Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CENCI; A TRAGEDY: ACTS 4-5, by PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

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THE CENCI; A TRAGEDY: ACTS 4-5, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: She comes not, yet I left her even now
Last Line: We are quite ready. Well -- 't is very well.
Subject(s): Despair; Hate; Italy; Italians

Act IV

ORSINO, a Prelate.
SAVELLA, the Pope's Legate.
ANDREA, Servant to CENCI.
LUCRETIA, Wife of CENCI and Stepmother of his children.
BEATRICE, his Daughter.

The SCENE lies principally in Rome, but changes during the fourth
Act to Petrella, a castle among the Apulian Apennines.
TIME. During the Pontificate of Clement VIII.

SCENE I. -- An Apartment in the Castle of Petrella. Enter CENCI.

SHE comes not; yet I left her even now
Vanquished and faint. She knows the penalty
Of her delay; yet what if threats are vain?
Am I not now within Petrella's moat?
Or fear I still the eyes and ears of Rome?
Might I not drag her by the golden hair?
Stamp on her? keep her sleepless till her brain
Be overworn? tame her with chains and famine?
Less would suffice. Yet so to leave undone
What I most seek! No, 't is her stubborn will,
Which, by its own consent, shall stoop as low
As that which drags it down.
Thou loathed wretch!
Hide thee from my abhorrence; fly, begone!
Yet stay! Bid Beatrice come hither.
Husband! I pray, for thine own wretched sake,
Heed what thou dost. A man who walks like thee
Through crimes, and through the danger of his crimes,
Each hour may stumble o'er a sudden grave.
And thou art old; thy hairs are hoary gray;
As thou wouldst save thyself from death and hell,
Pity thy daughter; give her to some friend
In marriage; so that she may tempt thee not
To hatred, or worse thoughts, if worse there be.
What! like her sister, who has found a home
To mock my hate from with prosperity?
Strange ruin shall destroy both her and thee,
And all that yet remain. My death may be
Rapid, her destiny outspeeds it. Go,
Bid her come hither, and before my mood
Be changed, lest I should drag her by the hair.
She sent me to thee, husband. At thy presence
She fell, as thou dost know, into a trance;
And in that trance she heard a voice which said,
'Cenci must die! Let him confess himself!
Even now the accusing Angel waits to hear
If God, to punish his enormous crimes,
Harden his dying heart!'
Why -- such things are.
No doubt divine revealings may be made.
'T is plain I have been favored from above,
For when I cursed my sons, they died. -- Ay -- so.
As to the right or wrong, that 's talk. Repentance?
Repentance is an easy moment's work,
And more depends on God than me. Well -- well --
I must give up the greater point, which was
To poison and corrupt her soul.
(A pause, LUCRETIA approaches anxiously,
and then shrinks back
as he speaks)
One, two;
Ay -- Rocco and Cristofano my curse
Strangled; and Giacomo, I think, will find
Life a worse Hell than that beyond the grave;
Beatrice shall, if there be skill in hate,
Die in despair, blaspheming; to Bernardo,
He is so innocent, I will bequeathe
The memory of these deeds, and make his youth
The sepulchre of hope, where evil thoughts
Shall grow like weeds on a neglected tomb.
When all is done, out in the wide Campagna
I will pile up my silver and my gold;
My costly robes, paintings, and tapestries;
My parchments, and all records of my wealth;
And make a bonfire in my joy, and leave
Of my possessions nothing but my name;
Which shall be an inheritance to strip
Its wearer bare as infamy. That done,
My soul, which is a scourge, will I resign
Into the hands of Him who wielded it;
Be it for its own punishment or theirs,
He will not ask it of me till the lash
Be broken in its last and deepest wound;
Until its hate be all inflicted. Yet,
Lest death outspeed my purpose, let me make
Short work and sure.
LUCRETIA (stops him)
Oh, stay! it was a feint;
She had no vision, and she heard no voice.
I said it but to awe thee.
That is well.
Vile palterer with the sacred truth of God,
Be thy soul choked with that blaspheming lie!
For Beatrice worse terrors are in store
To bend her to my will.
Oh, to what will?
What cruel sufferings more than she has known
Canst thou inflict?
Andrea! go, call my daughter
And if she comes not, tell her that I come.
What sufferings? I will drag her, step by step,
Through infamies unheard of among men;
She shall stand shelterless in the broad noon
Of public scorn, for acts blazoned abroad,
One among which shall be -- what? canst thou guess?
