Saint's Tragedy, The - Scene 9

SCENE IX.

E LIZABETH'S Bower . E LIZABETH and Lewis sitting together .

SONG .

Eliz . Oh! that we two were Maying
Down the stream of the soft spring breeze;
Like children with violets playing
In the shade of the whispering trees.

Oh! that we two sat dreaming
On the sward of some sheep-trimmed down
Watching the white mist steaming
Over river and mead and town.

Oh! that we two lay sleeping
In our nest in the churchyard sod,
With our limbs at rest on the quiet earth's breast,
And our souls at home with God!

Lew . Ah, turn away those swarthy diamonds' blaze!
Mine eyes are dizzy, and my faint sense reels
In the rich fragrance of those purple tresses
Oh, to be thus, and thus, day after day!
To sleep, and wake, and find it yet no dream —
My atmosphere, my hourly food, such bliss
As to have dreamt of, five short years agone,
Had seemed a mad conceit.

Eliz . Five years agone?
Lew . I know not; for upon our marriage-day
I slipped from time into eternity;
Where each day teems with centuries of life,
And centuries were but one wedding morn.
Eliz . Lewis, I am too happy! floating higher
Then e'er my will had dared to soar, though able;
But circumstance, which is the will of God,
Beguiled my cowardice to that, which, darling,
I found most natural, when I feared it most.
Love would have had no strangeness in mine eyes,
Save from the prejudice which others taught me —
They should know best. Yet now this wedlock seems
A second infancy's baptismal robe,
A heaven, my spirit's antenatal home,
Lost in blind pining girlhood — found now, found!
( Aside ) What have I said? Do I blaspheme? Alas!
I neither made these thoughts, nor can unmake them.
Lew . Ay, marriage is the life-long miracle,
The self-begetting wonder, daily fresh;
The Eden, where the spirit and the flesh
Are one again, and new-born souls walk free,
And name in mystic language all things new,
Naked, and not ashamed.
Eliz . Oh! God! were that true!
There, there, no more —
I love thee, and I love thee, and I love thee —
More than rich thoughts can dream, or mad lips speak;
But how, or why, whether with soul or body,
I will not know. Thou art mine. — Why question further?
( Aside ) Ay if I fall by loving, I will love,
And be degraded! — how? by my own troth-plight?
No, but my thinking that I fall — 'Tis written
That whatsoe'er is not of faith is sin —
Oh! Jesu Lord! Hast Thou not made me thus?
Mercy! My brain will burst: I cannot leave him!
Lew . Beloved, if I went away to war —
Eliz . Oh, God! More wars? More partings?
Lew . Nay, my sister —
My trust but longs to glory in its surety:
What would'st thou do?
Eliz . What I have done already.
Have I not followed thee, through drought and frost,
Through flooded swamps, rough glens, and wasted lands,
Even while I panted most with thy dear loan
Of double life?
Lew . My saint! but what if I bid thee
To be my seneschal, and here with prayers,
With sober thrift, and noble bounty shine,
Alone and peerless? And suppose — nay, start not —
I only said suppose — the war was long,
Our camps far off, and that some winter, love,
Or two, pent back this Eden stream, where now
Joys upon joys like sunlit ripples pass,
Alike, yet ever new. — What would'st thou do, love?
Eliz . A year? A year! A cold, blank, widowed year!
Strange, that mere words should chill my heart with fear —
This is no hall of doom,
No impious Soldan's feast of old,
Where o'er the madness of the foaming gold,
A fleshless hand its woe on tainted walls enrolled.
Yet by thy wild words raised,
In Love's most careless revel,
Looms through the future's fog a shade of evil,
And all my heart is glazed —
Alas? What would I do?
I would lie down and weep, and weep,
Till the salt current of my tears should sweep
My soul, like floating weed, adown a fitful sleep,
A lingering half-night through
Then when the mocking bells did wake
My hollow eyes to twilight gray,
I would address my spiritless limbs to pray,
And serve myself with stripes to meet the weary day,
And labour for thy sake.
Until by vigils, fasts, and tears,
The flesh was grown so spare and light,
That I could slip its mesh, and flit by night
O'er sleeping sea and land to thee — or Christ — till morning light.
Peace! Why these fears?
Life is too short for mean anxieties:
Soul! thou must work, though blindfold.
Come, beloved,
I must turn robber — I have begged of late
So soft, I fear to ask. — Give me thy purse.
Lew . No, not my purse: — stay — Where is all that gold
I gave you, when the Jews came here from Koln?
Eliz . Oh, those few coins? I spent them all next day
On a new chapel on the Eisenthal;
There were no choristers but nightingales —
No teachers there save bees: how long is this?
Have you turned niggard?
Lew . Nay: go ask my steward —
Take what you will — this purse I want myself.
Eliz . Ah! now I guess. You have some trinket for me —
You promised late to buy no more such baubles —
And now you are ashamed — Nay, I must see —
Ah, God! what's here? A new crusader's cross?
Whose? Nay, nay — turn not from me; I guess all —
You need not tell me; it is very well —
According to the meed of my deserts:
Yes — very well.
Lew . Ah! love — look not so calm —
Eliz . Fear not — I shall weep soon
How long is it since you vowed?
Lew . A week or more.
Eliz . Brave heart! And all that time your tenderness
Kept silence, knowing my weak foolish soul. [ Weeps .
Oh, love! Oh, life! Late found, and soon, soon lost!
A bleak sunrise, — a treacherous morning gleam, —
And now, ere mid-day, all my sky is black
With whirling drifts once more! The march is fixed
For this day month, is't not?
Lew . Alas, too true!
Eliz . O break not, heart!

