Count Alarcos; a Tragedy, by Benjamin Disraeli

Act i

Scene 1

A Street in Burgos; the Cathedral in the distance.

[Enter Two Courtiers.]

1ST COURT.
The Prince of Hungary dismissed?

2ND COURT.
Indeed
So runs the rumour.

1ST COURT.
Why the spousal note
Still floats upon the air!

2ND COURT.
Myself this morn
Beheld the Infanta’s entrance, as she threw,
Proud as some hitless barb, her haughty glance
On our assembled chiefs.

1ST COURT.
The Prince was there?

2ND COURT.
Most royally; nor seemed a man more fit
To claim a kingdom for a dower. He looked
Our Gadian Hercules, as the advancing peers
Their homage paid. I followed in the train
Of Count Alarcos, with whose ancient house
My fortunes long have mingled.

1ST COURT.
’Tis the same,
But just returned?

2ND COURT.
Long banished from the Court;
And only favoured since the Queen’s decease,
His ancient foe.

1ST COURT.
A very potent Lord?

2ND COURT.
Near to the throne; too near perchance for peace.
You’re young at Burgos, or indeed ’twere vain
To sing Alarcos’ praise, the brightest knight
That ever waved a lance in Old Castille.

1ST COURT.
You followed in his train?

2ND COURT.
And as we passed,
Alarcos bowing to the lowest earth,
The Infanta swooned; and pale as yon niched saint,
From off the throned step, her seat of place,
Fell in a wild and senseless agony.

1ST COURT.
Sancta Maria! and the King —

2ND COURT.
Uprose
And bore her from her maidens, then broke up
The hurried Court; indeed I know no more,
For like a turning tide the crowd pressed on,
And scarcely could I gain the grateful air.
Yet on the Prado’s walk came smiling by
The Bishop of Ossuna; as he passed
He clutched my cloak, and whispered in my ear,
‘The match is off.’

[Enter PAGE.]

1ST COURT.
Hush! hush! a passenger.

PAGE.
Most noble Cavaliers, I pray, inform me
Where the great Count Alarcos holds his quarter.

2ND COURT.
In the chief square. His banner tells the roof;
Your pleasure with the Count, my gentle youth?

PAGE.
I were a sorry messenger to tell
My mission to the first who asks its aim.

2ND COURT.
The Count Alarcos is my friend and chief.

PAGE.
Then better reason I should trusty be,
For you can be a witness to my trust.

1ST COURT.
A forward youth!

2ND COURT.
A page is ever pert

PAGE.
Ay! ever pert is youth that baffles age.

[Exit PAGE.]

1ST COURT.
The Count is married?

2ND COURT.
To a beauteous lady;
And blessed with a fair race. A happy man
Indeed is Count Alarcos.

[A trumpet sounds.]

1ST COURT.
Prithee, see;
Passes he now?

2ND COURT.
Long since. Yon banner tells
The Count Sidonia. Let us on, and view
The passage of his pomp. His Moorish steeds,
They say, are very choice.

[Exeunt Two Courtiers.]

Scene 2.

A Chamber in the Palace of Alarcos. The COUNTESS seated and
working at her tapestry; the COUNT pacing the Chamber.

COUN.
You are disturbed, Alarcos?

ALAR.
’Tis the stir
And tumult of this morn. I am not used
To Courts.

COUN.
I know not why, it is a name
That makes me tremble.

ALAR.
Tremble, Florimonde,
Why should you tremble?

COUN.
Sooth I cannot say.
Methinks the Court but little suits my kind;
I love our quiet home.

ALAR.
This is our home,

COUN.
When you are here.

ALAR.
I will be always here.

COUN.
Thou canst not, sweet Alarcos. Happy hours,
When we were parted but to hear thy horn
Sound in our native woods!

ALAR.
Why, this is humour!
We’re courtiers now; and we must smile and smirk.