She shall become (for what she most abhors
Shall have a fascination to entrap
Her loathing will) to her own conscious self
All she appears to others; and when dead,
As she shall die unshrived and unforgiven,
A rebel to her father and her God,
Her corpse shall be abandoned to the hounds;
Her name shall be the terror of the earth;
Her spirit shall approach the throne of God
Plague-spotted with my curses. I will make
Body and soul a monstrous lump of ruin.
The Lady Beatrice --
Speak, pale slave! what
Said she?
My Lord, 't was what she looked; she said,
'Go tell my father that I see the gulf
Of Hell between us two, which he may pass;
I will not.'
Go thou quick, Lucretia,
Tell her to come; yet let her understand
Her coming is consent; and say, moreover,
That if she come not I will curse her.
With what but with a father's curse doth God
Panic-strike armed victory, and make pale
Cities in their prosperity? The world's Father
Must grant a parent's prayer against his child,
Be he who asks even what men call me.
Will not the deaths of her rebellious brothers
Awe her before I speak? for I on them
Did imprecate quick ruin, and it came.
Well; what? Speak, wretch!
She said, 'I cannot come;
Go tell my father that I see a torrent
Of his own blood raging between us.'
CENCI (kneeling)
Hear me! If this most specious mass of flesh,
Which thou hast made my daughter; this my blood,
This particle of my divided being;
Or rather, this my bane and my disease,
Whose sight infects and poisons me; this devil,
Which sprung from me as from a hell, was meant
To aught good use; if her bright loveliness
Was kindled to illumine this dark world;
If, nursed by thy selectest dew of love,
Such virtues blossom in her as should make
The peace of life, I pray thee for my sake,
As thou the common God and Father art
Of her, and me, and all; reverse that doom!
Earth, in the name of God, let her food be
Poison, until she be encrusted round
With leprous stains! Heaven, rain upon her head
The blistering drops of the Maremma's dew
Till she be speckled like a toad; parch up
Those love-enkindled lips, warp those fine limbs
To loathed lameness! All-beholding sun,
Strike in thine envy those life-darting eyes
With thine own blinding beams!
Peace, peace!
For thine own sake unsay those dreadful words.
When high God grants, he punishes such prayers.
CENCI (leaping up, and throwing his right hand toward Heaven)
He does his will, I mine! This in addition,
That if she have a child --
Horrible thought!
That if she ever have a child -- and thou,
Quick Nature! I adjure thee by thy God,
That thou be fruitful in her, and increase
And multiply, fulfilling his command,
And my deep imprecation! -- may it be
A hideous likeness of herself, that as
From a distorting mirror she may see
Her image mixed with what she most abhors,
Smiling upon her from her nursing breast!
And that the child may from its infancy
Grow, day by day, more wicked and deformed,
Turning her mother's love to misery!
And that both she and it may live until
It shall repay her care and pain with hate,
Or what may else be more unnatural;
So he may hunt her through the clamorous scoffs
Of the loud world to a dishonored grave!
Shall I revoke this curse? Go, bid her come,
Before my words are chronicled in heaven.
I do not feel as if I were a man,
But like a fiend appointed to chastise
The offences of some unremembered world.
My blood is running up and down my veins;
A fearful pleasure makes it prick and tingle;
I feel a giddy sickness of strange awe;
My heart is beating with an expectation
Of horrid joy.
What? Speak!
She bids thee curse;
And if thy curses, as they cannot do,
Could kill her soul --
She would not come. 'T is well,
I can do both; first take what I demand,
And then extort concession. To thy chamber!
Fly ere I spurn thee; and beware this night
That thou cross not my footsteps. It were safer
To come between the tiger and his prey.
It must be late, mine eyes grow weary dim
With unaccustomed heaviness of sleep.
Conscience! O thou most insolent of lies!
They say that sleep, that healing dew of heaven,
Steeps not in balm the foldings of the brain
Which thinks thee an impostor. I will go,
First to belie thee with an hour of rest,
Which will be deep and calm, I feel; and then --
O multitudinous Hell, the fiends will shake
Thine arches with the laughter of their joy!
There shall be lamentation heard in Heaven
As o'er an angel fallen; and upon Earth
All good shall droop and sicken, and ill things
Shall, with a spirit of unnatural life,
Stir and be quickened -- even as I am now.

