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Act II



A Garden of Flowers. In the midst a bank of wild-flowers with a bench before it.

Voices heard singing among the trees.



1. Is it the wind of the dawn that I hear in the pine overhead?

2. No; but the voice of the deep as it hollows the cliffs of the land.

1. Is there a voice coming up with the voice of the deep from the strand, One coming up with a song in the flush of the glimmering red?

2. Love that is born of the deep coming up with the sun from the sea.

1. Love that can shape or can shatter a life till the life shall have fled?

2. Nay, let us welcome him, Love that can lift up a life from the dead.

1. Keep him away from the lone little isle. Let us be, let us be.

2. Nay, let him make it his own, let him reign in it--he, it is he, Love that is born of the deep coming up with the sun from the sea.




ROSAMUND: Be friends with him again--I do beseech thee.

HENRY: With Becket? I have but one hour with thee-- Sceptre and crozier clashing, and the mitre Grappling the crown--and when I flee from this For a gasp of freer air, a breathing-while To rest upon thy bosom and forget him-- Why thou, my bird, thou pipest Becket, Becket-- Yea, thou my golden dream of Love's own bower, Must be the nightmare breaking on my peace With 'BECKET:'

ROSAMUND: O my life's life, not to smile Is all but death to me. My sun, no cloud! Let there not be one frown in this one hour. Out of the many thine, let this be mine! Look rather thou all-royal as when first I met thee.

HENRY: Where was that?

ROSAMUND: Forgetting that forgets me too.

HENRY: Nay, I remember it well. There on the moors.

ROSAMUND: And in a narrow path. A plover flew before thee. Then I saw Thy high black steed among the flaming furze, Like sudden night in the main glare of day. And from that height something was said to me I knew not what.

HENRY: I ask'd the way.

ROSAMUND: I think so. So I lost mine.

HENRY: Thou wast too shamed to answer.

ROSAMUND: Too scared--so young!

HENRY: The rosebud of my rose!-- Well, well, no more of him--I have sent his folk, His kin, all his belongings, overseas; Age, orphans, and babe-breasting mothers--all By hundreds to him--there to beg, starve, die-- So that the fool King Louis feed them not. The man shall feel that I can strike him yet.

ROSAMUND: Babes, orphans, mothers! is that royal, Sire?

HENRY: And I have been as royal with the Church. He shelter'd in the Abbey of Pontigny. There wore his time studying the canon law To work it against me. But since he cursed My friends at Veselay, I have let them know, That if they keep him longer as their guest, I scatter all their cowls to all the hells.

ROSAMUND: And is that altogether royal?

HENRY: Traitress!

ROSAMUND: A faithful traitress to thy royal fame.

HENRY: Fame! what care I for fame? Spite, ignorance, envy, Yea, honesty too, paint her what way they will. Fame of to-day is infamy to-morrow; Infamy of to-day is fame to-morrow; And round and round again. What matters? Royal--I mean to leave the royalty of my crown Unlessen'd to mine heirs.

ROSAMUND: Still--thy fame too: I say that should be royal.

HENRY: And I say, I care not for thy saying.

ROSAMUND: And I say, I care not for thy saying. A greater King Than thou art, Love, who cares not for the word, Makes 'care not'--care. There have I spoken true?

HENRY: Care dwell with me for ever, when I cease to care for thee as ever!

ROSAMUND: No need! no need!...There is a bench. Come, wilt thou sit?... My bank Of wild-flowers [he sits]. At thy feet!

[She sits at his feet.

HENRY: I had them clear a royal pleasaunce for thee, in the wood, Not leave these countryfolk at court.

ROSAMUND: I brought them In from the wood, and set them here. I love them More than the garden flowers, that seem at most Sweet guests, or foreign cousins, not half speaking The language of the land. I love them too, Yes. But, my liege, I am sure, of all the roses-- Shame fall on those who gave it a dog's name-- This wild one (picking a briar-rose)--nay, I shall not prick myself-- Is sweetest. Do but smell!

HENRY: Thou rose of the world! Thou rose of all the roses!


I am not worthy of her--this beast-body That God has plunged my soul in--I, that taking The Fiend's advantage of a throne, so long Have wander'd among women,--a foul stream Thro' fever-breeding levels,--at her side, Among these happy dales, run clearer, drop The mud I carried, like yon brook, and glass The faithful face of heaven--

[Looking at her, and unconsciously aloud,

--thine! thine!

