Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY; A PLAY. ACTS 1-3, by ROBERT BROWNING



Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

COLOMBE'S BIRTHDAY; A PLAY. ACTS 1-3, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: That this should be her birthday; and the day
Last Line: Whatever be the issue. Help me, cleves!
Subject(s): Birthdays


PERSONS

COLOMBE OF RAVESTEIN, Duchess of Juliers and Cleves.
SABYNE, ADOLF, her Attendants.
GUIBERT, GAUCELME, MAUFROY, CLUGNET, Courtiers.
VALENCE, Advocate of Cleves.
PRINCE BERTHOLD, Claimant of the Duchy.
MELCHIOR, his Confidant.

PLACE, The Palace at Juliers.

TIME, 16 --.

ACT I

Morning. SCENE. A corridor leading to the Audience-chamber.
GAUCELME, CLUGNET, MAUFROY and other Courtiers, round
GUIBERT who is silently reading a paper: as he drops
it at the end --

Guibert. That this should be her birthday; and the day
We all invested her, twelve months ago,
As the late Duke's true heiress and our liege;
And that this also must become the day ... Oh,
miserable lady!
1st Courtier Ay, indeed?
2d Court. Well, Guibert?
3d Court. But your news, my friend, your news!
The sooner, friend, one learns Prince Berthold's pleasure,
The better for us all: how writes the Prince?
Give me! I'll read it for the common good.
Gui. In time, sir, -- but till time comes, pardon me!
Our old Duke just disclosed his child's retreat,
Declared her true succession to his rule,
And died: this birthday was the day, last year,
We convoyed her from Castle Ravestein --
That sleeps out trustfully its extreme age
On the Meuse' quiet bank, where she lived queen
Over the water-buds, -- to Juliers' court
With joy and bustle. Here again we stand;
Sir Gaucelme's buckle's constant to his cap:
To-day's much such another sunny day!
Gaucelme. Come, Guibert, this outgrows a jest, I think!
You're hardly such a novice as to need
The lesson, you pretend.
Gui. What lesson, sir?
That everybody, if he'd thrive at court,
Should, first and last of all, look to himself?
Why, no: and therefore with your good example.
(-- Ho, Master Adolf!) -- to myself I'll look.
(Enter ADOLF.)
Gui. The Prince's letter; why, of all men else,
Comes it to me?
Adolf. By virtue of your place,
Sir Guibert! 'T was the Prince's express charge,
His envoy told us, that the missive there
Should only reach our lady by the hand
Of whosoever held your place.
Gui. Enough!
[ADOLF retires.
Then, gentles, who'll accept a certain poor
Indifferently honorable place,
My friends, I make no doubt, have gnashed their teeth
At leisure minutes these half-dozen years,
To find me never in the mood to quit?
Who asks may have it, with my blessing, and --
This to present our lady. Who'll accept?
You, -- you, -- you? There it lies, and may, for me!
Maufroy. [A youth, picking up the paper, reads aloud.]
"Prince Berthold, proved by titles following
Undoubted Lord of Juliers, comes this day
To claim his own, with license from the Pope
The Emperor, the Kings of Spain and France" ...
Gau. Sufficient "titles following," I judge!
Don't read another! Well, -- "to claim his own?"
Mau. "-- And take possession of the Duchy held
Since twelve months, to the true heir's prejudice,
By" ... Colombe, Juliers' mistress, so she thinks,
And Ravestein's mere lady, as we find!
Who wants the place and paper? Guibert's right.
I hop to climb a little in the world, --
I'd push my fortunes, -- but, no more than he,
Could tell her on this happy day of days,
That, save the nosegay in her hand, perhaps,
There's nothing left to call her own. Sir Clugnet,
You famish for promotion; what say you?
Clugnet. [An old man.] To give this letter were a sort, I take it,
Of service: services ask recompense:
What kind of corner may be Ravestein?
Gui. The castle? Oh, you'd share her fortunes? Good!
Three walls stand upright, full as good as four,
With no such bad remainder of a roof.
Clug. Oh, -- but the town?
Gui. Five houses, fifteen huts;
A church whereto was once a spire, 't is judged;
And half a dyke, except in time of thaw.
Clug. Still there's some revenue?
Gui. Else Heaven forfend!
You hang a beacon out, should fogs increase;
So, when the Autumn floats of pine-wood steer
Safe 'mid the white confusion, thanks to you,
Their grateful raftsman flings a guilder in;
-- That's if he mean to pass your way next time.
Clug. If not?
Gui. Hang guilders, then! he blesses you.
Clug. What man do you suppose me? Keep your paper!
And, let me say, it shows no handsome spirit
To dally with misfortune: keep your place!
Gau. Some one must tell her.
Gui. Some one may: you may!
Gau. Sir Guibert, 't is no trifle turns me sick
Of court-hypocrisy at years like mine,
But this goes near it. Where's there news at all?
Who'll have the face, for instance, to affirm
He never heard, e'en while we crowned the girl,
That Juliers' tenure was by Salic law;
That one, confessed her father's cousin's child,
And, she away, indisputable heir,
Against our choice protesting and the Duke's,
Claimed Juliers? -- nor, as he preferred his claim,
That first this, then another potentate,
Inclined to its allowance? -- I or you,
Or any one except the lady's self?
Oh, it had been the direst cruelty
To break the business to her! Things might change:
At all events, we'd see next masque at end,
Next mummery over first: and so the edge
Was taken off sharp tidings as they came,
Till here's the Prince upon us, and there's she
-- Wreathing her hair, a song between her lips,
With just the faintest notion possible
That some such claimant earns a livelihood
About the world, by feigning grievanoes --
Few pay the story of, but grudge its price,
And fewer listen to, a second time.
Your method proves a failure; now try mine!
And, since this must be carried ...
Gui. [Snatching the paper from him.] By your leave!
Your zeal transports you! 'T will not serve the Prince
So much as you expect, this course you'd take.
If she leaves quietly her palace, -- well;
But if she died upon its threshold, -- no:
He'd have the trouble of removing her.
Come, gentles, we're all -- what the devil knows!
You, Gaucelme, won't lose character, beside --
You broke your father's heart superiorly
To gather his succession -- never blush!
