Saint's Tragedy, The - Scene 4

SCENE IV.

The same . ELIZABETH lying on Straw in a
corner. A crowd of Women round her . C
ONRAD entering .

Con . As I expected —
A sermon-mongering herd about her death-bed,
Stifling her with fusty sighs, as flocks of rooks
Despatch, with pious pecks, a wounded brother.
Cant, howl, and whimper! Not an old fool in the town
Who thinks herself religious, but must see
The last of the show and mob the deer to death.
( Advancing ) Hail! holy ones! How fares your charge to-day?
Abbess . After the blessed sacrament received,
As surfeited with those celestial viands,
And with the blood of life intoxicate,
She lay entranced: and only stirred at times
To eructate sweet edifying doctrine
Culled from your darling sermons
Woman . Heavenly grace
Imbues her so throughout, that even when pricked
She feels no pain.
Con . A miracle, no doubt.
Heaven's work is ripe, and like some more I know,
Having begun in the spirit, in the flesh
She's now made perfect: she hath had warnings, too,
Of her decease; and prophesied to me,
Three weeks ago, when I lay like to die,
That I should see her in her coffin yet.
Abbess . 'Tis said, she heard in dreams her Saviour call her
To mansions built for her from everlasting.
Con . Ay, so she said.
Abbess . But tell me, in her confession
Was there no holy shame — no self-abhorrence
For the vile pleasures of her carnal wedlock?
Con . She said no word thereon: as for her shrift,
No Chrisom child could show a chart of thoughts
More spotless than were hers.
Nun . Strange, she said nought;
I had hoped she had grown more pure.
Con . When, next, I asked her,
How she would be interred; " In the vilest weeds, "
Quoth she, " my poor hut holds; I will not pamper
When dead, that flesh, which living I despised
And for my wealth, see it to the last doit
Bestowed upon the poor of Christ "
2 d Woman . Oh grace!
3 d Woman . Oh soul to this world poor, but rich toward God!
Eliz . ( awaking ) Hark! how they cry for bread!
Poor souls! be patient!
I have spent all —
I'll sell myself for a slave — feed them with the price.
Come Guta! Nurse! We must be up and doing!
Alas! they are gone, and begging!
Go! go! They'll beat me, if I give you aught:
I'll pray for you, and so you'll go to Heaven
I am a saint — God grants me all I ask.
But I must love no creature. Why, Christ loved —
Mary He loved, and Martha, and their brother —
Three friends! and I have none!
When Lazaras lay dead, He groaned in spirit,
And wept — like any widow — Jesus wept!
I'll weep, weep, weep! pray for that " gift of tears. "
They took my friends away, but not my eyes,
Oh, husband, babes, friends, nurse! To die alone!
Crack, frozen brain! Melt, icicle within!
Women . Alas! sweet saint! By bitter pangs she wins
Her crown of endless glory!
Con . But she wins it!
Stop that vile sobbing; she's unmanned enough
Without your maudlin sympathy.
Eliz . What? weeping?
Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me —
Weep for yourselves.
Women . We do, alas! we do!
What are we without you?
Women . Oh, listen, listen!
What sweet sounds from her fast-closed lips are welling,
As from the caverned shaft, deep miners' songs?
Eliz ( in a low voice ). Through the stifling room
Floats strange perfume;
Through the crumbling thatch
The angels watch,
Over the rotting roof-tree.
They warble, and flutter, and hover and glide,
Wafting old sounds to my dreary bedside,
Snatches of songs which I used to know
When I slept by my nurse, and the swallows
Called me at day-dawn from under the eaves.
Hark to them! Hark to them now —
Fluting like woodlarks, tender and low —
Cool rustling leaves — tinkling waters —
Sheepbells over the lea —
In their silver plumes Eden-gales whisper —
In their hands Eden-lilies — not for me — not for me —
No crown for the poor fond bride!
The song told me so,
Long, long ago,
How the maid chose the white lily;
But the bride she chose
The red red rose,
And by its thorn died she.
Well — in my Father's house are many mansions —

I have trodden the waste howling ocean-foam,
Till I stand upon Canaan's shore,
Where Crusaders from Zion's towers call me home,
To the saints who are gone before.

Con . Still on Crusaders?
Abbess . What was that sweet song, which just now, my Princess,
You murmured to yourself?
Eliz . Did you not hear
A little bird between me and the wall,
That sang and sang?
Abbess . We heard him not, fair Saint.
Eliz . I heard him, and his merry carol revelled
Through all my brain, and woke my parched throat
To join his song: then angel melodies
Burst through the dull dark, and the mad air quivered
Unutterable music. Nay, you heard him
Abbess . Nought save yourself.
Eliz . Slow hours! Was that the cock-crow?
Woman . St. Peter's bird did call.
Eliz . Then I must up —
To matins, and to work — No, my work's over.
And what is it, what?
One drop of oil on the salt seething ocean!
Thank God, that one was born at this same hour,
Who did our work for us: we'll talk of Him:
We shall go mad with thinking of ourselves —
We'll talk of Him, and of that new-made star
Which, as He stooped into the Virgin's side,
From off His finger, like a signet-gem,
He dropped in the empyrean for a sign.
But the first tear He shed at this His birth-hour,
When He crept weeping forth to see our woe,
Fled up to Heaven in mist, and hid for ever
Our sins, our works, and that same new-made star.
Woman . Poor soul! she wanders!
Con . Wanders, fool? her madness
Is worth a million of your paters, mumbled
At every station between —
Eliz . Oh! thank God
Our eyes are dim! What should we do, if he,
The sneering fiend, who laughs at all our toil,
Should meet us face to face?
Con . We'd call him fool.
Eliz . There! There! Fly, Satan, fly! 'Tis gone!
Con . The victory's gained at last!
The fiend is baffled, and her saintship sure!
Oh, people blest of Heaven!
Eliz . Oh, master, master
You will not let the mob, when I lie dead,
Make me a show — paw over all my limbs —
Pull out my hair — pluck off my finger-nails —
Wear scraps of me for charms and amulets,
As if I were a mummy, or a drug?
As they have done to others — I have seen it —
Nor set me up in ugly naked pictures
In every church, that cold world-hardened wits
May gossip o'er my secret tortures? Promise —
Swear to me! I demand it!
Con . No man lights
A candle, to be hid beneath a bushel:
Thy virtues are the Church's dower: endure
All which the edification of the faithful
Makes needful to be published
Eliz . Oh, my God!
I had stripped myself of all, but modesty!
Dost Thou claim yet that victim? Be it so.
Now take me home! I have no more to give Thee!
So weak — and yet no pain — why, now nought ails me!
How dim the lights burn! Here —
Where are you, children?
Alas! I had forgotten.
Now I must sleep — for ere the sun shall rise,
I must begone upon a long, long journey
To him I love
Con . She means her heavenly Bridegroom —
The Spouse of souls.
Eliz . I said, to him I love.
Let me sleep, sleep.
You will not need to wake me — so — good-night.
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