Saint's Tragedy, The - Scene 2

SCENE II.

A Chamber in the Castle . E LIZABETH — the Fool — I SENIRUDIS — G UIA singing .

Far among the lonely hills,
As I lay beside my sheep,
Rest came down upon my soul,
From the everlasting deep.

Changeless march the stars above,
Changeless morn succeeds to even;
And the everlasting hills,
Changeless watch the changeless heaven.

See the rivers, how they run,
Changeless to the changeless sea;
All around is forethought sure,
Fixed will and stern decree.

Can the sailor move the main?
Will the potter heed the clay?
Mortal! where the spirit drives,
Thither must the wheels obey.

Neither ask, nor fret, nor strive:
Where thy path is, thou shalt go.
He who made the streams of time
Wafts thee down to weal or woe.

Eliz . That's a sweet song, and yet it does not chime
With my heart's inner voice. Where had you it, Guta?
Guta . From a nun who was a shepherdess in her
youth — sadly plagued she was by a cruel stepmother,
till she fled to a convent and found rest to her soul.
Fool . No doubt; nothing so pleasant as giving up
one's will in one's own way. But she might have
learnt all that without taking cold on the hill-tops.
Eliz . Where then, Fool?
Fool . At any market-cross where two or three roguesare together, who have neither grace to mend, nor courage to say " I did it. " Now you shall see the shepherdess' baby dressed in my cap and bells

When I was a greenhorn and young,
And wanted to be and to do,
I puzzled my brains about choosing my line,
Till I found out the way that things go.

The same piece of clay makes a tile,
A pitcher, a taw, or a brick:
Dan Horace knew life; you may cut out a saint,
Or a bench, from the self-same stick.

The urchin who squalls in a gaol,
By circumstance turns out a rogue;
While the castle-born brat is a senator born,
Or a saint, if religion's in vogue.

We fall on our legs in this world,
Blind kittens, tossed in neck and heels:
'Tis Dame Circumstance licks Nature's cubs into shape,
She's the mill-head, if we are the wheels.

Then why puzzle and fret, plot and dream?
He that's wise will just follow his nose;
Contentedly fish, while he swims with the stream;
'Tis no business of his where it goes.
Eliz . Far too well sung for such a saucy song So go
Fool . Ay, I'll go. Whip the dog out of church, and then rate him for being no Christian.
Eliz . Guta, there is sense in that knave's ribaldry:
We must not thus baptize our idleness,
And call it resignation: Which is love?
To do God's will, or merely suffer it?
I do not love that contemplative life:
No! I must headlong into seas of toil,
Leap forth from self, and spend my soul on others.
Oh! contemplation palls upon the spirit,
Like the chill silence of an autumn sun:
While action, like the roaring south-west wind,
Sweep laden with elixirs, with rich draughts
Quickening the wombed earth
Guta And yet what bliss,
When dying in the darkness of God's light;
The soul can pierce these blinding webs of nature,
And float up to The Nothing, which is all things —
The ground of being, where self-forgetful silence
Is emptiness, — emptiness fulness, — fulness God, —
Till we touch Him, and like a snow-flake, melt
Upon His light-sphere's keen circumference!
Eliz . Hast thou felt this?
Guta . In part.
Eliz . Oh, happy Guta!
Mine eyes are dim — and what if I mistook
For God's own self, the phantoms of my brain?
And who am I, that my own will's intent
Should put me face to face with the living God?
I, thus thrust down from the still lakes of thought
Upon a boiling crater-field of labour.
No! He must come to me, not I to Him;
If I see God, beloved, I must see Him
In mine own self: —
Guta . Thyself?
Eliz . Why start, my sister?
God is revealed in the crucified:
The crucified must be revealed in me: —
I must put on His righteousness; show forth
His sorrow's glory; hunger, weep with Him;
Writhe with His stripes, and let this aching flesh
Sink through His fiery baptism into death,
That I may rise with Him, and in His likeness
May ceaseless heal the sick, and soothe the sad,
And give away like Him this flesh and blood
To feed His lambs — ay — we must die with Him
To sense — and love —
Guta To love? What then becomes
Of marriage vows?
Eliz . I know it — so speak not of them.
Oh! that's the flow, the chasm in all my longings,
Which I have spanned with cobweb arguments,
Yet yawns before me still, where'er I turn,
To bar me from perfection; had I given
My virgin all to Christ! I was not worthy!
I could not stand alone!
Guta . Here comes your husband
Eliz . He comes! my sun! and every thrilling vein
Proclaims my weakness.
Lewis . Good news, my Princess; in the street below
Conrad, the man of God from Marpurg, stands,
And from a bourne-stone to the simple folk
Does thunder doctrine, preaching faith, repentance,
And dread of all foul heresies; his eyes
On heaven still set, save when with searching frown
He lours upon the crowd, who round him cower
Like quails beneath the hawk, and gape, and tremble,
Now raised to heaven, now down again to hell.
I stood beside and heard; like any doe's
My heart did rise and fall.
Eliz . Oh, let us hear him!
We too need warning; shame, if we let pass,
Unentertained, God's angels on their way.
Send for him, brother.
Lewis Let a knight go down
And say to the holy man, the Landgrave Lewis
With humble greetings prays his blessedness
To make these secular walls the spirit's temple
At least to-night.
Eliz . Now go, my ladies, both —
Prepare fit lodgings, — let your courtesies
Retain in our poor courts the man of God.
Now hear me, best beloved: — I have marked this man;
And that which hath scared others, draws me towards him:
He has the graces which I want; his sternness
I envy for its strength; his fiery boldness
I call the earnestness which dares not trifle
With life's huge stake; his coldness but the calm
Of one who long hath found, and keeps unwavering,
Clear purpose still; he hath the gift which speaks
The deepest things most simply; in his eye
I dare be happy — weak I dare not be.
With such a guide, — to save this little heart —
The burden of self-rule — Oh — half my work
Were eased, and I could live for thee and thine,
And take no thought of self. Oh, be not jealous,
Mine own, mine idol! For thy sake I ask it —
I would but be a mate and help more meet
For all thy knightly virtues
Lewis 'Tis too true!
I have felt it long; we stand, two weakling children,
Under too huge a burden, while temptations
Like adders swarm up round: I must be led —
But thou alone shalt lead me.
Eliz . I? beloved!
This load more? Strengthen, Lord, the feeble knees!
Lewis Yes! thou, my queen, who making thyself once mine,
Hast made me sevenfold thine; I own thee guide
Of my devotions, mine ambition's loadstar,
The Saint whose shrine I serve with lance and lute;
If thou wilt have a ruler, let him be,
Through thee, the ruler of thy slave.
Eliz . Oh, kneel not —
But grant my prayer — If we shall find this man,
As well I know him, worthy, let him be
Director of my conscience and my actions
With all but thee — Within love's inner shrine
We shall be still alone — But joy! here comes
Our embassy, successful