COUN.
Methinks your tongue is gayer than your glance.
The King, I hope, was gracious?

ALAR.
Were he not,
My frown’s as prompt as his. He was most gracious.

COUN.
Something has chafed thee?

ALAR.
What should chafe me, child,
And when should hearts be light, if mine be dull?
Is not mine exile over? Is it nought
To breathe in the same house where we were born,
And sleep where slept our fathers? Should that chafe?

COUN.
Yet didst then leave my side this very morn,
And with a vow this day should ever count
Amid thy life most happy; when we meet
Thy brow is clouded.

ALAR.
Joy is sometimes grave,
And deepest when ’tis calm. And I am joyful
If it be joy, this long forbidden hall
Once more to pace, and feel each fearless step
Tread on a baffled foe.

COUN.
Hast thou still foes

ALAR.
I trust so; I should not be what I am,
Still less what I will be, if hate did not
Pursue me as my shadow. Ah! fair wife,
Thou knowest not Burgos. Thou hast yet to fathom
The depths of thy new world.

COUN.
I do recoil
As from some unknown woo, from this same world.
I thought we came for peace.

ALAR.
Peace dwells within
No lordly roof in Burgos. We have come
For triumph.

COUN.
So I share thy lot, Alarcos,
All feelings are the same.

ALAR.
My Florimonde,
I took thee from a fair and pleasant home
In a soft land, where, like the air they live in,
Men’s hearts are mild. This proud and fierce Castille
Resembles not thy gentle Aquitaine,
More than the eagle may a dove, and yet
It is my country. Danger in its bounds
Weighs more than foreign safety. But why speak
Of what exists not?

COUN.
And I hope may never!

ALAR.
And if it come, what then? This chance shall find me
Not unprepared.

COUN.
But why should there be danger?
And why should’st thou, the foremost prince of Spain,
Fear or make foes? Thou standest in no light
Would fall on other shoulders; thou hast no height
To climb, and nought to gain. Thou art complete;
The King alone above thee, and thy friend.

ALAR.
So I would deem. I did not speak of fear.

COUN.
Of danger?

ALAR.
That’s delight, when it may lead
To mighty ends. Ah, Florimonde! thou art too pure;
Unsoiled in the rough and miry paths
Of ibis same trampling world; unskilled in heats
Of fierce and emulous spirits. There’s a rapture
In the strife of factions, that a woman’s soul
Can never reach. Men smiled on me today
Would gladly dig my grave; and yet I smiled,
And gave them coin as ready as their own,
And not less base.

COUN.
And can there be such men,
And canst thou live with them?

ALAR.
Ay! and they saw
Me ride this morning in my state again;
The people cried ‘Alarcos and Castille!’
The shout will dull their feasts.

COUN.
There was a time
Thou didst look back as on a turbulent dream
On this same life.

ALAR.
I was an exile then.
This stirring Burgos has revived my vein.
Yea, as I glanced from off the Citadel
This very morn, and at my feet outspread
Its amphitheatre of solemn towers
And groves of golden pinnacles, and marked
Turrets of friends and foes; or traced the range,
Spread since my exile, of our city’s walls
Washed by the swift Arlanzon: all around
The flash of lances, blaze of banners, rush
Of hurrying horsemen, and the haughty blast
Of the soul-stirring trumpet, I renounced
My old philosophy, and gazed as gazes
The falcon on his quarry!

COUN.
Jesu grant
The lure will bear no harm!

[A trumpet sounds.]

ALAR.
Whose note is that?
I hear the tramp of horsemen in the court;
We have some guests.

COUN.
Indeed!

[Enter the COUNT OF SIDONIA and the COUNT OF LEON.]

ALAR.
My noble friends,
My Countess greets ye!

SIDO.
And indeed we pay
To her our homage.

LEON.
Proud our city boasts
So fair a presence.

COUN.
Count Alarcos’ friends
Are ever welcome here.