ROSAMUND: I know it.

HENRY (muttering). Not hers. We have but one bond, her hate of BECKET:

ROSAMUND (half hearing). Nay! nay! what art thou muttering? I hate Becket?

HENRY (muttering). A sane and natural loathing for a soul Purer, and truer and nobler than herself; And mine a bitterer illegitimate hate, A bastard hate born of a former love.

ROSAMUND: My fault to name him! O let the hand of one To whom thy voice is all her music, stay it But for a breath.

[Puts her hand before his lips.

Speak only of thy love. Why there--like some loud beggar at thy gate-- The happy boldness of this hand hath won it Love's alms, thy kiss (looking at her hand)--Sacred! I'll kiss it too.

[Kissing it.

There! wherefore dost thou so peruse it? Nay, There may be crosses in my line of life.

HENRY: Not half her hand--no hand to mate with her, If it should come to that.

ROSAMUND: With her? with whom?

HENRY: Life on the hand is naked gipsy-stuff; Life on the face, the brows-clear innocence! Vein'd marble--not a furrow yet--and hers


Crost and recrost, a venomous spider's web--

ROSAMUND (springing up). Out of the cloud, my Sun--out of the eclipse Narrowing my golden hour!

HENRY: O Rosamund, I would be true--would tell thee all--and something I had to say--I love thee none the less--Which will so vex thee.

ROSAMUND: Something against me?

HENRY: No, no, against myself.

ROSAMUND: I will not hear it. Come, come, mine hour! I bargain for mine hour. I'll call thee little GEOFFREY:

HENRY: Call him!

ROSAMUND: Geoffrey!




HENRY: How the boy grows!

ROSAMUND: Ay, and his brows are thine; the mouth is only Clifford, my dear father.

GEOFFREY: My liege, what hast thou brought me?

HENRY: Venal imp! What say'st thou to the Chancellorship of England?

GEOFFREY: O yes, my liege.

HENRY: 'O yes, my liege!' He speaks as if it were a cake of gingerbread. Dost thou know, my boy, what it is to be Chancellor of England?

GEOFFREY: Something good, or thou wouldst not give it me.

HENRY: It is, my boy, to side with the King when Chancellor, and then to be made Archbishop and go against the King who made him, and turn the world upside down.

GEOFFREY: I won't have it then. Nay, but give it me, and I promise thee not to turn the world upside down.

HENRY (giving him a ball). Here is a ball, my boy, thy world, to turn anyway and play with as thou wilt--which is more than I can do with mine. Go try it, play.


A pretty lusty boy.

ROSAMUND: So like to thee; like to be liker.

HENRY: Not in my chin, I hope! That threatens double.

ROSAMUND: Thou art manlike perfect.

HENRY: Ay, ay, no doubt; and were I humpt behind, Thou'dst say as much--the goodly way of women Who love, for which I love them. May God grant No ill befall or him or thee when I Am gone.

ROSAMUND: Is he thy enemy?

HENRY: He? who? ay!

ROSAMUND: Thine enemy knows the secret of my bower.

HENRY: And I could tear him asunder with wild horses Before he would betray it. Nay--no fear! More like is he to excommunicate me.

ROSAMUND: And I would creep, crawl over knife-edge flint Barefoot, a hundred leagues, to stay his hand Before he flash'd the bolt.

HENRY: And when he flash'd it, shrink from me, like a daughter of the Church.

ROSAMUND: Ay, but he will not.

HENRY: Ay! but if he did?

ROSAMUND: O then! O then! I almost fear to say That my poor heretic heart would excommunicate His excommunication, clinging to thee Closer than ever.

HENRY (raising ROSAMUND and kissing her). My brave-hearted Rose! Hath he ever been to see thee?

ROSAMUND: Here? not he. And it is so lonely here--no confessor.

HENRY: Thou shall confess all thy sweet sins to me.

ROSAMUND: Besides, we came away in such a heat, I brought not ev'n my crucifix.

HENRY: Take this.

[Giving her the Crucifix which ELEANOR gave him.

ROSAMUND: O beautiful! May I have it as mine, till mine, be mine again?

HENRY (throwing it round her neck). Thine--as I am--till death!

ROSAMUND: Death? no! I'll have it with me in my shroud, And wake with it, and show it to all the Saints.

