Cromwell (Hugo, tr. Ives)/Act fourth
ACT FOURTH. THE SENTINEL.
The Voice.All goes well! are you on guard?
Cromwell [resting his musket on the ground.
All goes well! are you on guard?
A Third Voice [in the distance.
All goes well! are you on guard?
Cromwell [after a moment's silence.
I am on guard, in sooth—on guard for all!
Cromwell, by sober forethought hither led,
Will to his murderers, with his own hand,
Open his door.
[Footsteps are heard in the distance.
How now! already? no,
The clock's not yet struck twelve. 'Tis someone passing.
[The voice of someone singing; the words cannot be distinguished.
Singing! The knave has kept his fast but ill!
When the sun's in the west,
Thou who goest in quest
Beware lest thou fall—
Soon thee will night's pall
With mist like a cloud
Doth old Ocean enshroud
By eyes the most keen
Not a house can be seen,—
Bold thieves thee pursue;
So they commonly do
The elves of the wood,
They wish us no good,
They go hither and yon;
Lest thou haply meet one,
In the moon's pale rays
Dance the frolicsome fays
Of the air.
[The voice comes nearer and nearer; the singing ceases.
Cromwell.Bah! it is one of my four fools who sings—
Elespuru, I think.
Scene 2.—Cromwell, Trick, Giraff, Elespuru, Gramadoch.
[The Jesters, led by Gramadoch, enter cautiously, feeling their way.
In the moon's pale rays,
Dance the frolicsome fays
Of the air.
Giraff [to Elespuru, in an undertone.
Elespuru, in heaven's name, be still!
Gramadoch [to the others, pointing to a grassy bank, behind a hedge.
Here let us all conceal ourselves.
Cromwell [not seeing them.
Ay, 'tis my fool returning to the palace.
[The four Jesters lie down on the bank.
Gramadoch [in an undertone.
The plot doth centre now upon this spot.
From here we shall see all.
Trick [in an undertone.] Faith! we should have
A clerk's eye. See, quoth he! Upon my word,
In Satan's oven it is far less dark!
Elespuru [in an undertone.
Whoe'er the actors be, if they should find
Our charming faces here, they'd make us pay
Right roundly for our seats.
Gramadoch [in an undertone.]
The play has not begun.
Giraff [in an undertone.] Wilt hold thy peace?
Cromwell.The fool has gone his way, nor did he dream
That where his drunken folly found a voice
A nation's destiny 's to be determined.
How blest is he! For e'en in Whitehall here
He an imaginary world creates.
He has no subjects, sits upon no throne;
He has no aching fibre in his heart;
Over that guileless heart he never wears
Buckler of steel—for who would have his blood?
What need has he of court or guard? He's free;
He sings and laughs, he passes on, unheeded.
What recks he of the future? He 'll ne'er lack
A strip of velvet for his winter suit,
A place to lay his head, a bit of bread
Earned by his quips and cranks. He sleeps all night.
And has no ghastly dreams, nor need defend
His life against the plots of paid assassins.
He wakes and thinks of nought. How blest is he!
His words are empty sound, his life a dream.
And when he nears the goal where all things end,
Death's scythe, which spareth none, will seem a toy,
A plaything, to that grey-haired child. Meanwhile,
His voice, if we would laugh, or haply weep,
Gives forth whatever note we may desire,
Chatters incessantly, and has a song
For all emergencies. His animation
Covers profound repose. The living toy
Of other men, a hollow, echoing head,
That babbles like a shallow, purling brook,
He quivers at the slightest shock, more prompt
To vibrate than the little bells he wears.
That fool would never take the insensate pains,
As I do, to confine the whole wide world
Within his mind; no pregnant words, or sighs
Instinct with meaning come from out his heart
Like flames from the volcano. And his soul—
Has he a soul?—doth slumber ceaselessly.
When morning comes he knows not what he did
The night before. He has no memory;
Ah me! how blest he is! Never, at night,
His mind disturbed by dark and gloomy thoughts,
Hastening along some sombre corridor,
Fears he to turn, lest he should see a ghost.
He has no wish that he might be forgot,
Nor that, in all the twelve months of the year,
There was no thirtieth of January!
Ah! wretched Cromwell! thou art envious
E'en of thy fool. Thou art omnipotent;
To what good end hast thou employed thy life?
Thou reignest; o'er the terror-stricken world
Thy sway extends. How dearly dost thou pay
For all this grandeur! Thou abandoned art
By every party; by the people spurned;
Thy family is with thy star at war,
And, forcing thee to make its will thy law,
Doth pull thee to and fro, and here and there,
By thy king's cloak! And even thine own son!
O God! I am abhorred by every one,
And everything combines to overwhelm me.
I've enemies, aflame with bitter hate,
Throughout the world—and elsewhere, too, I doubt—
E'en in the tomb!—But better days will come,
It may be.—Better days! what do I say?
For fifteen years past, my destiny
Hath gone its way as by a miracle.
What wish had I that was not gratified?
The nations 'neath my yoke have bent their necks.
I 've but to say the word to be made king
To-morrow.—In my most delirious dreams
Have I e'er dreamed of greater eminence?
Reformer, conqueror, and judge and king—
Have I not reached my goal?—A noble end,
In sooth, to play the archer at this gate,
On sentry-go, for hire!—What outward pomp!
What inward bitterness!
A frigid night!
'Twill soon be twelve o'clock, when every ghost
Comes from his coffin forth and shows his murderer
His bloodstained hand, his fatal, gaping wound,
And on his winding-sheet a bloody stain!—
But what new dream is this? A grievous thing
It is to be alone!—Am I a child?
Ah me! would that I were!—That cursèd Jew,
With all the horrid visions he evoked,
Left me a-creep with fright; he chilled my blood,—
I tremble even now.—It is so cold!—
To counteract his sacrilegious words,
Suppose that I repeat the sacred verse
[A clock begins to strike midnight with slow strokes.
What noise is that?—The clock! it is the time!
I ne'er had heard it at the midnight hour.
'Tis like a knell! 'tis like a weeping voice!
[He pauses and listens again.
'Twas it that struck a martyr's final hour!
[After the last stroke of the clock.
Midnight!—I am alone!—Should I invoke
[Sound of footsteps behind the trees.
Ah! now I am at ease once more!
Here are my murderers!
Scene 3.—The Same, Lord Ormond, Lord Rosebery, Lord Drogheda, Lord Clifford, Doctor Jenkins, Sedley, Sir Peter Downie, Sir William Murray.
Rosebery [to the others.
This is the place.
Ormond. 'Tis so. I know it well.
[Pointing to the gate in whose shadow Cromwell stands concealed.
The royal hunt did enter here of yore.
Cromwell [aside.]'Tis they. At last I know with whom I deal!
Downie [to Lord Ormond.
Wilmot should meet us here.
Cromwell [shrugging his shoulders, aside.
He's far too clever.
Drogheda [to Downie.]But can he? Must he not give precedence
To his official duties? Thinkest thou
The collar for his neck is over large?
Cromwell [aside.]Assassins! you will wear the like ere long;
And Haman's gibbet's none too high for you!
Ormond [to the Cavaliers.]Moreover, he'd have dangered our success;
And if he be detained, I deem it cause
Cromwell [aside.] So do I, in truth.
