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Act I

SCENE I.--LONDON. THE KING'S PALACE.

(A comet seen through the open window.)

ALDWYTH, GAMEL, COURTIERS talking together.


FIRST COURTIER. Lo! there once more--this is the seventh night! Yon grimly-glaring, treble-brandish'd scourge Of England!

SECOND COURTIER. Horrible!

FIRST COURTIER. Look you, there's a star That dances in it as mad with agony!

THIRD COURTIER. Ay, like a spirit in Hell who skips and flies To right and left, and cannot scape the flame.

SECOND COURTIER. Steam'd upward from the undescendable Abysm.

FIRST COURTIER. Or floated downward from the throne Of God Almighty.

ALDWYTH. Gamel, son of Orm, What thinkest thou this means?

GAMEL. War, my dear lady!

ALDWYTH. Doth this affright thee?

GAMEL. Mightily, my dear lady!

ALDWYTH. Stand by me then, and look upon my face, Not on the comet.

Enter MORCAR.

Brother! why so pale?

MORCAR. It glares in heaven, it flares upon the Thames, The people are as thick as bees below, They hum like bees,--they cannot speak--for awe; Look to the skies, then to the river, strike Their hearts, and hold their babies up to it. I think that they would Molochize them too, To have the heavens clear.

ALDWYTH. They fright not me.

Enter LEOFWIN, after him GURTH.

Ask thou Lord Leofwin what he thinks of this!

MORCAR. Lord Leofwin, dost thou believe, that these Three rods of blood-red fire up yonder mean The doom of England and the wrath of Heaven?

BISHOP OF LONDON (passing). Did ye not cast with bestial violence Our holy Norman bishops down from all Their thrones in England? I alone remain. Why should not Heaven be wroth?

LEOFWIN. With us, or thee?

BISHOP OF LONDON. Did ye not outlaw your archbishop Robert, Robert of Jumieges--well-nigh murder him too? Is there no reason for the wrath of Heaven?

LEOFWIN. Why then the wrath of Heaven hath three tails, The devil only one.

[Exit BISHOP OF LONDON.

Enter ARCHBISHOP STIGAND.

Ask our Archbishop. Stigand should know the purposes of Heaven.

STIGAND. Not I. I cannot read the face of heaven; Perhaps our vines will grow the better for it.

LEOFWIN (laughing). He can but read the king's face on his coins.

STIGAND. Ay, ay, young lord, there the king's face is power.

GURTH. O father, mock not at a public fear, But tell us, is this pendent hell in heaven A harm to England?

STIGAND. Ask it of King Edward! And he may tell thee, I am a harm to England. Old uncanonical Stigand--ask of me Who had my pallium from an Antipope! Not he the man--for in our windy world What's up is faith, what's down is heresy. Our friends, the Normans, holp to shake his chair. I have a Norman fever on me, son, And cannot answer sanely.... What it means? Ask our broad Earl. [Pointing to HAROLD, who enters.

HAROLD (seeing GAMEL). Hail, Gamel, son of Orm! Albeit no rolling stone, my good friend Gamel, Thou hast rounded since we met. Thy life at home Is easier than mine here. Look! am I not Work-wan, flesh-fallen?

GAMEL. Art thou sick, good Earl?

HAROLD. Sick as an autumn swallow for a voyage, Sick for an idle week of hawk and hound Beyond the seas--a change! When camest thou hither?

GAMEL. To-day, good Earl.

HAROLD. Is the North quiet, Gamel?

GAMEL. Nay, there be murmurs, for thy brother breaks us With over-taxing--quiet, ay, as yet-- Nothing as yet.

HAROLD. Stand by him, mine old friend, Thou art a great voice in Northumberland! Advise him: speak him sweetly, he will hear thee. He is passionate but honest. Stand thou by him! More talk of this to-morrow, if yon weird sign Not blast us in our dreams.--Well, father Stigand-- [To STIGAND, who advances to him.

STIGAND (pointing to the comet). War there, my son? is that the doom of England?