HENRY: Nay--I must go; but when thou layest thy lip To this, remembering One who died for thee, Remember also one who lives for thee Out there in France; for I must hence to brave The Pope, King Louis, and this turbulent priest.

ROSAMUND (kneeling). O by thy love for me, all mine for thee, Fling not thy soul into the flames of hell: I kneel to thee--be friends with him again.

HENRY: Look, look! if little Geoffrey have not tost His ball into the brook! makes after it too To find it. Why, the child will drown himself.

ROSAMUND: Geoffrey! Geoffrey!


* * * * * * *


Montmirail. 'The Meeting of the Kings.'

JOHN OF OXFORD and HENRY: Crowd in the distance.


JOHN OF OXFORD: You have not crown'd young Henry yet, my liege?

HENRY: Crown'd! by God's eyes, we will not have him crown'd. I spoke of late to the boy, he answer'd me, As if he wore the crown already--No, We will not have him crown'd. 'Tis true what Becket told me, that the mother Would make him play his kingship against mine.

JOHN OF OXFORD: Not have him crown'd?

HENRY: Not now--not yet! and Becket Becket should crown him were he crown'd at all: But, since we would be lord of our own manor, This Canterbury, like a wounded deer, Has fled our presence and our feeding-grounds.

JOHN OF OXFORD: Cannot a smooth tongue lick him whole again to serve your will?

HENRY: He hates my will, not me.

JOHN OF OXFORD: There's York, my liege.

HENRY: But England scarce would hold Young Henry king, if only crown'd by York, And that would stilt up York to twice himself. There is a movement yonder in the crowd-- See if our pious--what shall I call him, John?-- Husband-in-law, our smooth-shorn suzerain, Be yet within the field.



HENRY: Ay! Ay! Mince and go back! his politic Holiness Hath all but climb'd the Roman perch again, And we shall hear him presently with clapt wing Crow over Barbarossa--at last tongue-free To blast my realms with excommunication And interdict. I must patch up a peace-- A piece in this long-tugged at, threadbare-worn Quarrel of Crown and Church--to rend again. His Holiness cannot steer straight thro' shoals, Nor I. The citizen's heir hath conquer'd me For the moment. So we make our peace with him.


[Enter LOUIS:

- Brother of France, what shall be done with Becket?

LOUIS: The holy Thomas! Brother, you have traffick'd Between the Emperor and the Pope, between The Pope and Antipope--a perilous game For men to play with God.

HENRY: Ay, ay, good brother, they call you the Monk-King.

LOUIS: Who calls me? she That was my wife, now yours? You have her Duchy, The point you aim'd at, and pray God she prove True wife to you. You have had the better of us In secular matters.

HENRY: Come, confess, good brother, You did your best or worst to keep her Duchy. Only the golden Leopard printed in it Such hold-fast claws that you perforce again Shrank into France. Tut, tut! did we convene This conference but to babble of our wives? They are plagues enough in-door.

LOUIS: We fought in the East, And felt the sun of Antioch scald our mail, And push'd our lances into Saracen hearts. We never hounded on the State at home To spoil the Church.

HENRY: How should you see this rightly?

LOUIS: Well, well, no more! I am proud of my 'Monk-King,' Whoever named me; and, brother, Holy Church May rock, but will not wreck, nor our Archbishop Stagger on the slope decks for any rough sea Blown by the breath of kings. We do forgive you For aught you wrought against us.

[HENRY holds up his hand.

Nay, I pray you, Do not defend yourself. You will do much To rake out all old dying heats, if you, At my requesting, will but look into The wrongs you did him, and restore his kin, Reseat him on his throne of Canterbury, Be, both, the friends you were.

HENRY: The friends we were! Co-mates we were, and had our sport together, Co-kings we were, and made the laws together. The world had never seen the like before. You are too cold to know the fashion of it. Well, well, we will be gentle with him, gracious-- Most gracious.




Only that the rift he made May close between us, here I am wholly king, The word should come from him.

BECKET (kneeling). Then, my dear liege, I here deliver all this controversy Into your royal hands.

HENRY: Ah, Thomas, Thomas, thou art thyself again, Thomas again.

BECKET (rising). Saving God's honour!

