Of this dramatic work I have little to say in addition to the
short note which will be found at the end of the volume. It was
composed at Racedown in Dorsetshire during the latter part of the
year 1795, and in the course of the following year. Had it been
the work of a later period of life, it would have been different
in some respects from what it is now. The plot would have been
something more complex, and a greater variety of characters
introduced to relieve the mind from the pressure of incidents so
mournful. The manners also would have been more attended to. My
care was almost exclusively given to the passions and the
characters, and the position in which the persons in the Drama
stood relatively to each other, that the reader (for I had then no
thought of the Stage) might be moved, and to a degree instructed,
by lights penetrating somewhat into the depths of our nature. In
this endeavour, I cannot think, upon a very late review, that I
have failed. As to the scene and period of action, little more was
required for my purpose than the absence of established law and
government; so that the agents might be at liberty to act on their
own impulses. Nevertheless I do remember that, having a wish to
colour the manners in some degree from local history more than my
knowledge enabled me to do, I read Redpath's "History of the
Borders," but found there nothing to my purpose. I once made an
observation to Sir Walter Scott, in which he concurred, that it
was difficult to conceive how so dull a book could be written on
such a subject. Much about the same time, but a little after,
Coleridge was employed in writing his tragedy of "Remorse," and it
happened that soon after, through one of the Mr. Pooles, Mr.
Knight the actor heard that we had been engaged in writing Plays,
and upon his suggestion mine was curtailed, and I believe
Coleridge's also was offered to Mr. Harris, manager of Covent
Garden. For myself, I had no hope nor even a wish (though a
successful play would, in the then state of my finances, have been
a most welcome piece of good fortune) that he should accept my
performance; so that I incurred no disappointment when the piece
as "judiciously" returned as not calculated for the Stage. In this
judgment I entirely concurred, and had it been otherwise, it was
so natural for me to shrink from public notice, that any hope I
might have had of success would not have reconciled me altogether
to such an exhibition. Mr. C.'s Play was, as is well known,
brought forward several years after through the kindness of Mr.
Sheridan. In conclusion I may observe that while I was composing
this Play I wrote a short essay illustrative of that constitution
and those tendencies of human nature which make the apparently
"motiveless" actions of bad men intelligible to careful observers.
This was partly done with reference to the character of Oswald,
and his persevering endeavour to lead the man he disliked into so
heinous a crime; but still more to preserve in my distinct
remembrance what I had observed of transition in character, and
the reflections I had been led to make during the time I was a
witness of the changes through which the French Revolution passed.
WALLACE. |- Of the Band of Borderers.
WILFRED, Servant to MARMADUKE.
ELDRED, a Peasant.
Peasant, Pilgrims, etc.
ELEANOR, Wife to ELDRED.
SCENE--Borders of England and Scotland.
TIME--The Reign of Henry III.
Readers already acquainted with my Poems will recognise, in the
following composition, some eight or ten lines which I have not
scrupled to retain in the places where they originally stood. It
is proper, however, to add, that they would not have been used
elsewhere, if I had foreseen the time when I might be induced to
publish this Tragedy.
February 28, 1842.
SCENE--Road in a Wood.
WALLACE and LACY.
LACY. The troop will be impatient; let us hie
Back to our post, and strip the Scottish Foray
Of their rich Spoil, ere they recross the Border.
--Pity that our young Chief will have no part
In this good service.
WAL. Rather let us grieve
That, in the undertaking which has caused
His absence, he hath sought, whate'er his aim,
Companionship with One of crooked ways,
From whose perverted soul can come no good
To our confiding, open-hearted, Leader.
LACY. True; and, remembering how the Band have proved
That Oswald finds small favour in our sight,
Well may we wonder he has gained such power
Over our much-loved Captain.
WAL. I have heard
Of some dark deed to which in early life
His passion drove him--then a Voyager
Upon the midland Sea. You knew his bearing
LACY. Where he despised alike
Mahommedan and Christian. But enough;
Let us begone--the Band may else be foiled. [Exeunt.
Enter MARMADUKE and WILFRED.
WIL. Be cautious, my dear Master!
MAR. I perceive
That fear is like a cloak which old men huddle
About their love, as if to keep it warm.
WIL. Nay, but I grieve that we should part. This Stranger,
For such he is----
MAR. Your busy fancies, Wilfred,
Might tempt me to a smile; but what of him?
WIL. You know that you have saved his life.
MAR. I know it.
WIL. And that he hates you!--Pardon me, perhaps
That word was hasty.
MAR. Fy! no more of it.
WIL. Dear Master! gratitude's a heavy burden
To a proud Soul.--Nobody loves this Oswald--
Yourself, you do not love him.
MAR. I do more,
I honour him. Strong feelings to his heart
Are natural; and from no one can be learnt
More of man's thoughts and ways than his experience
Has given him power to teach: and then for courage
And enterprise--what perils hath he shunned?
What obstacles hath he failed to overcome?
Answer these questions, from our common knowledge,
And be at rest.
WIL. Oh, Sir!
MAR. Peace, my good Wilfred;
Repair to Liddesdale, and tell the Band
I shall be with them in two days, at farthest.
WIL. May He whose eye is over all protect you! [Exit.
Enter OSWALD (a bunch of plants in his hand).
OSW. This wood is rich in plants and curious simples.
MAR. (looking at them). The wild rose, and the poppy, and the
Which is your favourite, Oswald?
OSW. That which, while it is
Strong to destroy, is also strong to heal--
Not yet in sight!--We'll saunter here awhile;
They cannot mount the hill, by us unseen.
MAR. (a letter in his hand). It is no common thing when one like
Performs these delicate services, and therefore
I feel myself much bounden to you, Oswald;
'Tis a strange letter this!--You saw her write it?
OSW. And saw the tears with which she blotted it.
MAR. And nothing less would satisfy him?
OSW. No less;
For that another in his Child's affection
Should hold a place, as if 'twere robbery,
He seemed to quarrel with the very thought.
Besides, I know not what strange prejudice
Is rooted in his mind; this Band of ours,
Which you've collected for the noblest ends,
Along the confines of the Esk and Tweed
To guard the Innocent--he calls us "Outlaws";
And, for yourself, in plain terms he asserts
This garb was taken up that indolence
Might want no cover, and rapacity
Be better fed.
MAR. Ne'er may I own the heart
That cannot feel for one, helpless as he is.
OSW. Thou know'st me for a Man not easily moved,
Yet was I grievously provoked to think
Of what I witnessed.
MAR. This day will suffice
To end her wrongs.
OSW. But if the blind Man's tale
Should 'yet' be true?
MAR. Would it were possible!
Did not the soldier tell thee that himself,
And others who survived the wreck, beheld
The Baron Herbert perish in the waves
Upon the coast of Cyprus?
OSW. Yes, even so,
And I had heard the like before: in sooth
The tale of this his quondam Barony
Is cunningly devised; and, on the back
Of his forlorn appearance, could not fail
To make the proud and vain his tributaries,
And stir the pulse of lazy charity.
The seignories of Herbert are in Devon;
We, neighbours of the Esk and Tweed: 'tis much
MAR. Treat him gently, Oswald;
Though I have never seen his face, methinks,
There cannot come a day when I shall cease
To love him. I remember, when a Boy
Of scarcely seven years' growth, beneath the Elm
That casts its shade over our village school,
'Twas my delight to sit and hear Idonea
Repeat her Father's terrible adventures,
Till all the band of playmates wept together;
And that was the beginning of my love.
And, through all converse of our later years,
An image of this old Man still was present,
When I had been most happy. Pardon me
If this be idly spoken.
OSW. See, they come,
MAR. (points). The woman is Idonea.
OSW. And leading Herbert.
MAR. We must let them pass--
This thicket will conceal us.
[They step aside.
Enter IDONEA, leading HERBERT blind.
IDON. Dear Father, you sigh deeply; ever since
We left the willow shade by the brook-side,
Your natural breathing has been troubled.
You are too fearful; yet must I confess,
Our march of yesterday had better suited
A firmer step than mine.
IDON. That dismal Moor--
In spite of all the larks that cheered our path,
I never can forgive it: but how steadily
'You' paced along, when the bewildering moonlight
Mocked me with many a strange fantastic shape!--
I thought the Convent never would appear;
It seemed to move away from us: and yet,
That you are thus the fault is mine; for the air
Was soft and warm, no dew lay on the grass,
And midway on the waste ere night had fallen
I spied a Covert walled and roofed with sods--
A miniature; belike some Shepherd-boy,
Who might have found a nothing-doing hour
Heavier than work, raised it: within that hut
We might have made a kindly bed of heath,
And thankfully there rested side by side
Wrapped in our cloaks, and, with recruited strength,
Have hailed the morning sun. But cheerily, Father,--
That staff of yours, I could almost have heart
To fling't away from you: you make no use
Of me, or of my strength;--come, let me feel
That you do press upon me. There--indeed
You are quite exhausted. Let us rest awhile
On this green bank. [He sits down.
HER. (after some time). Idonea, you are silent,
And I divine the cause.
IDON. Do not reproach me:
I pondered patiently your wish and will
When I gave way to your request; and now,
When I behold the ruins of that face,
Those eyeballs dark--dark beyond hope of light,
And think that they were blasted for my sake,
The name of Marmaduke is blown away:
Father, I would not change that sacred feeling
For all this world can give.
HER. Nay, be composed:
Few minutes gone a faintness overspread
My frame, and I bethought me of two things
I ne'er had heart to separate---my grave,
And thee, my Child!
IDON. Believe me, honoured Sire!
'Tis weariness that breeds these gloomy fancies,
And you mistake the cause: you hear the woods
Resound with music, could you see the sun,
And look upon the pleasant face of Nature----
HER. I comprehend thee--I should be as cheerful
As if we two were twins; two songsters bred
In the same nest, my spring-time one with thine.
My fancies, fancies if they be, are such
As come, dear Child! from a far deeper source
Than bodily weariness. While here we sit
I feel my strength returning.--The bequest
Of thy kind Patroness, which to receive
We have thus far adventured, will suffice
To save thee from the extreme of penury;
But when thy Father must lie down and die,
How wilt thou stand alone?
IDON. Is he not strong?
Is he not valiant?
HER. Am I then so soon
Forgotten? have my warnings passed so quickly
Out of thy mind? My dear, my only, Child;
Thou wouldst be leaning on a broker reed--
IDON. O could you hear his voice:
Alas! you do not know him. He is one
(I wot not what ill tongue has wronged him with you)
All gentleness and love. His face bespeaks
A deep and simple meekness: and that Soul,
Which with the motion of a virtuous act
Flashes a look of terror upon guilt,
Is, after conflict, quiet as the ocean,
By a miraculous finger, stilled at once.
HER. Unhappy Woman!
IDON. Nay, it was my duty
Thus much to speak; but think not I forget--
Dear Father! how 'could' I forget and live--
You and the story of that doleful night
When, Antioch blazing to her topmost towers,
You rushed into the murderous flames, returned
Blind as the grave, but, as you oft have told me,
Clasping your infant Daughter to your heart.
HER. Thy Mother too!--scarce had I gained the door,
I caught her voice; she threw herself upon me,
I felt thy infant brother in her arms;
She saw my blasted face--a tide of soldiers
That instant rushed between us, and I heard
Her last death-shriek, distinct among a thousand.
IDON. Nay, Father, stop not; let me hear it all.
HER. Dear Daughter! precious relic of that time--
For my old age, it doth remain with thee
To make it what thou wilt. Thou hast been told,
That when, on our return from Palestine,
I found how my domains had been usurped,
I took thee in my arms, and we began
Our wanderings together. Providence
At length conducted us to Rossland,--there,
Our melancholy story moved a Stranger
To take thee to her home--and for myself
Soon after, the good Abbot of St. Cuthbert's
Supplied my helplessness with food and raiment,
And, as thou know'st, gave me that humble Cot
Where now we dwell.--For many years I bore
Thy absence, till old age and fresh infirmities
Exacted thy return, and our reunion.
I did not think that, during that long absence,
My Child, forgetful of the name of Herbert,
Had given her love to a wild Freebooter,
Who here, upon the borders of the Tweed,
Doth prey alike on two distracted Countries,
Traitor to both.
IDON. Oh, could you hear his voice!
I will not call on Heaven to vouch for me,
But let this kiss speak what is in my heart.
Enter a Peasant.
PEA. Good morrow, Strangers! If you want a Guide,
Let me have leave to serve you!
IDON. My Companion
Hath need of rest; the sight of Hut or Hostel
Would be most welcome.
PEA. Yon white hawthorn gained,
You will look down into a dell, and there
Will see an ash from which a sign-board hangs;
The house is hidden by the shade. Old Man,
You seem worn out with travel--shall I support you?
HER. I thank you; but, a resting-place so near,
'Twere wrong to trouble you.
PEA. God speed you both.
HER. Idonea, we must part. Be not alarmed--
'Tis but for a few days--a thought has struck me.
IDON. That I should leave you at this house, and thence
Proceed alone. It shall be so; for strength
Would fail you ere our journey's end be reached.
[Exit HERBERT supported by IDONEA.
Re-enter MARMADUKE and OSWALD.
MAR. This instant will we stop him----
OSW. Be not hasty,
For, sometimes, in despite of my conviction,
He tempted me to think the Story true;
'Tis plain he loves the Maid, and what he said
That savoured of aversion to thy name
Appeared the genuine colour of his soul--
Anxiety lest mischief should befal her
After his death.
MAR. I have been much deceived.
OSW. But sure he loves the Maiden, and never love
Could find delight to nurse itself so strangely,
Thus to torment her with 'inventions'!--death--
There must be truth in this.
MAR. Truth in his story!
He must have felt it then, known what it was,
And in such wise to rack her gentle heart
Had been a tenfold cruelty.
OSW. Strange pleasures
Do we poor mortals cater for ourselves!
To see him thus provoke her tenderness
With tales of weakness and infirmity!
I'd wager on his life for twenty years.
