Part 3 out of 4
Guta. Do not think it.
The dowager has a woman's heart.
Eliz. Ay, ay--
But she's a mother--and mothers will dare all things--
Oh! Love can make us fiends, as well as angels.
My babies! Weeping? Oh, have mercy, Lord!
On me heap all thy wrath--I understand it:
What can blind senseless terror do for them?
Guta. Plead, plead your penances! Great God, consider
All she has done and suffered, and forbear
To smite her like a worldling!
Eliz. Silence, girl!
I'd plead my deeds, if mine own character,
My strength of will had fathered them: but no--
They are His, who worked them in me, in despite
Of mine own selfish and luxurious will--
Shall I bribe Him with His own? For pain, I tell thee
I need more pain than mine own will inflicts,
Pain which shall break that will.--Yet spare them, Lord!
Go to--I am a fool to wish them life--
And greater fool to miscall life, this headache--
This nightmare of our gross and crude digestion--
This fog which steams up from our freezing clay--
While waking heaven's beyond. No! slay them, traitors!
Cut through the channels of those innocent breaths
Whose music charmed my lone nights, ere they learn
To love the world, and hate the wretch who bore them!
Guta. This storm will blind us both: come here, and shield you
Behind this buttress.
Eliz. What's a wind to me?
I can see up the street here, if they come--
They do not come!--Oh! my poor weanling lambs--
Struck dead by carrion ravens!
What then, I have borne worse. But yesterday
I thought I had a husband--and now--now!
Guta! He called a holy man before he died?
Guta. The Bishop of Jerusalem, 'tis said,
With holy oil, and with the blessed body
Of Him for whom he died, did speed him duly
Upon his heavenward flight.
Eliz. O happy bishop!
Where are those children? If I had but seen him!
I could have borne all then. One word--one kiss!
Hark! What's that rushing? White doves--one--two--three--
Fleeing before the gale. My children's spirits!
Stay, babies--stay for me! What! Not a moment?
And I so nearly ready to be gone?
Guta. Still on your children?
Eliz. Oh! this grief is light
And floats a-top--well, well; it hides a while
That gulf too black for speech--My husband's dead!
I dare not think on't.
A small bird dead in the snow! Alas! poor minstrel!
A week ago, before this very window,
He warbled, may be, to the slanting sunlight;
And housewives blest him for a merry singer:
And now he freezes at their doors, like me.
Poor foolish brother! didst thou look for payment?
Guta. But thou hast light in darkness: he has none--
The bird's the sport of time, while our life's floor
Is laid upon eternity; no crack in it
But shows the underlying heaven.
Eliz. Art sure?
Does this look like it, girl? No--I'll trust yet--
Some have gone mad for less; but why should I?
Who live in time, and not eternity.
'Twill end, girl, end; no cloud across the sun
But passes at the last, and gives us back
The face of God once more.
Guta. See here they come,
Dame Isentrudis and your children, all
Safe down the cliff path, through the whirling snow-drifts.
Eliz. O Lord, my Lord! I thank thee!
Loving and merciful, and tender-hearted,
And even in fiercest wrath remembering mercy.
Lo! here's my ancient foe. What want you, Sir?
Hugo. Want? Faith, 'tis you who want, not I, my Lady--
I hear, you are gone a begging through the town;
So, for your husband's sake, I'll take you in;
For though I can't forget your scurvy usage,
He was a very honest sort of fellow,
Though mad as a March hare; so come you in.
Eliz. But know you, Sir, that all my husband's vassals
Are bidden bar their doors to me?
Hugo. I know it:
And therefore come you in; my house is mine:
No upstarts shall lay down the law to me;
Not they, mass: but mind you, no canting here--
No psalm-singing; all candles out at eight:
Beggars must not be choosers. Come along!
Eliz. I thank you, Sir; and for my children's sake
I do accept your bounty. [aside] Down, proud heart--
Bend lower--lower ever: thus God deals with thee.
Go, Guta, send the children after me. [Exeunt severally.]
[Two Peasants enter.]
1st Peas. Here's Father January taken a lease of March month, and
put in Jack Frost for bailiff. What be I to do for spring-feed if
the weather holds,--and my ryelands as bare as the back of my hand?
2d Peas. That's your luck. Freeze on, say I, and may Mary Mother
send us snow a yard deep. I have ten ton of hay yet to sell--ten
ton, man--there's my luck: every man for himself, and--Why here
comes that handsome canting girl, used to be about the Princess.
Guta. Well met, fair sirs! I know you kind and loyal,
And bound by many a favour to my mistress:
Say, will you bear this letter for her sake
Unto her aunt, the rich and holy lady
Who rules the nuns of Kitzingen?
2d Peas. If I do, pickle me in a barrel among cabbage.
She told me once, God's curse would overtake me,
For grinding of the poor: her turn's come now.
Guta. Will you, then, help her? She will pay you richly.
1st Peas. Ay? How, dame? How? Where will the money come from?
Guta. God knows--
1st Peas. And you do not.
Guta. Why, but last winter,
When all your stacks were fired, she lent you gold.
1st Peas. Well--I'll be generous: as the times are hard,
Say, if I take your letter, will you promise
To marry me yourself?
Guta. Ay, marry you,
Or anything, if you'll but go to-day:
At once, mind. [Giving him the letter.]
1st Peas. Ay, I'll go. Now, you'll remember?
Guta. Straight to her ladyship at Kitzingen.
God and His saints deal with you, as you deal
With us this day. [Exit.]
2d Peas. What! art thou fallen in love promiscuously?
1st Peas. Why, see, now, man; she has her mistress' ear;
And if I marry her, no doubt they'll make me
Bailiff, or land-steward; and there's noble pickings
In that same line.
2d Peas. Thou hast bought a pig in a poke:
Her priest will shrive her off from such a bargain.
1st Peas. Dost think? Well--I'll not fret myself about it.
See, now, before I start, I must get home
Those pigs from off the forest; chop some furze;
And then to get my supper, and my horse's:
And then a man will need to sit a while,
And take his snack of brandy for digestion;
And then to fettle up my sword and buckler;
And then, bid 'em all good-bye: and by that time
'Twill be 'most nightfall--I'll just go to-morrow.
Off--here she comes again. [Exeunt.]
[Isentrudis and Guta enter, with the children.]
Guta. I warned you of it; I knew she would not stay
An hour, thus treated like a slave--an idiot.
Isen. Well, 'twas past bearing: so we are thrust forth
To starve again. Are all your jewels gone?
Guta. All pawned and eaten--and for her, you know,
She never bore the worth of one day's meal
About her dress. We can but die--No foe
Can ban us from that rest.
Isen. Ay, but these children!--Well--if it must be,
Here, Guta, pull off this old withered hand
My wedding-ring; the man who gave it me
Should be in heaven--and there he'll know my heart.
Take it, girl, take it. Where's the Princess now?
She stopped before a crucifix to pray;
But why so long?
Guta. Oh! prayer, to her rapt soul,
Is like the drunkenness of the autumn bee,
Who, scent-enchanted, on the latest flower,
Heedless of cold, will linger listless on,
And freeze in odorous dreams.
Isen. Ah! here she comes.
Guta. Dripping from head to foot with wet and mire!
Eliz. How? Oh, my fortune rises to full flood:
I met a friend just now, who told me truths
Wholesome and stern, of my deceitful heart--
Would God I had known them earlier!--and enforced
Her lesson so, as I shall ne'er forget it
In body or in mind.
Isen. What means all this?
Eliz. You know the stepping-stones across the ford.
There as I passed, a certain aged crone,
Whom I had fed, and nursed, year after year,
Met me mid-stream--thrust past me stoutly on--
And rolled me headlong in the freezing mire.
There as I lay and weltered,--'Take that, Madam,
For all your selfish hypocritic pride
Which thought it such a vast humility
To wash us poor folk's feet, and use our bodies
For staves to build withal your Jacob's-ladder.
What! you would mount to heaven upon our backs?
The ass has thrown his rider.' She crept on--
I washed my garments in the brook hard by--
And came here, all the wiser.
Guta. Miscreant hag!
Isen. Alas, you'll freeze.
Guta. Who could have dreamt the witch
Could harbour such a spite?
