Part 5 out of 6
Concerning thine own far-removed, white life.
Thou art, I learn, immured in close seclusion;
Thy father, be it with all reverence said,
Hedges with jealous barriers his treasure;
Whilst thou, most duteous, tenderest of daughters,
Breath'st but for him.
Dear father! Were it so,
'T were simple justice. Ah, if you knew him--
A proud, large, tameless heart. This is the cloister
Where he immures me--Naples' gayest revels;
The only bar wherewith he hedges me
Is his unbounded trust, that leaves me free.
Let us go in; the late night air is chill.
Yet one more dance?
You may command, my lord.
I lost them in the press. Ah, there they dance
Again together. I would lay my hands
In blessing on that darling, haughty head.
Like the Ribera's child, she bears her honors
As lightly as a flower. Yet there glows
Unwonted lustre in her starry eyes,
And richer beauty blushes on her cheek.
Enough. Now must I strive to fix that form
That haunts my brain--the blind, old Count Camillo,
The Prince's oracle. 'Midst the thick throng
My fancy singled him; white beard, white hair,
Sealed eyes, and brow lit by an inward light.
So will I paint mine Isaac blessing Esau,
While Jacob kneels before him--blind, betrayed
By his own flesh!
As RIBERA stands aside, lost in thought, enter DON JOHN and MARIA.
See the impatient day
Wakes in the east.
One moment here, signora,
Breathe we the charm of this enchanted night.
Look where behind yon vines the slow moon sets,
Hidden from us, while every leaf hangs black,
Each tender stalk distinct, each curling edge
Against the silver sky.
MARIA (perceiving RIBERA).
What, father! here?
Maria!--Ah, my Prince, I crave your pardon.
When thus I muse, 't is but my mind that lives;
Each outward sense is dead. I saw you not,
I heard nor voice nor footstep. Yonder lines
That streak the brightening sky east warn us away.
For all your grace to us, the Spagnoletto
Proffers his thanks to John of Austria.
My daughter, art thou ready?
I am bound,
Illustrious signor, rather unto you
And the signora, past all hope of payment.
When may I come to tender my poor homage
To the Sicilian master?
My lord will jest.
Our house is too much honored when he deigns
O'erstep the threshold. Let your royal pleasure
Alone decide the hour.
Or I should say to-day, for dawn is nigh.
And still we trespass. Be it as you will;
We are your servants.
So, my lord, good-night.
[Exeunt MARIA and RIBERA.]
DON JOHN (alone).
Gods, what a haughty devil rules that man!
As though two equal princes interchanged
Imperial courtesies! The Spagnoletto
Thanks John of Austria! Louis of France
Might so salute may father. By heaven, I know not
What patience or what reverence withheld
My enchafed spirit in bounds of courtesy.
Nay, it was she, mine angel, whose mere aspect
Is balm and blessing. How her love-lit eyes
Burned through my soul! How her soft hand's slight pressure
Tingled along my veins! Oh, she is worthy
A heart' religion! How shall I wear the hours
Ere I may seek her? Lo, I stand and dream,
While my late guests await me. Patience, patience!
Morning twilight in RIBERA'S Garden. During this scene the day
gradually breaks, and at the close the full light of morning
illuminates the stage. LORENZO.
From thy poppied sleep awake;
From they golden dreams arise;
Earth and seas new colors take,
Love-light dawns in rosy skies,
Weird night's fantastic shadows are outworn;
Why tarriest thou, oh, sister to the morn?
Hearken, love! the matin choir
Of birds salutes thee, and with these
Blends the voice of my desire.
Unto no richer promises
Of deeper, dearer, holier love than mine,
Canst thou awaken from they dreams divine.
Lo, thine eastern windows flame,
Brightening with the brightened sky;
Rise, and with thy beauty shame
Morning's regal pageantry,
To thrill and bless as the reviving sun,
For my heart gropes in doubt, though night be gone.
Why should I fear? Her soul is pledged to mine,
Albeit she still withheld the binding word.
How long hath been the night! but morn breathes hope.
"I fain were true to you and to myself"--
Did she say thus? or is my fevered brain
The fool of its desires? The world swam;
The blood rang beating in mine ears and roared
Like rushing waters; yet, as through a dream,
I saw her dimly. Surely on her lids
Shone the clear tears. As there's a God in heaven,
She spake those words! My lips retain the touch
Of those soft, snow-cold hands, neither refused
Nor proffered. Such things ARE, nor can they be
Forgotten or foreknown. Yes, she is mine.
But soft! Her casement opes. Oh, joy, 't is she!
Pale, in a cloud of white she stands and drinks
The morning sunlight.
MARIA (above at the window).
Ah, how sweet this air
Kisses my sleepless lids and burning temples.
I am not weary, though I found no rest.
My spirit leaps within me; a new glory
Blesses the dear, familiar scene--ripe orchard,
The same--yet oh, how different! Even I thought
Soft music trembled on the listening air,
As though a harp were touched, blent with low song.
Sure, that was phantasy. I will descend,
Visit my flowers, and see whereon the dew
Hangs heaviest, and what fairest bud hath bloomed
Since yester-eve. Why should I court repose
And dull forgetfulness, while the large earth
Wakes no lesser joy than mine?
[Exit from above.]
How may my breast contain thee, with thy burden
Of too much happiness?
Enter MARIA below; LORENZO springs forward to greet her; she
shrinks back in a sort of terror.
Good-day, sweet mistress.
May the blithe spirit of this auspicious morn
Become the genius of thy days to come,
Whereof be none less beautiful than this.
Why art thou silent? Does not love inspire
Joyous expression, be it but a sigh,
A song, a smile, a broken word, a cry?
Thou hast not granted me the promised pledge
For which I hunger still. I would confirm
With dear avowals, frequent seals of love,
That which, though sure, I yet can scarce believe.
Somewhat too sure, I think, my lord Lorenzo.
I scarce deemed possible that one so shy
But yester-morn should hold so high a mien,
Claiming what ne'er was given.