MAR. We will not waste an hour in such a cause.
OSW. Why, this is noble! shake her off at once.
MAR. Her virtues are his instruments--A Man
Who has so practised on the world's cold sense,
May well deceive his Child--what! leave her thus,
A prey to a deceiver?--no--no--no--
'Tis but a word and then----
OSW. Something is here
More than we see, or whence this strong aversion?
Marmaduke! I suspect unworthy tales
Have reached his ear--you have had enemies.
MAR. Enemies!--of his own coinage.
OSW. That may be,
But wherefore slight protection such as you
Have power to yield? perhaps he looks elsewhere.--
I am perplexed.
MAR. What hast thou heard or seen?
OSW. No--no--the thing stands clear of mystery;
(As you have said) he coins himself the slander
With which he taints her ear;--for a plain reason;
He dreads the presence of a virtuous man
Like you; he knows your eye would search his heart,
Your justice stamp upon his evil deeds
The punishment they merit. All is plain:
It cannot be------
MAR. What cannot be?
OSW. Yet that a Father
Should in his love admit no rivalship,
And torture thus the heart of his own Child----
MAR. Nay, you abuse my friendship!
OSW. Heaven forbid!--
There was a circumstance, trifling indeed--
It struck me at the time--yet I believe
I never should have thought of it again
But for the scene which we by chance have witnessed.
MAR. What is your meaning?
OSW. Two days gone I saw,
Though at a distance and he was disguised,
Hovering round Herbert's door, a man whose figure
Resembled much that cold voluptuary,
The villain, Clifford. He hates you, and he knows
Where he can stab you deepest.
MAR. Clifford never
Would stoop to skulk about a Cottage door--
It could not be.
OSW. And yet I now remember,
That, when your praise was warm upon my tongue,
And the blind Man was told how you had rescued
A maiden from the ruffian violence
Of this same Clifford, he became impatient
And would not hear me.
MAR. No--it cannot be--
I dare not trust myself with such a thought--
Yet whence this strange aversion? You are a man
Not used to rash conjectures----
OSW. If you deem it
A thing worth further notice, we must act
With caution, sift the matter artfully.
[Exeunt MARMADUKE and OSWALD.
SCENE--The door of the Hostel.
HERBERT, IDONEA, and Host.
HER. (seated). As I am dear to you, remember, Child!
This last request.
IDON. You know me, Sire; farewell!
HER. And are you going then? Come, come, Idonea,
We must not part,--I have measured many a league
When these old limbs had need of rest,--and now
I will not play the sluggard.
IDON. Nay, sit down.
[Turning to Host.
Good Host, such tendance as you would expect
From your own Children, if yourself were sick,
Let this old Man find at your hands; poor Leader,
[Looking at the dog.
We soon shall meet again. If thou neglect
This charge of thine, then ill befall thee!--Look,
The little fool is loth to stay behind.
Sir Host! by all the love you bear to courtesy,
Take care of him, and feed the truant well.
HOST. Fear not, I will obey you;--but One so young,
And One so fair, it goes against my heart
That you should travel unattended, Lady!--
I have a palfrey and a groom: the lad
Shall squire you, (would it not be better, Sir?)
And for less fee than I would let him run
For any lady I have seen this twelvemonth.
IDON. You know, Sir, I have been too long your guard
Not to have learnt to laugh at little fears.
Why, if a wolf should leap from out a thicket,
A look of mine would send him scouring back,
Unless I differ from the thing I am
When you are by my side.
HER. Idonea, wolves
Are not the enemies that move my fears.
IDON. No more, I pray, of this. Three days at farthest
Will bring me back--protect him, Saints--farewell!
HOST. 'Tis never drought with us--St. Cuthbert and his Pilgrims,
Thanks to them, are to us a stream of comfort:
Pity the Maiden did not wait a while;
She could not, Sir, have failed of company.
HER. Now she is gone, I fain would call her back.
HOST. (calling). Holla!
HER. No, no, the business must be done.--
What means this riotous noise?
HOST. The villagers
Are flocking in--a wedding festival--
That's all--God save you, Sir.
OSW. Ha! as I live,
The Baron Herbert.
HOST. Mercy, the Baron Herbert!
OSW. So far into your journey! on my life,
You are a lusty Traveller. But how fare you?
HER. Well as the wreck I am permits. And you, Sir?
OSW. I do not see Idonea.
HER. Dutiful Girl,
She is gone before, to spare my weariness.
But what has brought you hither?
OSW. A slight affair,
That will be soon despatched.
HER. Did Marmaduke
Receive that letter?
OSW. Be at peace.--The tie
Is broken, you will hear no more of 'him'.
HER. This is true comfort, thanks a thousand times!--
That noise!--would I had gone with her as far
As the Lord Clifford's Castle: I have heard
That, in his milder moods, he has expressed
Compassion for me. His influence is great
With Henry, our good King;--the Baron might
Have heard my suit, and urged my plea at Court.
No matter--he's a dangerous Man.--That noise!--
'Tis too disorderly for sleep or rest.
Idonea would have fears for me,--the Convent
Will give me quiet lodging. You have a boy, good Host,
And he must lead me back.
OSW. You are most lucky;
I have been waiting in the wood hard by
For a companion--here he comes; our journey
Lies on your way; accept us as your Guides.
HER. Alas! I creep so slowly.
OSW. Never fear;
We'll not complain of that.
HER. My limbs are stiff
And need repose. Could you but wait an hour?
OSW. Most willingly!--Come, let me lead you in,
And, while you take your rest, think not of us;
We'll stroll into the wood; lean on my arm.
[Conducts HERBERT into the house. Exit MARMADUKE.
OSW. (to himself coming out of the Hostel).
I have prepared a most apt Instrument--
The Vagrant must, no doubt, be loitering somewhere
About this ground; she hath a tongue well skilled,
By mingling natural matter of her own
With all the daring fictions I have taught her,
To win belief, such as my plot requires.
Enter more Villagers, a Musician among them.
HOST. (to them). Into the court, my Friend, and perch yourself
Aloft upon the elm-tree. Pretty Maids,
Garlands and flowers, and cakes and merry thoughts,
Are here, to send the sun into the west
More speedily than you belike would wish.
SCENE changes to the Wood adjoining the Hostel--MARMADUKE and
MAR. I would fain hope that we deceive ourselves:
When first I saw him sitting there, alone,
It struck upon my heart I know not how.
OSW. To-day will clear up all.--You marked a Cottage,
That ragged Dwelling, close beneath a rock
By the brook-side: it is the abode of One,
A Maiden innocent till ensnared by Clifford,
Who soon grew weary of her; but, alas!
What she had seen and suffered turned her brain.
Cast off by her Betrayer, she dwells alone,
Nor moves her hands to any needful work:
She eats her food which every day the peasants
Bring to her hut; and so the Wretch has lived
Ten years; and no one ever heard her voice;
But every night at the first stroke of twelve
She quits her house, and, in the neighbouring Churchyard
Upon the self-same spot, in rain or storm,
She paces out the hour 'twixt twelve and one--
She paces round and round an Infant's grave,
And in the churchyard sod her feet have worn
A hollow ring; they say it is knee-deep----
Ah! what is here?
[A female Beggar rises up, rubbing her eyes as if in sleep--a
Child in her arms.
BEG. Oh! Gentlemen, I thank you;
I've had the saddest dream that ever troubled
The heart of living creature.--My poor Babe
Was crying, as I thought, crying for bread
When I had none to give him; whereupon,
I put a slip of foxglove in his hand,
Which pleased him so, that he was hushed at once:
When, into one of those same spotted bells
A bee came darting, which the Child with joy
Imprisoned there, and held it to his ear,
And suddenly grew black, as he would die.
MAR. We have no time for this, my babbling Gossip;
Here's what will comfort you.
[Gives her money.
BEG. The Saints reward you
For this good deed!--Well, Sirs, this passed away;
And afterwards I fancied, a strange dog,
Trotting alone along the beaten road,
Came to my child as by my side he slept
And, fondling, licked his face, then on a sudden
Snapped fierce to make a morsel of his head:
But here he is, [kissing the Child] it must have been a dream.
OSW. When next inclined to sleep, take my advice,
And put your head, good Woman, under cover.
BEG. Oh, sir, you would not talk thus, if you knew
What life is this of ours, how sleep will master
The weary-worn.--You gentlefolk have got
Warm chambers to your wish. I'd rather be
A stone than what I am.--But two nights gone,
The darkness overtook me--wind and rain
Beat hard upon my head--and yet I saw
A glow-worm, through the covert of the furze,
Shine calmly as if nothing ailed the sky:
At which I half accused the God in Heaven.--
You must forgive me.
OSW. Ay, and if you think
The Fairies are to blame, and you should chide
Your favourite saint--no matter--this good day
Has made amends.
BEG. Thanks to you both; but, O sir!
How would you like to travel on whole hours
As I have done, my eyes upon the ground,
Expecting still, I knew not how, to find
A piece of money glittering through the dust.
MAR. This woman is a prater. Pray, good Lady!
Do you tell fortunes?
BEG. Oh Sir, you are like the rest.
This Little-one--it cuts me to the heart--
Well! they might turn a beggar from their doors,
But there are Mothers who can see the Babe
Here at my breast, and ask me where I bought it:
This they can do, and look upon my face--
But you, Sir, should be kinder.
MAR. Come hither, Fathers,
And learn what nature is from this poor Wretch!
BEG. Ay, Sir, there's nobody that feels for us.
Why now--but yesterday I overtook
A blind old Greybeard and accosted him,
I' th' name of all the Saints, and by the Mass
He should have used me better!--Charity!
If you can melt a rock, he is your man;
But I'll be even with him--here again
Have I been waiting for him.
OSW. Well, but softly,
Who is it that hath wronged you?
BEG. Mark you me;
I'll point him out;--a Maiden is his guide,
Lovely as Spring's first rose; a little dog,
Tied by a woollen cord, moves on before
With look as sad as he were dumb; the cur,
I owe him no ill will, but in good sooth
He does his Master credit.
MAR. As I live,
'Tis Herbert and no other!
BEG. 'Tis a feast to see him,
Lank as a ghost and tall, his shoulders bent,
And long beard white with age--yet evermore,
As if he were the only Saint on earth,
He turns his face to heaven.
OSW. But why so violent
Against this venerable Man?
BEG. I'll tell you:
He has the very hardest heart on earth;
I had as lief turn to the Friar's school
And knock for entrance, in mid holiday.
MAR. But to your story.
BEG. I was saying, Sir--
Well!--he has often spurned me like a toad,
But yesterday was worse than all;--at last
I overtook him, Sirs, my Babe and I,
And begged a little aid for charity:
But he was snappish as a cottage cur.
Well then, says I--I'll out with it; at which
I cast a look upon the Girl, and felt
As if my heart would burst; and so I left him.
OSW. I think, good Woman, you are the very person
Whom, but some few days past, I saw in Eskdale,
At Herbert's door.
BEG. Ay; and if truth were known
I have good business there.
OSW. I met you at the threshold,
And he seemed angry.
BEG. Angry! well he might;
And long as I can stir I'll dog him.--Yesterday,
To serve me so, and knowing that he owes
The best of all he has to me and mine.
But 'tis all over now.--That good old Lady
Has left a power of riches; and, I say it,
If there's a lawyer in the land, the knave
Shall give me half.
OSW. What's this?--I fear, good Woman,
You have been insolent.
BEG. And there's the Baron,
I spied him skulking in his peasant's dress.
OSW. How say you? in disguise?--
MAR. But what's your business
With Herbert or his Daughter?
BEG. Daughter! truly--
But how's the day?--I fear, my little Boy,
We've overslept ourselves.--Sirs, have you seen him?
[Offers to go.
MAR. I must have more of this;--you shall not stir
An inch, till I am answered. Know you aught
That doth concern this Herbert?
BEG. You are provoked,
And will misuse me, Sir?
MAR. No trifling, Woman!
OSW. You are as safe as in a sanctuary;
BEG. He is a most hard-hearted Man,
MAR. Your life is at my mercy.
BEG. Do not harm me,
And I will tell you all!--You know not, Sir,
What strong temptations press upon the Poor.
OSW. Speak out.
BEG. Oh Sir, I've been a wicked Woman.
OSW. Nay, but speak out!
BEG. He flattered me, and said
What harvest it would bring us both; and so,
I parted with the Child.
MAR. Parted with whom?
BEG. Idonea, as he calls her; but the Girl
MAR. Yours, Woman! are you Herbert's wife?
BEG. Wife, Sir! his wife--not I; my husband, Sir,
Was of Kirkoswald---many a snowy winter
We've weathered out together. My poor Gilfred!
He has been two years in his grave.
OSW. We've solved the riddle--Miscreant!
MAR. Do you,
Good Dame, repair to Liddesdale and wait
For my return; be sure you shall have justice.
OSW. A lucky woman! go, you have done good service. [Aside.
MAR. (to himself). Eternal praises on the power that saved
OSW. (gives her money). Here's for your little boy--and when you
I'll be his Godfather.
BEG. Oh Sir, you are merry with me.
In grange or farm this Hundred scarcely owns
A dog that does not know me.--These good Folks,
For love of God, I must not pass their doors;
But I'll be back with my best speed: for you--
God bless and thank you both, my gentle Masters.
MAR. (to himself). The cruel Viper!--Poor devoted Maid,
Now I 'do' love thee.
OSW. I am thunderstruck.
MAR. Where is she--holla!
[Calling to the Beggar, who returns; he looks at her stedfastly.
You are Idonea's mother?--
Nay, be not terrified--it does me good
To look upon you.
OSW. (interrupting). In a peasant's dress
You saw, who was it?
BEG. Nay, I dare not speak;
He is a man, if it should come to his ears
I never shall be heard of more.
OSW. Lord Clifford?
BEG. What can I do? believe me, gentle Sirs,
I love her, though I dare not call her daughter.
OSW. Lord Clifford--did you see him talk with Herbert?