You're from my province, and, be comforted,
They tell of it with wonder to this day.
You can afford to let your talent sleep.
We'll take the very worst supposed, as true:
There, the old Duke knew, when he hid his child
Among the river-flowers at Ravestein,
With whom the right lay! Call the Prince our Duke!
There, she's no Duchess, she's no anything
More than a young maid with the bluest eyes:
And now, sirs, we'll not break this young maid's heart
Coolly as Gaucelme could and would! No haste!
His talent's full-blown, ours but in the bud:
We'll not advance to his perfection yet --
Will we, Sir Maufroy? See, I've ruined Maufroy
Forever as a courtier!
Gau. Here's a coil!
And, count us, will you? Count its residue,
This boasted convoy, this day last year's crowd!
A birthday, too, a gratulation day!
I'm dumb: bid that keep silence!
Mau. and others. Eh, Sir Guibert?
He's right: that does say something: that's bare truth.
Ten -- twelve, I make: a perilous dropping off!
Gui. Pooh -- is it audience hour? The vestibule
Swarms too, I wager, with the common sort
That want our privilege of entry here.
Gau. Adolf! [Re-enter ADOLF.] Who's outside?
Gui. Oh, your looks suffice!
Nobody waiting?
Mau. [Looking through the door-folds.] Scarce our number!
Gui. 'Sdeath!
Nothing to beg for, to complain about?
It can't be! Ill news spreads, but not so fast
As thus to frighten all the world!
Gau. The world
Lives out of doors, sir -- not with you and me
By presence-chamber porches, state-room stairs,
Wherever warmth's perpetual: outside's free
To every wind from every compass-point
And who may get nipped needs be weatherwise.
The Prince comes and the lady's People go;
The snow-goose settles down, the swallows flee --
Why should they wait for winter-time? 'T is instinct:
Don't you feel somewhat chilly?
Gui. That's their craft?
And last year's crowders-round and criers-forth
That strewed the garlands, overarched the roads,
Lighted the bonfires, sang the loyal songs!
Well 't is my comfort, you eould never call me
The People's Friend! The People keep their word --
I keep my place: don't doubt I'll entertain
The People when the Prince comes, and the People
Are talked of! Then, their speeches -- no one tongue
Found respite, not a pen had holiday
-- For they wrote, too, as well as spoke, these knaves!
Now see: we tax and tithe them, pill and poll,
They wince and fret enough, but pay they must
-- We manage that, -- so, pay with a good grace
They might as well, it costs so little more.
But when we've done with taxes, meet folk next
Outside the toll-booth and the rating-place,
In public -- there they have us if they will,
We're at their mercy after that, you see!
For one tax not ten devils could extort --
Over and above necessity, a grace;
This prompt disbosoming of love, to wit --
Their vine-leaf wrappage of our tribute penny,
And crowning attestation, all works well.
Yet this precisely do they thrust on us!
These cappings quick, these crook-and-cringings low,
Hand to the heart, and forehead to the knee,
With grin that shuts the eyes and opes the mouth --
So tender they their love; and, tender made,
Go home to curse us, the first doit we ask.
As if their souls were any longer theirs!
As if they had not given ample warrant
To who should clap a collar on their neck,
Rings in their nose, a goad to either flank,
And take them for the brute they boast themselves!
Stay -- there's a bustle at the outer door --
And somebody entreating ... that's my name!
Adolf, -- I heard my name!
Adolf. 'T was probably
The suitor.
Gui. Oh, there is one?
Adolf. With a suit
He'd fain enforce in person.
Gui. The good heart
-- And the great fool! Just ope the mid-door's fold!
Is that a lappet of his cloak, I see?
Adolf. If it bear plenteous sign of travel ... ay,
The very cloak my comrades tore!
Gui. Why tore?
Adolf. He seeks the Duchess' presence in that trim:
Since daybreak, was he posted hereabouts
Lest he should miss the moment.
Gui. Where's he now?
Adolf. Gone for a minute possibly, not more:
They have ado enough to thrust him back.
Gui. Ay -- but my name, I caught?
Adolf. Oh, sir -- he said
-- What was it? -- You had known him formerly,
And, he believed, would help him did you guess
He waited now; you promised him as much:
The old plea! 'Faith, he's back, -- renews the charge!
[Speaking at the door.] So long as the man parleys, peace outside --
Nor be too ready with your halberts, there!
Gau. My horse bespattered, as he blocked the path
A thin sour man, not unlike somebody.
Adolf. He holds a paper in his breast, whereon
He glances when his cheeks flush and his brow
At each repulse --
Gau. I noticed he'd a brow.
Adolf. So glancing, he grows calmer, leans awhile
Over the balustrade, adjusts his dress,
And presently turns round, quiet again,
With some new pretext for admittance. -- Back!
[To GUIBERT.] -- Sir, he has seen you! Now cross halberts! Ha --
Pascal is prostrate -- there lies Fabian too!
No passage! Whither would the madman press?
Close the doors quick on me!
Gui. Too late! He's here.
(Enter, hastily and with discomposed dress, VALENCE.)
Valence. Sir Guibert, will you help me? -- Me,
that come
Charged by your townsmen, all who starve at Cleves.
To represent their heights and depths of woe
Before our Duchess and obtain relief!
Such errands barricade such doors, it seems:
But not a common hindrance drives me back
On all the sad yet hopeful faces, lit
With hope for the first time, which sent me forth.
Cleves, speak for me! Cleves' men and women, speak!
Who followed me -- your strongest -- many a mile
That I might go the fresher from their ranks,
-- Who sit -- your weakest -- by the city gates,
To take me fuller of what news I bring
As I return -- for I must needs return!
-- Can I? 'T were hard, no listener for their wrongs,
To turn them back upon the old despair --
Harder, Sir Guibert, than imploring thus --
So, I do -- any way you please -- implore!
If you ... but how should you remember Cleves?
Yet they of Cleves remember you so well!
Ay, comment on each trait of you they keep,
Your words and deeds caught up at second hand, --
Proud, I believe, at bottom of their hearts,