Ormond. With Wilmot I am always terrified.
But we draw near the end.
Cromwell [aside.] 'Tis the fit word.
Ormond.See to what point Wilmot is mad, my friends.
Old Noll a pretty daughter hath, 'tis said.
Wilmot 's enamoured of her; nought care I
Cromwell [aside.] Audacious villain!
Ormond [continuing.] He hath writ
A madrigal in honour of the maid.
A Wilmot play at rhyming, save the mark!
But, worse than that, forgetting what is due
My age and rank, he would have read it to me!
I the affront received as it deserved!
But lo! when I, in agonized suspense,
Awaited news of him, there came a letter—
A letter of importance, so 'twas said.
In eager haste I open it and find
Fast-sealed therein the cursèd madrigal
Commemorating little Cromwell's charms!
Cromwell [aside.]My Frances! in my presence thus to talk of her!
Rosebery [laughing, to Lord Ormond.
Such persecution is past bounds, my lord!
Downie [laughing.]To make one read his verses, as it were,
In the King's name. I' faith 'tis like a poet!
Ormond.But list to this. After these verses, sealed
With such judicious forethought, I received
From Rochester a second message—that
Which at this moment doth unite us here.
And, gentlemen, 'twas just a roll of parchment
With a pink ribbon tied.
All the Cavaliers. Is 't possible?
Ormond.See how that idiot doth expose us all.
Clifford.'Tis shocking! Does he deem such tricks jocose?
Ormond.The message was entrusted, it is true,
To Willis. But it might have chanced to fall
Into unfriendly hands!
Rosebery. Then nought were left
Jenkins. Upon what frail supports one leans!
I shudder when I think how many things
Fate sometimes on a madman's head doth balance.
At the first change of wind, the slightest sound,
The towering structure falls, and in a night,
A throne, a nation, mayhap a whole world,
Sedley. But methinks that Davenant
Is missing, too!
Ormond. Bah! Davenant, a clown,
A mountebank, a poet!—He 's in hiding!
Count if you will on such base churls as he!
Downie.Our good friend Richard Cromwell, by the way,
The usurper's son, 's in prison. Did you know?
Drogheda. Ay, poor Richard!
Cromwell [aside.] Poor, indeed!
Rosebery. He's such a boon companion!
Cromwell [aside.]Is 't so?
Sedley [to Rosebery.
His father, I believe has learned
That he this morning drank to the King's health?
[Rosebery replies with an affirmative nod.
Cromwell [aside.]The traitor!
Ormond. Look you, gentlemen, in words
The time is passing. Let 's begin to act.
Cromwell [aside.]Before my eyes their plot 's developing.
To all these rats of Egypt, this king's crew,
We will throw Whitehall open like a trap.
Wilmot 's the bait, and Cromwell is the spring,
Which closes suddenly that none escape.
Ormond [to the Cavaliers, in an undertone.
Let us accost the soldier.
[He walks toward Cromwell.
Cromwell [presenting his musket.] Who goes there?
Ormond [to Cromwell, in an undertone.
Cromwell [aside.] I've not the countersign!
What's to be done?
Cromwell [aside.] What to reply?
Rosebery [to Lord Ormond.]Well, what's the matter?
Ormond [pointing to Cromwell.
He does not speak.
Rosebery. What if, by any chance,
Cromwell 's become suspicious of our plot
And changed the guard?
[The Cavaliers, in manifest inquietude, gather about Lord Ormond.
Ormond. When one has ta'en the risk
In schemes like this, to falter 's to lose all.
We must go forward.
[He walks toward Cromwell again.
Cromwell [aside.]. 'Twould arouse distrust
To make their way too easy.
[To Lord Ormond.]Who goes there?
Cromwell [aside.] Ah! how shall I them overreach?
Without the countersign how them ensnare?
Clifford [earnestly, in an undertone.
Then let's kill the sentinel!
Jenkins [to Clifford, in an undertone.
What! send a soul headlong before God's throne
Ere it has even time to say a prayer?
Clifford [to Jenkins, in an undertone.
What matters it?
Ormond [to Clifford, in an undertone.
But strike a man behind?
Clifford [to Ormond, in an undertone.
We must pass in, my lord. I grieve for him.
All [to Ormond, in undertones.
Yes, let us kill the man!
Jenkins [in an undertone.] All stained with sin,
Send him before his judge!
All [in undertones.] Yes, let him die!
What are they saying there?
You all are wrong. This man is one of us,
I am full sure. For were it otherwise,
Seeing us grouped together by this wall,
He would long since have given the alarm.
I doubt not that a little gold, my lords,
Will speedily disarm him. We have nought
To fear, save for our purses, from this man.
If he speaks not, it is because he wants
A few gold pieces more. If he is deaf,
Hears not your countersign, it is because
He has the greedy humour of the Saints.
'Twere better far to buy a new safe-conduct
Than poniard him—for that would make a noise.
Rosebery.Murray is right. In sooth, the boorish lout
Would not forbear to cry that he was murdered.
Ah, well! then let us treat.
Downie. Ill fortune wills
That we are very ill supplied with funds.
Sedley.This Cromwell is a thief! To confiscate
Our brig as contraband! And on the throne,
The English throne, this chief of brigands sits!
Ormond.That hoary-headed clipper of good crowns,
The Jew Manasseh hath advanced to me
A sum of money; but 'tis spent.—But, stay!
I had a purse from Rochester—
[He feels in his doublet.] 'Tis here.
[He takes a purse from his pocket.
Rosebery.Most timely succour!
Clifford [pointing to Cromwell.
'Tis a monstrous shame
To count out honest crowns to yonder bigot
Whom we so readily could recompense
With a good dagger-thrust!
Ormond [handing the purse to Murray.
Sir William Murray,
Pray undertake the bargain to conclude.
Better than we you know these Saints, their ways.
Murray [taking the purse.
Cromwell [as Murray walks toward him, aside.
Ah! they have held a council. 'Sdeath!
Was ever mortal man in such a plight,
For a mere nothing—for a single word!
They would go in, and I would let them in.
An understanding we should quickly reach.
Murray [aside.]I needs must manage shrewdly.
Cromwell [to Murray, as he approaches.
Who goes there?
Cromwell [aside.] The hypocrite!
Murray. Blest be the steel
That girds your waist!
Cromwell [aside.] To be by Royalists
Thus blest is sweet indeed!
Murray [aside.] To these evangelists
One needs must speak in their own chosen tongue.
[Aloud.]Brother, upon her tower Zion had
Archers on guard, who to each other called
By night and day. You do resemble them.
Murray. The night is cool.
Cromwell. 'Tis even so.
Murray.The bird sleeps in its nest, and in their stalls
The cattle; all things sleep, save you alone.
Cromwell.I do my destiny fulfil.
Murray. 'Twere better far
To sleep in a good bed.
Cromwell [aside.] Better for thee.
Murray.Standing upon the frozen ground, alone,
Your shoulder by a heavy musket bruised,
You wake and watch; and he whose cross you bear,
Cromwell, your chief, is sleeping peacefully.
Cromwell.Ah! think'st thou so? It cannot be, my friend.
For Cromwell doth not sleep when I 'm awake.