BEG. Yes, to my sorrow--under the great oak
At Herbert's door--and when he stood beside
The blind Man--at the silent Girl he looked
With such a look--it makes me tremble, Sir,
To think of it.
OSW. Enough! you may depart.
MAR. (to himself). Father!--to God himself we cannot give
A holier name; and, under such a mask,
To lead a Spirit, spotless as the blessed,
To that abhorred den of brutish vice!--
Oswald, the firm foundation of my life
Is going from under me; these strange discoveries--
Looked at from every point of fear or hope,
Duty, or love--involve, I feel, my ruin.
SCENE--A Chamber in the Hostel--OSWALD alone, rising from a Table
on which he had been writing.
OSW. They chose 'him' for their Chief!--what covert part
He, in the preference, modest Youth, might take,
I neither know nor care. The insult bred
More of contempt than hatred; both are flown;
That either e'er existed is my shame:
'Twas a dull spark--a most unnatural fire
That died the moment the air breathed upon it.
--These fools of feeling are mere birds of winter
That haunt some barren island of the north,
Where, if a famishing man stretch forth his hand,
They think it is to feed them. I have left him
To solitary meditation;--now
For a few swelling phrases, and a flash
Of truth, enough to dazzle and to blind,
And he is mine for ever---here he comes.
MAR. These ten years she has moved her lips all day
And never speaks!
OSW. Who is it?
MAR. I have seen her.
OSW. Oh! the poor tenant of that ragged homestead,
Her whom the Monster, Clifford, drove to madness.
MAR. I met a peasant near the spot; he told me,
These ten years she had sate all day alone
Within those empty walls.
OSW. I too have seen her;
Chancing to pass this way some six months gone,
At midnight, I betook me to the Churchyard:
The moon shone clear, the air was still, so still
The trees were silent as the graves beneath them.
Long did I watch, and saw her pacing round
Upon the self-same spot, still round and round,
Her lips for ever moving.
MAR. At her door
Rooted I stood; for, looking at the woman,
I thought I saw the skeleton of Idonea.
OSW. But the pretended Father----
MAR. Earthly law
Measures not crimes like his.
OSW. 'We' rank not, happily,
With those who take the spirit of their rule
From that soft class of devotees who feel
Reverence for life so deeply, that they spare
The verminous brood, and cherish what they spare
While feeding on their bodies. Would that Idonea
Were present, to the end that we might hear
What she can urge in his defence; she loves him.
MAR. Yes, loves him; 'tis a truth that multiplies
His guilt a thousand-fold.
OSW. 'Tis most perplexing:
What must be done?
MAR. We will conduct her hither;
These walls shall witness it--from first to last
He shall reveal himself.
OSW. Happy are we,
Who live in these disputed tracts, that own
No law but what each man makes for himself;
Here justice has indeed a field of triumph.
MAR. Let us be gone and bring her hither;--here
The truth shall be laid open, his guilt proved
Before her face. The rest be left to me.
OSW. You will be firm: but though we well may trust
The issue to the justice of the cause,
Caution must not be flung aside; remember,
Yours is no common life. Self-stationed here
Upon these savage confines, we have seen you
Stand like an isthmus 'twixt two stormy seas
That oft have checked their fury at your bidding.
'Mid the deep holds of Solway's mossy waste,
Your single virtue has transformed a Band
Of fierce barbarians into Ministers
Of peace and order. Aged men with tears
Have blessed their steps, the fatherless retire
For shelter to their banners. But it is,
As you must needs have deeply felt, it is
In darkness and in tempest that we seek
The majesty of Him who rules the world.
Benevolence, that has not heart to use
The wholesome ministry of pain and evil,
Becomes at last weak and contemptible.
Your generous qualities have won due praise,
But vigorous Spirits look for something more
Than Youth's spontaneous products; and to-day
You will not disappoint them; and hereafter----
MAR. You are wasting words; hear me then, once for all:
You are a Man--and therefore, if compassion,
Which to our kind is natural as life,
Be known unto you, you will love this Woman,
Even as I do; but I should loathe the light,
If I could think one weak or partial feeling----
OSW. You will forgive me----
MAR. If I ever knew
My heart, could penetrate its inmost core,
'Tis at this moment.--Oswald, I have loved
To be the friend and father of the oppressed,
A comforter of sorrow;--there is something
Which looks like a transition in my soul,
And yet it is not.--Let us lead him hither.
OSW. Stoop for a moment; 'tis an act of justice;
And where's the triumph if the delegate
Must fall in the execution of his office?
The deed is done--if you will have it so--
Here where we stand--that tribe of vulgar wretches
(You saw them gathering for the festival)
Rush in--the villains seize us----
OSW. Yes, they--
Men who are little given to sift and weigh--
Would wreak on us the passion of the moment.
MAR. The cloud will soon disperse--farewell--but stay,
Thou wilt relate the story.
OSW. Am I neither
To bear a part in this Man's punishment,
Nor be its witness?
MAR. I had many hopes
That were most dear to me, and some will bear
To be transferred to thee.
OSW. When I'm dishonoured!
MAR. I would preserve thee. How may this be done?
OSW. By showing that you look beyond the instant,
A few leagues hence we shall have open ground,
And nowhere upon earth is place so fit
To look upon the deed. Before we enter
The barren Moor, hangs from a beetling rock
The shattered Castle in which Clifford oft
Has held infernal orgies--with the gloom,
And very superstition of the place,
Seasoning his wickedness. The Debauchee
Would there perhaps have gathered the first fruits
Of this mock Father's guilt.
Enter Host conducting HERBERT.
HOST. The Baron Herbert
Attends your pleasure.
OSW. (to Host). We are ready--
(to HERBERT) Sir!
I hope you are refreshed.--I have just written
A notice for your Daughter, that she may know
What is become of you.--You'll sit down and sign it;
'Twill glad her heart to see her father's signature.
[Gives the letter he had written.
HER. Thanks for your care.
[Sits down and writes. Exit Host.
OSW. (aside to MARMADUKE). Perhaps it would be useful
That you too should subscribe your name.
[MARMADUKE overlooks HERBERT--
then writes--examines the letter
MAR. I cannot leave this paper. [He puts it up, agitated.
OSW. (aside). Dastard! Come.
[MARMADUKE goes towards HERBERT
and supports him--MARMADUKE
tremblingly beckons OSWALD to take his place.
MAR. (as he quits HERBERT). There is a palsy in his limbs--he
shakes. [Exeunt OSWALD and HERBERT--MARMADUKE following.
SCENE changes to a Wood--a Group of Pilgrims and IDONEA with them.
FIRST PIL. A grove of darker and more lofty shade I never saw.
SEC. PIL. The music of the birds
Drops deadened from a roof so thick with leaves.
OLD PIL. This news! It made my heart leap up with joy.
IDON. I scarcely can believe it.
OLD PIL. Myself, I heard
The Sheriff read, in open Court, a letter
Which purported it was the royal pleasure
The Baron Herbert, who, as was supposed,
Had taken refuge in this neighbourhood,
Should be forthwith restored. The hearing, Lady,
Filled my dim eyes with tears.--When I returned
From Palestine, and brought with me a heart,
Though rich in heavenly, poor in earthly, comfort,
I met your Father, then a wandering Outcast:
He had a Guide, a Shepherd's boy; but grieved
He was that One so young should pass his youth
In such sad service; and he parted with him.
We joined our tales of wretchedness together,
And begged our daily bread from door to door.
I talk familiarly to you, sweet Lady!
For once you loved me.
IDON. You shall back with me
And see your Friend again. The good old Man
Will be rejoiced to greet you.
OLD PIL. It seems but yesterday
That a fierce storm o'ertook us, worn with travel,
In a deep wood remote from any town.
A cave that opened to the road presented
A friendly shelter, and we entered in.
IDON. And I was with you?
OLD PIL. If indeed 'twas you--
But you were then a tottering Little-one--
We sate us down. The sky grew dark and darker:
I struck my flint, and built up a small fire
With rotten boughs and leaves, such as the winds
Of many autumns in the cave had piled.
Meanwhile the storm fell heavy on the woods;
Our little fire sent forth a cheering warmth
And we were comforted, and talked of comfort;
But 'twas an angry night, and o'er our heads
The thunder rolled in peals that would have made
A sleeping man uneasy in his bed.
O Lady, you have need to love your Father.
His voice--methinks I hear it now, his voice
When, after a broad flash that filled the cave,
He said to me, that he had seen his Child,
A face (no cherub's face more beautiful)
Revealed by lustre brought with it from Heaven;
And it was you, dear Lady!
IDON. God be praised,
That I have been his comforter till now!
And will be so through every change of fortune
And every sacrifice his peace requires.--
Let us be gone with speed, that he may hear
These joyful tidings from no lips but mine.
[Exeunt IDONEA and Pilgrims.
SCENE,--The Area of a half-ruined Castle--on one side the entrance
to a dungeon--OSWALD and MARMADUKE pacing backwards and
MAR. 'Tis a wild night.
OSW. I'd give my cloak and bonnet
For sight of a warm fire.
MAR. The wind blows keen;
My hands are numb.
OSW. Ha! ha! 'tis nipping cold.
[Blowing his fingers.
I long for news of our brave Comrades; Lacy
Would drive those Scottish Rovers to their dens
If once they blew a horn this side the Tweed.
MAR. I think I see a second range of Towers;
This castle has another Area--come,
Let us examine it.
OSW. 'Tis a bitter night;
I hope Idonea is well housed. That horseman,
Who at full speed swept by us where the wood
Roared in the tempest, was within an ace
Of sending to his grave our precious Charge:
That would have been a vile mischance.
MAR. It would.
OSW. Justice had been most cruelly defrauded.
MAR. Most cruelly.
OSW. As up the steep we clomb,
I saw a distant fire in the north-east;
I took it for the blaze of Cheviot Beacon:
With proper speed our quarters may be gained
[Looks restlessly towards the mouth of the dungeon.
MAR. When, upon the plank,
I had led him 'cross the torrent, his voice blessed me:
You could not hear, for the foam beat the rocks
With deafening noise,--the benediction fell
Back on himself; but changed into a curse.
OSW. As well indeed it might.
MAR. And this you deem
The fittest place?
OSW. (aside). He is growing pitiful.
MAR. (listening). What an odd moaning that is!--
OSW. Mighty odd
The wind should pipe a little, while we stand
Cooling our heels in this way!--I'll begin
And count the stars.
MAR. (still listening). That dog of his, you are sure,
Could not come after us--he 'must' have perished;
The torrent would have dashed an oak to splinters.
You said you did not like his looks--that he
Would trouble us; if he were here again,
I swear the sight of him would quail me more
Than twenty armies.
MAR. The old blind Man,
When you had told him the mischance, was troubled
Even to the shedding of some natural tears
Into the torrent over which he hung,
Listening in vain.
OSW. He has a tender heart!
[OSWALD offers to go down into the dungeon.
MAR. How now, what mean you?
OSW. Truly, I was going
To waken our stray Baron. Were there not
A farm or dwelling-house within five leagues,
We should deserve to wear a cap and bells,
Three good round years, for playing the fool here
In such a night as this.
MAR. Stop, stop.
You'd better like we should descend together,
And lie down by his side--what say you to it?
Three of us--we should keep each other warm:
I'll answer for it that our four-legged friend
Shall not disturb us; further I'll not engage;
Come, come, for manhood's sake!
MAR. These drowsy shiverings,
This mortal stupor which is creeping over me,
What do they mean? were this my single body
Opposed to armies, not a nerve would tremble:
Why do I tremble now?--Is not the depth
Of this Man's crimes beyond the reach of thought?
And yet, in plumbing the abyss for judgment,
Something I strike upon which turns my mind
Back on herself, I think, again--my breast
Concentres all the terrors of the Universe:
I look at him and tremble like a child.
OSW. Is it possible?
MAR. One thing you noticed not:
Just as we left the glen a clap of thunder
Burst on the mountains with hell-rousing force.
This is a time, said he, when guilt may shudder;
But there's a Providence for them who walk
In helplessness, when innocence is with them.
At this audacious blasphemy, I thought
The spirit of vengeance seemed to ride the air.
OSW. Why are you not the man you were that moment?
[He draws MARMADUKE to the dungeon.
MAR. You say he was asleep,--look at this arm,
And tell me if 'tis fit for such a work.
[Leans upon OSWALD.
OSW. This is some sudden seizure!
MAR. A most strange faintness,--will you hunt me out
A draught of water?
OSW. Nay, to see you thus
Moves me beyond my bearing.--I will try
To gain the torrent's brink.
MAR. (after a pause). It seems an age
Since that Man left me.--No, I am not lost.
HER. (at the mouth of the dungeon). Give me your hand; where are
you, Friends? and tell me
How goes the night.
MAR. 'Tis hard to measure time,
In such a weary night, and such a place.
HER. I do not hear the voice of my friend Oswald.
MAR. A minute past, he went to fetch a draught
Of water from the torrent. 'Tis, you'll say,
A cheerless beverage.
HER. How good it was in you
To stay behind!--Hearing at first no answer,
I was alarmed.
MAR. No wonder; this is a place
That well may put some fears into 'your' heart.
HER. Why so? a roofless rock had been a comfort,
Storm-beaten and bewildered as we were;
And in a night like this, to lend your cloaks
To make a bed for me!--My Girl will weep
When she is told of it.
MAR. This Daughter of yours
Is very dear to you.
HER. Oh! but you are young;
Over your head twice twenty years must roll,
With all their natural weight of sorrow and pain,
Ere can be known to you how much a Father
May love his Child.
MAR. Thank you, old Man, for this! [Aside.
HER. Fallen am I, and worn out, a useless Man;
Kindly have you protected me to-night,
And no return have I to make but prayers;
May you in age be blest with such a daughter!--
When from the Holy Land I had returned
Sightless, and from my heritage was driven,
A wretched Outcast--but this strain of thought
Would lead me to talk fondly.
