Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344



The Bower.


All that you say is just. I cannot answer it till better times, when I shall
put away--

ROSAMUND: What will you put away?

HENRY: That which you ask me Till better times. Let it content you now There is no woman that I love so well.

ROSAMUND: No woman but should be content with that--

HENRY: And one fair child to fondle!

ROSAMUND: O yes, the child We waited for so long--heaven's gift at last-- And how you doated on him then! To-day I almost fear'd your kiss was colder--yes-- But then the child is such a child. What chance That he should ever spread into the man Here in our silence? I have done my best. I am not learn'd.

HENRY: I am the King, his father, And I will look to it. Is our secret ours? Have you had any alarm? no stranger?

ROSAMUND: No. The warder of the bower hath given himself Of late to wine. I sometimes think he sleeps When he should watch; and yet what fear? the people Believe the wood enchanted. No one comes, Nor foe nor friend; his fond excess of wine Springs from the loneliness of my poor bower, Which weighs even on me.

HENRY: Yet these tree-towers, Their long bird-echoing minster-aisles,--the voice Of the perpetual brook, these golden slopes Of Solomon-shaming flowers--that was your saying, All pleased you so at first.

ROSAMUND: Not now so much. My Anjou bower was scarce as beautiful. But you were oftener there. I have none but you. The brook's voice is not yours, and no flower, not The sun himself, should he be changed to one, Could shine away the darkness of that gap Left by the lack of love.

HENRY: The lack of love!

ROSAMUND: Of one we love. Nay, I would not be bold, Yet hoped ere this you might--

[Looks earnestly at him.

HENRY: Anything further?

ROSAMUND: Only my best bower-maiden died of late, And that old priest whom John of Salisbury trusted Hath sent another.

HENRY: Secret?

ROSAMUND: I but ask'd her One question, and she primm'd her mouth and put Her hands together--thus--and said, God help her, That she was sworn to silence.

HENRY: What did you ask her?

ROSAMUND: Some daily something--nothing.

HENRY: Secret, then?

ROSAMUND: I do not love her. Must you go, my liege, So suddenly?

HENRY: I came to England suddenly, And on a great occasion sure to wake As great a wrath in Becket--

ROSAMUND: Always Becket! He always comes between us.

HENRY: --And to meet it I needs must leave as suddenly. It is raining, Put on your hood and see me to the bounds.


MARGERY (singing behind scene).

Babble in bower Under the rose! Bee mustn't buzz, Whoop--but he knows. Kiss me, little one, Nobody near! Grasshopper, grasshopper, Whoop--you can hear. Kiss in the bower, Tit on the tree! Bird mustn't tell, Whoop--he can see.


I ha' been but a week here and I ha' seen what I ha' seen, for to be sure it's no more than a week since our old Father Philip that has confessed our mother for twenty years, and she was hard put to it, and to speak truth, nigh at the end of our last crust, and that mouldy, and she cried out on him to put me forth in the world and to make me a woman of the world, and to win my own bread, whereupon he asked our mother if I could keep a quiet tongue i' my head, and not speak till I was spoke to, and I answered for myself that I never spoke more than was needed, and he told me he would advance me to the service of a great lady, and took me ever so far away, and gave me a great pat o' the cheek for a pretty wench, and said it was a pity to blindfold such eyes as mine, and such to be sure they be, but he blinded 'em for all that, and so brought me no-hows as I may say, and the more shame to him after his promise, into a garden and not into the world, and bad me whatever I saw not to speak one word, an' it 'ud be well for me in the end, for there were great ones who would look after me, and to be sure I ha' seen great ones to-day--and then not to speak one word, for that's the rule o' the garden, tho' to be sure if I had been Eve i' the garden I shouldn't ha' minded the apple, for what's an apple, you know, save to a child, and I'm no child, but more a woman o the world than my lady here, and I ha' seen what I ha' seen--tho' to be sure if I hadn't minded it we should all on us ha' had to go, bless the Saints, wi' bare backs, but the backs 'ud ha' countenanced one another, and belike it 'ud ha' been always summer, and anyhow I am as well-shaped as my lady here, and I ha' seen what I ha' seen, and what's the good of my talking to myself, for here comes my lady (enter ROSAMUND), and, my lady, tho' I shouldn't speak one word, I wish you joy o' the King's brother.

