Teresa Contarini/Act III
Fiorilla's house.---Enter Fiorilla and Leonardo
- The letter was delivered?
- 'Twas entrusted
- To one who never failed me, and the messenger
- Is even now returned.
- Did he reveal
- The whole to Foscarini?
- No---we judged
- The youth should know naught of his lady's falsehood.
- 'Twas vaguely urged, that matters of deep import
- Required his presence here; that enemies
- Were laboring 'gainst his peace. But, pardon me---
- I know not how this artifice may prevent
- The nuptials of proud Contarini!
- Know you
- That Foscarini loves the maid, and she
- Returns his passion, bitterly detesting
- His haughty rival! Let the youthful lover
- Come at the latest hour---his presence crosses
- These ill starred nuptials.
- And you, fairest lady---
- Forgive me---is a false admirer worth
- Such stratagem to regain?
- Hear me, Leonardo.
- You see me but the gay and fickle dame
- Whose smiles are showered on all; to whom the hours,
- Brilliant alike, seem but to bring their tribute
- Of emulous sweets, even as the gilded flowers
- Yield up their honey to the fluttering insect.
- How well for those who bask in Pleasure's smile,
- She wears a mask!
- But your smile is the sunlight
- That banishes all gloom where'er it shines.
- Yet envious philosophers have said
- The sun himself, that warms and gladdens all,
- Is a cold, lifeless mass. No more of that.
- His beams can scorch and wither---so can those
- You've aptly likened to them, when condensed
- In hatred's burning glass.
- I cannot guess
- Your meaning.
- Contarini---you may deem
- 'Twas vanity---'Twas pride---that bound me to him!
- Folly! when all that Venice boasts of rank
- And wealth were at my feet, why should I spurn
- Such suppliance---turning to one who seemed
- To mock my power?
- He never offered, then,
- His solemn vows?
- He did! by all that's sacred!
- And I, who feigned his passionate words to hear
- As the wind's idle breath, treasured them deep,
- Deep in my soul, which they have filled with gall.
- Aye! and its bitterness shall be distilled
- In drops upon his heart! Stay, Leonardo,
- You've not heard all. You shall not see me creep
- Like a scorned slave, aside, while others fill
- The place that should be mine. I'll hurl him thence
- Or ere he gains that height!
- Nay, lady---
- 'Tis you must aid me, while I bring to light
- His plottings. It will peril many a head
- In Venice---but I care not, so he finds
- The hand he spurned is armed with deadly power!
- If you have aught of import to disclose,
- Madam, unto the council------
- Aye---the council!
- And they shall hear! Yet, tell me, is not he
- One of that fearful number who preside
- In secret o'er the state?
- 'Tis rumored so---
- But the inquisitors' persons are unknown.
- 'Tis well. Forget my passion and my words.
- Now to our business. Leonardo, seek
- This youth, and speedily conduct him hither;
- He cannot come too soon. I will await you.
Teresa's chamber. Teresa, in bridal robes, sitting at a table, with writing materials
- I cannot write to him! If I would guide
- The pen, my hand refuses to record
- The tale it ought to tell. Oh, fatal hand!
- Which soon must seal my shame, well dost thou shrink
- To do the accusing office!---Foscarini!
- Yet may I breathe that name! the walls about me
- Will not yet hear it as a guilty sound,
- But softly echo back the whispered word,
- As if their stones could pity!---
- To-night! to-night!
- I'm strangely calm. So long I've pondered on it,
- It seems that even despair has lost its keenness,
- And only sits a thick and leaden weight
- Upon my soul. I've wept, alas! so much,
- The founts of grief are dry, and will not yield
- A drop to soften me!
- Why have you come?
- Forgive me---'Tis not meet
- You should be left alone with sombre thoughts
- At such an hour.
- It is not late.
- Look out---
- The sun has long since set.
- Some envious cloud
- It is, that hides his beams.
- No! it is night---
- The summit of yon gilded cupola,
- Where last the hues of sunset ever linger,
- Has long been wrapt in gloom!
- Is it not strange
- I should regret the daylight?
- Come---no more
- Of these sad musings. You have cherished them
- 'Till your fair cheek is pale, and unbecoming
- A youthful bride. Why look---these radiant pearls,
- Whose pure transparence should have suited well
- With your fresh brow, will find their whiteness shamed.
- Here---these flowers are fresh; I'll wreathe them
- In the full wavings of your hair. I'll braid it
- In dark, rich folds upon your temples. Ah!
- That form, so stately, yet so full of grace,
- That high fair front---they will indeed proclaim you
- The queen of loveliness, to every eye
- That seeks you in its homage!
- Hush! Matilda---
- Waste not your idle praises.
- I will keep them
- For other ears. But should I not be proud
- To deck you for your nuptials?
- Look not
- So sadly. True---you love not Contarini;---
- But who among us thinks to wed for love,
- When wealth, and rank, and power, and all that's dear
- To woman's heart, do beckon us to seize them!
