers cautiously up the rocks.)
This is the frontier pass, at any rate,
Where Poland ends and Muscovy begins.
We must be close upon the tower, I know,
That half way up the mountain lies ensconced.
How know you that?
He told me so--the Page
Who put us on the scent.
And, as I think,
Will soon be here to run it down with us.
Meantime, our horses on these ugly rocks
Useless, and worse than useless with their clatter--
Leave them behind, with one or two in charge,
And softly, softly, softly.
--There it is!
--The tower--the fortress--
--That the tower!--
--That mouse-trap! We could pitch it down the rocks
With our own hands.
--The rocks it hangs among
Dwarf its proportions and conceal its strength;
Larger and stronger than you think.
No place for Poland's Prince to be shut up in.
At it at once!
No--no--I tell you wait--
Till those within give signal. For as yet
We know not who side with us, and the fort
Is strong in man and musket.
Shame to wait
For odds with such a cause at stake.
Of such a cause at stake we wait for odds--
For if not won at once, for ever lost:
For any long resistance on their part
Would bring Basilio's force to succour them
Ere we had rescued him we come to rescue.
So softly, softly, softly, still--
A SOLDIER (discovering Fife).
--Hilloa! Here's some one skulking--
--Seize and gag him!
--Stab him at once, say I: the only way
To make all sure.
--Hold, every man of you!
And down upon your knees!--Why, 'tis the Prince!
--Oh, I should know him anywhere,
And anyhow disguised.
--But the Prince is chain'd.
--And of a loftier presence--
--'Tis he, I tell you;
Only bewilder'd as he was before.
God save your Royal Highness! On our knees
Beseech you answer us!
Just as you please.
Well--'tis this country's custom, I suppose,
To take a poor man every now and then
And set him ON the throne; just for the fun
Of tumbling him again into the dirt.
And now my turn is come. 'Tis very pretty.
His wits have been distemper'd with their drugs.
But do you ask him, Captain.
On my knees,
And in the name of all who kneel with me,
I do beseech your Highness answer to
Your royal title.
Still, just as you please.
In my own poor opinion of myself--
But that may all be dreaming, which it seems
Is very much the fashion in this country
No Polish prince at all, but a poor lad
From Muscovy; where only help me back,
I promise never to contest the crown
Of Poland with whatever gentleman
You fancy to set up.
--A spy then--
--Spy! a spy
--Hang him at once!
No, pray don't dream of that!
How dared you then set yourself up for our Prince Segismund?
/I/ set up!--/I/ like that
When 'twas yourselves be-siegesmunded me.
No matter--Look!--The signal from the tower.
SOL. (from the tower).
All's well. Clotaldo safe secured?--
SOL. (from the tower).
No--by ill luck,
Instead of coming in, as we had look'd for,
He sprang on horse at once, and off at gallop.
To Court, no doubt--a blunder that--And yet
Perchance a blunder that may work as well
As better forethought. Having no suspicion
So will he carry none where his not going
Were of itself suspicious. But of those
Within, who side with us?
Oh, one and all
To the last man, persuaded or compell'd.
Enough: whatever be to be retrieved
No moment to be lost. For though Clotaldo
Have no revolt to tell of in the tower,
The capital will soon awake to ours,
And the King's force come blazing after us.
Where is the Prince?
Within; so fast asleep
We woke him not ev'n striking off the chain
We had so cursedly help bind him with,
Not knowing what we did; but too ashamed
Not to undo ourselves what we had done.
No matter, nor by whosesoever hands,
Provided done. Come; we will bring him forth
Out of that stony darkness here abroad,
Where air and sunshine sooner shall disperse
The sleepy fume which they have drugg'd him with.
(They enter the tower, and thence bring out Segismund asleep on a
pallet, and set him in the middle of the stage.)
Still, still so dead asleep, the very noise
And motion that we make in carrying him
Stirs not a leaf in all the living tree.
If living--But if by some inward blow
For ever and irrevocably fell'd
By what strikes deeper to the root than sleep?
--He's dead! He's dead! They've kill'd him--
And the heart beats--and now he breathes again
Deeply, as one about to shake away
The load of sleep.