SCENE II. -- Before the Castle of Petrella. Enter BEATRICE
and LUCRETIA above on the ramparts.

They come not yet.
'T is scarce midnight.
How slow
Behind the course of thought, even sick with speed,
Lags leaden-footed Time!
The minutes pass.
If he should wake before the deed is done?
O mother! he must never wake again.
What thou hast said persuades me that our act
Will but dislodge a spirit of deep hell
Out of a human form.
'T is true he spoke
Of death and judgment with strange confidence
For one so wicked; as a man believing
In God, yet recking not of good or ill.
And yet to die without confession! --
Believe that Heaven is merciful and just,
And will not add our dread necessity
To the amount of his offences.
Enter OLIMPIO and MARZIO below
They come.
All mortal things must hasten thus
To their dark end. Let us go down.
[Exeunt LUCRETIA and BEATRICE from above.
How feel you to this work?
As one who thinks
A thousand crowns excellent market price
For an old murderer's life. Your cheeks are pale.
It is the white reflection of your own,
Which you call pale.
Is that their natural hue?
Or 't is my hate, and the deferred desire
To wreak it, which extinguishes their blood.
You are inclined then to this business?
If one should bribe me with a thousand crowns
To kill a serpent which had stung my child,
I could not be more willing.
Noble ladies!
Are ye resolved?
Is he asleep?
Is all
I mixed an opiate with his drink;
He sleeps so soundly --
That his death will be
But as a change of sin-chastising dreams,
A dark continuance of the hell within him,
Which God extinguish! But ye are resolved?
Ye know it is a high and holy deed?
We are resolved.
As to the how this act
Be warranted, it rests with you.
Well, follow!
Hush! Hark! what noise is that?
Ha! some one comes!
Ye conscience-stricken cravens, rock to rest
Your baby hearts. It is the iron gate,
Which ye left open, swinging to the wind,
That enters whistling as in scorn. Come, follow!
And be your steps like mine, light, quick and bold.
SCENE III. -- An Apartment in the Castle. Enter BEATRICE and LUCRETIA.
They are about it now.
Nay, it is done.
I have not heard him groan.
He will not groan.
What sound is that?
List! 't is the tread of feet
About his bed.
My God!
If he be now a cold, stiff corpse --
Oh, fear not
What may be done, but what is left undone;
The act seals all.
Is it accomplished?
Did you not call?
I ask if all is over?
We dare not kill an old and sleeping man;
His thin gray hair, his stern and reverent brow,
His veined hands crossed on his heaving breast,
And the calm innocent sleep in which he lay,
Quelled me. Indeed, indeed, I cannot do it.
But I was bolder; for I chid Olimpio,
And bade him bear his wrongs to his own grave,
And leave me the reward. And now my knife
Touched the loose wrinkled throat, when the old man
Stirred in his sleep, and said, 'God! hear, oh, hear
A father's curse! What, art thou not our father?'
And then he laughed. I knew it was the ghost
Of my dead father speaking through his lips,
And could not kill him.
Miserable slaves!
Where, if ye dare not kill a sleeping man,
Found ye the boldness to return to me
With such a deed undone? Base palterers!
Cowards and traitors! Why, the very conscience
Which ye would sell for gold and for revenge
Is an equivocation; it sleeps over
A thousand daily acts disgracing men;
And when a deed, where mercy insults heaven --
Why do I talk?
(Snatching a dagger from one of them, and raising it)
Hadst thou a tongue to say,
She murdered her own father, I must do it!
But never dream ye shall outlive him long!
Stop, for God's sake!
I will go back and kill him.
Give me the weapon, we must do thy will.
Take it! Depart! Return!
How pale thou art!
We do but that which 't were a deadly crime
To leave undone.
Would it were done!
Even whilst
That doubt is passing through your mind, the world
Is conscious of a change. Darkness and hell
Have swallowed up the vapor they sent forth
To blacken the sweet light of life. My breath
Comes, methinks, lighter, and the jellied blood
Runs freely through my veins. Hark!
He is --
We strangled him, that there might be no blood;
And then we threw his heavy corpse i' the garden
Under the balcony; 't will seem it fell.
BEATRICE (giving them a bag of coin)
Here take this gold and hasten to your homes.
And, Marzio, because thou wast only awed
By that which made me tremble, wear thou this!
(Clothes him in a rich mantle)
It was the mantle which my grandfather
Wore in his high prosperity, and men
Envied his state; so may they envy thine.
Thou wert a weapon in the hand of God
To a just use. Live long and thrive! And, mark,
If thou hast crimes, repent; this deed is none.
(A horn is sounded)
Hark, 't is the castle horn: my God! it sounds
Like the last trump.
Some tedious guest is coming.
The drawbridge is let down; there is a tramp
Of horses in the court; fly, hide yourselves!
Let us retire to counterfeit deep rest;
I scarcely need to counterfeit it now;
The spirit which doth reign within these limbs
Seems strangely undisturbed. I could even sleep
Fearless and calm; all ill is surely past.

