The Lamp and the Bell, by Edna St. Vincent Millay


Scene 1 — Four months later.

[Scene: A garden, near the palace at Fiori. The young Duke
Guido is discovered standing with one foot resting on a
garden-bench, looking off, lost in thought. Enter Giovanni.]

GIO. That is a merry face you wear, my Guido!
Now that the young King Mario visits the court
And walks all morning in the woods with the Princess,
Or gives her fencing lessons — upon my word,
You are as gay as a gallows!

GUI. She is never
Alone with him. Laura — Carlotta — someone
Is always there.

GIO. Ah — ah — but even so,
No matter who is there, I tell you, lovers
Are always alone!

GUI. Why do you say these things,

GIO. Because I love you, you lean wolf,
And love to watch you snuff the air. My friend,
There was a time I thought it all ambition
With you, a secret itching to be king —
And not so secret, either — an open plot
To marry a girl who will be Queen some morning.
But now at times I wonder. You have a look
As of a man that’s nightly gnawed by rats,
The very visage of a man in love.
Is it not so?

GUI. I do not know, Giovanni.
I know I have a passion in my stomach
So bitter I can taste it on my tongue.
She hates me. And her hatred draws me to her
As the moon draws the tide.

GIO. You are like a cat —
There never was a woman yet that feared you
And shunned you, but you leapt upon her shoulder!
Well, I’ll be off. The prettiest girl in Fiori —
Unless it be Her Highness, waits for me
By a fountain. All day long she sells blue plums,
And in the evening what she has left of them
She gives to me! You should love simply, Guido,
As I do. [Exit Giovanni.]

[Guido sits on the bench and drops his head in hand.
Enter Francesca.]

FRA. [Softly.] Guido! Guido!

GUI. Who calls me?

FRA. Guido!

GUI. Francesca! Why do you follow me here?
You know I do not wish to see you!

FRA. Do not be angry.
’Tis half a week since you have spoken to me,
And over a week since you have so much as laid
Your hand upon my arm! And do you think,
Loving you as I do, I can do without you,
Forever, Guido, and make no sign at all?
I know you said you did not wish to see me
Ever again — but it was only a quarrel —
And we have quarreled before!

GUI. It was not a quarrel.
I am tired of you, Francesca. You are too soft.
You weep too much.

FRA. I do not weep the less
For having known you.

GUI. So; — it will save you tears, then
To know me less.

FRA. Oh, Guido, how your face
Is changed — I cannot think those are the eyes
That looked into my eyes a month ago!
What’s come between us?

GUI. Nothing has come between us.
It is the simple snapping of a string
Too often played upon.

FRA. Ah! — but I know
Who snapped it! It will do you little good
To look at her — she’ll never look at you!

GUI. Be silent a moment! — Unless you would be silent

FRA. Indeed! I shall speak out my mind!
You go beyond yourself! There is proportion
Even in a nature like my own, that’s twisted
From too much clinging to a crooked tree!
And this is sure: if you no longer love me,
You shall no longer strike me!

MARIO. [Off stage.] Beatrice!
Wait for me! Wait!

BEA. [Off stage.] Not I! Who does not run?
As fast as I run, shall be left behind me!

GUI. They are coming here! I do not wish to see them!

FRA. Oh, Guido! [She follows him off. Exeunt Guido and Francesca.]

[Enter Beatrice, running, followed by Mario.]

MAR. Beatrice, you run like a boy!
You whistle like a boy! And upon my word,
You are the only girl I ever played
At jousting with, that did not hold her sword
As if it were a needle! Which of us,
Think you, when we are married, will be King?

BEA. When we are married! Sir, I’ll have you know
There’s an ogre to be tamed, a gem to be pried
From out a dragon’s forehead, and three riddles
To be solved, each tighter than the last, before
A Princess may be wed!

MAR. Even by a King?

BEA. For Kings the rules are sterner! — One more riddle,
And a mirror that will show her always young.

MAR. And if I do these things, then, will you have me,

BEA. Maybe. And if you do not do them,
Maybe. Come — I will race you to the bridge!

MAR. [Catching her hand,] Nay, not so fast! — Have you no wish to be
Beside me, ever, that you are forever running

BEA. Indeed, if you would have the truth
It has come into my mind more times than once
It would be sweet to be beside you often.

MAR. Rose–Red!

BEA. Come — I will race you to the bridge!

[Exeunt Beatrice and Mario.]