HAROLD. Why not the doom of all the world as well? For all the world sees it as well as England. These meteors came and went before our day, Not harming any: it threatens us no more Than French or Norman. War? the worst that follows Things that seem jerk'd out of the common rut Of Nature is the hot religious fool, Who, seeing war in heaven, for heaven's credit Makes it on earth: but look, where Edward draws A faint foot hither, leaning upon Tostig. He hath learnt to love our Tostig much of late.

LEOFWIN. And he hath learnt, despite the tiger in him, To sleek and supple himself to the king's hand.

GURTH. I trust the kingly touch that cures the evil May serve to charm the tiger out of him.

LEOFWIN. He hath as much of cat as tiger in him. Our Tostig loves the hand and not the man.

HAROLD. Nay! Better die than lie!

Enter KING, QUEEN, and TOSTIG.

EDWARD. In heaven signs! Signs upon earth! signs everywhere! your Priests Gross, worldly, simoniacal, unlearn'd! They scarce can read their Psalter; and your churches Uncouth, unhandsome, while in Normanland God speaks thro' abler voices, as He dwells In statelier shrines. I say not this, as being Half Norman-blooded, nor as some have held, Because I love the Norman better--no, But dreading God's revenge upon this realm For narrowness and coldness: and I say it For the last time perchance, before I go To find the sweet refreshment of the Saints. I have lived a life of utter purity: I have builded the great church of Holy Peter: I have wrought miracles--to God the glory-- And miracles will in my name be wrought Hereafter.--I have fought the fight and go-- I see the flashing of the gates of pearl-- And it is well with me, tho' some of you Have scorn'd me--ay--but after I am gone Woe, woe to England! I have had a vision; The seven sleepers in the cave at Ephesus Have turn'd from right to left.

HAROLD. My most dear Master, What matters? let them turn from left to right And sleep again.

TOSTIG. Too hardy with thy king! A life of prayer and fasting well may see Deeper into the mysteries of heaven Than thou, good brother.

ALDWYTH (aside). Sees he into thine, That thou wouldst have his promise for the crown?

EDWARD. Tostig says true; my son, thou art too hard, Not stagger'd by this ominous earth and heaven: But heaven and earth are threads of the same loom, Play into one another, and weave the web That may confound thee yet.

HAROLD. Nay, I trust not, For I have served thee long and honestly.

EDWARD. I know it, son; I am not thankless: thou Hast broken all my foes, lighten'd for me The weight of this poor crown, and left me time And peace for prayer to gain a better one. Twelve years of service! England loves thee for it. Thou art the man to rule her!

ALDWYTH (aside). So, not Tostig!

HAROLD. And after those twelve years a boon, my king, Respite, a holiday: thyself wast wont To love the chase: thy leave to set my feet On board, and hunt and hawk beyond the seas!

EDWARD. What, with this flaming horror overhead?

HAROLD. Well, when it passes then.

EDWARD. Ay if it pass. Go not to Normandy--go not to Normandy.

HAROLD. And wherefore not, my king, to Normandy? Is not my brother Wulfnoth hostage there For my dead father's loyalty to thee? I pray thee, let me hence and bring him home.

EDWARD. Not thee, my son: some other messenger.

HAROLD. And why not me, my lord, to Normandy? Is not the Norman Count thy friend and mine?

EDWARD. I pray thee, do not go to Normandy.

HAROLD. Because my father drove the Normans out Of England?--That was many a summer gone-- Forgotten and forgiven by them and thee.

EDWARD. Harold, I will not yield thee leave to go.

HAROLD. Why then to Flanders. I will hawk and hunt In Flanders.

EDWARD. Be there not fair woods and fields In England? Wilful, wilful. Go--the Saints Pilot and prosper all thy wandering out And homeward. Tostig, I am faint again. Son Harold, I will in and pray for thee.

[Exit, leaning on TOSTIG, and followed by STIGAND, MORCAR, and COURTIERS.

HAROLD. What lies upon the mind of our good king That he should harp this way on Normandy?

QUEEN. Brother, the king is wiser than he seems; And Tostig knows it; Tostig loves the king.

HAROLD. And love should know; and--be the king so wise,-- Then Tostig too were wiser than he seems. I love the man but not his phantasies.

Re-enter TOSTIG.

Well, brother, When didst thou hear from thy Northumbria?

