Saint's Tragedy, The - Scene 5

SCENE V.

A Hall in the Castle. In the background a Group
of diseased and deformed Beggars, C ONRAD
entering , E LIZABETH comes forward to meet
him .

Con . What dost thou, daughter?
Eliz . Ah, my honoured master!
That name speaks pardon, sure
Con . What dost thou, daughter?
Eliz . I have been washing these poor people's feet.
Con . A wise humiliation.
Eliz . So I meant it —
And use it as a penance for my pride;
And yet, alas, through my own vulgar likings
Or stubborn self-conceit, 'tis none to me.
I marvel how the Saints thus tamed their spirits:
Sure to be humbled by such toil, but proves,
Not cures, our lofty mind.
Con . Thou speakest well —
The knave who serves unto another's needs
Knows himself abler than the man who needs him;
And she who stoops, will not forget, that stooping
Implies a height to stoop from
Eliz . Could I see
My Saviour in His poor!
Con . Thou shalt hereafter:
But now to wash Christ's feet were dangerous honour
For weakling grace; would you be humble, daughter,
You must look up, not down, and see yourself
A paltry atom, sap-transmitting vein
Of Christ's vast vine; the prettiest joint and member
Of His great body; own no strength, no will,
Save that which from the ruling head's command
Through me, as nerve, derives; let thyself die —
And dying, rise again to fuller life
To be a whole is to be small and weak —
To be a part is to be great and mighty
In the one spirit of the mighty whole —
The spirit of the martyrs and the saints —
The spirit of the queen, on whose towered neck
We hang, blest ringlets!
Eliz . Why! thine eyes flash fire!
Con . But hush! such words are not for courts and halls —
Alone with God and me, thou shalt hear more.
Eliz . As when rich chanting ceases suddenly —
And the rapt sense collapses! — Oh, that Lewis
Could feed my soul thus! But to work — to work —
What wilt thou, little maid? Ah, I forgot thee —
Thy mother lies in childbed — Say, in time
I'll bring the baby to the font myself.
It knits them unto me, and me to them,
That bond of sponsorship — How now, good dame —
Whence then so sad?
Woman . An't please your nobleness,
My neighbour Gretl is with her husband laid
In burning fever
Eliz . I will come to them.
Woman Alack, the place is foul for such as you;
And fear of plague has cleared the lane of lodgers;
If you could send — —
Eliz . What? where I am afraid
To go myself, send others? That's strange doctrine.
I'll be with you anon.

Isen . Why, here's a weight — these cordials now, and simples,
Want a stout page to bear them; yet her fancy
Is still to go alone, to help herself. —
Where will 't all end? In madness, or the grave?
No limbs can stand these drudgeries: no spirit
The fretting harrow which this ruffian priest
Calls education —
Ah! here comes our Count.
Too late, sir, and too seldom — Where have you been
These four months past, while we are sold for bond-slaves
Unto a peevish friar?
Wal . Why, my fair rosebud —
A trifle overblown, but not less sweet —
I have been pining for you, till my hair
Is as gray as any badger's.
Isen . I'll not jest.
Wal . What? has my wall-eyed Saint shown you his temper?
Isen . The first of his peevish fancies was, that she should eat nothing which was not honestly and peaceably come by.
Wal . Why, I heard that you too had joined that sect.
Isen . And more fool I. But ladies are bound to set an example — while they are not bound to ask where everything comes from: with her, poor child, scruples and starvation were her daily diet; meal after meal she rose from table empty, unless the Landgrave nodded and winked her to some lawful eatable; till she that used to take her food like an angel, without knowing it, was thinking from morning to night whether she might eat this, that, or the other.
Wal . Poor Eves! if the world leaves you innocent, the Church will not. Between the devil and the director, you are sure to get your share of the apples of knowledge.
Isen . True enough. She complained to Conrad of her scruples, and he told her, that by the law was the knowledge of sin.
Wal . But what said Lewis?
Isen . As much bewitched as she, sir. He has told her, and more than her, that were it not for the laughter and ill-will of his barons, he would join her in the same abstinence. But all this is child's play to the friar's last outbreak.
Wal . Ah! the sermon which you all forgot, when the Marchioness of Misnia came suddenly? I heard that war had been proclaimed on that score; but what terms of peace were concluded?
Isen . Terms of peace! Do you call it peace to be delivered over to his nuns' tender mercies, myself and Guta, as well as our lady, — as if we had been bond-slaves and blackamoors?
Wal . You need not have submitted.
Isen . What! could I bear to see my poor child wandering up and down, wringing her hands like a mad woman — I who have lived for no one else this sixteen years? Guta talked sentiment — called it a glorious cross, and so forth. — I took it as it came
Wal . And got no quarter, I'll warrant.
Isen . Don't talk of it — my poor back tingles at the thought.
Wal . The sweet Saints think every woman of the world no better than she should be; and without meaning to be envious, owe you all a grudge for past flirtations. As I am a knight, now it's over, I like you all the better for it.
Isen . What?
Wal . When I see a woman who will stand by her word, and two who will stand by their mistress. And the monk, too — there's mettle in him. I took him for a canting carpet-haunter; but be sure, the man who will bully his own patrons has an honest purpose in him, though it bears strange fruit on this wicked hither-side of the grave. Now, my fair nymph of the birchen-tree, use your interest to find me supper and lodging; for your elegant squires of the trencher look surly on me here: I am the prophet who has no honour in his own country.
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