MAR. Do not fear;
Your words are precious to my ears; go on.
HER. You will forgive me, but my heart runs over.
When my old Leader slipped into the flood
And perished, what a piercing outcry you
Sent after him. I have loved you ever since.
You start--where are we?
MAR. Oh, there is no danger;
The cold blast struck me.
HER. 'Twas a foolish question.
MAR. But when you were an Outcast?--Heaven is just;
Your piety would not miss its due reward;
The little Orphan then would be your succour,
And do good service, though she knew it not.
HER. I turned me from the dwellings of my Fathers,
Where none but those who trampled on my rights
Seemed to remember me. To the wide world
I bore her, in my arms; her looks won pity;
She was my Raven in the wilderness,
And brought me food. Have I not cause to love her?
HER. More than ever Parent loved a Child?
MAR. Yes, yes.
HER. I will not murmur, merciful God!
I will not murmur; blasted as I have been,
Thou hast left me ears to hear my Daughter's voice,
And arms to fold her to my heart. Submissively
Thee I adore, and find my rest in faith.
OSW. Herbert!--confusion! (aside). Here it is, my Friend,
[Presents the Horn.
A charming beverage for you to carouse,
This bitter night.
HER. Ha! Oswald! ten bright crosses
I would have given, not many minutes gone,
To have heard your voice.
OSW. Your couch, I fear, good Baron,
Has been but comfortless; and yet that place,
When the tempestuous wind first drove us hither,
Felt warm as a wren's nest. You'd better turn
And under covert rest till break of day,
Or till the storm abate.
(To MARMADUKE aside). He has restored you.
No doubt you have been nobly entertained?
But soft!--how came he forth? The Night-mare Conscience
Has driven him out of harbour?
MAR. I believe
You have guessed right.
HER. The trees renew their murmur:
Come, let us house together.
[OSWALD conducts him to the dungeon.
OSW. (returns). Had I not
Esteemed you worthy to conduct the affair
To its most fit conclusion, do you think
I would so long have struggled with my Nature,
And smothered all that's man in me?--away!--
[Looking towards the dungeon.
This man's the property of him who best
Can feel his crimes. I have resigned a privilege;
It now becomes my duty to resume it.
MAR. Touch not a finger----
OSW. What then must be done?
MAR. Which way soe'er I turn, I am perplexed.
OSW. Now, on my life, I grieve for you. The misery
Of doubt is insupportable. Pity, the facts
Did not admit of stronger evidence;
Twelve honest men, plain men, would set us right;
Their verdict would abolish these weak scruples.
MAR. Weak! I am weak--there does my torment lie,
OSW. Verily, when he said
How his old heart would leap to hear her steps,
You thought his voice the echo of Idonea's.
MAR. And never heard a sound so terrible.
OSW. Perchance you think so now?
MAR. I cannot do it:
Twice did I spring to grasp his withered throat,
When such a sudden weakness fell upon me,
I could have dropped asleep upon his breast.
OSW. Justice--is there not thunder in the word?
Shall it be law to stab the petty robber
Who aims but at our purse; and shall this Parricide--
Worse is he far, far worse (if foul dishonour
Be worse than death) to that confiding Creature
Whom he to more than filial love and duty
Hath falsely trained--shall he fulfil his purpose?
But you are fallen.
MAR. Fallen should I be indeed--
Murder--perhaps asleep, blind, old, alone,
Betrayed, in darkness! Here to strike the blow--
[Flings away his sword.
OSW. Nay, I have done with you:
We'll lead him to the Convent. He shall live,
And she shall love him. With unquestioned title
He shall be seated in his Barony,
And we too chant the praise of his good deeds.
I now perceive we do mistake our masters,
And most despise the men who best can teach us:
Henceforth it shall be said that bad men only
Are brave: Clifford is brave; and that old Man
[Taking MARMADUKE'S sword and giving it to him.
To Clifford's arms he would have led
His Victim--haply to this desolate house.
MAR. (advancing to the dungeon). It must be ended!--
OSW. Softly; do not rouse him;
He will deny it to the last. He lies
Within the Vault, a spear's length to the left.
[MARMADUKE descends to the dungeon.
(Alone.) The Villains rose in mutiny to destroy me;
I could have quelled the Cowards, but this Stripling
Must needs step in, and save my life. The look
With which he gave the boon--I see it now!
The same that tempted me to loathe the gift.--
For this old venerable Greybeard--faith
'Tis his own fault if he hath got a face
Which doth play tricks with them that look on it:
'Twas this that put it in my thoughts--that countenance--
His staff--his figure--Murder!--what, of whom?
We kill a worn-out horse, and who but women
Sigh at the deed? Hew down a withered tree,
And none look grave but dotards. He may live
To thank me for this service. Rainbow arches,
Highways of dreaming passion, have too long,
Young as he is, diverted wish and hope
From the unpretending ground we mortals tread;--
Then shatter the delusion, break it up
And set him free. What follows? I have learned
That things will work to ends the slaves o' the world
Do never dream of. I 'have' been what he--
This Boy--when he comes forth with bloody hands--
Might envy, and am now,--but he shall know
What I am now--
[Goes and listens at the dungeon.
Praying or parleying?--tut!
Is he not eyeless? He has been half-dead
These fifteen years--
Enter female Beggar with two or three of her Companions.
(Turning abruptly) 'Ha! speak'--what Thing art thou?
(Recognises her.) Heavens! my good Friend! [To her.
BEG. Forgive me, gracious Sir!--
OSW. (to her companions). Begone, ye Slaves, or I will raise a
And send ye dancing to the clouds, like leaves.
[They retire affrighted.
BEG. Indeed we meant no harm; we lodge sometimes
In this deserted Castle--'I repent me.'
[OSWALD goes to the dungeon--listens--returns to the Beggar.
OSW. Woman, thou hast a helpless Infant--keep
Thy secret for its sake, or verily
That wretched life of thine shall be the forfeit.
BEG. I 'do' repent me, Sir; I fear the curse
Of that blind Man. 'Twas not your money, sir----
BEG. (going). There is some wicked deed in hand: [Aside.
Would I could find the old Man and his Daughter.
MARMADUKE: re-enters from the dungeon.
OSW. It is all over then;--your foolish fears
Are hushed to sleep, by your own act and deed,
Made quiet as he is.
MAR. Why came you down?
And when I felt your hand upon my arm
And spake to you, why did you give no answer?
Feared you to waken him? he must have been
In a deep sleep. I whispered to him thrice.
There are the strangest echoes in that place!
OSW. Tut! let them gabble till the day of doom.
MAR. Scarcely, by groping, had I reached the Spot,
When round my wrist I felt a cord drawn tight,
As if the blind Man's dog were pulling at it.
OSW. But after that?
MAR. The features of Idonea
Lurked in his face----
OSW. Psha! Never to these eyes
Will retribution show itself again
With aspect so inviting. Why forbid me
To share your triumph?
MAR. Yes, her very look,
Smiling in sleep----
OSW. A pretty feat of Fancy!
MAR. Though but a glimpse, it sent me to my prayers.
OSW. Is he alive?
MAR. What mean you? who alive?
OSW. Herbert! since you will have it, Baron Herbert;
He who will gain his Seignory when Idonea
Hath become Clifford's harlot--is 'he' living?
MAR. The old Man in that dungeon 'is' alive.
OSW. Henceforth, then, will I never in camp or field
Obey you more. Your weakness, to the Band,
Shall be proclaimed: brave Men, they all shall hear it.
You a protector of humanity!
Avenger you of outraged innocence!
MAR. 'Twas dark--dark as the grave; yet did I see,
Saw him--his face turned toward me; and I tell thee
Idonea's filial countenance was there
To baffle me--it put me to my prayers.
Upwards I cast my eyes, and, through a crevice,
Beheld a star twinkling above my head,
And, by the living God, I could not do it.
OSW. (to himself). Now may I perish if this turn do more
Than make me change my course.
(To MARMADUKE.) Dear Marmaduke,
My words were rashly spoken; I recall them:
I feel my error; shedding human blood
Is a most serious thing.
MAR. Not I alone,
Thou too art deep in guilt.
OSW. We have indeed
Been most presumptuous. There 'is' guilt in this,
Else could so strong a mind have ever known
These trepidations? Plain it is that Heaven
Has marked out this foul Wretch as one whose crimes
Must never come before a mortal judgment-seat,
Or be chastised by mortal instruments.
MAR. A thought that's worth a thousand worlds!
[Goes towards the dungeon.
OSW. I grieve
That, in my zeal, I have caused you so much pain.
MAR. Think not of that! 'tis over--we are safe.
OSW. (as if to himself, yet speaking aloud). The truth is
hideous, but how stifle it?
[Turning to MARMADUKE.
Give me your sword--nay, here are stones and fragments,
The least of which would beat out a man's brains;
Or you might drive your head against that wall.
No! this is not the place to hear the tale:
It should be told you pinioned in your bed,
Or on some vast and solitary plain
Blown to you from a trumpet.
MAR. Why talk thus?
Whate'er the monster brooding in your breast
I care not: fear I have none, and cannot fear----
[The sound of a horn is heard.
That horn again--'Tis some one of our Troop;
What do they here? Listen!
OSW. What! dogged like thieves!
Enter WALLACE and LACY, etc.
LACY. You are found at last, thanks to the vagrant Troop
For not misleading us.
OSW. (looking at WALLACE). That subtle Greybeard--
I'd rather see my father's ghost.
LACY. (to MARMADUKE). My Captain,
We come by order of the Band. Belike
You have not heard that Henry has at last
Dissolved the Barons' League, and sent abroad
His Sheriffs with fit force to reinstate
The genuine owners of such Lands and Baronies
As, in these long commotions, have been seized.
His Power is this way tending. It befits us
To stand upon our guard, and with our swords
Defend the innocent.
MAR. Lacy! we look
But at the surfaces of things; we hear
Of towns in flames, fields ravaged, young and old
Driven out in troops to want and nakedness;
Then grasp our swords and rush upon a cure
That flatters us, because it asks not thought:
The deeper malady is better hid;
The world is poisoned at the heart.
LACY. What mean you?
WAL. (whose eye has been fixed suspiciously upon OSWALD). Ay,
what is it you mean?
MAR. Hark'e, my Friends;--
Were there a Man who, being weak and helpless
And most forlorn, should bribe a Mother, pressed
By penury, to yield him up her Daughter,
A little Infant, and instruct the Babe,
Prattling upon his knee, to call him Father----
LACY. Why, if his heart be tender, that offence
I could forgive him.
MAR. (going on). And should he make the Child
An instrument of falsehood, should he teach her
To stretch her arms, and dim the gladsome light
Of infant playfulness with piteous looks
Of misery that was not----
LACY. Troth, 'tis hard--
But in a world like ours----
MAR. (changing his tone). This self-same Man--
Even while he printed kisses on the cheek
Of this poor Babe, and taught its innocent tongue
To lisp the name of Father--could he look
To the unnatural harvest of that time
When he should give her up, a Woman grown,
To him who bid the highest in the market
Of foul pollution----
LACY. The whole visible world
Contains not such a Monster!
MAR. For this purpose
Should he resolve to taint her Soul by means
Which bathe the limbs in sweat to think of them;
Should he, by tales which would draw tears from iron,
Work on her nature, and so turn compassion
And gratitude to ministers of vice,
And make the spotless spirit of filial love
Prime mover in a plot to damn his Victim
Both soul and body----
WAL. 'Tis too horrible;
Oswald, what say you to it?
LACY. Hew him down,
And fling him to the ravens.
MAR. But his aspect
It is so meek, his countenance so venerable.
WAL. (with an appearance of mistrust). But how, what say you,
LACY. (at the same moment). Stab him, were it
Before the Altar.
MAR. What, if he were sick,
Tottering upon the very verge of life,
And old, and blind----
LACY. Blind, say you?
OSW. (coming forward). Are we Men,
Or own we baby Spirits? Genuine courage
Is not an accidental quality,
A thing dependent for its casual birth
On opposition and impediment.
Wisdom, if Justice speak the word, beats down
The giant's strength; and, at the voice of Justice,
Spares not the worm. The giant and the worm--
She weighs them in one scale. The wiles of woman,
And craft of age, seducing reason, first
Made weakness a protection, and obscured
The moral shapes of things. His tender cries
And helpless innocence--do they protect
The infant lamb? and shall the infirmities,
Which have enabled this enormous Culprit
To perpetrate his crimes, serve as a Sanctuary
To cover him from punishment? Shame!--Justice,
Admitting no resistance, bends alike
The feeble and the strong. She needs not here
Her bonds and chains, which make the mighty feeble.
--We recognise in this old Man a victim
Prepared already for the sacrifice.
LACY. By heaven, his words are reason!
OSW. Yes, my Friends,
His countenance is meek and venerable;
And, by the Mass, to see him at his prayers!--
I am of flesh and blood, and may I perish
When my heart does not ache to think of it!--
Poor Victim! not a virtue under heaven
But what was made an engine to ensnare thee;
But yet I trust, Idonea, thou art safe.
WAL. How! what? your Idonea?
But now no longer mine. You know Lord Clifford;
He is the Man to whom the Maiden--pure
As beautiful, and gentle and benign,
And in her ample heart loving even me--
Was to be yielded up.
LACY. Now, by the head
Of my own child, this Man must die; my hand,
A worthier wanting, shall itself entwine
In his grey hairs!--
MAR. (to LACY). I love the Father in thee.
You know me, Friends; I have a heart to feel,
And I have felt, more than perhaps becomes me
Or duty sanctions.
LACY. We will have ample justice.
Who are we, Friends? Do we not live on ground
Where Souls are self-defended, free to grow
Like mountain oaks rocked by the stormy wind.
Mark the Almighty Wisdom, which decreed
This monstrous crime to be laid open--'here',
Where Reason has an eye that she can use,
And Men alone are Umpires. To the Camp
He shall be led, and there, the Country round
All gathered to the spot, in open day
Shall Nature be avenged.
