Part 6 out of 6
Hail and farewell so soon,
Friend dreamer? I will lay a goodly sum
The news that flies like fire from tongue to tongue
Hath not yet warmed thine ear.
What's that? I lay
A sum as fair thy news is some dry tale
Of courtly gossip, touching me as nigh
As the dissensions of the antipodes.
Done for a hundred florins! In the night,
'Midst the wild storm whose roar must have invaded
Even thy leaden sleep, Prince John left Naples.
We should have had a pageant here to-day,
A royal exit, floral arches thrown
From house to house in all the streets he passed,
Music and guard of honor, homage fitting
The son of Philip--but the bird has flown.
So! I regret our busy citizens,
Who sun themselves day-long upon the quays,
Should be deprived of such a festival.
Your wager's lost--how am I moved by this?
Hark to the end. 'T would move all men whose veins
Flow not clear water. He hath carried off
The Rose of Naples.
What wouldst thou say? Speak out!
In God's name, who hath followed him?
Ah, thou'rt roused.
Thy master hath been robbed--the Spagnoletto--
Maria of the Golden Locks--his daughter.
How is this known? 'T is a foul slander forged
By desperate malice. What! in the night, you say?--
She whose bright name was clean as gold, whose heart
Shone a fixed star of loyal love and duty
Beside her father's glory! This coarse lie
Denies itself. I will go seek the master,
And if this very noon she walk not forth,
Led by the Spagnoletto, through the streets,
To blind the dazed eyes of her slanderers,--
I am your debtor for a hundred florins.
Your faith in womanhood becomes you, sir.
(Aside.) A beggar's child the mistress of a Prince;
Humph! there be some might think the weight of scandal
Lay on the other side. (To Lorenzo.) You need not forth
To seek her father. See, he comes, alone.
I will not meddle in the broil. Farewell!
Enter RIBERA, without hat or mantle, slowly, with folded arms
and bent head.
Oh heart, break not for pity! Shall he thus
Unto all Naples blazon his disgrace?
This must not be (advancing). Father!
RIBERA (starts and looks up sharply).
Who calls me father?
Why, master, I--you know me not? Lorenzo.
Nor do I care to know thee. Thou must be
An arrant coward, thus to league with foes
Against so poor a wretch as I--to call me
By the most curst, despised, unhallowed name
God's creatures can own. Away! and let me pass;
I injure no man.
Look at me, dear master.
Your head is bare, your face is ashy pale,
The sun is fierce. I am your friend, your pupil;
Let me but guide my reverend master home,
In token of the grateful memory
Wherein I hold his guidance of my mind
Up the steep paths of art.
[While LORENZO speaks, RIBERA slowly gains consciousness of his
situation, raises his hand to his head and shudders violently.
LORENZO'S last words seem to awaken him thoroughly.]
I crave your pardon
If I have answered roughly, Sir Lorenzo.
My thoughts were far away--I failed to know you--
I have had trouble, sir. You do remind me,
I had forgot my hat; that is a trifle,
Yet now I feel the loss. What slaves are we
To circumstance! One who is wont to cover
For fashion or for warmth his pate, goes forth
Bareheaded, and the sun will seem to smite
The shrinking spot, the breeze will make him shiver,
And yet our hatless beggars heed them not.
We are the fools of habit.
Enter two gentlemen together as promenading; they cross the stage,
looking hard at RIBERA and LORENZO, and exeunt.
Pray you, sir
Let me conduct you home. Here is no place
To hold discourse. In God's name, come with me.
What coupled staring fools were they that passed?
They seemed to scare thee. Why, boy, face them out.
I am the shadow of the Spagnoletto,
Else had I brooked no gaze so insolent.
Well, I will go with thee. But, hark thee, lad;
A word first in thine ear. 'T is a grim secret;
Whisper it not in Naples; I but tell thee,
Lest thou should fancy I had lost my wits.
My daughter hath deserted me--hath fled
From Naples with a bastard. Thou hast seen her,
Maria-Rosa--thou must remember her;
She, whom I painted as Madonna once.
She had fair hair and Spanish eyes. When was it?
I came forth thinking I might meet with her
And find all this a dream--a foolish thought!
I am very weary. (Yawning.) I have walked and walked
For hours. How far, sir, stand we from the Strada
Nardo? I live there, nigh Saint Francis' church.
Why, 't is hard by; a stone's throw from this square.