ROSAMUND: What is it you mean?

MARGERY: I mean your goodman, your husband, my lady, for I saw your ladyship a-parting wi' him even now i' the coppice, when I was a-getting o' bluebells for your ladyship's nose to smell on--and I ha' seen the King once at Oxford, and he's as like the King as fingernail to fingernail, and I thought at first it was the King, only you know the King's married, for King Louis--

ROSAMUND: Married!

MARGERY: Years and years, my lady, for her husband, King Louis--


MARGERY: --And I thought if it were the King's brother he had a better bride than the King, for the people do say that his is bad beyond all reckoning, and--

ROSAMUND: The people lie.

MARGERY: Very like, my lady, but most on 'em know an honest woman and a lady when they see her, and besides they say, she makes songs, and that's against her, for I never knew an honest woman that could make songs, tho' to be sure our mother 'ill sing me old songs by the hour, but then, God help her, she had 'em from her mother, and her mother from her mother back and back for ever so long, but none on 'em ever made songs, and they were all honest.

ROSAMUND: Go, you shall tell me of her some other time.

MARGERY: There's none so much to tell on her, my lady, only she kept the seventh commandment better than some I know on, or I couldn't look your ladyship i' the face, and she brew'd the best ale in all Glo'ster, that is to say in her time when she had the 'Crown.'

ROSAMUND: The crown! who?

MARGERY: Mother.

ROSAMUND: I mean her whom you call--fancy--my husband's brother's wife.

MARGERY: Oh, Queen ELEANOR: Yes, my lady; and tho' I be sworn not to speak a word, I can tell you all about her, if----

ROSAMUND: No word now. I am faint and sleepy. Leave me. Nay--go. What! will you anger me.


He charged me not to question any of those About me. Have I? no! she question'd me. Did she not slander him? Should she stay here? May she not tempt me, being at my side, To question her? Nay, can I send her hence Without his kingly leave! I am in the dark. I have lived, poor bird, from cage to cage, and known Nothing but him--happy to know no more, So that he loved me--and he loves me--yes, And bound me by his love to secrecy Till his own time.

Eleanor, Eleanor, have I Not heard ill things of her in France? Oh, she's The Queen of France. I see it--some confusion, Some strange mistake. I did not hear aright, Myself confused with parting from the King.

MARGERY (behind scene).

Bee mustn't buzz, Whoop--but he knows.

ROSAMUND: Yet her--what her? he hinted of some her-- When he was here before-- Something that would displease me. Hath he stray'd From love's clear path into the common bush, And, being scratch'd, returns to his true rose, Who hath not thorn enough to prick him for it, Ev'n with a word?

MARGERY (behind scene).

Bird mustn't tell, Whoop--he can see.

ROSAMUND: I would not hear him. Nay--there's more--he frown'd 'No mate for her, if it should come to that'-- To that--to what?

MARGERY (behind scene).

Whoop--but he knows, Whoop--but he knows.

ROSAMUND: O God! some dreadful truth is breaking on me-- Some dreadful thing is coming on me. [Enter GEOFFREY: Geoffrey!

GEOFFREY: What are you crying for, when the sun shines?

ROSAMUND: Hath not thy father left us to ourselves?

GEOFFREY: Ay, but he's taken the rain with him. I hear Margery: I'll go play with her. [Exit GEOFFREY:


Rainbow, stay, Gleam upon gloom, Bright as my dream, Rainbow, stay! But it passes away, Gloom upon gleam, Dark as my doom-- O rainbow stay.

* * * * * * *


Outside the Woods near ROSAMUND'S Bower.



