Part 7 out of 10
Would slay me, too! Had I my bloody charms
And secret magic here, I'd keep that vow!
But no, I dare not fetch them, for I fear
Lest, shining through the Fleece's golden blaze,
Mine eyes should see my father's ghostly face
Stare forth at me--and oh! I should go mad!
GORA. What wilt thou do, then?
Even let them come
And slay me, if they will! I can no more!
Not one step will I stir from where I stand;
My dearest wish is death! And when he sees
Me lying dead, mayhap he'll follow me,
Deep-smitten with remorse!
GORA. The King draws nigh;
Look to thyself!
MEDEA. Nay, all my strength is gone,
What can I do? If he would trample me
Beneath his feet--well, let him have his will!
_The _KING_ enters._
KING. Night falls apace, thine hours of grace are fled!
MEDEA. I know it.
KING. Art thou ready to go forth?
MEDEA. Thou tauntest me! If I were not prepared,
Must I the less go forth?
KING. My heart is glad
To find thee minded so. 'Twill make thee think
Less bitterly upon thy sorry fate,
And for thy children it doth spell great good:
For now they may remember who she was
That bare them.
MEDEA. May remember? If they will,
KING. That they shall, must be my care.
I'll rear them to be mighty heroes both;
And then--who knows?--on some far-distant day
Their hero-deeds may bring them to the shores.
Of Colchis, where they'll find thee once again,
Older in years, grown soft and gentle now,
And with fond love will press thee to their hearts.
KING. What say'st thou?
MEDEA. Naught! I did but think
On happy days long vanished, and forgot
All that hath happened since.--Was this the cause
That brought thee here, or hast thou aught to say
KING. Nay, I forgot one other word,
But I will speak it now. Thy husband brought
Much treasure when he fled to Corinth here
From far Iolcos, when his uncle died.
MEDEA. There in the house it lies, still guarded safe;
Go in and take it!
KING. And that trinket fair
Of dazzling gold, the Fleece--the gleaming prize
The Argo brought--is that within, as well?
Why turnest thou away, and wouldst depart?
Give answer! Is it there?
KING. Where, then? Where?
MEDEA. I know not.
KING. Yet thyself didst bear it forth
From Pelias' chamber--so the Herald said.
MEDEA. Nay, if he said so, it must needs be true!
KING. Where is it?
MEDEA. Nay, I know not.
KING. Never think
To cheat us thus!
MEDEA. If thou wouldst give it me,
I would requite thee even with my life;
For, if I had it here, thou shouldst not stand
Before me, shouting threats!
KING. Didst thou not seize
And bear it with thee from Iolcos?
KING. And now--?
MEDEA. I have it not.
KING. Who hath it, then?
MEDEA. The earth doth hold it.
KING. Ha! I understand!
So it was there, in sooth?
[_He turns to his attendants._]
Go, fetch me here
That which I bade you. What I mean, ye know!
[_The attendants go out._]
Ha! Didst thou think to cheat us with thy words
Of double meaning? Earth doth hold it! Now
I understand thee! Nay, look not away!
Look here at me, and harken!--Yonder there
Upon the seashore, where last night ye lay,
I gave command to raise a sacred fane
To Pelias' shades; and, as my henchmen toiled,
They found--thou palest!--freshly buried there
An ebon casket, marked with curious signs.
[_The attendants bring in the chest._]
Look! Is it thine?
MEDEA (_rushing eagerly to the chest_).
KING. And is the Fleece
MEDEA. It is.
KING. Then give it me!
MEDEA. I will!
KING. Almost I do regret I pitied thee,
Since thou hast sought to cozen us!
MEDEA. Fear not!
For thou shalt have thy due! Once more I am
Medea! Thanks to thee, kind gods!
Thy casket, quick, and give the Fleece to me!
MEDEA. Not yet!
KING. But when?
MEDEA. Right soon, ay, all too soon!
KING. Send it to where Creusa waits.
MEDEA. To her?
This Fleece to thy fair daughter? Ay, I will!
KING. Holdeth this casket aught besides the Fleece?
MEDEA. Yea, many things!
KING. Thine own?
MEDEA. Mine own.
From these A gift I'd send her.
KING. Nay, I would demand
Naught else of thee. Keep that which is thine own.
MEDEA. Surely thou wilt permit me one small gift!
Thy daughter was so mild to me, so good,
And she will be a mother to my babes.
I fain would win her love! Thou dost desire
Naught but the Fleece; perchance some trinkets rare
Would please her eyes.
KING. Do even as thou wilt;
Only, bethink thee of thy needs. Thou knowest
Already how she loves thee. But an hour
Agone she begged to send thy babes to thee
That thou might'st see them once again, and take
A last farewell before thou settest forth
Upon thy weary way. I said her nay,
For I had seen thy fury. Now thou art
Quiet again, and so shalt have that grace.
MEDEA. Oh, thanks to thee, thou good and pious King!
KING. Wait here. I'll send the children to thee straight.
MEDEA. He's gone--and to his doom! Fool! Didst thou not
Tremble and shudder when thou took'st away
Her last possession from the woman thou
Hadst robbed already? Yet, I thank thee for it,
Ay, thank thee!
Thou hast given me back myself!
--Unlock the casket!
GORA (_fumbling at it_).
That I cannot do.
MEDEA. Nay, I forgot how I did lock it up!
The key is kept by friends I know full well.
[_She turns toward the chest._]
Up from below!
Down from o'erhead!
Open, thou secretest
Tomb of the dead!
The lid springs open, and I am no more
A weak and powerless woman! There they lie,
My staff, my veil of crimson! Mine! Ah, mine!
[_She takes them out of the casket._]
I take thee in my hands, thou mighty staff
Of mine own mother, and through heart and limbs
Unfailing strength streams forth from thee to me!
And thee, beloved wimple, on my brow
I bind once more!
[_She veils herself._]
How warm, how soft thou art,
How dost thou pour new life through all my frame!
Now come, come all my foes in close-set ranks,
Banded against me, banded for your doom!
GORA. Look! Yonder flares a light!
MEDEA. Nay, let it flare!
'Twill soon be quenched in blood!--
Here are the presents I would send to her;
And thou shalt be the bearer of my gifts!
MEDEA. Thou! Go quickly to the chamber where
Creusa sits, speak soft and honied words,
Bring her Medea's greetings, and her gifts!
[_She takes the gifts out of the chest one by one._]
This golden box, first, that doth treasure up
Most precious ointments. Ah, the bride will shine
Like blazing stars, if she will ope its lid!
But bear it heedfully, and shake it not!
GORA. Woe's me!
[_She has grasped the ointment-box firmly in her left hand; as she
steadies it with her right hand, she slightly jars the cover open, and a
blinding flame leaps forth._]
MEDEA. I warned thee not to shake it, fool!
Back to thy house again,
Serpent with forked tongue!
Wait till the knell hath rung;
Thou shalt not wait in vain!
Now clasp it tightly, carry it with heed!
GORA. I fear some dreadful thing will come of this!