- Oh! trust me! love's a bauble, fit to toy with---
- But like the shining plaything of the child,
- To be thrown by, when riper years bestow
- Far richer gifts, and teach him 'Twas a trifle
- He prized before!
- Nay, nay---I need not this.
- My heart is senseless. It is cold---cold---cold!
- Steeled in an apathy more deep than wo,
- Which even keen thought can never pierce again.
- What nights of feverish unrest I've borne,
- What days of weeping and of bitterness,
- When I have schooled me to a mocking calmness,
- While my heart ached within! But all is past!
- My spirit is a waste o'er which hath raged
- The desolating fire, to leave its trace
- In blackened ruins!---I can feel no more!
- Would that I could! I'd rather bear the gnawing
- Of anguish, than this dull, dead, frozen void,
- In which all sense is buried!
- Would the harp
- Soothe you? or shall I sing those cheerful songs
- That once you loved to hear?
- No---no---the sound
- Would be a mockery.---Yet, if time urge not,
- I'd have you read to me that mournful tale
- We oft have read together---of a maid
- Compelled like me to nuptials she abhorred,---
- Who fled to death's arms to escape that bridal,
- And sleeps within the grave of him she loved.
- Nay---nay---you shall not hear so sad a story!
- It cannot move me. Hers was a bold spirit,
- That dared to spurn the chain, and purchase peace
- Even at the price of life.---Would I could be
- Like her!
- Fear me not---my hands
- Are cowards; 'and my veins were never meant
- To flow with blood like that which nourishes
- Heroic hearts.'---There's something in death's aspect,
- Even when he smiles, that human spirits quail at!
- 'The foolish skin doth creep---and the frame shudder,
- At thought of what awaits them---the dusk pall---
- The narrow house---the clay cold living tenants---'
- Holy St. Mary! Are such thoughts as these
- Meet for a festival?
- A festival!
- True---there's a noble festival at hand!
- Yes---yes---I will be passive.---Deck me out
- A victim---oh, how truly!---At the altar,
- Say---must I wear a smile!
- Oh! not like that!
- No---do not smile---the veil will hide your face.---
- Will it? that's well.---I fear me it would shame
- The gay surrounding group.---They are not wont
- To see such revellers. My looks would wither
- More roses than will deck the festal hall!
- Talk not so strangely!
- Strangely? am I changed?
- Oh, sadly!
- I rejoice---I would be changed!
- Who comes?
[ Enter two female attendants.
- My lady, will you go?
- Do you forget? but a few moments
- My lord enquires for you. The guests
- Are even now assembled.
- It is well.
- I'll follow you.
A street, faintly lighted. Enter Foscarini
- Once more in Venice! How my native air
- Takes from these limbs their weariness! What were
- The breezes of the rugged Alps, to this,
- So bland---so wooing? All, in loveliness
- The same---the same! The Lagune, brightly clear,
- Yet mirrors in its depths the marble domes
- That rise above it---lordly towers---where shine
- A thousand torches, like so many stars
- Gleaming through clouds of silver. From afar,
- The surge-like tone of multitudes, the hum
- Of glad, familiar voices, and the wild
- Faint music of the happy gondolier,
- Float up in blended murmurs. Queen of cities!
- Goddess of ocean! with the beauty crowned
- Of Aphrodite from her parent deep!
- If thine Ausonian heaven denies the strength
- That nerves a mountain race of sterner mould,
- It gives thee charms whose very softness wins
- All hearts to worship!
- By this light---Vincentio?
- Whence come you, signor?
- What news are stirring?
- None---of note.
- You come
- I augur by your garb---from some late festival?
- A bridal. One of our first citizens
- To-night doth wed his daughter---and assembles
- The prime of Venice. Light, and flowers, and smiles,
- Soon wearied me---who am not wont to toy
- My hours away in mirth.
- Then, splenetic,
- You left the joyous scene?
- 'Twas not all joy.
- If I mistake not, with the flowers that wrought
- The bridal wreath, some leaves of bitterness
- Were mingled.
- The bridegroom rich and noble---
- The father proud and pleased---the guests all smiling---
- But the mute bride!---I could not see her face,
- But in her drooping form, like a bowed lily---
- Her passive mien, and strange unconsciousness,
- I read far more than bashfulness.
- Before the altar she might have been deemed
- A life like statue. From her veiled lips
- Her words came slow and solemn, as the oracle
- Speaks from its cloudy shrine.---Oh! much I fear
- The fathers of our city are grown stern,
- And sacrifice to gold and foul ambition
- Treasures of youthful love.
- I dare not utter
- The doubt that's at my heart---(aloud)---The bridegroom, said you?
- Is stern and haughty---though in courtesy
- Well skilled---as noble senator should be. (ironically)
- A senator? his name------
- 'Tis Contarini---
- A synonyme for all that's merciful! (sneeringly)
- The bride?
