SCENE I— A Throne-room in the Palace. Music within.
[Enter King and Clotaldo, meeting a Lord in waiting]
You, for a moment beckon’d from your office,
Tell me thus far how goes it. In due time
The potion left him?
At the very hour
To which your Highness temper’d it. Yet not
So wholly but some lingering mist still hung
About his dawning senses — which to clear,
We fill’d and handed him a morning drink
With sleep’s specific antidote suffused;
And while with princely raiment we invested
What nature surely modell’d for a Prince —
All but the sword — as you directed —
If not too loudly, yet emphatically
Still with the title of a Prince address’d him.
How bore he that?
With all the rest, my liege,
I will not say so like one in a dream
As one himself misdoubting that he dream’d.
So far so well, Clotaldo, either way,
And best of all if tow’rd the worse I dread.
But yet no violence?
At most, impatience;
Wearied perhaps with importunities
We yet were bound to offer.
Though thus far well, yet would myself had drunk
The potion he revives from! such suspense
Crowds all the pulses of life’s residue
Into the present moment; and, I think,
Whichever way the trembling scale may turn,
Will leave the crown of Poland for some one
To wait no longer than the setting sun!
Courage, my liege! The curtain is undrawn,
And each must play his part out manfully,
Leaving the rest to heaven.
Whose written words
If I should misinterpret or transgress!
But as you say —
[To the Lord, who exit.]
You, back to him at once;
Clotaldo, you, when he is somewhat used
To the new world of which they call him Prince,
Where place and face, and all, is strange to him,
With your known features and familiar garb
Shall then, as chorus to the scene, accost him,
And by such earnest of that old and too
Familiar world, assure him of the new.
Last in the strange procession, I myself
Will by one full and last development
Complete the plot for that catastrophe
That he must put to all; God grant it be
The crown of Poland on his brows! — Hark! hark! —
Was that his voice within! — Now louder — Oh,
Clotaldo, what! so soon begun to roar! —
Again! above the music — But betide
What may, until the moment, we must hide.
[Exeunt King and Clotaldo.]
Forbear! I stifle with your perfume! Cease
Your crazy salutations! peace, I say
Begone, or let me go, ere I go mad
With all this babble, mummery, and glare,
For I am growing dangerous — Air! room! air! —
[He rushes in. Music ceases.]
Oh but to save the reeling brain from wreck
With its bewilder’d senses!
[He covers his eyes for a while.]
What! E’en now
That Babel left behind me, but my eyes
Pursued by the same glamour, that — unless
Alike bewitch’d too — the confederate sense
Vouches for palpable: bright-shining floors
That ring hard answer back to the stamp’d heel,
And shoot up airy columns marble-cold,
That, as they climb, break into golden leaf
And capital, till they embrace aloft
In clustering flower and fruitage over walls
Hung with such purple curtain as the West
Fringes with such a gold; or over-laid
With sanguine-glowing semblances of men,
Each in his all but living action busied,
Or from the wall they look from, with fix’d eyes
Pursuing me; and one most strange of all
That, as I pass’d the crystal on the wall,
Look’d from it — left it — and as I return,
Returns, and looks me face to face again —
Unless some false reflection of my brain,
The outward semblance of myself — Myself?
How know that tawdry shadow for myself,
But that it moves as I move; lifts his hand
With mine; each motion echoing so close
The immediate suggestion of the will
In which myself I recognize — Myself! —
What, this fantastic Segismund the same
Who last night, as for all his nights before,
Lay down to sleep in wolf-skin on the ground
In a black turret which the wolf howl’d round,
And woke again upon a golden bed,
Round which as clouds about a rising sun,
In scarce less glittering caparison,
Gather’d gay shapes that, underneath a breeze
Of music, handed him upon their knees
The wine of heaven in a cup of gold,
And still in soft melodious under-song
Hailing me Prince of Poland! —‘Segismund,’
They said, ‘Our Prince! The Prince of Poland!’ and
Again, ‘Oh, welcome, welcome, to his own,
‘Our own Prince Segismund —’
Oh, but a blast —
One blast of the rough mountain air! one look
At the grim features —
[He goes to the window.]