ALAR.
No common wife.
Who welcomes with a smile her husband’s friends.

SIDO.
Indeed a treasure! When I marry, Count,
I’ll claim your counsel.

COUN.
’Tis not then your lot?

SIDO.
Not yet, sweet dame; tho’ sooth to say, full often
I dream such things may be.

COUN.
Your friend is free?

LEON.
And values freedom: with a rosy chain
I still should feel a captive.

SIDO.
Noble Leon
Is proof against the gentle passion, lady,
And will ere long, my rapier for a gage,
Marry a scold.

LEON.
In Burgos now, methinks,
Marriage is scarce the mode. Our princess frowns,
It seems, upon her suitors.

SIDO.
Is it true
The match is off?

LEON.
’Tis said.

COUN.
The match is off
You did not tell me this strange news, Alarcos.

SIDO.
Did he not tell you how —

ALAR.
In truth, good sirs,
My wife and I are somewhat strangers here,
And things that are of moment to the minds
That long have dwelt on them, to us are nought.

[To the Countess.]

There was a sort of scene today at Court;
The Princess fainted: we were all dismissed,
Somewhat abruptly; but, in truth, I deem
These rumours have no source but in the tongues
Of curious idlers.

SIDO.
Faith, I hold them true.
Indeed they’re very rife.

LEON.
Poor man, methinks
His is a lot forlorn, at once to lose
A mistress and a crown!

COUN.
Yet both may bring
Sorrow and cares. But little joy, I ween,
Dwells with a royal bride, too apt to claim
The homage she should yield.

SIDO.
I would all wives
Hold with your Countess in this pleasing creed.

ALAR.
She has her way: it is a cunning wench
That knows to wheedle. Burgos still maintains
Its fame for noble fabrics. Since my time
The city’s spread.

SIDO.
Ah! you’re a traveller, Count.
And yet we have not lagged.

COUN.
The Infanta, sirs,
Was it a kind of swoon?

ALAR.
Old Lara lives
Still in his ancient quarter?

LEON.
With the rats
That share his palace. You spoke, Madam?

COUN.
She
Has dainty health, perhaps?

LEON.
All ladies have.
And yet as little of the fainting mood
As one could fix on —

ALAR.
Mendola left treasure?

SIDO.
Wedges of gold, a chamber of sequins
Sealed up for ages, flocks of Barbary sheep
Might ransom princes, tapestry so rare
The King straight purchased, covering for the price
Each piece with pistoles.

COUN.
Is she very fair

LEON.
As future queens must ever be, and yet
Her face might charm uncrowned.

COUN.
It grieves me much
To hear the Prince departs. ’Tis not the first
Among her suitors

ALAR.
Your good uncle lives —
Nunez de Leon?

LEON.
To my cost, Alarcos;
He owes me much.

SIDO.
Some promises his heir
Would wish fulfilled.

COUN.
In Gascony, they said,
Navarre had sought her hand.

LEON.
He loitered here
But could not pluck the fruit: it was too high.
Sidonia threw him in a tilt one day.
The Infanta has her fancies; unhorsed knights
Count not among them.

[Enter a CHAMBERLAIN who whispers COUNT ALARCOS.]

ALAR.
Urgent, and me alone
Will commune with! A Page! Kind guests, your pardon,
I’ll find you here anon. My Florimonde,
Our friends will not desert you, like your spouse.

[Exit ALARCOS.]

COUN.
My Lords, will see our gardens?

SIDO.
We are favoured.
We wait upon your steps.

LEON.
And feel that roses
Will spring beneath them.

COUN.
You are an adept, sir,
In our gay science.

LEON.
Faith, I stole it, lady,
From a loose Troubadour Sidonia keeps
To write his sonnets.

[Exeunt omnes.]

Scene 3

A Chamber.

[Enter ALARCOS and PAGE.]

PAGE.
Will you wait here, my Lord?

ALAR.
I will, sir Page.

[Exit PAGE.]