OSW. 'Tis nobly thought;
His death will be a monument for ages.
MAR. (to LACY). I thank you for that hint. He shall be brought
Before the Camp, and would that best and wisest
Of every country might be present. There,
His crime shall be proclaimed; and for the rest
It shall be done as Wisdom shall decide:
Meanwhile, do you two hasten back and see
That all is well prepared.
WAL. We will obey you.
(Aside.) But softly! we must look a little nearer.
MAR. Tell where you found us. At some future time
I will explain the cause. [Exeunt.
SCENE--The door of the Hostel, a group of Pilgrims as before;
IDONEA and the Host among them.
HOST. Lady, you'll find your Father at the Convent
As I have told you: He left us yesterday
With two Companions; one of them, as seemed,
His most familiar Friend. (Going.) There was a letter
Of which I heard them speak, but that I fancy
Has been forgotten.
IDON. (to Host). Farewell!
HOST. Gentle pilgrims,
St. Cuthbert speed you on your holy errand.
[Exeunt IDONEA and Pilgrims.
SCENE--A desolate Moor.
OSW. Carry him to the Camp! Yes, to the Camp.
Oh, Wisdom! a most wise resolve! and then,
That half a word should blow it to the winds!
This last device must end my work.--Methinks
It were a pleasant pastime to construct
A scale and table of belief--as thus--
Two columns, one for passion, one for proof;
Each rises as the other falls: and first,
Passion a unit and 'against' us--proof--
Nay, we must travel in another path,
Or we're stuck fast for ever;--passion, then,
Shall be a unit 'for' us; proof--no, passion!
We'll not insult thy majesty by time,
Person, and place--the where, the when, the how,
And all particulars that dull brains require
To constitute the spiritless shape of Fact,
They bow to, calling the idol, Demonstration.
A whipping to the Moralists who preach
That misery is a sacred thing: for me,
I know no cheaper engine to degrade a man,
Nor any half so sure. This Stripling's mind
Is shaken till the dregs float on the surface;
And, in the storm and anguish of the heart,
He talks of a transition in his Soul,
And dreams that he is happy. We dissect
The senseless body, and why not the mind?--
These are strange sights--the mind of man, upturned,
Is in all natures a strange spectacle;
In some a hideous one--hem! shall I stop?
No.--Thoughts and feelings will sink deep, but then
They have no substance. Pass but a few minutes,
And something shall be done which Memory
May touch, whene'er her Vassals are at work.
Enter MARMADUKE, from behind.
OSW. (turning to meet him). But listen, for my peace----
MAR. Why, I 'believe' you.
OSW. But hear the proofs----
MAR. Ay, prove that when two peas
Lie snugly in a pod, the pod must then
Be larger than the peas--prove this--'twere matter
Worthy the hearing. Fool was I to dream
It ever could be otherwise!
OSW. Last night
When I returned with water from the brook,
I overheard the Villains--every word
Like red-hot iron burnt into my heart.
Said one, "It is agreed on. The blind Man
Shall feign a sudden illness, and the Girl,
Who on her journey must proceed alone,
Under pretence of violence, be seized.
She is," continued the detested Slave,
"She is right willing--strange if she were not!--
They say, Lord Clifford is a savage man;
But, faith, to see him in his silken tunic,
Fitting his low voice to the minstrel's harp,
There's witchery in't. I never knew a maid
That could withstand it. True," continued he,
"When we arranged the affair, she wept a little
(Not the less welcome to my Lord for that)
And said, 'My Father he will have it so.'"
MAR. I am your hearer.
OSW. This I caught, and more
That may not be retold to any ear,
The obstinate bolt of a small iron door
Detained them near the gateway of the Castle.
By a dim lantern's light I saw that wreaths
Of flowers were in their hands, as if designed
For festive decoration; and they said,
With brutal laughter and most foul allusion,
That they should share the banquet with their Lord
And his new Favourite.
OSW. I knew
How you would be disturbed by this dire news,
And therefore chose this solitary Moor,
Here to impart the tale, of which, last night,
I strove to ease my mind, when our two Comrades,
Commissioned by the Band, burst in upon us.
MAR. Last night, when moved to lift the avenging steel,
I did believe all things were shadows--yea,
Living or dead all things were bodiless,
Or but the mutual mockeries of body,
Till that same star summoned me back again.
Now I could laugh till my ribs ached. Oh Fool!
To let a creed, built in the heart of things,
Dissolve before a twinkling atom!--Oswald,
I could fetch lessons out of wiser schools
Than you have entered, were it worth the pains.
Young as I am, I might go forth a teacher,
And you should see how deeply I could reason
Of love in all its shapes, beginnings, ends;
Of moral qualities in their diverse aspects;
Of actions, and their laws and tendencies.
OSW. You take it as it merits----
MAR. One a King,
General or Cham, Sultan or Emperor,
Strews twenty acres of good meadow-ground
With carcases, in lineament and shape
And substance, nothing differing from his own,
But that they cannot stand up of themselves
Another sits i' th' sun, and by the hour
Floats kingcups in the brook--a Hero one
We call, and scorn the other as Time's spendthrift;
But have they not a world of common ground
To occupy--both fools, or wise alike,
Each in his way?
OSW. Troth, I begin to think so.
MAR. Now for the corner-stone of my philosophy:
I would not give a denier for the man
Who, on such provocation as this earth
Yields, could not chuck his babe beneath the chin,
And send it with a fillip to its grave.
OSW. Nay, you leave me behind.
MAR. That such a One,
So pious in demeanour! in his look
So saintly and so pure!--Hark'e, my Friend,
I'll plant myself before Lord Clifford's Castle,
A surly mastiff kennels at the gate,
And he shall howl and I will laugh, a medley
OSW. In faith, a pleasant scheme;
But take your sword along with you, for that
Might in such neighbourhood find seemly use.--
But first, how wash our hands of this old Man?
MAR. Oh yes, that mole, that viper in the path;
Plague on my memory, him I had forgotten.
OSW. You know we left him sitting--see him yonder.
MAR. Ha! ha!--
OSW. As 'twill be but a moment's work,
I will stroll on; you follow when 'tis done.
SCENE changes to another part of the Moor at a short distance--
HERBERT is discovered seated on a stone.
HER. A sound of laughter, too!--'tis well--I feared,
The Stranger had some pitiable sorrow
Pressing upon his solitary heart.
Hush!--'tis the feeble and earth-loving wind
That creeps along the bells of the crisp heather.
Alas! 'tis cold--I shiver in the sunshine--
What can this mean? There is a psalm that speaks
Of God's parental mercies--with Idonea
I used to sing it.--Listen!--what foot is there?
MAR. (aside--looking a HERBERT). And I have loved this Man! and
she hath loved him!
And I loved her, and she loves the Lord Clifford!
And there it ends;--if this be not enough
To make mankind merry for evermore,
Then plain it is as day, that eyes were made
For a wise purpose--verily to weep with!
A pretty prospect this, a masterpiece
Of Nature, finished with most curious skill!
(To HERBERT.) Good Baron, have you ever practised tillage?
Pray tell me what this land is worth by the acre?
HER. How glad I am to hear your voice! I know not
Wherein I have offended you;--last night
I found in you the kindest of Protectors;
This morning, when I spoke of weariness,
You from my shoulder took my scrip and threw it
About your own; but for these two hours past
Once only have you spoken, when the lark
Whirred from among the fern beneath our feet,
And I, no coward in my better days,
Was almost terrified.
MAR. That's excellent!--
So, you bethought you of the many ways
In which a man may come to his end, whose crimes
Have roused all Nature up against him--pshaw!--
HER. For mercy's sake, is nobody in sight?
No traveller, peasant, herdsman?
MAR. Not a soul:
Here is a tree, ragged, and bent, and bare,
That turns its goat's-beard flakes of peagreen moss
From the stern breathing of the rough seawind;
This have we, but no other company:
Commend me to the place. If a man should die
And leave his body here, it were all one
As he were twenty fathoms underground.
HER. Where is our common Friend?
MAR. A ghost, methinks--
The Spirit of a murdered man, for instance--
Might have fine room to ramble about here,
A grand domain to squeak and gibber in.
HER. Lost Man! if thou have any close-pent guilt
Pressing upon thy heart, and this the hour
MAR. A bold word from 'you'!
HER. Restore him, Heaven!
MAR. The desperate Wretch!--A Flower,
Fairest of all flowers, was she once, but now
They have snapped her from the stem--Poh! let her lie
Besoiled with mire, and let the houseless snail
Feed on her leaves. You knew her well--ay, there,
Old Man! you were a very Lynx, you knew
The worm was in her----
HER. Mercy! Sir, what mean you?
MAR. You have a Daughter!
HER. Oh that she were here!--
She hath an eye that sinks into all hearts,
And if I have in aught offended you,
Soon would her gentle voice make peace between us.
MAR. (aside). I do believe he weeps--I could weep too--
There is a vein of her voice that runs through his:
Even such a Man my fancy bodied forth
From the first moment that I loved the Maid;
And for his sake I loved her more: these tears--
I did not think that aught was left in me
Of what I have been--yes, I thank thee, Heaven!
One happy thought has passed across my mind.
--It may not be--I am cut off from man;
No more shall I be man--no more shall!
Have human feelings!--(To HERBERT)--Now, for a little more
About your Daughter!
HER. Troops of armed men,
Met in the roads, would bless us; little children,
Rushing along in the full tide of play,
Stood silent as we passed them! I have heard
The boisterous carman, in the miry road,
Check his loud whip and hail us with mild voice,
And speak with milder voice to his poor beasts.
MAR. And whither were you going?
HER. Learn, young Man,
To fear the virtuous, and reverence misery,
Whether too much for patience, or, like mine,
Softened till it becomes a gift of mercy.
MAR. Now, this is as it should be!
HER. I am weak!--
My Daughter does not know how weak I am;
And, as thou see'st, under the arch of heaven
Here do I stand, alone, to helplessness,
By the good God, our common Father, doomed!--
But I had once a spirit and an arm----
MAR. Now, for a word about your Barony:
I fancy when you left the Holy Land,
And came to--what's your title--eh? your claims
HER. Like a mendicant,
Whom no one comes to meet, I stood alone;--
I murmured--but, remembering Him who feeds
The pelican and ostrich of the desert,
From my own threshold I looked up to Heaven
And did not want glimmerings of quiet hope.
So, from the court I passed, and down the brook,
Led by its murmur, to the ancient oak
I came; and when I felt its cooling shade,
I sate me down, and cannot but believe--
While in my lap I held my little Babe
And clasped her to my heart, my heart that ached
More with delight than grief--I heard a voice
Such as by Cherith on Elijah called;
It said, "I will be with thee." A little boy,
A shepherd-lad, ere yet my trance was gone,
Hailed us as if he had been sent from heaven,
And said, with tears, that he would be our guide:
I had a better guide--that innocent Babe--
Her, who hath saved me, to this hour, from harm,
From cold, from hunger, penury, and death;
To whom I owe the best of all the good
I have, or wish for, upon earth--and more
And higher far than lies within earth's bounds:
Therefore I bless her: when I think of Man,
I bless her with sad spirit,--when of God,
I bless her in the fulness of my joy!
MAR. The name of daughter in his month, he prays!
With nerves so steady, that the very flies
Sit unmolested on his staff.--Innocent!--
If he were innocent--then he would tremble
And be disturbed, as I am. (Turning aside.) I have read
In Story, what men now alive have witnessed,
How, when the People's mind was racked with doubt,
Appeal was made to the great Judge: the Accused
With naked feet walked over burning ploughshares.
Here is a Man by Nature's hand prepared
For a like trial, but more merciful.
Why else have I been led to this bleak Waste?
Bare is it, without house or track, and destitute
Of obvious shelter, as a shipless sea.
Here will I leave him--here--All-seeing God!
Such as 'he' is, and sore perplexed as I am,
I will commit him to this final 'Ordeal'!--
He heard a voice--a shepherd-lad came to him
And was his guide; if once, why not again,
And in this desert? If never--then the whole
Of what he says, and looks, and does, and is,
Makes up one damning falsehood. Leave him here
To cold and hunger!--Pain is of the heart,
And what are a few throes of bodily suffering
If they can waken one pang of remorse?
[Goes up to HERBERT.
Old Man! my wrath is as a flame burnt out,
It cannot be rekindled. Thou art here
Led by my hand to save thee from perdition;
Thou wilt have time to breathe and think----
HER. Oh, Mercy!
MAR. I know the need that all men have of mercy,
And therefore leave thee to a righteous judgment.
HER. My Child, my blessed Child!
MAR. No more of that;
Thou wilt have many guides if thou art innocent;
Yea, from the utmost corners of the earth,
That Woman will come o'er this Waste to save thee.
[He pauses and looks at HERBERT'S staff.
Ha! what is here? and carved by her own hand!
[Reads upon the staff.
"I am eyes to the blind, saith the Lord.
He that puts his trust in me shall not fail!"
Yes, be it so;--repent and be forgiven--
God and that staff are now thy only guides.
[He leaves HERBERT on the Moor.
SCENE--An eminence, a Beacon on the summit.
LACY, WALLACE, LENNOX, etc. etc.
SEVERAL OF THE BAND (confusedly). But patience!
ONE OF THE BAND. Curses on that Traitor, Oswald!--
Our Captain made a prey to foul device!--
LEN. (to WAL.) His tool, the wandering Beggar, made last night
A plain confession, such as leaves no doubt,
Knowing what otherwise we know too well,
That she revealed the truth. Stand by me now;
For rather would I have a nest of vipers
Between my breast-plate and my skin, than make
Oswald my special enemy, if you
Deny me your support.
LACY. We have been fooled--
But for the motive?
WAL. Natures such as his
Spin motives out of their own bowels, Lacy!
I learned this when I was a Confessor.
I know him well; there needs no other motive
Than that most strange incontinence in crime
Which haunts this Oswald. Power is life to him
And breath and being; where he cannot govern,
He will destroy.