Eliz. Nay, who could dream
She would have guessed my heart so well? Dull boors
See deeper than we think, and hide within
Those leathern hulls unfathomable truths,
Which we amid thought's glittering mazes lose.
They grind among the iron facts of life,
And have no time for self-deception.
Put on my cloak--stand here, behind the wall.
Oh! is it come to this? She'll die of cold.
Guta. Ungrateful fiend!
Eliz. Let be--we must not think on't.
The scoff was true--I thank her--I thank God--
This too I needed. I had built myself
A Babel-tower, whose top should reach to heaven,
Of poor men's praise and prayers, and subtle pride
At mine own alms. 'Tis crumbled into dust!
Oh! I have leant upon an arm of flesh--
And here's its strength! I'll walk by faith--by faith
And rest my weary heart on Christ alone--
On him, the all-sufficient!
Shame on me! dreaming thus about myself,
While you stand shivering here. [To her little Son.]
Art cold, young knight?
Knights must not cry--Go slide, and warm thyself.
Where shall we lodge to-night?
Isen. There's no place open,
But that foul tavern, where we lay last night.
Elizabeth's Son [clinging to her]. O mother, mother! go not to that
Among those fierce lank men, who laughed, and scowled,
And showed their knives, and sang strange ugly songs
Of you and us. O mother! let us be!
Eliz. Hark! look! His father's voice!--his very eye--
Opening so slow and sad, then sinking down
In luscious rest again!
Isen. Bethink you, child--
Eliz. Oh yes--I'll think--we'll to our tavern friends;
If they be brutes, 'twas my sin left them so.
Guta. 'Tis but for a night or two: three days will bring
The Abbess hither.
Isen. And then to Bamberg straight
For knights and men-at-arms! Your uncle's wrath--
Guta [aside]. Hush! hush! you'll fret her, if you talk of
Isen. Come to our shelter.
Children. Oh stay here, stay here!
Behind these walls.
Eliz. Ay--stay a while in peace. The storms are still.
Beneath her eider robe the patient earth
Watches in silence for the sun: we'll sit
And gaze up with her at the changeless heaven,
Until this tyranny be overpast.
Come. [aside] Lost! Lost! Lost!
[They enter a neighbouring ruin.]
A Chamber in the Bishop's Palace at Bamberg. Elizabeth and Guta.
Guta. You have determined?
Eliz. Yes--to go with him.
I have kept my oath too long to break it now.
I will to Marpurg, and there waste away
In meditation and in pious deeds,
Till God shall set me free.
Guta. How if your uncle
Will have you marry? Day and night, they say,
He talks of nothing else.
Eliz. Never, girl, never!
Save me from that at least, O God!
Guta. He spoke
Of giving us, your maidens, to his knights
In carnal wedlock: but I fear him not:
For God's own word is pledged to keep me pure--
I am a maid.
Eliz. And I, alas! am none!
O Guta! dost thou mock my widowed love?
I was a wife--'tis true: I was not worthy--
But there was meaning in that first wild fancy;
'Twas but the innocent springing of the sap--
The witless yearning of an homeless heart--
Do I not know that God has pardoned me?
But now--to rouse and turn of mine own will,
In cool and full foreknowledge, this worn soul
Again to that, which, when God thrust it on me,
Bred but one shame of ever-gnawing doubt,
Were--No, my burning cheeks! We'll say no more.
Ah! loved and lost! Though God's chaste grace should fail me,
My weak idolatry of thee would give
Strength that should keep me true: with mine own hands
I'd mar this tear-worn face, till petulant man
Should loathe its scarred and shapeless ugliness.
Guta. But your poor children? What becomes of them?
Eliz. Oh! she who was not worthy of a husband
Does not deserve his children. What are they, darlings,
But snares to keep me from my heavenly spouse
By picturing the spouse I must forget?
Well--'tis blank horror. Yet if grief's good for me,
Let me down into grief's blackest pit,
And follow out God's cure by mine own deed.
Guta. What will your kinsfolk think?
Eliz. What will they think!
What pleases them. That argument's a staff
Which breaks whene'er you lean on't. Trust me, girl,
That fear of man sucks out love's soaring ether,
Baffles faith's heavenward eyes, and drops us down,
To float, like plumeless birds, on any stream.
Have I not proved it?
There was a time with me, when every eye
Did scorch like flame: if one looked cold on me,
I straight accused myself of mortal sins:
Each fopling was my master: I have lied
From very fear of mine own serving-maids.--
That's past, thank God's good grace!
Guta. And now you leap
To the other end of the line.
Eliz. In self-defence.
I am too weak to live by half my conscience;
I have no wit to weigh and choose the mean;
Life is too short for logic; what I do
I must do simply; God alone must judge--
For God alone shall guide, and God's elect--
I shrink from earth's chill frosts too much to crawl--
I have snapped opinion's chains, and now I'll soar
Up to the blazing sunlight, and be free.
[The bishop of Bamberg enters. Conrad following.]
Bishop. The Devil plagued St. Antony in the likeness of a lean
friar! Between mad monks and mad women, bedlam's broke loose, I
Con. When the Spirit first descended on the elect, seculars then,
too, said mocking, 'These men are full of new wine.'
Bishop. Seculars, truly! If I had not in my secularity picked up a
spice of chivalry to the ladies, I should long ago have turned out
you and your regulars, to cant elsewhere. Plague on this gout--I
Eliz. Let me settle your cushion, uncle.
Bishop. So! girl! I sent for you from Botenstain. I had a mind,
now, to have kept you there until your wits returned, and you would
say Yes to some young noble suitor. As if I had not had trouble
enough about your dower!--If I had had to fight for it, I should not
have minded:--but these palavers and conferences have fretted me
into the gout: and now you would throw all away again, tired with
your toy, I suppose. What shall I say to the Counts, Varila, and
the Cupbearer, and all the noble knights who will hazard their lands
and lives in trying to right you with that traitor? I am ashamed to
look them in the face! To give all up to the villain!--To pay him
for his treason!
Eliz. Uncle, I give but what to me is worthless. He loves these
baubles--let him keep them, then: I have my dower.
Bishop. To squander on nuns and beggars, at this rogue's bidding?
Why not marry some honest man? You may have your choice of kings
and princes; and if you have been happy with one gentleman, Mass!
say I, why can't you be happy with another? What saith the
Scripture? 'I will that the younger widows marry, bear children,'--
not run after monks, and what not--What's good for the filly, is
good for the mare, say I.
Eliz. Uncle, I soar now at a higher pitch--
To be henceforth the bride of Christ alone.
Bishop. Ahem!--a pious notion--in moderation. We must be moderate,
my child, moderate: I hate overdoing anything--especially religion.
Con. Madam, between your uncle and myself
This question in your absence were best mooted.
Bishop. How, priest? do you order her about like a servant-maid?
Con. The saints forbid! Now--ere I lose a moment--
[Aside] All things to all men be--and so save some--
[Aloud] Forgive, your grace, forgive me,
If mine unmannered speech in aught have clashed
With your more tempered and melodious judgment:
Your courage will forgive an honest warmth.
God knows, I serve no private interests.
Bishop. Your order's, hey? to wit?
Con. My lord, my lord,
There may be higher aims: but what I said,
I said but for our Church, and our cloth's honour.
Ladies' religion, like their love, we know,
Requires a gloss of verbal exaltation,
Lest the sweet souls should understand themselves;
And clergymen must talk up to the mark.
Bishop. We all know, Gospel preached in the mother-tongue
Sounds too like common sense.
Con. Or too unlike it:
You know the world, your grace; you know the sex--
Bishop. Ahem! As a spectator.
Just so--You know their rage for shaven crowns--
How they'll deny their God--but not their priest--
Flirts--scandal-mongers--in default of both come
Platonic love--worship of art and genius--
Idols which make them dream of heaven, as girls
Dream of their sweethearts, when they sleep on bridecake.
It saves from worse--we are not all Abelards.
Bishop [aside]. Some of us have his tongue, if not his face.
Con. There lies her fancy; do but balk her of it--
She'll bolt to cloisters, like a rabbit scared.
Head her from that--she'll wed some pink-faced boy--
The more low-bred and penniless, the likelier.
Send her to Marpurg, and her brain will cool.
Tug at the kite, 'twill only soar the higher:
Give it but line, my lord, 'twill drop like slate.