Murray.With what false tales he doth delight your ear!
Cromwell.And so thou dost believe that he 's asleep?
Murray.Ay, I am sure of it. To you he owes
That blest tranquillity and slumber sweet.
He takes the pleasure, leaves to you the pain.
Cromwell.In sooth, it is ill done.
Murray [aside.] Now our success
Is sure. He is dissatisfied—'tis well!
For recompense of such devoted service,
Does your great Cromwell even know your name?
Cromwell.I think so.
Murray [shrugging his shoulders.] Bah! how innocent you are!
Cromwell [aside.] 'Tis a cunning knave!
Murray.Think you that Cromwell, from his splendid throne,
Would condescend to look so low as you?—
Nay, nay, he does not even know your name,
My friend. 'Tis sure!
Cromwell [aside.] He 's sure of everything;
Save that he 'll have his head in place to-morrow!
'Twould seem that he did make me what I am.
Murray.You look to be a worthy man, my friend;
But you pretend to know more than myself
Touching these matters.
Cromwell. I am in the wrong.
Murray.I grew to manhood in the late King's court.
Cromwell [aside.]The idiot! he doth forget himself.
False to his rôle, the Cavalier so soon
Doth show his skin beneath the Puritan.
Murray.All courts, my friend, at bottom are the same.
You knew not that, I 'll wager?
Cromwell [aside.] He is deep!
Murray.To this man Cromwell you devote your life?
Murray. Well! shed your blood for him
To the last drop; he 'll pay less heed to it,
I promise you, than to the stream that flows
Beneath the bridge, be it or clear or foul!
Cromwell.Methinks that I am nearer to his heart.
Murray.How soft you are! What cares he, on his height,
Whether you be a dead or living man?
Cromwell.What knowest thou thereon?
Murray. Psha! is your life
In any wise linked with his fate? Wherein?
Cromwell [aside.]For thy undoing—more than thou dost dream!
Murray. And do you not expect a recompense?
Is it not time that he should it bestow?
For is it not a monstrous, crying shame,
You a mere private, when, as I dare swear,
You rarely leave him?
Murray. You have been
In all his wars?
Cromwell. I have.
Murray. What scores there be
Of sergeants whose deserts are less than yours!
Cromwell [aside.]A long stride that toward captivating me.
Murray. Not so. What! I, presume
To treat you with such insolence! In sooth,
Is he so great a captain?
Cromwell [aside.] Malapert!
Murray.Look you—with all his palaces, and guards,
And carriages of state, what is this Cromwell,
Concerning whom so much ado is made?
A soldier like yourself.
Cromwell. No more than that.
Murray [aside.]Our cause is won!
[Aloud.]He is no more than you.
Murray.Then wherefore serve him on your knees?
Cromwell.I serve him not.
Murray [aside.] 'Tis well! his feet are caught
Already in my net.
[Aloud.]Why should not you,
As well as he, possess the place he holds?
Cromwell.In truth, the change would never be discovered.
Murray.'Twould not, indeed! a soldier for a soldier!
In heaven's name, how is it possible
This duty to perform, which me abhors?
For this so irksome trade, what is your pay?
Cromwell.I am not paid.
Murray. Not paid! Upon my word!
Old soldiers so ill-used! I pity you.
He pities me!
Murray. To keep him, without pay!
Cromwell's a tyrant!
Cromwell [aside.] Here we go again!
Murray.My anger chokes me!
Cromwell [aside.] Touching interest!
Murray [taking his hand.
I fain would succour you, and, more than that,
Cromwell. What! avenge me?
Murray. Ay, on Cromwell.
Murray. Open yonder gate to us.
Let Judith be struck down by Holofernes.
Cromwell.Nay, Holofernes rather, should'st thou say,
By Judith. You misquote your Bible, sir.
Cromwell.Your beard, methinks, is something black
Murray [aside.]Why the deuce did I recall
That tale? For Judith was, in fact, a woman.
[Aloud.]My friend, to Cromwell while he sleeps,
Let us have access. 'Twill advantage thee.
Cromwell.Ah! think'st thou so?
Murray. What matters it to thee
That half a score of men pass through yon gate?
At this blest moment fortune comes to thee
While thou 'rt asleep, as 'twere.
Cromwell. Asleep, thou say'st?
Murray [handing him a purse.
Accept this handsel. Thou hast nought to do,
Save to say Whitehall when one says Cologne.
Cromwell [aside.]Whitehall's the countersign!
Murray. Pray, take this gold.
Cromwell [aside.] And so do I!
[Aloud, taking the purse.]Thanks, 'tis a debt
I owe to you.
Murray. And thou wilt stand on guard
For us, during the interlude.
Cromwell. I will.
[Offering his hand.
Your hand! By heav'n! a worthy fellow.
Cromwell.But tell me, when you've Cromwell in your hands,
What will you do with him?
Murray. Why, first of all—
I think—yes, we shall kill him,—nothing more.
Cromwell.A trifling matter.
Murray. We shall be content
With a swift and painless death. No one of us
Cromwell [aside.] I'll not be crueller than you.
Murray.Is it agreed?
Cromwell. Thou said'st it.
Murray [to the Cavaliers waiting at a corner of the stage.
Come, and quickly.
By paying tribute to the Levite, we
Obtain admission to the sanctuary.
I made no doubt of it.
Ormond [to Murray.] Is 't done?
Murray. 'Tis done.
Ormond [to the Cavaliers.
Let us go forward.
Cromwell.Whitehall. Pass on.
Ormond [aside.] 'Tis well!
Cromwell [watching the Cavaliers as they pass through the gate.
So far, so good.
Ormond [to Murray, in an undertone.
Murray, remain, and have an eye to him.
[To Cromwell.]Tell me, my brother, where we may find Cromwell.
Cromwell.In the apartment called the Painted Chamber.
Ormond [to Cromwell.]Our footsteps by the darkness are concealed;
But none the less keep careful watch, my friend.
Ormond [joyously.] At last!—I near the longed-for goal;
And my last years are crowned with victory.
Cromwell is mine. Soon shall I hold him fast.
The chance for which I prayed to Heav'n has come:
Cromwell is fast asleep and in my power!
Him Heaven to my mercy doth give o'er.
Cromwell [looking after him, aside.
That which one asks of Heav'n, hell sometimes grants.
Scene 4.—Cromwell, Sir William Murray, the Jesters still in their hiding-place.
Cromwell [his eyes fixed on the postern.
They're in the trap!
Murray [rubbing his hands.]At last we've reached our goal!
This mighty Cromwell, he who hath no peer
In the whole world, this famous general,
This clever statesman to whom Europe sings
Eternal hymns of praise, this master-mind,
This hero, for whose stature Europe deems
The sceptre of this realm too light, the throne
Too narrow, lets himself be caught at last,
E'en as a wingless bird, by eight poor fools
Who have not 'twixt them all a pair of brains!
For I'm the only one whose brain is sound.
Without me nothing had been done, i' faith!—
Cromwell, a vagabond, adventurer,
Hardly a gentleman, reign over kings,
Like any Roman Cæsar!—But these kings
May learn a useful lesson from us now!
The man whose power curtailed their ancient rights,
Surprised in his own palace!—and by us!
