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


Scene 1 — The following summer,

[A field or meadow near Fiori. As the curtain rises voices are heard
off-stage singing a bridal song.]

SONG: Strew we flowers on their pathway!
Bride and bride-groom, go you sweetly.
There are roses on your pathway.
Bride and bride-groom, go you sweetly.
Sweetly live together.

[Enter Viola, Lilina, Lela, Arianna and Claudia, laden with
garlands, flowering boughs and baskets of flowers. They met
Anselmo coming from another direction, also bearing flowers.]

VIO. How beautiful, Anselmo! Where did you find them?

ANS. Close by the brook.

LIL. You gathered all there were?

ANS. Not by one hundredth part.

LEL. Nay, is it true?
We must have more of them!

ARI. And are they fragrant
As well?

ANS. Ay, by my heart, they are so sweet
I near to fainted climbing the bank with them.

[The ladies cluster about Anselmo and smell the flowers.]

LIL. Oh!

VIO. Ah!

CLA. How drowsily sweet!

LEL. Oh, sweet!

ARI. What fragrance!

[Enter Laura and Giovanna, followed by Carlotta and Raffaele.]

LAU. La, by my lung! I am as out of breath
As a babe new-born! Whew! Let me catch the air!

[She drops her flowers and seats herself beside them.]

CAR. [to the younger ladies and Anselmo, by way of greeting.]
How hot the sun is getting.

ANS. ’Tis nigh noon, I think.

GIO. ’Tis noon.

CLA. We must be starting back.

LAU. Not till I get my breath.

RAF. Come — I will fan you. [He fans her with a branch,]

LAU. Tis good —’tis very good — oh, peace — oh, slumber —
Oh, all good things! You are a proper youth.
You are a zephyr. I would have you fan me
Till you fall dead.

CAR. I tell you when it comes
To gathering flowers, much is to be said
For spreading sheets on the grass — it gives you less
The backache.

LAU. Nobly uttered, my sweet bird.

GIO. Yet brides must have bouquets.

CAR. And sit at home,
Nursing complexions, whilst I gather them,

LIL. [Running to Carlotta, along, with Lela and Viola, and throwing her
arms about her.]
Nay, out upon you now, Carlotta! Cease now
To grumble so — ’tis such a pretty day!

VIO. And weddings mean a ball!

LEL. And one may dance all night
At weddings!

LIL. Till one needs must dance to bed,
Because one cannot walk there!

GIO. And one eats
Such excellent food!

ANS. And drinks such excellent wine!

CLA. And seldom will you see a bride and bridegroom
More beautiful and gracious, or whom garlands
Do more become.

GIO. ’Tis so — upon my sword! —
Which I neglected to bring with me —’tis so,
Upon Anselmo’s sword!

CAR. Nay, look you, Laura!
You must not fall asleep! [to Raffaele] Have done, you devil!
Is it a poppy that you have there? [to Laura] Look you,
We must be starting back! [Laura rouses, then falls back again.]

LAU. Ay, that we must.

ARI. Where are the others?

ANS. Scattered all about.
I will call to them. Hola! You fauns and dryads!
Where are you?

VOICES. Here! Here! Is it time to go?

ANS. Come this way! We are starting back!

VOICES. We are coming!
We’ll come in a moment! I cannot bear to leave
This place!

GIO. [As they enter] A thousand greetings, Clara!
Lucia, a thousand greetings! How now, Luigi!
I know you, man, despite this soft disguise!
You are no flower-girl!

LUI. I am a draught-horse,
That’s what I am, for four unyielding women!
Were I a flower-girl, I’d sell the lot
For a bit of bread and meat — I am so hungry
I could eat a butterfly!

CAR. What ho. Francesca!
I have not seen you since the sun came up!

FRA. This is not I — I shall not be myself
Till it goes down!

LEL. Oh, la, what lovely lilies!

FRA. Be tender with them — I risked my life to get them!

LIL. Where were they?

FRA. Troth, I do not know. I think
They were in a dragon’s mouth.

LAU. [Suddenly waking] Well, are we going? [All laugh.]

LUI. No one is going that cannot go afoot.
I have enough to carry!

LAU. Nay; take me too!
I am a little thing. What does it matter —
One flower more?

LUI. You are a thousand flowers,
Sweet Laura — you are a meadow full of them —
I’ll bring a wagon for you.