SCENE IV. -- Another Apartment in the Castle. Enter on one
side the Legate SAVELLA, introduced by a Servant, and
on the other LUCRETIA and BERNARDO.

Lady, my duty to his Holiness
Be my excuse that thus unseasonably
I break upon your rest. I must speak with
Count Cenci; doth he sleep?
LUCRETIA (in a hurried and confused manner)
I think he sleeps;
Yet, wake him not, I pray, spare me awhile.
He is a wicked and a wrathful man;
Should he be roused out of his sleep tonight,
Which is, I know, a hell of angry dreams,
It were not well; indeed it were not well.
Wait till day break.
(Aside) Oh, I am deadly sick!
I grieve thus to distress you, but the Count
Must answer charges of the gravest import,
And suddenly; such my commission is.
LUCRETIA (with increased agitation)
I dare not rouse him, I know none who dare;
'T were perilous; you might as safely waken
A serpent, or a corpse in which some fiend
Were laid to sleep.
Lady, my moments here
Are counted. I must rouse him from his sleep,
Since none else dare.
LUCRETIA (aside)
Oh, terror! oh, despair!
Bernardo, conduct you the Lord Legate to
Your father's chamber.
'T is a messenger
Come to arrest the culprit who now stands
Before the throne of unappealable God.
Both Earth and Heaven, consenting arbiters,
Acquit our deed.
Oh, agony of fear!
Would that he yet might live! Even now I heard
The Legate's followers whisper as they passed
They had a warrant for his instant death.
All was prepared by unforbidden means,
Which we must pay so dearly, having done.
Even now they search the tower, and find the body;
Now they suspect the truth; now they consult
Before they come to tax us with the fact.
Oh, horrible, 't is all discovered!
What is done wisely is done well. Be bold
As thou art just. 'T is like a truant child,
To fear that others know what thou hast done,
Even from thine own strong consciousness, and thus
Write on unsteady eyes and altered cheeks
All thou wouldst hide. Be faithful to thyself,
And fear no other witness but thy fear.
For if, as cannot be, some circumstance
Should rise in accusation, we can blind
Suspicion with such cheap astonishment,
Or overbear it with such guiltless pride,
As murderers cannot feign. The deed is done,
And what may follow now regards not me.
I am as universal as the light;
Free as the earth-surrounding air; as firm
As the world's centre. Consequence, to me,
Is as the wind which strikes the solid rook,
But shakes it not.
(A cry within and tumult)
Murder! Murder! Murder!
SAVELLA (to his followers)
Go, search the castle round; sound the alarm;
Look to the gates, that none escape!
What now?
I know not what to say -- my father 's dead.
How, dead! he only sleeps; you mistake, brother.
His sleep is very calm, very like death;
'T is wonderful how well a tyrant sleeps.
He is not dead?
Dead; murdered!
LUCRETIA (with extreme agitation)
Oh, no, no!
He is not murdered, though he may be dead;
I have alone the keys of those apartments.
Ha! is it so?
My Lord, I pray excuse us;
We will retire; my mother is not well;
She seems quite overcome with this strange horror.
Can you suspect who may have murdered him?
I know not what to think.
Can you name any
Who had an interest in his death?
I can name none who had not, and those most
Who most lament that such a deed is done;
My mother, and my sister, and myself.
'T is strange! There were clear marks of violence.
I found the old man's body in the moonlight,
Hanging beneath the window of his chamber
Among the branches of a pine; he could not
Have fallen there, for all his limbs lay heaped
And effortless; 't is true there was no blood.
Favor me, sir -- it much imports your house
That all should be made clear -- to tell the ladies
That I request their presence.
Enter Guards, bringing in MARZIO
We have one.
My Lord, we found this ruffian and another
Lurking among the rocks; there is no doubt
But that they are the murderers of Count Cenci;
Each had a bag of coin; this fellow wore
A gold-inwoven robe, which, shining bright
Under the dark rocks to the glimmering moon,
Betrayed them to our notice; the other fell
Desperately fighting.
What does he confess?
He keeps firm silence; but these lines found on him
May speak.
Their language is at least sincere.
That the atonement of what my nature
sickens to conjecture may soon arrive, I
send thee, at thy brother's desire, those
who will speak and do more than I dare
Thy devoted servant,
Knowest thou this writing, lady?
Nor thou?
LUCRETIA (her conduct throughout the scene is
marked by extreme agitation)
Where was it found? What is it? It should be
Orsino's hand! It speaks of that strange horror
Which never yet found utterance, but which made
Between that hapless child and her dead father
A gulf of obscure hatred.
Is it so,
Is it true, Lady, that thy father did
Such outrages as to awaken in thee
Unfilial hate?
Not hate, 't was more than hate;
This is most true, yet wherefore question me?
There is a deed demanding question done;
Thou hast a secret which will answer not.
What sayest? My Lord, your words are bold and rash.
I do arrest all present in the name
Of the Pope's Holiness. You must to Rome.
Oh, not to Rome! indeed we are not guilty.
Guilty! who dares talk of guilt? My Lord,
I am more innocent of parricide
Than is a child born fatherless. Dear mother,
Your gentleness and patience are no shield
For this keen-judging world, this two-edged lie,
Which seems, but is not. What! will human laws,
Rather will ye who are their ministers,
Bar all access to retribution first,
And then, when Heaven doth interpose to do
What ye neglect, arming familiar things
To the redress of an unwonted crime,
Make ye the victims who demanded it
Culprits? 'T is ye are culprits! That poor wretch
Who stands so pale, and trembling, and amazed,
If it be true he murdered Cenci, was
A sword in the right hand of justest God.
Wherefore should I have wielded it? unless
The crimes which mortal tongue dare never name
God therefore scruples to avenge.
You own
That you desired his death?
It would have been
A crime no less than his, if for one moment
That fierce desire had faded in my heart.
'T is true I did believe, and hope, and pray,
Ay, I even knew -- for God is wise and just --
That some strange sudden death hung over him.
'T is true that this did happen, and most true
There was no other rest for me on earth,
No other hope in Heaven. Now what of this?
Strange thoughts beget strange deeds; and here are both;
I judge thee not.
And yet, if you arrest me,
You are the judge and executioner
Of that which is the life of life; the breath
Of accusation kills an innocent name,
And leaves for lame acquittal the poor life
Which is a mask without it. 'T is most false
That I am guilty of foul parricide;
Although I must rejoice, for justest cause,
That other hands have sent my father's soul
To ask the mercy he denied to me.
Now leave us free; stain not a noble house
With vague surmises of rejected crime;
Add to our sufferings and your own neglect
No heavier sum; let them have been enough;
Leave us the wreck we have.
I dare not, Lady.
I pray that you prepare yourselves for Rome.
There the Pope's further pleasure will be known.
Oh, not to Rome! Oh, take us not to Rome!
Why not to Rome, dear mother? There as here
Our innocence is as an armed heel
To trample accusation. God is there,
As here, and with his shadow ever clothes
The innocent, the injured, and the weak;
And such are we. Cheer up, dear Lady! lean
On me; collect your wandering thoughts. My Lord,
As soon as you have taken some refreshment,
And had all such examinations made
Upon the spot as may be necessary
To the full understanding of this matter,
We shall be ready. Mother, will you come?
Ha! they will bind us to the rack, and wrest
Self-accusation from our agony!
Will Giacomo be there? Orsino? Marzio?
All present; all confronted; all demanding
Each from the other's countenance the thing
Which is in every heart! Oh, misery!
(She faints, and is borne out)
She faints; an ill appearance this.
My Lord,
She knows not yet the uses of the world.
She fears that power is as a beast which grasps
And loosens not; a snake whose look transmutes
All things to guilt which is its nutriment.
She cannot know how well the supine slaves
Of blind authority read the truth of things
When written on a brow of guilelessness;
She sees not yet triumphant Innocence
Stand at the judgment-seat of mortal man,
A judge and an accuser of the wrong
Which drags it there. Prepare yourself, my Lord.
Our suite will join yours in the court below.

