Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE ANCESTRESS; A DRAMATIC SKETCH, by LETITIA ELIZABETH LANDON



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THE ANCESTRESS; A DRAMATIC SKETCH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: It is in this we differ; I would seek
Last Line: Castle hide the whole.
Alternate Author Name(s): L. E. L.; Maclean, Letitia
Subject(s): Ancestors & Ancestry; Guilt; Punishment; Heritage; Heredity


The COUNT OF ARDENBURG.
JAROMIR, otherwise COUNT HERMAN, his Nephew.
Guests, Attendants, Officers, &c.

BERTHA, daughter of the Count.
LEITRA, her Nurse.
Ladies, Attendants, &c.

SCENE I. -- JAROMIR, BERTHA.

Ber. IT is in this we differ; I would seek
To blend my very being into thine --
I'm even jealous of thy memory:
I wish our childhood had been pass'd together.
Jar. Bertha, sweet Bertha! would to Heav'n it had!
What would'st thou with a past that knew thee not?
Ber. To make that past my own by confidence,
By mingled recollections, I would fain
Our childish sorrows had been wept together;
Our childish joys had been indulged together;
Our childish hopes had been believed together:
But as this cannot be, I speak of them, --
The very speaking does associate us, --
I speak of them, that, in those coming years,
When youthful hours rise up within the mind,
Like lovely dreams some sudden chance has brought,
To fill the eyes with long-forgotten tears,
My image may be with them as of one
Who held such sympathy with aught of thine.
Jar. Sweetest, no more of this: my youth hath pass'd
In harsh and rugged warfare, not the scenes
Of young knights with white plumes, and gallant steeds,
With lady's favour on each burnish'd crest,
Whose tournaments, in honour of fair dames,
May furnish tales to suit the maiden's ear.
I've had no part in such; I only know
Of war the terrible reality: --
The long night-watch beneath the driving snow; --
The unsooth'd pillow, where the strong man lay
Like a weak child, by weary sickness worn
Even to weeping; -- or the ghastly dead,
By the more ghastly dying, whose last breath
Pass'd in a prayer for water -- but in vain: --
O'er them their eager comrades hurry on
To slaughter others. How thy cheek is blanch'd!
I truly said these were no tales for thee.
Come, take thy lute, and sing just one sweet song,
To fill my sleep with music.
Ber. Then good night.
I have so much to say to my old nurse, --
This is her annual visit, and she waits
Within my chamber, -- so one only song.
My lute is tuneless with this damp night air.
Like to our own glad spirits, its fine chords
Are soon relax'd.
Jar. Then sing, love, with the wind,
The plaining wind, and let that be thy lute.
Ber. How wildly round our ancient battlements
The air notes murmur! Blent with such a wind
I heard the song which shall be ours to-night.
She had a strange sweet voice, the maid who sang,
But early death was pale upon her cheek;
And she had melancholy thoughts, that gave
Their sadness to her speech: she sat apart
From all her young companions, in the shade
Of an old tree -- a gloomy tree, whose boughs
Hung o'er her as a pall: -- 'twas omen-like,
For she died young, -- of gradual decay,
As if the heart consumed itself. None knew
If she had loved; but always did her song
Dwell on love's sorrows.

Sleep, heart of mine, --
Why should love awake thee?
Like yon closed rosebud,
To thy rest betake thee.

Sleep, heart of mine, --
Wherefore art thou beating?
Do dreams stir thy slumbers,
Vainest hopes repeating?

Sleep, heart of mine,
Sleep thou without dreaming;
Love, the beguiler,
Weareth such false seeming.

Sleep, heart of mine;
But if on thy slumbers
Breathe one faint murmur
Of his charm'd numbers;

Waken, heart of mine,
From such dangerous sleeping;
Love's haunted visions
Ever end in weeping.