What ignominy!—Fifteen years and more
The world has dubbed him genius.
Think of it,
My friend! Because he won some paltry battles!
Cromwell [aside.]In which thou hadst no part!
Murray. Because with words
And sermons and grimaces he is apt
To please the crowd and stir the multitude,
The world lies prostrate at his feet, instead
Of hooting him! A clown who knows not how
To make a bow!
Cromwell [aside.] He may not know himself,
But teaches others.
Murray. What I say is true.
His manner—almost it resembles yours.
Murray. Yes, you do bear yourself in arms
E'en as a soldier should; you do not raise
Your eyes too high. You have the graceful port
Of a Swiss reiter, for the headlong charge
Or for the drill-field.
Cromwell. You are much too kind.
Murray.No, each man to his trade; you would not choose,
Before a nation's eyes, to simulate
A court, and hoist yourself upon the throne.
The stuff whereof your Cromwell is composed
Is measured by your yard-stick. Is it not
Absurd for Noll to dare to show himself
Upon the royal platform in broad day?
His fortune is a wondrous freak of fate.
Last night he was so awkward at the audience!
Cromwell.And wert thou present?
Murray. Do not call me "thou,"
My friend! We cannot walk with equal step.
I am a noble Scotsman, you must know.
Men of your sort before my carriage run.
Know you that on my crest I have a wolf?
Moreover, under good King James the First
It was my privilege to be chastised
As proxy for the Prince of Wales.
Cromwell. 'Tis true,
Our rank is not the same.
Murray. No, happily!
Cromwell.Let us return to where we were before.
Sometimes, 'twould seem, you have consorted with
This Cromwell, now the object of your scorn?
Murray.Ay, for a purpose. One cannot fight on
For ever, like Montrose.
Cromwell. I understand:
My gentleman some goodly office sought
At the vile tyrant's hands, pending the time
When he could sell him to the outlawed King.
Murray.How blunt you are!
Cromwell. I know nought of fine words.
Cromwell. You were ill received by Cromwell,
Your prayer denied, perchance?
Murray. Denied? ah, no!
How he doth lie!
Murray. Nay, on the contrary,
The bear to me was most obsequious.
He felt the compliment I paid to him,
And left me free to choose among the gifts
At his disposal.
Cromwell [aside.] Ay, between the door
[Aloud.]Why, then, turn against hir now?
Murray.Oh! I reflected. How consent to serve
A churl who reigns like some jack-corporal
Giving an order; a mere clodhopper
Who tries to smile at you but shows his teeth,
And answers a salute with knees turned in?
Murray. And then I learned his fall
Was near at hand.
Cromwell. Whereon the right divine
Of th' exiled Stuarts to your mind recurred?
Murray. The Stuarts' right and Cromwell's clownishness,
My friends all urging me in one direction,
Success against so pitiful a wretch
Being beyond dispute, I joined this plot.
Cromwell.Your arguments I follow and approve.
Murray.Look you, my friend! We stand for principle.
William the Norman violated it;
But he repaired the error in due time
By marrying his son, Henry the First,
To Maud of Scotland, in his early youth.
The Stuarts from the Athelings and them
Trace their descent in an unbroken line.
It follows thence that our King Charles the Second,
Sprung from both races, in himself unites
The rights of Saxon and of Norman, both.
[Aside.]I understand this reasoning
Murray. I leave the question to your judgment.
Cromwell [aside.]He chooses well his judge, upon my word!
Murray.The claim of our young King is clear as day.
Murray. Nathless a Cromwell doth contest it!
Is 't not unheard-of that this turkey-vulture,
Should leave his barnyard for the eagle's nest.
If he had talent, well! But I repeat,
'Tis Jericho a-crumbling without trumpet.
Cromwell [aside.]Well said!
Murray. His destiny doth ever march
Toward the throne; but 'tis a phantom vain
Which fades to nothing if it be but touched.
Cromwell [ironically.]An idol—head of gold and feet of wax!
Murray.A paltry creature I have always thought him.
Mere reputation does not me deceive
I have judged Cromwell. That man would be king!
What times we live in! He has not the art
To foil a plot, anticipate a ruse!
Why you yourself are many times more shrewd
Than the besotted fool who at this hour
Is taken in his bed!
Cromwell [aside.] If he but knew
How truly he doth speak, the idiot!
Murray.Thinks he 'tis such a simple thing to reign?
He, king! I would not have him for a courtier.
Cromwell.You would be well advised.
Murray. We may agree
That he is skilled in brewing goodly beer.
But hath he right to bear the bassinet
And gambière? At most, no more than these.
Upstart nobility. And is his name
Equal in lustre to his trusty Milton's?
Murray. He's not content to be
A brewer of renown, but needs must play
The great man, ape the tyrants and the heroes!
Are not such petty squires ridiculous?
He learns to yoke the people to his car,
The hydra to subdue, the world to rule,—
While brewing beer!
Cromwell [aside.] The villain!
Murray. And because
Chance served him well, he deems himself a Capet,
A Moses, or a Cæsar, by my faith!
But that a Warwick should descend so low
As to accept this pinchbeck king as cousin,
Doth pass my comprehension!
Cromwell [aside.] Thou chameleon,
That grovelled at my feet but yesterday!
Murray [as if struck by a sudden thought.
I' faith, I am an arrant simpleton!
Murray. The while our falcons seize their prey,
They leave me here, so that, as well may be,
If guerdons be dispensed, they'll have them all!
Thou grasping knave!
Murray. Would they reserve for me
My portion due? I, an old sparrow-hawk,
To cool my heels below! Nay, nay! I, too,
Propose to earn my sovereign's gratitude.
Cromwell.Believe me, you will not be overlooked.
Murray.I choose to put my hand on the old devil,
As well as they!
Cromwell [aside.] Go, then, in Heaven's name!
Murray [pressing his hand.
Thou renderest us a service past all price!
But when the account is finally adjusted,
I'll not forget thee; thou shalt be, I swear,
A corporal! [Exit.
Cromwell [alone, shrugging his shoulders.
Go, seek, and thou shalt find!
A misbegotten courtier measure me
By his short rule! A strutting peacock scream
At the high-soaring eagle!
Scene 5.—Cromwell, Manasseh.
Manasseh [not seeing Cromwell.
Cromwell and Charles the Second, Puritans
And Cavaliers,—they're Christians, all of them!
God! 'tis that horrid Jew! Why comes he here?
And from what tomb?
Manasseh [still not seeing Cromwell, who listens.
Of the two rival parties,
What matters it to me which gains the day?
In either case good Christian blood will flow
In rivers; so at least I dare to hope.
That is the merit of conspiracies.
Whether Lord Ormond Oliver doth kill
Or Oliver doth foil him, on this spot
The destinies of both will be fulfilled.
I fain would witness it. All things, meseems,
Do threaten Cromwell—
Cromwell [aside.] Traitor!
Manasseh [raising his eyes toward the sky.] Ay, all things
Except the stars in heaven. His end draws nigh,
'Twould seem; but none the less his star shines on
Still pure and bright; and vainly do I con
The lines that cross his hand: I see therein
No danger to be feared—save for to-morrow.
Cromwell.To-morrow! What says he? Now, by my faith,
These damned astrologers are charlatans.