What they disvizor’d also! shatter’d chaos
Cast into stately shape and masonry,
Between whose channel’d and perspective sides
Compact with rooted towers, and flourishing
To heaven with gilded pinnacle and spire,
Flows the live current ever to and fro
With open aspect and free step! — Clotaldo!
Clotaldo! — calling as one scarce dares call
For him who suddenly might break the spell
One fears to walk without him — Why, that I,
With unencumber’d step as any there,
Go stumbling through my glory — feeling for
That iron leading-string — ay, for myself —
For that fast-anchor’d self of yesterday,
Of yesterday, and all my life before,
Ere drifted clean from self-identity
Upon the fluctuation of today’s
Mad whirling circumstance! — And, fool, why not?
If reason, sense, and self-identity
Obliterated from a worn-out brain,
Art thou not maddest striving to be sane,
And catching at that Self of yesterday
That, like a leper’s rags, best flung away!
Or if not mad, then dreaming — dreaming? — well —
Dreaming then — Or, if self to self be true,
Not mock’d by that, but as poor souls have been
By those who wrong’d them, to give wrong new relish?
Or have those stars indeed they told me of
As masters of my wretched life of old,
Into some happier constellation roll’d,
And brought my better fortune out on earth
Clear as themselves in heaven! — Prince Segismund
They call’d me — and at will I shook them off —
Will they return again at my command
Again to call me so? — Within there! You!
Segismund calls — Prince Segismund —
[He has seated himself on the throne.
Enter Chamberlain, with lords in waiting.]
That unadvised of any but the voice
Of royal instinct in the blood, your Highness
Has ta’en the chair that you were born to fill.
The royal throne of Poland, Sir,
Which may your Royal Highness keep as long
As he that now rules from it shall have ruled
When heaven has call’d him to itself.
When he? —
Your royal father, King Basilio, Sir.
My royal father — King Basilio.
You see I answer but as Echo does,
Not knowing what she listens or repeats.
This is my throne — this is my palace — Oh,
But this out of the window? —
Your capital —
And all the moving people?
Your subjects and your vassals like ourselves.
Ay, ay — my subjects — in my capital —
Warsaw — and I am Prince of it — You see
It needs much iteration to strike sense
Into the human echo.
In the quick brain, the word will quickly to
Full meaning blow.
You think so?
Lest our obsequiousness, which means no worse
Than customary honour to the Prince
We most rejoice to welcome, trouble you,
Should we retire again? or stand apart?
Or would your Highness have the music play
Again, which meditation, as they say,
So often loves to float upon?
No — yes — perhaps the trumpet —
Yet if that
Brought back the troop!
The trumpet! There again
How trumpet-like spoke out the blood of Poland!
Before the morning is far up, your Highness
Will have the trumpet marshalling your soldiers
Under the Palace windows.
Ah, my soldiers —
My soldiers — not black-vizor’d? —
But — one thing — for a moment — in your ear —
Do you know one Clotaldo?
Oh, my Lord,
He and myself together, I may say,
Although in different vocations,
Have silver’d in your royal father’s service;
And, as I trust, with both of us a few
White hairs to fall in yours.
Well said, well said!
Basilio, my father — well — Clotaldo
Is he my kinsman too?
Oh, my good Lord,
A General simply in your Highness’ service,
Than whom your Highness has no trustier.
Ay, so you said before, I think. And you
With that white wand of yours —
Why, now I think on’t, I have read of such
A silver-hair’d magician with a wand,
Who in a moment, with a wave of it,
Turn’d rags to jewels, clowns to emperors,
By some benigner magic than the stars
Spirited poor good people out of hand
From all their woes; in some enchanted sleep
Carried them off on cloud or dragon-back
Over the mountains, over the wide Deep,
And set them down to wake in Fairyland.