MEDEA. So! Thou wouldst warn me? 'Tis a wise old crone!
GORA. And I must bear it?
MEDEA. Yea! Obey, thou slave!
How darest thou presume to answer me?
Be silent! Nay, thou shalt, thou must!
Here on this salver, high-embossed with gold,
I set this jeweled chalice, rich and fair
To see, and o'er it lay the best of all,
The thing her heart most craves--the Golden Fleece!--
Go hence and do thine errand. Nay, but first
Spread o'er these gifts this mantle--fair it is
And richly broidered, made to grace a queen--
To cover all from sight and keep them hid.--
Now, go, and do what I commanded thee,
And take these gifts, that foe doth send to foe!
[_A slave-woman enters with the children._]
SLAVE. My lord the king hath sent these children hither;
And when an hour is gone I take them back.
MEDEA. Sooth, they come early to the marriage feast!
Now to thy mistress lead my servant here;
She takes a message from me, bears rich gifts.
(_She turns to _GORA.)
And thou, remember what I told thee late!
Nay, not a word! It is my will!
(_To the slave-woman._)
And bring her to thy mistress.
[GORA _and the slave-woman depart together._]
But not yet ended! Easy is my path,
Now I see clearly what I have to do!
[_The children, hand in hand, make as if to follow the slave-woman._]
Where go ye?
BOY. In the house!
MEDEA. What seek ye there?
BOY. Our father told us we should stay with her.
MEDEA. Thy mother bids you tarry. Wait, I say!--
When I bethink me how they are my blood,
My very flesh, the babes I bore so long
In my own womb, and nourished at my breast,
When I bethink me 'tis my very self
That turns against me, in my inmost soul
Fierce anger stabs me knife-like, bloody thoughts
Rise fast within me!--
(_To the children._)
What hath mother done,
To make you flee her sight and run away
To hide in strangers' bosoms?
BOY. Thou dost seek
To steal us both away, and shut us up
Within thy boat again, where we were both
So sick and dizzy. We would rather stay
Here, would we not, my brother?
YOUNGER BOY. Yea!
MEDEA. Thou, too,
Absyrtus? But 'tis better, better so!
BOY. I'm afraid!
MEDEA. Come here, I say!
BOY. Nay, thou wilt hurt me!
MEDEA. Hurt thee? Thou hast done
Naught to deserve it!
Boy. Once thou flung'st me down
Upon the pavement, hard, because I looked
So like my father. But _he_ loves me for it!
I'd rather stay with him, and with that good
And gentle lady!
MEDEA. Thou shalt go to her,
E'en to that gentle lady!--How his mien
Is like to his, the traitor's! How his words
Are syllabled like Jason's!--Patience! Wait!
YOUNGER BOY. I'm sleepy!
BOY. Let's lie down and go to sleep.
MEDEA. Ye'll have your fill of sleep ere long!
Go, lay you down upon those steps to rest,
While I take counsel with myself.--Ah, see
How watchfully he guides the younger one,
Takes off his little mantle, wraps it warm
And close about his shoulders, now lies down
Beside him, clasping hands!--He never was
A naughty child!--O children, children mine!
BOY (_starting up_).
Dost want us?
MEDEA. Nay, lie down, and go to sleep!
What would I give, if I could sleep as sound!
[_The boy lies down again, and both go to sleep._ MEDEA _seats herself
on a bench opposite the children. It grows darker and darker._]
MEDEA. The night is falling, stars are climbing high,
Shedding their kindly beams on all below--
The same that shone there yestere'en, as though
All things today were as they were before.
And yet 'twixt now and yesterday there yawns
A gulf, as wide as that which sunders joy
Made perfect and grim death! How change-less e'er
Is Nature--and man's life and happiness
How fitful, fleeting!
When I tell the tale
Of my unhappy life, it is as though
I listened, while another told it me,
And now would stop him: "Nay, that cannot be,
My friend! This woman here, that harbors dark
And murderous thoughts--how can she be the same
That once, long years agone, on Colchis' strand
Trod, free and happy, 'neath these very stars,
As pure, as mild, as free from any sin
As new-born child upon its mother's breast?"
Where goes she, then? She seeks the peasant's hut
To comfort the poor serf, whose little crops
Were trampled by her father's huntsmen late,
And brings him gold to ease his bitter heart.
Why trips she down the forest-path? She hastes
To meet her brother who is waiting there
In some green copse. Together then they wend
Homeward their way along the well-known path,
Like twin-stars shining through the forest-gloom.
Another draweth nigh; his brow is crowned
With coronet of gold; he is the King,
Their royal father, and he lays his hand
In blessing on their heads, and names them both
His joy, his dearest treasure.--Welcome, then,
Most dear and friendly faces! Are ye come
To comfort me in this my loneliness?
Draw nearer, nearer yet! I fain would look
Into your eyes! Dear brother, dost thou smile
So friendly on me? Ah, how fair thou art,
My heart's best treasure! But my father's face
Is sober, earnest; yet he loves me still,
Yea, loveth his good daughter!
[_She springs up suddenly._]
Good? Ha, good?
'Tis a false lie! For know, thou old, gray man,
She will betray thee, _hath_ betrayed thee, thee,
Ay, and herself! But thou didst curse her sore
"Know thou shalt be thrust forth
Like a beast of the wilderness," thou saidst;
"Friendless and homeless, with no place
To lay thy head! And he, for whom
Thou hast betrayed me, he will be
First to take vengeance on thee, first
To leave thee, thrust thee forth, and first
To slay thee!" See, thy words were true!
For here I stand, thrust forth indeed,
By all men like a monster shunned,
Deserted by the wretch for whom
I gave thee up, and with no place
To lay me down; alas! not dead;
Black thoughts of murder in my heart!--
Dost thou rejoice at thy revenge?
Com'st closer?--Children! O my babes!
[_She rushes across to where the children lie sleeping, and shakes them
My children, did ye hear? Awake!
What wouldst thou?
MEDEA (_pressing them fiercely to her_).
Clasp your arms about me close!
BOY. I slept so soundly.
MEDEA. Slept? How could ye sleep?
Thought ye, because your mother watched you here,
That ye were safe? Ye ne'er were in the hands
Of any foe more dangerous! Sleep? With me,
Your mother, near? How could ye?--Go within,
And there ye shall find rest, indeed!
[_The children sleepily mount the steps and disappear down the colonnade
into the palace._]
And all is well again!--Yet, now they're gone,
How am I bettered? Must I aught the less
Flee forth, today, and leave them in the hands
Of these my bitter foes? Is Jason less
A traitor? Will the bride make aught the less
Of feasting on her bridal day, forsooth?
Tomorrow, when the sun shall rise,
Then shall I be alone,
The world a desert waste for me,
My babes, my husband--gone!
A wand'rer I, with weary feet
All torn and bleeding sore,
And bound for exile!--Whither, then
I know no more!
My foes stay here and make a joyous feast,
And laugh to think me gone;
My babes cling tightly to a stranger's breast,
Estranged from me forever, far away
From where I needs must come!