LACY. To have been trapped like moles!--
Yes, you are right, we need not hunt for motives:
There is no crime from which this man would shrink;
He recks not human law; and I have noticed
That often when the name of God is uttered,
A sudden blankness overspreads his face.
LEN. Yet, reasoner as he is, his pride has built
Some uncouth superstition of its own.
WAL. I have seen traces of it.
LEN. Once he headed
A band of Pirates in the Norway seas;
And when the King of Denmark summoned him
To the oath of fealty, I well remember,
'Twas a strange answer that he made; he said,
"I hold of Spirits, and the Sun in heaven."
LACY. He is no madman.
WAL. A most subtle doctor
Were that man, who could draw the line that parts
Pride and her daughter, Cruelty, from Madness,
That should be scourged, not pitied. Restless Minds,
Such Minds as find amid their fellowmen
No heart that loves them, none that they can love,
Will turn perforce and seek for sympathy
In dim relation to imagined Beings.
ONE OF THE BAND. What if he mean to offer up our Captain
An expiation and a sacrifice
To those infernal fiends!
WAL. Now, if the event
Should be as Lennox has foretold, then swear,
My Friends, his heart shall have as many wounds
As there are daggers here.
LACY. What need of swearing!
ONE OF THE BAND. Let us away!
A THIRD. Hark! how the horns
Of those Scotch Rovers echo through the vale.
LACY. Stay you behind; and when the sun is down,
Light up this beacon.
ONE OF THE BAND. You shall be obeyed.
[They go out together.
SCENE--The Wood on the edge of the Moor.
MAR. Deep, deep and vast, vast beyond human thought,
Yet calm.--I could believe, that there was here
The only quiet heart on earth. In terror,
Remembered terror, there is peace and rest.
OSW. Ha! my dear Captain.
MAR. A later meeting, Oswald,
Would have been better timed.
OSW. Alone, I see;
You have done your duty. I had hopes, which now
I feel that you will justify.
MAR. I had fears,
From which I have freed myself--but 'tis my wish
To be alone, and therefore we must part.
OSW. Nay, then--I am mistaken. There's a weakness
About you still; you talk of solitude--
I am your friend.
MAR. What need of this assurance
At any time? and why given now?
You are now in truth my Master; you have taught me
What there is not another living man
Had strength to teach;--and therefore gratitude
Is bold, and would relieve itself by praise.
MAR. Wherefore press this on me?
OSW. Because I feel
That you have shown, and by a signal instance,
How they who would be just must seek the rule
By diving for it into their own bosoms.
To-day you have thrown off a tyranny
That lives but in the torpid acquiescence
Of our emasculated souls, the tyranny
Of the world's masters, with the musty rules
By which they uphold their craft from age to age:
You have obeyed the only law that sense
Submits to recognise; the immediate law,
From the clear light of circumstances, flashed
Upon an independent Intellect.
Henceforth new prospects open on your path;
Your faculties should grow with the demand;
I still will be your friend, will cleave to you
Through good and evil, obloquy and scorn,
Oft as they dare to follow on your steps.
MAR. I would be left alone.
OSW. (exultingly). I know your motives!
I am not of the world's presumptuous judges,
Who damn where they can neither see nor feel,
With a hard-hearted ignorance; your struggles
I witnessed, and now hail your victory.
MAR. Spare me awhile that greeting.
OSW. It may be,
That some there are, squeamish half-thinking cowards,
Who will turn pale upon you, call you murderer,
And you will walk in solitude among them.
A mighty evil for a strong-built mind!--
Join twenty tapers of unequal height
And light them joined, and you will see the less
How 'twill burn down the taller; and they all
Shall prey upon the tallest. Solitude!--
The Eagle lives in Solitude.
MAR. Even so,
The Sparrow so on the housetop, and I,
The weakest of God's creatures, stand resolved
To abide the issue of my act, alone.
OSW. 'Now' would you? and for ever?--My young Friend,
As time advances either we become
The prey or masters of our own past deeds.
Fellowship we 'must' have, willing or no;
And if good Angels fail, slack in their duty,
Substitutes, turn our faces where we may,
Are still forthcoming; some which, though they bear
Ill names, can render no ill services,
In recompense for what themselves required.
So meet extremes in this mysterious world,
And opposites thus melt into each other.
MAR. Time, since Man first drew breath, has never moved
With such a weight upon his wings as now;
But they will soon be lightened.
OSW. Ay, look up--
Cast round you your mind's eye, and you will learn
Fortitude is the child of Enterprise:
Great actions move our admiration, chiefly
Because they carry in themselves an earnest
That we can suffer greatly.
MAR. Very true.
OSW. Action is transitory--a step, a blow,
The motion of a muscle--this way or that--
'Tis done, and in the after-vacancy
We wonder at ourselves like men betrayed:
Suffering is permanent, obscure and dark,
And shares the nature of infinity.
MAR. Truth--and I feel it.
OSW. What! if you had bid
Eternal farewell to unmingled joy
And the light dancing of the thoughtless heart;
It is the toy of fools, and little fit
For such a world as this. The wise abjure
All thoughts whose idle composition lives
In the entire forgetfulness of pain.
--I see I have disturbed you.
MAR. By no means.
OSW. Compassion!--pity!--pride can do without them;
And what if you should never know them more!--
He is a puny soul who, feeling pain,
Finds ease because another feels it too.
If e'er I open out this heart of mine
It shall be for a nobler end--to teach
And not to purchase puling sympathy.
--Nay, you are pale.
MAR. It may be so.
It cannot live with thought; think on, think on,
And it will die. What! in this universe,
Where the least things control the greatest, where
The faintest breath that breathes can move a world;
What! feel remorse, where, if a cat had sneezed,
A leaf had fallen, the thing had never been
Whose very shadow gnaws us to the vitals.
MAR. Now, whither are you wandering? That a man
So used to suit his language to the time,
Should thus so widely differ from himself--
It is most strange.
OSW. Murder!--what's in the word!--
I have no cases by me ready made
To fit all deeds. Carry him to the Camp!--
A shallow project;--you of late have seen
More deeply, taught us that the institutes
Of Nature, by a cunning usurpation
Banished from human intercourse, exist
Only in our relations to the brutes
That make the fields their dwelling, If a snake
Crawl from beneath our feet we do not ask
A license to destroy him: our good governors
Hedge in the life of every pest and plague
That bears the shape of man; and for what purpose,
But to protect themselves from extirpation?--
This flimsy barrier you have overleaped.
MAR. My Office is fulfilled--the Man is now
Delivered to the Judge of all things.
MAR. I have borne my burthen to its destined end.
OSW. This instant we'll return to our companions--
Oh how I long to see their faces again!
Enter IDONEA, with Pilgrims who continue their journey.
IDON. (after some time). What, Marmaduke! now thou art mine for
And Oswald, too! (To MARMADUKE). On will we to my Father
With the glad tidings which this day hath brought;
We'll go together, and, such proof received
Of his own rights restored, his gratitude
To God above will make him feel for ours.
OSW. I interrupt you?
IDON. Think not so.
That I should ever live to see this moment!
IDON. Forgive me.--Oswald knows it all--he knows,
Each word of that unhappy letter fell
As a blood drop from my heart.
OSW. 'Twas even so.
MAR. I have much to say, but for whose ear?--not thine.
IDON. Ill can I bear that look--Plead for me, Oswald!
You are my Father's Friend.
(To MARMADUKE). Alas, you know not,
And never 'can' you know, how much he loved me.
Twice had he been to me a father, twice
Had given me breath, and was I not to be
His daughter, once his daughter? could I withstand
His pleading face, and feel his clasping arms,
And hear his prayer that I would not forsake him
In his old age----[Hides her face.
MAR. Patience--Heaven grant me patience!--
She weeps, she weeps--'my' brain shall burn for hours
Ere 'I' can shed a tear.
IDON. I was a woman;
And, balancing the hopes that are the dearest
To womankind with duty to my Father,
I yielded up those precious hopes, which nought
On earth could else have wrested from me;--if erring,
Oh let me be forgiven!
MAR. I 'do' forgive thee.
IDON. But take me to your arms--this breast, alas!
It throbs, and you have a heart that does not feel it.
MAR. (exultingly). She is innocent.
[He embraces her.
OSW. (aside). Were I a Moralist,
I should make wondrous revolution here;
It were a quaint experiment to show
The beauty of truth-- [Addressing them.
I see I interrupt you;
I shall have business with you, Marmaduke;
Follow me to the Hostel. [Exit OSWALD.
This is a happy day. My Father soon
Shall sun himself before his native doors;
The lame, the hungry, will be welcome there.
No more shall he complain of wasted strength,
Of thoughts that fail, and a decaying heart;
His good works will be balm and life to him.
MAR. This is most strange!--I know not what it was,
But there was something which most plainly said,
That thou wert innocent.
IDON. How innocent!--
Oh heavens! you've been deceived.
MAR. Thou art a Woman,
To bring perdition on the universe.
IDON. Already I've been punished to the height
Of my offence. [Smiling affectionately.
I see you love me still,
The labours of my hand are still your joy;
Bethink you of the hour when on your shoulder
I hung this belt.
[Pointing to the belt on which was suspended HERBERT'S scrip.
MAR. Mercy of Heaven! [Sinks.
IDON. What ails you! [Distractedly.
MAR. The scrip that held his food, and I forgot
To give it back again!
IDON. What mean your words?
MAR. I know not what I said--all may be well.
IDON. That smile hath life in it!
MAR. This road is perilous;
I will attend you to a Hut that stands
Near the wood's edge--rest there to-night, I pray you:
For me, I have business, as you heard, with Oswald,
But will return to you by break of day.
SCENE--A desolate prospect--a ride of rocks--a Chapel on the
summit of one--Moon behind the rocks--night stormy--irregular
sound of a Bell--HERBERT enters exhausted.
HER. That Chapel-bell in mercy seemed to guide me,
But now it mocks my steps; its fitful stroke
Can scarcely be the work of human hands.
Hear me, ye Men, upon the cliffs, if such
There be who pray nightly before the Altar.
Oh that I had but strength to reach the place!
My Child--my child--dark--dark--I faint--this wind--
These stifling blasts--God help me!
ELD. Better this bare rock,
Though it were tottering over a man's head,
Than a tight case of dungeon walls for shelter
From such rough dealing.
[a moaning voice is heard.
Ha! what sound is that?
Trees creaking in the wind (but none are here)
Send forth such noises--and that weary bell!
Surely some evil Spirit abroad to-night
Is ringing it--'twould stop a Saint in prayer,
And that--what is it? never was sound so like
A human groan. Ha! what is here? Poor Man--
Murdered! alas! speak--speak, I am your friend:
No answer--hush--lost wretch, he lifts his hand
And lays it to his heart--(Kneels to him). I pray you speak!
What has befallen you?
HER. (feebly). A stranger has done this,
And in the arms of a stranger I must die.
ELD. Nay, think not so: come, let me raise you up:
This is a dismal place--well--that is well--
I was too fearful--take me for your guide
And your support--my hut is not far off.
[Draws him gently off the stage.
SCENE--A room in the Hostel--MARMADUKE and OSWALD.
MAR. But for Idonea!--I have cause to think
That she is innocent.
OSW. Leave that thought awhile,
As one of those beliefs, which in their hearts
Lovers lock up as pearls, though oft no better
Than feathers clinging to their points of passion.
This day's event has laid on me the duty
Of opening out my story; you must hear it,
And without further preface.--In my youth,
Except for that abatement which is paid
By envy as a tribute to desert,
I was the pleasure of all hearts, the darling
Of every tongue--as you are now. You've heard
That I embarked for Syria. On our voyage
Was hatched among the crew a foul Conspiracy
Against my honour, in the which our Captain
Was, I believed, prime Agent. The wind fell;
We lay becalmed week after week, until
The water of the vessel was exhausted;
I felt a double fever in my veins,
Yet rage suppressed itself;--to a deep stillness
Did my pride tame my pride;--for many days,
On a dead sea under a burning sky,
I brooded o'er my injuries, deserted
By man and nature;--if a breeze had blown,
It might have found its way into my heart,
And I had been--no matter--do you mark me?
MAR. Quick--to the point--if any untold crime
Doth haunt your memory.
OSW. Patience, hear me further!--
One day in silence did we drift at noon
By a bare rock, narrow, and white, and bare;
No food was there, no drink, no grass, no shade,
No tree, nor jutting eminence, nor form
Inanimate large as the body of man,
Nor any living thing whose lot of life
Might stretch beyond the measure of one moon.
To dig for water on the spot, the Captain
Landed with a small troop, myself being one:
There I reproached him with his treachery.
Imperious at all times, his temper rose;
He struck me; and that instant had I killed him,
And put an end to his insolence, but my Comrades
Rushed in between us: then did I insist
(All hated him, and I was stung to madness)
That we should leave him there, alive!--we did so.
MAR. And he was famished?
OSW. Naked was the spot;
Methinks I see it now--how in the sun
Its stony surface glittered like a shield;
And in that miserable place we left him,
Alone but for a swarm of minute creatures
Not one of which could help him while alive,
Or mourn him dead.
MAR. A man by men cast off,
Left without burial! nay, not dead nor dying,
But standing, walking, stretching forth his arms,
In all things like ourselves, but in the agony
With which he called for mercy; and--even so--
He was forsaken?
OSW. There is a power in sounds:
The cries he uttered might have stopped the boat
That bore us through the water----
MAR. You returned
Upon that dismal hearing--did you not?
OSW. Some scoffed at him with hellish mockery,
And laughed so loud it seemed that the smooth sea
Did from some distant region echo us.
MAR. We all are of one blood, our veins are filled
At the same poisonous fountain!
OSW. 'Twas an island
Only by sufferance of the winds and waves,
Which with their foam could cover it at will.
I know not how he perished; but the calm,
The same dead calm, continued many days.