But now no more of song. I will not lose
Another legend of my nurse's store.
A whole year must have added to her list
Of ghastly murders, spiritual visitings:
At least, 'twill make the ancient ones seem new.
Jar. And you will listen like a frighted child.
I think I see you; -- when the turret clock
Has toll'd the night-hour heavily; the hearth
Has only flickering embers, which send forth
Gleams of distorting light; the untrimm'd lamp
Exaggerates the shadows, till they seem
Flung by no human shape; the hollow voice
Of that old crone, the only living sound;
Her face, on which mortality has writ
Its closing, with the wan and bony hand,
Raised like a spectre's -- and yourself the while,
Cold from the midnight chill, and white with fear,
Your large blue eyes darker and larger grown
With terror's chain'd attention, and your breath
Suppress'd for very earnestness. Well, love,
Good night; and if our haunted air be fill'd
With Spirits, may they watch o'er thee like Love!
Ber. Good night, good night! -- the kind Madonna shed
Her blessings o'er thee! [Exit JAROMIR
'Tis his last footfall, -- I can catch no more.
Methinks he pass'd too quickly. Had I left
This room, I should have counted every step, --
Have linger'd on the threshold; but he went
Rapidly, carelessly. Now out on this,
The very folly of a loving heart!
O Jaromir! it is a fearful thing
To love as I love thee; to feel the world --
The bright, the beautiful, joy-giving world --
A blank without thee. Never more to me
Can hope, joy, fear, wear different seemings. Now
I have no hope that does not dream for thee;
I have no joy that is not shared by thee;
I have no fear that does not dread for thee.
All that I once took pleasure in, -- my lute
Is only sweet when it repeats thy name;
My flowers, I only gather them for thee;
The book drops listless down, I cannot read,
Unless it is to thee; my lonely hours
Are spent in shaping forth our future lives
After my own romantic fantasies.
He is the star round which my thoughts revolve
Like satellites. My father, can it be
That thine, the unceasing love of many years,
Doth not so fill my heart as this strange guest?
I loved thee once so wholly, -- now methinks
I love thee for that thou lov'st Jaromir.
-- It is the lamp gone out, -- that dreams like these
Should be by darkness broken! I am grown
So superstitious in my fears and hopes,
As if I thought that all things must take part
In my great love. -- Alas, my poor old nurse,
How she has waited! [Exit BERTHA.

SCENE II. -- BERTHA, LEITRA.