You are a trifle bold to speak my name
Familiarly as no man, save my father
Or my own brother, dares.
Ah, now I see
Your jest. You will not seem so lightly won
Without a wooing? You will feign disdain,
Only to make more sweet your rich concession?
Too late--I heard it all. "A new light shines
On the familiar scene." What may that be,
Save the strange splendor of the dawn of love?
Nay, darling, cease to jest, lest my poor heart,
Hanging 'twixt hell and heaven, in earnest break.
Here is no jest, sir, but a fatal error,
Crying for swift correction. You surprise me
With rude impatience, ere I have found time
To con a gentle answer. Pardon me
If any phrase or word or glance of mine
Hath bred or nourished in your heart a hope
That you might win my love. It cannot be.
A word, a glance! Why, the whole frozen statue
Warmed into life. Surely it was not you.
You must have bribed some angel with false prayers
To wear your semblance--nay, no angel served,
But devilish witchcraft--
Sir, enough, enough!
I hoped to find here peace and solitude.
These lacking, I retire. Farewell.
[Going toward the house.]
I will not rob you of your own. Farewell to you.
Where have you flown, bright dreams? Has that rude hand
Sufficed to dash to naught your frail creations?
Sad thoughts and humors black now fill my soul.
So his rough foot hath bruised the dewy grass,
And left it sere. Why should his harsh words touch me?
The truth of yesterday is false to-day.
How could I know, dear God! How might I guess
The bitter sweetness, the delicious pain!
A new heart fills my breast, as soft and weak
And melting as a tear, unto its lord;
But kindled with quick courage to endure,
If I need front for him, a world of foes.
If this be love, ah, what a hell is theirs
Who suffer without hope! Even I, who hold
So many dear assurances, who hear
Still ringing in mine ears such sacred vows,
Am haunted with an unaccustomed doubt,
Not wonted to go hand-in-hand with joy.
A gloomy omen greets me with the morn;
I, who recoil from pain, must strike and wound.
What may this mean? Help me, ye saints of heaven
And holy mother, for my strength is naught!
She falls on her knees and bursts into tears. Reenter LORENZO.
Thank heaven, I came. How have I wrung her soul!
A noble love, forsooth! A blind, brute passion,
That being denied, is swift transformed to hate
No whit more cruel. (To Maria.) Lady!
MARIA (rising hastily).
Again what would you with me?
No such suit
As late I proffered, but your gracious pardon.
Rise, sir, forgiven. I, too, have been to blame,
Although less deeply than you deemed. Forbear
To bind your life. I feel myself unworthy
Of that high station where your thoughts enthrone me.
Yet I dare call myself your friend.
[Offering him her hand, which LORENZO presses to his lips.]
Be blessed, and farewell.
Enter RIBERA, calling.
Why, father, I am here (kissing him). Good-day. What will you?
Darling, no more than what I always will.
Before I enter mine own world removed,
I fain would greet the dearest work of God.
I missed you when I rose. I sought you first
In your own chamber, where the lattice, oped,
Let in the morning splendor and smells
Of the moist garden, with the sound of voices.
I looked, I found you here--but not alone.
What man was that went from you?
My lord Lorenzo. You remember, father,
How yester-morn I pleaded for his work;
Thus he, through gratitude and--love, hath watched
All night within our garden, while I danced;
And when I came to nurse my flowers--he spake.
Am I not still beside you, father?
I will not leave you.
Ah, mine angel-child!
I cannot choose but dread it, though I wait
Expectant of the hour when you fulfil
Your woman's destiny. You have full freedom;
Yet I rejoice at this reprieve, and thank thee
For thy brave truthfulness. Be ever thus,
Withholding naught from him whose heart reflects
Only thine image. Thou art still my pride,
Even as last night when all eyes gazed thy way,
Thy bearing equal in disdainful grace
To his who courted thee--thy sovereign's son.
Yea, so? And yet it was not pride I felt,
Nor consciousness of self, nor vain delight
In the world's envy;--something more than these,
Far deeper, sweeter--What have I said? My brain
Is dull with sleep. 'T is only now I feel
The weariness of so much pleasure.
Go we within. Yes, I am late to work;
We squander precious moments. Thou, go rest,
And waken with fresh roses in they cheeks,
To greet our royal guest.
The studio of the Spagnoletto. RIBERA before his canvas. LUCA
RIBERA (laying aside his brush).
So! I am weary. Luca, what 's o'clock?
My lord, an hour past noon.
So late already!
Well, one more morning of such delicate toil
Will make it ready for Madrid, and worthy
Not merely Philip's eyes, but theirs whose glance
Outvalues a king's gaze, my noble friend
Velasquez, and the monkish Zurbaran.
Hath the signora risen?
Fiametta passed a brief while since, and left
My lady sleeping.
Good! she hath found rest;
Poor child, she sadly lacked it. She had known
'Twixt dawn and dawn no respite from emotion;
Her chill hand fluttered like a bird in mine;
Her soft brow burned my lips. Could that boy read
The tokens of an overwearied spirit,
Strained past endurance, he had spared her still,
At any cost of silence. What is such love
To mine, that would outrival Roman heroes--
Watch mine arm crisp and shrivel in quick flame,
Or set a lynx to gnaw my heart away,
To save her from a needle-prick of pain,
Ay, or to please her? At their worth she rates
Her wooers--light as all-embracing air
Or universal sunshine. Luca, go
And tell Fiametta--rather, bid the lass
He comes to pay me homage,
As would his royal father, if he pleased
To visit Naples; yet she too shall see him.
She is part of all I think, of all I am;
She is myself, no less than yon bright dream
Fixed in immortal beauty on the canvas.
My lord, you called me?
When thy mistress wakes,
Array her richly, that she be prepared
To come before the Prince.
Sir, she hath risen,
And only waits me with your lordship's leave,
To cross the street unto St. Francis' church.
With such slight escort? Nay, this troubles me.
Only the Strada's width? The saints forbid
That I should thwart her holy exercise!