O' the very levity and recklessness
Which only prove that you forget their wrongs,
Cleves, the grand town, whose men and women starve,
Is Cleves forgotten? Then, remember me!
You promised me that you would help me once
For other purpose: will you keep your word?
Gui. And who may you be, friend?
Val. Valence of Cleves,
Gui. Valence of ... not the advocate of Cleves,
I owed my whole estate to, three years back?
Ay, well may you keep silence! Why, my lords,
You've heard, I'm sure, how, Pentecost threw years,
I was so nearly ousted of my land
By some knave's-pretext -- (eh? when you refused me
Your ugly daughter, Clugnet!) -- and you've heard
How I recovered it by miracle
-- (When I refused her!) Here's the very friend,
-- Valence of Cleves, all parties have to thank!
Nay, Valence, this procedure's vile in you!
I'm no more grateful than a courtier should,
But politic am I -- I bear a brain,
Can cast about a little, might require
Your services a second time. I tried
To tempt you with advancement here to court
-- "No!" -- well, for curiosity at least
To view our life here -- "No!" -- our Duchess, then, --
A pretty woman's worth some pains to see,
Nor is she spoiled, I take it, if a crown
Complete the forehead pale and tresses pure ...
Val. Our city trusted me its miseries,
And I am come.
Gui. So much for taste! But "come," --
So may you be, for anything I know,
To beg the Pope's cross, or Sir Clugnet's daughter,
And with an equal chance you get all three!
If it was ever worth your while to come,
Was not the proper way worth finding too?
Val. Straight to the palace-portal, sir, I came --
Gui. -- And said? --
Val. -- That I had brought the miseries
Of a whole city to relieve.
Gui. -- Which saying
Won your admittance? You saw me, indeed,
And here, no doubt, you stand: as certainly,
My intervention, I shall not dispute,
Procures you audience; which, if I procure, --
That paper's closely written -- by Saint Paul,
Here flock the Wrongs, follow the Remedies,
Chapter and verse, One, Two, A, B and C!
Perhaps you'd enter, make a reverence,
And launch these "miseries" from first to last?
Val. How should they let me pause or turn aside?
Gau. [To VALENCE.] My worthy sir, one question! You've
come straight
From Cleves, you tell us: heard you any talk
At Cleves about our lady?
Val. Much.
Gau. And what?
Val. Her wish was to redress all wrongs she knew.
Gau. That, you believed?
Val. You see me, sir!
Gau. -- Nor stopped
Upon the road from Cleves to Juliers here,
For any -- rumors you might find afloat?
Val. I had my townsmen's wrongs to busy me.
Gau. This is the lady's birthday, do you know?
-- Her day of pleasure?
Val. -- That the great, I know,
For pleasure born, should still be on the watch
To exclude pleasure when a duty offers:
Even as, for duty born, the lowly too
May ever snatch a pleasure if in reach:
Both will have plenty of their birthright, sir!
Gau. [Aside to GUIBERT.] Sir Guibert here's your man!
No scruples now --
You'll never find his like! Time presses hard
I've seen your drift and Adolf's too, this while,
But you can't keep the hour of audience back
Much longer, and at noon the Prince arrives.
[Pointing to VALENCE.] Entrust him with it -- fool no chance away!
Gui. Him?
Gau. -- With the missive! What's the man to her?
Gui. No bad thought! -- Yet, 't is yours, who ever played
The tempting serpent: else 't were no bad thought!
I should -- and do -- mistrust it for your sake,
Or else ...
(Enter an Official who communicates with ADOLF.)
Adolf. The Duchess will receive the court!
Gui. Give us a moment, Adolf! Valence, friend,
I'll help you. We of the service, you're to mark,
Have special entry, while the herd ... the folk
Outside, get access through our help alone;
-- Well, it is so, was so, and I suppose
So ever will be: your natural lot is, therefore,
To wait your turn and opportunity,
And probably miss both. Now, I engage
To set you, here and in a minute's space,
Before the lady, with full leave to plead
Chapter and verse, and A, and B, and C,
To heart's content.
Val. I grieve that I must ask, --
This being, yourself admit, the custom here, --
To what the price of such a favor mounts?
Gui. Just so! You're not without a courtier's tact.
Little at court, as your quick instinct prompts,
Do such as we without a recompense.
Val. Yours is?
Gui. A trifle: here's a document
'T is some one's duty to present her Grace --
I say, not mine -- these say, not theirs -- such points
Have weight at court. Will you relieve us all
And take it? Just say, "I am bidden lay
This paper at the Duchess' feet!"
Val. No more?
I thank you, sir!
Adolf. Her Grace receives the court!
Gui. [Aside.] Now, sursum corda, quoth the mass-priest! Do --
Whoever's my kind saint, do let alone
These pushings to and fro, and pullings back;
Peaceably let me hang o' the devil's arm
The downward path, if you can't pluck me off
Completely! Let me live quite his, or yours!
[The Courtiers begin to range themselves, and move toward the door.
After me, Valence! So, our famous Cleves
Lacks bread? Yet don't we gallants buy their lace?
And dear enough -- it beggars me, I know,
To keep my very gloves fringed properly.
This, Valence, is our Great State Hall you cross;
You gray urn's veritable marcasite,
The Pope's gift: and those salvers testify
The Emperor. Presently you'll set your foot
... But you don't speak, friend Valence!
Val. I shall speak.
Gau. [Aside to GUIBERT.] Guibert -- it were no such
ungraceful thing
If you and I, at first, seemed horror-struck
With the bad news. Look here, what you shall do!
Suppose you, first, clap hand to sword and cry
"Yield strangers our allegiance? First I'll perish
Beside your Grace!" -- and so give me the cue
To ...
Gui. -- Clap your hand to note-book and jot down
That to regale the Prince with? I conceive.
[To VALENCE.] Do, Valence, speak, or I shall half suspect
You're plotting to supplant us, me the first,
I' the lady's favor! Is 't the grand harangue
You mean to make, that thus engrosses you?
-- Which of her virtues you'll apostrophize?
Or is 't the fashion you aspire to start,
Of that close-curled, not unbecoming hair?
Or what else ponder you?
Val. My townsmen's wrongs.