Ber. The embers cast a cold dim light around,
And the wan lamp seems weary with our watch. --
O Leitra, do not look so fearfully.
Lei. Now, holy saints! who brought that picture here?
Ber. That picture -- oh, now, Leitra, thy strange tales
Made me forget what Jaromir had done.
In the east turret's old deserted rooms
He saw a lovely portrait almost hid
By the grey cobwebs and the gather'd dust;
That he had clear'd it carefully, and thought
It should be with my favourite pictures hung --
And here it is, my own kind Jaromir.
Lei. He brought it here! -- O Bertha, kneel and pray! --
The shadowy likeness, when the actual shape
Is distant far; the dream whose prophecy
Comes when we waken terribly distinct;
The shriek the grave sends up in the still night,
Are not such deadly omens as that face.
My young, my good, my fair, what hath the curse
That is upon thine house to do with thee?
Ber. What do you mean? Speak, speak! -- the very sound
Of my own voice is terrible! -- what curse? --
Whose is this picture?
Lei. It is The Ancestress!
Ber. My Ancestress? -- and a most lovely one:
Yet is her beauty awful: -- the pale cheek
Looks as if passion had fed on its rose;
The lips are pale, too, though their graceful curve
Fascinates in its scorn; her loose dark hair,
Wild as a sibyl's, sweeps as if 't had caught
Its wildness and its darkness from the storm;
Her eyes, like moonlight melancholy, seem
So deep, so spiritual, -- such the far light
Of stars which are a mystery; like a queen's
For grace, and like a swan's for snow, her neck
Thrown back so haughtily; and her black robe,
Her golden girdle with strange characters,
Suit her strange loveliness so well.
Lei. Hush, hush!
Your thoughtless words sound like impiety.
I had not meant to tell her history,
But it is best you know it. Never came
That portrait here by but a simple chance.
She was a princess of the olden time,
So beautiful, that kings laid down their crowns
Like flowers before her, and her halls were throng'd
With lovers, and of life she took no thought,
Save for its pleasures; but as years pass'd on
She felt her insecurity, and cursed
Her own fair face for fading. Suddenly
She grew more lovely, as if age to her
Were but a second youth; again her halls
Were fill'd with worshippers, and day and night
Consumed in revels; when, as suddenly
As summer had revisited her face,
She pass'd away. On his deathbed a monk
Told a wild legion, how one autumn eve
He leant in his confessional alone,
And a most radiant lady knelt and wept
Over the one unpardonable sin.
How for the sake of lasting loveliness
Her soul was forfeit to the evil power,
Who tempted her with beauty. Then she said
It was now mock'd by ceaseless tears, which fell,
Although in vain; how she from shrine to shrine
Had gone in late repentant pilgrimage.
Her knees were worn with many prayers; but still
The presence of the demon haunted her.
Then rose a spirit of strong prophecy
Upon that aged monk: he said her crime
Was fearful, so would be its punishment;
That for her sin a curse was on her race,
Which she would witness: -- sorrow, early death,
Sickness, and guilt would be her children's lot;
That, still bound by her human sympathy,
Although debarr'd all human intercourse,
She now was doom'd to wander o'er the earth,
A witness of their misery, till not one
Remain'd of her descendants; then the grave
Would be her resting-place, and she might hope
That the most infinite mercy of the Cross
Might sanctify a sinner's penitence. --
Bertha, this was your Ancestress. My child,
Yon portrait is an evil omen here.
Ber. There is another where my heart can turn: --
Gentlest Madonna, from my early years
Thou hast been as the mother I have lost,