Oh, my good Lord, you laugh at me — and I
Right glad to make you laugh at such a price:
You know me no enchanter: if I were,
I and my wand as much as your Highness’,
As now your chamberlain —
My chamberlain? —
And these that follow you? —
On you, my Lord,
Your Highness’ lords in waiting.
Lords in waiting.
Well, I have now learn’d to repeat, I think,
If only but by rote — This is my palace,
And this my throne — which unadvised — And that
Out of the window there my Capital;
And all the people moving up and down
My subjects and my vassals like yourselves,
My chamberlain — and lords in waiting — and
Clotaldo — and Clotaldo? —
You are an aged, and seem a reverend man —
You do not — though his fellow-officer —
You do not mean to mock me?
Oh, my Lord!
Well then — If no magician, as you say,
Yet setting me a riddle, that my brain,
With all its senses whirling, cannot solve,
Yourself or one of these with you must answer —
How I— that only last night fell asleep
Not knowing that the very soil of earth
I lay down — chain’d — to sleep upon was Poland —
Awake to find myself the Lord of it,
With Lords, and Generals, and Chamberlains,
And ev’n my very Gaoler, for my vassals!
Enter suddenly Clotaldo
Stand all aside
That I may put into his hand the clue
To lead him out of this amazement. Sir,
Vouchsafe your Highness from my bended knee
Receive my homage first.
At last — his old self — undisguised where all
Is masquerade — to end it! — You kneeling too!
What! have the stars you told me long ago
Laid that old work upon you, added this,
That, having chain’d your prisoner so long,
You loose his body now to slay his wits,
Dragging him — how I know not — whither scarce
I understand — dressing him up in all
This frippery, with your dumb familiars
Disvizor’d, and their lips unlock’d to lie,
Calling him Prince and King, and, madman-like,
Setting a crown of straw upon his head?
Would but your Highness, as indeed I now
Must call you — and upon his bended knee
Never bent Subject more devotedly —
However all about you, and perhaps
You to yourself incomprehensiblest,
But rest in the assurance of your own
Sane waking senses, by these witnesses
Attested, till the story of it all,
Of which I bring a chapter, be reveal’d,
Assured of all you see and hear as neither
Madness nor mockery —
All it seems:
This palace with its royal garniture;
This capital of which it is the eye,
With all its temples, marts, and arsenals;
This realm of which this city is the head,
With all its cities, villages, and tilth,
Its armies, fleets, and commerce; all your own;
And all the living souls that make them up,
From those who now, and those who shall, salute you,
Down to the poorest peasant of the realm,
Your subjects — Who, though now their mighty voice
Sleeps in the general body unapprized,
Wait but a word from those about you now
To hail you Prince of Poland, Segismund.
All this is so?
As sure as anything
Is, or can be.
You swear it on the faith
You taught me — elsewhere? —
Clotaldo [kissing the hilt of his sword].
Swear it upon this Symbol,
and champion of the holy faith
I wear it to defend.
Segismund [to himself].
My eyes have not deceived me, nor my ears,
With this transfiguration, nor the strain
Of royal welcome that arose and blew,
Breathed from no lying lips, along with it.
For here Clotaldo comes, his own old self,
Who, if not Lie and phantom with the rest —
Well, then, all this is thus.
For have not these fine people told me so,
And you, Clotaldo, sworn it? And the Why
And Wherefore are to follow by and bye!
And yet — and yet — why wait for that which you
Who take your oath on it can answer — and
Indeed it presses hard upon my brain —
What I was asking of these gentlemen
When you came in upon us; how it is
That I— the Segismund you know so long
No longer than the sun that rose today
Rose — and from what you know —
Rose to be Prince of Poland?
So to be
Acknowledged and entreated, Sir.
Acknowledged and entreated —
Well — But if now by all, by some at least
So known — if not entreated — heretofore —
Though not by you — For, now I think again,
Of what should be your attestation worth,
You that of all my questionable subjects
Who knowing what, yet left me where I was,
You least of all, Clotaldo, till the dawn
Of this first day that told it to myself?