ACT II

Noon. SCENE. The Presence-chamber.

The DUCHESS and SABYNE.

Duchess. Announce that I am ready for the court!
Sabyne. 'T is scarcely audience-hour, I think; your Grace
May best consult your own relief, no doubt,
And shun the crowd: but few can have arrived.
3Duch. Let those not yet arrived, then, keep away!
'T was me, this day last year at Ravestein,
You hurried. It has been full time, beside,
This half-hour. Do you hesitate?
Sab. Forgive me!
3Duch. Stay, Sabyne; let me hasten to make sure
Of one true thanker: here with you begins
My audience, claim you first its privilege!
It is my birth's event they celebrate:
You need not wish me more such happy days,
But -- ask some favor! Have you none to ask?
Has Adolf none, then? this was far from least
Of much I waited for impatiently,
Assure yourself! It seemed so natural
Your gift, beside this bunch of river-bells,
Should be the power and leave of doing good
To you, and greater pleasure to myself.
You ask my leave to-day to marry Adolf?
The rest is my concern.
Sab. Your Grace is ever
Our lady of dear Ravestein, -- but, for Adolf ...
3Duch. "But"? You have not, sure, changed in your regard
And purpose towards him?
Sab. We change?
3Duch. Well then? Well?
Sab. How could we two be happy, and, most like,
Leave Juliers, when -- when ... but 't is audience-time!
3Duch. "When, if you left me, I were left indeed!"
Would you subjoin that? Bid the court approach!
-- Why should we play thus with each other, Sabyne?
Do I not know, if courtiers prove remiss,
If friends detain me, and get blame for it,
There is a cause? Of last year's fervid throng
Scarce one half comes now.
Sab. [Aside.] One half? No, alas!
3Duch. So can the mere suspicion of a cloud
Over my fortunes, strike each loyal heart.
They've heard of this Prince Berthold; and, forsooth,
Some foolish arrogant pretence he makes,
May grow more foolish and more arrogant,
They please to apprehend! I thank their love.
Admit them!
Sab. [Aside.] How much has she really learned?
3Duch. Surely, whoever's absent, Tristan waits?
-- Or at least Romuald, whom my father raised
From nothing -- come, he's faithful to me, come!
(Sabyne, I should but be the prouder -- yes,
The fitter to comport myself aright)
Not Romuald? Xavier -- what said he to that?
For Xavier hates a parasite, I know!
[SABYNE goes out.
3Duch. Well, sunshine's everywhere, and summer too.
Next year 't is the old place again, perhaps --
The water-breeze again, the birds again.
-- It cannot be! It is too late to be!
What part had I, or choice in all of it?
Hither they brought me; I had not to think
Nor care, concern myself with doing good
Or ill, my task was just -- to live, -- to live,
And, answering ends there was no need explain,
To render Juliers happy -- so they said.
All could not have been falsehood: some was love,
And wonder and obedience. I did all
They looked for: why then cease to do it now?
Yet this is to be calmly set aside,
And -- ere next birthday's dawn, for aught I know,
Things change, a claimant may arrive, and I ...
It cannot nor it shall not be! His right?
Well then, he has the right, and I have not,
-- But who bade all of you surround my life
And close its growth up with your ducal crown
Which, plucked off rudely, leaves me perishing?
I could have been like one of you, -- loved, hoped,
Feared, lived and died like one of you -- but you
Would take that life away and give me this,
And I will keep this! I will face you! Come!
(Enter the Courtiers and VALENCE.)
The Courtiers Many such happy mornings to your Grace!
3Duch. [Aside, as they pay their devoir.] The same
words, the same faces, -- the same love!
I have been overfearful. These are few;
But these, at least, stand firmly: these are mine.
As many come as may; and if no more,
'T is that these few suffice -- they do suffice!
What succor may not next year bring me?
Plainly,
I feared too soon. [To The Courtiers] I thank you, sirs:
all thanks!
Val. [Aside, as the DUCHESS passes from one group to
another, conversing.] 'T is she -- the vision this
day last year brought,
When, for a golden moment at our Cleves,
She tarried in her progress hither. Cleves
Chose me to speak its welcome, and I spoke
-- Not that she could have noted the recluse
-- Ungainly, old before his time -- who gazed.
Well, Heaven's gifts are not wasted, and that gaze
Kept, and shall keep me to the end, her own!
She was above it -- but so would not sink
My gaze to earth! The People caught it, hers --
Thenceforward, mine; but thus entirely mine,
Who shall affirm, had she not raised my soul
Ere she retired and left me -- them? She turns --
There's all her wondrous face at once! The ground
Reels and ...
[Suddenly occupying himself with his paper.]
There wrongs of theirs I have to plead!
3Duch. [To The Courtiers] Nay, compliment enough! and
kindness' self
Should pause before it wish me more such years.
'T was fortunate that thus, ere youth escaped,
I tasted life's pure pleasure -- one such, pure,
Is worth a thousand, mixed -- and youth's for pleasure:
Mine is received; let my age pay for it.
Gau. So, pay, and pleasure paid for, thinks your Grace,
Should never go together?
Gui. How, sir Gaucelme?
Hurry one's feast down unenjoyingly
At the snatched breathing-intervals of work?
As good you saved it till the dull day's-end
When, stiff and sleepy, appetite is gone.
Eat first, then work upon the strength of foot!
3Duch. True: you enable me to risk my future,
By giving me a past beyond recall.
I lived, a girl, one happy leisure year:
Let me endeavor to be the Duchess now!
And so, -- what news, Sir Guibert, spoke you of?
[As they advance a little, and GUIBERT speaks --
-- That gentleman?
Val. [Aside]. I feel her eyes on me.
Gui. [To VALENCE.] The Duchess, sir, inclines to hear your suit.
Advance! He is from Cleves.
Val. [Coming forward.] [Aside.] Their wrongs -- their wrongs!
3Duch. And you, sir, are from Cleves? How fresh in mind,
The hour or two I passed at queenly Cleves!
She entertained me bravely, but the best
Of her good pageant seemed its standers-by
With insuppressive joy on every face!
What says my ancient famous happy Cleves?
Val. Take the truth, lady -- you are made for truth!
So think my friends: nor do they less deserve
The having you to take it, you shall think,
When you know all -- nay, when you only know
How, on that day you recollect at Cleves,
When the poor acquiescing multitude
Who thrust themselves with all their woes apart
Into unnoticed corners, that the few,
Their means sufficed to muster trappings for,
Might fill the foreground, occupy your sight
With joyous faces fit to bear away
And boast of as a sample of all Cleves
-- How, when to daylight these crept out once more,
Clutching, unconscious, each his empty rags
Whence the scant coin, which had not half bought bread,
That morn he shook forth, counted piece by piece,
And, well-advisedly, on perfumes spent them
To burn, or flowers to strew, before your path
-- How, when the golden flood of music and bliss
Ebbed, as their moon retreated, and again
Left the sharp black-point rocks of misery bare
-- Then I, their friend, had only to suggest
"Saw she the horror as she saw the pomp!"
And as one man they cried, "He speaks the truth:
Show her the horror! Take from our own mouths
Our wrongs and show them, she will see them too!"
This they cried, lady! I have brought the wrongs.
3Duch. Wrongs? Cleves has wrongs -- apparent now and thus?
I thank you! In that paper? Give it me!
Val. (There, Cleves!) In this! (What did I promise, Cleves?)
Our weavers, clothiers, spinners are reduced
Since ... Oh, I crave your pardon! I forget
I buy the privilege of this approach,
And promptly would discharge my debt. I lay
This paper humbly at the Duchess' feet.
[Presenting GUIBERT's paper.
Gui. Stay! for the present ...
3Duch. Stay, sir? I take aught
That teaches me their wrongs with greater pride
Than this your ducal circlet. Thank you, sir!
[The DUCHESS reads hastily; then, turning to the Courtiers --
What have I done to you? Your deed or mine
Was it, this crowning me? I gave myself
No more a title to your homage, no,
Than church-flowers, born this season, wrote the words
In the saint's-book that sanctified them first.
For such a flower, you plucked me; well,you erred --
Well, 't was a weed; remove the eye-sore quick!
But should you not remember it has lain
Steeped in the candles' glory, palely shrined,
Nearer God's Mother than most earthly things?
-- That if 't be faded 't is with prayer's sole breath --
That the one day it boasted was God's day?
Still, I do thank you! Had you used respect,
Here might I dwindle to my last white leaf,
