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Act III

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

KING EDWARD dying on a couch, and by him standing the QUEEN, HAROLD, ARCHBISHOP STIGAND, GURTH, LEOFWIN, ARCHBISHOP ALDRED, ALDWYTH, and EDITH.


STIGAND. Sleeping or dying there? If this be death, Then our great Council wait to crown thee King-- Come hither, I have a power; [To HAROLD. They call me near, for I am close to thee And England--I, old shrivell'd Stigand, I, Dry as an old wood-fungus on a dead tree, I have a power! See here this little key about my neck! There lies a treasure buried down in Ely: If e'er the Norman grow too hard for thee, Ask me for this at thy most need, son Harold, At thy most need--not sooner.

HAROLD. So I will.

STIGAND. Red gold--a hundred purses--yea, and more! If thou canst make a wholesome use of these To chink against the Norman, I do believe My old crook'd spine would bud out two young wings To fly to heaven straight with.

HAROLD. Thank thee, father! Thou art English, Edward too is English now, He hath clean repented of his Normanism.

STIGAND. Ay, as the libertine repents who cannot Make done undone, when thro' his dying sense Shrills 'lost thro' thee.' They have built their castles here; Our priories are Norman; the Norman adder Hath bitten us; we are poison'd: our dear England Is demi-Norman. He!-- [Pointing to KING EDWARD, sleeping.

HAROLD. I would I were As holy and as passionless as he! That I might rest as calmly! Look at him-- The rosy face, and long down-silvering beard, The brows unwrinkled as a summer mere.--

STIGAND. A summer mere with sudden wreckful gusts From a side-gorge. Passionless? How he flamed When Tostig's anger'd earldom flung him, nay, He fain had calcined all Northumbria To one black ash, but that thy patriot passion Siding with our great Council against Tostig, Out-passion'd his! Holy? ay, ay, forsooth, A conscience for his own soul, not his realm; A twilight conscience lighted thro' a chink; Thine by the sun; nay, by some sun to be, When all the world hath learnt to speak the truth, And lying were self-murder by that state Which was the exception.

HAROLD. That sun may God speed!

STIGAND. Come, Harold, shake the cloud off!

HAROLD. Can I, father? Our Tostig parted cursing me and England; Our sister hates us for his banishment; He hath gone to kindle Norway against England, And Wulfnoth is alone in Normandy. For when I rode with William down to Harfleur, 'Wulfnoth is sick,' he said; 'he cannot follow;' Then with that friendly-fiendly smile of his, 'We have learnt to love him, let him a little longer Remain a hostage for the loyalty Of Godwin's house.' As far as touches Wulfnoth I that so prized plain word and naked truth Have sinn'd against it--all in vain.

LEOFWIN. Good brother, By all the truths that ever priest hath preach'd, Of all the lies that ever men have lied, Thine is the pardonablest.

HAROLD. May be so! I think it so, I think I am a fool To think it can be otherwise than so.

STIGAND. Tut, tut, I have absolved thee: dost thou scorn me, Because I had my Canterbury pallium, From one whom they dispoped?

HAROLD. No, Stigand, no!

STIGAND. Is naked truth actable in true life? I have heard a saying of thy father Godwin, That, were a man of state nakedly true, Men would but take him for the craftier liar.

LEOFWIN. Be men less delicate than the Devil himself? I thought that naked Truth would shame the Devil, The Devil is so modest.

GURTH. He never said it!

LEOFWIN. Be thou not stupid-honest, brother Gurth!

HAROLD. Better to be a liar's dog, and hold My master honest, than believe that lying And ruling men are fatal twins that cannot Move one without the other. Edward wakes!-- Dazed--he hath seen a vision.

EDWARD. The green tree! Then a great Angel past along the highest Crying 'the doom of England,' and at once He stood beside me, in his grasp a sword Of lightnings, wherewithal he cleft the tree From off the bearing trunk, and hurl'd it from him Three fields away, and then he dash'd and drench'd, He dyed, he soak'd the trunk with human blood, And brought the sunder'd tree again, and set it Straight on the trunk, that thus baptized in blood Grew ever high and higher, beyond my seeing, And shot out sidelong boughs across the deep That dropt themselves, and rooted in far isles Beyond my seeing: and the great Angel rose And past again along the highest crying 'The doom of England!'--Tostig, raise my head! [Falls back senseless.