MAR. But his own crime had brought on him this doom,
His wickedness prepared it; these expedients
Are terrible, yet ours is not the fault.
OSW. The man was famished, and was innocent!
OSW. The man had never wronged me.
MAR. Banish the thought, crush it, and be at peace.
His guilt was marked--these things could never be
Were there not eyes that see, and for good ends,
Where ours are baffled.
OSW. I had been deceived.
MAR. And from that hour the miserable man
No more was heard of?
OSW. I had been betrayed.
MAR. And he found no deliverance!
OSW. The Crew
Gave me a hearty welcome; they had laid
The plot to rid themselves, at any cost,
Of a tyrannic Master whom they loathed.
So we pursued our voyage: when we landed,
The tale was spread abroad; my power at once
Shrunk from me; plans and schemes, and lofty hopes--
All vanished. I gave way--do you attend?
MAR. The Crew deceived you?
OSW. Nay, command yourself.
MAR. It is a dismal night--how the wind howls!
OSW. I hid my head within a Convent, there
Lay passive as a dormouse in mid-winter.
That was no life for me--I was o'erthrown,
But not destroyed.
MAR. The proofs--you ought to have seen
The guilt--have touched it--felt it at your heart--
As I have done.
OSW. A fresh tide of Crusaders
Drove by the place of my retreat: three nights
Did constant meditation dry my blood;
Three sleepless nights I passed in sounding on,
Through words and things, a dim and perilous way;
And, wheresoe'er I turned me, I beheld
A slavery compared to which the dungeon
And clanking chains are perfect liberty.
You understand me--I was comforted;
I saw that every possible shape of action
Might lead to good--I saw it and burst forth
Thirsting for some of those exploits that fill
The earth for sure redemption of lost peace.
[Marking MARMADUKE'S countenance.
Nay, you have had the worst. Ferocity
Subsided in a moment, like a wind
That drops down dead out of a sky it vexed.
And yet I had within me evermore
A salient spring of energy; I mounted
From action up to action with a mind
That never rested--without meat or drink
Have I lived many days--my sleep was bound
To purposes of reason--not a dream
But had a continuity and substance
That waking life had never power to give.
MAR. O wretched Human-kind!--Until the mystery
Of all this world is solved, well may we envy
The worm, that, underneath a stone whose weight
Would crush the lion's paw with mortal anguish,
Doth lodge, and feed, and coil, and sleep, in safety.
Fell not the wrath of Heaven upon those traitors?
OSW. Give not to them a thought. From Palestine
We marched to Syria: oft I left the Camp,
When all that multitude of hearts was still,
And followed on, through woods of gloomy cedar,
Into deep chasms troubled by roaring streams;
Or from the top of Lebanon surveyed
The moonlight desert, and the moonlight sea:
In these my lonely wanderings I perceived
What mighty objects do impress their forms
To elevate our intellectual being;
And felt, if aught on earth deserves a curse,
'Tis that worst principle of ill which dooms
A thing so great to perish self-consumed.
--So much for my remorse!
MAR. Unhappy Man!
OSW. When from these forms I turned to contemplate
The World's opinions and her usages,
I seemed a Being who had passed alone
Into a region of futurity,
Whose natural element was freedom----
I may not, cannot, follow thee.
OSW. You must.
I had been nourished by the sickly food
Of popular applause. I now perceived
That we are praised, only as men in us
Do recognise some image of themselves,
An abject counterpart of what they are,
Or the empty thing that they would wish to be.
I felt that merit has no surer test
Than obloquy; that, if we wish to serve
The world in substance, not deceive by show,
We must become obnoxious to its hate,
Or fear disguised in simulated scorn.
MAR. I pity, can forgive, you; but those wretches--
That monstrous perfidy!
OSW. Keep down your wrath.
False Shame discarded, spurious Fame despised,
Twin sisters both of Ignorance, I found
Life stretched before me smooth as some broad way
Cleared for a monarch's progress. Priests might spin
Their veil, but not for me--'twas in fit place
Among its kindred cobwebs. I had been,
And in that dream had left my native land,
One of Love's simple bondsmen--the soft chain
Was off for ever; and the men, from whom
This liberation came, you would destroy:
Join me in thanks for their blind services.
MAR. 'Tis a strange aching that, when we would curse
And cannot.--You have betrayed me--I have done--
I am content--I know that he is guiltless--
That both are guiltless, without spot or stain,
Mutually consecrated. Poor old Man!
And I had heart for this, because thou lovedst
Her who from very infancy had been
Light to thy path, warmth to thy blood!--Together
[Turning to OSWALD.
We propped his steps, he leaned upon us both.
OSW. Ay, we are coupled by a chain of adamant;
Let us be fellow-labourers, then, to enlarge
Man's intellectual empire. We subsist
In slavery; all is slavery; we receive
Laws, but we ask not whence those laws have come;
We need an inward sting to goad us on.
MAR. Have you betrayed me? Speak to that.
OSW. The mask,
Which for a season I have stooped to wear,
Must be cast off.--Know then that I was urged,
(For other impulse let it pass) was driven,
To seek for sympathy, because I saw
In you a mirror of my youthful self;
I would have made us equal once again,
But that was a vain hope. You have struck home,
With a few drops of blood cut short the business;
Therein for ever you must yield to me.
But what is done will save you from the blank
Of living without knowledge that you live:
Now you are suffering--for the future day,
'Tis his who will command it.--Think of my story--
Herbert is 'innocent'.
MAR. (in a faint voice, and doubtingly).
You do but echo
My own wild words?
OSW. Young Man, the seed must lie
Hid in the earth, or there can be no harvest;
'Tis Nature's law. What I have done in darkness
I will avow before the face of day.
Herbert 'is' innocent.
MAR. What fiend could prompt
This action? Innocent!--oh, breaking heart!--
Alive or dead, I'll find him. [Exit.
OSW. Alive--perdition! [Exit.
SCENE--The inside of a poor Cottage. ELEANOR and IDONEA seated.
IDON. The storm beats hard--Mercy for poor or rich,
Whose heads are shelterless in such a night!
A Voice without. Holla! to bed, good Folks, within!
ELEA. O save us!
IDON. What can this mean?
ELEA. Alas, for my poor husband!--
We'll have a counting of our flocks tomorrow;
The wolf keeps festival these stormy nights:
Be calm, sweet Lady, they are wassailers
[The voices die away in the distance.
Returning from their Feast--my heart beats so--
A noise at midnight does 'so' frighten me.
IDON. Hush! [Listening.
ELEA. They are gone. On such a night my husband,
Dragged from his bed, was cast into a dungeon,
Where, hid from me, he counted many years,
A criminal in no one's eyes but theirs--
Not even in theirs--whose brutal violence
So dealt with him.
IDON. I have a noble Friend
First among youths of knightly breeding, One
Who lives but to protect the weak or injured.
There again! [Listening.
ELEA. 'Tis my husband's foot. Good Eldred
Has a kind heart; but his imprisonment
Has made him fearful, and he'll never be
The man he was.
IDON. I will retire;--good night!
[She goes within.
Enter ELDRED (hides a bundle).
ELD. Not yet in bed, Eleanor!--there
are stains in that frock which must be
ELEA. What has befallen you?
ELD. I am belated, and you must know
the cause--(speaking low) that is the blood
of an unhappy Man.
ELEA. Oh! we are undone for ever.
ELD. Heaven forbid that I should lift my
hand against any man. Eleanor, I have
shed tears to-night, and it comforts me to
think of it.
ELEA. Where, where is he?
ELD. I have done him no harm, but----
it will be forgiven me; it would not have
been so once.
ELEA. You have not 'buried' anything?
You are no richer than when you left me?
ELD. Be at peace; I am innocent.
ELEA. Then God be thanked--
[A short pause; she falls upon his neck.
ELD. To-night I met with an old Man
lying stretched upon the ground--a sad
spectacle: I raised him up with a hope
that we might shelter and restore him.
ELEA. (as if ready to run). Where is he?
You were not able to bring him 'all' the way
with you; let us return, I can help you.
[ELDRED shakes his head.
ELD. He did not seem to wish for life:
as I was struggling on, by the light of the
moon I saw the stains of blood upon my
clothes--he waved his hand, as if it were
all useless; and I let him sink again to the
ELEA. Oh that I had been by your
ELD. I tell you his hands and his body
were cold--how could I disturb his last
moments? he strove to turn from me as if
he wished to settle into sleep.
ELEA. But, for the stains of blood--
ELD. He must have fallen, I fancy, for
his head was cut; but I think his malady
was cold and hunger.
ELEA. Oh, Eldred, I shall never be able
to look up at this roof in storm or fair but
I shall tremble.
ELD. Is it not enough that my ill stars
have kept me abroad to-night till this hour?
I come home, and this is my comfort!
ELEA. But did he say nothing which
might have set you at ease?
ELD. I thought he grasped my hand
while he was muttering something about
his Child--his Daughter--(starting as if he
heard a noise). What is that?
ELEA. Eldred, you are a father.
ELD. God knows what was in my heart,
and will not curse my son for my sake.
ELEA. But you prayed by him? you
waited the hour of his release?
ELD. The night was wasting fast; I have
no friend; I am spited by the world--his
wound terrified me--if I had brought him
along with me, and he had died in my
arms!--I am sure I heard something
breathing--and this chair!
ELEA. Oh, Eldred, you will die alone.
You will have nobody to close your eyes--
no hand to grasp your dying hand--I shall
be in my grave. A curse will attend us
ELD. Have you forgot your own troubles
when I was in the dungeon?
ELEA. And you left him alive?
ELD. Alive!--the damps of death were
upon him--he could not have survived an
ELEA. In the cold, cold night.
ELD. (in a savage tone). Ay, and his head
was bare; I suppose you would have had
me lend my bonnet to cover it.--You will
never rest till I am brought to a felon's end.
ELEA. Is there nothing to be done? cannot we go to the Convent?
ELD. Ay, and say at once that I murdered
ELEA. Eldred, I know that ours is the
only house upon the Waste; let us take
heart; this Man may be rich; and could
he be saved by our means, his gratitude
may reward us.
ELD. 'Tis all in vain.
ELEA. But let us make the attempt. This
old Man may have a wife, and he may have
children--let us return to the spot; we may
restore him, and his eyes may yet open upon
those that love him.
ELD. He will never open them more;
even when he spoke to me, he kept them
firmly sealed as if he had been blind.
IDON. (rushing out). It is, it is, my Father--
ELD. We are betrayed (looking at IDONEA).
ELEA. His Daughter!--God have mercy!
(turning to IDONEA).
IDON. (sinking down). Oh! lift me up and carry me to the place.
You are safe; the whole world shall not harm you.
ELEA. This Lady is his Daughter.
ELD. (moved). I'll lead you to the spot.
IDON. (springing up). Alive!--you heard him breathe? quick,
SCENE--A wood on the edge of the Waste.
Enter OSWALD and a Forester.
FOR. He leaned upon the bridge that spans the glen,
And down into the bottom cast his eye,
That fastened there, as it would check the current.
OSW. He listened too; did you not say he listened?
FOR. As if there came such moaning from the flood
As is heard often after stormy nights.
OSW. But did he utter nothing?
FOR. See him there!
MAR. Buzz, buzz, ye black and winged freebooters;
That is no substance which ye settle on!
FOR. His senses play him false; and see, his arms
Outspread, as if to save himself from falling!--
Some terrible phantom I believe is now
Passing before him, such as God will not
Permit to visit any but a man
Who has been guilty of some horrid crime.
OSW. The game is up!--
FOR. If it be needful, Sir,
I will assist you to lay hands upon him.
OSW. No, no, my Friend, you may pursue your business--
'Tis a poor wretch of an unsettled mind,
Who has a trick of straying from his keepers;
We must be gentle. Leave him to my care. [Exit Forester.
If his own eyes play false with him, these freaks
Of fancy shall be quickly tamed by mine;
The goal is reached. My Master shall become
A shadow of myself--made by myself.
SCENE--The edge of the Moor.
MARMADUKE and ELDRED enter from opposite sides.
MAR. (raising his eyes and perceiving ELDRED). In any corner of
this savage Waste,
Have you, good Peasant, seen a blind old Man?
ELD. I heard----
MAR. You heard him, where? when heard him?
ELD. As you know,
The first hours of last night were rough with storm:
I had been out in search of a stray heifer;
Returning late, I heard a moaning sound;
Then, thinking that my fancy had deceived me,
I hurried on, when straight a second moan,
A human voice distinct, struck on my ear,
So guided, distant a few steps, I found
An aged Man, and such as you describe.
MAR. You heard!--he called you to him? Of all men
The best and kindest!--but where is he? guide me,
That I may see him.
ELD. On a ridge of rocks
A lonesome Chapel stands, deserted now:
The bell is left, which no one dares remove;
And, when the stormy wind blows o'er the peak,
It rings, as if a human hand were there
To pull the cord. I guess he must have heard it;
And it had led him towards the precipice,
To climb up to the spot whence the sound came;
But he had failed through weakness. From his hand
His staff had dropped, and close upon the brink
Of a small pool of water he was laid,
As if he had stooped to drink, and so remained
Without the strength to rise.
MAR. Well, well, he lives,
And all is safe: what said he?
ELD. But few words:
He only spake to me of a dear Daughter,
Who, so he feared, would never see him more;
And of a Stranger to him, One by whom
He had been sore misused, but he forgave
The wrong and the wrong-doer. You are troubled--
Perhaps you are his son?
MAR. The All-seeing knows,
I did not think he had a living Child,--
But whither did you carry him?
ELD. He was torn,
His head was bruised, and there was blood about him----
MAR. That was no work of mine.
ELD. Nor was it mine.
MAR. But had he strength to walk? I could have borne him
A thousand miles.
ELD. I am in poverty,
And know how busy are the tongues of men;
My heart was willing, Sir, but I am one
Whose good deeds will not stand by their own light;
And, though it smote me more than words can tell,
I left him.