ELEANOR: Up from the salt lips of the land we two Have track'd the King to this dark inland wood; And somewhere hereabouts he vanish'd. Here His turtle builds: his exit is our adit: Watch! he will out again, and presently, Seeing he must to Westminster and crown Young Henry there to-morrow.

FITZURSE: We have watch'd So long in vain, he hath pass'd out again, And on the other side.

[A great horn winded.

Hark! Madam!

ELEANOR: Ay, How ghostly sounds that horn in the black wood!

[A countryman flying.

Whither away, man? what are you flying from?

COUNTRYMAN: The witch! the witch! she sits naked by a great heap of gold in the middle of the wood, and when the horn sounds she comes out as a wolf. Get you hence! a man passed in there to-day: I holla'd to him, but he didn't hear me: he'll never out again, the witch has got him. I daren't stay--I daren't stay!

ELEANOR: Kind of the witch to give thee warning tho'.

[Man flies.

Is not this wood-witch of the rustic's fear Our woodland Circe that hath witch'd the King?

[Horn sounded. Another flying.

FITZURSE: Again! stay, fool, and tell me why thou fliest.

COUNTRYMAN: Fly thou too. The King keeps his forest head of game here, and when that horn sounds, a score of wolf-dogs are let loose that will tear thee piecemeal. Linger not till the third horn. Fly!


ELEANOR: This is the likelier tale. We have hit the place. Now let the King's fine game look to itself.


FITZURSE: Again!-- And far on in the dark heart of the wood I hear the yelping of the hounds of hell.

ELEANOR: I have my dagger here to still their throats.

FITZURSE: Nay, Madam, not to-night--the night is falling. What can be done to-night?

ELEANOR: Well--well--away.

* * * * * * *


Traitor's Meadow at Fréteval. Pavilions and Tents of the English and French Baronage. BECKET and HERBERT OF BOSHAM.


BECKET: See here!

HERBERT: What's here?

BECKET: A notice from the priest, To whom our John of Salisbury committed The secret of the bower, that our wolf-Queen Is prowling round the fold. I should be back In England ev'n for this.

HERBERT: These are by-things In the great cause.

BECKET: The by-things of the Lord Are the wrong'd innocences that will cry From all the hidden by-ways of the world In the great day against the wronger. I know Thy meaning. Perish she, I, all, before The Church should suffer wrong!

HERBERT: Do you see, my lord, There is the King talking with Walter Map?

BECKET: He hath the Pope's last letters, and they threaten The immediate thunder-blast of interdict: Yet he can scarce be touching upon those, Or scarce would smile that fashion.

HERBERT: Winter sunshine! Beware of opening out thy bosom to it, Lest thou, myself, and all thy flock should catch An after ague-fit of trembling. Look! He bows, he bares his head, he is coming hither. Still with a smile.




HENRY: We have had so many hours together, Thomas, So many happy hours alone together, That I would speak with you once more alone.

BECKET: My liege, your will and happiness are mine.

[Exeunt KING and BECKET:

HERBERT: The same smile still.

WALTER MAP: Do you see that great black cloud that hath come over the sun and cast us all into shadow?

HERBERT: And feel it too.

WALTER MAP: And see you yon side-beam that is forced from under it, and sets the church-tower over there all a-hell-fire as it were?


WALTER MAP: It is this black, bell-silencing, anti-marrying, burial-hindering interdict that hath squeezed out this side-smile upon Canterbury, whereof may come conflagration. Were I Thomas, I wouldn't trust it. Sudden change is a house on sand; and tho' I count Henry honest enough, yet when fear creeps in at the front, honesty steals out at the back, and the King at last is fairly scared by this cloud--this interdict. I have been more for the King than the Church in this matter--yea, even for the sake of the Church: for, truly, as the case stood, you had safelier have slain an archbishop than a she-goat: but our recoverer and upholder of customs hath in this crowning of young Henry by York and London so violated the immemorial usage of the Church, that, like the gravedigger's child I have heard of, trying to ring the bell, he hath half-hanged himself in the rope of the Church, or rather pulled all the Church with the Holy Father astride of it down upon his own head.

HERBERT: Were you there?