Myself will go. I cannot. Bid her muffle,
Like our Valencian ladies, her silk mantle
About her face and head.
[At a sign from RIBERA, exit FIAMETTA.]
Yes, God will bless her.
What should I fear? I will make sure her beauty
Is duly masked.
[He goes toward the casement.]
Ay, there she goes--the mantle,
Draped round the stately head, discloses naught
Save the live jewel of the eye. Unless one guessed
From the majestic grace and proud proportions,
She might so pass through the high thoroughfares.
Ah, one thick curl escapes from its black prison.
Alone in Naples, wreathed with rays of gold,
Her crown of light betrays her. So, she's safe!
A noble gentleman of Spain awaits
The master's leave to enter.
Show him in.
[Exit LUCA. RIBERA draws the curtain before his picture of
A gentleman of Spain! Perchance the Prince
Sends couriers to herald his approach,
Or craves a longer grace.
Enter LUCA, ushering in DON JOHN unattended, completely enveloped
in a Spanish mantle, which he throws off, his face almost hidden
by a cavalier's hat. He uncovers his head on entering. RIBERA,
repressing a movement of surprise, hastens to greet him and kisses
Welcome, my lord!
I am shamed to think my sovereign's son should wait,
Through a churl's ignorance, without my doors.
Dear master, blame him not. I came attended
By one page only. Here I blush to claim
Such honor as depends on outward pomp.
No royalty is here, save the crowned monarch
Of our Sicilian artists. Be it mine
To press with reverent lips my master's hand.
Your Highness is too gracious; if you glance
Round mine ill-furnished studio, my works
Shall best proclaim me and my poor deserts.
Luca, uplift you hangings.
DON JOHN (seating himself).
Sir, you may sit.
RIBERA (aside, seating himself slowly).
Curse his swollen arrogance! Doth he imagine
I waited leave of him?
(Luca uncovers the picture).
You have bettered here your best. Why, sir, he breathes!
Will not those locked lids ope?--that nerveless hand
Regain the iron strength of sinew mated
With such heroic frame? You have conspired
With Nature to produce a man. Behold,
I chatter foolish speech; for such a marvel
The fittest praise is silence.
[He rises and stands before the picture.]
RIBERA (after a pause).
I am glad
Your highness deigns approve. Lose no more time,
Lest the poor details should repay you not.
Unto your royal home 't will follow you,
Companion, though unworthy, to the treasures
Of the Queen's gallery.
'T is another jewel
Set in my father's crown, and, in his name,
I thank you for it.
[RIBERA bows silently. DON JOHN glances around the studio.]
There hangs a quaint, strong head,
Though merely sketched. What a marked, cunning leer
Grins on the wide mouth! what a bestial glance!
'T is but a slight hint for my larger work,
"Bacchus made drunk by Satyrs."
Where is that?
I ne'er have seen the painting.
'T is not in oils,
But etched in aqua-fortis. Luca, fetch down
Yonder portfolio. I can show your Highness
The graven copy.
[LUCA brings forward a large portfolio. RIBERA looks hastily
over the engravings and draws one out which he shows to DON JOHN.]
Ah, most admirable!
I know not who is best portrayed--the god,
Plump, reeling, wreathed with vine, in whom abides
Something Olympian still, or the coarse Satyrs,
Thoroughly brutish. Here I scarcely miss,
So masterly the grouping, so distinct
The bacchanalian spirit, your rich brush,
So vigorous in color. Do you find
The pleasure in this treatment equals that
Of the oil painting?
All is in my mood;
We have so many petty talents, clever
To mimic Nature's surface. I name not
The servile copyists of the greater masters,
Or of th' archangels, Raphael and Michael;
But such as paint our cheap and daily marvels.
Sometimes I fear lest they degrade our art
To a nice craft for plodding artisans--
Mere realism, which they mistake for truth.
My soul rejects such limits. The true artist
Gives Nature's best effects with far less means.
Plain black and white suffice him to express
A finer grace, a stronger energy
Than she attains with all the aid of color.
I argue thus and work with simple tools,
Like the Greek fathers of our art--the sculptors,
Who wrought in white alone their matchless types.
Then dazzled by the living bloom of earth,
Glowing with color, I return to that,
My earliest worship, and compose such work
As you see there.
[Pointing to the picture.]
Would it be overmuch,
In my brief stay in Naples, to beg of you
A portrait of myself in aqua-fortis?
'T would rob you, sir, of fewer golden hours
Than the full-colored canvas, and enrich
With a new treasure our royal gallery.
You may command my hours and all that's mine.
DON JOHN (rising).
Thanks, generous master. When may I return
For the first sitting?
I am ready now--
To-day, to-morrow--when your Highness please.
'T would be abuse of goodness to accept
The present moment. I will come to-morrow,
At the same hour, in some more fitting garb.
Your hand, sir, and farewell. Salute for me,
I pray you, the signora. May I not hope
To see and thank her for her grace to me,
In so adorning my poor feast?
The debt is ours.
She may be here to-morrow--she is free,
She only, while I work, to come and go.
Pray, sir, allow her--she is never crossed.
I stoop to beg for her--she is the last
Who bides with me--I crave you pardon, sir;
What should this be to you?
'T is much to me,
Whose privilege has been in this rare hour,
Beneath the master to discern the man,
And thus add friendship unto admiration.
[He presses RIBERA'S hand and is about to pick up his mantle and
hat. LUCA springs forward, and, while he is throwing the cloak
around the Princes's shoulders, enter hastily MARIA, enveloped in
her mantilla, as she went to church.]
Well, father, an I veiled and swathed to suit you,
To cross the Strada?
[She throws off her mantilla and appears all in white. She goes
to embrace her father, when she suddenly perceives the Prince, and
stands speechless and blushing.]
Child, his Royal Highness
Prince John of Austria.
Already twice my gracious stars have smiled.
I saw you in the street. You wore your mantle,
As the noon sun might wear a veil of cloud,
Covering, but not concealing.