Come, let us all kneel round,
And with a blast of warlike instruments,
And acclamation of all loyal hearts,
Rouse and restore him to his royal right,
From which no royal wrong shall drive him more.
(They all kneel round his bed: trumpets, drums, etc.)
--Segismund! Segismund! Prince Segismund!
--King Segismund! Down with Basilio!
--Down with Astolfo! Segismund our King! etc.
--He stares upon us wildly. He cannot speak.
--I said so--driv'n him mad.
--Speak to him, Captain.
Oh Royal Segismund, our Prince and King,
Look on us--listen to us--answer us,
Your faithful soldiery and subjects, now
About you kneeling, but on fire to rise
And cleave a passage through your enemies,
Until we seat you on your lawful throne.
For though your father, King Basilio,
Now King of Poland, jealous of the stars
That prophesy his setting with your rise,
Here holds you ignominiously eclipsed,
And would Astolfo, Duke of Muscovy,
Mount to the throne of Poland after him;
So will not we, your loyal soldiery
And subjects; neither those of us now first
Apprised of your existence and your right:
Nor those that hitherto deluded by
Allegiance false, their vizors now fling down,
And craving pardon on their knees with us
For that unconscious disloyalty,
Offer with us the service of their blood;
Not only we and they; but at our heels
The heart, if not the bulk, of Poland follows
To join their voices and their arms with ours,
In vindicating with our lives our own
Prince Segismund to Poland and her throne.
--Segismund, Segismund, Prince Segismund!
--Our own King Segismund, etc.
(They all rise.)
Again? So soon?--What, not yet done with me?
The sun is little higher up, I think,
Than when I last lay down,
To bury in the depth of your own sea
You that infest its shallows.
Not in a palace, not in the fine clothes
We all were in; but here, in the old place,
And in our old accoutrement--
Only your vizors off, and lips unlock'd
To mock me with that idle title--
Indeed no idle title, but your own,
Then, now, and now for ever. For, behold,
Ev'n as I speak, the mountain passes fill
And bristle with the advancing soldiery
That glitters in your rising glory, sir;
And, at our signal, echo to our cry,
'Segismund, King of Poland!' etc.
(Shouts, trumpets, etc.)
Oh, how cheap
The muster of a countless host of shadows,
As impotent to do with as to keep!
All this they said before--to softer music.
Soft music, sir, to what indeed were shadows,
That, following the sunshine of a Court,
Shall back be brought with it--if shadows still,
Yet to substantial reckoning.
The white-hair'd and white-wanded chamberlain,
So busy with his wand too--the old King
That I was somewhat hard on--he had been
Hard upon me--and the fine feather'd Prince
Who crow'd so loud--my cousin,--and another,
Another cousin, we will not bear hard on--
Fled, my lord, but close
Pursued; and then--
Then, as he fled before,
And after he had sworn it on his knees,
Came back to take me--where I am!--No more,
No more of this! Away with you! Begone!
Whether but visions of ambitious night
That morning ought to scatter, or grown out
Of night's proportions you invade the day
To scare me from my little wits yet left,
Begone! I know I must be near awake,
Knowing I dream; or, if not at my voice,
Then vanish at the clapping of my hands,
Or take this foolish fellow for your sport:
Dressing me up in visionary glories,
Which the first air of waking consciousness
Scatters as fast as from the almander--
That, waking one fine morning in full flower,
One rougher insurrection of the breeze
Of all her sudden honour disadorns
To the last blossom, and she stands again
The winter-naked scare-crow that she was!
I know not what to do, nor what to say,
With all this dreaming; I begin to doubt
They have driv'n him mad indeed, and he and we
Are lost together.
A SOLDIER (to Captain).
Stay, stay; I remember--
Hark in your ear a moment.
Oh, now indeed I do not wonder, sir,
Your senses dazzle under practices
Which treason, shrinking from its own device,
Would now persuade you only was a dream;
But waking was as absolute as this
You wake in now, as some who saw you then,
Prince as you were and are, can testify:
Not only saw, but under false allegiance
Laid hands upon--
I, to my shame!