Oh, let your Highness draw the line across
Fore-written sorrow, and in this new dawn
Bury that long sad night.
Not ev’n the Dead,
Call’d to the resurrection of the blest,
Shall so directly drop all memory
Of woes and wrongs foregone!
But not resent —
Purged by the trial of that sorrow past
For full fruition of their present bliss.
But leaving with the Judge what, till this earth
Be cancell’d in the burning heavens, He leaves
His earthly delegates to execute,
Of retribution in reward to them
And woe to those who wrong’d them — Not as you,
Not you, Clotaldo, knowing not — And yet
Ev’n to the guiltiest wretch in all the realm,
Of any treason guilty short of that,
Stern usage — but assuredly not knowing,
Not knowing ’twas your sovereign lord, Clotaldo,
You used so sternly.
Ay, sir; with the same
Devotion and fidelity that now
Does homage to him for my sovereign.
Fidelity that held his Prince in chains!
Fidelity more fast than had it loosed him —
Ev’n from the very dawn of consciousness
Down at the bottom of the barren rocks,
Where scarce a ray of sunshine found him out,
In which the poorest beggar of my realm
At least to human-full proportion grows —
Me! Me — whose station was the kingdom’s top
To flourish in, reaching my head to heaven,
And with my branches overshadowing
The meaner growth below!
Still with the same
To me! —
Ay, sir, to you,
Through that divine allegiance upon which
All Order and Authority is based;
Which to revolt against —
Were to revolt
Against the stars, belike!
And him who reads them;
And by that right, and by the sovereignty
He wears as you shall wear it after him;
Ay, one to whom yourself —
Yourself, ev’n more than any subject here,
Are bound by yet another and more strong
Allegiance — King Basilio — your Father —
Basilio — King — my father! —
Oh, my Lord,
Let me beseech you on my bended knee,
For your own sake — for Poland’s — and for his,
Who, looking up for counsel to the skies,
Did what he did under authority
To which the kings of earth themselves are subject,
And whose behest not only he that suffers,
But he that executes, not comprehends,
But only He that orders it —
The King —
My father! — Either I am mad already,
Or that way driving fast — or I should know
That fathers do not use their children so,
Or men were loosed from all allegiance
To fathers, kings, and heaven that order’d all.
But, mad or not, my hour is come, and I
Will have my reckoning — Either you lie,
Under the skirt of sinless majesty
Shrouding your treason; or if that indeed,
Guilty itself, take refuge in the stars
That cannot hear the charge, or disavow —
You, whether doer or deviser, who
Come first to hand, shall pay the penalty
By the same hand you owe it to —
[Seizing Clotaldo’s sword and about to strike him.]
[Enter Rosaura suddenly.]
Fie, my Lord — forbear,
What! a young hand raised against silver hair! —
[She retreats through the crowd.]
Stay! stay! What come and vanish’d as before —
I scarce remember how — but —
[Voices within. Room for Astolfo, Duke of Muscovy!]
Welcome, thrice welcome, the auspicious day,
When from the mountain where he darkling lay,
The Polish sun into the firmament
Sprung all the brighter for his late ascent,
And in meridian glory —
Where is he?
Why must I ask this twice? —
The Page, my Lord?
I wonder at his boldness —
But I tell you
He came with Angel written in his face
As now it is, when all was black as hell
About, and none of you who now — he came,
And Angel-like flung me a shining sword
To cut my way through darkness; and again
Angel-like wrests it from me in behalf
Of one — whom I will spare for sparing him:
But he must come and plead with that same voice
That pray’d for me — in vain.
He is gone for,
And shall attend your pleasure, sir. Meanwhile,
Will not your Highness, as in courtesy,
Return your royal cousin’s greeting?
Astolfo, Duke of Muscovy, my Lord,
Saluted, and with gallant compliment
Welcomed you to your royal title.
Segismund. [to Astolfo].
You knew of this then?
Knew of what, my Lord?
That I was Prince of Poland all the while,
And you my subject?