Act V

ORSINO, a Prelate.
SAVELLA, the Pope's Legate.
ANDREA, Servant to CENCI.
LUCRETIA, Wife of CENCI and Stepmother of his children.
BEATRICE, his Daughter.

The SCENE lies principally in Rome, but changes during the fourth
Act to Petrella, a castle among the Apulian Apennines.
TIME. During the Pontificate of Clement VIII.

SCENE I. -- An Apartment in ORSINO'S Palace. Enter ORSINO and GIACOMO.

Do evil deeds thus quickly come to end?
Oh, that the vain remorse which must chastise
Crimes done had but as loud a voice to warn
As its keen sting is mortal to avenge!
Oh, that the hour when present had cast off
The mantle of its mystery, and shown
The ghastly form with which it now returns
When its scared game is roused, cheering the hounds
Of conscience to their prey! Alas, alas!
It was a wicked thought, a piteous deed,
To kill an old and hoary-headed father.
It has turned out unluckily, in truth.
To violate the sacred doors of sleep;
To cheat kind nature of the placid death
Which she prepares for overwearied age;
To drag from Heaven an unrepentant soul,
Which might have quenched in reconciling prayers
A life of burning crimes --
You cannot say
I urged you to the deed.
Oh, had I never
Found in thy smooth and ready countenance
The mirror of my darkest thoughts; hadst thou
Never with hints and questions made me look
Upon the monster of my thought, until
It grew familiar to desire --
'T is thus
Men cast the blame of their unprosperous acts
Upon the abettors of their own resolve;
Or anything but their weak, guilty selves.
And yet, confess the truth, it is the peril
In which you stand that gives you this pale sickness
Of penitence; confess 't is fear disguised
From its own shame that takes the mantle now
Of thin remorse. What if we yet were safe?
How can that be? Already Beatrice,
Lucretia and the murderer are in prison.
I doubt not officers are, whilst we speak,
Sent to arrest us.
I have all prepared
For instant flight. We can escape even now,
So we take fleet occasion by the hair.
Rather expire in tortures, as I may.
What! will you cast by self-accusing flight
Assured conviction upon Beatrice?
She who alone, in this unnatural work
Stands like God's angel ministered upon
By fiends; avenging such a nameless wrong
As turns black parricide to piety;
Whilst we for basest ends -- I fear, Orsino,
While I consider all your words and looks,
Comparing them with your proposal now,
That you must be a villain. For what end
Could you engage in such a perilous crime,
Training me on with hints, and signs, and smiles,
Even to this gulf? Thou art no liar? No,
Thou art a lie! Traitor and murderer!
Coward and slave! But no -- defend thyself;
Let the sword speak what the indignant tongue
Disdains to brand thee with.
Put up your weapon.
Is it the desperation of your fear
Makes you thus rash and sudden with a friend,
Now ruined for your sake? If honest anger
Have moved you, know, that what I just proposed
Was but to try you. As for me, I think
Thankless affection led me to this point,
From which, if my firm temper could repent,
I cannot now recede. Even whilst we speak,
The ministers of justice wait below;
They grant me these brief moments. Now, if you
Have any word of melancholy comfort
To speak to your pale wife, 't were best to pass
Out at the postern, and avoid them so.
O generous friend! how canst thou pardon me?
Would that my life could purchase thine!
That wish
Now comes a day too late. Haste; fare thee well!
Hear'st thou not steps along the corridor?
I 'm sorry for it; but the guards are waiting
At his own gate, and such was my contrivance
That I might rid me both of him and them.
I thought to act a solemn comedy
Upon the painted scene of this new world,
And to attain my own peculiar ends
By some such plot of mingled good and ill
As others weave; but there arose a Power
Which grasped and snapped the threads of my device,
And turned it to a net of ruin -- Ha!
(A shout is heard)
Is that my name I hear proclaimed abroad?
But I will pass, wrapped in a vile disguise,
Rags on my back and a false innocence
Upon my face, through the misdeeming crowd,
Which judges by what seems. 'T is easy then,
For a new name and for a country new,
And a new life fashioned on old desires,
To change the honors of abandoned Rome.
And these must be the masks of that within,
Which must remain unaltered. -- Oh, I fear
That what is past will never let me rest!
Why, when none else is conscious, but myself,
Of my misdeeds, should my own heart's contempt
Trouble me? Have I not the power to fly
My own reproaches? Shall I be the slave
Of -- what? A word? which those of this false world
Employ against each other, not themselves,
As men wear daggers not for self-offence.
But if I am mistaken, where shall I
Find the disguise to hide me from myself,
As now I skulk from every other eye?

SCENE II. -- A Hall of Justice. CAMILLO, JUDGES, etc., are
discovered seated; MARZIO is led in.

