Saint's Tragedy, The - Scene 3

SCENE III.

A Chamber in the Bishop's Palace at Bamberg .
E LIZABETH and G UTA .

Guta . You have determined?
Eliz . Yes — to go with him
I have kept my oath too long to break it now
I will to Marpurg, and there waste away
In meditation and in pious deeds,
Till God shall set me free.
Guta . How if your uncle
Will have you marry? Day and night, they say,
He talks of nothing else
Eliz . Never, girl, never!
Save me from that at least, oh, God!
Guta . He spoke
Of giving us, your maidens, to his knights
In carnal wedlock: but I fear him not:
For God's own word is pledged to keep me pure —
I am a maid.
Eliz . And I, alas! am none!
Oh, Guta! dost thou mock my widowed love?
I was a wife — 'tis true: I was not worthy —
But there was meaning in that first wild fancy;
'Twas but the innocent springing of the sap —
The witless yearning of an homeless heart —
Do I not know that God has pardoned me?
But now — to rouse and turn of mine own will,
In cool and full foreknowledge, this worn soul
Again to that, which, when God thrust it on me,
Bred but one shame of ever-gnawing doubt,
Were — No, my burning cheeks! We'll say no more.
Ah! loved and lost! Though God's chaste grace should fail me,
My weak idolatry of thee would give
Strength that should keep me true: with mine own hands
I'd mar this tear-worn face, till petulant man
Should loathe its scarred and shapeless ugliness.
Guta . But your poor children? What becomes of them?
Eliz . Oh! she who was not worthy of a husband
Does not deserve his children. What are they, darlings,
But snares to keep me from my heavenly spouse
By picturing the spouse I must forget?
Well — 'tis blank horror. Yet if grief's good for me,
Let me down into grief's blackest pit,
And follow out God's cure by mine own deed.
Guta . What will your kinsfolk think?
Eliz . What will they think!
What pleases them. That argument's a staff
Which breaks whene'er you lean on't. Trust me, girl,
That fear of man sucks out love's soaring ether,
Baffles faith's heavenward eyes, and drops us down,
To float, like plumeless birds, on any stream
Have I not proved it?
There was a time with me, when every eye
Did scorch like flame: if one looked cold on me,
I straight accused myself of mortal sins:
Each fopling was my master: I have lied
From very fear of mine own serving-maids. — —
That's past, thank God's good grace!
Guta . And now you leap
To the other end of the line.
Eliz . In self-defence.
I am too weak to live by half my conscience;
I have no wit to weigh and choose the mean;
Life is too short for logic; what I do
I must do simply; God alone must judge —
For God alone shall guide, and God's elect —
I shrink from earth's chill frosts too much to crawl —
I have snapped opinion's chains, and now I'll soar
Up to the blazing sunlight, and be free.

The Bishop of B AMBERG enters . C ONRAD
following .