I, sir, twice
Have unaware stood in your royal presence.
You are welcome to my father's home and mine.
I scarce need crave your pardon for my entrance;
Yourself must see how well assured I felt
My father was alone.
And so you hoped
To find him--shall I read your answer thus?
Nay, press her not. Your Highness does her wrong,
So harshly to construe her simpleness.
My daughter and myself are one, and both
Will own an equal pleasure if you bide.
DON JOHN (seating himself).
You chain me with kind words.
My father, sir,
Hath surely told you our delight and marvel
At the enchantments of your feast. For me
The night was brief, rich, beautiful, and strange
As a bright dream.
I will gainsay you not.
A beauteous soul can shed her proper glory
On mean surroundings. I have likewise dreamed,
Nor am I yet awake. This morn hath been
A feast for mind and eye. Yon shepherd-prince,
Whom angels visit in his sleep, shall crown
Your father's brow with a still fresher laurel,
And link in equal fame the Spanish artist
With the Lord's chosen prophet.
That may be,
For in the form of that wayfarer
I drew myself. So have I slept beneath
The naked heavens, pillowed by a stone,
With no more shelter than the wind-stirred branches,
While the thick dews of our Valencian nights
Drenched my rude weeds, and chilled through blood and bone.
Yet to me also were the heavens revealed,
And angels visited my dreams.
That you, dear masters, standing on the crown
Of a long life's continuous ascent,
Should backward glance unto such dark beginnings.
Obscure are all beginnings. Yet I muse
With pleasing pain on those fierce years of struggle.
They were to me my birthright; all the vigor,
The burning passion, the unflinching truth,
My later pencil gained, I gleaned from them.
I prized them. I reclaimed their ragged freedom,
Rather than hold my seat, a liveried slave,
At the rich board of my Lord Cardinal.
A palace was a prison till I reared
Mine own. But now my child's heart I would pierce
Sooner than see it bear the least of ills,
Such as I then endured.
May smile, sir, at your threat; she is in a pleasance,
Where no rude breezes blow, no shadow falls
Darker than that of cool and fragrant leaves.
Yea, were it otherwise--had you not reaped
The fruit of your own works, she had not suffered.
Your children are Spain's children.
Sir, that word
Is the most grateful you have spoken yet.
Why are thou silent, daughter?
What should I say?
The Prince is kind. I scarcely heard your words.
I listened to your voices, and I mused.
DON JOHN (rising).
I overstep your patience.
You will be gone?
What have I said?
You are a child, Maria.
To-morrow I will wait your Highness.
To-morrow noon. Farewell, signora.
[Exit DON JOHN.]
What ails you, daughter? You forget yourself.
Your tongue cleaves to your mouth. You sit and muse,
A statue of white silence. Twice to-day
You have deeply vexed me. Go not thus again
Across the street with that light child, Fiametta.
Faith, you were closely muffled. What was this--
This tell-tale auburn curl that rippled down
Over the black mantilla? Were I harsh,
Suspicious, jealous, fearful, prone to wrath,
Or anything of all that I am not,
I should have deemed it no mere negligence,
But a bold token.
Father you make me quail.
Why do you threat me with such evil eyes?
Would they could read my heart!
Elude me not.
Whom have you met beside the Prince this morn?
Who saw you pass? Whom have you spoken with?
For God's sake, father, what strange thoughts are these?
With none, with none! Beside the Prince, you say?
Why even him I saw not, as you know.
I hastened with veiled eyes cast on the ground,
Swathed in my mantle still, I told my beads,
And in like manner hasted home to you.
Well, it may pass; but henceforth say thy matins
In thine own room. I know what vague cloud
Obscures my sight and weighs upon my brain.
I am very weary. Luca, follow me.
[Exeunt RIBERA and LUCA.]
Poor father! Dimly he perceives some trouble
Within the threatening air. Thank heaven, I calmed him,
Yet I spake truth. What could have roused so soon
His quick suspicion? Did Fiametta see
The wary page slip in my hand the missive,
As we came forth again? Nay, even so,
My father hath not spoken with her since.
Sure he knows naught; 't is but my foolish fear
Makes monsters out of shadows. I may read
The priceless lines and grave them on my heart.
[She draws from her bosom a letter, reads it, and presses it to
He loves me, yes, he loves me! Oh, my God,
This awful joy in mine own breast is love!
To-night he will await me in our garden.
Oh, for a word, a pressure of the hand!
I fly, my prince, at thy most dear behest!
A room in DON TOMMASO'S HOUSE. DON TOMMASO and ANNICCA.
Truly, you wrong your sister; she is young,
Heedless, and wilful, that is all; a touch
Of the Ribera's spirit fired the lass.
Don John was but her weapon of revenge
Against the malice of our haughty matrons,
Who hurled this icy shafts of scorn from heights
Of dignity upon the artist's daughter.
I cannot think with you. In her demeanor,
Her kindled cheek, her melting eye, was more
Than sly revenge or cautious policy.
If that was art, it overreached itself.
Ere the night ended, I had blushed to see
Slighting regards cast on my father's child,
And hear her name and his tossed lightly round.
Could you not read in such disparagement
The envy of small natures?
I had as lief
Maria were to dance the tarantella
Upon the quay at noonday, as to see her
Gazed at again with such insulting homage.
You are too strict; your baseless apprehensions
Wrong her far more than strangers' jests.
My timely fears prevent a greater ill
And work no harm, since they shall be imparted
Only to him who hath the power to quell them,
Dissolving them to air--my father.
You surely will not rouse his fatal wrath?
Annicca, listen: if your doubts were true,
He whose fierce love guards her with sleepless eyes,
More like the passion of some wild, dumb creature,
With prowling jealousy and deadly spring,
Forth leaping at the first approach of ill,
Than the calm tenderness of human fathers;
He surely had been keen to scent the danger.
I saw him at the ball--as is his wont,
He mingled not among the revellers,
But like her shadow played the spy on her.
A word would stir less deeply than you dread.