Here lose life's latest freshness, which even yet
May yield some wandering insect rest and food:
So, fling me forth, and -- all is best for all!
[After a pause.] Prince Berthold, who art Juliers' Duke it seems --
The King's choice, and the Emperor's, and the Pope's --
Be mine, too! Take this People! Tell not me
Of rescripts, precedents, authorities,
-- But take them, from a heart that yearns to give!
Find out their love, -- I could not; find their fear, --
I would not; find their like, -- I never shall,
Among the flowers! [Taking off her coronet.
Colombe of Ravestein
Thanks God she is no longer Duchess here!
Val. [Advancing to GUIBERT.] Sir Guibert, knight, they
call you -- this of mine
Is the first step I ever set at court.
You dared make me your instrument, I find;
For that, so sure as you and I are men,
We reckon to the utmost presently:
But as you are a courtier and I none,
Your knowledge may instruct me. I, already,
Have too far outraged, by my ignorance
Of courtier-ways, this lady, to proceed
A second step and risk addressing her:
-- I am degraded -- you let me address!
Out of her presence, all is plain enough
What I shall do -- but in her presence, too,
Surely there 's something proper to be done.
[To the others.] You, gentles, tell me if I guess aright --
May I not strike this man to earth?
The Courtiers [As GUIBERT springs forward, withholding
him.] Let go!
-- The clothiers' spokesman, Guibert? Grace a churl?
3Duch. [To VALENCE.] Oh, be acquainted with your party, sir!
He 's of the oldest lineage Juliers boasts;
A lion crests him for a cognizance;
"Scorning to waver" -- that 's his 'scutcheon's word;
His office with the new Duke -- probably
The same in honor as with me; or more,
By so much as this gallant turn deserves.
He 's now, I dare say, of a thousand times
The rank and influence that remain with her
Whose part you take! So, lest for taking it
You suffer ...
Val. I may strike him then to earth?
Gui. [Falling on his knee.] Great and dear lady, pardon
me! Hear once!
Believe me and be merciful -- be just!
I could not bring myself to give that paper
Without a keener pang than I dared meet
-- And so felt Clugnet here, and Maufroy here
-- No one dared meet it. Protestation's cheap, --
But, if to die for you did any good,
[To GAUCELME.] Would not I die, sir? Say your worst of me!
But it does no good, that 's the mournful truth.
And since the hint of a resistance, even,
Would just precipitate, on you the first,
A speedier ruin -- I shall not deny,
Saving myself indubitable pain,
I thought to give you pleasure (who might say?
By showing that your only subject found
To carry the sad notice was the man
Precisely ignorant of its contents;
A nameless, mere provincial advocate;
One whom 't was like you never saw before,
Never would see again. All has gone wrong:
But I meant right, God knows, and you, I trust!
3Duch. A nameless advocate, this gentleman?
-- (I pardon you, Sir Guibert!)
Gui. [Rising, to VALENCE.] Sir, and you?
Val. -- Rejoice that you are lightened of a load.
Now, you have only me to reckon with.
3Duch. One I have never seen, much less obliged?
Val. Dare I speak, lady?
3Duch. Dare you! Heard you not
I rule no longer?
Val. Lady, if your rule
Were based alone on such a ground as these
[Pointing to The Courtiers
Could furnish you, -- abjure it! They have hidden
A source of true dominion from your sight.
3Duch. You hear them -- no such source is left ...
Val. Hear Cleves!
Whose haggard craftsmen rose to starve this day,
Starve now, and will lie down at night to starve,
Sure of a like to-morrow -- but as sure
Of a most unlike morrow-after-that,
Since end things must, end howsoe'er things may.
What curbs the brute-force instinct in its hour?
What makes -- instead of rising, all as one,
And teaching fingers, so expert to wield
Their tool, the broadsword's play or carbine's trick,
-- What makes that there 's an easier help, they think,
For you, whose name so few of them can spell,
Whose face scarce one in every hundred saw, --
You simply have to understand their wrongs,
And wrongs will vanish -- so, still trades are plied,
And swords lie rusting and myself stand here?
There is a vision in the heart of each
Of justice, mercy, wisdom, tenderness
To wrong and pain, and knowledge of its cure:
And these embodied in a woman's form
That best transmits them, pure as first received
From God above her, to mankind below.
Will you derive your rule from such a ground,
Or rather hold it by the suffrage, say,
Of this man -- this -- and this?
3Duch. [After a pause.] You come from Cleves:
How many are at Cleves of such a mind?
Val. [From his paper.] "We, all the manufacturers of Cleves --"
3Duch. Or stay, sir -- lest I seem too covetous --
Are you my subject? such as you describe,
Am I to you, though to no other man?
Val. [From his paper.] -- "Valence, ordained your
Advocate at Cleves" --
3Duch. [Replacing the coronet.] Then I remain Cleves'
Duchess! Take you note,
While Cleves but yields one subject of this stamp,
I stand her lady till she waves me off!
For her sake, all the Prince claims I withhold;
Laugh at each menace; and, his power defying,
Return his missive with its due contempt!
[Casting it away.
Gui. [Picking it up.] -- Which to the Prince I will deliver, lady,
(Note it down, Gaucelme) -- with your message too!
3Duch. I think the office is a subject's, sir!
-- Either ... how style you him? -- my special guarder
The Marshal's -- for who knows but violence
May follow the delivery? -- Or, perhaps,
My Chancellor's -- for law may be to urge
On its receipt! -- Or, even my Chamberlain's --
For I may violate established form!
[To VALENCE.] Sir, -- for the half-hour till this service ends,
Will you become all these to me?
Val. [Falling on his knee.] My liege!
3Duch. Give me!
[The Courtiers present their badges of office.
[Putting them by.] Whatever was their virtue once,
They need new consecration. [Raising VALENCE.] Are you mine?
I will be Duchess yet! [She retires.
The Courtiers Our Duchess yet!
A glorious lady! Worthy love and dread!
I'll stand by her, -- and I, whate'er betide!
Gui. [To VALENCE.] Well done, well done, sir! I care
not who knows,
You have done nobly and I envy you --
Though I am but unfairly used, I think:
For when one gets a place like this I hold,
One gets too the remark that its mere wages,
The pay and the preferment, make our prize.
Talk about zeal and faith apart from these,
We're laughed at -- much would zeal and faith subsist
Without these also! Yet, let these be stopped,
Our wages discontinue, -- then, indeed,
Our zeal and faith, (we hear on every side,)
Are not released -- having been pledged away
I wonder, for what zeal and faith in turn?
Hard money purchased me my place! No, no --
I'm right, sir -- but your wrong is better still,
If I had time and skill to argue it.
Therefore, I say, I'll serve you, how you please --
If you like, -- fight you, as you seem to wish --
(The kinder of me that, in sober truth,
I never dreamed I did you any harm) ...
Gau. -- Or, kinder still, you'll introduce, no doubt,
His merits to the Prince who's just at hand,
And let no hint drop he's made Chancellor
And Chamberlain and Heaven knows what beside!
Clug. [To VALENCE.] You stare, young sir, and threaten!
Let me say,
That at your age, when first I came to court,
I was not much above a gentleman;
While now ...
Val. -- You are Head-Lackey? With your office
I have not yet been graced, sir!
Other Courtiers. [To Clugnet.] Let him talk!
Fidelity, disinterestedness,
Excuse so much! Men claim my worship ever
Who stanchly and steadfastly ...
(Enter ADOLF.)
Adolf. The Prince arrives.
Courtiers. Ha? How?
Adolf. He leaves his guard a stage behind
At Aix, and enters almost by himself.
1st Court. The Prince! This foolish business puts all out.
2d Court. Let Gaucelme speak first!
3d Court. Better I began
About the state of Juliers: should one say
All's prosperous and inviting him?
4th Court. -- Or rather,
All's prostrate and imploring him?
5th Court. That's best.
Where's the Cleves' paper, by the way?
4th Court. [To VALENCE.] Sir -- sir --
If you'll but lend that paper -- trust it me,
I'll warrant ...
5th Court. Softly, sir -- the Marshal's duty!
Clug. Has not the Chamberlain a hearing first
By virtue of his patent?
Gau. Patents? -- Duties?
All that, my masters, must begin again!
One word composes the whole controversy:
We're simply now -- the Prince's!
The Others. Ay -- the Prince's!
(Enter SABYNE.)
Sab. Adolf! Bid ... Oh, no time for ceremony!
Where's whom our lady calls her only subject?
She needs him. Who is here the Duchess's?
Val. [Starting from his reverie.] Most grate fully I
follow to her feet.