In patience and in comfort. Leitra,
I am too sad for more of these dark tales: --
Good night!
Lei. Now blessings rest upon thee, my sweet child,
There's not a bead upon my rosary
That shall not count a prayer for thy dear sake.

SCENE III. -- The Castle Chapel.

JAROMIR, BERTHA.

Jar. What, Bertha, is it you? I little thought
The shrouding mantle, and the hurried step,
Which raised my wonder at this midnight hour,
So cold, so damp, were those of mine own love;
I little dream'd this dreary chapel held
So fair a saint.
Ber. I pray thee do not speak to me; I feel
As if the dead were conscious of our presence;
And human tenderness, and human hope,
Were impious before them. Nay, but hark!
I hear a strange low sound, like grief suppress'd,
Debarr'd from words, and breaking out in sighs.
Jar. I hear it too; the wild wind in the pines,
The mournful music of an autumn eve.
What brought thee here, to scare thyself with thoughts
That make their own reality?
Ber. To pray.
Alas! for thee too much have I forgot
My orisons beside my mother's grave:
Till lately never did a day go past
Without some scatter'd flowers, some holy hymn,
That kept affection fresh with piety.
It is a beautiful, a bless'd belief,
That the beloved dead, grown angels, watch
The dear ones left behind; and that my prayers
Are welcome to my mother's ears, as when
I knelt a lisping infant at her knee;
And that her pure and holy spirit now
Doth intercede at the eternal throne:
And thus religion in its love and hope
Unites us still -- the mother and her child!
Jar. Ah, Bertha mine! thy childhood was thrice bless'd,
Thy young mind sanctified, and after-life
Made holy by the memory of the past.
I knew no mother's care to teach my lips
Those prayers that like good angels keep the heart
From uncurb'd passions, that lay waste and curse.
But Bertha, my sweet Bertha! thou shalt be
My soul's religion, and my prayers will rise
Welcome and purified when blent with thine.
But come, methinks the funeral urn has lent
Its marble to thy cheek: thy hair is wild;
The dew has half unloosed its graceful curl;
The lamps around burn dim in the thick air.
Come, let me wrap my cloak around thee, love;
Thou art too delicate for such a night.
Why didst thou leave thy chamber?
Ber. My nurse -- O Jaromir! she told to-night
A history of our house. I could not sleep,
The fear of its deep terror, like a ghost,
So haunted me; I sought my mother's grave;
It seem'd a sanctuary. -- O Jaromir!
Have you not heard of her -- "The Ancestress?"
Jar. An excellent ghost story. I have led
A life too stirring for those vague beliefs
That superstition builds in solitude:
But you, my gentle lady of romance,
Whose youth has pass'd in an old castle, dark
With overhanging pines; whose twilight hours
Are spent in ancient galleries, where the walls
Are hung with pictures of grim ancestors;
Who art familiar with the plumed knights
Whose effigies keep guard in the old hall,
On whose black panels of the carved oak
The sunshine falls in vain; no wonder thou
Shouldst yield these marvels such a ready faith:
But, though I fain would share thy every thought,
Feel -- hope -- fear -- anything like thee, -- at this
I cannot choose but smile.
Ber. Nay, Jaromir!
Who shall deny the spiritual influence
Of the unquiet dead? -- a mystery
The hidden, and the terrible.
Jar. Come, come,
This shall be argued by the cheerful fire.
Ber. Look there, look there! My God, it is her face!
[The ANCESTRESS rises from the tombs, but only visible
to BERTHA, as JAROMIR is turned from her.
Jar. What foolish fear is this? My Bertha, speak!
Good saints! but she is senseless. [Carries her out.
SCENE IV. -- The COUNT and JAROMIR.