So, lean on me--you are not well. This way.
Pluck up good heart, sir; we shall soon be there.
Night. A Room in RIBERA'S House. ANNICCA seated alone, in an
attitude of extreme weariness and despondency.
His heavy sleep still lasts. Despite the words
Of the physician, I can cast not off
That ghastly fear. Albeit he owned no drugs,
This deathlike slumber, this deep breathing slow,
His livid pallor makes me dread each moment
His weary pulse will cease. This is the end,
And from the first I knew it. The worst evil
My warning tongue had wrought were joy to this.
No heavier curse could I invoke on her
Than that she see him in her dreams, her thoughts,
As he is now. I could no longer bear it;
I have fled hither from his couch to breathe--
To quicken my spent courage for the end.
I cannot pray--my heart is full of curses.
He sleeps; he rests. What better could I wish
For his rent heart, his stunned, unbalanced brain,
Than sleep to be eternally prolonged?
Enter FIAMETTA. ANNICCA looks up anxiously, half rising.
How now? What news?
The master is awake
And calls for you, signora.
Heaven be praised!
Would I had followed my young mistress! Here
I creep about like a scared, guilty thing,
And fancy at each moment they will guess
'T was I who led her to the hut. I will confess,
If any sin there be, to Father Clement,
And buy indulgence with her golden chain.
'T would burn my throat, the master's rolling eyes
Would haunt me ever, if I went to wear it.
So, all will yet be well.
RIBERA'S Room. RIBERA discovered sitting on the couch. He looks
old and haggard, but has regained his natural bearing and
expression. Enter ANNICCA. She hastens towards him, and kneels
beside the couch, kissing him affectionately.
Father, you called me?
Aye, to bid good-night.
Why do you kiss me? To betray to-morrow?
Dear father, you are better; you have slept.
Are you not rested?
Child, I was not weary.
There was some cloud pressed here (pointing to his forehead) but
that is past,
I have no pain nor any sense of ill.
Now, while my brain is clear, I have a word
To speak. I think not I have been to thee,
Nor to that other one, an unkind father.
I do not now remember any act,
Or any word of mine, could cause thee grief.
But I am old--perchance my memory
Deceives in this? Speak! Am I right, Annicca?
Oh, father, father, why will you torture me?
You were too good, too good.
Why, so I thought.
Since it appears the guerdon of such goodness
Is treachery, abandonment, disgrace,
I here renounce my fatherhood. No child
Will I acknowledge mine. Thou art a wife;
Thy duty is thy husband's. When Antonio
Returns from Seville, tell him that his father
Is long since dead. Henceforward I will own
No kin, no home, no tie. I will away,
To-morrow morn, and live an anchorite.
One thing ye cannot rob me of--my work.
My name shall still outsoar these low, mirk vapors--
Not the Ribera, stained with sin and shame,
As she hath left it, but the Spagnoletto.
My glory is mine own. I have done with it,
But I bequeath it to my country. Now
I will make friends with beasts--they'll prove less savage
Than she that was my daughter. I have spoken
For the last time that word. Thee I curse not;
Thou hast not set thy heel upon my heart;
But yet I will not bless thee. Go. Good-night.
ANNICCA (embracing him).
What! will you spurn me thus? Nay, I will bide,
And be to thee all that she should have been,
Soothe thy declining years, and heal the wound
Of this sharp sorrow. Thou shalt bless me still,
[RIBERA has yielded for a moment to her embrace; but, suddenly
rising, he pushes her roughly from him.]
Away! I know thee. Thou art one
With her who duped me with like words last night.
Then I believed; but now my sense is closed,
My heart is dead as stone. I cast thee forth.
By heaven, I own thee not! Thou dost forget
I am the Spagnoletto. Away, I say,
Or ere I strike thee.
[He threatens her.]
Woe is me! Help, help!
So, the last link is snapt. Had I not steeled
My heart, I fain had kissed her farewell.
'T is better so. I leave my work unfinished.
Could I arise each day to face this spectre,
Or sleep with it at night?--to yearn for her
Even while I curse her? No! The dead remain
Sacred and sweet in our remembrance still;
They seem not to have left us; they abide
And linger nigh us in the viewless air.
The fallen, the guilty, must be rooted out
From heart and thought and memory. With them
No hope of blest reunion; they must be
As though they had not been; their spoken name
Cuts like a knife. When I essay to think
Of what hath passed to-day, my sick brain reels.