Who, to wipe out that shame, have been the first
To stir and lead us--Hark!
(Shouts, trumpets, etc.)
Our forces, sir,
Challenging King Basilio's, now in sight,
And bearing down upon us.
Sir, you hear;
A little hesitation and delay,
And all is lost--your own right, and the lives
Of those who now maintain it at that cost;
With you all saved and won; without, all lost.
That former recognition of your right
Grant but a dream, if you will have it so;
Great things forecast themselves by shadows great:
Or will you have it, this like that dream too,
People, and place, and time itself, all dream
Yet, being in't, and as the shadows come
Quicker and thicker than you can escape,
Adopt your visionary soldiery,
Who, having struck a solid chain away,
Now put an airy sword into your hand,
And harnessing you piece-meal till you stand
Amidst us all complete in glittering,
If unsubstantial, steel--
The Prince! The Prince!
Who calls for him?
The Page who spurr'd us hither,
And now, dismounted from a foaming horse--
Where is--but where I need no further ask
Where the majestic presence, all in arms,
Mutely proclaims and vindicates himself.
My darling Lady-lord--
My own good Fife,
Keep to my side--and silence!--Oh, my Lord,
For the third time behold me here where first
You saw me, by a happy misadventure
Losing my own way here to find it out
For you to follow with these loyal men,
Adding the moment of my little cause
To yours; which, so much mightier as it is,
By a strange chance runs hand in hand with mine;
The self-same foe who now pretends your right,
Withholding mine--that, of itself alone,
I know the royal blood that runs in you
Would vindicate, regardless of your own:
The right of injured innocence; and, more,
Spite of this epicene attire, a woman's;
And of a noble stock I will not name
Till I, who brought it, have retrieved the shame.
Whom Duke Astolfo, Prince of Muscovy,
With all the solemn vows of wedlock won,
And would have wedded, as I do believe,
Had not the cry of Poland for a Prince
Call'd him from Muscovy to join the prize
Of Poland with the fair Estrella's eyes.
I, following him hither, as you saw,
Was cast upon these rocks; arrested by
Clotaldo: who, for an old debt of love
He owes my family, with all his might
Served, and had served me further, till my cause
Clash'd with his duty to his sovereign,
Which, as became a loyal subject, sir,
(And never sovereign had a loyaller,)
Was still his first. He carried me to Court,
Where, for the second time, I crossed your path;
Where, as I watch'd my opportunity,
Suddenly broke this public passion out;
Which, drowning private into public wrong,
Yet swiftlier sweeps it to revenge along.
Oh God, if this be dreaming, charge it not
To burst the channel of enclosing sleep
And drown the waking reason! Not to dream
Only what dreamt shall once or twice again
Return to buzz about the sleeping brain
Till shaken off for ever--
But reassailing one so quick, so thick--
The very figure and the circumstance
Of sense-confess'd reality foregone
In so-call'd dream so palpably repeated,
The copy so like the original,
We know not which is which; and dream so-call'd
Itself inweaving so inextricably
Into the tissue of acknowledged truth;
The very figures that empeople it
Returning to assert themselves no phantoms
In something so much like meridian day,
And in the very place that not my worst
And veriest disenchanter shall deny
For the too well-remember'd theatre
Of my long tragedy--Strike up the drums!
If this be Truth, and all of us awake,
Indeed a famous quarrel is at stake:
If but a Vision I will see it out,
And, drive the Dream, I can but join the rout.
And in good time, sir, for a palpable
Touchstone of truth and rightful vengeance too,
Here is Clotaldo taken.
In with him!
In with the traitor!
(Clotaldo brought in.)
Ay, Clotaldo, indeed--
Himself--in his old habit--his old self--
What! back again, Clotaldo, for a while
To swear me this for truth, and afterwards
All for a dreaming lie?
Awake or dreaming,
Down with that sword, and down these traitors theirs,
Drawn in rebellion 'gainst their Sovereign.
SEG. (about to strike).
Traitor! Traitor yourself!--
You told me, not so very long ago,
Awake or dreaming--I forget--my brain
Is not so clear about it--but I know
One test you gave me to discern between,
Which mad and dreaming people cannot master;
Or if the dreamer could, so best secure
A comfortable waking--Was't not so?