The Bishop of Ossuna: what would he?
He scents the prosperous ever. Ay! they’ll cluster
Round this new hive. But I’ll not house them yet.
Marry, I know them all; but me they know,
As mountains might the leaping stream that meets
The ocean as a river. Time and exile
Change our life’s course, but is its flow less deep
Because it is more calm? I’ve seen today
Might stir its pools. What if my phantom flung
A shade on their bright path? ’Tis closed to me
Although the goal’s a crown. She loved me once;
Now swoons, and now the match is off. She’s true.
But I have clipped the heart that once could soar
High as her own! Dreams, dreams! And yet entranced,
Unto the fair phantasma that is fled,
My struggling fancy clings; for there are hours
When memory with her signet stamps the brain
With an undying mint; and these were such,
When high Ambition and enraptured Love,
Twin Genii of my daring destiny,
Bore on my sweeping life with their full wing,
Like an angelic host:

[In the distance enter a lady veiled.]

Is this their priest?
Burgos unchanged I see.

[Advancing towards her.]

A needless veil
To one prophetic of thy charms, fair lady.
And yet they fall on an ungracious eye.

[Withdraws the veil.]

Solisa!

SOL.
Yes! Solisa; once again
O say Solisa! let that long lost voice
Breathe with a name too faithful!

ALAR.
Oh! what tones,
What mazing sight is this! The spellbound forms
Of my first youth rise up from the abyss
Of opening time. I listen to a voice
That bursts the sepulchre of buried hope
Like an immortal trumpet.

SOL.
Thou hast granted,
Mary, my prayers!

ALAR.
Solisa, my Solisa!

SOL.
Thine, thine, Alarcos. But thou: whose art thou?

ALAR.
Within this chamber is my memory bound;
I have no thought, no consciousness beyond
Its precious walls.

SOL.
Thus did he look, thus speak,
When to my heart he clung, and I to him
Breathed my first love — and last.

ALAR.
Alas! alas!
Woe to thy Mother, maiden.

SOL.
She has found
That which I oft have prayed for.

ALAR.
But not found
A doom more dark than ours.

SOL.
I sent for thee,
To tell thee why I sent for thee; yet why,
Alas! I know not. Was it but to look
Alone upon the face that once was mine?
This morn it was so grave. O! was it woe,
Or but indifference, that inspired that brow
That seemed so cold and stately? Was it hate?
O! tell me anything, but that to thee
I am a thing of nothingness.

ALAR.
O spare!
Spare me such words of torture.

SOL.
Could I feel
Thou didst not hate me, that my image brought
At least a gentle, if not tender thoughts,
I’d be content. I cannot live to think,
After the past, that we should meet again
And change cold looks. We are not strangers, say
At least we are not strangers?

ALAR.
Gentle Princess —

SOL.
Call me Solisa; tho’ we meet no more
Call me Solisa now.

ALAR.
Thy happiness —

SOL.
O! no, no, no, not happiness, at least
Not from those lips.

ALAR.
Indeed it is a name
That ill becomes them.

SOL.
Yet they say, thou’rt happy,
And bright with all prosperity, and I
Felt solace in that thought.

ALAR.
Prosperity!
Men call them prosperous whom they deem enjoy
That which they envy; but there’s no success
Save in one master-wish fulfilled, and mine
Is lost for ever.

SOL.
Why was it? O, why
Didst thou forget me?

ALAR.
Never, lady, never —
But ah! the past, the irrevocable past —
We can but meet to mourn.

SOL.
No, not to mourn
I came to bless thee, came to tell to thee
I hoped that thou wert happy.

ALAR.
Come to mourn.
I’ll find delight in my unbridled grief:
Yes! let me fling away at last this mask,
And gaze upon my woe.

SOL.
O, it was rash,
Indeed ’twas rash, Alarcos; what, sweet sir,
What, after all our vows, to hold me false,
And place this bar between us! I’ll not think
Thou ever loved’st me as thou did’st profess,
And that’s the bitter drop.