C ONRAD enters .

Ah! here my master comes.
No weeping before him.
Lew . Speak to the holy man:
He can give strength and comfort, which poor I
Need even more than you. Here, saintly master,
I leave her to your holy eloquence. Farewell!
God help us both! [ Exit Lewis .
Eliz . ( rising ). You know, Sir, that my husband has taken the cross!
Con . I do; all praise to God!
Eliz . But none to you:
Hard-hearted! Am I not enough your slave?
Can I obey you more when he is gone
Than now I do? Wherein, pray, has he hindered
This holiness of mine, for which you make me
Old ere my womanhood! [C ONRAD offers to go .
Stay, Sir, and tell me
Is this the out-come of your " father's care? "
Was it not enough to poison all my joys
With foulest scruples? — show me nameless sins,
Where I, unconscious babe, blessed God for all things,
But you must thus intrigue away my knight
And plunge me down this gulf of widowhood!
And I not twenty yet — a girl — an orphan —
That cannot stand alone! Was I too happy?
Oh, God! what lawful bliss do I not buy
And balance with the smart of some sharp penance?
Hast thou no pity? None? Thou drivest me
To fiendish doubts: Thou, Jesus' messenger?
Con . This to your master!
Eliz . This to any one
Who dares to part me from my love.
Con . 'Tis well —
In pity to your weakness I must deign
To do what ne'er I did — excuse myself.
I say, I knew not of your husband's purpose;
God's spirit, not I, moved him: perhaps I sinned
In that I did not urge it myself.
Eliz . Thou traitor!
So thou would'st part us?
Con . Aught that makes thee greater
I'll dare. This very outburst proves in thee
Passions unsanctified, and carnal leanings
Upon the creatures thou would'st fain transcend
Thou badest me cure thy weakness. To, God brings thee
The tonic cup I feared to mix: — be brave —
Drink it to the lees, and thou shalt find within
A pearl of price.
Eliz . 'Tis bitter!
Con . Bitter, truly:
Even I, to whom the storm of earthly love
Is but a dim remembrance — Courage! Courage!
There's glory in't; fulfil thy sacrifice;
Give up thy noblest on the noblest service
God's sun has looked on, since the chosen twelve
Went conquering, and to conquer, forth. If he fall —
Eliz . Oh, spare mine ears!
Con . He falls a blessed martyr,
To bid thee welcome through the gates of pearl;
And next to his shall thine own guerdon be
If thou devote him willing to thy God.
Wilt thou?
Eliz . Have mercy!
Con . Wilt thou? Sit not thus
Watching the sightless air: no angel in it
But asks thee what I ask: the fiend alone
Delays thy coward flesh. Wilt thou devote him?
Eliz . I will devote him; — a crusader's wife!
I'll glory in it. Thou speakest words from God —
And God shall have him! Go now — good, my master;
My poor brain swims.
Yes — a crusader's wife!
And a crusader's widow!
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