Needs not your intercession now, you see,
As in the dream before--
Clotaldo, rough old nurse and tutor too
That only traitor wert, to me if true--
Give him his sword; set him on a fresh horse;
Conduct him safely through my rebel force;
And so God speed him to his sovereign's side!
Give me your hand; and whether all awake
Or all a-dreaming, ride, Clotaldo, ride--
Dream-swift--for fear we dreams should overtake.
(A Battle may be supposed to take place; after which)
Scene I.--A wooded pass near the field of battle: drums, trumpets,
firing, etc. Cries of 'God save Basilio! Segismund,' etc.
(Enter Fife, running.)
God save them both, and save them all! say I!--
Oh--what hot work!--Whichever way one turns
The whistling bullet at one's ears--I've drifted
Far from my mad young--master--whom I saw
Tossing upon the very crest of battle,
Beside the Prince--God save her first of all!
With all my heart I say and pray--and so
Commend her to His keeping--bang!--bang!--bang!
And for myself--scarce worth His thinking of--
I'll see what I can do to save myself
Behind this rock, until the storm blows over.
(Skirmishes, shouts, firing, etc. After some time enter King Basilio,
Astolfo, and Clotaldo)
The day is lost!
Do not despair--the rebels--
Alas! the vanquish'd only are the rebels.
Ev'n if this battle lost us, 'tis but one
Gain'd on their side, if you not lost in it;
Another moment and too late: at once
Take horse, and to the capital, my liege,
Where in some safe and holy sanctuary
Save Poland in your person.
You know your son: have tasted of his temper;
At his first onset threatening unprovoked
The crime predicted for his last and worst.
How whetted now with such a taste of blood,
And thus far conquest!
Ay, and how he fought!
Oh how he fought, Astolfo; ranks of men
Falling as swathes of grass before the mower;
I could but pause to gaze at him, although,
Like the pale horseman of the Apocalypse,
Each moment brought him nearer--Yet I say,
I could but pause and gaze on him, and pray
Poland had such a warrior for her king.
The cry of triumph on the other side
Gains ground upon us here--there's but a moment
For you, my liege, to do, for me to speak,
Who back must to the field, and what man may
Do, to retrieve the fortune of the day.
FIFE (falling forward, shot).
Oh, Lord, have mercy on me.
What a shriek--
Oh, some poor creature wounded in a cause
Perhaps not worth the loss of one poor life!--
So young too--and no soldier--
A poor lad,
Who choosing play at hide and seek with death,
Just hid where death just came to look for him;
For there's no place, I think, can keep him out,
Once he's his eye upon you. All grows dark--
You glitter finely too--Well--we are dreaming
But when the bullet's off--Heaven save the mark!
So tell my mister--mastress--
Oh God! How this poor creature's ignorance
Confounds our so-call'd wisdom! Even now
When death has stopt his lips, the wound through which
His soul went out, still with its bloody tongue
Preaching how vain our struggle against fate!
After them! After them! This way! This way!
The day is ours--Down with Basilio, etc.
And slave-like flying not out-ride
The fate which better like a King abide!
(Enter Segismund, Rosaura, Soldiers, etc.)
Where is the King?
KING (prostrating himself).
Behold him,--by this late
Anticipation of resistless fate,
Thus underneath your feet his golden crown,
And the white head that wears it, laying down,
His fond resistance hope to expiate.
Princes and warriors of Poland--you
That stare on this unnatural sight aghast,
Listen to one who, Heaven-inspired to do
What in its secret wisdom Heaven forecast,
By that same Heaven instructed prophet-wise
To justify the present in the past.
What in the sapphire volume of the skies
Is writ by God's own finger misleads none,
But him whose vain and misinstructed eyes,
They mock with misinterpretation,
Or who, mistaking what he rightly read,
Ill commentary makes, or misapplies
Thinking to shirk or thwart it. Which has done
The wisdom of this venerable head;
Who, well provided with the secret key
To that gold alphabet, himself made me,
Himself, I say, the savage he fore-read
Fate somehow should be charged with; nipp'd the growth
Of better nature in constraint and sloth,
That only bring to bear the seed of wrong
And turn'd the stream to fury whose out-burst
Had kept his lawful channel uncoerced,
And fertilized the land he flow'd along.