The letter I remember, but all since
Floats in a mist of horror, and I grasp
No actual form. Did I not wander forth?
A mob surrounded me. All Naples knew
My downfall, and the street was paved with eyes
That stared into my soul. Then friendly hands
Guided me hither. When I woke, I felt
As though a stone had rolled from off my brain.
But still this nightmare bides the truth. I know
They watch me, they suspect me. I will wait
Till the whole household sleep, and then steal forth,
Nor unavenged return.
A Room in DON TOMMASO'S House. ANNICCA discovered, attired in
mourning. Enter DON TOMMASO.
If he still live, now shall we hear of him.
The news I learn will lure him from his covert,
Where'er it lie, to pardon or avenge.
What news? What cheer, Tommaso?
But tidings that break through our slow suspense,
Like the first thunder-clap in sultry air.
Don John sets sail from Sicily, to wed
A Princess chosen by the King. Maria--
Talk not of her--I know her not; her name
Will sear thy tongue. Think'st thou, in truth this news
Will draw my father from his hiding-place?
No--teach me not to hope. Within my heart
A sure voice tells me he is dead. Not his
The spirit to drag out a shameful life,
To shrink from honest eyes, to sink his brow
Unto the dust, here where he wore his crown.
Thou knowest him. Have I not cause to mourn
Uncomforted, that he, the first of fathers,
Self-murdered--nay, child-murdered--Oh, Tommaso,
I would fare barefoot to the ends of the earth
To look again upon his living face,
See in his eyes the light of love restored--
Not blasting me with lightnings as before--
To kneel to him, to solace him, to win
For mine own head, yoked in my sister's curse
The blessing he refused me.
Well, take comfort;
This grace may yet be thine.
Palermo. A Nunnery. Enter ABBESS, followed by a Lay-Sister.
Is the poor creature roused?
Nay, she still sleeps.
'T would break your pious heart to see her, mother.
She begged our meanest cell, though 't is past doubt
She has been bred to delicate luxury.
I deemed her spent, had not the soft breast heaved
As gently as a babe's and even in dreams
Two crystal drops oozed from her swollen lids,
And trickled down her cheeks. Her grief sleeps not,
Although the fragile body craves its rest.
Poor child! I fear she hath sore need of prayer.
Hath she yet spoken?
Only such scant words
Of thanks or answer as our proffered service
Or questionings demand. When we are silent,
Even if she wake, she seemeth unaware
Of any presence. She will sit and wail,
Rocking upon the ground, with dull, wide eyes,
Wherefrom the streaming tears unceasing course;
The only sound that then escapes her lips
Is, "Father, Father!" in such piteous strain
As though her rent heart bled to utter it.
Still she abides then by her first request
To take the black veil and its vows to-morrow?
Yea, to that purpose desperately she clings.
This evening, if she rouse, she makes confession.
Even now a holy friar waits without,
Fra Bruno, of the order of Carthusians,
I will speak with him,
Ere he confess her, since we know him not.
Follow me, child, and see if she have waked.
A Cell in the Nunnery. MARIA discovered asleep on a straw
pallet. She starts suddenly from her sleep with a little cry,
half rises and remains seated on her pallet.
Oh, that wild dream! My weary bones still ache
With the fierce pain; they wrenched me limb from limb.
Thou hadst full cause, my father. But thou, Juan,
What was my sin to thee, save too much love?
Oh, would to God my back were crooked with age,
My smooth cheek seamed with wrinkles, my bright hair
Hoary with years, and my quick blood impeded
By sluggish torpor, so were I near the end
Of woes that seem eternal! I am strong--
Death will not rescue me. Within my veins
I feel the vigorous pulses of young life,
Refusing my release. My heart at times
Rebels against the habit of despair,
And, ere I am aware, has wandered back,
Among forbidden paths. What prayer, what penance,
Will shrive me clean before the sight of heaven?
My hands are black with parricide. Why else
Should his dead face arise three nights before me,
Bleached, ghastly, dripping as of one that's drowned,
To freeze my heart with horror? Christ, have mercy!
[She covers her face with her hands in an agony of despair.]
Enter a MONK.
May peace be in this place!
[MARIA shudders violently at the sound of his voice; looks up and
sees the MONK with bent head, and hands partially extended, as one
who invokes a blessing. She rises, falls at his feet, and takes the
hem of his skirt between her hands, pressing it to he lips.]
