Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE IRISHMAN'D DREAM, by CHARLES V. H. ROBERTS

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THE IRISHMAN'D DREAM, by            
First Line: Gloria! Gloria! With thee here this very pit
Last Line: (she embraces, then kisses him.)
Subject(s): Ireland; Patriotism; Irish


SIR ROGER BURKE An Irish Patriot

TIME—Autumn, A. D. 1916

A prison cell in the Tower of London. A window strongly barred letting in a
flood of moonlight. Perfect quiet save for the pacing back and forth of the
heavy prison guard.

[Enter LADY GLORIA, attired in deep black—hair all disheveled.

SIR ROGER BURKE rises from his couch, throws his arms about his wife and
kisses her passionately.]

BURKE (tenderly).
Gloria! Gloria! With thee here this very pit
Is glorious!

Life has no more in it but thee.

This amorous night—at least we will procure
Our purpose, all rejoicing in our joy.

Many days more!

Alas, no more!


BURKE (slowly releasing her).
No one can save me, Gloria.

I begin to see amid this gloom. Speak plainly.

I'm strong, yet cannot at this moment feel it.

I shut my eyes again, my love! my love!

How beautiful thou seemest in this light,
Like a miser do I kiss those tears away.

My flesh anticipates thy fate; tell it me.

BURKE (bitterly).
Hear! The appeal is lost, the Crown has spoken—
From hence this Tower tomorrow morn—a traitor
I'm condemned to die. Perhaps a great
Decree for history—though pitiful
It seems to us, abridged in the pain of parting.

GLORIA (vehemently).
Quickly—is there aught wherein I still can serve thee?
I reckoned not my husband to this law.
Upon thy soul there is no stain transmitted.

'Tis true, my heart, as tender moon shines on
Thy tumbled hair.

Oh! Base adversities!
Your British gold—and painted justice blind!

To leave the sweet and music of our lives,
The countings on long years for pleasure here;
Those hills we loved, and meads a-trembling with the dew;
The waking daffodils and the languid note of birds!
It seems so far away,—the ribboned light
Of Erin's golden dawns, the streamlet frail and sheen
That wafted a-near our little cottage down
To the great white surges. We stood together beneath
The morning star—its magic through a thousand rills:
We laughed out o'er the riches of our garden.

GLORIA (through her tears).
Aye! Thou a fawn and I, a woodland nymph.

The call of day came basking clear and free.

GLORIA (sadly).
Cold death and withered wreaths, all shadows now.
(With sudden fury)
Such crafts of law seduced to such ends!
Is reason here so mightily corrupted?
Frank justice dwells within our blood—that blood
Once spilled, is clotted on unequal scales.

BURKE (bitterly).
The ghosts here in this Tower mock my fate:
The cries of Edward's babes a-freeze my veins.

They wink at crime, who execute true valour.
Still living—hope is not forsaken. Are there
No ways to charm the hearts of Courts? O God!

BURKE (passionately drawing her to him).
Thy tearful eyes and drooping breasts—Beloved,
E'er my day-dawn at Creation turned from stars,
Anon thou wert the dusk and twilight of my soul,
All renewing, interposing, never
Ending. I clasp thee close in sacred fire.
High! High! Love's crystal cups filled rim to rim,
I sense a thirst for life—more life—still more!

GLORIA (raising her eyes).
Thy kiss—again bewildered—there's nothing clear!

And yet to die for Ireland,—sweet sacrifice!

GLORIA (proudly).
A crown of Honour, aye, I see thy thought.

And feel the flame of courage in thy breath;
Ill phrased our sorrow in that great declension.

To heal the breach and woe of her great wrongs.

I will unloose them with my hands in death,
To stir those wounds in flashing brands of steel.

GLORIA (with great patriotism).
Oh! Let them echo to the limits of
The world and farthest isles, founded on
Our people's mighty lore. With due
Allegiance, I'll keep that ancient faith
Until her freedom from this yoke has been attained.

BURKE (sorrowfully).
And yet, my wife, to die—to leave thee here
Alone! The vision shakes into me a soul
Whose essence is all cowardice.
(Starting to walk to and fro)
Recast thy splendour, life, eye to eye!