TOSTIG. When did I hear aught but this 'When' from thee? Leave me alone, brother, with my Northumbria: She is my mistress, let me look to her! The King hath made me Earl; make me not fool! Nor make the King a fool, who made me Earl!

HAROLD. No, Tostig--lest I make myself a fool Who made the King who made thee, make thee Earl.

TOSTIG. Why chafe me then? Thou knowest I soon go wild.

GURTH. Come, come! as yet thou art not gone so wild But thou canst hear the best and wisest of us.

HAROLD. So says old Gurth, not I: yet hear! thine earldom, Tostig, hath been a kingdom. Their old crown Is yet a force among them, a sun set But leaving light enough for Alfgar's house To strike thee down by--nay, this ghastly glare May heat their fancies.

TOSTIG. My most worthy brother, Thou art the quietest man in all the world-- Ay, ay and wise in peace and great in war-- Pray God the people choose thee for their king! But all the powers of the house of Godwin Are not enframed in thee.

HAROLD. Thank the Saints, no! But thou hast drain'd them shallow by thy tolls, And thou art ever here about the King: Thine absence well may seem a want of care. Cling to their love; for, now the sons of Godwin Sit topmost in the field of England, envy, Like the rough bear beneath the tree, good brother, Waits till the man let go.

TOSTIG. Good counsel truly! I heard from my Northumbria yesterday.

HAROLD. How goes it then with thy Northumbria? Well?

TOSTIG. And wouldst thou that it went aught else than well?

HAROLD. I would it went as well as with mine earldom, Leofwin's and Gurth's.

TOSTIG. Ye govern milder men.

GURTH. We have made them milder by just government.

TOSTIG. Ay, ever give yourselves your own good word.

LEOFWIN. An honest gift, by all the Saints, if giver

And taker be but honest! but they bribe Each other, and so often, an honest world Will not believe them.

HAROLD. I may tell thee, Tostig, I heard from thy Northumberland to-day.

TOSTIG. From spies of thine to spy my nakedness In my poor North!

HAROLD. There is a movement there, A blind one--nothing yet.

TOSTIG. Crush it at once With all the power I have!--I must--I will!-- Crush it half-born! Fool still? or wisdom there, My wise head-shaking Harold?

HAROLD. Make not thou The nothing something. Wisdom when in power And wisest, should not frown as Power, but smile As kindness, watching all, till the true must Shall make her strike as Power: but when to strike-- O Tostig, O dear brother--If they prance, Rein in, not lash them, lest they rear and run And break both neck and axle.

TOSTIG. Good again! Good counsel tho' scarce needed. Pour not water In the full vessel running out at top To swamp the house.

LEOFWIN. Nor thou be a wild thing Out of the waste, to turn and bite the hand Would help thee from the trap.

TOSTIG. Thou playest in tune.

LEOFWIN. To the deaf adder thee, that wilt not dance However wisely charm'd.

TOSTIG. No more, no more!

GURTH. I likewise cry 'no more.' Unwholesome talk For Godwin's house! Leofwin, thou hast a tongue! Tostig, thou look'st as thou wouldst spring upon him. St. Olaf, not while I am by! Come, come, Join hands, let brethren dwell in unity; Let kith and kin stand close as our shield-wall, Who breaks us then? I say, thou hast a tongue, And Tostig is not stout enough to bear it. Vex him not, Leofwin.

TOSTIG. No, I am not vext,-- Altho' ye seek to vex me, one and all. I have to make report of my good earldom To the good king who gave it--not to you-- Not any of you.--I am not vext at all.

HAROLD. The king? the king is ever at his prayers; In all that handles matter of the state I am the king.

TOSTIG. That shall thou never be If I can thwart thee.

HAROLD. Brother, brother!

TOSTIG. Away!

[Exit TOSTIG.

QUEEN. Spite of this grisly star ye three must gall Poor Tostig.

LEOFWIN. Tostig, sister, galls himself; He cannot smell a rose but pricks his nose Against the thorn, and rails against the rose.

QUEEN. I am the only rose of all the stock That never thorn'd him; Edward loves him, so Ye hate him. Harold always hated him. Why--how they fought when boys--and, Holy Mary! How Harold used to beat him!