E'en in their monologues!
Manasseh. What matters it?
Ormond or Cromwell—one must be undone.
They'll soon be tearing at each other's throats.
[Gazing at the starry shy.
How lovely is the night!
Cromwell [aside.] This impious Jew
After yon babbling courtier! The vile crow
Succeeds the magpie. Kuthless, undismayed,
Without remorse, he hastens hitherward,
To seek upon the field his feast of corpses.
Manasseh [with his glass turned upon the sky.
Meanwhile, till the conspirators appear,
I'll study for a bit the curves described
By Eta's satellites in Tau's domain.
I'll knock upon the portal of the temple
With the sacred hammer.
[He puts his eye to the telescope, then pauses.
Only twelve per cent!
In this emergency, doubtless I might
Have forced from Ormond twofold usury.
Cromwell [aside.]Banker to Cavaliers, and Cromwell's spy!
Manasseh [with his eye at the telescope.
The line is curved like a ram's horn, good lack!—
But I've those caroluses from Cologne;
And, clipped or not, good caroluses win.—
In very truth, the eclipse, in that event—
Ten on the dollars, on the ducats nine.
Yes, Cromwell, Ormond, I beguile them both.
All goes well! are you on guard?
Cromwell [impatiently, aside.
Why must they interrupt me at this moment!
None but the owls are frighted by their cry.
But I must answer.
[Aloud.] All goes well! are you on guard?
[At this shout the Jew turns with a start.
Manasseh [aside.]Jacob! I did not see that sentinel!
With what a cloud old age mine eyes hath veiled!
The Voice of a Sentinel [in the distance.
All goes well! are you on guard?
Manasseh [approaching Cromwell with respect.
Good-morrow, master soldier.
Cromwell [aside.] Need that cry
Have terrified him so? How he betrayed himself!
Manasseh [saluting again.] By Lord Ormond were you
Stationed upon this spot?
Cromwell. What need hast thou
That I should answer yes, son of the prophets?
Manasseh.To see you triumph I am overjoyed.
So Cromwell falls at last; my compliments.
Manasseh [bowing.] The power of the former kings
Is born again; what happiness for you!
Manasseh. I give you joy. Doubtless you hope
Cromwell. Yes. I'm to be corporal.
Manasseh.A noble rank! You will be corporal,
My friend! 'tis fine, indeed! A corporal
Commands four men! superb! and shoulder-straps!
Manasseh. I am charmed that Cromwell's fall
Doth make your fortune, with the common joy,
Good master soldier!
Cromwell [aside.] Hypocrite!
Manasseh. At last,
Cromwell accurst, thy edict 'gainst the Jews
Thou needs must expiate! Thou hypocrite!
What a shameful thing!
This king, this lord protector verified
My reckoning! Oh! do not speak to me
Of crowned plebeians! in so circumscribed
A sphere their minds are fixed! No brilliant fêtes,
No games, no merry-makings—and no loans!
And then what dealings one must have with them!
You seize for their behoof a Swedish brig,
They scrutinize your pockets and your fingers,
And for the perils of the enterprise
Leave you at most three-quarters of the spoil.
Cromwell.Why, that is fleecing you!
Manasseh. Ay, that's the word!
Miserly kings! they know the difference
'Twixt sequins and bezants!
Cromwell. 'Tis horrible!
Manasseh.Your Cromwell! bah! Why, did he not, forsooth,
Upon a time presume to lay a fine
On me, for lending at some rate whereby
I fairly doubled my poor capital?
Cromwell.A pity 'tis.
Manasseh. 'Tis death to honest toil.
Wherefore should he, the tyrant, interfere,
I pray to know? What right had he to close,
To please his followers, concerts and balls,
Races and theatres, where eldest sons,
Giv'n over to the joys that there abound,
Did heedlessly rush onward to their ruin?
To rob them of that right is 'gainst all law.
Vindictive, crafty, cruel, miserly,—
He is a monster! England breathes again
Through you. Your generous arm doth set her free
From the worst tyrant hell can ever bear!—
I do not say all this to flatter you.
Cromwell.I am convinced of it.
Mere war machines!
The coarsest flattery beguiles that heart!
How many masks conceal that odious face!
I'll make him drop them all, each in its turn,
Before my eyes.
[Aloud.]Wilt tell my fortune, Jew?
Manasseh [bowing.]Reveal to you your future grandeur, here!
Sir corporal, you do me too great honour.
[Aside.]A beggarly recruit!
[Aloud.] You 're on the road
[Aside.] 'Tis to use a telescope
To see a candle.
[Aloud.]As you will, fair sir.
I 'll draw your horoscope; 'tis what we call
In Latin making an experiment.
In anima vili.
[Aside.]'Tis safe to flout
The blockhead to his very face in Latin.
Give me your hand.—And let me tell you this:—
Cromwell the villain—
Ah! what hand is this!
I am a dead man!
[He falls at Cromwell's feet.
Cromwell [smiling.] Ha! what dost thou there?
What devil has his teeth in thee, eh, Jew?
Manasseh [beating his head against the ground.
I am a dead man!
Cromwell. Know'st thou who I am,
Thou unclean Jew?
Manasseh [in a faint voice.] Ah! 'tis in truth that hand,
Of ample width to bear the whole wide world!
Too well I recognize those lines whereon
Heav'n doth inscribe no other name than Cromwell's.
Your star did not say false.
Cromwell. Hark ye, old man:
You are but a poor worm, and, doubtless, I,
Trying upon thy bones this polished steel,
[He draws his dagger.
Could in my turn make an experiment
In anima vili. But I do not
With my own hand a paltry earth-worm crush.
Sit thou there.
Above all, hold thy peace.
One word, and hence thy soul will take its flight,
And thou'lt have ample leisure to complete
Thy dead men's alphabet!
This wretched Jew
In Ormond's service! Fate, which sends him hither,
Mingles a night-owl with yon birds of prey!
[He walks to and fro, uttering a few words from time to time.
My only crimes, it seems, if they say true,
Are bowing awkwardly and reckoning
Too well. But of the late King Charles the First,
Or of the English charter—not a word!
[Putting his hand to the pocket of his doublet.
What have I here that weighs so heavily?
[He takes from his pocket the purse given him by Murray.
Ah! 'tis the price of blood!—I had forgot:
These gentry paid me for the privilege
Of murdering myself. Now let us see
If they're entitled to my gratitude;
Let's put a price on their munificence.
The head of Cromwell,—how much is it worth?
If they have paid me less than current rates,
'Twere most uncivil, on my word.
My son's name on this purse! So he's the source
Of this assassins' gold!
[Scrutinizing it carefully.] I do not err;
Here is his crest! What proof is lacking now
That he's a traitor? Ah! thou wretched child!
And wretched father! Not content to bear
His part in their conspiracies, his part
In their repasts within their haunts impure,
To urge them on, to drink to my own death,
My son defrayed the cost of the death feast!
He gave them gold wherewith to buy my head!
And sharing all their pleasures, uncontrite,
He paid them for my death as for a fête!
[He throws the purse on the ground with a gesture of disgust.
His recklessness leads on to parricide!
But someone comes.
[Enter Richard Cromwell, feeling his way in the darkness.
Scene 6.—The Same, Richard Cromwell.