Use but that eagle's glance, whose daring foresight
In chapter, camp, and council, wins the wonder
Of timid trucklers--Scan results and outcomes--
The scale is heavy in your grace's favour.
Bishop. Bah! priest! What can this Marpurg-madness do for me?
Con. Leave you the tutelage of all her children.
Bishop. Thank you--to play the dry-nurse to three starving brats.
Con. The minor's guardian guards the minor's lands.
Bishop. Unless they are pitched away in building hospitals.
Con. Instead of fattening in your wisdom's keeping.
Bishop. Well, well,--but what gross scandal to the family!
Con. The family, my lord, would gain a saint.
Bishop. Ah! monk, that canonisation costs a frightful sum.
Con. These fees, just now, would gladly be remitted.
Bishop. These are the last days, faith, when Rome's too rich to
Con. The Saints forbid, my lord, the fisher's see
Were so o'ercursed by Mammon! But you grieve,
I know, to see foul weeds of heresy
Of late o'errun your diocese.
Bishop. Ay, curse them!
I've hanged some dozens.
Con. Worthy of yourself!
But yet the faith needs here some mighty triumph--
Some bright example, whose resplendent blaze
May tempt that fluttering tribe within the pale
Of Holy Church again--
Bishop. To singe their wings?
Con. They'll not come near enough. Again--there are
Who dare arraign your prowess, and assert
A churchman's energies were better spent
In pulpits than the tented field. Now mark--
Mark, what a door is opened. Give but scope
To this her huge capacity for sainthood--
Set her, a burning and a shining light
To all your people--Such a sacrifice,
Such loan to God of your own flesh and blood,
Will silence envious tongues, and prove you wise
For the next world as for this; will clear your name
From calumnies which argue worldliness;
Buy of itself the joys of paradise;
And clench your lordship's interest with the pontiff.
Bishop. Well, well, we'll think on't.
Con. Sir, I doubt you not.
Eliz. Uncle, I am determined.
Bishop. So am I.
You shall to Marpurg with this holy man.
Eliz. Ah, there you speak again like my own uncle.
I'll go--to rest [aside] and die. I only wait
To see the bones of my beloved laid
In some fit resting-place. A messenger
Proclaims them near. O God!
Bishop. We'll go, my child,
And meeting them with all due honour, show
In our own worship, honourable minds.
A messenger! How far off are they, then?
Serv. Some two days' journey, sir.
Bishop. Two days' journey, and nought prepared?
Here, chaplain--Brother Hippodamas! Chaplain, I say! [Hippodamas
enters.] Call the apparitor--ride off with him, right and left--
Don't wait even to take your hawk--Tell my knights to be with me,
with all their men-at-arms, at noon on the second day. Let all be
of the best, say--the brightest of arms and the newest of garments.
Mass! we must show our smartest before these crusaders--they'll be
full of new fashions, I warrant 'em--the monkeys that have seen the
world. And here, boy [to a page], set me a stoup of wine in the
oriel-room, and another for this good monk.
Con. Pardon me, blessedness--but holy rule--
Bishop. Oh! I forgot.--A pail of water and a peck of beans for the
holy man!--Order up my equerry, and bid my armourer--vestryman, I
mean--look out my newest robes.--Plague on this gout.
[Exeunt, following the Bishop.]
The Nave of Bamberg Cathedral. A procession entering the West Door,
headed by Elizabeth and the Bishop, Nobles, etc. Religious bearing
the coffin which encloses Lewis's bones.
1st Lady. See! the procession comes--the mob streams in
At every door. Hark! how the steeples thunder
Their solemn bass above the wailing choir.
2d Lady. They will stop at the screen.
Knight. And there, as I hear, open the coffin. Push forward,
ladies, to that pillar: thence you will see all.
1st Peas. Oh dear! oh dear! If any man had told me that I should
ride forty miles on this errand, to see him that went out flesh come
home grass, like the flower of the field!
2d Peas. We have changed him, but not mended him, say I, friend.
1st Peas. Never we. He knew where a yeoman's heart lay! One that
would clap a man on the back when his cow died, and behave like a
gentleman to him--that never met you after a hailstorm without
lightening himself of a few pocket-burners.
2d Peas. Ay, that's your poor-man's plaster: that's your right
grease for this world's creaking wheels.
1st Peas. Nay, that's your rich man's plaster too, and covers the
multitude of sins. That's your big pike's swimming-bladder, that
keeps him atop and feeding: that's his calling and election, his
oil of anointing, his salvum fac regem, his yeoman of the wardrobe,
who keeps the velvet-piled side of this world uppermost, lest his
delicate eyes should see the warp that holds it.
2d Peas. Who's the warp, then?
1st Peas. We, man, the friezes and fustians, that rub on till we
get frayed through with overwork, and then all's abroad, and the
nakedness of Babylon is discovered, and catch who catch can.
Old Woman. Pity they only brought his bones home! He would have
made a lovely corpse, surely. He was a proper man!
1st Lady. Oh the mincing step he had with him! and the delicate
hand on a horse, fingering the reins as St. Cicely does the organ-
2d Lady. And for hunting, another Siegfried.
Knight. If he was Siegfried the gay, she was Chriemhild the grim;
and as likely to prove a firebrand as the girl in the ballad.
1st Lady. Gay, indeed! His smiles were like plumcake, the sweeter
the deeper iced. I never saw him speak civil word to woman, but to
2d Lady. O ye Saints! There was honey spilt on the ground! If I
had such a knight, I'd never freeze alone on the chamber-floor, like
some that never knew when they were well off. I'd never elbow him
off to crusades with my pruderies.
'Pluck your apples while they're ripe,
And pull your flowers in May, O!'
Old Woman. 'Till when she grew wizened, and he grew cold,
The balance lay even 'twixt young and old.'
Monk. Thus Satan bears witness perforce against the vanities of
Venus! But what's this babbling? Carolationes in the holy place?
Tace, vetula! taceas, taceto also, and that forthwith.
Old Woman. Tace in your teeth, and taceas also, begging-box! Who
put the halter round his waist to keep it off his neck,--who? Get
behind your screen, sirrah! Am I not a burgher's wife? Am I not in
the nave? Am I not on my own ground? Have I brought up eleven
children, without nurse wet or dry, to be taced nowadays by friars
in the nave? Help! good folks! Where be these rooks a going?
Knight. The monk has vanished.
1st Peas. It's ill letting out waters, he finds. Who is that old
gentleman, sir, holds the Princess so tight by the hand?
Knight. Her uncle, knave, the Bishop.
1st Peas. Very right, he: for she's almost a born natural, poor
soul. It was a temptation to deal with her.
2d Peas. Thou didst cheat her shockingly, Frank, time o' the
famine, on those nine sacks of maslin meal.
Knight. Go tell her of it, rascal, and she'll thank you for it, and
give you a shilling for helping her to a 'cross.'
Old Woman. Taceing free women in the nave! This comes of your
princesses, that turn the world upside down, and demean themselves
to hob and nob with these black baldicoots!
Eliz. [in a low voice]. I saw all Israel scattered on the hills
As sheep that have no shepherd! O my people!
Who crowd with greedy eyes round this my jewel,
Poor ivory, token of his outward beauty--
Oh! had ye known his spirit!--Let his wisdom
Inform your light hearts with that Saviour's likeness
For whom he died! So had you kept him with you;
And from the coming evils gentle Heaven
Had not withdrawn the righteous: 'tis too late!
1st Lady. There, now, she smiles; do you think she ever loved him?
Knight. Never creature, but mealy-mouthed inquisitors, and shaven
singing birds. She looks now as glad to be rid of him as any colt
1st Lady. What will she do now, when this farce is over?
2d Lady. Found an abbey, that's the fashion, and elect herself
abbess--tyrannise over hysterical girls, who are forced to thank her
for making them miserable, and so die a saint.
Knight. Will you pray to her, my fair queen?
2d Lady. Not I, sir; the old Saints send me lovers enough, and to
spare--yourself for one.
1st Lady. There is the giant-killer slain. But see--they have
stopped: who is that raising the coffin lid?
2d Lady. Her familiar spirit, Conrad the heretic-catcher.
Knight. I do defy him! Thou art my only goddess;
My saint, my idol, my--ahem!
1st Lady. That well's run dry.