HAROLD. Why, boys will fight. Leofwin would often fight me, and I beat him. Even old Gurth would fight. I had much ado To hold mine own against old Gurth. Old Gurth, We fought like great states for grave cause; but Tostig-- On a sudden--at a something--for a nothing-- The boy would fist me hard, and when we fought I conquer'd, and he loved me none the less, Till thou wouldst get him all apart, and tell him That where he was but worsted, he was wrong'd. Ah! thou hast taught the king to spoil him too; Now the spoilt child sways both. Take heed, take heed; Thou art the Queen; ye are boy and girl no more: Side not with Tostig in any violence, Lest thou be sideways guilty of the violence.

QUEEN. Come fall not foul on me. I leave thee, brother.

HAROLD. Nay, my good sister--

[Exeunt QUEEN, HAROLD, GURTH, and LEOFWIN.

ALDWYTH. Gamel, son of Orm, What thinkest thou this means? [Pointing to the comet.

GAMEL. War, my dear lady, War, waste, plague, famine, all malignities.

ALDWYTH. It means the fall of Tostig from his earldom.

GAMEL. That were too small a matter for a comet!

ALDWYTH. It means the lifting of the house of Alfgar.

GAMEL. Too small! a comet would not show for that!

ALDWYTH. Not small for thee, if thou canst compass it.

GAMEL. Thy love?

ALDWYTH. As much as I can give thee, man; This Tostig is, or like to be, a tyrant; Stir up thy people: oust him!

GAMEL. And thy love?

ALDWYTH. As much as thou canst bear.

GAMEL. I can bear all, And not be giddy.

ALDWYTH. No more now: to-morrow.



SCENE II.--IN THE GARDEN. THE KING'S HOUSE NEAR LONDON. SUNSET.

EDITH. Mad for thy mate, passionate nightingale.... I love thee for it--ay, but stay a moment; He can but stay a moment: he is going. I fain would hear him coming!... near me ... near. Somewhere--To draw him nearer with a charm Like thine to thine. (Singing.)

Love is come with a song and a smile, Welcome Love with a smile and a song: Love can stay but a little while. Why cannot he stay? They call him away: Ye do him wrong, ye do him wrong; Love will stay for a whole life long.

Enter HAROLD.

HAROLD. The nightingales in Havering-at-the-Bower Sang out their loves so loud, that Edward's prayers Were deafen'd and he pray'd them dumb, and thus I dumb thee too, my wingless nightingale! [Kissing her.

EDITH. Thou art my music! Would their wings were mine To follow thee to Flanders! Must thou go?

HAROLD. Not must, but will. It is but for one moon.

EDITH. Leaving so many foes in Edward's hall To league against thy weal. The Lady Aldwyth Was here to-day, and when she touch'd on thee, She stammer'd in her hate; I am sure she hates thee, Pants for thy blood.

HAROLD. Well, I have given her cause-- I fear no woman.

EDITH. Hate not one who felt Some pity for thy hater! I am sure Her morning wanted sunlight, she so praised The convent and lone life--within the pale-- Beyond the passion. Nay--she held with Edward, At least methought she held with holy Edward, That marriage was half sin.

HAROLD. A lesson worth Finger and thumb--thus (snaps his fingers). And my answer to it-- See here--an interwoven H and E! Take thou this ring; I will demand his ward From Edward when I come again. Ay, would she? She to shut up my blossom in the dark! Thou art my nun, thy cloister in mine arms.

EDITH (taking the ring). Yea, but Earl Tostig--

HAROLD. That's a truer fear! For if the North take fire, I should be back; I shall be, soon enough.

EDITH. Ay, but last night An evil dream that ever came and went--

HAROLD. A gnat that vext thy pillow! Had I been by, I would have spoil'd his horn. My girl, what was it?

EDITH. Oh! that thou wert not going! For so methought it was our marriage-morn, And while we stood together, a dead man Rose from behind the altar, tore away My marriage ring, and rent my bridal veil; And then I turn'd, and saw the church all fill'd With dead men upright from their graves, and all The dead men made at thee to murder thee, But thou didst back thyself against a pillar, And strike among them with thy battle-axe-- There, what a dream!

HAROLD. Well, well--a dream--no more!