Scene 2

[Court-yard of the palace at Fiori. Entire court assembled.
A band of strolling players, with a little stage
on wheels, are doing a Harlequinade pantomime to amuse
the young King Mario, the guest of honor. Beatrice sits
beside him. In this scene the two people who are oblivious
to the pantomime are Guido and Octavia. Guido is
apparently brooding over something. From time to time
he looks at Beatrice and Mario. Once, having gazed for
some moments at the pair, he looks at Octavia and sees
that she, too, is looking at them, which seems to satisfy
him. The Queen does not take her eyes from the two during
the entire scene. Beatrice and Mario do not conduct
themselves precisely as lovers, but they are very gay and
happy to be in each other’s company, apparently. Lorenzo
watches the show with a benign, almost childish

[Pantomime begins.]

GIO. You, Pierrot, are you not a little thick
For such a sorrowful fellow?

PIERROT. Nay, indeed!
Sorrow may come to all. And ’tis amazing
How much a man may live through and keep fat.

[Pantomime continues]

CAR. Ho! Now he stumbles! Look you, Pantaloon,
If you were not so learned i’ the head
You might know better where to put your feet!

LAU. [To Carlotta.] ’Tis curious how it addles a man’s bones
To think too much.

CAR. Nay, truth. Wise men were ever
Awkward in the legs.

[Pantomime continues.]

RAFFAELE. Have at him, Polichinello.

GIO. Lay on! Lay on!

ANS. Leave not a nail of him!

GIO. Dog! Would you have him write a book about you?

LUIG. Spit him i’ the liver! It is his only organ!

BEA. [To Mario.] Nay, it is cruel. I cannot look at it.

MAR. It is but play.

BEA. Ay, but ’tis cruel play.
To be so mocked at! — Come, take heart, good Doctor!
’Tis a noisy fellow, but light withal! — Blow at him!

GIO. [To Guido.] She has the softest heart that ever
I saw
In a hard woman. It may be, seeing she has pity
For one rogue, she has pity for another!
Mark you, my Guido, there is hope yet!

GUI. Nay,
There’s not. I have opened up my mind to her,
And she will none of me.

GIO. [Jestingly.] That was the last thing
You should have done! — Speak — did she give for answer
She loves the King?

GUI. Not she. She gave for answer
She does not love the Duke.

[Pantomime continues.]

ANS. [To Colombine.] Ah, pretty lady!

CAR. La, she is fickle! How she turns from one face
To another face — and smiles into them all!

FRAN. Oh, ay, but’ tis the Pierrot that she loves.

[Pantomime continues and comes to a close.]

[All applaud.]

LUIGI. Well done!

ANS. Bravo!

GIO. A monstrous lively play!

BEA. Oh, is it over? — I would it were not over!

MAR. And yet it pleased you not!

BEA. When it pleased me not,
I looked at you.

MAR. And when I pleased you not —?

BEA. I looked at Harlequin. However, I saw him
But fleetingly. Pray, was he dark or fair?

LUIGI. Laura!

LAU. Who calls? La, it is only Luigi!

LUIGI. Laura, there’ll be a moon tonight.

LAU. I’ faith,
There was a moon last night. [She sighs.]

LUIGI. At ten o’clock,
Were I by a certain gate, would you be there?
What say you?

LAU. Ay — if weariness overtook me,
And I could not get further!

CAR. La, ’tis sun-down!

[In the meantime the crowd has been breaking up and dispersing.
The curtain falls on the disappearing spectators and on Pierrot
and his troupe packing up their wagon to go to the next town.]

Scene 3

[Fiori. A garden with a fountain. Evening.]
[Enter Octavia and Ladies.]

OCT. It would amuse me if I had a lily
To carry in my hand. You there, Carlotta!
You have a long arm — plunge it in the pool
And fish me forth a lily!

CLAUDIA. Majesty,
They close at night.

OCT. Well — we will open them.

CAR. [Going to pool and scanning it.] Go to — I am not a frog!

OCT. What did you say?

ARIANNA. She says she sees a frog, Your Majesty.

FRAN. [Aside to Carlotta.]
You are mad! Can you not keep your tongue in your head?

CAR. Ay, I can keep it in my cheek. — There’s one.
God grant it have an eel at the end of it —
I’ll give the dame good measure.

[While the ladies are at the pool enter Guido.]

GUIDO. Greeting, madam!

OCT. Who greets me? — Ah, it is the Duke.
Good even, Guido. You seek an audience with me?

GUIDO. Nay — nay — but if you send away your women —
We shall be more alone.

OCT. [After considering him a moment.] You may leave me now,
Laura, Francesca — all of you — and you would best go in
At an early hour, instead of walking the gardens
All night; I would have you with your wits
About you in the morning.