Look, how she trembles--Now she sinks, all shivering,
Upon the pavement--Why, you'll see nought there
Flirting behind the pillar--Now she rises--
And choking down that proud heart, turns to the altar--
Her hand upon the coffin.
Eliz. I thank thee, gracious Lord, who hast fulfilled
Thine handmaid's mighty longings with the sight
Of my beloved's bones, and dost vouchsafe
This consolation to the desolate.
I grudge not, Lord, the victim which we gave Thee,
Both he and I, of his most precious life,
To aid Thine holy city: though Thou knowest
His sweetest presence was to this world's joy
As sunlight to the taper--Oh! hadst Thou spared--
Had Thy great mercy let us, hand in hand,
Have toiled through houseless shame, on beggar's dole,
I had been blest: Thou hast him, Lord, Thou hast him--
Do with us what Thou wilt! If at the price
Of this one silly hair, in spite of Thee,
I could reclothe these wan bones with his manhood,
And clasp to my shrunk heart my hero's self--
I would not give it!
I will weep no more--
Lead on, most holy; on the sepulchre
Which stands beside the choir, lay down your burden.
[To the people.]
Now, gentle hosts, within the close hard by,
Will we our court, as queen of sorrows, hold--
The green graves underneath us, and above
The all-seeing vault, which is the eye of God,
Judge of the widow and the fatherless.
There will I plead my children's wrongs, and there,
If, as I think, there boil within your veins
The deep sure currents of your race's manhood,
Ye'll nail the orphans' badge upon your shields,
And own their cause for God's. We name our champions--
Rudolf, the Cupbearer, Leutolf of Erlstetten,
Hartwig of Erba, and our loved Count Walter,
Our knights and vassals, sojourners among you.
[Exit Elizabeth, etc.; the crowd following.]
Night. The church of a convent. Elizabeth, Conrad, Gerard, Monks,
an Abbess, Nuns, etc., in the distance.
Conrad. What's this new weakness? At your own request
We come to hear your self-imposed vows--
And now you shrink: where are the high-flown fancies
Which but last week, beside your husband's bier,
You vapoured forth? Will you become a jest?
You might have counted this tower's cost, before
You blazoned thus your plans abroad.
Eliz. Oh! spare me!
Con. Spare? Spare yourself; and spare big easy words,
Which prove your knowledge greater than your grace.
Eliz. Is there no middle path? No way to keep
My love for them, and God, at once unstained?
Con. If this were God's world, Madam, and not the devil's,
It might be done.
Eliz. God's world, man! Why, God made it--
The faith asserts it God's.
As every christened rogue's a child of God,
Or those old hags, Christ's brides--Think of your horn-book--
The world, the flesh, and the devil--a goodly leash!
And yet God made all three. I know the fiend;
And you should know the world: be sure, be sure.
The flesh is not a stork among the cranes.
Our nature, even in Eden gross and vile,
And by miraculous grace alone upheld,
Is now itself, and foul, and damned, must die
Ere we can live; let halting worldlings, madam,
Maunder against earth's ties, yet clutch them still.
Eliz. And yet God gave them to me--
Con. In the world;
Your babes are yours according to the flesh;
How can you hate the flesh, and love its fruit?
Eliz. The Scripture bids me love them.
Con. Truly so,
While you are forced to keep them; when God's mercy
Doth from the flesh and world deliverance offer,
Letting you bestow them elsewhere, then your love
May cease with its own usefulness, and the spirit
Range in free battle lists; I'll not waste reasons--
We'll leave you, Madam, to the Spirit's voice.
[Conrad and Gerard withdraw.]
Eliz. [alone]. Give up his children! Why, I'd not give up
A lock of hair, a glove his hand had hallowed:
And they are his gift; his pledge; his flesh and blood
Tossed off for my ambition! Ah! my husband!
His ghost's sad eyes upbraid me! Spare me, spare me!
I'd love thee still, if I dared; but I fear God.
And shall I never more see loving eyes
Look into mine, until my dying day?
That's this world's bondage: Christ would have me free,
And 'twere a pious deed to cut myself
The last, last strand, and fly: but whither? whither?
What if I cast away the bird i' the hand
And found none in the bush? 'Tis possible--
What right have I to arrogate Christ's bride-bed?
Crushed, widowed, sold to traitors? I, o'er whom
His billows and His storms are sweeping? God's not angry:
No, not so much as we with buzzing fly;
Or in the moment of His wrath's awakening
We should be--nothing. No--there's worse than that--
What if He but sat still, and let be be?
And these deep sorrows, which my vain conceit
Calls chastenings--meant for me--my ailments' cure--
Were lessons for some angels far away,
And I the corpus vile for the experiment?
The grinding of the sharp and pitiless wheels
Of some high Providence, which had its mainspring
Ages ago, and ages hence its end?
That were too horrible!--
To have torn up all the roses from my garden,
And planted thorns instead; to have forged my griefs,
And hugged the griefs I dared not forge; made earth
A hell, for hope of heaven; and after all,
These homeless moors of life toiled through, to wake,
And find blank nothing! Is that angel-world
A gaudy window, which we paint ourselves
To hide the dead void night beyond? The present?
Why here's the present--like this arched gloom,
It hems our blind souls in, and roofs them over
With adamantine vault, whose only voice
Is our own wild prayers' echo: and our future?--
It rambles out in endless aisles of mist,
The farther still the darker--O my Saviour!
My God! where art Thou? That's but a tale about Thee,
That crucifix above--it does but show Thee
As Thou wast once, but not as Thou art now--
Thy grief, but not Thy glory: where's that gone?
I see it not without me, and within me
Hell reigns, not Thou!
[Dashes herself down on the altar steps.]
[Monks in the distance chanting.]
'Kings' daughters were among thine honourable women'--
Eliz. Kings' daughters! I am one!
Monks. 'Hearken, O daughter, and consider; incline thine ear:
Forget also thine own people, and thy father's house,
So shall the King have pleasure in thy beauty:
For He is thy Lord God, and worship thou Him.'
Eliz. [springing up]. I will forget them!
They stand between my soul and its allegiance.
Thou art my God: what matter if Thou love me?
I am Thy bond-slave, purchased with Thy life-blood;
I will remember nothing, save that debt.
Do with me what Thou wilt. Alas, my babies!
He loves them--they'll not need me.
Con. How now, Madam!
Have these your prayers unto a nobler will
Won back that wandering heart?
Eliz. God's will is spoken!
The flesh is weak; the spirit's fixed, and dares,--
Stay! confess, sir,
Did not yourself set on your brothers here
To sing me to your purpose?
Con. As I live
I meant it not; yet had I bribed them to it,
Those words were no less God's.
Eliz. I know it, I know it;
And I'll obey them: come, the victim's ready.
[Lays her hand on the altar. Gerard, Abbess, and Monks descend and
All worldly goods and wealth, which once I loved,
I do now count but dross: and my beloved,
The children of my womb, I now regard
As if they were another's. God is witness
My pride is to despise myself; my joy
All insults, sneers, and slanders of mankind;
No creature now I love, but God alone.
Oh, to be clear, clear, clear, of all but Him!
Lo, here I strip me of all earthly helps--
[Tearing off her clothes.]
Naked and barefoot through the world to follow
My naked Lord--And for my filthy pelf--
Con. Stop, Madam--
Eliz. Why so, sir?
Con. Upon thine oath!
Thy wealth is God's, not thine--How darest renounce
The trust He lays on thee? I do command thee,
Being, as Aaron, in God's stead, to keep it
Inviolate, for the Church and thine own needs.
Eliz. Be it so--I have no part nor lot in't--
There--I have spoken.
Abbess. O noble soul! which neither gold, nor love,
Nor scorn can bend!
Gerard. And think what pure devotions,
What holy prayers must they have been, whose guerdon
Is such a flood of grace!
Nuns. What love again!
What flame of charity, which thus prevails
In virtue's guest!
Eliz. Is self-contempt learnt thus?
Abbess. And yet how blest, in these cool shades
To rest with us, as in a land-locked pool,
Touched last and lightest by the ruffling breeze.
Eliz. No! no! no! no! I will not die in the dark:
I'll breathe the free fresh air until the last,
Were it but a month--I have such things to do--
Great schemes--brave schemes--and such a little time!
Though now I am harnessed light as any foot-page.