WALTER MAP: In the church rope?--no. I was at the crowning, for I have pleasure in the pleasure of crowds, and to read the faces of men at a great show.

HERBERT: And how did Roger of York comport himself?

WALTER MAP: As magnificently and archiepiscopally as our Thomas would have done: only there was a dare-devil in his eye--I should say a dare-BECKET: He thought less of two kings than of one Roger the king of the occasion. Foliot is the holier man, perhaps the better. Once or twice there ran a twitch across his face as who should say what's to follow? but Salisbury was a calf cowed by Mother Church, and every now and then glancing about him like a thief at night when he hears a door open in the house and thinks 'the master.'

HERBERT: And the father-king?

WALTER MAP: The father's eye was so tender it would have called a goose off the green, and once he strove to hide his face, like the Greek king when his daughter was sacrificed, but he thought better of it: it was but the sacrifice of a kingdom to his son, a smaller matter; but as to the young crownling himself, he looked so malapert in the eyes, that had I fathered him I had given him more of the rod than the sceptre. Then followed the thunder of the captains and the shouting, and so we came on to the banquet, from whence there puffed out such an incense of unctuosity into the nostrils of our Gods of Church and State, that Lucullus or Apicius might have sniffed it in their Hades of heathenism, so that the smell of their own roast had not come across it--

HERBERT: Map, tho' you make your butt too big, you overshoot it.

WALTER MAP: --For as to the fish, they de-miracled the miraculous draught, and might have sunk a navy--

HERBERT: There again, Goliasing and Goliathising!

WALTER MAP: --And as for the flesh at table, a whole Peter's sheet, with all manner of game, and four-footed things, and fowls--

HERBERT: And all manner of creeping things too?

WALTER MAP: --Well, there were Abbots--but they did not bring their women; and so we were dull enough at first, but in the end we flourished out into a merriment; for the old King would act servitor and hand a dish to his son; whereupon my Lord of York--his fine-cut face bowing and beaming with all that courtesy which hath less loyalty in it than the backward scrape of the clown's heel--'great honour,' says he, 'from the King's self to the King's son.' Did you hear the young King's quip?

HERBERT: No, what was it?

WALTER MAP: Glancing at the days when his father was only Earl of Anjou, he answered:--'Should not an earl's son wait on a king's son?' And when the cold corners of the King's mouth began to thaw, there was a great motion of laughter among us, part real, part childlike, to be freed from the dulness--part royal, for King and kingling both laughed, and so we could not but laugh, as by a royal necessity--part childlike again--when we felt we had laughed too long and could not stay ourselves--many midriff-shaken even to tears, as springs gush out after earthquakes--but from those, as I said before, there may come a conflagration--tho', to keep the figure moist and make it hold water, I should say rather, the lacrymation of a lamentation; but look if Thomas have not flung himself at the King's feet. They have made it up again--for the moment.

HERBERT: Thanks to the blessed Magdalen, whose day it is.


Re-enter HENRY and BECKET: (During their conference the BARONS and BISHOPS of FRANCE and ENGLAND come in at back of stage.)


BECKET: Ay, King! for in thy kingdom, as thou knowest, The spouse of the Great King, thy King, hath fallen-- The daughter of Zion lies beside the way-- The priests of Baal tread her underfoot-- The golden ornaments are stolen from her--

HENRY: Have I not promised to restore her, Thomas, And send thee back again to Canterbury?

BECKET: Send back again those exiles of my kin Who wander famine-wasted thro' the world.

HENRY: Have I not promised, man, to send them back?

BECKET: Yet one thing more. Thou hast broken thro' the pales Of privilege, crowning thy young son by York, London and Salisbury--not Canterbury.

HENRY: York crown'd the Conqueror--not Canterbury.

BECKET: There was no Canterbury in William's time.

HENRY: But Hereford, you know, crown'd the first HENRY.

BECKET: But Anselm crown'd this Henry o'er again.

HENRY: And thou shalt crown my Henry o'er again.