ACT III

Afternoon. SCENE. The Vestibule.

Enter PRINCE BERTHOLD and MELCHIOR.

Berthold. A thriving little burgh this Juliers looks.
[Half-apart.] Keep Juliers, and as good you kept Cologne:
Better try Aix, though! --
Melchior. Please 't your Highness speak?
Berth. [As before.] Aix, Cologne, Frankfort,
-- Milan; -- Rome! --
Mel. The Grave.
More weary seems your Highness, I remark,
Than sundry conquerors whose path I've watched
Through fire and blood to any prize they gain.
I could well wish you, for your proper sake,
Had met some shade of opposition here
-- Found a blunt seneschal refuse unlock,
Or a scared usher lead your steps astray.
You must not look for next achievement's palm
So easily: this will hurt your conquering.
Berth. My next? Ay, as you say, my next and next!
Well, I am tired, that's truth, and moody too,
This quiet entrance-morning: listen why!
Our little burgh, now, Juliers -- 't is indeed
One link, however insignificant,
Of the great chain by which I reach my hope,
-- A link I must secure; but otherwise,
You'd wonder I esteem it worth my grasp.
Just see what life is, with its shifts and turns!
It happens now -- this very nook -- to be
A place that once ... not a long while since, neither --
When I lived an ambiguous hanger-on
Of foreign courts, and bore my claims about,
Discarded by one kinsman, and the other
A poor priest merely, -- then, I say, this place
Shone my ambition's object; to be Duke --
Seemed then, what to be Emperor seems now.
My rights were far from judged as plain and sure
In those days as of late, I promise you:
And 't was my day-dream, Lady Colombe here
Might e'en compound the matter, pity me,
Be struck, say, with my chivalry and grace
(I was a boy!) -- bestow her hand at length,
And make me Duke, in her right if not mine.
Here am I, Duke confessed, at Juliers now.
Hearken: if ever I be Emperor,
Remind me what I felt and said to-day!
Mel. All this consoles a bookish man like me.
-- And so will weariness cling to you. Wrong,
Wrong! Had you sought the lady's court yourself, --
Faced the redoubtables composing it,
Flattered this, threatened that man bribed the other, --
Pleaded by writ and word and deed, your cause, --
Conquered a footing inch by painful inch, --
And, after long years' struggle, pounced at last
On her for prize, -- the right life had been lived,
And justice done to divers faculties
Shut in that brow. Yourself were visible
As you stood victor, then; whom now -- (your pardon!)
I am forced narrowly to search and see,
So are you hid by helps -- this Pope, your uncle --
Your cousin, the other King! You are a mind, --
They, body: too much of mere legs-and-arms
Obstructs the mind so! Match these with their like:
Match mind with mind!
Berth. And where's your mind to match?
They show me legs-and-arms to cope withal!
I'd subjugate this city -- where's its mind?
(The Courtiers enter slowly.)
Mel. Got out of sight when you came troops and all!
And in its stead, here greets you flesh-and-blood:
A smug economy of both, this first!
[As CLUGNET bows obsequiously.
Well done, gout, all considered! -- I may go?
Berth. Help me receive them!
Mel. Oh, they just will say
What yesterday at Aix their fellows said, --
At Treves, the day before! Sir Prince, my friend,
Why do you let your life slip thus? -- Meantime
I have my little Juliers to achieve --
The understanding this tough Platonist.
Your holy uncle disinterred, Amelius:
Lend me a company of horse and foot,
To help me through his tractate -- gain my Duchy!
Berth. And Empire, after that is gained, will be --?
Mel. To help me through your uncle's commitment, Prince! [Goes.
Berth. Ah? Well: he o'er-refines -- the scholar's fault!
How do I let my life slip? Say, this life,
I lead now, differs from the common life
Of other men in mere degree, not kind,
Of joys and griefs, -- still there is such degree
Mere largeness in a life is something sure, --
Enough to care about and struggle for,
In this world: for this world, the size of things;
The sort of things, for that to come, no doubt.
A great is better than a little aim:
And when I wooed Priscilla's rosy mouth
And failed so, under that gray convent-wall,
Was I more happy than I should be now
[By this time, the Courtiers are ranged before him.
If failing of my Empire? Not a whit.
-- Here comes the mind, it once had tasked me sore
To baffle, but for my advantages!
All's best as 't is: these scholars talk and talk.
[Seats himself
The Courtiers Welcome our Prince to Juliers!
-- to his heritage!
Our dutifullest service proffer we!
Clug. I, please your Highness, having exercised
The function of Grand Chamberlain at court,
With much acceptance, as men testify ...
Berth. I cannot greatly thank you, gentlemen!
The Pope declares my claim to the Duchy founded
On strictest justice -- you concede it, therefore
I do not wonder: and the kings my friends
Protest they mean to see such claim enforced, --
You easily may offer to assist
But there's a slight discretionary power
To serve me in the matter, you've had long,
Though late you use it. This is well to say --
But could you not have said it months ago?
I'm not denied my own Duke's truncheon true --
'T is flung me -- I stoop down, and from the ground
Pick it, with all you placid standers-by:
And now I have it, gems and mire at once.
Grace go with it to my soiled hands, you say!
Gui. (By Paul, the advocate our doughty friend
Cuts the best figure!)
Gau. If our ignorance
May have offended, sure our loyalty ...
Berth. Loyalty? Yours? Oh -- of yourselves you speak!
I mean the Duchess all this time, I hope!
And since I have been forced repeat my claims
As if they never had been urged before,
As I began, so must I end, it seems.
The formal answer to the grave demand!
What says the lady?
Courtiers. [One to another.] 1st Court. Marshal! 2d Court. Orator!
Gui. A variation of our mistress' way!
Wipe off his boots' dust, Clugnet! -- that, he waits!
1@st Court. Your place!
2d Court. Just now it was your own!
Gui. The devils!
Berth. [To Guibert.] Come forward, friend! -- you with the paper, there!
Is Juliers the first city I've obtained?