And wilt thou suffer that?
Is it not even now too late,
Too late to grant forgiveness?
Hath not Creusa even now the robes,
Ay, and the chalice, that fierce-flaming cup?
Hark! Nay, not yet!--But soon enough
Will come the shriek of agony
Ringing through all the palace halls!
Then they will come and slay me,
Nor spare the babes!
Hark! What a cry was that! Ha! Tongues of flame
Leap curling from the palace! It is done!
No more may I retreat, repent!
Let come what must! Set forward!
[GORA _bursts out of the palace in a frenzy._]
GORA. Oh, horror, horror!
MEDEA (_hurrying to her_).
So the deed is done!
GORA. Woe, woe! Creusa dead, the palace red
With mounting flames!
MEDEA. So, art thou gone at last,
Thou snow-white, spotless bride? Or seek'st thou still
To charm my children from me? Wouldst thou? Wouldst thou?
Wouldst take them whither thou art gone?
Nay, to the gods I give them now,
And not to thee, nay, not to thee!
GORA. What hast thou done?--Look, look, they come!
MEDEA. They come? Too late! Too late!
[_She vanishes down the colonnade._]
GORA. Alas that I, so old and gray, should aid,
Unknowing, such dark deeds! I counseled her
To take revenge: but such revenge--oh, gods!
Where are the babes? 'Twas here I left them late.
Where art thou, O Medea? And thy babes--
Ah, where are they?
[_She, too, disappears down the colonnade. Through the windows of the
palace in the background the rapidly mounting flames now burst forth._]
Creusa! O Creusa!
KING'S VOICE (_from within_).
O my daughter!
[GORA _bursts out of the palace and falls upon her knees in the middle
of the stage, covering her face with her hands._]
GORA. What have I seen?--Oh, horror!
[MEDEA _appears at the entrance to the colonnade; in her left hand she
brandishes a dagger; she raises her right hand to command silence._]
[_The curtain falls._]
_The outer court of_ CREON'S _palace, as in the preceding act; the royal
apartments in the background lie in blackened ruins whence smoke is
still curling up; the court-yard is filled with various palace
attendants busied in various ways. The dawn is just breaking.
The_ KING _appears, dragging_ GORA _out of the palace; a train of_
CREUSA'S _slave-women follows him._
KING. Away with thee! It was thy wicked hand
That to my daughter brought those bloody gifts
Which were her doom! My daughter! Oh, Creusa!
My child, my child!
[_He turns to the slave-women._]
GORA. Yea, it was I!
I knew not that my hands bore doom of death
Within thy dwelling.
KING. Knew'st not. Never think
To 'scape my wrath on this wise!
GORA. Dost thou think
I shudder at thy wrath? Mine eyes have seen--
Woe's me!--the children weltering in their blood,
Slain by the hand of her that bore them, ay,
Medea's very hand! And after that,
All other horrors are to me but jest!
KING. Creusa! Oh, my child, my pure, true child!
Say, did thy hand not shake, thou grisly dame,
When to her side thou broughtest death?
GORA. I shed no tears for her! She had her due!
Why would she seek to snatch away the last
Possession of my most unhappy mistress?
I weep for these my babes, whom I did love
So tenderly, and whom I saw but now
Butchered--and by their mother! Ah, I would
Ye all were in your graves, and by your side
That traitor that doth call himself Lord Jason!
I would I were in Colchis with Medea
And these poor babes in safety! Would I ne'er
Had seen your faces, or your city here,
Whereon this grievous fate so justly falls!
KING. These insults thou wilt soon enough put by,
When thou shalt feel my heavy hand of doom!
But is it certain that my child is dead?
So many cry her dead, though I can find
None that did see her fall! Is there no way
To 'scape the fire? And can the flames wax strong
So quickly? See how slow they lick and curl
Along the fallen rafters of my house!
Do ye not see? And yet ye say she's dead?
An hour ago she stood before mine eyes
A blooming flower, instinct with happy life--
And now she's dead! Nay, I cannot believe,
And will not! 'Gainst my will I turn mine eyes
Now here, now there, and cannot but believe
That now, or now, or now at least, she must
Appear in all her stainless purity
And beauty, glide in safety to me here
Through those black, smoldering ruins!--Who was by?
Who saw her perish?--Thou?--Quick, speak!--Nay, then,
Roll not thine eyes in horror! Tell thy tale,
E'en though it kill me! Is she dead, indeed?
KING. And thou saw'st it?
With my very eyes!
Saw how the flames leaped forth from out that box
Of gold, and caught her flesh--
KING. Hold! Hold! Enough!
This woman saw it! Creusa is no more!
Creusa! Oh, my daughter, my dear child!
Once, many years agone, she burnt her hand
Against the altar; she was but a child,
And cried aloud with pain. I rushed to her
And caught her in my arms, and to my lips.
I put her poor scorched fingers, blowing hard
To ease the burning pain. The little maid
E'en through her bitter tears smiled up at me
And, softly sobbing, whispered in my ear,
"It is not much! I do not mind the pain!"
Gods! That she should be burned to death? Oh, gods!
[_He turns fiercely upon_ GORA.]
And as for thee,--if I should plunge my sword
Ten, twenty times, up to the hilt, clean through
Thy body, would that bring my daughter back?
Or, could I find that hideous witch-wife--Stay!
Where went she, that hath robbed me of my child?
I'll shake an answer straight from out thy mouth,
Ay, though thy soul come with it, if thou'lt not
Declare to me this instant where she's gone!
GORA. I know not--and I care no whit to know!
Let her go forth alone to her sure doom.
Why dost thou tarry? Slay me! For I have
No wish to live!
KING. We'll speak of that anon;
But first I'll have thy answer!
JASON (_behind the scenes_).
Bring her before my face! Medea!
[_He enters suddenly with drawn sword._]
They told me she was caught! Where is she, then?
Ha! Thou here? Where's thy mistress?
GORA. Fled away!
JASON. Hath she the children?
JASON. Then they are--
Yea, dead! thou smooth-tongued traitor, dead, I say!
She sought to put them where thine eyes could never
Take joy in them again; but, knowing well
No spot on earth so sacred was but thou
To find them wouldst break in, she hid them, safe
Forever, in the grave! Ay, stand aghast,
And stare upon the pavement! Thou canst never
Recall thy babes to life! They're gone for aye!
And, for their sake, I'm glad! No, I am not,
For their sake--but because thou dost despair,
That, smooth-tongued traitor, glads my heart indeed!
Was it not thou that drove her to this crime,
And thou, false King, with thine hypocrisy?
She was a noble creature-but ye drew
Your nets of shameful treachery too close
About her, till, in wild despair, cut off
From all escape else, she o'erleaped your snares,
And made thy crown, the kingly ornament
Of royal heads, to be the awful tool
Of her unnatural crime! Ay, wring your hands,
But wring them for your own most grievous fate!
(_Turning to the_ KING.)
Why sought thy child another woman's bed?