Ah, there you err; he knows no middle term.
At once he would accept as fact the worst
Of your imaginings; his rage would smite
All near him, and rebound upon himself;
For, as I learn, Don John brings royal orders
For the Queen's gallery; he would dismiss
The Prince as roughly as a begging artist.
Make no such breach just now betwixt the court
And our own kindred.
Be it so, Tommaso.
I will do naught in haste.
Watch thou and wait.
A slight reproof might now suffice the child,
Tame as a bird unto a gentle voice.
My mind misgives me; yet will I find patience.
Night in RIBERA'S Garden. DON JOHN alone.
In any less than she, so swift a passion,
So unreserved, so reckless, had repelled.
In her 't is godlike. Our mutual love
Was born full-grown, as we gazed each on each.
Nay, 't was not born, but like a thing eternal,
It WAS ere we had consciousness thereof;
No growth of slow development, but perfect
From the beginning, neither doomed to end.
Her garden breathes her own warm, southern beauty,
Glowing with dewy and voluptuous bloom.
Here I am happy--happy to dream and wait
In rich security of bliss. I know
How brief an interval divides us now.
She hastes to meet me with no less impatience
Than mine to clasp her in my arms, to press
Heart unto heart, and see the love within
The unfathomable depths of her great eyes.
She comes. Maria!
Enter MARIA, half timid, half joyous.
My lord! you have been waiting?
Darling, not long; 't was but my restless love
That drove me here before the promised hour.
So were I well content to wait through ages
Upon the threshold of a joy like this,
Knowing the gates of heaven might ope to me
At any moment.
Your love is less than mine,
For I have counted every tedious minute
Since our last meeting.
I had rather speak
Less than the truth to have you chide me thus;
Yet if you enter in the lists with me,
Faith match with faith, and loyal heart with heart,
I warrant you, the jealous god of love,
Who spies us from yon pomegranate bush,
Would crown me victor.
Why should we compete?
Who could decide betwixt two equal truths,
Two perfect faiths?
The worship of my life
Will be slight payment for your boundless trust.
Look we nor forth nor back, are we not happy?
Heaven smiles above our heads with all her stars.
The envious day forced us apart, the wing
Of obscure night protects and shelters us.
Now like a pure, night-blooming flower, puts forth
The perfect blossom of our love. Oh, lean
Thy royal head upon my breast; assure me
That this unheard-of bliss is no fond dream.
Cling to me, darling, till thy love's dear burden
Take root about my heart-strings.
MARIA (after a pause).
Did you not hear
A sound, a cry? Oh, God! was it my father?
Naught save the beating of our hearts I heard.
Be calm, my love; the very air is hushed.
Listen, the tinkle of the fountain yonder,
The sleepy stir of leaves, the querulous pipe
Of some far bird--no more.
I heard, I heard!
A rude voice called me. Wherefore did it come
To snatch me from that dream of restful love?
Oh, Juan, you will save me, you will help,--
Tell me you will--I have lost all for you!
To-morrow you will laugh at fears like these.
You have lost naught--you have but won my love.
Lose not your faith in that--your shield and weapon.
I tremble still in every limb. Good-night,
I must be gone. To-morrow when you come,
Be wary with my father; he is fierce
In love and hatred. Listen and look, my lord.
If one dared say to me but yester-morn
That I would meet at night a stranger youth
In mine own garden, talk with him of love,
And hint a thought against the Spagnoletto,
I had smitten with this bauble such a one.
[Pointing to a jewelled poniard in her belt.]
Kiss me, my Juan, once again. Good-night.
The studio. RIBERA and ANNICCA.
Has he come often?
Nay, I caught the trick
Of his fair face in some half-dozen sittings.
His is a bold and shapely head--it pleased me.
I like the lad; the work upon his portrait
Was pastime--'t is already nigh complete.
And has Maria sat here while you worked?
Why not? What would'st thou say? Speak, fret me not
With ticklish fears. Is she not by my side,
For work or rest?
Surely, I meant no harm.
Father, how quick you are! I had but asked
If she, being here, had seen the work progress,
And found it his true counterpart.
There is something in your thought you hold from me.
Have the lewd, prying eyes, the slanderous mind
Of public envy, spied herein some mischief?
What hast thou heard? By heaven, if one foul word
Have darkened the fair fame of my white dove,
Naples shall rue it. Let them not forget
The chapel of Saint Januarius!
Tommaso judged aright. I dare not tell him.
Dear father, listen. Pray, be calm. Sit down;
Your own hot rage engenders in my mind
Thoughts, fears, suspicions.
RIBERA (seating himself).
I am foolish, hasty; but it makes me mad.
Listen to me. Here sits the Prince before me;
We talk, we laugh. We have discussed all themes,
From the great Angelo's divinity,
Down to the pest of flies that fret us here
At the day's hottest. Sometimes he will pace
The studio--such young blood is seldom still.
He brought me once his mandoline, and drew
Eloquent music thence. I study thus
The changeful play of soul. I catch the spirit
Behind the veil, and burn it on the plate.
Maria comes and goes--will sit awhile
Over her broidery, then will haste away
And serve us with a dish of golden fruit.
That is for me; she knows the sweet, cool juice,
After long hours of work, refreshes me
More than strong wine. She meets his Royal Highness
As the Ribera's child should meet a Prince--
Nor over bold, nor timid; one would think
Their rank was equal, and that neither sprang
From less than royal lineage.
Why, I know it.
Here is no need to excuse or justify.
Speak rather of your work--is the plate finished?
So nigh, that were Don John to leave to-morrow,
It might go with him.
What! he leaves Naples?
Yea, but I know not when; he seems to wait
Momently, orders from his Majesty
To travel onward.
Would he were well away!
What do you mutter? I grow deaf this side.
I spake not, father. I regret with you
The Prince should leave us; you have more enjoyed
His young companionship than any strangers
These many years.
Well, well, enough of him.
He hath a winning air--so far, so good.