CAR. Come. Come home.

[In the meantime the stage has been filling with girls and men
bearing flowers, a multitude of people, in groups and couples,
humming the song very softly. As Carlotta speaks several more
people take up the song, then finally the whole crowd. They move
off slowly, singing.]

SONG. “Strew we flowers on their pathway,” etc.

Scene 2

[Bianca’s boudoir in the palace at Fiori. Bianca with a mirror in
her hand, having her hair done by a maid. Several maids about,
holding perfume-flasks, brushes, and veils, articles of apparel of
one sort or another. Beatrice standing beside her, watching.]

BIA. Look at me, Rose–Red. Am I pretty enough,
Think you, to marry a King?

BEA. You are too pretty.
There is no justice in it. Marry a cobbler
And make a king of him. It is unequal —
Here is one beggarly boy king in his own right,
And king by right of you.

BIA. Mario is not
A beggarly boy! Nay, tell me truly, Beatrice,
What do you think of him?

BEA. La, by my soul!
Have I not told you what I think of him
A thousand times? He is graceful enough, I tell you,
And hath a well-shaped head.

BIA. Nay, is that all?

BEA. Nay, hands and feet he hath, like any other.

BIA. Oh, out upon you for a surly baggage!
Why will you tease me so? You do not like him,
I think.

BEA. Snow–White! Forgive me! La, indeed,
I was but jesting! By my sacred word,
These brides are serious folk.

BIA. I could not bear
To wed a man that was displeasing to you.
Loving him as I do, I could not choose
But wed him, if he wished it, but ‘twould hurt me
To think he did not please you.

BEA. Let me, then,
Set your sweet heart at rest. You could not find
In Christendom a man would please me more.

BIA. Then I am happy.

BEA. Aye, be happy, child.

BIA. Why do you call me child?

BEA. Faith, ’tis the season
O’ the year when I am older than you. Besides
A bride is always younger than a spinster.

BIA. A spinster! Do you come here to me, Rose–Red,
Whilst I pinch you smartly! You, Arianna, push me
Her Highness over here, that I may pinch her!
[To Loretta.] Nay, is it finished? Aye, ’tis very well.
Though not so well, Loretta, as many a day
When I was doing nothing! — Nay, my girl,
’Tis well enough. He will take me as I am
Or leave me as I was. — You may come back
In half an hour, if you are grieved about it,
And do it again. But go now — all of you.
I wish to be alone. [To Beatrice.] Not you.

[Exeunt all but Bea. and Bia.]

Oh, Rose–Red,
I trust ’twill not be long before I see you
As happy as you see me now!

BEA. Indeed,
I could not well be happier than I am.
You do not know, maybe, how much I love you.

BIA. Ah, but I do — I have a measure for it!

BEA. Ay, for today you have. But not for long.
They say a bride forgets her friends — she cleaves so
To her new lord. It cannot but be true.
You will be gone from me. There will be much
To drive me from your mind.

BIA. Shall I forget, then, When I am old, I ever was a child?
I tell you I shall never think of you
Throughout my life, without such tenderness
As breaks the heart — and I shall think of you
Whenever I am most happy, whenever I am
Most sad, whenever I see a beautiful thing.
You are a burning lamp to me, a flame
The wind cannot blow out, and I shall hold you
High in my hand against whatever darkness.

BEA. You are to me a silver bell in a tower.
And when it rings I know I am near home.

Scene 3

[A room in the palace. Mario alone. Enter Beatrice.]

BEA. Mario! I have a message for you! — Nay,
You need not hang your head and shun me, Mario,
Because you loved me once a little and now
Love somebody else much more. The going of love
Is no less honest than the coming of it.
It is a human thing.

MAR. Oh, Beatrice!
What can I say to you?

BEA. Nay, but indeed.
Say nothing. All is said. I need no words
To tell me you have been troubled in your heart,
Thinking of me.

MAR. What can I say to you!

BEA. I tell you, my dear friend, you must forget
This thing that makes you sad. I have forgotten,
In seeing her so happy, that ever I wished
For happiness myself. Indeed, indeed,
I am much happier in her happiness
Than if it were my own; ’tis doubly dear,
I feel it in myself, yet all the time
I know it to be hers, and am twice glad.

MAR. I could be on my knees to you a lifetime,
Nor pay you half the homage is your due.