(_Turning to_ JASON.)
Why must thou steal her, bring her here to Greece,
If thou didst never love her? If thou didst
Right truly love her, why, then, thrust her forth?
Though others cry her murderess, yea, though I
Myself must name her so, yet none the less
Ye have but met your just deserts!--For me,
I have no wish to live another day!
Two of my babes are dead, the third I needs
Must hate forever! Take me, lead me hence
And slay me, if ye will! Fair hopes I have
At last, of justice in that other world,
Now I have seen Heaven's vengeance on you hurled!
[_She is led away by some of the _KING's _attendants._]
KING. Nay, if I wronged her,--by the gods in Heaven
I swear I meant it not!--Now haste we all
To search these smoking ruins for what trace
Remains of my poor girl, that we may lay
Her broken, bruised frame to rest at last
In Earth's kind bosom!
[_He turns to _JASON.]
But, for thee--straightway
Thou must go forth, where'er thy feet may choose
To carry thee! Pollution such as thine
Spells woe for all about thee, as I've proved.
Oh, had I never seen, never rescued thee,
Ne'er acted friendship's part and welcomed thee
Within my palace! And, for thanks, thou took'st
My daughter from me! Go, lest thou shouldst take
As well the only comfort left me now--
To weep her memory!
JASON. Wouldst thou thrust me forth?
KING. I banish thee my sight.
JASON. What shall I do?
KING. Some god will answer that!
JASON. Who, then, will guide
My wandering steps, who lend a helping hand?
For, see! my head is bleeding, wounded sore
By falling firebrands! How? All silent, then?
And none will guide me, none companion me,
None follow me, whom once so many joyed
To follow? Spirits of my babes, lead ye
The way, and guide your father to the grave
That waits him!
[_He goes slowly away._]
KING (_to his attendants_).
Quick, to work! And after that,
Mourning that hath no end!
[_He goes away in the other direction._]
_The curtain falls for a moment, and, when it rises again, discloses a
wild and lonely region surrounded by forest and by lofty crags, at the
foot of which lies a mean hut. A rustic enters._
RUSTIC. How fair the morning dawns! Oh, kindly gods,
After the storm and fury of the night,
Your sun doth rise more glorious than before!
[_He goes into the hut._]
(JASON _comes stumbling out of the forest and leaning heavily on his
JASON. Nay, I can go no farther! How my head
Doth burn and throb, the blood how boil within!
My tongue cleaves to the roof of my parched mouth!
Is none within there? Must I die of thirst,
And all alone?--Ha! Yon's the very hut
That gave me shelter when I came this way
Before, a rich man still, a happy father,
My bosom filled with newly-wakened hopes!
[_He knocks at the door._]
'Tis but a drink I crave, and then a place
To lay me down and die!
[_The peasant comes out of the house._]
RUSTIC. Who knocks?--Poor man,
Who art thou? Ah, poor soul, he's faint to death!
JASON. Oh, water, water! Give me but to drink!
See, Jason is my name, famed far and wide,
The hero of the wondrous Golden Fleece!
A prince--a king--and of the Argonauts
The mighty leader, Jason!
RUSTIC. Art thou, then,
In very sooth Lord Jason? Get thee gone
And quickly! Thou shalt not so much as set
A foot upon my threshold, to pollute
My humble dwelling! Thou didst bring but now
Death to the daughter of my lord the King!
Then seek not shelter at the meanest door
Of any of his subjects!
[_He goes into the hut again and shuts the door behind him._]
JASON. He is gone,
And leaves me here to lie upon the earth,
Bowed in the dust, for any that may pass
To trample on!--O Death, on thee I call!
Have pity on me! Take me to my babes!
[_He sinks down upon the ground._]
MEDEA _makes her way among some tumbled rocks, and stands suddenly
before him, the Golden Fleece flung over her shoulders like a mantle._
JASON (_half raising himself_).
Who calls me?--Ha! What spectral form
Is this before me? Is it thou, Medea?
Ha! Dost thou dare to show thyself again
Before mine eyes? My sword! My sword!
[_He tries to rise, but falls weakly back._]
My limbs refuse their service! Here I lie,
A broken wreck!
MEDEA. Nay, cease thy mad attempts
Thou canst not harm me, for I am reserved
To be the victim of another's hand,
And not of thine!
JASON. My babes!--Where has thou them?
MEDEA. Nay, they are mine!
JASON. Where hast thou them, I say?
MEDEA. They're gone where they are happier far than thou
Or I shall ever be!
JASON. Dead! Dead! My babes!
MEDEA. Thou deemest death the worst of mortal woes?
I know a far more wretched one--to be
Alone, unloved! Hadst thou not prized mere life
Far, far above its worth, we were not now
In such a pass. But we must bear our weight
Of sorrow, for thy deeds! Yet these our babes
Are spared that grief, at least!
JASON. And thou canst stand
So patient, quiet, there, and speak such words?
MEDEA. Quiet, thou sayst, and patient? Were my heart
Not closed to thee e'en now, as e'er it was,
Then couldst thou see the bitter, smarting pain
Which, ever swelling like an angry sea,
Tosses, now here, now there, the laboring wreck
That is my grief, and, veiling it from sight
In awful desolation, sweeps it forth
O'er boundless ocean-wastes! I sorrow not
Because the babes are dead; my only grief
Is that they ever lived, that thou and I
Must still live on!
MEDEA. Bear thou the lot
That fortune sends thee; for, to say the truth,
Thou richly hast deserved it!--Even as thou
Before me liest on the naked earth,
So lay I once in Colchis at thy feet
And craved protection--but thou wouldst not hear!
Nay, rather didst thou stretch thine eager hands
In blind unreason forth, to lay them swift
Upon the golden prize, although I cried,
"'Tis Death that thou dost grasp at!"--Take it, then,
That prize that thou so stubbornly didst seek,
I leave thee now, forevermore.
'Tis the last time-for all eternity
The very last--that I shall speak with thee,
My husband! Fare thee well! Ay, after all
The joys that blessed our happy, happy youth,
'Mid all the bitter woes that hem us in
On every side, in face of all the grief
That threatens for the future, still I say,
"Farewell, my husband!" Now there dawns for thee
A life of heavy sorrows; but, let come
What may, abide it firmly, show thyself
Stronger in suffering than in doing deeds
Men named heroic! If thy bitter woe
Shall make thee yearn for death, then think on me,
And it shall comfort thee to know how mine
Is bitterer far, because I set my hand
To deeds, to which thou only gav'st assent.
I go my way, and take my heavy weight
Of sorrow with me through the wide, wide world.
A dagger-stroke were blest release indeed;
But no! it may not be! It were not meet
Medea perish at Medea's hands.