By this time, I may boast proficiency
In each decorum of the circumstance.
Give it me as she gave it -- the petition.
Demand, you style it! What's required, in brief?
What title's reservation, appanage's
Allowance? I heard all at Treves, last week.
Gau. [To Guibert.] "Give it him as she gave it!"
Gui. And why not?
[To Berthold.] The lady crushed your summons thus together,
And bade me, with the very greatest scorn
So fair a frame could hold, inform you ...
Courtiers. Stop -- Idiot!
Gui. -- Inform you she denied your claim,
Defied yourself! (I tread upon his heel,
The blustering advocate!)
Berth. By heaven and earth!
Dare you jest, sir?
Gui. Did they at Treves, last week?
Berth. [Starting up] Why then, I look much bolder than I knew,
And you prove better actors than I thought:
Since, as I live, I took you as you entered
For just so many dearest friends of mine,
Fled from the sinking to the rising power
-- The sneaking'st crew, in short, I e'er despised!
Whereas, I am alone here for the moment,
With every soldier left behind at Aix!
Silence? That means the worst? I thought as much!
What follows next?
Courtiers. Gracious Prince -- he raves!
Gui. He asked the truth and why not get the truth?
Berth. Am I a prisoner? Speak, will some body?
-- But why stand paltering with imbeciles?
Let me see her, or ...
Gui. Her, without her leave
Shall no one see: she's Duchess yet!
Courtiers. [Footsteps without, as they are disputing.] Good chance!
She's here -- the Lady Colombe's self!
Berth. 'Tis well!
[Aside] Array a handful this against my world?
Not ill done, truly! Were not this a mind
To match one's mind with? Colombe! Let us wait!
I failed so, under that gray convent wall!
She comes.
Gui. The Duchess! Strangers, range yourselves!
[As the Duchess enters in conversation with Valence, Berthold and the Courtiers fall back a
little.
Val. Grant that he has the right, dare I mistrust
Your power to acquiesce so patiently
As you believe, in such a dream-like change
Of fortune -- change abrupt, profound, complete?
3Duch. Ah, the first bitterness is over now!
Bitter I may have felt it to confront
The truth, and ascertain those natures' value
I had so counted on; that was a pang:
But I did bear it, and the worst is over.
Let the Prince take them!
Val. And take Juliers too?
-- Your people without crosses, wans and chains --
Only with hearts?
3Duch. There I feel guilty, sir!
I cannot give up what I never had:
For I ruled these, not them -- these stood between.
Shall I confess, sir? I have heard by stealth
Of Berthold from the first; more news and more;
Closer and closer swam the thunder cloud,
But I was safely housed with these, I knew.
At times when to the casement I would turn,
At a bird's passage or a flower-trail's play,
I caught the storm's red glimpses on its edge --
Yet I was sure some on of all these friends
Would interpose: I followed the bird's flight
Or plucked the flower -- some one would interpose!
Val. Not one thought on the People -- and Cleves there!
3Duch. Now, sadly conscious my real sway was missed,
Its shadow goes without so much regret:
Else could I not again thus calmly bid you,
Answer Prince Berthold!
Val. Then you acquiesce?
3Duch. Remember over whom it was I ruled!
Gui. [Stepping forward.] Prince Berthold, yonder, craves an audience, lady!
3Duch. [To Valence.] I only have to turn and I shall face
Prince Berthold! Oh, my very heart is sick!
It is the daughter of a line of Dukes
This scornful insolent adventurer
Will bid depart from my dead father's halls!
I shall not answer him -- dispute with him --
But, as he bids, depart! Prevent it, sir!
Sir -- but a mere day's respite! Urge for me
-- What I shall call to mind I should have urged
When time's gone by --'t will all be mine, you urge!
A day -- an hour -- that I myself may lay
My rule down! 'T is too sudden -- must not be!
The world's to hear of it! Once done -- forever!
How will it read, sir? How be sung about?
Prevent it!
Berth. [Approaching.] Your frank indignation, lady,
Cannot escape me. Overbold I seem;
But somewhat should be pardoned my surprise
At this reception -- this defiance, rather.
And if, for their and your sake, I rejoice
Your virtues could inspire a trusty few
To make such gallant stand in your behalf,
I cannot but be sorry, for my own,
Your friends should force me to retrace my steps:
Since I no longer am permitted speak
After the pleasant peaceful course prescribed
No less by courtesy than relationship --
Which I remember, if you once forgot.
But never must attack pass unrepelled.
Suffer that, through you, I demand of these.
Who controverts my claim to Juliers?
3Duch. -- Me
You say, you do not speak to --
Berth. Of your subjects
I ask, then: whom do you accredit? Where
Stand those who should answer?
Val. [Advancing.] The lady is alone.
Berth. Alone, and thus? So weak and yet so bold?
Val. I said she was alone --
Berth. And weak, I said.
Val. When is man strong until he feels alone?
It was some lonely strength at first, be sure,
Created organs, such as those you seek
By which to give it varied purpose shape:
And, naming the selected ministrants,
Took sword, and shield, and sceptre, -- each, a man!
That strength performed its work and passed its way:
You see our lady: there, the old shapes stand!
-- A Marshal, Chamberlain, and Chancellor --
"Be helped their way, into their death, put life
And find advantage!" -- so you counsel us.
But let strength feel alone, seek help itself, --
And, as the inland-hatched sea-creature hunts
The sea's beast out, -- as, littered 'mid the waves
The desert-brute makes for the desert's joy,
So turns our lady to her true resource,
Passing o'er hollow fictions, worn-out types,
-- And I am first her instinct fastens on.
And prompt I say, as clear as heart can speak,
The People will not have you: nor shall have
It is not merely I shall go bring Cleves
And fight you to the last, -- though that does much,
And men and children, -- ay, and women too,
Fighting for home, are rather to be feared
Than mercenaries fighting for their pay --
But, say you beat us, since such things have been,
And, where this Juliers laughed, you set your foot