ALAR.
Indeed, indeed —

SOL.
I could bear much, I could bear all, but this
My faith in thy past love, it was so deep,
So pure, so sacred, ’twas my only solace;
I fed upon it in my secret heart,
And now e’en that is gone.

ALAR.
Doubt not the past,
’Tis sanctified. It is the green fresh spot
In my life’s desert.

SOL.
There is none to thee
As I have been? Speak, speak, Alarcos, tell me
Is’t true? Or, in this shipwreck of my soul,
Do I cling wildly to some perishing hope
That sinks like me?

ALAR.
The May-burst of the heart
Can bloom but once; and mine has fled, not faded.
That thought gave fancied solace, ah, ’twas fancy,
For now I feel my doom.

SOL.
Thou hast no doom
But what is splendid as thyself. Alas!
Weak woman, when she stakes her heart, must play
Ever a fatal chance. It is her all,
And when ’tis lost, she’s bankrupt; but proud man
Shuffles the cards again, and wins tomorrow
What pays his present forfeit.

ALAR.
But alas!
What have I won?

SOL.
A country and a wife.

ALAR.
A wife!

SOL.
A wife, and very fair, they say.
She should be fair, who could induce thee break
Such vows as thine. O! I am very weak.
Why came I here? Was it indeed to see
If thou could’st look on me?

ALAR.
My own Solisa.

SOL.
Call me not thine; why, what am I to thee
That thou should’st call me thine?

ALAR.
Indeed, sweet lady,
Thou lookest on a man as bruised in spirit,
As broken-hearted, and subdued in soul,
As any breathing wretch that deems the day
Can bring no darker morrow. Pity me!
And if kind words may not subdue those lips
So scornful in their beauty, be they touched
At least by Mercy’s accents! Was’t a crime,
I could not dare believe that royal heart
Retained an exile’s image? that forlorn,
Harassed, worn out, surrounded by strange aspects
And stranger manners, in those formal ties
Custom points out, I sought some refuge, found
At least companionship, and, grant ’twas weak,
Shrunk from the sharp endurance of the doom
That waits on exile, utter loneliness!

SOL.
His utter loneliness!

ALAR.
And met thy name,
Most beauteous lady, prithee think of this,
Only to hear the princes of the world
Were thy hot suitors, and that one would soon
Be happier than Alarcos.

SOL.
False, most false,
They told thee false.

ALAR.
At least, then, pity me,
Solisa!

SOL.
Ah! Solisa, that sweet voice,
Why should I pity thee? ’Tis not my office.
Go, go to her that cheered thy loneliness,
Thy utter loneliness. And had I none?
Had I no pangs of solitude? Exile!
O! there were moments I’d have gladly given
My crown for banishment. A wounded heart
Beats freer in a desert; ’tis the air
Of palaces that chokes it.

ALAR.
Fate has crossed,
Not falsehood, our sweet loves. Our lofty passion
Is tainted with no vileness. Memory bears
Convulsion, not contempt; no palling sting
That waits on base affections. It is something
To have loved thee; and in that thought I find
My sense exalted; wretched though I be.

SOL.
Is he so wretched? Yet he is less forlorn
Than when he sought, what I would never seek,
A partner in his woe! I’ll ne’er believe it;
Thou art not wretched. Why, thou hast a friend,
A sweet companion in thy grief to soothe
Thy loneliness, and feed on thy bright smiles,
Thrill with thine accents, with impassioned reverence
Enclasp thine hand, and with enchained eyes
Gaze on thy glorious presence. O, Alarcos!
Art thou not worshipped now? What, can it be,
That there is one, who walks in Paradise,
Nor feels the air immortal?

ALAR.
Let my curse
Descend upon the hour I left thy walls,
My father’s town!

SOL.
My blessing on thy curse!
Thou hast returned, thou hast returned, Alarcos?