Come, come, my ladies. [Exeunt Elizabeth, etc.]
Ger. Alas, poor lady!
Con. Why alas, my son?
She longs to die a saint, and here's the way to it.
Ger. Yet why so harsh? why with remorseless knife
Home to the stem prune back each bough and bud?
I thought the task of education was
To strengthen, not to crush; to train and feed
Each subject toward fulfilment of its nature,
According to the mind of God, revealed
In laws, congenital with every kind
And character of man.
Con. A heathen dream!
Young souls but see the gay and warm outside,
And work but in the shallow upper soil.
Mine deeper, and the sour and barren rock
Will stop you soon enough. Who trains God's Saints,
He must transform, not pet--Nature's corrupt throughout--
A gaudy snake, which must be crushed, not tamed,
A cage of unclean birds, deceitful ever;
Born in the likeness of the fiend, which Adam
Did at the Fall, the Scripture saith, put on.
Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a hook,
To make him sport for thy maidens? Scripture saith
Who is the prince of this world--so forget not.
Ger. Forgive, if my more weak and carnal judgment
Be startled by your doctrines, and doubt trembling
The path whereon you force yourself and her.
Con. Startled? Belike--belike--let doctrines be;
Thou shalt be judged by thy works; so see to them,
And let divines split hairs: dare all thou canst;
Be all thou darest;--that will keep thy brains full.
Have thy tools ready, God will find thee work--
Then up, and play the man. Fix well thy purpose--
Let one idea, like an orbed sun,
Rise radiant in thine heaven; and then round it
All doctrines, forms, and disciplines will range
As dim parhelia, or as needful clouds,
Needful, but mist-begotten, to be dashed
Aside, when fresh shall serve thy purpose better.
Ger. How? dashed aside?
Con. Yea, dashed aside--why not?
The truths, my son, are safe in God's abysses--
While we patch up the doctrines to look like them.
The best are tarnished mirrors--clumsy bridges,
Whereon, as on firm soil, the mob may walk
Across the gulf of doubt, and know no danger.
We, who see heaven, may see the hell which girds it.
Blind trust for them. When I came here from Rome,
Among the Alps, all through one frost-bound dawn,
Waiting with sealed lips the noisy day,
I walked upon a marble mead of snow--
An angel's spotless plume, laid there for me:
Then from the hillside, in the melting noon,
Looked down the gorge, and lo! no bridge, no snow--
But seas of writhing glacier, gashed and scored
With splintered gulfs, and fathomless crevasses,
Blue lips of hell, which sucked down roaring rivers
The fiends who fled the sun. The path of Saints
Is such; so shall she look from heaven, and see
The road which led her thither. Now we'll go,
And find some lonely cottage for her lodging;
Her shelter now is but a crumbling ruin
Roofed in with pine boughs--discipline more healthy
For soul, than body: She's not ripe for death.
Open space in a suburb of Marpurg, near Elizabeth's Hut. Count
Walter and Count Pama of Hungary entering.
C. Pama. I have prepared my nerves for a shock.
C. Wal. You are wise, for the world's upside down here. The last
gateway brought us out of Christendom into the New Jerusalem, the
fifth Monarchy, where the Saints possess the earth. Not a beggar
here but has his pockets full of fair ladies' tokens: not a
barefooted friar but rules a princess.
C. Pama. Creeping, I opine, into widows' houses, and for a pretence
making long prayers.
C. Wal. Don't quote Scripture here, sir, especially in that gross
literal way! The new lights here have taught us that Scripture's
saying one thing, is a certain proof that it means another. Except,
by the bye, in one text.
C. Pama. What's that?
C. Wal. 'Ask, and it shall be given you.'
C. Pama. Ah! So we are to take nothing literally, that they may
take literally everything themselves?
C. Wal. Humph! As for your text, see if they do not saddle it on
us before the day is out, as glibly as ever you laid it on them.
Here comes the lady's tyrant, of whom I told you.
[Conrad advances from the Hut.]
Con. And what may Count Walter's valour want here?
[Count Walter turns his back.]
C. Pama. I come, Sir Priest, from Andreas, king renowned
Of Hungary, ambassador unworthy
Unto the Landgravine, his saintly daughter;
And fain would be directed to her presence.
Con. That is as I shall choose. But I'll not stop you.
I do not build with straw. I'll trust my pupils
To worldlings' honeyed tongues, who make long prayers,
And enter widows' houses for pretence.
There dwells the lady, who has chosen too long
The better part, to have it taken from her.
Besides that with strange dreams and revelations
She has of late been edified.
C. Wal. Bah! but they will serve your turn--and hers.
Con. What do you mean?
C. Wal. When you have cut her off from child and friend, and even
Isentrudis and Guta, as I hear, are thrust out by you to starve, and
she sits there, shut up like a bear in a hole, to feed on her own
substance; if she has not some of these visions to look at, how is
she, or any other of your poor self-gorged prisoners, to help
fancying herself the only creature on earth?
Con. How now? Who more than she, in faith and practice, a living
member of the Communion of Saints? Did she not lately publicly
dispense in charity in a single day five hundred marks and more? Is
it not my continual labour to keep her from utter penury through her
extravagance in almsgiving? For whom does she take thought but for
the poor, on whom, day and night, she spends her strength? Does she
not tend them from the cradle, nurse them, kiss their sores, feed
them, bathe them, with her own hands, clothe them, living and dead,
with garments, the produce of her own labour? Did she not of late
take into her own house a paralytic boy, whose loathsomeness had
driven away every one else? And now that we have removed that
charge, has she not with her a leprous boy, to whose necessities she
ministers hourly, by day and night? What valley but blesses her for
some school, some chapel, some convent, built by her munificence?
Are not the hospices, which she has founded in divers towns, the
wonder of Germany?--wherein she daily feeds and houses a multitude
of the infirm poor of Christ? Is she not followed at every step by
the blessings of the poor? Are not her hourly intercessions for the
souls and bodies of all around incessant, world-famous, mighty to
save? While she lives only for the Church of Christ, will you
accuse her of selfish isolation?
C. Wal. I tell you, monk, if she were not healthier by God's making
than ever she will be by yours, her charity would be by this time
double-distilled selfishness; the mouths she fed, cupboards to store
good works in; the backs she warmed, clothes-horses to hang out her
wares before God; her alms not given, but fairly paid, a halfpenny
for every halfpenny-worth of eternal life; earth her chess-board,
and the men and women on it merely pawns for her to play a winning
game--puppets and horn-books to teach her unit holiness--a private
workshop in which to work out her own salvation. Out upon such
Con. God hath appointed that our virtuous deeds
Each merit their rewards.
C. Wal. Go to--go to. I have watched you and your crew, how you
preach up selfish ambition for divine charity and call prurient
longings celestial love, while you blaspheme that very marriage from
whose mysteries you borrow all your cant. The day will come when
every husband and father will hunt you down like vermin; and may I
live to see it.
Con. Out on thee, heretic!
C. Wal. [drawing]. Liar! At last?
C. Pama. In God's name, sir, what if the Princess find us?
C. Wal. Ay--for her sake. But put that name on me again, as you do
on every good Catholic who will not be your slave and puppet, and if
thou goest home with ears and nose, there is no hot blood in
[They move towards the cottage.]
Con. [alone]. Were I as once I was, I could revenge:
But now all private grudges wane like mist
In the keen sunlight of my full intent;
And this man counts but for some sullen bull
Who paws and mutters at unheeding pilgrims
His empty wrath: yet let him bar my path,
Or stay me but one hour in my life-purpose,
And I will fell him as a savage beast,
God's foe, not mine. Beware thyself, Sir Count!
[Exit. The Counts return from the Cottage.]
C. Pama. Shortly she will return; here to expect her
Is duty both, and honour. Pardon me--
Her humours are well known here? Passers by
Will guess who 'tis we visit?
C. Wal. Very likely.
C. Pama. Well, travellers see strange things--and do them too.
Hem! this turf-smoke affects my breath: we might
Draw back a space.
C. Wal. Certie, we were in luck,
Or both our noses would have been snapped off
By those two she-dragons; how their sainthoods squealed
To see a brace of beards peep in! Poor child!
Two sweet companions for her loneliness!
C. Pama. But ah! what lodging! 'Tis at that my heart bleeds!
That hut, whose rough and smoke-embrowned spars
Dip to the cold clay floor on either side!
Her seats bare deal!--her only furniture
Some earthen crock or two! Why, sir, a dungeon
Were scarce more frightful: such a choice must argue
Aberrant senses, or degenerate blood!
C. Wal. What? Were things foul?
C. Pama. I marked not, sir.
C. Wal. I did.
You might have eat your dinner off the floor.
C. Pama. Off any spot, sir, which a princess' foot
Had hallowed by its touch.
C. Wal. Most courtierly.
Keep, keep those sweet saws for the lady's self.
[Aside] Unless that shock of the nerves shall send them flying.
C. Pama. Yet whence this depth of poverty? I thought
You and her champions had recovered for her
Her lands and titles.
C. Wal. Ay; that coward Henry
Gave them all back as lightly as he took them:
Certie, we were four gentle applicants--
And Rudolph told him some unwelcome truths--
Would God that all of us might hear our sins,
As Henry heard that day!
C. Pama. Then she refused them?
C. Wal. 'It ill befits,' quoth she, 'my royal blood,
To take extorted gifts; I tender back
By you to him, for this his mortal life,
That which he thinks by treason cheaply bought;
To which my son shall, in his father's right,
By God's good will, succeed. For that dread height
May Christ by many woes prepare his youth!'
C. Pama. Humph!
C. Wal. Why here--no, 't cannot be--
C. Pama. What hither comes
Forth from the hospital, where, as they told us,
The Princess labours in her holy duties?
A parti-coloured ghost that stalks for penance?
Ah! a good head of hair, if she had kept it
A thought less lank; a handsome face too, trust me,
But worn to fiddle-strings; well, we'll be knightly--
[As Elizabeth meets him.]
Stop, my fair queen of rags and patches, turn
Those solemn eyes a moment from your distaff,
And say, what tidings your magnificence
Can bring us of the Princess?
Eliz. I am she.
[Count Pama crosses himself and falls on his knees.]
C. Pama. O blessed saints and martyrs! Open, earth!
And hide my recreant knighthood in thy gulf!
Yet, mercy, Madam! for till this strange day
Who e'er saw spinning wool, like village-maid,
A royal scion?
C. Wal. [kneeling]. My beloved mistress!
Eliz. Ah! faithful friend! Rise, gentles, rise, for shame;
Nay, blush not, gallant sir. You have seen, ere now,
Kings' daughters do worse things than spinning wool,
Yet never reddened. Speak your errand out.
C. Pama. I from your father, Madam--
Eliz. Oh! I divine;
And grieve that you so far have journeyed, sir,
Upon a bootless quest.
C. Pama. But hear me, Madam--
If you return with me (o'erwhelming honour!
For such mean bodyguard too precious treasure)
Your father offers to you half his wealth;
And countless hosts, whose swift and loyal blades
From traitorous grasp shall vindicate your crown.
Eliz. Wealth? I have proved it, and have tossed it from me:
I will not stoop again to load with clay.
War? I have proved that too: should I turn loose
On these poor sheep the wolf whose fangs have gored me,
God's bolt would smite me dead.
C. Pama. Madam, by his gray hairs he doth entreat you.
Eliz. Alas! small comfort would they find in me!
I am a stricken and most luckless deer,
Whose bleeding track but draws the hounds of wrath
Where'er I pause a moment. He has children
Bred at his side, to nurse him in his age--
While I am but an alien and a changeling,
Whom, ere my plastic sense could impress take
Either of his feature or his voice, he lost.
C. Pama. Is it so? Then pardon, Madam, but your father
Must by a father's right command--
Eliz. Command! Ay, that's the phrase of the world: well--tell
But tell him gently too--that child and father
Are names, whose earthly sense I have forsworn,
And know no more: I have a heavenly spouse,
Whose service doth all other claims annul.
C. Wal. Ah, lady, dearest lady, be but ruled!
Your Saviour will be there as near as here.
Eliz. What? Thou too, friend? Dost thou not know me better?
Wouldst have me leave undone what I begin?
[To Count Pama] My father took the cross, sir: so did I:
As he would die at his post, so will I die:
He is a warrior: ask him, should I leave
This my safe fort, and well-proved vantage-ground,
To roam on this world's flat and fenceless steppes?
C. Pama. Pardon me, Madam, if my grosser wit
Fail to conceive your sense.
Eliz. It is not needed.
Be but the mouthpiece to my father, sir;
And tell him--for I would not anger him--
Tell him, I am content--say, happy--tell him
I prove my kin by prayers for him, and masses
For her who bore me. We shall meet on high.
And say, his daughter is a mighty tree,
From whose wide roots a thousand sapling suckers,
Drink half their life; she dare not snap the threads,
And let her offshoots wither. So farewell.
Within the convent there, as mine own guests,
You shall be fitly lodged. Come here no more.
C. Wal. C. Pama. Farewell, sweet Saint! [Exeunt.]
Eliz. May God go with you both.
No! I will win for him a nobler name,
Than captive crescents, piles of turbaned heads,
Or towns retaken from the Tartar, give.
In me he shall be greatest; my report
Shall through the ages win the quires of heaven
To love and honour him; and hinds, who bless
The poor man's patron saint, shall not forget
How she was fathered with a worthy sire. [Exit.]
Night. Interior of Elizabeth's hut. A leprous boy sleeping on a
Mattress. Elizabeth watching by him.]
Eliz. My shrunk limbs, stiff from many a blow,
Are crazed with pain.
A long dim formless fog-bank, creeping low,
Dulls all my brain.
I remember two young lovers,
In a golden gleam.
Across the brooding darkness shrieking hovers
That fair, foul dream.
My little children call to me,
'Mother! so soon forgot?'
From out dark nooks their yearning faces startle me,
Go, babes! I know you not!
Pray! pray! or thou'lt go mad.
. . . . .
The past's our own:
No fiend can take that from us! Ah, poor boy!
Had I, like thee, been bred from my black birth-hour
In filth and shame, counting the soulless months
Only by some fresh ulcer! I'll be patient--
Here's something yet more wretched than myself.
Sleep thou on still, poor charge--though I'll not grudge
One moment of my sickening toil about thee,
Best counsellor--dumb preacher, who dost warn me
How much I have enjoyed, how much have left,
Which thou hast never known. How am I wretched?
The happiness thou hast from me, is mine,
And makes me happy. Ay, there lies the secret--
Could we but crush that ever-craving lust
For bliss, which kills all bliss, and lose our life,
Our barren unit life, to find again
A thousand lives in those for whom we die.
So were we men and women, and should hold
Our rightful rank in God's great universe,
Wherein, in heaven and earth, by will or nature,
Nought lives for self--All, all--from crown to footstool--
The Lamb, before the world's foundations slain--
The angels, ministers to God's elect--
The sun, who only shines to light a world--
The clouds, whose glory is to die in showers--
The fleeting streams, who in their ocean-graves
Flee the decay of stagnant self-content--
The oak, ennobled by the shipwright's axe--
The soil, which yields its marrow to the flower--
The flower, which feeds a thousand velvet worms,
Born only to be prey for every bird--
All spend themselves for others: and shall man,
Earth's rosy blossom--image of his God--
Whose twofold being is the mystic knot
Which couples earth and heaven--doubly bound
As being both worm and angel, to that service
By which both worms and angels hold their life--
Shall he, whose every breath is debt on debt,
Refuse, without some hope of further wage
Which he calls Heaven, to be what God has made him?
No! let him show himself the creature's lord
By freewill gift of that self-sacrifice
Which they perforce by nature's law must suffer.
This too I had to learn (I thank thee, Lord!),
To lie crushed down in darkness and the pit--
To lose all heart and hope--and yet to work.
What lesson could I draw from all my own woes--
Ingratitude, oppression, widowhood--
While I could hug myself in vain conceits
Of self-contented sainthood--inward raptures--
Celestial palms--and let ambition's gorge
Taint heaven, as well as earth? Is selfishness
For time, a sin--spun out to eternity
Celestial prudence? Shame! Oh, thrust me forth,
Forth, Lord, from self, until I toil and die
No more for Heaven and bliss, but duty, Lord,
Duty to Thee, although my meed should be
The hell which I deserve!
[Two women enter.]
1st Woman. What! snoring still? 'Tis nearly time to wake her
To do her penance.
2d Woman. Wait a while, for love:
Indeed, I am almost ashamed to punish
A bag of skin and bones.
1st Woman. 'Tis for her good:
She has had her share of pleasure in this life
With her gay husband; she must have her pain.
We bear it as a thing of course; we know
What mortifications are, although I say it
That should not.
2d Woman. Why, since my old tyrant died,
Fasting I've sought the Lord, like any Anna,
And never tasted fish, nor flesh, nor fowl,
And little stronger than water.
1st Woman. Plague on this watching!
What work, to make a saint of a fine lady!
See now, if she had been some labourer's daughter,
She might have saved herself, for aught he cared;
2d Woman. Hush! here the master comes:
I hear him.--
Con. My peace, most holy, wise, and watchful wardens!
She sleeps? Well, what complaints have you to bring
Since last we met? How? blowing up the fire?
Cold is the true saint's element--he thrives
Like Alpine gentians, where the frost is keenest--
For there Heaven's nearest--and the ether purest--
[Aside] And he most bitter.
2d Woman. Ah! sweet master,
We are not yet as perfect as yourself.
Con. But how has she behaved?
1st Woman. Just like herself--
Now ruffling up like any tourney queen;
Now weeping in dark corners; then next minute
Begging for penance on her knees.
2d Woman. One trick's cured;
That lust of giving; Isentrude and Guta,
The hussies, came here begging but yestreen,
Vowed they were starving.
Con. Did she give to them?
2d Woman. She told them that she dared not.
Con. Good. For them,
I will take measures that they shall not want:
But see you tell her not: she must be perfect.
1st Woman. Indeed, there's not much chance of that a while.
There's others, might be saints, if they were young,
And handsome, and had titles to their names,
If they were helped toward heaven, now--
Con. Silence, horse-skull!
Thank God, that you are allowed to use a finger
Towards building up His chosen tabernacle.
2d Woman. I consider that she blasphemes the means of grace.
Con. Eh? that's a point, indeed.
2d Woman. Why, yesterday,
Within the church, before a mighty crowd,
She mocked at all the lovely images,
And said 'the money had been better spent
On food and clothes, instead of paint and gilding:
They were but pictures, whose reality
We ought to bear within us.'
Con. Awful doctrine!
1st Woman. Look at her carelessness, again--the distaff
Or woolcomb in her hands, even on her bed.
Then, when the work is done, she lets those nuns
Cheat her of half the price.
2d Woman. The Aldenburgers.
Con. Well, well, what more misdoings?
[aside] Pah! I am sick on't.
[Aloud] Go sit, and pray by her until she wakes.
]The women retire. Conrad sits down by the fire.]
I am dwindling to a peddling chamber-chaplain,
Who hunts for crabs and ballads in maids' sleeves,
I, who have shuffled kingdoms. Oh! 'tis easy
To beget great deeds; but in the rearing of them--
The threading in cold blood each mean detail,
And furzebrake of half-pertinent circumstance--
There lies the self-denial.
Women [in a low voice]. Master! sir! look here!
Eliz. [rising]. Have mercy, mercy, Lord!
Con. What is it, my daughter? No--she answers not--
Her eyeballs through their sealed lids are bursting,
And yet she sleeps: her body does but mimic
The absent soul's enfranchised wanderings
In the spirit-world.
Eliz. Oh! she was but a worldling!
And think, good Lord, if that this world is hell,
What wonder if poor souls whose lot is fixed here,
Meshed down by custom, wealth, rank, pleasure, ignorance,
Do hellish things in it? Have mercy, Lord;
Even for my sake, and all my woes, have mercy!
Con. There! she is laid again--Some bedlam dream.
So--here I sit; am I a guardian angel
Watching by God's elect? or nightly tiger,
Who waits upon a dainty point of honour
To clutch his prey, till it shall wake and move?
We'll waive that question: there's eternity
To answer that in.
How like a marble-carven nun she lies
Who prays with folded palms upon her tomb,
Until the resurrection! Fair and holy!
O happy Lewis! Had I been a knight--
A man at all--What's this? I must be brutal,
Or I shall love her: and yet that's no safeguard;
I have marked it oft: ay--with that devilish triumph
Which eyes its victim's writhings, still will mingle
A sympathetic thrill of lust--say, pity.
Eliz. [awaking]. I am heard! She is saved!
Where am I? What! have I overslept myself?
Oh, do not beat me! I will tell you all--
I have had awful dreams of the other world.
1st Woman. Ay! ay! a fine excuse for lazy women,
Who cry nightmare with lying on their backs.
Eliz. I will be heard! I am a prophetess!
God hears me, why not ye?
Con. Quench not the Spirit:
If He have spoken, daughter, we must listen.
Eliz. Methought from out the red and heaving earth
My mother rose, whose broad and queenly limbs
A fiery arrow did impale, and round
Pursuing tongues oozed up of nether fire,
And fastened on her: like a winter-blast
Among the steeples, then she shrieked aloud,
'Pray for me, daughter; save me from this torment,
For thou canst save!' And then she told a tale;
It was not true--my mother was not such--
O God! The pander to a brother's sin!
1st Woman. There now? The truth is out! I told you, sister,
About that mother--
Con. Silence, hags! what then?
Eliz. She stretched her arms, and sank. Was it a sin
To love that sinful mother? There I lay--
And in the spirit far away I prayed;
What words I spoke, I know not, nor how long;
Until a small still voice sighed, 'Child, thou art heard:'
Then on the pitchy dark a small bright cloud
Shone out, and swelled, and neared, and grew to form,
Till from it blazed my pardoned mother's face
With nameless glory! Nearer still she pressed,
And bent her lips to mine--a mighty spasm
Ran crackling through my limbs, and thousand bells
Rang in my dizzy ears--And so I woke.
Con. 'Twas but a dream.
Eliz. 'Twas more! 'twas more! I've tests:
From youth I have lived in two alternate worlds,
And night is live like day. This was no goblin!
'Twas a true vision, and my mother's soul
Is freed by my poor prayers from penal files,
And waits for me in bliss.
Con. Well--be it so then.
Thou seest herein what prize obedience merits.
Now to press forwards: I require your presence
Within the square, at noon, to witness there
The fiery doom--most just and righteous doom--
Of two convicted and malignant heretics,
Who at the stake shall expiate their crime,
And pacify God's wrath against this land.
Eliz. No! no! I will not go!
Con. What's here? Thou wilt not?
I'll drive thee there with blows.
Eliz. Then I will bear them,
Even as I bore the last, with thankful thoughts
Upon those stripes my Lord endured for me.
Oh, spare them, sir! poor blindfold sons of men!
No saint but daily errs,--and must they burn,
Ah, God! for an opinion?
Con. Fool! opinions?
Who cares for their opinions? 'Tis rebellion
Against the system which upholds the world
For which they die: so, lest the infection spread,
We must cut off the members, whose disease
We'd pardon, could they keep it to themselves.
Well, I'll not urge it,--Thou hast other work--
But for thy petulant words do thou this penance:
I do forbid thee here, to give henceforth
Food, coin, or clothes, to any living soul.
Thy thriftless waste doth scandalise the elect,
And maim thine usefulness: thou dost elude
My wise restrictions still: 'Tis great, to live
Poor, among riches; when thy wealth is spent,
Want is not merit, but necessity.
Eliz. Oh, let me give!
That only pleasure have I left on earth!
Con. And for that very cause thou must forego it,
And so be perfect. She who lives in pleasure
Is dead, while yet she lives; grace brings no merit
When 'tis the express of our own self-will.
To shrink from what we practise; do God's work
In spite of loathings; that's the path of saints.
I have said. [Exit with the women.]
Eliz. Well! I am freezing fast--I have grown of late
Too weak to nurse my sick; and now this outlet,
This one last thawing spring of fellow-feeling,
Is choked with ice--Come, Lord, and set me free.
Think me not hasty! measure not mine age,
O Lord, by these my four-and-twenty winters.
I have lived three lives--three lives.
For fourteen years I was an idiot girl:
Then I was born again; and for five years,
I lived! I lived! and then I died once more;--
One day when many knights came marching by,
And stole away--we'll talk no more of that.
And so these four years since, I have been dead,
And all my life is hid with Christ in God.
Nunc igitur dimittas, Domine, servam tuam.
The same. Elizabeth lying on straw in a corner. A crowd of women
round her. Conrad entering.
Con. As I expected--
A sermon-mongering herd about her death-bed,
Stifling her with fusty sighs, as flocks of rooks
Despatch, with pious pecks, a wounded brother.
Cant, howl, and whimper! Not an old fool in the town
Who thinks herself religious, but must see
The last of the show and mob the deer to death.
[Advancing] Hail! holy ones! How fares your charge to-day?
Abbess. After the blessed sacrament received,
As surfeited with those celestial viands,
And with the blood of life intoxicate,
She lay entranced: and only stirred at times
To eructate sweet edifying doctrine
Culled from your darling sermons.
Woman. Heavenly grace
Imbues her so throughout, that even when pricked
She feels no pain.
Con. A miracle, no doubt.
Heaven's work is ripe, and like some more I know,
Having begun in the spirit, in the flesh
She's now made perfect: she hath had warnings, too,
Of her decease; and prophesied to me,
Three weeks ago, when I lay like to die,
That I should see her in her coffin yet.
Abbess. 'Tis said, she heard in dreams her Saviour call her
To mansions built for her from everlasting.
Con. Ay, so she said.
Abbess. But tell me, in her confession
Was there no holy shame--no self-abhorrence
For the vile pleasures of her carnal wedlock?
Con. She said no word thereon: as for her shrift,
No Chrisom child could show a chart of thoughts
More spotless than were hers.
Nun. Strange, she said nought;
I had hoped she had grown more pure.
Con. When, next, I asked her,
How she would be interred; 'In the vilest weeds,'
Quoth she, 'my poor hut holds; I will not pamper
When dead, that flesh, which living I despised.
And for my wealth, see it to the last doit
Bestowed upon the poor of Christ.'
2d Woman. O grace!
3d Woman. O soul to this world poor, but rich toward God!
Eliz. [awaking]. Hark! how they cry for bread!
Poor souls! be patient!
I have spent all--
I'll sell myself for a slave--feed them with the price.
Come, Guta! Nurse! We must be up and doing!
Alas! they are gone, and begging!
Go! go! They'll beat me, if I give you aught:
I'll pray for you, and so you'll go to Heaven.
I am a saint--God grants me all I ask.
But I must love no creature. Why, Christ loved--
Mary he loved, and Martha, and their brother--
Three friends! and I have none!
When Lazarus lay dead, He groaned in spirit,
And wept--like any widow--Jesus wept!
I'll weep, weep, weep! pray for that 'gift of tears.'
They took my friends away, but not my eyes,
Oh, husband, babes, friends, nurse! To die alone!
Crack, frozen brain! Melt, icicle within!
Women. Alas! sweet saint! By bitter pangs she wins
Her crown of endless glory!
Con. But she wins it!
Stop that vile sobbing! she's unmanned enough
Without your maudlin sympathy.
Eliz. What? weeping?
Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me--
Weep for yourselves.
Women. We do, alas! we do!
What are we without you? [A pause.]
Woman. Oh, listen, listen!
What sweet sounds from her fast-closed lips are welling,
As from the caverned shaft, deep miners' songs?
Eliz. [in a low voice]. Through the stifling room
Floats strange perfume;
Through the crumbling thatch
The angels watch,
Over the rotting roof-tree.
They warble, and flutter, and hover, and glide,
Wafting old sounds to my dreary bedside,
Snatches of songs which I used to know
When I slept by my nurse, and the swallows
Called me at day-dawn from under the eaves.
Hark to them! Hark to them now--
Fluting like woodlarks, tender and low--
Cool rustling leaves--tinkling waters--
Sheepbells over the lea--
In their silver plumes Eden-gales whisper--
In their hands Eden-lilies--not for me--not for me--
No crown for the poor fond bride!
The song told me so,
Long, long ago,
How the maid chose the white lily;
But the bride she chose
The red red rose,
And by its thorn died she.
Well--in my Father's house are many mansions--
I have trodden the waste howling ocean-foam,
Till I stand upon Canaan's shore,
Where Crusaders from Zion's towers call me home,
To the saints who are gone before.
Con. Still on Crusaders? [Aside.]
Abbess. What was that sweet song, which just now, my Princess,
You murmured to yourself?
Eliz. Did you not hear
A little bird between me and the wall,
That sang and sang?
Abbess. We heard him not, fair Saint.
Eliz. I heard him, and his merry carol revelled
Through all my brain, and woke my parched throat
To join his song: then angel melodies
Burst through the dull dark, and the mad air quivered
Unutterable music. Nay, you heard him.
Abbess. Nought save yourself.
Eliz. Slow hours! Was that the cock-crow?
Woman. St. Peter's bird did call.
Eliz. Then I must up--
To matins, and to work--No, my work's over.
And what is it, what?
One drop of oil on the salt seething ocean!
Thank God, that one was born at this same hour,
Who did our work for us: we'll talk of Him:
We shall go mad with thinking of ourselves--
We'll talk of Him, and of that new-made star,
Which, as he stooped into the Virgin's side,
From off His finger, like a signet-gem,
He dropped in the empyrean for a sign.
But the first tear He shed at this His birth-hour,
When He crept weeping forth to see our woe,
Fled up to Heaven in mist, and hid for ever
Our sins, our works, and that same new-made star.
Woman. Poor soul! she wanders!
Con. Wanders, fool? her madness
Is worth a million of your paters, mumbled
At every station between--
Eliz. Oh! thank God
Our eyes are dim! What should we do, if he,
The sneering fiend, who laughs at all our toil,
Should meet us face to face?
Con. We'd call him fool.
Eliz. There! There! Fly, Satan, fly! 'Tis gone!
Con. The victory's gained at last!
The fiend is baffled, and her saintship sure!
O people blest of Heaven!
Eliz. O master, master,
You will not let the mob, when I lie dead,
Make me a show--paw over all my limbs--
Pull out my hair--pluck off my finger-nails--
Wear scraps of me for charms and amulets,
As if I were a mummy, or a drug?
As they have done to others--I have seen it--
Nor set me up in ugly naked pictures
In every church, that cold world-hardened wits
May gossip o'er my secret tortures? Promise--
Swear to me! I demand it!
Con. No man lights
A candle, to be hid beneath a bushel:
Thy virtues are the Church's dower: endure
All which the edification of the faithful
Makes needful to be published.
Eliz. O my God!
I had stripped myself of all, but modesty!
Dost Thou claim yet that victim? Be it so.
Now take me home! I have no more to give Thee!
So weak--and yet no pain--why, now naught ails me!
How dim the lights burn! Here--
Where are you, children?
Alas! I had forgotten.
Now I must sleep--for ere the sun shall rise,
I must begone upon a long, long journey
To him I love.
Con. She means her heavenly Bridegroom--
The Spouse of souls.
Eliz. I said, to him I love.
Let me sleep, sleep.
You will not need to wake me--so--good-night.
[Folds herself into an attitude of repose. The scene closes.]
SCENE I. A.D. 1235.
A Convent at Marpurg. Cloisters of the infirmary. Two aged monks
1st Monk. So they will publish to-day the Landgravine's
canonisation, and translate her to the new church prepared for her.
Alack, now, that all the world should be out sight-seeing and saint-
making, and we laid up here, like two lame jackdaws in a belfry!
2d Monk. Let be, man--let be. We have seen sights and saints in
our time. And, truly, this insolatio suits my old bones better than
1st Monk. 'Tis pleasant enough in the sun, were it not for the
flies. Look--there's a lizard. Come you here, little run-about;
here's game for you.
2d Monk. A tame fool, and a gay one--Munditiae mundanis.
1st Monk. Catch him a fat fly--my hand shaketh.
2d Monk. If one of your new-lights were here, now, he'd pluck him
for a fiend, as Dominic did the live sparrow in chapel.
1st Monk. There will be precious offerings made to-day, of which
our house will get its share.
2d Monk. Not we; she always favoured the Franciscans most.
1st Monk. 'Twas but fair--they were her kith and kin.
She lately put on the habit of their third minors.
2d Monk. So have half the fine gentlemen and ladies in Europe.
There's one of your new inventions, now, for letting grand folks
serve God and mammon at once, and emptying honest monasteries, where