Bishop . The Devil plagued St. Antony in the likeness of a lean friar! Between mad monks and mad women, bedlam's broke loose, I think.
Con . When the spirit first descended on the elect, seculars then, too, said mocking, " These men are full of new wine. "
Bishop . Seculars, truly! If I had not in my secularity picked up a spice of chivalry to the ladies, I should long ago have turned out you and your regulars, to cant elsewhere. Plague on this gout — I must sit.
Eliz . Let me settle your cushion, uncle.
Bishop . So! girl! I sent for you from Botenstain I had a mind, now, to have kept you there until your wits returned, and you would say Yes to some young noble suitor. As if I had not had trouble enough about your dower! — If I had had to fight for it, I should not have minded: — but these palavers and conferences have fretted me into the gout: and now you would throw all away again, tired with your toy, I suppose. What shall I say to the Counts, Varila, and the Cupbearer, and all the noble knights who will hazard their lands and lives, in trying to right you with that traitor? I am ashamed to look them in the face! To give all up to the villain! — To pay him for his treason!
Eliz . Uncle, I give but what to me is worthless He loves these baubles — let him keep them, then: I have my dower.
Bishop . To squander on nuns and beggars, at this rogue's bidding? Why not marry some honest man? You may have your choice of kings and princes; and if you have been happy with one gentleman, Mass! say I, why can't you be happy with another? What saith the Scripture? " I will that the younger widows marry, bear children, " — not run after monks, and what not — What's good for the filly, is good for the mare, say I
Eliz . Uncle, I soar now at a higher pitch —
To be henceforth the bride of Christ alone.
Bishop . Ahem! — a pious notion — in moderation. We must be moderate, my child, moderate: I hate overdoing anything — especially religion
Con . Madam, between your uncle and myself.
This question in your absence were best mooted.
Bishop . How, priest? do you order her about like a servant-maid?
Con . The saints forbid! Now — ere I lose a moment —
( Aside ) All things to all men be — and so save some —
( Aloud ) Forgive, your grace, forgive me,
If mine unmannered speech in aught have clashed
With your more tempered and melodious judgment:
Your courage will forgive an honest warmth.
God knows, I serve no private interests.
Bishop . Your order's, hey? to wit?
Con . My lord, my lord,
There may be higher aims: but what I said,
I said but for our Church, and our cloth's honour.
Ladies' religion, like their love, we know,
Requires a gloss of verbal exaltation,
Lest the sweet souls should understand themselves;
And clergymen must talk up to the mark.
Bishop . We all know, Gospel preached in the mother-tongue
Sounds too like common sense.
Con . Or too unlike it:
You know the world, your grace; you know the sex —
Bishop . Ahem! As a spectator.
Con . Philosophice —
Just so — You know their rage for shaven crowns —
How they'll deny their God — but not their priest —
Flirts — scandal-mongers — in default of both come
Platonic love — worship of art and genius —
Idols which make them dream of heaven, as girls
Dream of their sweethearts, when they sleep on bride-cake.
It saves from worse — we are not all Abelards.
Bishop ( aside ). Some of us have his tongue, if not his face.
Con . There lies her fancy; do but balk her of it —
She'll bolt to cloisters, like a rabbit scared
Head her from that — she'll wed some pink-faced boy —
The more low-bred and penniless, the likelier.
Send her to Marpurg, and her brain will cool.
Tug at the kite, 'twill only soar the higher:
Give it but line, my lord, 'twill drop like slate.
Use but that eagle's glance, whose daring foresight
In chapter, camp, and council, wins the wonder
Of timid trucklers — Scan results and outcomes —
The scale is heavy in your grace's favour.
Bishop . Bah! priest! What can this Marpurg-madness do for me?
Con . Leave you the tutelage of all her children.
Bishop . Thank you — to play the dry-nurse to three starving brats
Con . The minor's guardian guards the minor's lands.
Bishop . Unless they are pitched away in building hospitals.
Con . Instead of fattening in your wisdom's keeping.
Bishop . Well, well, — but what gross scandal to the family!
Con . The family, my lord, would gain a saint.
Bishop . Ah! monk, that canonisation costs a frightful sum.
Con . These fees, just now, would gladly be remitted.
Bishop . These are the last days, faith, when Rome's too rich to take!
Con . The Saints forbid, my lord, the fisher's see
Were so o'ercursed by Mammon! But you grieve,
I know, to see foul weeds of heresy
Of late o'errun your diocese.
Bishop . Ay, curse them!
I've hanged some dozens
Con . Worthy of yourself!
But yet the faith needs here some mighty triumph —
Some bright example, whose resplendent blaze
May tempt that fluttering tribe within pale
Of Holy Church again —
Bishop . To singe their wings?
Con . They'll not come near enough Again — there are
Who dare arraign your prowess, and assert
A churchman's energies were better spent
In pulpits than the tented field. Now mark —
Mark, what a door is opened. Give but scope
To this her huge capacity for sainthood —
Set her, a burning and a shining light
To all your people — Such a sacrifice,
Such loan to God of your own flesh and blood,
Will silence envious tongues, and prove you wise
For the next world as for this; will clear your name
From calumnies which argue worldliness;
Buy of itself the joys of paradise;
And clench your lordship's interest with the pontiff.
Bishop . Well, well, we'll think on't
Con . Sir, I doubt you not.

Re-enter E LIZABETH

Eliz . Uncle, I am determined.
Bishop . So am I.
You shall to Marpurg with this holy man.
Eliz . Ah, there you speak again like my own uncle.
I'll go — to rest ( aside ) and die. I only wait
To see the bones of my beloved laid
In some fit resting-place. A messenger
Proclaims them near. Oh, God!
Bishop . We'll go, my child,
And meeting them with all due honour, show
In our own worship, honourable minds.
Bishop . A messenger! How far off are they, then?
Serv . Some two days' journey, sir.
Bishop . Two days' journey, and nought prepared? Here, chaplain — Brother Hippodamas! Chaplain, I say! (H IPPODAMAS enters ). Call the apparitor — ride off with him, right and left — Don't wait even to take your hawk — Tell my knights to be with me, with all their men-at-arms, at noon on the second day. Let all be of the best, say — the brightest of arms and the newest of garments. Mass! we must show our smartest before these crusaders — they'll be full of new fashions, I warrant 'em — the monkeys that have seen the world. And here, boy ( to a P AGE ), set me a stoup of wine in the oriel-room, and another for this good monk.
Con . Pardon me, blessedness — but holy rule —
Bishop . Oh! I forgot — A pail of water and a peck of beans for the holy man! — Order up my equerry, and bid my armourer — vestryman; I mean — look out my newest robes. — Plague on this gout.
p Exeunt, following the Bishop .
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