Pardon me, my Lord,
But some few hours ago myself I learn’d
Your dignity; but, knowing it, no more
Than when I knew it not, your subject.
Your Highness’ chamberlain ev’n now has told you;
Astolfo, Duke of Muscovy,
Your father’s sister’s son; your cousin, sir:
And who as such, and in his own right Prince,
Expects from you the courtesy he shows.
His Highness is as yet unused to Court,
And to the ceremonious interchange
Of compliment, especially to those
Who draw their blood from the same royal fountain.
Where is the lad? I weary of all this —
Prince, cousins, chamberlains, and compliments —
Where are my soldiers? Blow the trumpet, and
With one sharp blast scatter these butterflies
And bring the men of iron to my side,
With whom a king feels like a king indeed!
[Voices within. Within there! room for the Princess Estrella!]
[Enter Estrella with Ladies.]
Welcome, my Lord, right welcome to the throne
That much too long has waited for your coming:
And, in the general voice of Poland, hear
A kinswoman and cousin’s no less sincere.
Ay, this is welcome-worth indeed,
And cousin cousin-worth! Oh, I have thus
Over the threshold of the mountain seen,
Leading a bevy of fair stars, the moon
Enter the court of heaven — My kinswoman!
My cousin! But my subject? —
If you please
To count your cousin for your subject, sir,
You shall not find her a disloyal.
But there are twin stars in that heavenly face,
That now I know for having over-ruled
Those evil ones that darken’d all my past
And brought me forth from that captivity
To be the slave of her who set me free.
Indeed, my Lord, these eyes have no such power
Over the past or present: but perhaps
They brighten at your welcome to supply
The little that a lady’s speech commends;
And in the hope that, let whichever be
The other’s subject, we may both be friends.
Your hand to that — But why does this warm hand
Shoot a cold shudder through me?
For likening me to that cold moon, perhaps.
Oh, but the lip whose music tells me so
Breathes of a warmer planet, and that lip
Shall remedy the treason of the hand!
[He catches to embrace her.]
Release me, sir!
And pardon me, my Lord.
This lady is a Princess absolute,
As Prince he is who just saluted you,
And claims her by affiance.
Hence, old fool,
For ever thrusting that white stick of yours
Between me and my pleasure!
This cause is mine.
Forbear, sir —
What, sir mouth-piece, you again?
My Lord, I waive your insult to myself
In recognition of the dignity
You yet are new to, and that greater still
You look in time to wear. But for this lady —
Whom, if my cousin now, I hope to claim
Henceforth by yet a nearer, dearer name —
And what care I? She is my cousin too:
And if you be a Prince — well, am not I
Lord of the very soil you stand upon?
By that, and by that right beside of blood
That like a fiery fountain hitherto
Pent in the rock leaps toward her at her touch,
Mine, before all the cousins in Muscovy!
You call me Prince of Poland, and yourselves
My subjects — traitors therefore to this hour,
Who let me perish all my youth away
Chain’d there among the mountains; till, forsooth,
Terrified at your treachery foregone,
You spirit me up here, I know not how,
Popinjay-like invest me like yourselves,
Choke me with scent and music that I loathe,
And, worse than all the music and the scent,
With false, long-winded, fulsome compliment,
That ‘Oh, you are my subjects!’ and in word
Reiterating still obedience,
Thwart me in deed at every step I take:
When just about to wreak a just revenge
Upon that old arch-traitor of you all,
Filch from my vengeance him I hate; and him
I loved — the first and only face — till this —
I cared to look on in your ugly court —
And now when palpably I grasp at last
What hitherto but shadow’d in my dreams —
Affiances and interferences,
The first who dares to meddle with me more —
Princes and chamberlains and counsellors,
Touch her who dares! —
That dare I—
Segismund. [seizing him by the throat].
My Lord! —
His strength’s a lion’s —
[Voices within. The King! The King! —]
And on a sudden how he stands at gaze
As might a wolf just fasten’d on his prey,
Glaring at a suddenly encounter’d lion.