Welcome, thrice welcome!
Bid me not rise, nor bless me with pure hands.
Ask not to see my face. Here let me lie,
Kissing the dust--a cast-away, a trait'ress,
A murderess, a parricide!
With all Hell's curses is the crime thou nam'st!
What devil moved thee? Who and whence art thou,
That wear'st the form of woman, though thou lack'st
The heart of the she-wolf? Who was thy parent,
What fiend of torture, that thine impious hands
Should quench the living source of thine own life?
Spare me! oh, spare me! Nay, my hands are clean.
He was the first, best, noblest among men.
I was his light, his soul, his breath of life.
These I withdrew from him, and made his days
A darkness. Yet, perchance he is not dead,
And blood and tears may wash away my guilt.
Oh, tell me there is hope, though it gleam far--
One solitary ray, one steadfast spark,
Beyond a million years of purgatory!
My burning soul thirsts for the dewy balm
Of comfortable grace. One word, one word,
Or ere I perish of despair!
The one wherewith thou bad'st thy father hope?
What though he be not dead? Is breathing life?
Hast thou not murdered him in spirit? dealt
The death-blow to his heart? Cheat not thy soul
With empty dreams--thy God hath judged ye guilty!
Have pity, father! Let me tell thee all.
Thou, cloistered, holy and austere, know'st not
My glittering temptations. My betrayer
Was of an angel's aspect. His were all gifts,
All grace, all seeming virtue. I was plunged,
Deaf, dumb, and blind, and hand-bound in the deep.
If a poor drowning creature craved thine aid,
Thou wouldst not spurn it. Such a one am I,
And all the waves roll over me. Wrest me from my doom!
Say not that I am lost!
I can but say
What the just Spirit prompts. Myself am naught
To pardon or condemn. The sin is sinned;
The fruit forbid is tasted, yea, and pressed
Of its last honeyed juices. Wilt thou now
Escape the after-bitterness with prayers,
Scourgings, and wringings of the hands? Shall these
Undo what has been done?--make whole the heart
Thy crime hath snapt in twain?--restore the wits
Thy sin hath scattered? No! Thy punishment
Is huge as thine offence. Death shall not help,
Neither shall pious life wash out the stain.
Living thou'rt doomed, and dead, thou shalt be lost,
MARIA (springing to her feet).
Impious priest, thou liest!
God will have mercy--as my father would,
Could he but see me in mine agony!
[The MONK throws back his cowl and discovers himself as the
SPAGNOLETTO. MARIA utters a piercing cry and throws herself
speechless at his feet.]
Thou know'st me not. I am not what I was.
My outward shape remains unchanged; these eyes,
Now gloating on thine anguish, are the same
That wept to see a shadow cross thy brow;
These ears, that drink the music of thy groans,
Shrank from thy lightest sigh of melancholy.
Thou think'st to find the father in me still?
Thy parricidal hands have murdered him--
Thou shalt not find a man. I am the spirit
Of blind revenge--a brute, unswerving force.
What deemest thou hath bound me unto life?
Ambition, pleasure, or the sense of fear?
What, but the sure hope of this fierce, glad hour,
That I might track thee down to this--might see
Thy tortured body writhe beneath my feet,
And blast thy stricken spirit with my curse?
MARIA (in a crushed voice).
Have mercy! mercy!
Yes, I will have mercy--
The mercy of the tiger or the wolf,
Athirst for blood.
MARIA (terror-struck, rises upon her knees in an attitude of
supplication. RIBERA averts his face).
Oh, father, kill me not!
Turn not away--I am not changed for thee!
In God's name, look at me--thy child, thine own!
Spare me, oh, spare me, till I win of Heaven
Some sign of promise! I am lost forever
If I die now.
RIBERA (looks at her in silence, then pushing her from him laughs
Nay, have no fear of me.
I would not do thee that much grace to ease thee
Of the gross burden of the flesh. Behold,
Thou shalt be cursed with weary length of days;
And when thou seek'st to purge thy guilty heart,
Thou shalt find there a sin no prayer may shrive--
The murder of thy father. To all dreams
That haunt thee of past anguish, shall be added
The vision of this horror!
[He draws from his girdle a dagger and stabs himself to the heart;
he falls and dies, and MARIA flings herself, swooning upon his body.]