EDITH. Did not Heaven speak to men in dreams of old?

HAROLD. Ay--well--of old. I tell thee what, my child; Thou hast misread this merry dream of thine, Taken the rifted pillars of the wood For smooth stone columns of the sanctuary, The shadows of a hundred fat dead deer For dead men's ghosts. True, that the battle-axe Was out of place; it should have been the bow.-- Come, thou shalt dream no more such dreams; I swear it, By mine own eyes--and these two sapphires--these Twin rubies, that are amulets against all The kisses of all kind of womankind In Flanders, till the sea shall roll me back To tumble at thy feet.

EDITH. That would but shame me, Rather than make me vain. The sea may roll Sand, shingle, shore-weed, not the living rock Which guards the land.

HAROLD. Except it be a soft one, And undereaten to the fall. Mine amulet ... This last ... upon thine eyelids, to shut in A happier dream. Sleep, sleep, and thou shalt see My grayhounds fleeting like a beam of light, And hear my peregrine and her bells in heaven; And other bells on earth, which yet are heaven's; Guess what they be.

EDITH. He cannot guess who knows. Farewell, my king.

HAROLD. Not yet, but then--my queen. [Exeunt. Enter ALDWYTH from the thicket.

ALDWYTH. The kiss that charms thine eyelids into sleep, Will hold mine waking. Hate him? I could love him More, tenfold, than this fearful child can do; Griffyth I hated: why not hate the foe Of England? Griffyth when I saw him flee, Chased deer-like up his mountains, all the blood That should have only pulsed for Griffyth, beat For his pursuer. I love him or think I love him. If he were King of England, I his queen, I might be sure of it. Nay, I do love him.-- She must be cloister'd somehow, lest the king Should yield his ward to Harold's will. What harm? She hath but blood enough to live, not love.-- When Harold goes and Tostig, shall I play The craftier Tostig with him? fawn upon him? Chime in with all? 'O thou more saint than king!' And that were true enough. 'O blessed relics!' 'O Holy Peter!' If he found me thus, Harold might hate me; he is broad and honest, Breathing an easy gladness ... not like Aldwyth ... For which I strangely love him. Should not England Love Aldwyth, if she stay the feuds that part The sons of Godwin from the sons of Alfgar By such a marrying? Courage, noble Aldwyth! Let all thy people bless thee! Our wild Tostig, Edward hath made him Earl: he would be king:-- The dog that snapt the shadow, dropt the bone.-- I trust he may do well, this Gamel, whom I play upon, that he may play the note Whereat the dog shall howl and run, and Harold Hear the king's music, all alone with him, Pronounced his heir of England. I see the goal and half the way to it.-- Peace-lover is our Harold for the sake Of England's wholeness--so--to shake the North With earthquake and disruption--some division-- Then fling mine own fair person in the gap A sacrifice to Harold, a peace-offering, A scape-goat marriage--all the sins of both The houses on mine head--then a fair life And bless the Queen of England.

MORCAR (coming from the thicket). Art thou assured By this, that Harold loves but Edith?

ALDWYTH. Morcar! Why creep'st thou like a timorous beast of prey Out of the bush by night?

MORCAR. I follow'd thee.

ALDWYTH. Follow my lead, and I will make thee earl.

MORCAR. What lead then?

ALDWYTH. Thou shalt flash it secretly Among the good Northumbrian folk, that I-- That Harold loves me--yea, and presently That I and Harold are betroth'd--and last-- Perchance that Harold wrongs me; tho' I would not That it should come to that.

MORCAR. I will both flash And thunder for thee.

ALDWYTH. I said 'secretly;' It is the flash that murders, the poor thunder Never harm'd head.

MORCAR. But thunder may bring down That which the flash hath stricken.

ALDWYTH. Down with Tostig! That first of all--And when doth Harold go?

MORCAR. To-morrow--first to Bosham, then to Flanders.

ALDWYTH. Not to come back till Tostig shall have shown And redden'd with his people's blood the teeth That shall be broken by us--yea, and thou Chair'd in his place. Good-night, and dream thyself Their chosen Earl. [Exit ALDWYTH.

MORCAR. Earl first, and after that Who knows I may not dream myself their king!


Lord Alfred Tennyson

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