My earlier life, before I stooped to sin,
Doth make me worthy of a better judge
Than I could be--I go to Delphi's shrine,
And there, before the altar of the god,
The very spot whence Phrixus long ago
Did steal the prize, I'll hang it up again,
Restore to that dark god what is his own--
The Golden Fleece--the only thing the flames
Have left unharmed, the only thing that 'scaped
Safe from the bloody, fiery death that slew
That fair Corinthian princess.--To the priests
I'll go, and I'll submit me to their will,
Ay, though they take my life to expiate
My grievous sins, or though they send me forth
To wander still through some far desert-waste,
My very life, prolonged, a heavier weight
Of sorrow than I ever yet have known!
_[She holds up the gleaming Fleece before his eyes.]_
Know'st thou the golden prize which thou didst strive
So eagerly to win, which seemed to thee
The shining crown of all thy famous deeds?
What is the happiness the world can give?--
A shadow! What the fame it can bestow?--
An empty dream! Poor man! Thy dreams were all
Of shadows! And the dreams are ended now,
But not the long, black Night!--Farewell to thee,
My husband, for I go! That was a day
Of heavy sorrows when we first did meet;
Today, 'mid heavier sorrows, we must part!
JASON. Deserted! All alone! My babes!
JASON. Lost! Lost!
MEDEA. Be patient!
JASON. Let me die!
MEDEA. I go, and nevermore thine eyes shall see
My face again!
_[As she departs, winding her way among the tumbled rocks, the curtain
* * * * *
THE JEWESS OF TOLEDO
AN HISTORICAL TRAGEDY IN FIVE ACTS
By FRANZ GRILLPARZER
ALFONSO VIII., _the Noble, King of Castile._
ELEANOR OF ENGLAND, _Daughter of Henry II., his Wife._
THE PRINCE, _their Son._
MANRIQUE, _Count of Lara, Governor of Castile._
DON GARCERAN, _his Son._
DONA CLARA, _Lady in Waiting to the Queen.
The Queen's Waiting Maid._
ISAAC, _the Jew._
} _his Daughters._
REINERO, _the King's Page.
Nobles, Court Ladies, Petitioners, Servants, and Other People.
Place, Toledo and Vicinity.
Time, about 1195 A.D._
THE JEWESS OF TOLEDO (1873)
TRANSLATED BY GEORGE HENRY DANTON AND ANNINA PERIAM DANTON
_In the Royal Garden at Toledo._
_Enter_ ISAAC, RACHEL, _and_ ESTHER.
ISAAC. Back, go back, and leave the garden!
Know ye not it is forbidden?
When the King here takes his pleasure
Dares no Jew--ah, God will damn them!
Dares no Jew to tread the earth here!
ISAAC. Don't you hear me?
RACHEL. Yes, I hear thee.
ISAAC. Hear, and linger
RACHEL. Hear, yet linger!
ISAAC. Oh, Oh, Oh! Why doth God try me?
To the poor I've given my portion,
I have prayed and I have fasted,
Unclean things I've never tasted
Nay! And yet God tries me thus.
RACHEL (_to_ ESTHER).
Ow! Why dost thou pull my arm so?
I will stay, I am not going.
I just wish to see the King and
All the court and all their doings,
All their gold and all their jewels.
He is young, they say, and handsome,
White and red, I want to see him.
ISAAC. And suppose the servants catch thee
RACHEL. Then I'll beg until they free me!
ISAAC. Yes, just like thy mother, eh?
She, too, looked at handsome Christians,
Sighed, too, for Egyptian flesh-pots;
Had I not so closely watched her
I should deem-well, God forgive me!--
That thy madness came that way,
Heritage of mean, base Christians;
Ah! I praise my first wife, noble!
Praise thy mother, good like thee,
Though not wealthy. Of the second
Did the riches aught avail me?
Nay, she spent them as she pleasured,
Now for feasts and now for banquets,
Now for finery and jewels.
Look! This is indeed her daughter!
Has she not bedeckt herself,
Shines she not in fine apparel
Like a Babel in her pride?
Am I not lovely,
Am I not rich?
See their vexation,
And I don't care-la, la, la, la.
ISAAC. There she goes with handsome shoes on;
Wears them out--what does it matter?
Every step costs me a farthing!
Richest jewels are her earrings,
If a thief comes, he will take them,
If they're lost, who'll find them ever?
RACHEL (_taking off an earring_).
Lo! I take them off and hold them,
How they shine and how they shimmer!
Yet how little I regard them,
Haply, I to thee present them
Or I throw them in the bushes.
[_She makes a motion as if throwing it away._]
ISAAC (_running in the direction of the throw_).
Woe, ah woe! Where did they go to?
Woe, ah woe! How find them ever?
ESTHER. These fine jewels? What can ail thee?
RACHEL. Dost believe me, then, so foolish
As to throw away possessions?
See, I have it in my hand here,
Hang it in my ear again and
On my cheek it rests in contrast.
ISAAC. Woe! Lost!
RACHEL. Father come, I prithee!
See! the jewel is recovered.
I was jesting.
ISAAC. Then may God--
Thus to tease me! And now, come!
RACHEL. Anything but this I'll grant thee.
I must see his Royal Highness,
And he me, too, yes, yes, me, too.
If he comes and if he asks them,
"Who is she, that lovely Jewess?"
"Say, how hight you?"--"Rachel, sire!
Isaac's Rachel!" I shall answer.
Then he'll pinch my cheek so softly.
Beauteous Rachel then they'll call me.
What if envy bursts to hear it,
Shall I worry if it vexes?
ESTHER. The court approaches.
ISAAC. Lord of life, what's going to happen?
'Tis the tribe of Rehoboam.
Wilt thou go?
RACHEL. Oh, father, listen!
ISAAC. Well then stay! But come thou, Esther,
Leave the fool here to her folly.
Let the unclean-handed see her,
Let him touch her, let him kill her,
She herself hath idly willed it.
RACHEL. Oh, father, tarry!
ISAAC. Hasten, hasten; come, then, Esther!
[_Exit with_ ESTHER.]
RACHEL. Not alone will I remain here!
Listen! Stay! Alas, they leave me.
Not alone will I remain here.
Ah! they come--Oh, sister, father!
[_She hastens after them._]
_Enter the_ KING, _the_ QUEEN, MANTRIQUE DE LARA _and suite_.
Allow the folk to stay! It harms me not;
For he who calleth me a King denotes
As highest among many me, and so
The people is a part of my own self.
(_Turning to the_ QUEEN.)
And thou, no meager portion of myself,
Art welcome here in this my ancient home,
Art welcome in Toledo's faithful walls.
Gaze all about thee, let thy heart beat high,
For, know! thou standest at my spirit's fount.
There is no square, no house, no stone, no tree,
That is not witness of my childhood lot.
An orphan child, I fled my uncle's wrath,
Bereft of mother first, then fatherless,
Through hostile land--it was my own--I fled.
The brave Castilians me from place to place,
Like shelterers of villainy did lead,
And hid me from my uncle of Leon,
Since death did threaten host as well as guest.
But everywhere they tracked me up and down.
Then Estevan Illan, a don who long
Hath slept beneath the greensward of the grave,
And this man here, Manrique Lara, led me
To this, the stronghold of the enemy,
And hid me in the tower of St. Roman,
Which there you see high o'er Toledo's roofs.
