Henry the Eighth and Anne Boleyn

[ Scene, Tower of London , May 18, 1536.


A NNE B OLEYN , Sir W ILLIAM K INGSTON , Constable of the Tower.]

Anne Boleyn . Is your liege ill, sir, that you look so anxious?
Constable of the Tower . Madam!
Anne . I would not ask what you may wish
To keep a secret from me; but indeed
This right, I think, is left me . . I would know
If my poor husband is quite well to-day.
Constable . Pardon me, gracious lady! what can prompt
To this inquiry?
Anne . I have now my secret.
Constable . I must report all questions, sayings, doings,
Movements, and looks of yours. His Highness may
Be ruffled at this eagerness to ask
About his health.
Anne . I am used to ask about it.
Beside, he may remember . . .
Constable . For your Highness
Gladly will I remind our sovran Lord
Of any promise.
Anne . Oh, no! do not that!
It would incense him: he made only one,
And Heaven alone that heard him must remind him!
Last night, I do suspect, but am not sure,
He scarcely was what kings and husbands should be.
A little wine has great effect upon
Warm hearts (and Henry's heart was very warm)
And upon strong resentments . . . I do fear
He has those too . . But all his friends must love him.
He may have past (poor Henry!) a bad night,
Thinking upon his hasty resolution.
Constable . Lady! I grieve to tell you, worse than that . .
Far worse!
Anne . Oh, mercy, then! the child! the child!
Why not have told me of all this before?
What boots it to have been a guiltless wife,
When I, who should have thought the first about it,
Am an ill mother? Not to think of thee,
My darling! my Elizabeth! whose cradle
Rocks in my ear and almost crazes me.
Is she safe? Tell me, tell me, is she living?
Constable . Safe, lady, and asleep in rosy health,
And radiant (if there yet be light enough
To shew it on her face) with pleasant dreams,
Such as young angels come on earth to play with.
Anne . Were I but sure that I could dream of her
As I, until last autumn, oft have done,
Joyously, blithely, only waking up
Afraid of having hurt her by my arms
Too wildly in my rapture thrown around her,
I would lay down my weary head, and sleep,
Although the pillow be a little strange,
Nor like a bridal or a childbed pillow.
Constable . Oh, spare those words!
Anne . Why spare them? when I feel
Departure from this world would never be
Departure from its joys: the joys of heaven
Would mingle with them scarcely with fresh sweetness.
Constable ( falling on his knees ). My queen!
Anne . Arise, sir constable!
Constable . My queen!
Heaven's joys lie close before you.
Anne . And you weep?
Few days, I know, are left me; they will melt
All into one, all pure, all peaceable . .
No starts from slumber into bitter tears,
No struggles with sick hopes and wild desires,
No cruel father cutting down the tree
To crush the child that sits upon its boughs
And looks abroad . . too tender for suspicion,
Too happy even for hope, maker of happiness.
I could weep too, nor sinfully, at this.
Thou knowest, O my God! thou surely knowest
'Tis no repining at thy call or will.
(Constable, on his knees, presents the Writ of Execution .)
I can do nothing now . . take back that writing,
And tell them so, poor souls! Say to the widow
I grieve, and can but grieve for her; persuade her
That children, although fatherless, are blessings;
And teach those little ones, if e'er you see them,
They are not half so badly off as some.
Fold up the paper . . put it quite aside . .
I am no queen; I have no almoner . .
Ah, now I weep indeed! Put, put it by.
Many . . I grieve (yet, should I grieve?) to think it,
Many will often say, when I am gone,
They once had a young queen to pity them.
Nay, though I mention'd I had nought to give,
Yet dash not on your head, nor grapple so
With those ungentle hands, while I am here,
A helpless widow's innocent petition.
Smoothe it; return it with all courtesy:
Smoothe it, I say again: frame some kind words
And see they find their place, then tender it
What! in this manner gentlemen of birth
Present us papers? turn they thus away,
Putting their palms between their eyes and us?
Sir! I was queen . . and you were kind unto me
When I was queen no longer . . why so changed?
Give it . . but what is now my signature?
Ignorant are you, or incredulous,
That not a clasp is left me? not a stone
The vilest; not chalcedony; not agate.
Promise her all my dresses, when . . no, no . .
I am grown superstitious; they might bring
Misfortune on her, having been Anne Boleyn's.
Constable . Lady! I wish this scroll could suffocate
My voice. One order I must disobey,
To place it in your hand and mark you read it.
I lay it at your feet, craving your pardon
And God's, my lady!
Anne . Rise up; give it me;
I know it ere I read it, but I read it
Because it is the king's, whom I have sworn
To love and to obey.
Constable ( aside ). Her mind's distraught!
Alas, she smiles!
Anne . The worst hath long been over:
Henry loves courage; he will love my child
For this; although I want more than I have;
And yet how merciful at last is Heaven
To give me but thus much for her sweet sake.
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