Richard [walking slowly toward the front of the stage.
The night is none too bright.
Cromwell [unseen by Richard.
My son! Is't possible?
Richard. Set free at last!
Cromwell [aside.] I doubt not, by the thieves to whom thou hast
Betrayed thy father. In their blood-stained hands
Place thine fraternally!
Richard [still without seeing Cromwell.
And this is due
To having paid the sentry well.
Cromwell [aside.] Aha!
He says it!
Richard. I am free!
Cromwell [aside.] But at what price,
Richard. True, it costs me dear, but I
Cromwell [aside.] Ingratitude.
To the paid cutthroat who doth leave thee free
To kill thy father—that thou dost detest!
Cromwell [aside.] With what levity
This debauchee doth talk of murdering me!
Richard.My father sleeps.
Cromwell [aside.] He sleeps!
Richard. He nought suspects.
Cromwell [aside.]He's wide awake and listening to thee!
Richard [laughing.]I shall entrap him shrewdly.
Cromwell [aside.] What a laugh,
And what a crime! the villain comes to ask:
"Is 't done?" Suppose I take upon myself
The duty of chastising him?
Richard [laughing.] Come, courage!
To-morrow, when they find the bird has flown,
How great will be the Saints' discomfiture!
Cromwell [aside.]If I should poniard him with my own hand?
He is my son!
Richard. Our Cavaliers will laugh
Till they are like to burst, at th' escapade.
Cromwell [aside.]He flaunts my very blood before my face!
[He takes another step.
Richard. A lucky ending, by my faith.
Cromwell [aside.]'Tis true!
Richard. My father ne'er would have consented
To pardon me, I fear. But by this means
His anger I escape.
Cromwell [aside.] Nay, thou shalt not
Escape it, traitor! I must strike him down!
[He steps toward Richard, then hesitates.
But—He is my eldest-born!
God gave him to me on a day of joy.
'Tis my own blood this blade will cause to flow!
In childhood, what a multitude of ills,
Of care and pain, ay, and of happiness,
He caused me!—For did I but appear
Before his eyes, joyous and radiant
He 'd stretch his little arms to their full length
To grasp my hands, while his whole body quivered
As he had wings. Methought a star had gleamed
Before my eyes, when he did smile on me!
Richard.So much the worse for him, for he 's a tyrant!
Ha! that word turns the scale; for when a son
Turns parricide, he is no more a son.
[He creeps up behind Richard with his dagger uplifted.
[Footsteps are heard by the postern.—Cromwell
stops and turns.
But in yon dark passages
What sounds are these! 'Tis Ormond and his friends
Returning. I will follow up the thread
Of my son's treachery; and afterward
We will lay bare the whole dark tragedy.
Richard [unseen by the Cavaliers.
These gentry have a questionable look.
I'll stand apart.
[He withdraws to the left, among the clumps of verdure.
Murray [to Cromwell, with a triumphant air.
Your Cromwell hath a bed
Without brocades! A paltry candle-end
Was dying on his table. 'Twas so dark
One could not see one's self. He did not move,
Thanks to his lethargy, when we did seize him;
We gagged him quietly, and here he is.
Cromwell.Ah! this is he?
Richard [aside.] What means this?
We hold him fast.
Richard [aside.] What says he?
Downie. The worst task
Is done!—The night is dark. Let 's lose no time.
Rosebery [to Downie.] 'Tis a simple thing to say
For one who has no burden on his back.
Sedley [to Downie.]As, to attain our purposed destination,
We've no relays, we needs must rest awhile.
Richard [aside.]I know these voices.
Yonder Cromwell lies!
Dread chastisement of his unheard-of crime!
He 's in our hands, this giant of renown,
In whom, more than in God, the world hath seemed
To rest its faith!—Yes, it is he himself.
What station does he hold here at our feet?
No man hath power enough or craft enough
To steal away this sinner from his judge.
All fled before him; now he hath no place
Of refuge.—Ah! ill-fated warrior!
Wherein hath it advantaged thee to hold
A nation in thy chains these fifteen years?
To fight so fiercely, pierce so many shields,
Replace the ancient Stuart name with thine,
To reign by hatred, horror and affright,
And make of Whitehall a king's calvary?
How great a burden at this fateful hour
Are all these crimes, sealed with the royal crown!
Cromwell, how wilt thou render thy account?
When thou wert powerful thee I abhorred,
Vanquished I pity thee. Alas! that I
Might not in battle make thee bite the dust!
But what a fall! to take thee prisoner
Without a victory! a bloodless triumph!
We must resign ourselves. The sword gives place
To daggers. What a mighty head Fate casts
Into the scales upon the Stuart side!
Richard [aside.]What mean these words? I'll listen and speak not.
Cromwell [aside.]This Ormond I esteem. Nobly he speaks.
A soldier's heart doth ne'er belie itself.
Murray [to Ormond, pointing to the prisoner.
Your Grace doth too much honour to yon knave!
Cromwell [aside.]Base courtier!
Downie [to the prisoner's bearers.]Damnation! let us go.
Drogheda.One moment, pray! he weighs as much already
As he were dead.
Sedley. 'Tis very difficult
To bear this cargo safely into port.
Let us take counsel. What 's to do with it?
Clifford.Let 's kill him here, and have done with th' affair.
Drogheda.Ay, let us kill him.
Sedley. 'Tis the quickest way.
Richard [aside.]What devil's advocates! Who is the man?
The harpoon's fast; now let them have the line.
This spectacle alleviates my woes.
They 're going to kill each other; that 's a comfort!
Clifford [waving his sword over Rochester.
Is it agreed?
Jenkins [holding Clifford's arm.]How now! good gentlemen,
Without a verdict, witnesses or judge,
Without the forms of law, and without process?
'Tis murder pure and simple! Harsh words these;
But are you, pray, by special ordinance,
A court of justice or a martial court?
Where, that the laws be kept inviolate,
Are your commissions, sealed with the great seal?
Which is attorney? which is president?
I see no counsel pleading on each side,
One for the accused, the other for the Crown.
What safeguards of the law surround you here?
Know you enough of Latin to give judgment,
Confront the witnesses and question them?
In formal phraseology pronounce
The sentence to the hurdle or the gallows?
How many days since you began your term?
How will you date your sentence? Furthermore,
What is the corpus delicti? And where
Are the conspirators? The overt acts
Whereon you base the penalty imposed—
What are they?—'Tis the laws that I defend,
Not Cromwell.—Him, albeit still untried,
I deem him guilty. The allegiance due
The King his lord and master he forgot;
A case anticipated by the law,
Which in its vengeance smites the guilty man,
Qui lædit in rege majestatem Dei.
In fine, he England's laws hath disobeyed.
Their sacredness the better to attest
'Twere well that from its trunk the felon's head
Should severed be; but all formalities
Must be observed. You cannot thus condemn him.
Functions you claim, the which are never joined.
To be at once a witness and accuser,
To be both judge and executioner,
Is palpably absurd! and my poor voice
In the law's name protests against this crime!
Cromwell [aside.]Ha! there spoke Jenkins, th' upright magistrate!
Clifford [to the Cavaliers, with a scornful gesture.
What says the fellow in his piping voice?