ALAR.
To despair.

SOL.
Yet ’tis not the hour he quitted
Our city’s wall, it is the tie that binds him
Within those walls my lips would more denounce,
But ah, that tie is dear!

ALAR.
Accursed be
The wiles that parted us; accursed be
The ties that sever us

SOL.
Thou’rt mine.

ALAR.
For ever.
Thou unpolluted passion of my youth,
My first, my only, my enduring love!

[They embrace.]

[Enter FERDINAND, the PAGE.]

PAGE.
Lady, a message from thy royal father;
He comes —

SOL.

[Springing from the arms of Alarcos.]

My father! word of fear! Why now
To cloud my light? I had forgotten fate;
But he recalls it. O my bright Alarcos!
My love must fly. Nay, not one word of care;
Love only from those lips. Yet, ere we part,
Seal our sweet faith renewed.

ALAR.
And never broken.

[Exit Alarcos.]

SOL.
Why has he gone? Why did I bid him go?
And let this jewel I so daring plucked
Slip in the waves again? I’m sure there’s time
To call him back, and say farewell once more.
I’ll say farewell no more; it was a word
Ever harsh music when the morrow brought
Welcomes renewed of love, No more farewells.
O when will he be mine! I cannot wait,
I cannot tarry, now I know he loves me;
Each hour, each instant that I see him not,
Is usurpation of my right. O joy!
Am I the same Solisa, that this morn
Breathed forth her orison with humbler spirit
Than the surrounding acolytes? Thou’st smiled,
Sweet Virgin, on my prayers. Twice fifty tapers
Shall burn before thy shrine. Guard over me
O! mother of my soul, and let me prosper
In my great enterprise! O hope! O love!
O sharp remembrance of long baffled joy!
Inspire me now.

Scene 4.

The KING; the INFANTA.

KING.
I see my daughter?

SOL.
Sir, your duteous child.

KING.
Art thou indeed my child? I had some doubt
I was a father.

SOL.
These are bitter words.

KING.
Even as thy conduct.

SOL.
Then it would appear
My conduct and my life are but the same.

KING.
I thought thou wert the Infanta of Castille,
Heir to our realm, the paragon of Spain
The Princess for whose smiles crowned Christendom
Sends forth its sceptred rivals. Is that bitter?
Or bitter is it with such privilege,
And standing on life’s vantage ground, to cross
A nation’s hope, that on thy nice career
Has gaged its heart?

SOL.
Have I no heart to gage?
A sacrificial virgin, must I bind
My life to the altar, to redeem a state,
Or heal some doomed People?

KING.
Is it so?
Is this an office alien to thy sex?
Or what thy youth repudiates? We but ask
What nature sanctions.

SOL.
Nature sanctions Love;
Your charter is more liberal. Let that pass.
I am no stranger to my duty, sir,
And read it thus. The blood that shares my sceptre
Should be august as mine. A woman loses
In love what she may gain in rank, who tops
Her husband’s place; though throned, I would exchange
An equal glance. His name should be a spell
· To rally soldiers. Politic he should be;
And skilled in climes and tongues; that stranger knights
Should bruit on, high Castillian courtesies.
Such chief might please a state?

KING.
Fortunate realm!

SOL.
And shall I own less niceness than my realm?
No! I would have him handsome a god;
Hyperion in his splendor, or the mien
Of conquering Bacchus, one whose very step
Should guide a limner, and whose common words
Are caught by Troubadours to frame their songs!
And O, my father, what if this bright prince
Should I have a heart as tender as his soul
Was high and peerless? If with this same heart
He loved thy daughter?

KING.
Close the airy page
Of thy romance; such princes are not found
Except in lays and legends! yet a man
Who would become a throne, I found thee, girl;
The princely Hungary.

SOL.
A more princely fate,
Than an unwilling wife, he did deserve.

KING.
Yet wherefore didst thou pledge thy troth to him?