HAROLD (raising him). Let Harold serve for Tostig!

QUEEN. Harold served Tostig so ill, he cannot serve for Tostig! Ay, raise his head, for thou hast laid it low! The sickness of our saintly king, for whom My prayers go up as fast as my tears fall, I well believe, hath mainly drawn itself From lack of Tostig--thou hast banish'd him.

HAROLD. Nay--but the council, and the king himself.

QUEEN. Thou hatest him, hatest him.

HAROLD (coldly). Ay--Stigand, unriddle This vision, canst thou?

STIGAND. Dotage!

EDWARD (starting up). It is finish'd. I have built the Lord a house--the Lord hath dwelt In darkness. I have built the Lord a house-- Palms, flowers, pomegranates, golden cherubim With twenty-cubit wings from wall to wall-- I have built the Lord a house--sing, Asaph! clash The cymbal, Heman! blow the trumpet, priest! Fall, cloud, and fill the house--lo! my two pillars, Jachin and Boaz!-- [Seeing HAROLD and GURTH. Harold, Gurth,--where am I? Where is the charter of our Westminster?

STIGAND. It lies beside thee, king, upon thy bed.

EDWARD. Sign, sign at once--take, sign it, Stigand, Aldred! Sign it, my good son Harold, Gurth, and Leofwin, Sign it, my queen!

ALL. We have sign'd it.

EDWARD. It is finish'd! The kingliest Abbey in all Christian lands, The lordliest, loftiest minster ever built To Holy Peter in our English isle! Let me be buried there, and all our kings, And all our just and wise and holy men That shall be born hereafter. It is finish'd! Hast thou had absolution for thine oath? [To HAROLD.

HAROLD. Stigand hath given me absolution for it.

EDWARD. Stigand is not canonical enough To save thee from the wrath of Norman Saints.

STIGAND. Norman enough! Be there no Saints of England To help us from their brethren yonder?

EDWARD. Prelate, The Saints are one, but those of Normanland Are mightier than our own. Ask it of Aldred. [To HAROLD.

ALDRED. It shall be granted him, my king; for he Who vows a vow to strangle his own mother Is guiltier keeping this, than breaking it.

EDWARD. O friends, I shall not overlive the day.

STIGAND. Why then the throne is empty. Who inherits? For tho' we be not bound by the king's voice In making of a king, yet the king's voice Is much toward his making. Who inherits? Edgar the Atheling?

EDWARD. No, no, but Harold. I love him: he hath served me: none but he Can rule all England. Yet the curse is on him For swearing falsely by those blessed bones; He did not mean to keep his vow.

HAROLD. Not mean To make our England Norman.

EDWARD. There spake Godwin, Who hated all the Normans; but their Saints Have heard thee, Harold.

EDITH. Oh! my lord, my king! He knew not whom he sware by.

EDWARD. Yea, I know He knew not, but those heavenly ears have heard, Their curse is on him; wilt thou bring another, Edith, upon his head?

EDITH. No, no, not I.

EDWARD. Why then, thou must not wed him.

HAROLD. Wherefore, wherefore?

EDWARD. O son, when thou didst tell me of thine oath, I sorrow'd for my random promise given To yon fox-lion. I did not dream then I should be king.--My son, the Saints are virgins; They love the white rose of virginity, The cold, white lily blowing in her cell: I have been myself a virgin; and I sware To consecrate my virgin here to heaven-- The silent, cloister'd, solitary life, A life of life-long prayer against the curse That lies on thee and England.

HAROLD. No, no, no.

EDWARD. Treble denial of the tongue of flesh, Like Peter's when he fell, and thou wilt have To wail for it like Peter. O my son! Are all oaths to be broken then, all promises Made in our agony for help from heaven? Son, there is one who loves thee: and a wife, What matters who, so she be serviceable In all obedience, as mine own hath been: God bless thee, wedded daughter. [Laying his hand on the QUEEN'S head.

QUEEN. Bless thou too That brother whom I love beyond the rest, My banish'd Tostig.