And I that hither flew with open arms
To fold them round my son, must now return
To press them to an empty heart again!
[He sits on the throne.]
That is the King? — My father?
[After a long pause.]
I have heard
That sometimes some blind instinct has been known
To draw to mutual recognition those
Of the same blood, beyond all memory
Divided, or ev’n never met before.
I know not how this is — perhaps in brutes
That live by kindlier instincts — but I know
That looking now upon that head whose crown
Pronounces him a sovereign king, I feel
No setting of the current in my blood
Tow’rd him as sire. How is’t with you, old man,
Tow’rd him they call your son? —
Your sorrow, then?
Beholding what I do.
Ay, but how know this sorrow that has grown
And moulded to this present shape of man,
As of your own creation?
Ev’n from birth.
But from that hour to this, near, as I think,
Some twenty such renewals of the year
As trace themselves upon the barren rocks,
I never saw you, nor you me — unless,
Unless, indeed, through one of those dark masks
Through which a son might fail to recognize
The best of fathers.
Be that as you will:
But, now we see each other face to face,
Know me as you I know; which did I not,
By whatsoever signs, assuredly
You were not here to prove it at my risk.
You are my father.
And is it true then, as Clotaldo swears,
’Twas you that from the dawning birth of one
Yourself brought into being — you, I say,
Who stole his very birthright; not alone
That secondary and peculiar right
Of sovereignty, but even that prime
Inheritance that all men share alike,
And chain’d him — chain’d him! — like a wild beast’s whelp.
Among as savage mountains, to this hour?
Answer if this be thus.
In all that I have done that seems to you,
And, without further hearing, fairly seems,
Unnatural and cruel —’twas not I,
But One who writes His order in the sky
I dared not misinterpret nor neglect,
Who knows with what reluctance —
Oh, those stars,
Those stars, that too far up from human blame
To clear themselves, or careless of the charge,
Still bear upon their shining shoulders all
The guilt men shift upon them!
Nay, but think:
Not only on the common score of kind,
But that peculiar count of sovereignty —
If not behind the beast in brain as heart,
How should I thus deal with my innocent child,
Doubly desired, and doubly dear when come,
As that sweet second-self that all desire,
And princes more than all, to root themselves
By that succession in their people’s hearts,
Unless at that superior Will, to which
Not kings alone, but sovereign nature bows?
And what had those same stars to tell of me
That should compel a father and a king
So much against that double instinct?
Which I have brought you hither, at my peril,
Against their written warning, to disprove,
By justice, mercy, human kindliness.
And therefore made yourself their instrument
To make your son the savage and the brute
They only prophesied? — Are you not afear’d,
Lest, irrespective as such creatures are
Of such relationship, the brute you made
Revenge the man you marr’d — like sire, like son.
To do by you as you by me have done?
You never had a savage heart from me;
I may appeal to Poland.
Then from whom?
If pure in fountain, poison’d by yourself
When scarce begun to flow. — To make a man
Not, as I see, degraded from the mould
I came from, nor compared to those about,
And then to throw your own flesh to the dogs! —
Why not at once, I say, if terrified
At the prophetic omens of my birth,
Have drown’d or stifled me, as they do whelps
Too costly or too dangerous to keep?
That, living, you might learn to live, and rule
Yourself and Poland.
By the means you took
To spoil for either?
Nay, but, Segismund!
You know not — cannot know — happily wanting
The sad experience on which knowledge grows,
How the too early consciousness of power
Spoils the best blood; nor whether for your long
Constrain’d disheritance (which, but for me,
Remember, and for my relenting love
Bursting the bond of fate, had been eternal)
You have not now a full indemnity;
Wearing the blossom of your youth unspent
In the voluptuous sunshine of a court,
That often, by too early blossoming,
Too soon deflowers the rose of royalty.
Ay, but what some precocious warmth may spill,
May not an early frost as surely kill?