How can we part?

Whither wander down?
Where are my friends, where are my flatterers now?
This Stygian river roaring o'er my soul,
Is there one who would come forth and share this fee?
Ha! Ha! We're craven if we believe it.
Smile away that trust, or speak it softly,
Such faith is naught within man's selfish lust.

GLORIA (embracing him wildly).
I cry out for delay—and for thy life!
(A pause as he holds her to him)

BURKE (sneeringly)
Life, this thing—subjection, we call being;
Why is it so sweet to us? Swiftest
Minutes winged on to Pain and Sorrow,
Sickness, anger, grief, suspicion, woe—
Dream that Time is naught and life is not to be.

GLORIA (softly).
My husband!

Life, mere thoughts of loss and gain,
Unctuous vapors in a wandering fire!
List my prayer and heed this warning, now
I go. If thou wouldst contemplate thy frank
Estate, think not thou hast a friend who boasts
It to thee in thy fortune's hour. The eyes
O'er gilded thrones are false, as those are true
That peer from up the lowly dust. He is
Thy friend who speaks to thee and offers aid
Uncalled and humbly, in thy misery.

GLORIA (kissing him).
For me—there is no friend but Death!

BURKE (dreamily).
Thy hair,
Beloved, for centuries has drunk the sun,
A flame of ebony in farthest ages.
I feel the sharp savors of a distant past,
Our souls as in the heavens there ensphered,
And all the sky is flecked with magic light—
Mirth mirrors crested with our Babylon passion,
Fountains plashing in the Hanging Gardens,
The Euphrates level through a burnished plain;
Flower crowned and girdled thou, in golden
Gauzes from the feasts. We sat 'neath veiléd
Moon those rhythmic nights to sate our love.
(Relaxes suddenly and points to the walls.)

Here,—this black abyss, these oozing crevices,
Our flame of faith that goes out for this cause,
More awful is the silence of it all.
This business o'er—these traders in the dark—
Thou shalt feel my spirit still with thee,
To glide henceforth a shadow in our home.

Take me! Take me! Thine I am in body
And in soul—else sundered from the world.

Hush! The guard—thou needst not go this moment.

(Continues wildly)

Death! The glister of eternity
And unknown tangles! I cannot—will not cease!
To stop this blood all passioning in my veins,
The blast of dreaded winds in night's dark orbs;
Suspense, a tingling stillness, crash and cry!
Back, back again to dust—a dismal grave,
A core in slime to feed the vermin of
The earth! Bait unto the hook of Nature's
Great Oblivion, reeled anon
Into a blackness without bound, to meet
With Chaos, Anguish, and with Time—timeless
Time—to scope the tenor of eternity;
An alien in the multitude of spheres,
A great sun dark'ning in a heaven—my shout
Of terror delivered to the stars; gongs
And hammers in the tideless ring of Space
Each minute beating in a bell of fear,
The thesis of our immortality!
O God! is this thy trap for human souls?

Lost! Lost! My noble lord, let me die anon upon
Thy breast—proof of perfect love all shared.

[Sudden flash of lightning, followed by roar of rolling thunder. The stage is
totally darkened for a period of about four minutes.]

In Sir Roger's country villa. Cosy bedroom radiant with early morning
sunlight, and glimpsed in the background verdant Irish plain. Sir Roger is seen
awakening from a deep sleep. He sits up and in a startled tone speaks to Gloria,
lying peacefully by his side.

No! No! (GLORIA awakes.) 'Twas a dream—a wave on a roaring shore,
To break in calm upon our coming days,—
Gold-crested hills of Ireland, magic main,
Frail streamlet rippling to the saffron sea.
Come! Love is pledged eternal in yon goodly gift (pointing to a framed
The pardon of our king there hanging on the wall.
Kiss me, Gloria, that I may know myself.
With thy caress the sweetest morning dawns
In melody of lifted voices blest.
Those silken arms around my shoulders throw!
(She embraces, then kisses him.)

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