Drogheda [to Jenkins, with a hurt expression.
Doctor, methinks you take us for a pack
Of pettifogging lawyers?
Downie. Do you aim
To sit as judge in the King's Bench, good sir?
Sedley [laughing.]When first did night-owl to the goshawk say:
[Imitating Jenkins's voice and gestures.
"Let us hold court forthwith and try the viper!"
Rosebery [laughing.]He's talking Latin!
Murray. Drat such senseless talk!
Clifford.My dagger is the court of last resort!
Now let us strike!
Cromwell [aside.] Now let us let them strike.
All the Cavaliers.Let us have done.
Richard.God! what a shocking scene! Is it a dream?
Clifford [pushing Jenkins away.
Protest at your sweet will!
Ormond [checking Clifford.]Stay, my Lord Clifford;
The doctor 's right; I heartily approve.
The King's explicit orders bid me bring
Our captive living; you must needs submit.
Clifford [to Ormond.]But in that case, if we would take him hence,
We shall be forced to fight a hundred battles.
Downie.And when he's over yonder, living still,
I prithee will the King bestow him then
In his menagerie, duly ticketed?
Drogheda. Oh! we'll present him with the beast all stuffed.
Clifford [to Ormond.]When once the sword is drawn, then, good my lord,
We needs must strike. We have but this brief hour;
Let 's make the most of it. He 's in our hands,
This Cromwell—let him die!
All the Cavaliers [except Ormond and Jenkins.
Ay, let him die!
Jenkins [solemnly.]I do protest!
Richard [intensely excited, aside.]They mean to kill my father!
[He rushes into the midst of the Cavaliers.
All the Cavaliers. 'Tis Richard Cromwell!
Cromwell [aside.]What doth he?
Richard [to the Cavaliers.]Stay your hands! In pity's name,
If of our former friendship there remains
A vestige in your hearts, then, Rosebery,
Sedley and Downie, list to me, I pray!
Richard. Spare my father!
Sedley. Did he spare
Richard. Ah! that, I doubt not, was a crime;
But am I guilty? Should I be the victim?
In striking him, you strike me, too, my friends.
Cromwell [aside.]Can this be Richard, heartless parricide?
I am nonplust.
Rosebery [to Richard.]We love you like a brother;
But duty must be done, whate'er betide.
Richard.You shall not kill my father!
Cromwell [aside.] He defends me!
What happiness! I had misjudged my child.
Richard [to the Cavaliers.
Was it to serve this execrable end
That you invited Richard to your board?
That we were sworn allies in everything,
Gaming and revelry and gallantry?
And that my purse was ever at your service?
And now compare what I have done for you,
My jovial friends, with what you do to me!
Rosebery [to the Cavaliers, in an undertone.
Is he not right?
Jenkins [to Richard.] Well said, young man, i' faith!
But bear upon the radical defect
Of the affair: they 're not within the law.
Plead well the cause—plead! plead!
Richard [to Jenkins.] But, my good sir—
Jenkins.With you I do oppose this step.
Richard [to the Cavaliers, clasping his hands.
Cromwell [aside.]I see the whole affair more justly now.
My son! ah! how unjust I was to him!
Certes, of this dark plot no more he knew
Than that the plotters gathered to carouse.
Ormond [to Richard.]Your father played with us, sir, for high stakes:
Alike we staked our heads. And he has lost.
Richard.Great God! you would in truth strike down the father
The while his son looks on!
[He cries with all his strength.
Help! murder! help!
[To the Cavaliers.
I have no other hope than in myself.
[He shouts again.
Help, soldiers! help!
Murray. The soldiers are with us.
Richard.Ah well! then I alone defy you all!
[He puts his hand to his side to draw his sword.
How now! my hand th' avenging blade doth lack!
Father, why didst thou take away my sword?
Cromwell [aside.]Poor Richard!
Ormond [to Richard.] Sir, I truly grieve for you.
Take my advice:—withdraw; leave the King's men
To do their will.
Richard. To do your will? O Heaven!
I ask no mercy. Kill me here with him,
Upon his body!
'Twould be too barbarous that he should die,
Of his own motion, with a spurious Cromwell!
Rosebery [trying to sooth Richard.
Richard [still clinging to Rochester.
No! strike me with your heartless blades,
Or I will save him!
Rochester [waking with a start and joining in the struggle.
'Sdeath! You're choking me!
[All paused as if turned to stone.
Ormond. Great Heaven! what voice is that I hear?
All the Cavaliers.
Rochester [to Richard.
Are you the hangman, pray?.
You strangle me, my friend, as if I had
Two souls to render up. In Heaven's name,
Cannot you do more gently your devoir,
Act with the victim more in good accord,
And hang one without squeezing one so tight?
Ormond [in dismay.]'Tis Rochester!
The rope is round my neck;
But what—I see no gallows. Can it be
They'd hang me, like a screech-owl, to a nail?
Ormond.But where is Cromwell, then?
Cromwell [stepping forward, in a voice of thunder.
Cromwell is here!
Forth from your tents, O Jacob! Israel,
Forth from your tents!
Murray [terror-stricken.]Cromwell! and scores of soldiers, glist'ning arms!
I am a dead man!
The Cavaliers. Treachery! betrayed!
Ormond [gazing at Rochester and Cromwell in turn.
Rochester [rubbing his eyes.] Have I been hanged
Already? Can it be that I 'm in hell?
Yon glittering palace and these solemn ghosts,
And hordes of imps who flaring torches wave—
'Tis hell, in sooth! Wilmot had little hope
[Looking at Cromwell.
Ay, and yonder's Satan, too.
He much resembles Cromwell, by my faith!
Cromwell [to Thurloe and Lord Carlisle, pointing to the Cavaliers.
Arrest these men!
Ormond [breaking his sword across his knee.
No man shall have my sword.
Richard [aside.] What means all this? My latest escapade
Will bring upon me some new punishment.
I've broken my arrest; I am undone.
Rochester [looking about him with a bewildered air.
Why, here are Rosebery, Downie, Drogheda!
I shall at least roast in good company.—
Ha! and the Jew Manasseh who redeemed
Clifford from pawn! I doubt not he'll be cooked
In his own strong-box.—Well-a-day! Meseems
We all are dead and all are damned together!
[To the Cavaliers.
Good-even, friends! Come, let us laugh to scorn
Old Satan who convokes us. Let us give
Hell to the devil, and flout him to his face.
Ormond.In what a fatal snare we are enmeshed!
Rochester [to the Cavaliers.
Our goodly plans have had but ill success;
With lethe Cromwell hath bedrugged our wine.
Cromwell [glancing at Ormond, aside.
I knew not Ormond. His demeanor doth
Compel respect, ay, in my own despite.
Ormond [his eyes fixed upon Cromwell, aside.
How he did cozen us! What craft and mettle!
Cromwell [aside.]Ormond alone dares look me in the face.
A noble foeman he! he had a mission,
And would fulfill it. I will speak to him.
[He goes to Ormond and eyes him haughtily.
Ormond. Is Bloum.
[Aside.]Dying, I do not choose
That he shall know that he was Ormond's master.
Cromwell [aside.]From pride he hides his name.
[Aloud.] Who art thou, say?