Count. The legends of our house? -- I'll tell you one.
There were two brothers who grew up together,
As if they had one heart; their tasks, their sports
Were shared; at evening side by side they slept,
At morning waked together; when they talk'd
With all youth's eagerness of future days,
They imaged but one plan, for neither knew
Their hopes could be divided. Years pass'd on,
And never brought they with them less of change.
But when the elder came to man's estate,
There was too mark'd a difference in their lot:
The first held wealth and rank -- the younger one
Dependent; 'tis a bitter word, and most
When bred together in equality.
And then the younger brother rashly wed,
And lovely children crowded at his knee,
Foredoom'd to the same life that he had led,
Where pride and poverty contend, and shame
Grows deeper from suppression. Years pass'd on:
At length a deadly sickness smote the Count;
His brother, with a strange unholy joy,
Stood by the dying man; for he was heir
To that proud castle and its wide domain,
And past loves were all lost in future hopes.
Then was a secret told him which destroy'd
Those golden dreams, -- that brother had a child!
Death scoffs at worldly vanities, and death
Avow'd the secret marriage pride conceal'd.
He died; and now his lonely orphan's fate
Was in the new Count's hands, and he play'd false:
The boy was left in poor obscurity,
The mother's claim put down, and fraud and strife
Grasp'd their inheritance. That unjust lord,
The curse was on him, -- one by one they died,
The children, for whose sake he sold his soul.
One only daughter cheer'd his desolate house!
And all search for the orphan was in vain,
Till chance restored him, and her father sought
To make her his atonement.
Jar. Count, no more!
I know the history, though till now I deem'd
Myself unknown. It was with bitter thoughts
And evil hopes I sought this castle first;
But love and kindness greeted me; I saw
An old man with remorse upon his brow.
Count. Remorse! -- for years it has encompass'd me,
Darker and darker as its shadow fell
Nearer the grave: but at your coming, hope
Enter'd the dungeon of my mind like light.
I knew you by your likeness to your father.
For years I have not dared to raise my eyes
Even upon his picture; but to-night,
When all the lighted halls are fill'd with guests,
By blood or amity link'd to our house,
You shall be own'd before them as the heir;
And I will look my brother in the face,
And say, Your son is happy, -- pardon me.
And now for the worst penance of my sin, --
To tell my Bertha of her father's crime.
Alas! to think that he who virtue taught,
Who fill'd her heart with piety and truth,
Should be the first to show temptation's strength:
To prove that guilt could be within the soul,
While the false word spoke moral loveliness.
Jar. But, oh! there needs not this. --
Count. Hush! hush!
I am impatient as a wearied man,
Eager to lay a weighty burthen down.
Come to me presently. [Exit.
Jar. I do not feel as I should feel at this.
Acknowledg'd heir of a most noble house,
Belov'd and loving, wherefore should the past,
Which hitherto has seem'd but as a dream,
Of which I took no heed, -- why should the past
Come darkly up like an o'ertaking storm,
Whose heaviness weighs down the atmosphere
Of present hope? Which shall I curse the most --
My father's pride, my uncle's avarice?
But for these, bred according to my birth,
Familiar but with honourable deeds,
My fiery youth allow'd an open field,
The name of every gallant ancestor
A bond upon my soul against disgrace,
My name had been as stainless as my crest.
But, nursed in poverty, my infant ears
Listening to curses, how must wrongs have changed
A mother's nature, when the first lisp'd words
Her child's young lips were taught, were oaths and threats
Of deep revenge! Brought up to scorn my state,
Yet shut out from all other, while the blood
Of my bold forefathers stirr'd in my veins,
What have they made me? Robber -- murderer!
One of the ready sword and reckless hand,
Who values blood by gold. Where art thou now,
Spirit of enterprise, that urged me on --
Spirit of vengeance, that at midnight rang
My mother's dying words within my brain, --
Where are ye now? Hush'd as the worn-out wave!
And in your stead do fear and sorrow come;
Till, even as a child that dreads the dark,
I dread the future. Bertha, thou hast struck,
As with an angel's hand, my rocky heart,
And call'd forth its pure waters: higher hopes,
Gentle affections, thankfulness to God,
And kindliness towards my fellow-men,
Are gushing in my bosom's stony depths;
And all subdued and chasten'd by a sense
Of my unworthiness. No more I hold
A blind and terrible fatality
Is paramount upon this weary life --
This gulf of troubled billows -- where the soul,
Like a vex'd bark, is toss'd upon the waves
Of pain and pleasure by the warring breath
Of passions, which are winds that bear it on,
And only to destruction. Never more
Shall I speak recklessly of death; or shun
A quiet thought or solitary hour;
Or drown that consciousness, our moral life,
In the red wine cup: now my better heart
Luxuriates in repose; I can pass days
Stretch'd in the shade of those old cedar trees,
Watching the sunshine like a blessing fall, --
The breeze like music wandering o'er the boughs, --
Each tree a natural harp, -- each different leaf
A different note, blent in one vast thanks-giving.
[In leaning from the casement he catches a sight of BERTHA.
I see her now. How more than beautiful
She paces yon broad terrace! -- The free wind
Has lifted the soft curls from off her cheek,
Which yet it crimsons not, -- the pure, the pale, --
Like a young saint. How delicately carved
The Grecian outline of her face! -- but touch'd
With a more spiritual beauty, and more meek.
Her large blue eyes are raised up to the heav'ns,
Whose hues they wear, and seem to grow more clear
As the heart fills them. There, those parted lips, --
Prayer could but give such voiceless eloquence, --
Shining like snow her clasp'd and earnest hands,
She seems a dedicated nun, whose heart
Is God's own altar. By her side I feel
As in some holy place. My best love, mine,
Blessings must fall on one like thee!