There lay I still, but they began to strew
The seed of rumor in the civic ear,
And on Ascension Day, when all the folk
Was gathered at the gate of yonder fane,
They led me to the tower-balcony
And showed me to the people, calling down,
"Here in your midst, among you, is your King,
The heir of ancient princes; of their rights
And of your rights the willing guardian."
I was a child and wept then, as they said.
But still I hear it--ever that wild cry,
A single word from thousand bearded throats,
A thousand swords as in a single hand,
The people's hand. But God the vict'ry gave,
The Leonese did flee; and on and on,
A standard rather than a warrior,
I with my army compassed all the land,
And won my vict'ries with my baby smile.
These taught and nurtured me with loving care,
And mother's milk flowed from their wounds for me.
And so, while other princes call themselves
The fathers of their people, I am son,
For what I am, I owe their loyalty.
MANRIQUE. If all that now thou art, most noble Sire,
Should really, as thou sayest, spring from thence,
Then gladly we accept the thanks, rejoice
If these our teachings and our nurture, thus
Are mirrored in thy fame and in thy deeds,
Then we and thou are equally in debt.
(_To the_ QUEEN.)
Pray gaze on him with these thy gracious eyes;
Howe'er so many kings have ruled in Spain,
Not one compares with him in nobleness.
Old age, in truth, is all too wont to blame,
And I am old and cavil much and oft;
And when confuted in the council-hall
I secret wrath have ofttimes nursed--not long,
Forsooth--that royal word should weigh so much;
And sought some evil witness 'gainst my King,
And gladly had I harmed his good repute.
But always I returned in deepest shame--
The envy mine, and his the spotlessness.
KING. A teacher, Lara, and a flatt'rer, too?
But we will not dispute you this and that;
If I'm not evil, better, then, for you,
Although the man, I fear me, void of wrong,
Were also void of excellence as well;
For as the tree with sun-despising roots,
Sucks up its murky nurture from the earth,
So draws the trunk called wisdom, which indeed
Belongs to heaven itself in towering branch,
Its strength and being from the murky soil
Of our mortality-allied to sin.
Was ever a just man who ne'er was hard?
And who is mild, is oft not strong enough.
The brave become too venturesome in war.
What we call virtue is but conquered sin,
And where no struggle was, there is no power.
But as for me, no time was given to err,
A child--the helm upon my puny head,
A youth--with lance, high on my steed I sat,
My eye turned ever to some threat'ning foe,
Unmindful of the joys and sweets of life,
And far and strange lay all that charms and lures.
That there are women, first I learned to know
When in the church my wife was given me,
She, truly faultless if a human is,
And whom, I frankly say, I'd warmer love
If sometimes need to pardon were, not praise.
(_To the_ QUEEN.)
Nay, nay, fear not, I said it but in jest!
The outcome we must all await-nor paint
The devil on the wall, lest he appear.
But now, what little respite we may have,
Let us not waste in idle argument.
The feuds within our land are stilled, although
They say the Moor will soon renew the fight,
And hopes from Africa his kinsman's aid,
Ben Jussuf and his army, bred in strife.
And war renewed will bring distress anew.
Till then we'll open this our breast to peace,
And take deep breath of unaccustomed joy.
Is there no news?--But did I then forget?
You do not look about you, Leonore,
To see what we have done to please you here.
QUEEN. What ought I see?
KING. Alas, O Almirante!
We have not hit upon it, though we tried.
For days, for weeks, we dig and dig and dig,
And hope that we could so transform this spot,
This orange-bearing, shaded garden grove,
To have it seem like such as England loves,
The austere country of my austere wife.
And she but smiles and smiling says me nay!
Thus are they all, Britannia's children, all;
If any custom is not quite their own,
They stare, and smile, and will have none of it.
Th' intention, Leonore, was good, at least,
So give these worthy men a word of thanks;
God knows how long they may have toiled for us.
QUEEN. I thank you, noble sirs.
KING. To something else!
The day has started wrong. I hoped to show
You houses, meadows, in the English taste,
Through which we tried to make this garden please;
We missed our aim. Dissemble not, O love!
'Tis so, and let us think of it no more.
To duty we devote what time remains,
Ere Spanish wine spice high our Spanish fare.
What, from the boundary still no messenger?
Toledo did we choose, with wise intent,
To be at hand for tidings of the foe.
And still there are none?
KING. What is it, pray?
MANRIQUE. A messenger--
KING. Has come? What then?
MANRIQUE (_pointing to the Queen_).
KING. My wife is used to council and to war,
The Queen in everything shares with the King.
MANRIQUE. The messenger himself, perhaps, more than
KING. Well, who is't?
MANRIQUE. It is my son.
KING. Ah, Garceran! Pray let him come.
(_To the_ QUEEN.)
The youth, indeed, most grossly erred, when he
Disguised, slipped in the kemenate to spy
Upon the darling of his heart--Do not,
O Dona Clara, bow your head in shame,
The man is brave, although both young and rash,
My comrade from my early boyhood days;
And now implacability were worse
Than frivolous condoning of the fault.
And penance, too, methinks, he's done enough
For months an exile on our kingdom's bounds.
[_At a nod from the_ QUEEN, _one of the ladies of her suite withdraws._]
And yet she goes: O Modesty
More chaste than chastity itself!
What of the border? Are they all out there
So shy with maiden-modesty as you?
Then poorly guarded is our realm indeed!
GARCERAN. A doughty soldier, Sire, ne'er fears a foe,
But noble women's righteous wrath is hard.
KING. 'Tis true of righteous wrath! And do not think
That I with custom and propriety
Am less severe and serious than my wife,
Yet anger has its limits, like all else.
And so, once more, my Garceran, what cheer?
Gives you the foe concern in spite of peace?
GARCERAN. With bloody wounds, O Sire, as if in play,
On this side of the boundary and that
We fought, yet ever peace resembled war
So to a hair, that perfidy alone
Made all the difference. But now the foe
A short time holdeth peace.
KING. 'Tis bad!
GARCERAN. We think
So too, and that he plans a mightier blow.
And rumor hath it that his ships convey
From Africa to Cadiz men and food,
Where secretly a mighty army forms,
Which Jussuf, ruler of Morocco, soon
Will join with forces gathered over seas;
And then the threat'ning blow will fall on us.
KING. Well, if they strike, we must return the blow.
A king leads them, and so a king leads you.
If there's a God, such as we know there is,
And justice be the utt'rance of his tongue,
I hope to win, God with us, and the right I
I grieve but for the peasants' bitter need,
Myself, as highest, should the heaviest bear.
Let all the people to the churches come
And pray unto the God of victory.
Let all the sacred relics be exposed,
And let each pray, who goeth to the fight.
GARCERAN. Without thy proclamation, this is done,
The bells sound far through all the borderland,
And in the temples gathereth the folk;
Only, alas, its zeal, erring as oft,
Expends itself on those of other faith,
Whom trade and gain have scattered through the land.
Mistreated have they here and there a Jew.