Enter C ONRAD , with Count W ALTER , Monks, Ladies, etc .

Conrad . Peace to this house
Eliz Hail to your holiness.
Lewis . The odour of your sanctity and might,
With balmy steam and gales of Paradise,
Forestals you hither.
Eliz . Bless us doubly, master,
With holy doctrine, and with holy prayers.
Con . Children, I am the servant of Christ's servants —
And needs must yield to those who may command
By right of creed; I do accept your bounty —
Not for myself, but for that priceless name,
Whose dread authority and due commission,
Attested by the seal of His vicegerent,
I bear unworthy here; through my vile lips
Christ and His vicar thank you; on myself —
And these, my brethren, Christ's adopted poor —
A menial's crust, and some waste nook, or dog-hutch,
Wherein the worthless flesh may nightly hide,
Are best bestowed
Eliz . You shall be where you will —
Do what you will; unquestioned, unobserved,
Enjoy, refrain; silence and solitude,
The better part which such like spirits choose,
We will provide; only be you our master,
And we your servants, for a few short days:
Oh, blessed days!
Con . Ah, be not hasty, madam;
Think whom you welcome; one who has no skill
To wink and speak smooth things; whom fear of God
Constrains to daily wrath; who brings, alas!
A sword, not peace: within whose bones the word
Burns like a pent-up fire, and makes him bold
If aught in you or yours shall seem amiss,
To cry aloud and spare not; let me go —
To pray for you — as I have done long time,
Is sweeter than to chide you.
Eliz . Then your prayers
Shall drive home your rebukes; for both we need you —
Our snares are many, and our sins are more
So say not nay — I'll speak with you apart.
Lewis ( aside ) Well, Walter mine, how like you the good legate?
Wal . Walter has seen nought of him but his eye;
And that don't please him.
Lewis . How so, sir! that face
Is pure and meek — a calm and thoughtful eye.
Wal . A shallow, stony, steadfast eye; that looks at neither man nor beast in the face, but at something invisible a yard before him, through you and past you, at a fascination, a ghost of fixed purposes that haunts him, from which neither reason nor pity will turn him. I have seen such an eye in men possessed — with devils, or with self: sleek, passionless men, who are too refined to be manly, and measure their grace by their effeminacy; crooked vermin, who swarm up in pious times, being drowned out of their earthly haunts by the spring-tide of religion; and so making a gain of godliness, swim upon the first of the flood, till it cast them ashore on the firm beach of wealth and station. I always mistrust those wall-eyed saints.
Lewis . Beware, Sir Count; your keen and worldly wit
Is good for worldly uses, not to tilt
Withal at holy men and holy things.
He pleases well the spiritual sense
Of my most peerless lady, whose discernment
Is still the touchstone of my grosser fancy:
He is her friend, and mine: and you must love him
Even for our sakes alone ( to a bystander ) A word with you, sir

Eliz . I would be taught —
Con . It seems you claim some knowledge,
By choosing thus your teacher.
Eliz . I would know more — —
Con . Go then to the schools — and be no wiser, madam;
And let God's charge here run to waste, to seek
The bitter fruit of knowledge — hunt the rainbow
O'er hill and dale, while wisdom rusts at home

Eliz . I would be holy, master —

Con . Be so, then.
God's will stands fair: 'tis thine which fails, if any.

Eliz . I would know how to rule —

Con . Then must thou learn
The needs of subjects, and be ruled thyself.
Sink, if thou longest to rise; become most small —
The strength which comes by weakness makes thee great.

Eliz . I will.

Lewis . What, still at lessons? Come, my fairest sister,
Usher the holy man unto his lodgings.
Wal [alone]. So, so, the birds are limed: — Heaven grant that we do not soon see them stowed in separate cages. Well, here my prophesying ends. I shall go to my lands, and see how much the gentlemen my neighbours have stolen off them the last week, — Priests? Frogs in the king's bedchamber! What says the song?

I once had a hound, a right good hound,
A hound both fleet and strong:
He ate at my board, and he slept by my bed,
And ran with me all the day long.
But my wife took a priest, a shaveling priest,
And " such friendships are carnal," quoth he.
So my wife and her priest they drugged the poor beast,
And the rat's bane is waiting for me.
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