SOL.
And wherefore do I smile when I should sigh?
And wherefore do I feed when I would fast?
And wherefore do I dance when I should pray?
And wherefore do I live when I should die?
Canst answer that, good Sir? O there are women
The world deem mad, or worse, whose life but seems
One vile caprice, a freakish thing of whims
And restless nothingness; yet if we pierce
The soul, may be we’ll touch some cause profound
For what seems causeless. Early love despised,
Or baffled, which is worse; a faith betrayed,
For vanity or lucre; chill regards,
Where to gain constant glances we have paid
Some fearful forfeit: here are many springs,
Unmarked by shallow eyes, and some, or all
Of these, or none, may prompt my conduct now —
But I’ll not have thy prince.

KING.
My, gentle child —

SOL.
I am not gentle. I might have been once;
But gentle thoughts and I have parted long;
The cause of such partition thou shouldst know
If memories were just.

KING.
Harp not, I pray,
On an old sorrow.

SOL.
Old! he calls it old!
The wound is green, and staunch it, or I die.

KING.
Have I the skill?

SOL.
Why! art thou not a King?
Wherein consists the magic of a crown
But in the bold achievement of a deed
Would scare a clown to dream?

KING.
I’d read thy thought.

SOL.
Then have it; I would marry.

KING.
It is well;
It is my wish.

SOL.
And unto such a prince
As I’ve described withal. For though a prince
Of Fancy’s realm alone, as thou dost deem,
Yet doth he live indeed.

KING.
To me unknown.

SOL.
O! father mine, before thy reverend knees
Ere this we twain have knelt.

KING.
Forbear, my child;
Or can it be my daughter doth not know
He is no longer free?

SOL.
The power that bound him,
That bondage might dissolve? To holy church
Thou hast given great alms?

KING.
There’s more to gain thy wish,
If more would gain it; but it cannot be,
Even were he content.

SOL.
He is content.

KING.
Hah!

SOL.
For he loves me still.

KING.
I would do much
To please thee. I’m prepared to bear the brunt
Of Hungary’s ire; but do not urge, Solisa,
Beyond capacity of sufferance
My temper’s proof.

SOL.
Alarcos is my husband,
Or shall the sceptre from our line depart.
Listen, ye saints of Spain, I’ll have his hand,
Or by our faith, my fated womb shall be
As barren as thy love, proud King.

KING.
Thou’rt mad!
Thou’rt mad!

SOL.
Is he not mine? Thy very hand,
Did it not consecrate our vows? What claim
So sacred as my own?

KING.
He did conspire —

SOL.
’Tis false, thou know’st ’tis false: against themselves
Men do not plot: I would as soon believe
My hand could hatch a treason ‘gainst my sight,
As that Alarcos would conspire to seize
A diadem I would myself have placed
Upon his brow.

KING.

[taking her hand]

Nay, calmness. Say ’tis true
He was not guilty, say perchance he was not —

SOL.
Perchance, O! vile perchance. Thou know’st full well,
Because he did reject her loose desires
And wanton overtures —

KING.
Hush, hush, O hush!

SOL.
The woman called my mother —

KING.
Spare me, spare —

SOL.
Who spared me?
Did not I kneel, and vouch his faith, and bathe
Thy hand with my quick tears, and clutch thy robe
With frantic grasp? Spare, spare indeed? In faith
Thou hast taught me to be merciful, thou hast —
Thou and my mother!

KING.
Ah! no more, no more!
A crowned King cannot recall the past,
And yet may glad the future. She thou namest,
She was at least thy mother; but to me,
Whate’er her deeds, for truly, there were times
Some spirit did possess her, such as gleams
Now in her daughter’s eye, she was a passion,
A witching form that did inflame my life
By a breath or glance. Thou art our child; the link
That binds me to my race; thou host her place
Within my shrined heart, where thou’rt the priest
And others are unhallowed; for, indeed,
Passion and time have so dried up my soul,
And drained its generous juices, that I own
No sympathy with man, and all his hopes
To me are mockeries.

