Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

Locrine - A Tragedy by Algernon Charles Swinburne

Part 3 out of 3

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

How fairer far than earth's most lordly stream
It rolls its royal waters here and there,
Most glorious born of all things anywhere,
Most fateful and most godlike; fit to make
Men love life better for the sweet sight's sake
And less fear death if death for them should be
Shrined in the sacred splendours of the sea
As God in heaven s mid mystery. Night and day
Forth of my tower-girt homestead would I stray
To gaze thereon as thou upon the bright
Soft river whence thy soul took less delight
Than mine of the outer sea, albeit I know
How great thy joy was of it. Now--for so
The high gods willed it should be--once at morn
Strange men there landing bore me thence forlorn
Across the wan wild waters in their bark,
I wist not where, through change of light and dark,
Till their fierce lord, the son of spoil and strife,
Made me by forceful marriage-rites his wife.
Then sailed they toward the white and flower-sweet strand
Whose free folk follow on thy father's hand,
And warred against him, slaying his brother: and he
Hurled all their force back hurtling toward the sea,
And slew my lord their king; but me he gave
Grace, and received not as a wandering slave,
But one whom seeing he loved for pity: why
Should else a sad strange woman such as I
Find in his fair sight favour? and for me
He built the bower wherein I bare him thee,
And whence but now he hath brought us westward, here
To abide the extreme of utmost hope or fear.
And come what end may ever, death or life,
I live or die, if truth be truth, his wife;
And none but I and thou, though day wax dim,
Though night grow strong, hath any part in him.

SABRINA.

What should we fear, then? whence might any
Fall on us?

ESTRILD.

Ah! Ah me! God answers here.

Enter LOCRINE, wounded.

LOCRINE.

Praised be the gods who have brought me safe--to die
Beside thee. Nay, but kneel not--rise, and fly
Ere death take hold on thee too. Bid the child
Kiss me. The ways all round are wide and wild -
Ye may win safe away. They deemed me dead -
My last friends left--who saw me fallen, and fled
No shame is theirs--they fought to the end. But ye,
Fly: not your love can keep my life in me -
Not even the sight and sense of you so near.

SABRINA.

How can we fly, father?

ESTRILD.

She would not fear -
Thy very child is she--no heart less high
Than thine sustains her--and we will not fly.

LOCRINE.

So shall their work be perfect. Yea, I know
Our fate is fallen upon us, and its woe.
Yet have we lacked not gladness--and this end
Is not so hard. We have had sweet life to friend,
And find not death our enemy. All men born
Die, and but few find evening one with morn
As I do, seeing the sun of all my life
Lighten my death in sight of child and wife.
I would not live again to lose that kiss,
And die some death not half so sweet as this.
[Dies.

ESTRILD.

Thou thought'st to cleave in twain my life and
To cast my hand away in death, Locrine?
See now if death have drawn thee far from me!
[Stabs herself.

SABRINA.

Thou diest, and hast not slain me, mother?

ESTRILD.

Thee?
Forgive me, child! and so may they forgive.
[Dies.

SABRINA.

O mother, canst thou die and bid me live?

Enter GUENDOLEN, MADAN, and Soldiers.

GUENDOLEN.

Dead? Ah! my traitor with his harlot fled
Hellward?

MADAN.

Their child is left thee.

GUENDOLEN.

She! not dead?

SABRINA.

Thou hast slain my mother and sire--thou hast slain thy lord -
Strike now, and slay me.

GUENDOLEN.

Smite her with thy sword.

MADAN.

I know not if I dare. I dare not.

GUENDOLEN.

Shame
Consume thee!--Thou--what call they, girl, thy name?
Daughter of Estrild,--daughter of Locrine, -
Daughter of death and darkness!

SABRINA.

Yet not thine.
Darkness and death are come on us, and thou,
Whose servants are they: heaven behind thee now
Stands, and withholds the thunder: yet on me
He gives thee not, who helps and comforts thee,
Power for one hour of darkness. Ere thine hand
Can put forth power to slay me where I stand
Safe shall I sleep as these that here lie slain.

GUENDOLEN.

She dares not--though the heart in her be fain,
The flesh draws back for fear. She dares not.

SABRINA.

See!
I change no more of warring words with thee
O father, O my mother, here am I:
They hurt me not who can but bid me die.
[She leaps into the river.

GUENDOLEN.

Save her! God pardon me!

MADAN.

The water whirls
Down out of sight her tender face, and hurls
Her soft light limbs to deathward. God forgive -
Thee, sayest thou, mother? Wouldst thou bid her live?

GUENDOLEN.

What have we done?

MADAN.

The work we came to do.
That God, thou said'st, should stand for judge of you
Whose judgment smote with mortal fire and sword
Troy, for such cause as bade thee slay thy lord.
Now, as between his fathers and their foes
The lord of gods dealt judgment, winged with woes
And girt about with ruin, hath he sent
On these destruction.

GUENDOLEN.

Yea.

MADAN.

Art thou content?

GUENDOLEN.

The gods are wise who lead us--now to smite,
And now to spare: we dwell but in their sigh
And work but what their will is. What hath been
Is past. But these, that once were king and queen,
The sun, that feeds on death, shall not consume
Naked. Not I would sunder tomb from tomb
Of these twain foes of mine, in death made one -
I, that when darkness hides me from the sun
Shall sleep alone, with none to rest by me.
But thou--this one time more I look on thee -
Fair face, brave hand, weak heart that wast not mine -
Sleep sound--and God be good to thee, Locrine.
I was not. She was fair as heaven in spring
Whom thou didst love indeed. Sleep, queen and king,
Forgiven; and if--God knows--being dead, ye live,
And keep remembrance yet of me--forgive.

[Exeunt.

Book of the day: