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Elizabeth, daughter of the King of Hungary,
Lewis, Landgrave of Thuringia, betrothed to her in childhood.
Henry, brother of Lewis.
Walter of Varila, ]
Rudolf the Cupbearer, ]
Leutolf of Erlstetten, ]
Hartwig of Erba, ] Vassals of Lewis.
Count Hugo, ]
Count of Saym, etc. ]
Conrad of Marpurg, a Monk, the Pope's Commissioner for the
suppression of heresy.
Gerard, his Chaplain.
Bishop of Bamberg, uncle of Elizabeth, etc. etc.
Sophia, Dowager Landgravine.
Agnes, her daughter, sister of Lewis.
Isentrudis, Elizabeth's nurse.
Guta, her favourite maiden.
Etc. etc. etc
The Scene lies principally in Eisenach, and the Wartburg; changing afterwards to Bamberg, and finally to Marpurg.
Wake again, Teutonic Father-ages,
Speak again, beloved primaeval creeds;
Flash ancestral spirit from your pages,
Wake the greedy age to noble deeds.
Tell us, how of old our saintly mothers
Schooled themselves by vigil, fast, and prayer,
Learnt to love as Jesus loved before them,
While they bore the cross which poor men bear.
Tell us how our stout crusading fathers
Fought and died for God, and not for gold;
Let their love, their faith, their boyish daring,
Distance-mellowed, gild the days of old.
Tell us how the sexless workers, thronging,
Angel-tended, round the convent doors,
Wrought to Christian faith and holy order
Savage hearts alike and barren moors.
Ye who built the churches where we worship,
Ye who framed the laws by which we move,
Fathers, long belied, and long forsaken,
Oh! forgive the children of your love!
Speak! but ask us not to be as ye were!
All but God is changing day by day.
He who breathes on man the plastic spirit
Bids us mould ourselves its robe of clay.
Old anarchic floods of revolution,
Drowning ill and good alike in night,
Sink, and bare the wrecks of ancient labour,
Fossil-teeming, to the searching light.
There will we find laws, which shall interpret,
Through the simpler past, existing life;
Delving up from mines and fairy caverns
Charmed blades, to cut the age's strife.
What though fogs may stream from draining waters?
We will till the clays to mellow loam;
Wake the graveyard of our fathers' spirits;
Clothe its crumbling mounds with blade and bloom.
Old decays but foster new creations;
Bones and ashes feed the golden corn;
Fresh elixirs wander every moment,
Down the veins through which the live past feeds its child, the
SCENE I. A.D. 1220
The Doorway of a closed Chapel in the Wartburg. Elizabeth sitting on the Steps.
Eliz. Baby Jesus, who dost lie
Far above that stormy sky,
In Thy mother's pure caress,
Stoop and save the motherless.
Happy birds! whom Jesus leaves
Underneath His sheltering eaves;
There they go to play and sleep,
May not I go in to weep?
All without is mean and small,
All within is vast and tall;
All without is harsh and shrill,
All within is hushed and still.
Jesus, let me enter in,
Wrap me safe from noise and sin.
Let me list the angels' songs,
See the picture of Thy wrongs;
Let me kiss Thy wounded feet,
Drink Thine incense, faint and sweet,
While the clear bells call Thee down
From Thine everlasting throne.
At thy door-step low I bend,
Who have neither kin nor friend;
Let me here a shelter find,
Shield the shorn lamb from the wind.
Jesu, Lord, my heart will break:
Save me for Thy great love's sake!
Isen. Aha! I had missed my little bird from the nest,
And judged that she was here. What's this? fie, tears?
Eliz. Go! you despise me like the rest.
Isen. Despise you?
What's here? King Andrew's child? St. John's sworn maid?
Who dares despise you? Out upon these Saxons!
They sang another note when I was younger,
When from the rich East came my queenly pearl,
Lapt on this fluttering heart, while mighty heroes
Rode by her side, and far behind us stretched
The barbs and sumpter mules, a royal train,
Laden with silks and furs, and priceless gems,
Wedges of gold, and furniture of silver,
Fit for my princess.
Eliz. Hush now, I've heard all, nurse,
A thousand times.
Isen. Oh, how their hungry mouths
Did water at the booty! Such a prize,
Since the three Kings came wandering into Coln,
They ne'er saw, nor their fathers;--well they knew it!
Oh, how they fawned on us! 'Great Isentrudis!'
'Sweet babe!' The Landgravine did thank her saints
As if you, or your silks, had fallen from heaven;
And now she wears your furs, and calls us gipsies.
Come tell your nurse your griefs; we'll weep together,
Strangers in this strange land.
Eliz. I am most friendless.
The Landgravine and Agnes--you may see them
Begrudge the food I eat, and call me friend
Of knaves and serving-maids; the burly knights
Freeze me with cold blue eyes: no saucy page
But points and whispers, 'There goes our pet nun;
Would but her saintship leave her gold behind,
We'd give herself her furlough.' Save me! save me!
All here are ghastly dreams; dead masks of stone,
And you and I, and Guta, only live:
Your eyes alone have souls. I shall go mad!
Oh that they would but leave me all alone
To teach poor girls, and work within my chamber,
With mine own thoughts, and all the gentle angels
Which glance about my dreams at morning-tide!
Then I should be as happy as the birds
Which sing at my bower window. Once I longed
To be beloved,--now would they but forget me!
Most vile I must be, or they could not hate me!
Isen. They are of this world, thou art not, poor child,
Therefore they hate thee, as they did thy betters.
Eliz. But, Lewis, nurse?
Isen. He, child? he is thy knight;
Espoused from childhood: thou hast a claim upon him.
One that thou'lt need, alas!--though, I remember--
'Tis fifteen years agone--when in one cradle
We laid two fair babes for a marriage token;
And when your lips met, then you smiled, and twined
Your little limbs together.--Pray the Saints
That token stand!--He calls thee love and sister,
And brings thee gew-gaws from the wars: that's much!
At least he's thine if thou love him.
Eliz. If I love him?
What is this love? Why, is he not my brother
And I his sister? Till these weary wars,
The one of us without the other never
Did weep or laugh: what is't should change us now?
You shake your head and smile.
Isen. Go to; the chafe
Comes not by wearing chains, but feeling them.
Eliz. Alas! here comes a knight across the court;
Oh, hide me, nurse! What's here? this door is fast.
Isen. Nay, 'tis a friend: he brought my princess hither,
Walter of Varila; I feared him once--
He used to mock our state, and say, good wine
Should want no bush, and that the cage was gay,
But that the bird must sing before he praised it.
Yet he's a kind heart, while his bitter tongue
Awes these court popinjays at times to manners.
He will smile sadly too, when he meets my maiden;
And once he said, he was your liegeman sworn,
Since my lost mistress, weeping, to his charge
Trusted the babe she saw no more.--God help us!
Eliz. How did my mother die, nurse?
Isen. She died, my child.
Eliz. But how? Why turn away?
Too long I've guessed at some dread mystery
I may not hear: and in my restless dreams,
Night after night, sweeps by a frantic rout
Of grinning fiends, fierce horses, bodiless hands,
Which clutch at one to whom my spirit yearns
As to a mother. There's some fearful tie
Between me and that spirit-world, which God
Brands with his terrors on my troubled mind.
Speak! tell me, nurse! is she in heaven or hell?
Isen. God knows, my child: there are masses for her soul
Each day in every Zingar minster sung.
Eliz. But was she holy?--Died she in the Lord?
Isen [weeps]. O God! my child! And if I told thee all,
How couldst thou mend it?
Eliz. Mend it? O my Saviour!
I'd die a saint!
Win heaven for her by prayers, and build great minsters,
Chantries, and hospitals for her; wipe out
By mighty deeds our race's guilt and shame--
But thus, poor witless orphan! [Weeps.]
[Count Walter enters.]
Wal. Ah! my princess! accept your liegeman's knee;
Down, down, rheumatic flesh!
Eliz. Ah! Count Walter! you are too tall to kneel to little girls.
Wal. What? shall two hundredweight of hypocrisy bow down to his
four-inch wooden saint, and the same weight of honesty not worship
his four-foot live one? And I have a jest for you, shall make my
small queen merry and wise.
Isen. You shall jest long before she's merry.
Wal. Ah! dowers and dowagers again! The money--root of all evil.
What comes here? [A Page enters.]
A long-winged grasshopper, all gold, green, and gauze? How these
young pea-chicks must needs ape the grown peacock's frippery!
Prithee, now, how many such butterflies as you suck here together on
the thistle-head of royalty?
Page. Some twelve gentlemen of us, Sir--apostles of the blind
archer, Love--owning no divinity but almighty beauty--no faith, no
hope, no charity, but those which are kindled at her eyes.
Wal. Saints! what's all this?
Page. Ah, Sir! none but countrymen swear by the saints nowadays:
no oaths but allegorical ones, Sir, at the high table; as thus,--'By
the sleeve of beauty, Madam;' or again, 'By Love his martyrdoms, Sir
Count;' or to a potentate, 'As Jove's imperial mercy shall hear my
vows, High Mightiness.'
Wal. Where did the evil one set you on finding all this heathenry?
Page. Oh, we are all barristers of Love's court, Sir; we have
Ovid's gay science conned, Sir, ad unguentum, as they say, out of
the French book.
Wal. So? There are those come from Rome then will whip you and
Ovid out with the same rod which the dandies of Provence felt lately
to their sorrow. Oh, what blinkards are we gentlemen, to train any
dumb beasts more carefully than we do Christians! that a man shall
keep his dog-breakers, and his horse-breakers, and his hawk-
breakers, and never hire him a boy-breaker or two! that we should
live without a qualm at dangling such a flock of mimicking
parroquets at our heels a while, and then, when they are well
infected, well perfumed with the wind of our vices, dropping them
off, as tadpoles do their tails, joint by joint into the mud! to
strain at such gnats as an ill-mouthed colt or a riotous puppy, and
swallow that camel of camels, a page!
Page. Do you call me a camel, Sir?
Wal. What's your business?
Page. My errand is to the Princess here.
Eliz. To me?
Page. Yes; the Landgravine expects you at high mass; so go in, and
mind you clean yourself; for every one is not as fond as you of
beggars' brats, and what their clothes leave behind them.
Isen [strikes him]. Monkey! To whom are you speaking?
Eliz. Oh, peace, peace, peace! I'll go with him.
Page. Then be quick, my music-master's waiting. Corpo di Bacco! as
if our elders did not teach us to whom we ought to be rude! [Ex.
Eliz. and Page.]
Isen. See here, Sir Saxon, how this pearl of price
Is faring in your hands! The peerless image,
To whom this court is but the tawdry frame,--
The speck of light amid its murky baseness,--
The salt which keeps it all from rotting,--cast
To be the common fool,--the laughing stock
For every beardless knave to whet his wit on!
Tar-blooded Germans!--Here's another of them.
[A young Knight enters.]
Knight. Heigh! Count! What? learning to sing psalms? They are waiting
For you in the manage-school, to give your judgment
On that new Norman mare.
Wal. Tell them I'm busy.
Knight. Busy? St. Martin! Knitting stockings, eh?
To clothe the poor withal? Is that your business?
I passed that canting baby on the stairs;
Would heaven that she had tripped, and broke her goose-neck,
And left us heirs de facto. So, farewell. [Exit.]
Wal. A very pretty quarrel! matter enough
To spoil a waggon-load of ash-staves on,
And break a dozen fools' backs across their cantlets.
What's Lewis doing?
Bewitched with dogs and horses, like an idiot
Clutching his bauble, while a priceless jewel
Sticks at his miry heels.
Wal. The boy's no fool,--
As good a heart as hers, but somewhat given
To hunt the nearest butterfly, and light
The fire of fancy without hanging o'er it
The porridge-pot of practice. He shall hear or--
Isen. And quickly, for there's treason in the wind.
They'll keep her dower, and send her home with shame
Before the year's out.
Wal. Humph! Some are rogues enough for't.
As it falls out, I ride with him to-day.
Isen. Upon what business?
Wal. Some shaveling has been telling him that there are heretics on
his land: Stadings, worshippers of black cats, baby-eaters, and
such like. He consulted me; I told him it would be time enough to
see to the heretics when all the good Christians had been well
looked after. I suppose the novelty of the thing smit him, for now
nothing will serve but I must ride with him round half a dozen
hamlets, where, with God's help, I will show him a mansty or two,
that shall astonish his delicate chivalry.
Isen. Oh, here's your time! Speak to him, noble Walter.
Stun his dull ears with praises of her grace;
Prick his dull heart with shame at his own coldness.
Oh right us, Count.
Wal. I will, I will: go in
And dry your eyes. [Exeunt separately.]
A Landscape in Thuringia. Lewis and Walter riding.
Lewis. So all these lands are mine; these yellow meads--
These village greens, and forest-fretted hills,
With dizzy castles crowned. Mine! Why that word
Is rich in promise, in the action bankrupt.
What faculty of mine, save dream-fed pride,
Can these things fatten? Mass! I had forgot:
I have a right to bark at trespassers.
Rare privilege! While every fowl and bush,
According to its destiny and nature
(Which were they truly mine, my power could alter),
Will live, and grow, and take no thought of me.
Those firs, before whose stealthy-marching ranks
The world-old oaks still dwindle and retreat,
If I could stay their poisoned frown, which cows
The pale shrunk underwood, and nestled seeds
Into an age of sleep, 'twere something: and those men
O'er whom that one word 'ownership' uprears me--
If I could make them lift a finger up
But of their own free will, I'd own my seizin.
But now--when if I sold them, life and limb,
There's not a sow would litter one pig less
Than when men called her mine.--Possession's naught;
A parchment ghost; a word I am ashamed
To claim even here, lest all the forest spirits,
And bees who drain unasked the free-born flowers,
Should mock, and cry, 'Vain man, not thine, but ours.'
Wal. Possession's naught? Possession's beef and ale--
Soft bed, fair wife, gay horse, good steel.--Are they naught?
Possession means to sit astride of the world,
Instead of having it astride of you;
Is that naught? 'Tis the easiest trade of all too;
For he that's fit for nothing else, is fit
To own good land, and on the slowest dolt
His state sits easiest, while his serfs thrive best.
Lewis. How now? What need then of long discipline,
Not to mere feats of arms, but feats of soul;
To courtesies and high self-sacrifice,
To order and obedience, and the grace
Which makes commands, requests, and service, favour?
To faith and prayer, and pure thoughts, ever turned
To that Valhalla, where the virgin saints
And stainless heroes tend the Queen of heaven?
Why these, if I but need, like stalled ox
To chew the grass cut for me?
Wal. Why? Because
I have trained thee for a knight, boy, not a ruler.
All callings want their proper 'prentice time
But this of ruling; it comes by mother-wit;
And if the wit be not exceeding great,
'Tis best the wit be most exceeding small;
And he that holds the reins should let the horse
Range on, feed where he will, live and let live.
Custom and selfishness will keep all steady
For half a life.--Six months before you die
You may begin to think of interfering.
Lewis. Alas! while each day blackens with fresh clouds,
Complaints of ague, fever, crumbling huts,
Of land thrown out to the forest, game and keepers,
Bailiffs and barons, plundering all alike;
Need, greed, stupidity: To clear such ruin
Would task the rich prime of some noble hero--
But can I nothing do?
Wal. Oh! plenty, Sir;
Which no man yet has done or e'er will do.
It rests with you, whether the priest be honoured;
It rests with you, whether the knight be knightly;
It rests with you, whether those fields grow corn;
It rests with you, whether those toiling peasants
Lift to their masters free and loyal eyes,
Or crawl, like jaded hacks, to welcome graves.
It rests with you--and will rest.
Lewis. I'll crowd my court and dais with men of God,
As doth my peerless namesake, King of France.
Wal. Priests, Sir? The Frenchman keeps two counsellors
Worth any drove of priests.
Lewis. And who are they?
Wal. God and his lady-love, [aside] He'll open at that--
Lewis. I could be that man's squire.
Wal [aside] Again run riot--
Now for another cast, [aloud] If you'd sleep sound, Sir,
You'll let priests pray for you, but school you never.
Lewis. Mass! who more fitted?
Wal. None, if you could trust them;
But they are the people's creatures; poor men give them
Their power at the church, and take it back at the ale-house:
Then what's the friar to the starving peasant?
Just what the abbot is to the greedy noble--
A scarecrow to lear wolves. Go ask the church plate,
Safe in knights' cellars, how these priests are feared.
Bruised reeds when you most need them.--No, my Lord;
Copy them, trust them never.
Lewis. Copy? wherein?
Wal. In letting every man
Do what he likes, and only seeing he does it
As you do your work--well. That's the Church secret
For breeding towns, as fast as you breed roe-deer;
Example, but not meddling. See that hollow--
I knew it once all heath, and deep peat-bog--
I drowned a black mare in that self-same spot
Hunting with your good father: Well, he gave
One jovial night, to six poor Erfurt monks--
Six picked-visaged, wan, bird-fingered wights--
All in their rough hair shirts, like hedgehogs starved--
I told them, six weeks' work would break their hearts:
They answered, Christ would help, and Christ's great mother,
And make them strong when weakest: So they settled:
And starved and froze.
Lewis. And dug and built, it seems.
Wal. Faith, that's true. See--as garden walls draw snails,
They have drawn a hamlet round; the slopes are blue,
Knee-deep with flax, the orchard boughs are breaking
With strange outlandish fruits. See those young rogues
Marching to school; no poachers here, Lord Landgrave,--
Too much to be done at home; there's not a village
Of yours, now, thrives like this. By God's good help
These men have made their ownership worth something.
Here comes one of them.
Lewis. I would speak to him--
And learn his secret.--We'll await him here.
Con. Peace to you, reverend and war-worn knight,
And you, fair youth, upon whose swarthy lip
Blooms the rich promise of a noble manhood.
Methinks, if simple monks may read your thoughts,
That with no envious or distasteful eyes
Ye watch the labours of God's poor elect.
Wal. Why--we were saying, how you cunning rooks
Pitch as by instinct on the fattest fallows.
Con. For He who feeds the ravens, promiseth
Our bread and water sure, and leads us on
By peaceful streams in pastures green to lie,
Beneath our Shepherd's eye.
Lewis. In such a nook, now,
To nestle from this noisy world--
Con. And drop
The burden of thyself upon the threshold.
Lewis. Think what rich dreams may haunt those lowly roofs!
Con. Rich dreams,--and more; their dreams will find fulfilment--
Their discipline breeds strength--'Tis we alone
Can join the patience of the labouring ox
Unto the eagle's foresight,--not a fancy
Of ours, but grows in time to mighty deeds;
Victories in heavenly warfare: but yours, yours, Sir,
Oh, choke them, choke the panting hopes of youth,
Ere they be born, and wither in slow pains,
Cast by for the next bauble!
Lewis. 'Tis too true!
I dread no toil; toil is the true knight's pastime--
Faith fails, the will intense and fixed, so easy
To thee, cut off from life and love, whose powers
In one close channel must condense their stream:
But I, to whom this life blooms rich and busy,
Whose heart goes out a-Maying all the year
In this new Eden--in my fitful thought
What skill is there, to turn my faith to sight--
To pierce blank Heaven, like some trained falconer
After his game, beyond all human ken?
Wal. And walk into the bog beneath your feet.
Con. And change it to firm land by magic step!
Build there cloud-cleaving spires, beneath whose shade
Great cities rise for vassals; to call forth
From plough and loom the rank unlettered hinds,
And make them saints and heroes--send them forth
To sway with heavenly craft the spirit of princes;
Change nations' destinies, and conquer worlds
With love, more mighty than the sword; what, Count?
Art thou ambitious? practical? we monks
Can teach you somewhat there too.
Lewis. Be it so;
But love you have forsworn; and what were life
Without that chivalry, which bends man's knees
Before God's image and his glory, best
Revealed in woman's beauty?
Con. Ah! poor worldlings!
Little you dream what maddening ecstasies,
What rich ideals haunt, by day and night,
Alone, and in the crowd, even to the death,
The servitors of that celestial court
Where peerless Mary, sun-enthroned, reigns,
In whom all Eden dreams of womanhood,
All grace of form, hue, sound, all beauty strewn
Like pearls unstrung, about this ruined world,
Have their fulfilment and their archetype.
Why hath the rose its scent, the lily grace?
To mirror forth her loveliness, from whom,
Primeval fount of grace, their livery came:
Pattern of Seraphs! only worthy ark
To bear her God athwart the floods of time!
Lewis. Who dare aspire to her? Alas, not I!
To me she is a doctrine, and a picture:--
I cannot live on dreams.
Con. She hath her train:--
There thou may'st choose thy love: If world-wide lore
Shall please thee, and the Cherub's glance of fire,
Let Catharine lift thy soul, and rapt with her
Question the mighty dead, until thou float
Tranced on the ethereal ocean of her spirit.
If pity father passion in thee, hang
Above Eulalia's tortured loveliness;
And for her sake, and in her strength, go forth
To do and suffer greatly. Dost thou long
For some rich heart, as deep in love as weakness,
Whose wild simplicity sweet heaven-born instincts
Alone keep sane?
Lewis. I do, I do. I'd live
And die for each and all the three.
Con. Then go--
Entangled in the Magdalen's tresses lie;
Dream hours before her picture, till thy lips
Dare to approach her feet, and thou shalt start
To find the canvas warm with life, and matter
A moment transubstantiate to heaven.
Wal. Ay, catch his fever, Sir, and learn to take
An indigestion for a troop of angels.
Come, tell him, monk, about your magic gardens,
Where not a stringy head of kale is cut
But breeds a vision or a revelation.
Lewis. Hush, hush, Count! Speak, strange monk, strange words, and waken
Longings more strange than either.
Con. Then, if proved,
As I dare vouch thee, loyal in thy love,
Even to the Queen herself thy saintlier soul
At length may soar: perchance--Oh, bliss too great
For thought--yet possible!
Receive some token--smile--or hallowing touch
Of that white hand, beneath whose soft caress
The raging world is smoothed, and runs its course
To shadow forth her glory.
Lewis. Thou dost tempt me--
That were a knightly quest.
Con. Ay, here's true love.
Love's heaven, without its hell; the golden fruit
Without the foul husk, which at Adam's fall
Did crust it o'er with filth and selfishness.
I tempt thee heavenward--from yon azure walls
Unearthly beauties beckon--God's own mother
Waits longing for thy choice--
Lewis. Is this a dream?
Wal. Ay, by the Living Lord, who died for you!
Will you be cozened, Sir, by these air-blown fancies,
These male hysterics, by starvation bred
And huge conceit? Cast off God's gift of manhood,
And, like the dog in the adage, drop the true bone
With snapping at the sham one in the water?
What were you born a man for?
Lewis. Ay, I know it:--
I cannot live on dreams. Oh for one friend,
Myself, yet not myself; one not so high
But she could love me, not too pure to pardon
My sloth and meanness! Oh for flesh and blood,
Before whose feet I could adore, yet love!
How easy then were duty! From her lips
To learn my daily task;--in her pure eyes
To see the living type of those heaven-glories
I dare not look on;--let her work her will
Of love and wisdom on these straining hinds;--
To squire a saint around her labour field,
And she and it both mine:--That were possession!
Con. The flesh, fair youth--
Wal. Avaunt, bald snake, avaunt!
We are past your burrow now. Come, come, Lord Landgrave,
Look round, and find your saint.
Lewis. Alas! one such--
One such, I know, who upward from one cradle
Beside me like a sister--No, thank God! no sister!--
Has grown and grown, and with her mellow shade
Has blanched my thornless thoughts to her own hue,
And even now is budding into blossom,
Which never shall bear fruit, but inward still
Resorb its vital nectar, self-contained,
And leave no living copies of its beauty
To after ages. Ah! be less, sweet maid,
Less than thyself! Yet no--my wife thou might'st be,
If less than thus--but not the saint thou art.
What! shall my selfish longings drag thee down
From maid to wife? degrade the soul I worship?
That were a caitiff deed! Oh, misery!
Is wedlock treason to that purity,
Which is the jewel and the soul of wedlock?
Elizabeth! my saint! [Exit Conrad.]
Wal. What, Sir? the Princess?
Ye saints in heaven, I thank you!
Lewis. Oh, who else,
Who else the minutest lineament fulfils
Of this my cherished portrait?
Wal. So--'tis well.
Hear me, my Lord.--You think this dainty princess
Too perfect for you, eh? That's well again;
For that whose price after fruition falls
May well too high be rated ere enjoyed--
In plain words,--if she looks an angel now, you will be better mated
than you expected, when you find her--a woman. For flesh and blood
she is, and that young blood,--whom her childish misusage and your
brotherly love; her loneliness and your protection; her springing
fancy and (for I may speak to you as a son) your beauty and knightly
grace, have so bewitched, and as some say, degraded, that briefly,
she loves you, and briefly, better, her few friends fear, than you
Lewis. Loves me! My Count, that word is quickly spoken;
And yet, if it be true, it thrusts me forth
Upon a shoreless sea of untried passion,
From whence is no return.
Wal. By Siegfried's sword,
My words are true, and I came here to say them,
To thee, my son in all but blood.
Mass, I'm no gossip. Why? What ails the boy?
Lewis. Loves me! Henceforth let no man, peering down
Through the dim glittering mine of future years,
Say to himself 'Too much! this cannot be!'
To-day, and custom, wall up our horizon:
Before the hourly miracle of life
Blindfold we stand, and sigh, as though God were not.
I have wandered in the mountains, mist-bewildered,
And now a breeze comes, and the veil is lifted,
And priceless flowers, o'er which I trod unheeding,
Gleam ready for my grasp. She loves me then!
She who to me was as a nightingale
That sings in magic gardens, rock-beleaguered,
To passing angels melancholy music--
Whose dark eyes hung, like far-off evening stars,
Through rosy-cushioned windows coldly shining
Down from the cloud-world of her unknown fancy--
She, for whom holiest touch of holiest knight
Seemed all too gross--who might have been a saint
And companied with angels--thus to pluck
The spotless rose of her own maidenhood
To give it unto me!
Wal. You love her then?
Lewis. Look! if yon solid mountain were all gold,
And each particular tree a band of jewels,
And from its womb the Niebelungen hoard
With elfin wardens called me, 'Leave thy love
And be our Master'--I would turn away--
And know no wealth but her.
Wal. Shall I say this to her?
I am no carrier pigeon, Sir, by breed,
But now, between her friends and persecutors,
My life's a burden.
Lewis. Persecutors! Who?
Alas! I guess it--I had known my mother
Too light for that fair saint,--but who else dare wink
When she is by? My knights?
Wal. To a man, my Lord.
Lewis. Here's chivalry! Well, that's soon brought to bar.
The quarrel's mine; my lance shall clear that stain.
Wal. Quarrel with your knights? Cut your own chair-legs off!
They do but sail with the stream. Her passion, Sir,
Broke shell and ran out twittering before yours did,
And unrequited love is mortal sin
With this chaste world. My boy, my boy, I tell you,
The fault lies nearer home.
Lewis. I have played the coward--
And in the sloth of false humility,
Cast by the pearl I dared not to deserve.
How laggard I must seem to her, though she love me;
Playing with hawks and hounds, while she sits weeping!
'Tis not too late.
Wal. Too late, my royal eyas?
You shall strike this deer yourself at gaze ere long--
She has no mind to slip to cover.
We'll back--we'll back; and you shall bear the message;
I am ashamed to speak. Tell her I love her--
That I should need to tell her! Say, my coyness
Was bred of worship, not of coldness.
Wal. Then the serfs
Lewis. Why not? This day to them, too, blessing brings,
Which clears from envious webs their guardian angel's wings.
A Chamber in the Castle. Sophia, Elizabeth, Agnes, Isentrude, etc., re-entering.
Soph. What! you will not? You hear, Dame Isentrude,
She will not wear her coronet in the church,
Because, forsooth, the crucifix within
Is crowned with thorns. You hear her.
Eliz. Noble mother!
How could I flaunt this bauble in His face
Who hung there, naked, bleeding, all for me--
I felt it shamelessness to go so gay.
Soph. Felt? What then? Every foolish wench has feelings
In these religious days, and thinks it carnal
To wash her dishes, and obey her parents--
No wonder they ape you, if you ape them--
Go to! I hate this humble-minded pride,
Self-willed submission--to your own pert fancies;
This fog-bred mushroom-spawn of brain-sick wits,
Who make their oddities their test for grace,
And peer about to catch the general eye;
Ah! I have watched you throw your playmates down
To have the pleasure of kneeling for their pardon.
Here's sanctity--to shame your cousin and me--
Spurn rank and proper pride, and decency;--
If God has made you noble, use your rank,
If you but know how. You Landgravine? You mated
With gentle Lewis? Why, belike you'll cowl him,
As that stern prude, your aunt, cowled her poor spouse;
No--one Hedwiga at a time's enough,--
My son shall die no monk.
Isen. Beseech you, Madam,--
Weep not, my darling.
Soph. Tut--I'll speak my mind.
We'll have no saints. Thank heaven, my saintliness
Ne'er troubled my good man, by day or night.
We'll have no saints, I say; far better for you,
And no doubt pleasanter--You know your place--
At least you know your place,--to take to cloisters,
And there sit carding wool, and mumbling Latin,
With sour old maids, and maundering Magdalens,
Proud of your frost-kibed feet, and dirty serge.
There's nothing noble in you, but your blood;
And that one almost doubts. Who art thou, child?
Isen. The daughter, please your highness,
Of Andreas, King of Hungary, your better;
And your son's spouse.
Soph. I had forgotten, truly--
And you, Dame Isentrudis, are her servant,
And mine: come, Agnes, leave the gipsy ladies
To say their prayers, and set the Saints the fashion.
[Sophia and Agnes go out.]
Isen. Proud hussy! Thou shalt set thy foot on her neck yet,
When thou art Landgravine.
Eliz. And when will that be?
No, she speaks truth! I should have been a nun.
These are the wages of my cowardice,--
Too weak to face the world, too weak to leave it!
Guta. I'll take the veil with you.
Eliz. 'Twere but a moment's work,--
To slip into the convent there below,
And be at peace for ever. And you, my nurse?
Isen. I will go with thee, child, where'er thou goest.
Eliz. Ah! my brother! No, I dare not--
I dare not turn for ever from this hope,
Though it be dwindled to a thread of mist.
Oh that we two could flee and leave this Babel!
Oh if he were but some poor chapel-priest,
In lonely mountain valleys far away;
And I his serving-maid, to work his vestments,
And dress his scrap of food, and see him stand
Before the altar like a rainbowed saint;
To take the blessed wafer from his hand,
Confess my heart to him, and all night long
Pray for him while he slept, or through the lattice
Watch while he read, and see the holy thoughts
Swell in his big deep eyes!--Alas! that dream
Is wilder than the one that's fading even now!
Who's here? [A Page enters.]
Page. The Count of Varila, Madam, begs permission to speak with you.
Eliz. With me? What's this new terror?
Tell him I wait him.
Isen [aside]. Ah! my old heart sinks--
God send us rescue! Here the champion comes.
[Count Walter enters.]
Wal. Most learned, fair, and sanctimonious Princess--
Plague, what comes next? I had something orthodox ready;
'Tis dropped out by the way.--Mass! here's the pith on't.--
Madam, I come a-wooing; and for one
Who is as only worthy of your love,
As you of his; he bids me claim the spousals
Made long ago between you,--and yet leaves
Your fancy free, to grant or pass that claim:
And being that Mercury is not my planet,
He hath advised himself to set herein,
With pen and ink, what seemed good to him,
As passport to this jewelled mirror, pledge
Unworthy of his worship. [Gives a letter and jewel.]
Isen. Nunc Domine dimittis servam tuam!
[Elizabeth looks over the letter and casket, claps her hands and bursts into childish laughter.]
Why here's my Christmas tree come after Lent--
Espousals? pledges? by our childish love?
Pretty words for folks to think of at the wars,--
And pretty presents come of them! Look, Guta!
A crystal clear, and carven on the reverse
The blessed rood. He told me once--one night,
When we did sit in the garden--What was I saying?
Wal. My fairest Princess, as ambassador,
What shall I answer?
Eliz. Tell him--tell him--God!
Have I grown mad, or a child, within the moment?
The earth has lost her gray sad hue, and blazes
With her old life-light; hark! yon wind's a song--
Those clouds are angels' robes.--That fiery west
Is paved with smiling faces.--I am a woman,
And all things bid me love! my dignity
Is thus to cast my virgin pride away;
And find my strength in weakness.--Busy brain!
Thou keep'st pace with my heart; old lore, old fancies,
Buried for years, leap from their tombs, and proffer
Their magic service to my new-born spirit.
I'll go--I am not mistress of myself--
Send for him--bring him to me--he is mine! [Exit.]
Isen. Ah! blessed Saints! how changed upon the moment!
She is grown taller, trust me, and her eye
Flames like a fresh-caught hind's. She that was christened
A brown mouse for her stillness! Good my Lord!
Now shall mine old bones see the grave in peace!
The Bridal Feast. Elizabeth, Lewis, Sophia, and Company seated at the Dais table.
Court Minstrel and Court Fool sitting on the Dais steps.
Min. How gaily smile the heavens,
The light winds whisper gay;
For royal birth and knightly worth
Are knit to one to-day.
Fool [drowning his voice].
So we'll flatter them up, and we'll cocker them up,
Till we turn young brains;
And pamper the brach till we make her a wolf,
And get bit by the legs for our pains.
Monks [chanting without].
A fastu et superbia
Domine libera nos.
Min. 'Neath sandal red and samite,
Are knights and ladies set;
The henchmen tall stride through the hall,
The board with wine is wet.
Fool. Oh! merrily growls the starving hind,
At my full skin;
And merrily howl wolf, wind, and owl,
While I lie warm within.
Monks. A luxu et avaritia
Domine libera nos.
Min. Hark! from the bridal bower,
Rings out the bridesmaid's song;
''Tis the mystic hour of an untried power,
The bride she tarries long.'
Fool. She's schooling herself and she's steeling herself,
Against the dreary day,
When she'll pine and sigh from her lattice high
For the knight that's far away.
Monks. A carnis illectamentis
Domine libera nos.
Min. Blest maid! fresh roses o'er thee
The careless years shall fling;
While days and nights shall new delights
To sense and fancy bring.
Fool. Satins and silks, and feathers and lace,
Will gild life's pill;
In jewels and gold folks cannot grow old,
Fine ladies will never fall ill.
Monks. A vanitatibus saeculi
Domine libera nos.
[Sophia descends from the Dais, leading Elizabeth. Ladies follow.]
Sophia [to the Fool]. Silence, you screech-owl.--
Come strew flowers, fair ladies,
And lead into her bower our fairest bride,
The cynosure of love and beauty here,
Who shrines heaven's graces in earth's richest casket.
Eliz. I come, [aside] Here, Guta, take those monks a fee--
Tell them I thank them--bid them pray for me.
I am half mazed with trembling joy within,
And noisy wassail round. 'Tis well, for else
The spectre of my duties and my dangers
Would whelm my heart with terror. Ah! poor self!
Thou took'st this for the term and bourne of troubles--
And now 'tis here, thou findest it the gate
Of new sin-cursed infinities of labour,
Where thou must do, or die!
[aloud] Lead on. I'll follow. [Exeunt.]
Fool. There, now. No fee for the fool; and yet my prescription was as good as those old Jeremies'.
But in law, physic, and divinity, folks had sooner be poisoned in Latin, than saved in the mother-tongue.
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