HENRY: Out upon thee, man! Saving the Devil's honour, his yes and no. Knights, bishops, earls, this London spawn--by Mahound, I had sooner have been born a Mussulman-- Less clashing with their priests-- I am half-way down the slope--will no man stay me? I dash myself to pieces--I stay myself-- Puff--it is gone. You, Master Becket, you That owe to me your power over me-- Nay, nay-- Brother of France, you have taken, cherish'd him Who thief-like fled from his own church by night, No man pursuing. I would have had him back. Take heed he do not turn and rend you too: For whatsoever may displease him--that Is clean against God's honour--a shift, a trick Whereby to challenge, face me out of all My regal rights. Yet, yet--that none may dream I go against God's honour--ay, or himself In any reason, choose A hundred of the wisest heads from England, A hundred, too, from Normandy and Anjou: Let these decide on what was customary In olden days, and all the Church of France Decide on their decision, I am content More, what the mightiest and the holiest Of all his predecessors may have done Ev'n to the least and meanest of my own, Let him do the same to me--I am content.

LOUIS: Ay, ay! the King humbles himself enough.

BECKET: (Aside) Words! he will wriggle out of them like an eel When the time serves. (Aloud.) My lieges and my lords, The thanks of Holy Church are due to those That went before us for their work, which we Inheriting reap an easier harvest. Yet--

LOUIS: My lord, will you be greater than the Saints, More than St. Peter? whom--what is it you doubt? Behold your peace at hand.

BECKET: I say that those Who went before us did not wholly clear The deadly growths of earth, which Hell's own heat So dwelt on that they rose and darken'd Heaven. Yet they did much. Would God they had torn up all By the hard root, which shoots again; our trial Had so been less; but, seeing they were men Defective or excessive, must we follow All that they overdid or underdid? Nay, if they were defective as St. Peter Denying Christ, who yet defied the tyrant, We hold by his defiance, not his defect. O good son Louis, do not counsel me, No, to suppress God's honour for the sake Of any king that breathes. No, God forbid!

HENRY: No! God forbid! and turn me Mussulman! No God but one, and Mahound is his prophet. But for your Christian, look you, you shall have None other God but me--me, Thomas, son Of Gilbert Becket, London merchant. Out! I hear no more.


LOUIS: Our brother's anger puts him, Poor man, beside himself--not wise. My lord, We have claspt your cause, believing that our brother Had wrong'd you; but this day he proffer'd peace. You will have war; and tho' we grant the Church King over this world's kings, yet, my good lord, We that are kings are something in this world, And so we pray you, draw yourself from under The wings of France. We shelter you no more.


JOHN OF OXFORD: I am glad that France hath scouted him at last: I told the Pope what manner of man he was.


ROGER OF YORK: Yea, since he flouts the will of either realm, Let either cast him away like a dead dog!


FOLIOT: Yea, let a stranger spoil his heritage, And let another take his bishoprick!


DE BROC: Our castle, my lord, belongs to Canterbury. I pray you come and take it.


FITZURSE: When you will.


BECKET: Cursed be John of Oxford, Roger of York, And Gilbert Foliot! cursed those De Brocs That hold our Saltwood Castle from our see! Cursed Fitzurse, and all the rest of them That sow this hate between my lord and me!

Voices from the Crowd. Blessed be the Lord Archbishop, who hath withstood two Kings to their faces for the honour of God.

BECKET: Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, praise! I thank you, sons; when kings but hold by crowns, The crowd that hungers for a crown in Heaven Is my true king.

HERBERT: Thy true King bad thee be A fisher of men; thou hast them in thy net.

BECKET: I am too like the King here; both of us Too headlong for our office. Better have been A fisherman at Bosham, my good Herbert, Thy birthplace--the sea-creek--the petty rill That falls into it--the green field--the gray church-- The simple lobster-basket, and the mesh-- The more or less of daily labour done-- The pretty gaping bills in the home-nest Piping for bread--the daily want supplied-- The daily pleasure to supply it.

HERBERT: Ah, Thomas, you had not borne it, no, not for a day.

BECKET: Well, maybe, no.

HERBERT: But bear with Walter Map, For here he comes to comment on the time.




WALTER MAP: Pity, my lord, that you have quenched the warmth of France toward you, tho' His Holiness, after much smouldering and smoking, be kindled again upon your quarter.

BECKET: Ay, if he do not end in smoke again.

WALTER MAP: My lord, the fire, when first kindled, said to the smoke, 'Go up, my son, straight to Heaven.' And the smoke said, 'I go;' but anon the North-east took and turned him South-west, then the South-west turned him North-east, and so of the other winds; but it was in him to go up straight if the time had been quieter. Your lordship affects the unwavering perpendicular; but His Holiness, pushed one way by the Empire and another by England, if he move at all, Heaven stay him, is fain to diagonalise.