SCENE V. -- BERTHA in her Room.

Ber. The sound of festival is in my ear,
Haunting it with faint music; the red lights
Shine fitfully reflected in the lake,
Where I have never seen aught but the moon
Mirror'd before, or the bright quiet stars.
A weight is on the air, for ev'ry breeze
Has, bird-like, folded up its wings for sleep.
It is like mockery of the silent night
To choose her hours for merriment; but thus
We struggle with all natural laws, and make
Our life a strange disorder. Yet how sweet
Comes up the distant music! -- though 'tis sad.
A few brief moments, and those notes will be
But echoes to the dancers' joyous steps.
Why should they rouse in me such mournful thoughts?
Recalling snatches of familiar songs,
I've sung to those sweet airs, all sorrowful.
I see the youthful warrior with his head
Pillow'd upon his shield, but not for sleep;
The maiden with her face upon her hands
Bow'd in its last despair. What are the words?
[Sings a few words in a low tone to herself.

And fitfully the embers raised
A faint and passing flame;
They miss'd her from her father's hearth,
But call'd not on her name.
They knew that she was weeping
For the loved and for the dead;
In silence and in solitude,
Must such heavy tears be shed?

And can these notes, so long associate
With love and sorrow, thus be turn'd to mirth,
And we shall dance to what brought tears before?
[Leaning from the casement.
How beautiful it is! though on the air
There is the stillness of a coming storm,
And on the sky its darkness. On the west,
Like a rebellious multitude, the clouds
Are gather'd in huge masses; but the Moon,
Like a young queen, unconscious, brightens still
A little clear blue space; though rapidly
Her comrades, the sweet stars, sink one by one,
Lost in the spreading vapours. Yet the lake
Has not a shadow. Well may the young Moon
Forget her danger, gazing on the face
Its silver waters mirror: -- all beyond
Is like the grave's obscurity; more near
All is most tranquil beauty and repose.
The garden flowers are paler than by day,
And sweeter. What an altar of perfume
Is the musk-rose, beneath my casement twin'd!
Dipping its golden tresses in the lake,
Leans the laburnum, and beneath its shade
Sleep my two swans, as white, as still as snow.
-- The wind is rising, and a yellow haze,
Like a volcano's smoke, makes heaven less dark
To be more fearful. I can now discern
Our ancient avenue of cedar trees, --
How black they look, and with what heavy strength
The giant branches move! -- the weary air
Like a deep breath comes from them. -- Ah, how dark!
It is the first cloud that has touch'd the Moon: --
Her loveliness has conquer'd, -- oh, not yet! --
One huge cloud, and another. I could deem
The evil powers did war on high to-night.
And are there such that o'er humanity
Hold influence, -- the terrible, the wild, --
Inscrutable as fear, -- the ministers
To our unholy passions? These are they
Who dazzle with unrighteous wealth, and make
Our sleep temptation; they who fill its dreams
With passionate strife and guilt, until the mind
Is grown familiar with the sight of blood.
I do believe in them: -- by those strange crimes
Man's natural heart would shrink from, -- by the fear
That comes with midnight, -- by that awful face,
Which, though they say it was a fantasy,
I know I saw, -- I do believe in them.

Enter JAROMIR.

Jar. O Bertha, you are beautiful to-night!
My fairy Princess, with your golden hair
Loosed from the braids which almost hid its wealth,
Descending in a sunny shower of curls,
And lighted up with diamonds; and your waist, --
That rainbow girdle of all precious stones, --
How well it suits its slender gracefulness!
Our halls are fill'd with guests. There, take one glance
At yonder mirror; and now let me lead
My lovely cousin to the festal rooms.
Come, Bertha.

SCENE VI. -- A Hall filled with Guests.

The COUNT, JAROMIR, and BERTHA.