BECKET: And is it then with thy good-will that I Proceed against thine evil councillors, And hurl the dread ban of the Church on those Who made the second mitre play the first, And acted me?

HENRY: Well, well, then--have thy way! It may be they were evil councillors. What more, my lord Archbishop? What more, Thomas? I make thee full amends. Say all thy say, But blaze not out before the Frenchmen here.

BECKET: More? Nothing, so thy promise be thy deed.

HENRY (holding out his hand). Give me thy hand. My Lords of France and England, My friend of Canterbury and myself Are now once more at perfect amity. Unkingly should I be, and most unknightly, Not striving still, however much in vain, To rival him in Christian charity.

HERBERT: All praise to Heaven, and sweet St. Magdalen!

HENRY: And so farewell until we meet in England.

BECKET: I fear, my liege, we may not meet in England.

HENRY: How, do you make me a traitor?

BECKET: No, indeed! That be far from thee.

HENRY: Come, stay with us, then, before you part for England.

BECKET: I am bound For that one hour to stay with good King Louis, Who helpt me when none else.

HERBERT: He said thy life Was not one hour's worth in England save King Henry gave thee first the kiss of peace.

HENRY: He said so? Louis, did he? look you, HERBERT: When I was in mine anger with King Louis, I sware I would not give the kiss of peace, Not on French ground, nor any ground but English, Where his cathedral stands. Mine old friend, Thomas, I would there were that perfect trust between us, That health of heart, once ours, ere Pope or King Had come between us! Even now--who knows?-- I might deliver all things to thy hand-- If ... but I say no more ... farewell, my lord.

BECKET: Farewell, my liege!

[Exit HENRY, then the BARONS and BISHOPS.

WALTER MAP: There again! when the full fruit of the royal promise might have dropt into thy mouth hadst thou but opened it to thank him.

BECKET: He fenced his royal promise with an if.

WALTER MAP: And is the King's if too high a stile for your lordship to overstep and come at all things in the next field?

BECKET: Ay, if this if be like the Devil's 'if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.'

HERBERT: Oh, Thomas; I could fall down and worship thee, my Thomas, For thou hast trodden this wine-press alone.

BECKET: Nay, of the people there are many with me.

WALTER MAP: I am not altogether with you, my lord, tho' I am none of those that would raise a storm between you, lest ye should draw together like two ships in a calm. You wrong the King: he meant what he said to-day. Who shall vouch for his to-morrows? One word further. Doth not the fewness of anything make the fulness of it in estimation? Is not virtue prized mainly for its rarity and great baseness loathed as an exception: for were all, my lord, as noble as yourself, who would look up to you? and were all as base as--who shall I say--Fitzurse and his following--who would look down upon them? My lord, you have put so many of the King's household out of communion, that they begin to smile at it.

BECKET: At their peril, at their peril--

WALTER MAP: --For tho' the drop may hollow out the dead stone, doth not the living skin thicken against perpetual whippings? This is the second grain of good counsel I ever proffered thee, and so cannot suffer by the rule of frequency. Have I sown it in salt? I trust not, for before God I promise you the King hath many more wolves than he can tame in his woods of England, and if it suit their purpose to howl for the King, and you still move against him, you may have no less than to die for it; but God and his free wind grant your lordship a happy home-return and the King's kiss of peace in Kent. Farewell! I must follow the King.


HERBERT: Ay, and I warrant the customs. Did the King Speak of the customs?

BECKET: No!--To die for it-- I live to die for it, I die to live for it. The State will die, the Church can never die. The King's not like to die for that which dies; But I must die for that which never dies. It will be so--my visions in the Lord: It must be so, my friend! the wolves of England Must murder her one shepherd, that the sheep May feed in peace. False figure, Map would say. Earth's falses are heaven's truths. And when my voice Is martyr'd mute, and this man disappears, That perfect trust may come again between us, And there, there, there, not here I shall rejoice To find my stray sheep back within the fold. The crowd are scattering, let us move away! And thence to England.


Lord Alfred Tennyson

Sorry, no summary available yet.