KING. And ye, ye suffer this? Now, by the Lord,
I will protect each one who trusts in me.
Their faith is their affair, their conduct mine.
GARCERAN. 'Tis said they're spies and hirelings of the Moors.
KING. Be sure, no one betrays more than he knows,
And since I always have despised their gold,
I never yet have asked for their advice.
Not Christian and not Jew knows what shall be,
But I alone. Hence, by your heads, I urge--
[_A woman's voice without._]
KING. What is't?
GARCERAN. An old man, Sire, is there,
A Jew, methinks, pursued by garden churls,
Two maidens with him, one of them, behold,
Is fleeing hither.
KING. Good! Protection's here,
And thunder strike who harms one hair of hers.
(_Calling behind the scenes._)
Hither, here I say!
RACHEL _comes in flight_
RACHEL. They're killing me!
My father, too! Oh! is there none to help?
[_She sees the QUEEN and kneels before her._]
Sublime one, shelter me from these. Stretch out
Thy hand and hold it over me, thy maid,
Not Jewess I to serve thee then, but slave.
[_She tries to take the hand of the _QUEEN _who turns away._]
Here, too, no safety? Terror everywhere?
Where shall I flee to?
Here there stands a man
Whose moonbeam glances flood the soul with peace,
And everything about him proves him King.
Thou canst protect me, Sire, and oh, thou wilt!
I _will_ not die, I _will_ not, no, no, no!
[_She throws herself on the ground before the_ KING _and seizes his
right foot, bending her head to the ground._]
KING (_to several who approach_).
Let be! Her senses have ta'en flight through fear,
And as she shudders, makes me tremble, too.
RACHEL (_sits up_).
And everything I have,
(_taking off her bracelet_)
this bracelet here,
This necklace and this costly piece of cloth,
(_taking a shawl-like cloth from her neck_)
It cost my father well-nigh forty pounds,
Real Indian stuff, I'll give that too--if you
Will leave me but my life: I will not die!
[_She sinks back to her former position._]
_ISAAC and ESTHER are led in._
KING. What crime has he committed?
MANRIQUE. Sire, thou know'st,
The entrance to the royal gardens is
Denied this people when the court is here.
KING. And I permit it, if it is forbidden.
ESTHER. He is no spy, O Sire, a merchant he,
In Hebrew are the letters that he bears,
Not in the Moorish tongue, not Arabic.
KING. 'Tis well, I doubt it not.
(_Pointing to_ RACHEL.)
ESTHER. My sister!
KING. Take her and carry her away.
RACHEL (_as_ ESTHER _approaches her_).
They're seizing me, they're leading me away
To kill me!
(_Pointing to her discarded finery._)
See, my ransom. Here will I
Remain a while and take a little sleep.
(_Laying her cheek against the_ KING's _knee._)
Here safety is; and here 'tis good to rest.
QUEEN. Will you not go?
KING. You see that I am caught.
QUEEN. If you are caught, I still am free, I go!
[_Exit with her women._]
KING. And now that, too! That which they would prevent
They bring to pass with their false chastity.
(_Sternly to_ RACHEL.)
Arise, I tell thee--Give her back her shawl,
And let her go.
RACHEL. O, Sire, a little while.
My limbs are lamed,--I cannot, cannot walk.
[_She props her elbow on her knee and rests her head in her hand._]
KING (_stepping back_).
And is she ever thus, so timorous?
ESTHER. Nay, for, a while ago, presumptuous,
In spite of us, she wished to see thee, Sire.
KING. Me? She has paid it dear.
ESTHER. At home, as well,
She plays her pranks, and jokes with man or dog,
And makes us laugh, however grave we be.
KING. I would, indeed, she were a Christian, then,
And here at court, where things are dull enough;
A little fun might stand us in good stead.
GARCERAN. Illustrious Sire and King!
ESTHER (_busy with_ RACHEL).
Stand up! Stand up!
RACHEL (_rising and taking off_ ESTHER's _necklace, which she adds to
the other jewels_).
And give, too, what _thou_ hast,
It is my ransom.
ESTHER. Well, so be it then.
KING. What think you of all this?
GARCERAN. What _I_ think, Sire?
KING. Dissemble not! You are a connoisseur,
Myself have never looked at women much
But _she_ seems beautiful.
GARCERAN. She is, O Sire!
KING. Be strong then, for you shall accomp'ny her.
RACHEL (_who stands in the middle of the stage with trembling knees and
bent head, pushing up her sleeve_).
Put on my bracelet. Oh you hurt me so.
The necklace, too-indeed, that still hangs here.
The kerchief keep, I feel so hot and choked.
KING. Convey her home!
GARCERAN. But, Sire, I fear--
KING. Well, what?
GARCERAN. The people are aroused.
KING. Ay, you are right.
Although a royal word protection is,
'Tis better that we give no cause to wrong.
ESTHER (_fixing_ RACHEL's _dress at the neck_).
Thy dress is all disturbed and all awry.
KING. Take her at first to one of those kiosks
There scattered through the garden, and at eve--
GARCERAN. I hear, my liege!
KING. What was I saying? Oh! Are you not ready yet?
ESTHER. We are, my lord.
KING. At evening when the people all have gone,
Then lead her home and that will make an end.
GARCERAN. Come, lovely heathen!
KING. Heathen? Stuff and nonsense!
ESTHER (_to_ RACHEL,_ who prepares to go_).
And thankst thou not the King for so much grace?
RACHEL (_still exhausted, turning to the _KING).
My thanks, O Sire, for all thy mighty care!
O were I not a poor and wretched thing--
(_with a motion of her hand across her neck_)
That this my neck, made short by hangman's hand,
That this my breast, a shield against thy foe--
But that thou wishest not!
KING. A charming shield!
Now go, and God be with you.--Garceran,
I do not wish that she, whom I protect
Should be insulted by improper jests,
Or any way disturbed--
RACHEL (_with her hand on her brow_).
I cannot walk.
KING (_as Garceran is about to offer his arm_).
And why your arm? The woman can assist.
And do thou, gaffer, watch thy daughter well,
The world is ill! Do thou protect thy hoard.
[_Exeunt_ RACHEL _and her kin, led by_ GARCERAN.]
KING (_watching them_).
She totters still in walking. All her soul
A sea of fear in e'er-renewing waves.
(_Putting down his foot_)
She held my foot so tightly in her grasp,
It almost pains me. Strange it is, a man
When cowardly, with justice is despised--
A woman shows her strength when she is weak.
Ah, Almirante, what say _you_ to this?
MANRIQUE. I think, the punishment you gave my son,
Is, noble Sire, both subtle and severe.
KING. The punishment?
MANRIQUE. To guard this common trash.
KING. Methinks the punishment is not so hard.
Myself have never toyed with women much,
(_Pointing to his suite._)
But these, perchance, think otherwise than you.
But now, avaunt all pictures so confused!
And dine we, for my body needs new strength,
And with the first glad draught this festal day,
Let each one think--of what he wants to think.