Accused, do you persist in your denial?
I ask you, are you innocent, or guilty?
I demand who were the participators
In your offence. Speak truth, and the whole truth.
My God! I did not kill him; I know nothing;
Olimpio sold the robe to me from which
You would infer my guilt.
Away with him!
Dare you, with lips yet white from the rack's kiss,
Speak false? Is it so soft a questioner
That you would bandy lover's talk with it,
Till it wind out your life and soul? Away!
Spare me! Oh, spare! I will confess.
Then speak.
I strangled him in his sleep.
Who urged you to it?
His own son Giacomo and the young prelate
Orsino sent me to Petrella; there
The ladies Beatrice and Lucretia
Tempted me with a thousand crowns, and I
And my companion forthwith murdered him.
Now let me die.
This sounds as bad as truth.
Guards, there, lead forth the prisoners.
Look upon this man;
When did you see him last?
We never saw him.
You know me too well, Lady Beatrice.
I know thee! how? where? when?
You know 't was I
Whom you did urge with menaces and bribes
To kill your father. When the thing was done,
You clothed me in a robe of woven gold,
And bade me thrive; how I have thriven, you see.
You, my Lord Giacomo, Lady Lucretia,
You know that what I speak is true.
[BEATRICE advances towards him; he covers his face, and shrinks back.
Oh, dart
The terrible resentment of those eyes
On the dead earth! Turn them away from me!
They wound; 't was torture forced the truth. My Lords,
Having said this, let me be led to death.
Poor wretch, I pity thee; yet stay awhile.
Guards, lead him not away.
Cardinal Camillo,
You have a good repute for gentleness
And wisdom; can it be that you sit here
To countenance a wicked farce like this?
When some obscure and trembling slave is dragged
From sufferings which might shake the sternest heart
And bade to answer, not as he believes,
But as those may suspect or do desire
Whose questions thence suggest their own reply;
And that in peril of such hideous torments
As merciful God spares even the damned. Speak now
The thing you surely know, which is, that you,
If your fine frame were stretched upon that wheel,
And you were told, 'Confess that you did poison
Your little nephew; that fair blue-eyed child
Who was the lodestar of your life;' and though
All see, since his most swift and piteous death,
That day and night, and heaven and earth, and time,
And all the things hoped for or done therein,
Are changed to you, through your exceeding grief,
Yet you would say, 'I confess anything,'
And beg from your tormentors, like that slave,
The refuge of dishonorable death.
I pray thee, Cardinal, that thou assert
My innocence.
CAMILLO (much moved)
What shall we think, my Lords?
Shame on these tears! I thought the heart was frozen
Which is their fountain. I would pledge my soul
That she is guiltless.
Yet she must be tortured.
I would as soon have tortured mine own nephew
(If he now lived, he would be just her age;
His hair, too, was her color, and his eyes
Like hers in shape, but blue and not so deep)
As that most perfect image of God's love
That ever came sorrowing upon the earth.
She is as pure as speechless infancy!
Well, be her purity on your head, my Lord,
If you forbid the rack. His Holiness
Enjoined us to pursue this monstrous crime
By the severest forms of law; nay, even
To stretch a point against the criminals.
The prisoners stand accused of parricide
Upon such evidence as justifies
What evidence? This man's?
Even so.
Come near. And who art thou, thus chosen forth
Out of the multitude of living men,
To kill the innocent?
I am Marzio,
Thy father's vassal.
Fix thine eyes on mine;
Answer to what I ask.
(Turning to the Judges)
I prithee mark
His countenance; unlike bold calumny,
Which sometimes dares not speak the thing it looks,
He dares not look the thing he speaks, but bends
His gaze on the blind earth.
What! wilt thou say
That I did murder my own father?
Spare me! My brain swims round -- I cannot speak --
It was that horrid torture forced the truth.
Take me away! Let her not look on me!
I am a guilty miserable wretch!
I have said all I know; now, let me die!
My Lords, if by my nature I had been
So stern as to have planned the crime alleged,
Which your suspicions dictate to this slave
And the rack makes him utter, do you think
I should have left this two-edged instrument
Of my misdeed; this man, this bloody knife,
With my own name engraven on the heft,
Lying unsheathed amid a world of foes,
For my own death? that with such horrible need
For deepest silence I should have neglected
So trivial a precaution as the making
His tomb the keeper of a secret written
On a thief's memory? What is his poor life?
What are a thousand lives? A parricide
Had trampled them like dust; and see, he lives!
(Turning to MARZIO)
And thou --
Oh, spare me! Speak to me no more!
That stern yet piteous look, those solemn tones,
Wound worse than torture.
(To the Judges)
I have told it all;
For pity's sake lead me away to death.
Guards, lead him nearer the Lady Beatrice;
He shrinks from her regard like autumn's leaf
From the keen breath of the serenest north.
O thou who tremblest on the giddy verge
Of life and death, pause ere thou answerest me;
So mayst thou answer God with less dismay.
What evil have we done thee? I, alas!
Have lived but on this earth a few sad years,
And so my lot was ordered that a father
First turned the moments of awakening life
To drops, each poisoning youth's sweet hope; and then
Stabbed with one blow my everlasting soul,
And my untainted fame; and even that peace
Which sleeps within the core of the heart's heart.
But the wound was not mortal; so my hate
Became the only worship I could lift
To our great Father, who in pity and love
Armed thee, as thou dost say, to cut him off;
And thus his wrong becomes my accusation.
And art thou the accuser? If thou hopest
Mercy in heaven, show justice upon earth;
Worse than a bloody hand is a hard heart.
If thou hast done murders, made thy life's path
Over the trampled laws of God and man,
Rush not before thy Judge, and say: 'My Maker,
I have done this and more; for there was one
Who was most pure and innocent on earth;
And because she endured what never any,
Guilty or innocent, endured before,
Because her wrongs could not be told, nor thought,
Because thy hand at length did rescue her,
I with my words killed her and all her kin.'
Think, I adjure you, what it is to slay
The reverence living in the minds of men
Towards our ancient house and stainless fame!
Think what it is to strangle infant pity,
Cradled in the belief of guileless looks,
Till it become a crime to suffer. Think
What 't is to blot with infamy and blood
All that which shows like innocence, and is --
Hear me, great God! -- I swear, most innocent;
So that the world lose all discrimination
Between the sly, fierce, wild regard of guilt,
And that which now compels thee to reply
To what I ask: Am I, or am I not
A parricide?
Thou art not!
What is this?
I here declare those whom I did accuse
Are innocent. 'T is I alone am guilty.
Drag him away to torments; let them be
Subtle and long drawn out, to tear the folds
Of the heart's inmost cell. Unbind him not
Till he confess.
Torture me as ye will;
A keener pang has wrung a higher truth
From my last breath. She is most innocent!
Bloodhounds, not men, glut yourselves well with me!
I will not give you that fine piece of nature
To rend and ruin.
[Exit MARZIO, guarded.
What say ye now, my Lords?
Let tortures strain the truth till it be white
As snow thrice-sifted by the frozen wind.
Yet stained with blood.
Know you this paper, Lady?
Entrap me not with questions. Who stands here
As my accuser? Ha! wilt thou be he,
Who art my judge? Accuser, witness, judge,
What, all in one? Here is Orsino's name;
Where is Orsino? Let his eye meet mine.
What means this scrawl? Alas! ye know not what.
And therefore on the chance that it may be
Some evil, will ye kill us?
Enter an Officer
Marzio 's dead.
What did he say?
Nothing. As soon as we
Had bound him on the wheel, he smiled on us,
As one who baffles a deep adversary;
And holding his breath died.
There remains nothing
But to apply the question to those prisoners
Who yet remain stubborn.
I overrule
Further proceedings, and in the behalf
Of these most innocent and noble persons
Will use my interest with the Holy Father.
Let the Pope's pleasure then be done. Meanwhile
Conduct these culprits each to separate cells;
And be the engines ready; for this night,
If the Pope's resolution be as grave,
Pious, and just as once, I 'll wring the truth
Out of those nerves and sinews, groan by groan.

SCENE III. -- The Cell of a Prison. BEATRICE is discovered
asleep on a couch.