BEA. Pay me no homage, Mario — but if it be
I have your friendship, I shall treasure it.

MAR. That you will have always.

BEA. Then you will promise me
Never to let her know. I never told her
How it was with us, or that I cherished you
More than another. It was on my tongue to tell her
The moment she returned, but she had seen you
Already on the bridge as she went by,
And had leaned out to look at you, it seems,
And you were looking at her — and the first words
She said, after she kissed me, were, “Oh, sister,
I have looked at last by daylight on the man
I see in my dreams!”

MAR. [Tenderly.] Did she say that?

BEA. [Drily.] Ay, that
Was what she said. — By which I knew, you see,
My dream was over — it could not but be you.
So that I said no word, but my quick blood
Went suddenly quiet in my veins, and I felt
Years older than Bianca. I drew her head
Down to my shoulder, that she might not see my face,
And she spoke on, and on. You must not tell her,
Even when you both are old, and there is nothing
To do but to remember. She would be withered
With pity for me. She holds me very dear.

MAR. I promise it, Rose–Red. And oh, believe me,
I said no word to you last year that is not
As true today! I hold you still the noblest
Of women, and the bravest. I have not changed.
Only last year I did not know I could love
As I love now. Her gentleness has crept so
Into my heart, it never will be out.
That she should turn to me and cling to me
And let me shelter her, is the great wonder
Of the world. You stand alone. You need no shelter,

BEA. It may be so.

MAR. Will you forgive me?

BEA. I had not thought of that. If it will please you,
Ay, surely. — And now, the reason for my coming:
I have a message for you, of such vast import
She could not trust it to a liv’ried page,
Or even a courier. She bids me tell you
She loves you still, although you have been parted
Since four o’clock.

MAR. [Happily.] Did she say that?

BEA. Ay, Mario.
I must return to her. It is not long now
Till she will leave me.

MAR. She will never leave you,
She tells me, in her heart.

BEA. [Happily.] Did she say that?

MAR. Ay, that she did, and I was jealous of you
One moment, till I called myself a fool.

BEA. Nay, Mario, she does not take from you
To give to me; and I am most content
She told you that. I will go now. Farewell,

MAR. Nay, we shall meet again, Beatrice!

Scene 4

[The ball-room of the palace at Fiori, raised place in back,
surmounted by two big chairs, for Lorenzo and Octavia to sit while
the dance goes on. Dais on one side, well down stage, in full sight
of the audience, for Mario and Bianca. As the curtain rises the
stage is empty except for Fidelio, who sits forlornly on the bottom
steps of the raised place in the back of the stage, his lute across
his knees, his head bowed upon it. Sound of laughter and
conversation, possibly rattling of dishes, off stage, evidently a
feast going on.]

LAU. [Off stage.] Be still, or I will heave a plate at you!

LUIGI. [Off stage.] Nay, gentle Laura, heave not the wedding-crockery,
At the wedding-guest! Behold me on my knees
To tell the world I love you like a fool!

LAU. Get up, you oaf! Or here’s a platter of gravy
Will add the motley to your folly!

LUIGI. Hold her,
Some piteous fop, that liketh not to see
Fine linen smeared with goose! Oh, gracious Laura,
I never have seen a child sucking an orange
But I wished an orange, too. This wedding irks me
Because ’tis not mine own. Shall we be married
Tuesday or Wednesday?

LAU. Are you in earnest, Luigi?

LUIGI. Ay, that I am, if never I was before.

LAU. La, I am lost! I am a married woman!
Water! — Nay, wine will do! On Wednesday, then.
I’ll have it as far off as possible.

[Enter from banquet-room Guido, Giovanni and Raffaele.]

GIO. Well met, Fidelio! Give us a song!

FID. Not I!

GUI. Why, is this? You, that are dripping with song
Weekdays, are dry of music for a wedding?

FID. I have a headache. Go and sit in a tree,
And make your own songs.

RAF. Nay, Fidelio.
String the sweet strings, man!

GIO. Strike the pretty strings!

GUI. Give us the silver strings!

FID. Nay then, I will that!

[He tears the strings off the lute and throws them in Guido’s face.]

Here be the strings, my merry gentlemen!
Do you amuse yourselves with tying knots in them
And hanging one another! — I have a headache.

[He runs off, sobbing.]

RAF. What ails him, think you?

GIO. Troth, I have no notion.