MAR. I believe that there are phantoms,
That in the shape of man do cross our path
On evil instigation, to make sport
Of our distress--and thou art one of them!
But things substantial have so pressed on me----
ELD. My wife and children came into my mind.
MAR. Oh Monster! Monster! there are three of us,
And we shall howl together.
[After a pause and in a feeble voice.
I am deserted
At my worst need, my crimes have in a net
(Pointing to ELDRED) Entangled this poor man.--Where was it?
[Dragging him along.
ELD. 'Tis needless; spare your violence.
MAR. Ay, in the word a thousand scorpions lodge
This old man 'had' a Daughter.
ELD. To the spot
I hurried back with her.--O save me, Sir,
From such a journey!----there was a black tree,
A single tree; she thought it was her Father.--
Oh Sir, I would not see that hour again
For twenty lives. The daylight dawned, and now--
Nay; hear my tale, 'tis fit that you should hear it--
As we approached, a solitary crow
Rose from the spot;--the Daughter clapped her hands,
And then I heard a shriek so terrible
[MARMADUKE shrinks back.
The startled bird quivered upon the wing.
MAR. Dead, dead!--
ELD. (after a pause). A dismal matter, Sir, for me,
And seems the like for you; if 'tis your wish,
I'll lead you to his Daughter; but 'twere best
That she should be prepared; I'll go before.
MAR. There will be need of preparation.
[ELDRED goes off.
ELEA. (enters). Master!
Your limbs sink under you, shall I support you?
MAR. (taking her arm). Woman, I've lent my body to the service
Which now thou tak'st upon thee. God forbid
That thou shouldst ever meet a like occasion
With such a purpose in thine heart as mine was.
ELEA. Oh, why have I to do with things like these?
SCENE changes to the door of ELDRED'S cottage--IDONEA seated--
ELD. Your Father, Lady, from a wilful hand
Has met unkindness; so indeed he told me,
And you remember such was my report:
From what has just befallen me I have cause
To fear the very worst.
IDON. My Father is dead;
Why dost thou come to me with words like these?
ELD. A wicked Man should answer for his crimes.
IDON. Thou seest me what I am.
ELD. It was most heinous,
And doth call out for vengeance.
IDON. Do not add,
I prithee, to the harm thou'st done already.
ELD. Hereafter you will thank me for this service.
Hard by, a Man I met, who, from plain proofs
Of interfering Heaven, I have no doubt,
Laid hands upon your Father. Fit it were
You should prepare to meet him.
IDON. I have nothing
To do with others; help me to my Father--
[She turns and sees MARMADUKE leaning
on ELEANOR--throws herself upon his
neck, and after some time,
In joy I met thee, but a few hours past;
And thus we meet again; one human stay
Is left me still in thee. Nay, shake not so.
MAR. In such a wilderness--to see no thing,
No, not the pitying moon!
IDON. And perish so.
MAR. Without a dog to moan for him.
IDON. Think not of it,
But enter there and see him how he sleeps,
Tranquil as he had died in his own bed.
MAR. Tranquil--why not?
IDON. Oh, peace!
MAR. He is at peace;
His body is at rest: there was a plot,
A hideous plot, against the soul of man:
It took effect--and yet I baffled it,
In 'some' degree.
IDON. Between us stood, I thought,
A cup of consolation, filled from Heaven
For both our needs; must I, and in thy presence,
Alone partake of it?--Beloved Marmaduke!
MAR. Give me a reason why the wisest thing
That the earth owns shall never choose to die,
But some one must be near to count his groans.
The wounded deer retires to solitude,
And dies in solitude: all things but man,
All die in solitude.
[Moving towards the cottage door. Mysterious God,
If she had never lived I had not done it!--
IDON. Alas, the thought of such a cruel death
Has overwhelmed him.--I must follow.
You will do well; (she goes) unjust suspicion may
Cleave to this Stranger: if, upon his entering,
The dead Man heave a groan, or from his side
Uplift his hand--that would be evidence.
ELEA. Shame! Eldred, shame!
MAR. (both returning). The dead have but one face (to himself).
And such a Man--so meek and unoffending--
Helpless and harmless as a babe: a Man,
By obvious signal to the world's protection,
Solemnly dedicated--to decoy him!--
IDON. Oh, had you seen him living!--
MAR. I (so filled
With horror is this world) am unto thee
The thing most precious, that it now contains:
Therefore through me alone must be revealed
By whom thy Parent was destroyed, Idonea!
I have the proofs!--
IDON. O miserable Father!
Thou didst command me to bless all mankind;
Nor to this moment, have I ever wished
Evil to any living thing; but hear me,
Hear me, ye Heavens!--(kneeling)--may vengeance haunt the fiend
For this most cruel murder: let him live
And move in terror of the elements;
The thunder send him on his knees to prayer
In the open streets, and let him think he sees,
If e'er he entereth the house of God,
The roof, self-moved, unsettling o'er his head;
And let him, when he would lie down at night,
Point to his wife the blood-drops on his pillow!
MAR. My voice was silent, but my heart hath joined thee.
IDON. (leaning on MARMADUKE). Left to the mercy of that savage
How could he call upon his Child!--O Friend!
[Turns to MARMADUKE.
My faithful true and only Comforter.
MAR. Ay, come to me and weep. (He kisses her.) (To ELDRED.) Yes,
The devils at such sights do clap their hands.
[ELDRED retires alarmed.
IDON. Thy vest is torn, thy cheek is deadly pale;
Hast thou pursued the monster?
MAR. I have found him.--
Oh! would that thou hadst perished in the flames!
IDON. Here art thou, then can I be desolate?--
MAR. There was a time, when this protecting hand
Availed against the mighty; never more
Shall blessings wait upon a deed of mine.
IDON. Wild words for me to hear, for me, an orphan
Committed to thy guardianship by Heaven;
And, if thou hast forgiven me, let me hope,
In this deep sorrow, trust, that I am thine
For closer care;--here, is no malady.
[Taking his arm.
MAR. There, 'is' a malady--
(Striking his heart and forehead). And here, and here,
A mortal malady.--I am accurst:
All nature curses me, and in my heart
'Thy' curse is fixed; the truth must be laid bare.
It must be told, and borne. I am the man,
(Abused, betrayed, but how it matters not)
Presumptuous above all that ever breathed,
Who, casting as I thought a guilty Person
Upon Heaven's righteous judgment, did become
An instrument of Fiends. Through me, through me
Thy Father perished.
IDON. Perished--by what mischance?
MAR. Beloved!--if I dared, so would I call thee--
Conflict must cease, and, in thy frozen heart,
The extremes of suffering meet in absolute peace.
[He gives her a letter.
IDON. (reads). "Be not surprised if you
hear that some signal judgment has befallen
the man who calls himself your father; he
is now with me, as his signature will shew:
abstain from conjecture till you see me.
The writing Oswald's; the signature my Father's:
(Looks steadily at the paper). And here is yours,--or do my eyes
You have then seen my Father?
MAR. He has leaned
Upon this arm.
IDON. You led him towards the Convent?
MAR. That Convent was Stone-Arthur Castle. Thither
We were his guides. I on that night resolved
That he should wait thy coming till the day
IDON. Miserable Woman,
Too quickly moved, too easily giving way,
I put denial on thy suit, and hence,
With the disastrous issue of last night,
Thy perturbation, and these frantic words.
Be calm, I pray thee!
IDON. Name him not.
Enter female Beggar.
BEG. And he is dead!--that Moor--how shall I cross it?
By night, by day, never shall I be able
To travel half a mile alone.--Good Lady!
Forgive me!--Saints forgive me. Had I thought
It would have come to this!--
IDON. What brings you hither? speak!
BEG. (pointing to MARMADUKE). This innocent Gentleman. Sweet
heavens! I told him
Such tales of your dead Father!--God is my judge,
I thought there was no harm: but that bad Man,
He bribed me with his gold, and looked so fierce.
Mercy! I said I know not what--oh pity me--
I said, sweet Lady, you were not his Daughter--
Pity me, I am haunted;--thrice this day
My conscience made me wish to be struck blind;
And then I would have prayed, and had no voice.
IDON. (to MARMADUKE). Was it my Father?--no, no, no, for he
Was meek and patient, feeble, old and blind,
Helpless, and loved me dearer than his life.
--But hear me. For 'one' question, I have a heart
That will sustain me. Did you murder him?
MAR. No, not by stroke of arm. But learn the process:
Proof after proof was pressed upon me; guilt
Made evident, as seemed, by blacker guilt,
Whose impious folds enwrapped even thee; and truth
And innocence, embodied in his looks,
His words and tones and gestures, did but serve
With me to aggravate his crimes, and heaped
Ruin upon the cause for which they pleaded.
Then pity crossed the path of my resolve:
Confounded, I looked up to Heaven, and cast,
Idonea! thy blind Father, on the Ordeal
Of the bleak Waste--left him--and so he died!--
[IDONEA sinks senseless; Beggar,
ELEANOR, etc., crowd round, and bear her off.
Why may we speak these things, and do no more;
Why should a thrust of the arm have such a power,
And words that tell these things be heard in vain?
'She' is not dead. Why!--if I loved this Woman,
I would take care she never woke again;
But she WILL wake, and she will weep for me,
And say, no blame was mine--and so, poor fool,
Will waste her curses on another name.
[He walks about distractedly.
OSW. (to himself). Strong to o'erturn, strong also to build up.
The starts and sallies of our last encounter
Were natural enough; but that, I trust,
Is all gone by. You have cast off the chains
That fettered your nobility of mind--
Delivered heart and head!
Let us to Palestine;
This is a paltry field for enterprise.
MAR. Ay, what shall we encounter next? This issue--
'Twas nothing more than darkness deepening darkness,
And weakness crowned with the impotence of death!--
Your pupil is, you see, an apt proficient. (ironically.)
Start not!--Here is another face hard by;
Come, let us take a peep at both together,
And, with a voice at which the dead will quake,
Resound the praise of your morality--
Of this too much.
[Drawing OSWALD towards the Cottage--stops short at the door.
Men are there, millions, Oswald,
Who with bare hands would have plucked out thy heart
And flung it to the dogs: but I am raised
Above, or sunk below, all further sense
Of provocation. Leave me, with the weight
Of that old Man's forgiveness on thy heart,
Pressing as heavily as it doth on mine.
Coward I have been; know, there lies not now
Within the compass of a mortal thought,
A deed that I would shrink from;--but to endure,
That is my destiny. May it be thine:
Thy office, thy ambition, be henceforth
To feed remorse, to welcome every sting
Of penitential anguish, yea with tears.
When seas and continents shall lie between us--
The wider space the better--we may find
In such a course fit links of sympathy,
An incommunicable rivalship
Maintained, for peaceful ends beyond our view.
[Confused voices--several of the band enter
--rush upon OSWALD, and seize him.
ONE OF THEM. I would have dogged him to the jaws of hell--
OSW. Ha! is it so!--That vagrant Hag!--this comes
Of having left a thing like her alive! [Aside.
SEVERAL VOICES. Despatch him!
OSW. If I pass beneath a rock
And shout, and, with the echo of my voice,
Bring down a heap of rubbish, and it crush me,
I die without dishonour. Famished, starved,
A Fool and Coward blended to my wish!
[Smiles scornfully and exultingly at MARMADUKE.
WAL. 'Tis done! (Stabs him).
ANOTHER OF THE BAND. The ruthless Traitor!
MAR. A rash deed!--
With that reproof I do resign a station
Of which I have been proud.
WIL. (approaching MARMADUKE). O my poor Master!
MAR. Discerning Monitor, my faithful Wilfred,
Why art thou here? [Turning to WALLACE.
Wallace, upon these Borders,
Many there be whose eyes will not want cause
To weep that I am gone. Brothers in arms!
Raise on that dreary Waste a monument
That may record my story: nor let words--
Few must they be, and delicate in their touch
As light itself--be there withheld from Her
Who, through most wicked arts, was made an orphan
By One who would have died a thousand times,
To shield her from a moment's harm. To you,
Wallace and Wilfred, I commend the Lady,
By lowly nature reared, as if to make her
In all things worthier of that noble birth,
Whose long-suspended rights are now on the eve
Of restoration: with your tenderest care
Watch over her, I pray--sustain her----
SEVERAL OF THE BAND (eagerly). Captain!
MAR. No more of that; in silence hear my doom:
A hermitage has furnished fit relief
To some offenders: other penitents,
Less patient in their wretchedness, have fallen,
Like the old Roman, on their own sword's point.
They had their choice: a wanderer 'must I' go,
The Spectre of that innocent Man, my guide.
No human ear shall ever hear me speak;
No human dwelling ever give me food,
Or sleep, or rest: but, over waste and wild,
In search of nothing, that this earth can give,
But expiation, will I wander on--
A Man by pain and thought compelled to live,
Yet loathing life--till anger is appeased
In Heaven, and Mercy gives me leave to die.
Title: 'The Borderers.'
This Dramatic Piece, as noticed in its title-page, was composed
in 1795-96. It lay nearly from that time till within the last two
or three months unregarded among my papers, without being
mentioned even to my most intimate friends. Having, however,
impressions upon my mind which made me unwilling to destroy the
MS., I determined to undertake the responsibility of publishing it
during my own life, rather than impose upon my successors the task
of deciding its fate. Accordingly it has been revised with some
care; but, as it was at first written, and is now published,
without any view to its exhibition upon the stage, not the
slightest alteration has been made in the conduct of the story, or
the composition of the characters; above all, in respect to the
two leading Persons of the Drama, I felt no inducement to make any
change. The study of human nature suggests this awful truth, that
as in the trials to which life subjects us, sin and crime are apt
to start from their very opposite qualities, so are there no
limits to the hardening of the heart and the perversion of the
understanding to which they may carry their slaves. During my long
residence in France, while the Revolution was rapidly advancing to
its extreme of wickedness, I had frequent opportunities of being
an eye-witness of this process, and it was while that knowledge
was fresh upon my memory that the Tragedy of "The Borderers" was