How gently slumber rests upon her face,
Like the last thoughts of some day sweetly spent,
Closing in night and dreams, and so prolonged.
After such torments as she bore last night,
How light and soft her breathing comes. Ay me!
Methinks that I shall never sleep again.
But I must shake the heavenly dew of rest
From this sweet folded flower, thus -- wake, awake!
What, sister, canst thou sleep?
BEATRICE (awaking)
I was just dreaming
That we were all in Paradise. Thou knowest
This cell seems like a kind of Paradise
After our father's presence.
Dear, dear sister,
Would that thy dream were not a dream! Oh, God,
How shall I tell?
What wouldst thou tell, sweet brother?
Look not so calm and happy, or even whilst
I stand considering what I have to say,
My heart will break.
See now, thou mak'st me weep;
How very friendless thou wouldst be, dear child,
If I were dead. Say what thou hast to say.
They have confessed; they could endure no more
The tortures --
Ha! what was there to confess?
They must have told some weak and wicked lie
To flatter their tormentors. Have they said
That they were guilty? O white innocence,
That thou shouldst wear the mask of guilt to hide
Thine awful and serenest countenance
From those who know thee not!
Enter JUDGE, with LUCRETIA and GIACOMO, guarded
Ignoble hearts!
For some brief spasms of pain, which are at least
As mortal as the limbs through which they pass,
Are centuries of high splendor laid in dust?
And that eternal honor, which should live
Sunlike, above the reek of mortal fame,
Changed to a mockery and a byword? What!
Will you give up these bodies to be dragged
At horses' heels, so that our hair should sweep
The footsteps of the vain and senseless crowd,
Who, that they may make our calamity
Their worship and their spectacle, will leave
The churches and the theatres as void
As their own hearts? Shall the light multitude
Fling, at their choice, curses or faded pity,
Sad funeral flowers to deck a living corpse,
Upon us as we pass to pass away,
And leave -- what memory of our having been?
Infamy, blood, terror, despair? O thou
Who wert a mother to the parentless,
Kill not thy child! let not her wrongs kill thee!
Brother, lie down with me upon the rack,
And let us each be silent as a corpse;
It soon will be as soft as any grave.
'T is but the falsehood it can wring from fear
Makes the rack cruel.
They will tear the truth
Even from thee at last, those cruel pains;
For pity's sake say thou art guilty now.
Oh, speak the truth! Let us all quickly die;
And after death, God is our judge, not they;
He will have mercy on us.
If indeed
It can be true, say so, dear sister mine;
And then the Pope will surely pardon you,
And all be well.
Confess, or I will warp
Your limbs with such keen tortures --
Tortures! Turn
The rack henceforth into a spinning-wheel!
Torture your dog, that he may tell when last
He lapped the blood his master shed -- not me!
My pangs are of the mind, and of the heart,
And of the soul; ay, of the inmost soul,
Which weeps within tears as of burning gall
To see, in this ill world where none are true,
My kindred false to their deserted selves;
And with considering all the wretched life
Which I have lived, and its now wretched end;
And the small justice shown by Heaven and Earth
To me or mine; and what a tyrant thou art,
And what slaves these; and what a world we make,
The oppressor and the oppressed -- such pangs compel
My answer. What is it thou wouldst with me?
Art thou not guilty of thy father's death?
Or wilt thou rather tax high-judging God
That he permitted such an act as that
Which I have suffered, and which he beheld;
Made it unutterable, and took from it
All refuge, all revenge, all consequence,
But that which thou hast called my father's death?
Which is or is not what men call a crime,
Which either I have done, or have not done;
Say what ye will. I shall deny no more.
If ye desire it thus, thus let it be,
And so an end of all. Now do your will;
No other pains shall force another word.
She is convicted, but has not confessed.
Be it enough. Until their final sentence
Let none have converse with them. You, young Lord,
Linger not here!
Oh, tear him not away!
Guards! do your duty.
Oh! would ye divide
Body from soul?
That is the headsman's business.
[Exeunt all but LUCRETIA, BEATRICE, and GIACOMO.
Have I confessed? Is it all over now?
No hope! no refuge! O weak, wicked tongue,
Which hast destroyed me, would that thou hadst been
Cut out and thrown to dogs first! To have killed
My father first, and then betrayed my sister --
Ay thee! the one thing innocent and pure
In this black, guilty world -- to that which I
So well deserve! My wife! my little ones!
Destitute, helpless; and I -- Father! God!
Canst thou forgive even the unforgiving,
When their full hearts break thus, thus?
(Covers his face and weeps)
O my child!
To what a dreadful end are we all come!
Why did I yield? Why did I not sustain
Those torments? Oh, that I were all dissolved
Into these fast and unavailing tears,
Which flow and feel not!
What 't was weak to do,
'T is weaker to lament, once being done;
Take cheer! The God who knew my wrong, and made
Our speedy act the angel of his wrath,
Seems, and but seems, to have abandoned us.
Let us not think that we shall die for this.
Brother, sit near me; give me your firm hand,
You had a manly heart. Bear up! bear up!
O dearest Lady, put your gentle head
Upon my lap, and try to sleep awhile;
Your eyes look pale, hollow, and overworn,
With heaviness of watching and slow grief.
Come, I will sing you some low, sleepy tune,
Not cheerful, nor yet sad; some dull old thing,
Some outworn and unused monotony,
Such as our country gossips sing and spin,
Till they almost forget they live. Lie down --
So, that will do. Have I forgot the words?
Faith! they are sadder than I thought they were.
False friend, wilt thou smile or weep
When my life is laid asleep?
Little cares for a smile or a tear,
The clay-cold corpse upon the bier!
Farewell! Heigh-ho!
What is this whispers low?
There is a snake in thy smile, my dear;
And bitter poison within thy tear.
Sweet sleep! were death like to thee,
Or if thou couldst mortal be,
I would close these eyes of pain;
When to wake? Never again.
O World! farewell!
Listen to the passing bell!
It say, thou and I must part,
With a light and a heavy heart.
(The scene closes)

SCENE IV. -- A Hall of the Prison. Enter CAMILLO and BERNARDO.