I know not that I place more trust in him
Than in another. 'T is a lying world;
I am too old now to be duped or dazzled
By fair externals.
Enter MARIA, carrying a kirtle full of flowers.
Father, see! my roses
Have blossomed over night; I bring you some
To prank your study. Sister, Don Tommaso
Seeks you below.
I will go to meet him. Father,
[Embraces MARIA and exits. MARIA sits by her father's side and
displays her flowers.]
Truly, a gorgeous show!
Pink, yellow, crimson, white--which is the fairest?
Those with the deepest blush should best become you--
Nay, they accord not with your hair's red gold;
The white ones suit you best--pale, innocent,
So flowers too can lie! Is not that strange?
[MARIA looks at him in mingled wonder and affright. He roughly
brushes aside all the flowers upon the floors, than picks one up
and carefully plucks it to pieces.]
I think not highly of your flowers, girl;
I have plucked this leaf; it has no heart.
[He laughs contemptuously.]
What have I done? Alas! what mean you?
Have you then lost your reason?
Nay, but found it.
I, who was dull of wit, am keen at last.
"Don John is comely," and "Don John is kind;"
"A wonderful musician is Don John,"
"A princely artist"--and then , meek of mien,
You enter in his presence, modest, simple.
And who beneath that kitten grace had spied
The claws of mischief? Who! Why, all the world,
Save the fond, wrinkled, hoary fool, thy father.
Out, girl, for shame! He will be here anon;
Hence to your room--he shall not find you here.
Thank God, thank God! no evil hath been wrought
That may not be repaired. I have sat by
At all your meetings. You shall have no more;
Myself will look to that. Away, away!
RIBERA (looks after her).
As one who has received a deadly hurt,
She walks. What if my doubts be false? The terror
Of an unlooked-for blow, a treacherous thrust
When least expected--that is all she showed.
On a false charge, myself had acted thus.
She had been moved far otherwise if guilty;
She had wept, protested, begged--she had not left
With such a proud and speechless show of grief.
I was too harsh, too quick on slight suspicion.
What did Annicca say? Why, she said naught.
'T was her grave air, her sudden reticence,
Her ill-assumed indifference. They play on me;
They know me not. They dread my violent passions,
Not guessing what a firm and constant bridle
I hold them with. On just cause to be angered,
Is merely human. Yet they sound my temper;
They try to lead me like some half-tamed beast,
That must be coaxed. Well, I may laugh thereat.
But I am not myself to-day; strange pains
Shoot through my head and limbs and vex my spirit.
Oh, I have wronged my child! Return, Maria!
Night. RIBERA'S bedroom. RIBERA discovered in his dressing-gown,
seated reading beside a table, with a light upon it. Enter from
an open door at the back of the stage, MARIA. She stands
irresolute for a moment on the threshold behind her father,
watching him, passes her hand rapidly over her brow and eyes,
and then knocks.
May I come in, dear father?
RIBERA (putting down his book and looking at her affectionately).
Child, you ask?
You study late. I came to bid good-night.
Poor child, thou must be weary. Thou art pale
Still from thy swoon.
MARIA (with a forced laugh).
I had forgotten it.
Nay, I am well again.
But I forget it not,
Neither forgive myself. Well, it is past,
Enough! When the Prince left I sent for thee;
Thou wast still sleeping?
MARIA (with confusion).
Yes, I was outworn.
What didst thou wish of me?
Merely to tell thee
Don John leaves Naples. He expressed regret
Most courteously that thou wast suffering.
He had fain ordered us his parting thanks
For our kind welcome--so he deigned to say.
To-morrow he may steal a moment's grace
To see us both once more; but this is doubtful,
So he entrusted his farewells to me.
May peace go with him.
We are alone--
Are we not, darling? Thanks for the calm content
Wherewith thou biddest him farewell, to nestle
Once more in mine embrace. Not long, I feel,
May these old horny eyes be blest with sight
Of thy full-flowering grace, these wrinkled lips
Be pressed against thy brow. I am no more
What I have been; at times both hand and brain
Refuse their task. Myself will follow soon--
The better part of me already dead.
So the worm claims us by slow torture, child.
Thou'lt bear with me, if as to-day I wrong
Thy gentle spirit?
Father, no more, no more!
You break my heart.
Mine angel-child, weep not
So bitterly. I thought not thus to move thee.
Still thou art overwrought. I would have asked
At last a promise of thee. I am selfish,
But I would sleep less startingly o'nights,
And bear a calmer soul by day, were I secure
That thou wilt bide with me until the end.
To-night I will not press thee. Thou art weary;
Thy nerves have scarce regained their tension yet;
But from thy deep emotion I can see
'T will cost thee less than I have feared. To-morrow
We will talk of this again.
Good-night. 'T is time thou shouldst be sleeping.
I cannot leave thee! Every word of thine
Gnaws like a burning coal my sore, soft heart.
What! thou shalt suffer, and thine own Maria
Will leave thee daughterless, uncomforted?
What! thou shalt weep, and other eyes than mine
Shall see the Spagnoletto's spirit broken?
There, there, poor child! Look up, cling not so wildly
About my neck. Thou art too finely touched,
If thus the faint foreshadow of a grief
Can overcome thee. Listen? What was that?
MARIA (starts up, shudders violently, and, all at once, masters
Why, I heard nothing, father.
Yes, a sound
Of footsteps, and a stifled call.
[He goes toward the casement. MARIA tries to detain him.]
Surely 't was naught. Your ears deceive you.
The wind is rising, and you heard the leaves
Nay, I will look forth.
[He opens the casement and looks out in silence. MARIA stands
behind him, with her hands clasped in an agony of fear.]
Hist, answer! Who goes there? (a pause.) No sound. Thou'rt right,
Maria; I see naught; our garden lies
Vacant and still, save for the swaying branches
Of bush and tree. 'T is a wild, threatening night.
A sultry breeze is blowing, and the sky
Hangs black above Vesuvius. Yonder cloud
Hath lightnings in it. Ah, a blinding bolt
Dims the volcano's pillared fire. Enough.
