Saint's Tragedy, The - Scene 6


Dawn. A rocky path leading to a mountain Chapel. A Peasant sitting on a stone
with dog and cross-bow.

Peasant (singing).

Over the wild moor, in reddest dawn of morning,
Gaily the huntsman down green droves must roam:
Over the wild moor, in grayest wane of evening,
Weary the huntsman comes wandering home;
Home, home,
If he has one. Who comes here?
What art going about?
Woodcutter . To warm other folks' backs.
Peas . Thou art in the common lot — Jack earns and
Gill spends — therein lies the true division of labour
What's thy name?
Woodc . Be'est a keeper, man, or a charmer, that dost so catechise me?
Peas . Both — I am a keeper, for I keep all I catch; and a charmer, for I drive bad spirits out of honest men's turnips.
Woodc . Mary sain us, what be they like?
Peas . Four-legged kitchens of leather, cooking farmers' crops into butcher's meat by night, without leave or licence.
Woodc . By token, thou'rt a deer stealer?
Peas . Stealer, quoth he? I have dominion. I do what I like with mine own.
Woodc . Thine own?
Peas . Yea, marry — for, saith the priest, man has dominion over the beast of the field and the fowl of the air: so I, being as I am a man, as men go, have dominion over the deer in my trade, as you have in yours over sleepmice and woodpeckers.
Woodc . Then every man has a right to be a poacher.
Peas . Every man has his gift, and the tools go to him that can use them. Some are born workmen; some have souls above work. I'm one of that metal. I was meant to own land, and do nothing; but the angel that deals out babies' souls, mistook the cradles, and spoilt a gallant gentleman! Well — I forgive him! there were many born the same night — and work wears the wits.
Woodc . I had sooner draw in a yoke than hunt in a halter. Hadst best repent and mend thy ways.
Peas . The way-warden may do that: I wear out no ways, I go across country. Mend! saith he? Why I can but starve at worse, or groan with the rheumatism, which you do already. And who would reek and wallow o' nights in the same straw, like a stalled cow, when he may have his choice of all the clean holly bushes in the forest? Who would grub out his life in the same croft, when he has free-warren of all fields between this and Rhine? Not I. I have dirtied my share of spades myself; but I slipped my leash and went self-hunting.
Woodc . But what if thou be caught and brought up before the Prince?
Peas . He don't care for game. He has put down his kennel, and keeps a tame saint instead: and when I am driven in, I shall ask my pardon of her in St. John's name. They say that for his sake she'll give away the shoes off her feet.
Woodc . I would not stand in your shoes for all the top and lop in the forest. Murder! Here comes a ghost! Run up the bank — shove the jackass into the ditch.
Peas . A ghost or a watchman, and one's as bad as the other — so we may take to cover for the time.

ELIZABETH enters, meanly clad, carrying her
new-born infant , I SENTRUDIS following with a
taper and gold pieces on a salver . ELIZABETH
passes, singing .

Deep in the warm vale the village is sleeping,
Sleeping the firs on the bleak rock above;
Nought wakes, save grateful hearts, silently creeping
Up to the Lord in the might of their love.
What Thou hast given to me, Lord, here I bring Thee,
Odour, and light, and the magic of gold;
Feet which must follow Thee, lips which must sing Thee,
Limbs which must ache for Thee ere they grow old.
What Thou hast given to me, Lord, here I tender,
Life of mine own life, the fruit of my love;
Take him, yet leave him me, till I shall render
Count of the precious charge, kneeling above.
Peas . No ghost, but a mighty pretty wench, with a mighty sweet voice.
Woodc . Wench, indeed? Where be thy manners? 'Tis her Ladyship — the Princess.
Peas . The Princess! Ay, I thought those little white feet were but lately out of broadcloth — still, I say, a mighty sweet voice — I wish she had not sung so sweetly — it makes things to arise in a body's head, does that singing: a wonderful handsome lady! a royal lady!
Woodc . But a most unwise one. Did ye mind the gold? If I had such a trencher full, it should sleep warm in a stocking, instead of being made a brother to owls here, for every rogue to snatch at.
Peas . Why, then? who dare harm such as her, man?
Woodc . Nay, nay, none of us, we are poor folks, we fear God and the king. But if she had met a gentle man now — heaven help her! Ah! thou hast lost a chance — thou might'st have run out promiscuously, and down on thy knees, and begged thy pardon for the new comer's sake. There was a chance, indeed.
Peas . Pooh, man, I have done nothing but lose chances all my days. I fell into the fire the day I was christened, and ever since I am like a fresh-trimmed fir-tree; every foul feather sticks to me.
Woods . Go, shrive thyself, and the priest will scrub off thy turpentine with a new hair-cloth; and now, good-day, the maids are a-waiting for their firewood.
Peas . A word before you go — Take warning by me — avoid that same serpent, wisdom — Pray to the Saints to make you a blockhead — Never send your boys to school — For Heaven knows, a poor man that will live honest, and die in his bed, ought to have no more scholarship than a parson, and no more brains than your jackass.
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