The Pope is stern; not to be moved or bent.
He looked as calm and keen as is the engine
Which tortures and which kills, exempt itself
From aught that it inflicts; a marble form,
A rite, a law, a custom, not a man.
He frowned, as if to frown had been the trick
Of his machinery, on the advocates
Presenting the defences, which he tore
And threw behind, muttering with hoarse, harsh voice --
'Which among ye defended their old father
Killed in his sleep?' then to another -- 'Thou
Dost this in virtue of thy place; 't is well.'
He turned to me then, looking deprecation,
And said these three words, coldly -- 'They must die.'
And yet you left him not?
I urged him still;
Pleading, as I could guess, the devilish wrong
Which prompted your unnatural parent's death.
And he replied -- 'Paolo Santa Croce
Murdered his mother yester evening,
And he is fled. Parricide grows so rife,
That soon, for some just cause no doubt, the young
Will strangle us all, dozing in our chairs.
Authority, and power, and hoary hair
Are grown crimes capital. You are my nephew,
You come to ask their pardon; stay a moment;
Here is their sentence; never see me more
Till, to the letter, it be all fulfilled.'
Oh, God, not so! I did believe indeed
That all you said was but sad preparation
For happy news. Oh, there are words and looks
To bend the sternest purpose! Once I knew them,
Now I forget them at my dearest need.
What think you if I seek him out, and bathe
His feet and robe with hot and bitter tears?
Importune him with prayers, vexing his brain
With my perpetual cries, until in rage
He strike me with his pastoral cross, and trample
Upon my prostrate head, so that my blood
May stain the senseless dust on which he treads,
And remorse waken mercy? I will do it!
Oh, wait till I return!
[Rushes out.
Alas, poor boy!
A wreck-devoted seaman thus might pray
To the deaf sea.
I hardly dare to fear
That thou bring'st other news than a just pardon.
May God in heaven be less inexorable
To the Pope's prayers than he has been to mine.
Here is the sentence and the warrant.
BEATRICE (wildly)
My God! Can it be possible I have
To die so suddenly? so young to go
Under the obscure, cold, rotting, wormy ground!
To be nailed down into a narrow place;
To see no more sweet sunshine; hear no more
Blithe voice of living thing; muse not again
Upon familiar thoughts, sad, yet thus lost!
How fearful! to be nothing! Or to be --
What? Oh, where am I? Let me not go mad!
Sweet Heaven, forgive weak thoughts! If there should be
No God, no Heaven, no Earth in the void world --
The wide, gray, lampless, deep, unpeopled world!
If all things then should be -- my father's spirit,
His eye, his voice, his touch surrounding me;
The atmosphere and breath of my dead life!
If sometimes, as a shape more like himself,
Even the form which tortured me on earth,
Masked in gray hairs and wrinkles, he should come,
And wind me in his hellish arms, and fix
His eyes on mine, and drag me down, down, down!
For was he not alone omnipotent
On Earth, and ever present? even though dead,
Does not his spirit live in all that breathe,
And work for me and mine still the same ruin,
Scorn, pain, despair? Who ever yet returned
To teach the laws of death's untrodden realm?
Unjust perhaps as those which drive us now,
Oh, whither, whither?
Trust in God's sweet love,
The tender promises of Christ; ere night,
Think we shall be in Paradise.
'T is past!
Whatever comes, my heart shall sink no more.
And yet, I know not why, your words strike chill;
How tedious, false, and cold seem all things! I
Have met with much injustice in this world;
No difference has been made by God or man,
Or any power moulding my wretched lot,
'Twixt good or evil, as regarded me.
I am cut off from the only world I know,
From light, and life, and love, in youth's sweet prime.
You do well telling me to trust in God;
I hope I do trust in him. In whom else
Can any trust? And yet my heart is cold.
(During the latter speeches GIACOMO has retired conversing
with CAMILLO, who now goes out; GIACOMO advances)
Know you not, mother -- sister, know you not?
Bernardo even now is gone to implore
The Pope to grant our pardon.
Child, perhaps
It will be granted. We may all then live
To make these woes a tale for distant years.
Oh, what a thought! It gushes to my heart
Like the warm blood.
Yet both will soon be cold.
Oh, trample out that thought! Worse than despair,
Worse than the bitterness of death, is hope;
It is the only ill which can find place
Upon the giddy, sharp, and narrow hour
Tottering beneath us. Plead with the swift frost
That it should spare the eldest flower of spring;
Plead with awakening earthquake, o'er whose couch
Even now a city stands, strong, fair, and free;
Now stench and blackness yawn, like death. Oh, plead
With famine, or wind-walking pestilence,
Blind lightning, or the deaf sea, not with man --
Cruel, cold, formal man; righteous in words,
In deeds a Cain. No, mother, we must die;
Since such is the reward of innocent lives,
Such the alleviation of worst wrongs.
And whilst our murderers live, and hard, cold men,
Smiling and slow, walk through a world of tears
To death as to life's sleep; 't were just the grave
Were some strange joy for us. Come, obscure Death,
And wind me in thine all-embracing arms!
Like a fond mother hide me in thy bosom,
And rock me to the sleep from which none wake.
Live ye, who live, subject to one another
As we were once, who now --
BERNARDO rushes in
Oh, horrible!
That tears, that looks, that hope poured forth in prayer,
Even till the heart is vacant and despairs,
Should all be vain! The ministers of death
Are waiting round the doors. I thought I saw
Blood on the face of one -- what if 't were fancy?
Soon the heart's blood of all I love on earth
Will sprinkle him, and he will wipe it off
As if 't were only rain. O life! O world!
Cover me! let me be no more! To see
That perfect mirror of pure innocence
Wherein I gazed, and grew happy and good,
Shivered to dust! To see thee, Beatrice,
Who made all lovely thou didst look upon --
Thee, light of life -- dead, dark! while I say, sister,
To hear I have no sister; and thou, mother,
Whose love was as a bond to all our loves --
Dead! the sweet bond broken!
Enter CAMILLO and Guards
They come! Let me
Kiss those warm lips before their crimson leaves
Are blighted -- white -- cold. Say farewell, before
Death chokes that gentle voice! Oh, let me hear
You speak!
Farewell, my tender brother. Think
Of our sad fate with gentleness, as now;
And let mild, pitying thoughts lighten for thee
Thy sorrow's load. Err not in harsh despair,
But tears and patience. One thing more, my child;
For thine own sake be constant to the love
Thou bearest us; and to the faith that I,
Though wrapped in a strange cloud of crime and shame,
Lived ever holy and unstained. And though
Ill tongues shall wound me, and our common name
Be as a mark stamped on thine innocent brow
For men to point at as they pass, do thou
Forbear, and never think a thought unkind
Of those who perhaps love thee in their graves.
So mayest thou die as I do; fear and pain
Being subdued. Farewell! Farewell! Farewell!
I cannot say farewell!
O Lady Beatrice!
Give yourself no unnecessary pain,
My dear Lord Cardinal. Here, mother, tie
My girdle for me, and bind up this hair
In any simple knot; ay, that does well.
And yours I see is coming down. How often
Have we done this for one another; now
We shall not do it any more. My Lord,
We are quite ready. Well -- 't is very well.

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