LAU. [Aside.] Oh, indeed?
You would best go in yourself, lest the dew rust you,
You sauce-pan! [Exeunt ladies.]

OCT. Now, my good sir — you may speak.

GUI. [As if by way of conversation.]
It is a long time, is it not, your daughter
Is absent from the court?

OCT. Why say you that?

GUI. Why but to pass the time, till she returns?

OCT. Nay, Guido. That is well enough for some,
But not for me. I know the slant of your fancy;
’Tis not in that direction.

GUI. Yet me thinks
The sooner she is back again at court
The happier for us both.

OCT. “Us both”? What “both”?

GUI. You Madam, and myself.

OCT. And why for me?

GUI. [Carefully.] Why, are you not her mother?

OCT. Hah! [Pause.] Guido,
What festers in your mind? Do you speak out now,
If you await some aid from me.

GUI. Madam,
I have but this to say: if I were a woman
With a marriageable daughter, and a King rode by,
I’d have her at the window.

OCT. So. I thought so.

[With an entire change of manner.]

Guido, what think you — does she love the King —
I mean Lorenzo’s daughter?

GUI. [Between his teeth.] Ay, she loves him.

OCT. And loves he her?

GUI. Oh, ay. He loves the moon,
The wind in the cypress trees, his mother’s portrait
At seventeen, himself, his future children —
He loves her well enough. But had she blue eyes
And yellow hair, and were afraid of snakes,
He yet might love her more.

OCT. You think so, Guido?
I am content to learn you of that mind.
There had occurred to me — some time ago,
In fact — a similar fancy. And already
My daughter is well on her way home.

[Exeunt Guido and Octavia.]

[Music, Enter Beatrice and Fidelio. Fidelio strums his lute
softly throughout the next conversation, up to the words
“and cease to mock me.”]

BEA. Fidelio,
Were you ever in love?

FID. I was never out of it.

BEA. But truly?

FID. Well. I was only out of it
What time it takes a man to right himself
And once again lose balance. Ah, indeed,
’Tis good to be in love, I have often noticed,
The moment I fall out of love, that moment
I catch a cold.

BEA. Are you in love, then, now?

FID. Ay, to be sure.

BEA. Oh! Oh! With whom, Fidelio?
Tell me with whom!

FID. Why, marry, with yourself —
That are the nearest to me — and by the same troth,
The farthest away.

BEA. Go to, Fidelio!
I am in earnest, and you trifle with me
As if I were a child.

FID. Are you not a child, then?

BEA. Not any more.

FID, How so?

BEA. I am in love.

FID. Oh — oh — oh, misery, misery, misery, misery!

BEA. Why do you say that?

FID. Say what?

BEA. “Misery, misery.”

FID. It is a song.

BEA. A song?

FID. Ay, ’tis a love-song.
Oh, misery, misery, misery, misery, oh!

BEA. Nay, sweet Fidelio, be not so unkind!
I tell you, for the first time in my life
I am in love! Do you be mannerly now,
And cease to mock me,

FID. What would you have me do?

BEA. I would have you shake your head, and pat my shoulder,
And smile and say, “Godspeed.”

FID. [Doing so very tenderly.] Godspeed.

BEA. [Bursting into tears.] I do not know if I am happy or sad.
But I am greatly moved. I would Bianca
Were here. I never lacked her near so much
As tonight I do, although I lack her always.
She is a long time gone. — If I tell you something,
Will you promise not to tell.

FID. Nay, I’ll not promise, But I’ll not tell.

BEA. Fidelio, I do love so
The King from Lagoverde! I do so love him!

FID. Godspeed, Godspeed.

BEA. Ay, it is passing strange;
Last week I was a child, but now I am not.
And I begin my womanhood with weeping;
I know not why. — La, what a fool I am!
’Tis over. Sing, Fidelio.

FID. Would you a gay song, My Princess?

BEA. Ay. — And yet — nay, not so gay.
A simple song, such as a country-boy
Might sing his country-sweetheart. — Is it the moon
Hath struck me, do you think? I swear by the moon
I am most melancholy soft, and most
Outrageous sentimental! Sing, dear fool.

FID. [Singing.]
“Butterflies are white and blue
In this field we wander through.
Suffer me to take your hand.
Death comes in a day or two.
All the things we ever knew
Will be ashes in that hour.
Mark the transient butterfly,
How he hangs upon the flower.
Suffer me to take your hand.
Suffer me to cherish you
Till the dawn is in the sky.
Whether I be false or true,
Death comes in a day or two.”


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57