[Enter Nurse.]

GUI. What ho, good Grazia! I hear my uncle
Is ill again!

GRA. Where heard you that, you raven?

GUI. Marry, I forget. Is’t true?

GRA. It is as false
As that you have forgotten where you heard it.
Were you the heir to his power, which I bless God
You’re not! — he’d live to hide the throne from you
Full many a long day yet! — Nay, pretty Guido,
Your cousin is not yet Queen — and when she is — Faith,
She weareth a wide petticoat — there’ll be
Scant room for you beside her! [Exit Nurse across stage]

GUI. [To his companions.] None the less
I do believe the king is ill.

RAF. Who told you?

GUI. His wife. She is much exercised about him.

GIO. ’Tis like enough. This woman would rather lie
Than have her breakfast served to her in bed.

[Exeunt Guido, Giovanni and Raffaele.]

[Music. Enter Musicians and take place on stage. Enter four pages
and take places on either side the door as from the banquet-hall and
on either side the throne in the back. Enter King and Queen, that is
to say Lorenzo and Octavia, Lorenzo apparently quite well, and seat
themselves on throne in back. Enter courtiers and ladies, Carlotta
with Anselmo, Laura with Luigi, etc., and stand in little groups
about the stage, laughing and talking together. Enter Beatrice
alone, her train held by two pages in black. Enter twelve little
Cupids, running, and do a short dance in the center of the room,
then rush to the empty dais which is awaiting Mario and Bianca, and
cluster about it. Enter Bianca and Mario, she in white and silver,
with a deep sky blue velvet train six yards long, held up by six
silver pages [or Cupids]; he in black and gold, with a purple velvet
train of the same length held by six gold pages [or Cupids]. His arm
is about her waist, she is leaning back her head against him and
looking up into his face. They come in slowly, talking softly
together, as utterly oblivious of the court, the pages, the music,
everything, as if they were a shepherd and a shepherdess walking
through a meadow. They walk slowly across the stage and seat
themselves on the dais. The music changes, strikes up a gay pavane,
or the equivalent of the period of the costumes, the ladies and
courtiers dance. Guido, Giovanni and Raffaele re-enter just as the
music starts and go up to the ladies; Guido goes to Beatrice, and
she dances with him. In the midst of the dance Lorenzo slips a
little sidewise in his chair, his head drops forward on his chest;
he does not move again. Nobody notices for some time. The dance
continues, all who are not dancing watching the dancers, save
Octavia, who watches with great pride and affection Bianca and
Mario, who in turn are looking at one another. Octavia turns finally
to speak to Lorenzo, stares at him, touches him, then screams.
Beatrice should then be in a conspicuous place in the dance. Music
stops in confusion on a dischord, dance breaks up wildly, everybody
rushes to throne.]

Scene 5

[The same room later that evening, entirely empty, disordered.
Musicians’ benches overturned, for example, a couple of instruments
left about, garlands trampled on the floor, a wing of one of the
Cupids clinging to the dais of Bianca and Mario. Enter Beatrice,
weeping, goes to her father’s throne and creeps up into it, with her
face towards the back of it and clings there, sobbing quietly. Enter
Bianca and Mario,]

BIA. [Softly.] Ay. She is here. I thought she would be here.
There are so many people by his bed
Even now, she cannot be alone with him.

MAR. Is there no hope?

BIA. Nay, there is none. ’Tis over.
He was a kind old man.

MAR. Come, let us go,
And leave her to herself.

BIA. Nay, Mario.
I must not leave her. She will sit like that
All night, unless I bid her come away,
And put her into bed.

MAR. Will you come to me
After she sleeps?

BIA. Ay. If she sleeps,

MAR. And if not?

BIA. I could not leave her.

MAR. Bianca, do you love me?

BIA. Ay, Mario!

MAR. Ah, but not as I love you!

BIA. You do not mean that, Mario; you know
How much I love you. But I could not be happy
Thinking of her awake in the darkness, weeping,
And all alone.

MAR. Oh, my sweet love.

BIA. It may be
She will sleep.

MAR. I shall be waiting for you. [They embrace.]

[Exit Mario. Bianca goes to Beatrice and sits at the
foot of the throne, putting her head against Beatrice’s

BIA. Sister.

[After a moment Beatrice slowly reaches down her hand, and
Bianca takes it.]


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