No ceremony! Forward! Hasten! On!
[_As the court arranges itself on both sides and the KING goes through
the centre, the curtain falls._]
_A drop scene showing part of the garden. At the right, a garden-house
with a balcony and a door, to which several steps lead up._
GARCERAN _enters through the door._
GARCERAN. And so before I'm caught, I'll save myself!
The girl is beautiful, and is a fool;
But love is folly; wherefore such a fool
Is more to fear than e'er the slyest was.
Besides, 'tis necessary that I bring,
While still there's time, my good repute again
To honor,--and my love for Dona Clara,
Most silent she of all that never talk;
The wise man counts escape a victory.
_A page of the_ KING _enters._
PAGE. Sir Garceran--
GARCERAN. Ah, Robert, what's a-foot?
PAGE. The King, my lord, commanded me to see
If still you were with her entrusted you--
GARCERAN. If I am here? Why, he commanded--friend!
You were to see were I, perhaps, upstairs?
Just tell him that the girl is in the house,
And I outside. That answer will suffice.
PAGE. The King himself!
GARCERAN. Your majesty!
[_The_ KING _comes wrapped in a cloak. Exit PAGE._]
KING. Well, friend!
GARCERAN. Why, did you not yourself command
That only with the evening's first approach--
KING. Yes, yes, but now on second thought it seems
Far better that you travel while 'tis day--
They say thou'rt brave.
GARCERAN. So you believe, O Sire--
KING. Methinks thou honorest the royal word
Which would unharmed know what it protects.
But custom is the master of mankind;
Our wills will often only what they must.
And so, depart. But tell me, what doth she?
GARCERAN. At first, there was a weeping without end,
But time brings comfort, as the saying is;
And so 'twas here. Soon cheerfulness, yea jest,
Had banished all her former abject fear;
Then there was pleasure in the shining toys,
And wonder at the satin tapestries.
We measured every curtained stuff by yards,
Till now we've settled down and feel at home.
KING. And does she seem desirous to return?
GARCERAN. It sometimes seems she does, and then does not.
A shallow mind ne'er worries for the morrow.
KING. Of course thou didst not hesitate to throw
To her the bait of words, as is thy wont?
How did she take it, pray?
GARCERAN. Not badly, Sire.
KING. Thou liest! But in truth thou'rt lucky, boy!
And hover'st like a bird in cheerful skies,
And swoopest down wherever berries lure,
And canst adjust thyself at the first glance.
I am a King; my very word brings fear.
Yet I, were I the first time in my life
To stand in woman's presence, fear should know!
How dost begin? Pray, teach me what to do;
I am a novice in such arts as these,
And nothing better than a grown-up child.
GARCERAN. Oh, Sire, how sadly out of date!
KING. Well then, dost gaze? Does then Squire Gander gawk
Till Lady Goose-quill gawks again? Is't so?
And next, I ween, thou takest up thy lute,
And turning towards the balcony, as here,
Thou singst a croaking song, to which the moon,
A yellow pander, sparkles through the trees;
The flowers sweet intoxicate the sense,
Till now the proper opportunity
Arrives--the father, brother--spouse, perhaps--
Has left the house on similar errand bent.
And now the handmaid calls you gently: "Pst!"
You enter in, and then a soft, warm hand
Takes hold of yours and leads you through the halls,
Which, endless as the gloomy grave, spur on
The heightened wish, until, at last, the musk,
The softened lights that come through curtains' folds,
Do tell you that your charming goal is reached.
The door is ope'd, and bright, in candle gleam,
On velvet dark, with limbs all loosed in love,
Her snow-white arm enwrapped in ropes of pearls,
Your darling leans with gently drooping head,
The golden locks--no, no, I say they're black--
Her raven locks--and so on to the end!
Thou seest, Garceran, I learn right well,
And Christian, Mooress, Jewess, 'tis the same.
GARCERAN. We frontier warriors prize, for lack of choice,
Fair Moorish women, but the Jewess, Sire,--
KING. Pretend thou not to pick and choose thy fare!
I wager, if the maiden there above
Had given thee but a glance, thou'dst be aflame.
I love it not, this folk, and yet I know
That what disfigures it, is our own work;
We lame them, and are angry when they limp,
And yet, withal, this wandering shepherd race
Has something great about it, Garceran.
We are today's, we others; but their line
Runs from Creation's cradle, where our God,
In human form, still walked in Paradise,
And cherubim were guests of patriarchs,
And God alone was judge, and was the law.
Within this fairy world there is the truth
Of Cain and Abel, of Rebecca's craft,
Of Rachel, who by Jacob's service wooed--
How hight this maiden?
GARCERAN. Sire, I know not.
Of great King Ahasuerus, who his hand
Stretched out o'er Esther; she, though Jewess, was
His wife, and, like a god, preserved her race.
Christian and Moslem both their lineage trace
Back to this folk, as oldest and as first;
Thus they have doubts of us, not we of them.
And though, like Esau, it has sold its right,
We ten times daily crucify our God
By grievous sins and by our vile misdeeds--
The Jews have crucified him only once!
Now let us go! Or, rather, stay thou here;
Conduct her hence, and mark well where she lives.
Perhaps some time, when worn by weary cares,
I'll visit her, and there enjoy her thanks.
(_About to go, he hears a noise in the house and stops._)
GARCERAN. Confusion in the house; it seems
Almost as if they bring thy praise to naught;
Among themselves they quarrel--
KING (_going to the house_).
_ISAAC comes from the garden-house._
ISAAC (_speaking back into the house_).
Stay then, and risk your heads, if so ye will,
You've nearly lost them once. I'll save myself.
KING. Ask what he means.
GARCERAN. My good man, tell, how now?
ISAAC (_to_ GARCERAN).
Ah, Sir, it is then you, our guardian!
My little Rachel speaks of you so oft;
She likes you.
KING. To the point. What babbling this--
ISAAC. Who is this lord?
GARCERAN. It makes no difference. Speak!
What is the cause of all that noise above?
ISAAC (_speaking up to the window_).
Look out, you're going to catch it--now look out!
Yourself have seen my little Rachel-girl,
And how she wept and groaned and beat her breasts,
As if half crazed. Of course you have, my life!--
She hardly knew the danger had been passed
When back again her old high spirits came;
She laughed, and danced, and sang; half mad again
She shoved awry the sacred furniture
By dead men watched, and raves--as now you hear.
Hangs from her girdle not a chatelaine?
Her keys she tries in every closet lock,
And opens all the doors along the wall.
There hang within all sorts of things to wear,
And angels, devils, beggars vie with kings
In gay attire--
KING (_aside to_ GARCERAN).
Our carnival costumes.
ISAAC. She chose, herself, a plumed crown from these,--
It was not gold, but only gilded tin--
One tells it by the weight, worth twenty pence;
About her shoulders throws a trained robe
And says she is the queen--
Oh yes, thou fool!
Then in the ante-chamber next, there hangs
A picture of the King, whom God preserve!
She takes it from the wall, bears it about,