1st Lady. This is delightful. Why the grim old hall
Is fill'd with torches; every shining shield
And gilded helm reflects the light: the crowd
Of our gay nobles have not left a gem
Within their ancient coffers.
2nd Lady. Yet methinks
There is a shadow on this gaiety,
Flung from departed years; yon empty helm,
The last memorial of some mighty chief,
Now even as the dust upon his plume;
Those ghastly portraits bringing back the dead.
I cannot bear to look upon a face
Warm with the hues of life, from which long since
All likeness to the human form has pass'd.
1st Lady. This is too fanciful: -- come, join the dance.
1st Noble. A gallant cavalier this new found Count;
He'll wear his honours gaily.
2nd Noble. Such excess
Of mirth's exuberance visits not for good.
An evil fate is written on his brow;
The dark, the ominous, -- his very joy
Is like a desperate man's: -- I like it not.
He is not one over whose head the curse
Will pass away that hangs upon his house.
1st Noble. Yonder is Bertha; but how very pale! --
More like a nun on whom the moonlight falls
In some lone cell, than a betrothed bride.
My gentle Bertha, have you not a smile
For an old friend to-night?
Ber. My very kindest, if you did but know
The happiness of one familiar face.
Let us rest here awhile, the open air
Is so refreshing in its natural sweetness.
My head is dizzy with excess of light;
Let us but join with looks the festival
Awhile from this alcove.
1st Noble. How miser-like
The wealth of spring is heap'd! Say, are not these
Among your favourite flowers?
Ber. Blue hyacinths!
Oh, do not show them me; they fill my eyes
With tears too soft for such a scene as this.
1st Noble. Is happiness so wholly pass'd from thee,
That its remembrance is turn'd into pain?
Or is thy heart, thy woman's heart, so caught
By this gay revel, that a serious thought
Is counted as a pleasure lost?
Ber. Oh no!
But now thy words give utterance to mine,
Which else might seem so grave. I've lived too long
In the deep quiet of our ancient halls;
Have dwelt too much in solitude, whose fence
Was broken but by old beloved friends,
To bear this revelry of festival,
And not feel too oppress'd for happiness.
I am spectator, not partaker, here.
To me it seems more like a pageant made
To represent mirth, than the mirth itself.
I have known many that did act a joy
In which they had no part. At first I gazed
In wonder and delight on lips that wore
A smile as if by custom, and on eyes
Which seem'd but made to look bland courtesy.
This did not last. I saw the cheek grow red
With ill-dissembled anger, at some slight;
The eye flash sudden fire, and the harsh lip
Curve into scorn: then all grow calm again. --
Is it not like those lands, where, I have read,
Beneath an outward show of fairest flowers
The soil has veins of subterranean flame,
Whose fiery sparkles start to sudden life
When we least dream of them? I'd rather breathe
One moment's breath of morning on the hills,
Than all the Indian woods that ever burnt
On silver censers; and would rather see
One leaf fall from the bough which misses not
Its loss, than look upon the purple sweep
Of these rich tapestries.
Ah, 'tis his voice!
Jar. (in the distance.) Health and long happiness, my friends!
Ber. (coming forward.) Who are those strangers? They
are arm'd; and see
How rudely do they force their way!
Officers rush up the room, and surround JAROMIR,
exclaiming, Our prisoner!
1st. Offi. Count Herman, we are sorry thus to break
Upon your gaiety.
Count. Off, off! your prisoner is my nearest kin,
The noble heir of these insulted halls.
1st Off. But not the less the robber Udolph, too.
Jar. Discover'd, baffled -- well, I can but die.
I will not shame a name at which so oft
The brave have trembled. I am Udolph: come,
I do defy you: one and all come on.
Is there no rescue in my father's house?
[Some of the young Cavaliers come forward; they fight:
when BERTHA flings herself before JAROMIR, who is
mortally wounded, and receives another blow destined
for him.
Ber. My father! -- [Dics.
Jar. There, take my sword; I cannot see her face.
Oh, for one hour of life, but to revenge!
Count. I see her: -- 'tis the Ancestress!
[The ANCESTRESS glides across the stage, beckoning the
COUNT.
Count. The last and the accursed of my house,
Will no one let me touch his hand?

Enter Servants.

The castle is on fire! -- a lightning flash
Has set the eastern turrets in a blaze.
Fly for your lives!
2nd Noble. We must take hence this miserable man.
1st Noble. He's dead!
[The flames burst into the room, and they fly.
[The ANCESTRESS is seen to kneel by the dead, with her
hands raised to heaven, till the falling ruins of the
Castle hide the whole.





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