Upon a steaming bloody plash -- what then?
Stand you the more our lord that there you stand?
Lord it o'er troops whose force you concentrate,
A pillared flame whereto all ardors tend --
Lord it 'mid priests whose scheme amplify,
A cloud of smoke 'neath which all shadows brood --
But never, in this gentle spot of earth,
Can you become our Colombe, our play-queen.
For whom, to furnish lilies for her hair,
We'd pour our veins forth to enrich the soil!
-- Our conqueror? Yes! -- Our despot? Yes! -- Our Duke?
Know yourself, know us!
Berth. [Who has been in thought.] Know your lady, also!
[Very deferentially.] -- To whom I needs must exculpate myself
For having made a rash demand, at least.
Wherefore to you, sir, who appear to be
Her chief adviser, I submit my claims, [Giving papers.
But, this step taken, take no further step,
Until the Duchess shall pronounce their worth.
Here be our meeting-place; at night, its time:
Till when I humbly take the lady's leave!
[He withdraws. As the Duchess turns to Valence, the Courtiers interchange glances and come
forward a little.
1st Court. So, this was their device!
2d Court. No bad device!
3d Court. You'd say they love each other, Guibert's friend
From Cleves, and she, the Duchess!
4th Court. -- And moreover,
That all Prince Berthold comes for, is to help
Their loves!
5th Court. Pray, Guibert, what is next to do?
Gui. I laid my office at the Duchess' foot --
Others. And I -- and I -- and I!
3Duch. I took them, sirs.
Gui. [Apart to Valence.] And now, sir, I am simple knight again --
Guibert, of the great ancient house, as yet
That never bore affront; whate'er your birth, --
As things stand now, I recognize yourself
(If you'll accept experience of some date)
As like to be the leading man o' the time,
Therefore as much above me now, as I
Seemed above you this morning. Then, I offered
To fight you; will you be as generous
And now fight me?
Val. Ask when my life is mine!
Gui. ('T is hers now!)
Clug. [Apart to Valence, as Guibert turns from him.] You, sir, have insulted me
Grossly, -- will grant me, too, the selfsame favor
You've granted him, just now, I make no question?
Val. I promise you, as him, sir.
Clug. Do you so?
Handsomely said! I hold you to it, sir.
You'll get me reinstated in my office
As you will Guibert!
3Duch. I would be alone!
[They begin to retire slowly: as Valence is about to follow --
Alone, sir -- only with my heart: you stay!
Gau. You hear that? Ah, light breaks upon me! Cleves --
It was at Cleves some man harangued us all --
With great effect, -- so those who listened said,
My thoughts being busy elsewhere: was this he?
Guibert, -- your strange, disinterested man!
Your uncorrupted, if uncourtly friend!
The modest worth you mean to patronize!
He cares about no Duchesses, not he!
His sole concern is with the wrongs of Cleves!
What, Guibert? What, it breaks on you at last?
Gui. Would this hall's floor were a mine's roof! I'd back
And in her very face ...
Gau. Apply the match
That fired the train, -- and where would you be, pray?
Gui. With him!
Gau. Stand, rather, safe outside with me?
The mine's charged: shall I furnish you the match
And place you properly? To the antechamber!
Gui. Can you?
Gau. Try me! Your friend's in fortune!
Gui. Quick --
To the antechamber! He is pale with bliss!
Gau. No wonder! Mark her eyes!
Gui. To the antechamber! [The Courtiers retire.
3Duch. Sir, could you know all you have done for me
You were content! You spoke, and I am saved.
Val. Be not too sanguine, lady! Ere you dream,
The transient flush of generosity
Fades off, perchance! The man, beside, is gone --
Him we might bend; but see, the papers here --
Inalterably his requirement stays,
And cold hard words have we to deal with now.
In that large eye there seemed a latent pride,
To self-denial not incompetent,
But very like to hold itself dispensed
From such a grace: however, let us hope!
He is a noble spirit in noble form.
I wish he less had bent that brow to smile
As with the fancy how he could subject
Himself upon occasion to -- himself!
From rudeness, violence, you rest secure;
But do not think your Duchy rescued yet!
3Duch. You, who have opened a new world to me,
Will never take the faded language up
Of that I leave? My Duchy -- keeping it,
Or losing it -- is that my sole world now?
Val. Ill have I spoken if you thence despise
Juliers; although the lowest, on true grounds,
Be worth more than the highest rule, or false:
Aspire to rule, on the true grounds!
3Duch. Nay, hear --
False, I will never -- rash, I would not be!
This is indeed my birthday -- soul and body,
Its hours have done on me the work of years.
You hold the requisition: ponder it!
If I have right, my duty's plain: if he --
Say so, nor ever change a tone of voice!
At night you meet the Prince; meet me at eve!
Till then, farewell! This discomposes you?
Believe in your own nature, and its force
Of renovating mine! I take my stand
Only as under me the earth is firm:
So, prove the first step stable, all will prove.
That first, I choose -- [Laying her hand on his]
-- the next to take, choose you. [She withdraws.
Val. [After a pause.] What drew down this on me? -- on me, dead once,
She thus bids live, -- since all I hitherto
Thought dead in me, youth's ardor's and emprise,
Burst into life before her, as she bids
Who needs them. Whither will this reach, where end?
Her hand's print burns on mine ... Yet she's above --
So very far above me! All's too plain:
I served her when the others sank away,
And she rewards me as such souls reward --
The changed voice, the suffusion of the cheek,
The eye's acceptance, the expressive hand,
-- Reward, that's little, in her generous thought,
Though all to me ...
I cannot so disclaim
Heaven's gift, nor call it other than it is!
She loves me!
[Looking at the Prince's papers.] -- Which love, these, perchance, forbid.
Can I decide against myself -- pronounce
She is the Duchess and no mate for me?
-- Cleves, help me! Teach me, -- every haggard face, --
To sorrow and endure! I will do right
Whatever be the issue. Help me, Cleves!






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