- Teresa---daughter to------
- No move!
- Or I shall stop your breath! begone!
- What's this?
- Hence! you have basely slandered her---the fairest---
- The truest.---No! 'Twas not Teresa! speak!
- You have mistaken her name?
- I spoke the truth---
- Veniero's daughter.
- Well---begone and leave me!
[Exit Vincentio. (Foscarini paces the scene a few moments in silence---then suddenly stops.)
- If this be true, I'll seek her---I'll confront her---
- I'll blast her sight---and drag her from his arms.
- E'en at their bridal feast inflict the penalty
- Of guile like hers. Away.
A spacious and magnificent apartment, brilliantly decorated and illuminated. Veniero discovered. Numerous guests, some in masks, seemingly in conversation.
Enter the Doge, Badoero, Contarini, Teresa, Matilda, and others.
- Once more we welcome all! Let mirth reign here,
- Since ne'er a day hath dawned, of joy like this!
- And Loredano too---I craved his presence;
- Why comes he not? I harbor no resentments
- In this glad hour. When happiness o'erflows
- The heart, its tide doth sweep all evil thoughts
- Like wrecks, away. He should be welcome here.
- Say---will ye pledge me, friends?
- Most willingly.
- This to the noble lady, in whose honor
- We are to-night assembled. Ne'er till now
- So fair a claim to loyalty hath met
- Our willing homage.
- Cheer, my girl! wear not
- That solemn aspect, which would better grace
- The sanctuary! Our friends and your fond sire
- Invoke your smiles to make them happy.
- I thank both them and you.
Veniero (to Contarini)
- I pray you, Signor,
- Since to your keeping my authority
- Over this wayward girl is now surrendered,
- Command her to be merry.
- Pardon me.
- You would not have me claim so speedily
- A wife's obedience! Now, at least, her will
- Shall rule herself and me!
- Oh! you will be
- A proper husband! Who begins by bending
- His neck to greet the yoke---henceforth must wear it!
(Foscarini enters, masked, and remains at the back of the scene, watching Teresa)
- And where could chains so golden and so soft,
- Clasped by a hand so fair, enfold a captive
- In sweeter bondage? Trust me---you know not
- The worth of smiles like hers, to deem them fit
- For every eye to share!
- Say, gentle lady---would you join the dance?
- The dance? No---no!---My lord---I pray your pardon,
- I meant not this abruptness.
- As you will!
- You are a queen here, and in queenly right
- You shall control us all; your regal pleasure
- The law that we obey.
- She does not smile!
- Her falsehood bears with it the sting, remorse!
- Would music please my noble bride?
- These lights!
- My brain grows sick beneath their weary glare!
- Leave me, I pray you! Nay---nay---heed me not!
- Let me not mar your mirth!
- I will not leave you:
- I am too proud to stand beside you.
Foscarini (in a low tone)
- She may betray you too!
- That voice---that voice!
- I cannot 'scape it! Strange---my haunting fancies
- Should thus take form, to syllable reproaches
- I ever hear within!
- What ails the lady?'
- They must be silenced---for I may not hear
- Their tauntings now!'
- Teresa! you are pale
- And discomposed:---this night's fatigue had been
- O'er harassing.
- Wine will restore her---
- You are mistaken;
- I am not ill!
- Take it---fair lady---
Foscarini (snatches another cup and advances)
- I claim a right to pledge your lovely bride!
- I---humblest of her slaves! Lady! I drink
- Long life to you---and happiness---such as
- Your truth deserves! Could man e'er wish you more?
- 'Tis he. Oh God! (faints)
[ Foscarini retires.
- She has swooned! my daughter! Help!
(They raise her---she revives---but still appears unconscious)
- Accuse me not! accuse me not! Oh no!
- I did not wrong thee! I have borne the wrong!
- Didst thou but know the misery that has dragged me,
- Despite of all thy love to bear me up,
- Down, down, to this! thou wouldst not, couldst not scorn me!
- Judge me not here!
- Who was't disturbed you,---say?
- Who was it dared intrude, to move you thus?
- Reveal his name, and instant punishment
- Shall overtake the wretch!
Teresa (eagerly detaining him)
- Oh, no---no---no!
- Detain me not! let me but find him!
- What would you do? what have I said? 'Twas nothing---
- Indeed---'Twas nothing!
- Tell me---whose the voice
- That frighted you?
- No voice! Move not---I pray you!
- It was an idle fancy.---Did I say
- Some one had spoken to me?---'Twas not so!
- My brain hath coined strange tales! 'Tis cause for mirth
- That I should think such things.
- Such eagerness
- To screen the offender------
- My lord! I am ashamed
- To have disturbed this noble company
- With such absurd, strange weakness. I beseech you
- Let me retire awhile!
[ Exeunt Teresa, Matilda and attendants.