[He closes the casement and returns to MARIA.]
Hark, how the thunder rolls! My child, you tremble
Like the blown leaves without.
I am oppressed
By the same stormy influence. Thou knowest
I dread the thunder.
Thou, who art safely housed,
Why shouldst thou dread it? Try to sleep, my darling;
Forget the terror of the tempest; morn
Will break again in sunshine.
You love me and you trust me once again,
Before I bid good-night.
If it will calm thee,
I love thee and I trust thee. Thou art to me
My genius--thou, the breathing image still
Of thy saint-mother, whom the angels guard.
Even as thou standest now, vested in white,
With glowing eyes and pale, unsmiling face,
I see her as she stood the day her heart
Went forth from home and kin to bless the stranger
Who craved her father's alms.
Thanks, thanks. Good-night.
God bless us through these wild, dark hours.
RIBERA'S garden. Half the sky illuminated by an over-clouded
moon, the rest obscured by an approaching storm. Occasional
thunder and lightning. On on side of the stage a summer-house
open to the audience, on the other side the exterior of the
dwelling. DON JOHN discovered waiting near the house. The door
opens, and enter MARIA.
DON JOHN (springing forward and embracing her).
At last! at last!
Juan, beware! My father's fears,
I cannot guess by whom or what, are roused.
[She extends her arms gropingly to embrace him.]
Oh, let me feel thee near me--I see naught.
Follow me; here our voices may be heard.
[She hastens towards the summer-house, leaning upon his arm,
and sinks upon a seat.]
Have not slow ages passed with crowding woes
Since we last met! What have I not endured!
Oh, Juan, save me!
Dearest child, be calm.
Thou art strangely overwrought. Speak not. Await
Till this wild fear be past.
How great you are!
Your simple presence stills and comforts me.
While you are here, the one thing real to me
In all the universe is love.
My love is here, if I be far or nigh.
Is this the spirit of a soldier's wife?
Nay, fiery courage, iron fortitude,
That soul must own that dares to say, "I love."
And I dare say it. I can bear the worst
That envious fate may heap upon my head,
If thou art with me, or for hope of thee.
Art sure of that? Thou couldst not part from me,
Even for thy father's sake?
Talk you of parting?
For God's sake, what is this? You love no more?
Rather I love so truly that I shrink
From asking thee to share a soldier's fate.
I tremble to uproot so fine a flower
From its dear native earth. I--
MARIA (putting her hand on his lips).
Hush, no more!
I need no preparation more than this,
Your mere request.
There spake my heroine.
The King, my father, bids me to repair
Shall we sail to-night?
My Princess! Thou recoilest not from all
Thou must endure, ere I can openly
Claim thee my wife!
The pangs of purgatory
Were lightly borne with such a heaven in view.
I were content with one brief hour a day,
Snatched from the toils of war and thy high duties,
To gaze on thy dear face--to feel thy hand,
Even as now a stay and a caress.
Angel, I have no thanks. May God forget me
When I forget this hour! So, thou art firm--
Ready this night to leave thy home, thy kin,
I am ready and resolved.
Yet judge me not so lightly as to deem
I say this with no pang. My love were naught,
Could I withdraw it painlessly at once
From him round whose colossal strength the tendrils
Of mine own baby heart were taught to twine.
I speak not now as one who swerves or shrinks,
But merely, dear, to show thee what sharp tortures
I, nowise blind, but with deliberate soul,
Embrace for thee.
How can I doubt the anguish
So rude a snapping of all ties must smite
Thy tender heart withal? Yet, dwell we not
On the brief pain, but on the enduring joys.
If Ribera's love be all thou deemest,
He will forgive thy secret flight, thy--
May I not bid farewell? May I not tell him
Where we are bound? How soon he may have hope
To hear from me--to welcome me, thy Princess?
I dare not leave him without hope.
Thou art mad! We must be secret as the grave,
Else are we both undone. I have given out
That I depart in princely state to-morrow.
Far from the quay a bark awaiteth us.
I know my man. Shrouded by careful night,
We will set secret sail for Sicily.
Once in Palermo, thou mayst write thy father--
Sue for his pardon--tell him that, ere long,
When I have won by cautious policy
King Philip's favor, thou shalt be proclaimed
Princess of Austria.
MARIA (who has hung upon his words with trembling excitement,
covers her face with her hands, and bursts into tears).
I cannot! no! I cannot!
DON JOHN (scornfully).
I feared as much. Well, it is better thus.
I asked thee not to front the "worst of ills
That envious fate could heap upon thy head"--
Only a little patience. 'T was too much;
I cannot blame thee. 'T is a loving father.
I, a mere stranger, had naught else to hope,
Matching my claim with his.
MARIA (looks at him and throws herself at his feet).
Oh, pardon, pardon!
My Lord, my Prince, my husband! I am thine!
Lead wheresoe'er thou wilt, I follow thee.
Tell me a life's devotion may efface
The weakness of a moment!
DON JOHN (raising her tenderly and embracing her).
Ah, mine own!
Morning. The studio. Enter RIBERA.
How laughingly the clear sun shines to-day
On storm-drenched green, and cool, far-glittering seas!
When she comes in to greet me, she will blush
For last night's terrors. How she crouched and shuddered
At the mere thought of the wild war without!
Poor, clinging women's souls, what need is theirs
Of our protecting love! Yet even on me
The shadow of the storm-cloud seemed to breed.
Through my vexed sleep I heard the thunder roll;
My dreams were ugly-- Well, all that is past;
To-day my spirit is renewed. 'T is long
Since I have felt so fresh.
[He seats himself before his easel and takes up his brush and
palette, but holds them idly in his hand.]
Strange, she still sleeps!
The hour is past when she is wont to come
To bless me with the kiss of virgin love.
Mayhap 't was fever in her eyes last night
Gave them so wild a glance, so bright a lustre.
God! if she should be ill!
[He rises and calls.]