Then like to some unskilful duellist,
Who having over-reached himself pushing too hard
His foe, or but a moment off his guard--
What odds, when Fate is one's antagonist!--
Nay, more, this royal father, self-dismay'd
At having Fate against himself array'd,
Upon himself the very sword he knew
Should wound him, down upon his bosom drew,
That might well handled, well have wrought; or, kept
Undrawn, have harmless in the scabbard slept.
But Fate shall not by human force be broke,
Nor foil'd by human feint; the Secret learn'd
Against the scholar by that master turn'd
Who to himself reserves the master-stroke.
Witness whereof this venerable Age,
Thrice crown'd as Sire, and Sovereign, and Sage,
Down to the very dust dishonour'd by
The very means he tempted to defy
The irresistible. And shall not I,
Till now the mere dumb instrument that wrought
The battle Fate has with my father fought,
Now the mere mouth-piece of its victory
Oh, shall not I, the champions' sword laid down,
Be yet more shamed to wear the teacher's gown,
And, blushing at the part I had to play,
Down where that honour'd head I was to lay
By this more just submission of my own,
The treason Fate has forced on me atone?
Oh, Segismund, in whom I see indeed,
Out of the ashes of my self-extinction
A better self revive; if not beneath
Your feet, beneath your better wisdom bow'd,
The Sovereignty of Poland I resign,
With this its golden symbol; which if thus
Saved with its silver head inviolate,
Shall nevermore be subject to decline;
But when the head that it alights on now
Falls honour'd by the very foe that must,
As all things mortal, lay it in the dust,
Shall star-like shift to his successor's brow.
(Shouts, trumpets, etc. God save King Segismund!)
For what remains--
As for my own, so for my people's peace,
Astolfo's and Estrella's plighted hands
I disunite, and taking hers to mine,
His to one yet more dearly his resign.
(Shouts, etc. God save Estrella, Queen of Poland!)
SEG (to Clotaldo).
That with unflinching duty to your King,
Till countermanded by the mightier Power,
Have held your Prince a captive in the tower,
Henceforth as strictly guard him on the throne
No less my people's keeper than my own.
You stare upon me all, amazed to hear
The word of civil justice from such lips
As never yet seem'd tuned to such discourse.
But listen--In that same enchanted tower,
Not long ago I learn'd it from a dream
Expounded by this ancient prophet here;
And which he told me, should it come again,
How I should bear myself beneath it; not
As then with angry passion all on fire,
Arguing and making a distemper'd soul;
But ev'n with justice, mercy, self-control,
As if the dream I walk'd in were no dream,
And conscience one day to account for it.
A dream it was in which I thought myself,
And you that hail'd me now then hail'd me King,
In a brave palace that was all my own,
Within, and all without it, mine; until,
Drunk with excess of majesty and pride,
Methought I tower'd so high and swell'd so wide,
That of myself I burst the glittering bubble,
That my ambition had about me blown,
And all again was darkness. Such a dream
As this in which I may be walking now;
Dispensing solemn justice to you shadows,
Who make believe to listen; but anon,
With all your glittering arms and equipage,
King, princes, captains, warriors, plume and steel,
Ay, ev'n with all your airy theatre,
May flit into the air you seem to rend
With acclamation, leaving me to wake
In the dark tower; or dreaming that I wake
From this that waking is; or this and that
Both waking or both dreaming; such a doubt
Confounds and clouds our mortal life about.
And, whether wake or dreaming, this I know,
How dream-wise human glories come and go;
Whose momentary tenure not to break,
Walking as one who knows he soon may wake,
So fairly carry the full cup, so well
Disorder'd insolence and passion quell,
That there be nothing after to upbraid
Dreamer or doer in the part he play'd,
Whether To-morrow's dawn shall break the spell,
Or the Last Trumpet of the eternal Day,
When Dreaming with the Night shall pass away.