But, Segismund, my son, whose quick discourse
Proves I have not extinguish’d and destroy’d
The Man you charge me with extinguishing,
However it condemn me for the fault
Of keeping a good light so long eclipsed,
Reflect! This is the moment upon which
Those stars, whose eyes, although we see them not,
By day as well as night are on us still,
Hang watching up in the meridian heaven
Which way the balance turns; and if to you —
As by your dealing God decide it may,
To my confusion! — let me answer it
Unto yourself alone, who shall at once
Approve yourself to be your father’s judge,
And sovereign of Poland in his stead,
By justice, mercy, self-sobriety,
And all the reasonable attributes
Without which, impotent to rule himself,
Others one cannot, and one must not rule;
But which if you but show the blossom of —
All that is past we shall but look upon
As the first out-fling of a generous nature
Rioting in first liberty; and if
This blossom do but promise such a flower
As promises in turn its kindly fruit:
Forthwith upon your brows the royal crown,
That now weighs heavy on my aged brows,
I will devolve; and while I pass away
Into some cloister, with my Maker there
To make my peace in penitence and prayer,
Happily settle the disorder’d realm
That now cries loudly for a lineal heir.
And so —
When the crown falters on your shaking head,
And slips the sceptre from your palsied hand,
And Poland for her rightful heir cries out;
When not only your stol’n monopoly
Fails you of earthly power, but ‘cross the grave
The judgment-trumpet of another world
Calls you to count for your abuse of this;
Then, oh then, terrified by the double danger,
You drag me from my den —
Boast not of giving up at last the power
You can no longer hold, and never rightly
Held, but in fee for him you robb’d it from;
And be assured your Savage, once let loose,
Will not be caged again so quickly; not
By threat or adulation to be tamed,
Till he have had his quarrel out with those
Who made him what he is.
Subdue the kindled Tiger in your eye,
Nor dream that it was sheer necessity
Made me thus far relax the bond of fate,
And, with far more of terror than of hope
Threaten myself, my people, and the State.
Know that, if old, I yet have vigour left
To wield the sword as well as wear the crown;
And if my more immediate issue fail,
Not wanting scions of collateral blood,
Whose wholesome growth shall more than compensate
For all the loss of a distorted stem.
That will I straightway bring to trial — Oh,
After a revelation such as this,
The Last Day shall have little left to show
Of righted wrong and villainy requited!
Nay, Judgment now beginning upon earth,
Myself, methinks, in sight of all my wrongs,
Appointed heaven’s avenging minister,
Accuser, judge, and executioner
Sword in hand, cite the guilty — First, as worst,
The usurper of his son’s inheritance;
Him and his old accomplice, time and crime
Inveterate, and unable to repay
The golden years of life they stole away.
What, does he yet maintain his state, and keep
The throne he should be judged from? Down with him,
That I may trample on the false white head
So long has worn my crown! Where are my soldiers?
Of all my subjects and my vassals here
Not one to do my bidding? Hark! A trumpet!
The trumpet —
[He pauses as the trumpet sounds as in Act I., and masked Soldiers gradually fill in behind the Throne.]
King [rising before his throne].
Ay, indeed, the trumpet blows
A memorable note, to summon those
Who, if forthwith you fall not at the feet
Of him whose head you threaten with the dust,
Forthwith shall draw the curtain of the Past
About you; and this momentary gleam
Of glory that you think to hold life-fast,
So coming, so shall vanish, as a dream.
He prophesies; the old man prophesies;
And, at his trumpet’s summons, from the tower
The leash-bound shadows loosen’d after me
My rising glory reach and over-lour —
But, reach not I my height, he shall not hold,
But with me back to his own darkness!
[He dashes toward the throne and is enclosed by the soldiers.]
Hold off! Unhand me! — Am not I your king?
And you would strangle him! —
But I am breaking with an inward Fire
Shall scorch you off, and wrap me on the wings
Of conflagration from a kindled pyre
Of lying prophecies and prophet-kings
Above the extinguish’d stars — Reach me the sword
He flung me — Fill me such a bowl of wine
As that you woke the day with —
And shall close —
But of the vintage that Clotaldo knows.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52