Go ask Fiametta if the mistress sleeps--
If she be ailing--why she has not come
This morn to greet me.
RIBERA (begins pacing the stage).
What fond fears are these
Mastering my spirit? Since her mother died
I tremble at the name of pain or ill.
How can my rude love tend, my hard hand soothe,
The dear child's fragile--
[A confused cry without.]
What is that? My God!
How hast thou stricken me!
[He staggers and falls into a chair. Enter hastily FIAMETTA,
weeping, and LUCA with gestures of terror and distress.]
[RIBERA rises with a great effort and confronts them.]
What is it? Speak!
Dear master, she is gone.
How? Murdered--dead? Oh, cruel God! Away!
Follow me not!
Help, all ye saints of heaven.
Have pity on him! Oh, what a day is this!
Quiet, Fiametta. When the master finds
The empty, untouched bed, the silent room,
His wits will leave him. Hark! was that his cry?
Reenter RIBERA calling.
Maria! Daughter! Where have they taken thee,
My only one, my darling? Oh, the brigands!
Naples shall bleed for this. What do ye here,
Slaves, fools, who stare upon me? Know ye not
I have been robbed? Hence! Ransack every house
From cave to roof in Naples. Search all streets.
Arrest whomso ye meet. Let no sail stir
From out the harbor. Ring the alarum! Quick!
This is a general woe.
[Exeunt LUCA and FIAMETTA.]
The Duke's my friend;
He'll further me. The Prince--oh, hideous fear!--
No, no, I will not dream it. Mine enemies
Have done this thing; the avengers of that beggar--
Domenichino--they have struck home at last.
How was it that I heard no sound, no cry,
Throughout the night? The heavens themselves conspired
Against me--the hoarse thunder drowned her shrieks!
[He buries his face in his hands. Enter ANNICCA; she throws
herself speechless and weeping upon his neck.]
Thou knowest it, Annicca!
The thief has entered in the night--she's gone.
I stand and weep; I stir not hand or foot.
Is not the household roused? Do they not seek her?
I am helpless, weak; an old man overnight.
The brigands' work was easy. I heard naught.
But surely, surely, had they murdered her,
I had heard that--that would have wakened me
From out my grave.
Father, she is not dead.
Where have they found her? What dost thou know? Speak, speak,
Ere my heart break!
Alas! they have not found her;
But that were easy. Nerve thyself--remember
Thou art the Spagnoletto still. Last night
Don John fled secretly from Naples.
Give me a draft of water.
[He sinks down on his chair.]
Luca! Fiametta! Father, lookup, look up!
Gaze not so hollowly.
Enter DON TOMMASO and SERVANTS.
Quick! water, water!
Do ye not see he swoons?
[She kneels before her father, chafing and kissing his hands. Exit
LUCA, who returns immediately with a silver flagon of water. ANNICCA
seizes it and raises it to RIVERA'S lips. He takes it from her hand
How your hand trembles!
See, mine is firm. You had spilt it o'er my beard
Had I not saved it. Thanks. I am strong again.
I am very old for such a steady grasp.
Why, girl, most men as hoary as thy father
Are long since palsied. But my firm touch comes
From handling of the brush. I am a painter,
[As he speaks his name he suddenly throws off his apathy, rises
to his full height, and casts the flagon to the ground.]
Ah, the Spagnoletto,
Disgraced, abandoned! My exalted name
The laughing-stock of churls; my hearthstone stamped
With everlasting shame; my pride, my fame,
Mine honor--where are they? With yon spilt water,
Fouled in the dust, sucked by the thirsty air.
Now, by Christ's blood, my vengeance shall be huge
As mine affront. I will demand full justice
From Philip. We will treat as King with King.
HE shall be stripped of rank and name and wealth,
Degraded, lopped from off the fellowship
Of Christians like a rotten limb, proclaimed
The bastard that he is. She shall go with him,
Linked in a common infamy, haled round,
A female Judas, who betrayed her father,
Her God, her conscience, with a kiss. Her shadow
Shall be my curse. Cursed be her sleep by night,
Accursed her light by day--her meat and drink!
Accursed the fruit of her own womb--the grave
Where she will lie! Cursed-- Oh, my child, my child!
[He throws himself on the floor and buries his head among the
cushions of the couch. DON TOMMASO advances and lays his hand
on RIBERA'S shoulder.]
Mine honored sir--
RIBERA (looks up without rising).
Surely you mock me, signor.
Honored! Yes, honored with a rifled home,
A desecrated heart, a strumpet child.
For honors such as these, I have not stinted
Sweat, blood, or spirit through long years of toil.
I have passed through peril scathless; I was spared
When Naples was plague-stricken; I have 'scaped
Mine enemies' stiletto--fire and flood;
I have survived my love, my youth, my self,
My thrice-blest Leonora, whom I pitied,
Fool that I was! in her void, silent tomb.
The God of mercy hath reserved me truly
For a wise purpose.
Father, rise; take courage;
We know not yet the end.
Why should I rise
To front the level eyes of men's contempt?
Oh, I am shamed! Cover my head, Annicca;
Darken mine eyes, and veil my face. Oh, God,
Would that I were a nameless, obscure man,
So could I bury with me my disgrace,
That now must be immortal. Where thou standest,
Annicca, there she stood last night. She kissed me;
Round mine old neck she wreathed her soft, young arms.
My wrinkled cheeks were wet with her warm tears.
She shuddered, and I thought it was the thunder
Struck terror through her soul. White-bearded fool!
I found this scrip upon the chamber-floor,
Mayhap it brings some comfort.
RIBERA (starts up and snatches the paper she offers him, reads
it rapidly, then to ANNICCA wildly).
Look, look there--
'T is writ in blood: "My duty to my lord
Forbids my telling you our present port."
I would track her down with sleuth-hounds, did I not
Abhor to see her face. Ah, press thy hands
Against my head--my brain is like to burst--
My throat is choked. Help! help!
A street. Enter LORENZO and a GENTLEMAN, meeting. They salute,
and LORENZO is about to pass on.