EDWARD. All the sweet Saints bless him! Spare and forbear him, Harold, if he comes! And let him pass unscathed; he loves me, Harold! Be kindly to the Normans left among us, Who follow'd me for love! and dear son, swear When thou art king, to see my solemn vow Accomplish'd.

HAROLD. Nay, dear lord, for I have sworn Not to swear falsely twice.

EDWARD. Thou wilt not swear?

HAROLD. I cannot.

EDWARD. Then on thee remains the curse, Harold, if thou embrace her: and on thee, Edith, if thou abide it,--

[The KING swoons; EDITH falls and kneels by the couch.

STIGAND. He hath swoon'd! Death?... no, as yet a breath.

HAROLD. Look up! look up! Edith!

ALDRED. Confuse her not; she hath begun Her life-long prayer for thee.

ALDWYTH. O noble Harold, I would thou couldst have sworn.

HAROLD. For thine own pleasure?

ALDWYTH. No, but to please our dying king, and those Who make thy good their own--all England, Earl.

ALDRED. I would thou couldst have sworn. Our holy king Hath given his virgin lamb to Holy Church To save thee from the curse.

HAROLD. Alas! poor man, His promise brought it on me.

ALDRED. O good son! That knowledge made him all the carefuller To find a means whereby the curse might glance From thee and England.

HAROLD. Father, we so loved--

ALDRED. The more the love, the mightier is the prayer; The more the love, the more acceptable The sacrifice of both your loves to heaven. No sacrifice to heaven, no help from heaven; That runs thro' all the faiths of all the world. And sacrifice there must be, for the king Is holy, and hath talk'd with God, and seen A shadowing horror; there are signs in heaven--

HAROLD. Your comet came and went.

ALDRED. And signs on earth! Knowest thou Senlac hill?

HAROLD. I know all Sussex; A good entrenchment for a perilous hour!

ALDRED. Pray God that come not suddenly! There is one Who passing by that hill three nights ago-- He shook so that he scarce could out with it-- Heard, heard--

HAROLD. The wind in his hair?

ALDRED. A ghostly horn Blowing continually, and faint battle-hymns, And cries, and clashes, and the groans of men; And dreadful shadows strove upon the hill, And dreadful lights crept up from out the marsh-- Corpse-candles gliding over nameless graves--

HAROLD. At Senlac?

ALDRED. Senlac.

EDWARD (waking). Senlac! Sanguelac, The Lake of Blood!

STIGAND. This lightning before death Plays on the word,--and Normanizes too!

HAROLD. Hush, father, hush!

EDWARD. Thou uncanonical fool, Wilt thou play with the thunder? North and South Thunder together, showers of blood are blown Before a never-ending blast, and hiss Against the blaze they cannot quench--a lake, A sea of blood--we are drown'd in blood--for God Has fill'd the quiver, and Death has drawn the bow-- Sanguelac! Sanguelac! the arrow! the arrow! [Dies.

STIGAND. It is the arrow of death in his own heart-- And our great Council wait to crown thee King.



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

EDITH. Crown'd, crown'd and lost, crown'd King--and lost to me!

(Singing.)

Two young lovers in winter weather, None to guide them, Walk'd at night on the misty heather; Night, as black as a raven's feather; Both were lost and found together, None beside them.

That is the burthen of it--lost and found Together in the cruel river Swale A hundred years ago; and there's another,

Lost, lost, the light of day,

To which the lover answers lovingly

'I am beside thee.' Lost, lost, we have lost the way. 'Love, I will guide thee.' Whither, O whither? into the river, Where we two may be lost together, And lost for ever? 'Oh! never, oh! never, Tho' we be lost and be found together.'

Some think they loved within the pale forbidden By Holy Church: but who shall say? the truth Was lost in that fierce North, where they were lost, Where all good things are lost, where Tostig lost The good hearts of his people. It is Harold!

Enter HAROLD.

Harold the King!

HAROLD. Call me not King, but Harold.

EDITH. Nay, thou art King!

HAROLD. Thine, thine, or King or churl! My girl, thou hast been weeping: turn not thou Thy face away, but rather let me be King of the moment to thee, and command That kiss my due when subject, which will make My kingship kinglier to me than to reign King of the world without it.

