Saint's Tragedy, The - Scene 4

SCENE IV.

The Nave of Bamberg Cathedral. A procession
entering the West Door, headed by E LIZABETH
and the Bishop, Nobles, etc. Religious bearing
the Coffin which encloses L EWIS' Bones .

1 st Lady . See! the procession comes — the mob streams in
At every door. Hark! how the steeples thunder
Their solemn bass above the wailing choir.
2 d Lady . They will stop at the screen.
Knight . And there, as I hear, open the coffin. Push forward, ladies, to that pillar: thence you will see all.
1st Peas . Oh dear! oh dear! If any man had told me that I should ride forty miles on this errand, to see him that went out flesh come home grass, like the flower of the field!
2 d Peas . We have changed him, but not mended him, say I, friend.
1 st Peas . Never we. He knew where a yeoman's heart lay! One that would clap a man on the back when his cow died, and behave like a gentleman to him — that never met you after a hailstorm without lightening himself of a few pocket-burners.
2 d Peas . Ay, that's your poor-man's plaster: that's your right grease for this world's creaking wheels.
1 st Peas . Nay, that's your rich man's plaster too, and covers the multitude of sins. That's your big pike's swimming-bladder, that keeps him atop and feeding: that's his calling and election, his oil of anointing, his salvum fac regem , his yeoman of the wardrobe, who keeps the velvet-piled side of this world uppermost, lest his delicate eyes should see the warp that holds it.
2 d Peas . Who's the warp, then?
1 st Peas . We, man, the friezes and fustians, that rub on till we get frayed through with overwork, and then all's abroad, and the nakedness of Babylon is discovered, and catch who catch can.
Old Woman . Pity they only brought his bones home! He would have made a lovely corpse, surely. He was a proper man!
1 st Lady . Oh the mincing step he had with him! and the delicate hand on a horse, fingering the reins as St. Cicely does the organ-keys!
2 d Lady . And for hunting, another Siegfried.
Knight . If he was Siegfried the gay, she was Chriemhild the grim; and as likely to prove a fire-brand as the girl in the ballad.
1 st Lady . Gay, indeed! His smiles were like plumcake, the sweeter the deeper iced. I never saw him speak civil word to woman, but to her.
2 d Lady . Oh, ye Saints! There was honey spilt on the ground! If I had such a knight, I'd never freeze alone on the chamber-floor, like some that never knew when they were well off. I'd never elbow him off to crusades with my pruderies.
" Pluck your apples while they're ripe,
And pull your flowers in May, O! "
Eh! Mother?
Old Woman . " Till when she grew wizened, and he grew cold,
The balance lay even 'twixt young and old. "
Monk . Thus Satan bears witness perforce against the vanities of Venus! But what's this babbling? Carolationes in the holy place? Tace, vetula! taceas, taceto also, and that forthwith.
Old Woman . Tace in your teeth, and taceas also, begging-box! Who put the halter round his waist to keep it off his neck, — who? Get behind your screen, sirrah! Am I not a burgher's wife? Am I not in the nave? Am I not on my own ground? Have I brought up eleven children, without nurse wet or dry, to be taced nowadays by friars in the nave? Help! good folks! Where be these rooks a going?
Knight . The monk has vanished.
1 st Peas . It's ill letting out waters, he finds. Who is that old gentleman, sir, holds the Princess so tight by the hand?
Knight . Her uncle, knave, the Bishop.
1 st Peas . Very right, he: for she's almost a born natural, poor soul. It was a temptation to deal with her.
2d Peas . Thou didst cheat her shockingly, Frank, time o' the famine, on those nine sacks of maslin meal.
Knight . Go tell her of it, rascal, and she'll thank you for it, and give you a shilling for helping her to a " cross "
Old Woman . Taceing free women in the nave! This comes of your princesses, that turn the world upside down, and demean themselves to hob and nob with these black baldicoots!
Eliz . ( in a low voice ). I saw all Israel scattered on the hills
As sheep that have no shepherd! Oh, my people!
Who crowd with greedy eyes round this my jewel,
Poor ivory, token of his outward beauty —
Oh! had ye known his spirit! — Let his wisdom
Inform your light hearts with that Saviour's likeness
For whom he died! So had ye kept him with you;
And from the coming evils gentle Heaven
Had not withdrawn the righteous: 'tis too late!
1 st Lady . There now, she smiles; do you think she ever loved him?
Knight . Never creature, but mealy-mouthed inquisitors, and shaven singing birds. She looks now as glad to be rid of him as any colt broke loose.
1 st Lady . What will she do now, when this farce is over?
2 d Lady . Found an abbey, that's the fashion, and elect herself abbess — set up the first week for queen-of-all-souls — tyrannise over hysterical girls, who are forced to thank her for making them miserable, and so die a saint.
Knight . Will you pray to her, my fair queen?
2d Lady . Not I, sir; the old Saints send me lovers enough, and to spare — yourself for one.
1 st Lady . There is the giant-killer slain. But see — they have stopped: who is that raising the coffin lid?
2nd Lady . Her familiar spirit, Conrad the heretic catcher.
Knight . I do defy him! Thou art my only goddess; My saint, my idol, my — ahem!
1 st Lady . That well's run dry.
Look, how she trembles — Now she sinks, all shivering,
Upon the pavement — Why, you'll see nought there
Flirting behind the pillar — Now she rises —
And choking down that proud heart, turns to the altar —
Her hand upon the coffin.
Eliz . I thank thee, gracious Lord, who hast fulfilled
Thine handmaid's mighty longings, with the sight
Of my beloved's bones, and dost vouchsafe
This consolation to the desolate.
I grudge not, Lord, the victim which we gave Thee,
Both he and I, of his most precious life,
To aid Thine holy city: though Thou knowest
His sweetest presence was to this world's joy
As sunlight to the taper — Oh! hadst Thou spared —
Had Thy great mercy let us, hand in hand,
Have toiled through houseless shame, on beggar's dole,
I had been blest: Thou hast him, Lord, Thou hast him —
Do with us what Thou wilt! If at the price
Of this one silly hair, in spite of Thee,
I could reclothe these wan bones with his manhood,
And clasp to my shrunk heart my hero's self —
I would not give it!

I will weep no more —
Lead on, most holy; on the sepulchre
Which stands beside the choir, lay down your burden.
Now, gentle hosts, within the close hard by,
Will we our court, as queen of sorrows, hold —
The green graves underneath us, and above
The all-seeing vault, which is the eye of God,
Judge of the widow and the fatherless.
There will I plead my children's wrongs, and there,
If as I think, there boil within your veins
The deep sure currents of your race's manhood,
Ye'll nail the orphans' badge upon your shields,
And own their cause for God's. We name our champions —
Rudolf, the Cupbearer, Leutolf of Erlstetten,
Hartwig of Erba, and our loved Count Walter,
Our knights and vassals, sojourners among you
Follow us.
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