HERBERT: Diagonalise! thou art a word-monger! Our Thomas never will diagonalise. Thou art a jester and a verse-maker. Diagonalise!

WALTER MAP: Is the world any the worse for my verses if the Latin rhymes be rolled out from a full mouth? or any harm done to the people if my jest be in defence of the Truth?

BECKET: Ay, if the jest be so done that the people Delight to wallow in the grossness of it, Till Truth herself be shamed of her defender. Non defensoribus istis, Walter Map.

WALTER MAP: Is that my case? so if the city be sick, and I cannot call the kennel sweet, your lordship would suspend me from verse-writing, as you suspended yourself after subwriting to the customs.

BECKET: I pray God pardon mine infirmity.

WALTER MAP: Nay, my lord, take heart; for tho' you suspended yourself, the Pope let you down again; and tho' you suspend Foliot or another, the Pope will not leave them in suspense, for the Pope himself is always in suspense, like Mahound's coffin hung between heaven and earth--always in suspense, like the scales, till the weight of Germany or the gold of England brings one of them down to the dust--always in suspense, like the tail of the horologe--to and fro--tick-tack--we make the time, we keep the time, ay, and we serve the time; for I have heard say that if you boxed the Pope's ears with a purse, you might stagger him, but he would pocket the purse. No saying of mine--Jocelyn of Salisbury. But the King hath bought half the College of Red-hats. He warmed to you to-day, and you have chilled him again. Yet you both love God. Agree with him quickly again, even for the sake of the Church. My one grain of good counsel which you will not swallow. I hate a split between old friendships as I hate the dirty gap in the face of a Cistercian monk, that will swallow anything. Farewell.


BECKET: Map scoffs at Rome. I all but hold with Map. Save for myself no Rome were left in England, All had been his. Why should this Rome, this Rome, Still choose Barabbas rather than the Christ, Absolve the left-hand thief and damn the right? Take fees of tyranny, wink at sacrilege, Which even Peter had not dared? condemn The blameless exile?--

HERBERT: Thee, thou holy Thomas! I would that thou hadst been the Holy Father.

BECKET: I would have done my most to keep Rome holy, I would have made Rome know she still is Rome-- Who stands aghast at her eternal self And shakes at mortal kings--her vacillation, Avarice, craft--O God, how many an innocent Has left his bones upon the way to Rome Unwept, uncared for. Yea--on mine own self The King had had no power except for Rome. 'Tis not the King who is guilty of mine exile, But Rome, Rome, Rome!

HERBERT: My lord, I see this Louis returning, ah! to drive thee from his realm.

BECKET: He said as much before. Thou art no prophet, nor yet a prophet's son.

HERBERT: Whatever he say, deny not thou God's honour for a king. The King looks troubled.


Re-enter KING LOUIS:


LOUIS: My dear lord Archbishop, I learn but now that those poor Poitevins, That in thy cause were stirr'd against King Henry, Have been, despite his kingly promise given To our own self of pardon, evilly used And put to pain. I have lost all trust in him. The Church alone hath eyes--and now I see That I was blind--suffer the phrase--surrendering God's honour to the pleasure of a man. Forgive me and absolve me, holy father. [Kneels.

BECKET: Son, I absolve thee in the name of God.

LOUIS (rising). Return to Sens, where we will care for you. The wine and wealth of all our France are yours; Rest in our realm, and be at peace with all.


Voices from the Crowd:

Long live the good King Louis! God bless the great Archbishop!




HENRY (looking after KING LOUIS and BECKET). Ay, there they go--both backs are turn'd to me-- Why then I strike into my former path For England, crown young Henry there, and make Our waning Eleanor all but love me! John, Thou hast served me heretofore with Rome--and well. They call thee John the Swearer.

JOHN OF OXFORD: For this reason, That, being ever duteous to the King, I evermore have sworn upon his side, And ever mean to do it.

HENRY (claps him on the shoulder). Honest John! To Rome again! the storm begins again. Spare not thy tongue! be lavish with our coins, Threaten our junction with the Emperor--flatter And fright the Pope--bribe all the Cardinals--leave Lateran and Vatican in one dust of gold-- Swear and unswear, state and misstate thy best! I go to have young Henry crown'd by York.

Lord Alfred Tennyson

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