SOL.
Ah! I see, my father,
That thou will’st aid me!

KING.
Thou canst aid thyself.
Is there a law to let him from thy presence?
His voice may reach thine ear; thy gracious glance
May meet his graceful offices. Go to.
Shall Hungary frown, if his right royal spouse
Smile on the equal of her blood and state,
Her gentle cousin?

SOL.
And is this thine aid!

KING.
What word has roughed the brow, but now confiding
In a fond father’s love?

SOL.
Alas! what word?
What have I said? what done? that thou should’st deem
I could do this, this, this, that is so foul,
My baffled tongue deserts me. Thou should’st know me,
Thou hast set spies on me. What! have they told thee
I am a wanton? I do love this man
As fits a virgin’s heart. Heaven sent such thoughts
To be our solace. But to act a toy
For his loose hours, or worse, to find him one
Procured for mine, grateful for opportunities
Contrived with decency, spared skillfully
From claims more urgent; not to dare to show
Before the world my homage; when he’s ill
To be away, and only share his gay
And lusty pillow; to be shut out from all
That multitude of cares and charms that waits
But on companionship; and then to feel
These joys another shares, another hand
These delicate rites performing, and thou’rt remembered,
In the serener heaven of his bliss,
But as the transient flash: this is not love;
This is pollution.

KING.
Daughter, I were pleased
My cousin could a nearer claim prefer
To my regard. Ay, girl, ‘twould please me well
He were my son, thy husband; but what then?
My pleasure and his conduct jar; his fate
Baulks our desire. He’s married and has heirs.

SOL.
Heirs, didst thou say heirs?

KING.
What ails thee?

SOL.
Heirs, heirs?

KING.
Thou art very pale!

SOL.
The faintness of the morn
Clings to me still; I pray thee, father, grant
Thy child one easy boon.

KING.
She has to speak
But what she wills.

SOL.
Why, then, she would renounce
Her heritage; yes, place our ancient crown
On brows it may become. A veil more suits
This feminine brain; in Huelgas’ cloistered shades
I’ll find oblivion.

KING.
Woe is me! The doom
Falls on our house. I had this daughter left
To lavish all my wealth on and my might.
I’ve treasured for her; for her I have slain
My thousands, conquered provinces, betrayed,
Renewed, and broken faith. She was my joy;
She has her mother’s eyes, and when she speaks
Her voice is like Brunhalda’s. Cursed hour,
That a wild fancy touched her brain to cross
All my great hopes!

SOL.
My father, my dear father,
Thou call’dst me fondly, but some moments past,
Thy gentle child. I call my saint to witness
I would be such. To say I love this man
Is shallow phrasing. Since man’s image first
Flung its wild shadow on my virgin soul,
It has borne no other reflex. I know well
Thou deemest he was forgotten; this day’s passion
Passed as unused confrontment, and so transient
As it was turbulent. No, no, full oft,
When thinking on him, I have been the same.
Fruitless or barren, this same form is his,
Or it is God’s. My father, my dear father,
Remember he was mine, and thou didst pour
Thy blessing on our heads! O God, O God!
When I recall the passages of love
That have ensued between me and this man,
And with thy sanction, and then just bethink
He is another’s, O it makes me mad.
Talk not to me of sceptres: can she rule
Whose mind is anarchy? King of Castille,
Give me the heart that thou didst rob me of!
The penal hour’s at hand. Thou didst destroy
My love, and I will end thy line — thy line
That is thy life.

KING.
Solisa, I will do all
A father can — a father and a King.

SOL.
Give me Alarcos!

KING.
Hush, disturb me not;
I’m in the throes of some imaginings
A human voice might scare.

END OF THE FIRST ACT.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/d/disraeli/benjamin/count-alarcos/act1.html

Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 15:19