EDITH. Ask me not, Lest I should yield it, and the second curse Descend upon thine head, and thou be only King of the moment over England.

HAROLD. Edith, Tho' somewhat less a king to my true self Than ere they crown'd me one, for I have lost Somewhat of upright stature thro' mine oath, Yet thee I would not lose, and sell not thou Our living passion for a dead man's dream; Stigand believed he knew not what he spake. Oh God! I cannot help it, but at times They seem to me too narrow, all the faiths Of this grown world of ours, whose baby eye Saw them sufficient. Fool and wise, I fear This curse, and scorn it. But a little light!-- And on it falls the shadow of the priest; Heaven yield us more! for better, Woden, all Our cancell'd warrior-gods, our grim Walhalla, Eternal war, than that the Saints at peace The Holiest of our Holiest one should be This William's fellow-tricksters;--better die Than credit this, for death is death, or else Lifts us beyond the lie. Kiss me--thou art not A holy sister yet, my girl, to fear There might be more than brother in my kiss, And more than sister in thine own.

EDITH. I dare not.

HAROLD. Scared by the church--'Love for a whole life long' When was that sung?

EDITH. Here to the nightingales.

HAROLD. Their anthems of no church, how sweet they are! Nor kingly priest, nor priestly king to cross Their billings ere they nest.

EDITH. They are but of spring, They fly the winter change--not so with us-- No wings to come and go.

HAROLD. But wing'd souls flying Beyond all change and in the eternal distance To settle on the Truth.

EDITH. They are not so true, They change their mates.

HAROLD. Do they? I did not know it.

EDITH. They say thou art to wed the Lady Aldwyth.

HAROLD. They say, they say.

EDITH. If this be politic, And well for thee and England--and for her-- Care not for me who love thee.

GURTH (calling). Harold, Harold!

HAROLD. The voice of Gurth! (Enter GURTH.) Good even, my good brother!

GURTH. Good even, gentle Edith.

EDITH. Good even, Gurth.

GURTH. Ill news hath come! Our hapless brother, Tostig-- He, and the giant King of Norway, Harold Hardrada--Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Orkney, Are landed North of Humber, and in a field So packt with carnage that the dykes and brooks Were bridged and damm'd with dead, have overthrown Morcar and Edwin.

HAROLD. Well then, we must fight. How blows the wind?

GURTH. Against St. Valery And William.

HAROLD. Well then, we will to the North.

GURTH. Ay, but worse news: this William sent to Rome, Swearing thou swarest falsely by his Saints: The Pope and that Archdeacon Hildebrand His master, heard him, and have sent him back A holy gonfanon, and a blessed hair Of Peter, and all France, all Burgundy, Poitou, all Christendom is raised against thee; He hath cursed thee, and all those who fight for thee, And given thy realm of England to the bastard.

HAROLD. Ha! ha!

EDITH. Oh! laugh not!... Strange and ghastly in the gloom And shadowing of this double thunder-cloud That lours on England--laughter!

HAROLD. No, not strange! This was old human laughter in old Rome Before a Pope was born, when that which reign'd Call'd itself God.--A kindly rendering Of 'Render unto Caesar.' ... The Good Shepherd! Take this, and render that.

GURTH. They have taken York.

HAROLD. The Lord was God and came as man--the Pope Is man and comes as God.--York taken?

GURTH. Yea, Tostig hath taken York!

HAROLD. To York then. Edith, Hadst thou been braver, I had better braved All--but I love thee and thou me--and that Remains beyond all chances and all churches, And that thou knowest.

EDITH. Ay, but take back thy ring. It burns my hand--a curse to thee and me. I dare not wear it. [Proffers HAROLD the ring, which he takes.

HAROLD. But I dare. God with thee!

[Exeunt HAROLD and GURTH.

EDITH. The King hath cursed him, if he marry me; The Pope hath cursed him, marry me or no! God help me! I know nothing--can but pray For Harold--pray, pray, pray--no help but prayer, A breath that fleets beyond this iron world, And touches Him that made it.


Lord Alfred Tennyson

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