Ormond.Nought but a subject 'gainst thee in revolt,
For England and his gracious Majesty.
Cromwell.What dost thou think of me?
Ormond. Say'st thou of thee, Cromwell?
Ormond. Things that one may not write
Save with the sword.
Cromwell. A trenchant argument:
Its only flaw is this: the gallows doth
Sometimes make answer to the sword.
Ormond. What odds?
Cromwell.So thou art led by thirst for blood alone?
Ormond.To punish with the sword the regicide
Cromwell. To punish, prithee, by what right?
Ormond. By the lex talionis.
Cromwell. Darest thou
Enter the lion's den?
Ormond. The tiger's, rather.
Cromwell.Venture thy head upon the very spot
Where the Protector has his domicile?
Ormond.I prithee, Cromwell, say the regicide.
Cromwell.The regicide!—always the regicide!
It is their word, their only argument,
Proffered on all occasions, at all times!
Do I deserve that name of regicide?
The people an illegal tax refused;
I was inflexible, Charles ill-advised.
His fall a blessing was, death a mishap.
Virtues he had, and them I venerate.
In fine, it was my fate to smite the King,
While praying for the man.
Ormond. Out, hypocrite!
Thou dost not cozen me.
Cromwell. Upon this point
We differ in opinion, that is clear.
Ormond.Thy place is kept for thee, by Ravaillac.
Cromwell.Old man, by hate thy heart is borne too far.
Thy grey hairs should inspire more gentle thoughts.
Cromwell a Ravaillac! Canst thou compare
With that base hand the hand that moves the world,
With the assassin's knife a people's axe?
We the same point attain from hell and heav'n.
Blood branded Cain and Samuel adorned.
Ormond.But Ravaillac, of infamous renown,—-
Hath he not to commend him all one needs
To share thy glory? Like thyself he caused
The death of a just king; what lacks he, pray?
Cromwell.He struck too low; a king should ne'er be struck
Save at the neck.
Ormond. O my beloved master!
O Charles! in all his glory he appears
Before my weeping eyes!
[To Cromwell, repulsing him.
Again I say,
Out of my sight, you, whose impious hand
Dared touch a king's majestic head!
Cromwell. Go to!
Blood sometimes stains, and sometimes purifies.
[Aside.]How now! he doth accuse me and I plead
My cause. I suffer him to make parade,
With knee unbended, of his idiot's virtue
And of his madman's honour! In good sooth
He knows not whither, in its tyranny,
Genius is sometimes borne by destiny.
I'll leave this hopeless case.
[He turns his back on Ormond and accosts Jenkins.
What! Doctor Jenkins,
[Pointing to Ormond and Murray.
Among these madmen,
[Pointing to Sedley, Clifford and Rochester.
And these runagates!
You, the wise man, and just!
Jenkins [gravely.] 'Tis in your power
To speak in this wise, ay, and worse, mayhap.
Cromwell.You, Jenkins, to my countenance preferred
The privilege of sharing with these dreamers
A punishment that must be exemplary.
Jenkins.Oh! by your leave, friend Cromwell, let us not
Confuse two things: you may avenge yourself,
But cannot punish us. It much imports
In all things to define the words we use.
Tyrannus non judex—a tyrant's not
A judge. If by some traitor's furtherance,
Some renegade's, you've proved yourself to be
The shrewder in this contest; if you have
The force, nathless the right is on our side.
You may deprive us of the law's protection
By violence,—what matters it? We die,
But die against our will, de facto only.
Consult your own attorneys on this point,
Whitelocke, Pierpoint and Maynard; I refer
The question to your chosen counsellors.
Albeit Whitelocke hath a system false,
And Maynard and Pierpoint do often plead
In Reynard's favour 'gainst the poultry-yard.
Cromwell.Good! of the gibbet you shall have your share.
Jenkins.So be it. But I pray you to observe
How great is our advantage over you.
To an angry despot's gibbet we shall go;
You to the pillory of future ages!
[Cromwell shrugs his shoulders.
Rochester [still only half awake.
Where are my wits?—If I am not asleep,
Certes, I'm dead. But Cromwell puzzles me.
Already here! 'Twas only yesterday
I left him up on earth.
[Addressing the soldiers who surround him.
Might I not change
My dream, or else my hell? Deliver me
From Noll! you seem to be good fellows all.
Look you: the projects that you had in mind
Were most incredible. What! capture Cromwell
In a child's trap, and murder him! Go to!
For your triumphant swords, my gentlemen,
Would not have treated me, before yon gate,
As David treated Saul within the cave;
No one of you the function of his blade
Would have confined to clipping my cloak's hem.
I know. 'Tis plain enough, and I approve.
But while approving, truth to say, methinks
Your project might perchance have been conceived
More shewdly; that, in fine, the woof thereof
Was of too frail a tissue. By ill luck
I knew it not, my brethren, till too late
My ideas to make known to you thereon;
Be not offended, pray. You must, in sooth,
Have laboured stoutly to devise the scheme.
But I, like Joshua who was undismayed
By the combined assault of twenty kings,
Have cut the ham-strings of your steeds of war.
We all have acted as 'twas meet we should:
Me you attacked, I did myself defend.
As for your project taken in itself,
I love these outbursts of a faithful heart;
Courage doth smile upon me, and bold feats
Of daring do rejoice my very soul.
Albeit your success was incomplete,
I place you no less high in my esteem.
Your hearts are moved by loftiest sentiments;
Onward you march with firm and equal step;
You faltered not, nor trembled, nor turned pale;
You are—accept my compliments sincere—
My chosen foes, foes worthy of my steel.
Nought do I see in you to be despised,
In fine, too highly do I value you—
To spare you.—My esteem for you would fain
Display itself in public; I attest it,
By having you all hanged.—No thanks, I beg.
Forgive me, rather, that I join with you,
On the same scaffold,
[Pointing to the panic-stricken Murray.
Yonder whining braggart,
The coward who doth listen while I speak,
Albeit he 's not worth the rope to hang him!
He should give thanks to you, for but for you
He would not have been honoured with my wrath.
[Pointing to Manasseh, who has not moved.
Bear with me if I add yon noisome Jew
Unto your company. 'Tis hard, I know,
To mingle deicides with Christian men,
Or a Barabbas with right-minded thieves!
I will arrange to hang him lower down.
And now I crave your pardon, one and all,
For that I do so ill requite your kindness;
I give that which I have. I know full well
That what I do for you is very little!—
Go now; prepare to settle your accounts
With God. We all are sinners, my good friends.—
A few brief hours hence, when dawning day
Shall lighten these old walls, you 'll all be hanged!—
Go.—Pray for me.
Let Westminster at once
Be put in readiness. Now I am king!
Scene 9.—The Four Jesters.
Gramadoch.Well! what say you?
Giraff [laughing.] 'Tis more and more absurd.
Elespuru.A scene from t'other world displayed in this.
Trick.'Tis downright mad, burlesque, incredible.
Giraff.A merry and amazing spectacle.—
Cromwell laid bare, to see! the smokeless fire,
Beelzebub without his smiling mask!
Gramadoch.'Mongst all the actors in this play grotesque
Which is the maddest? Let's award the prize.
Trick.Murray, who, crushing Cromwell with his scorn,
Turns in a pirouette from Noll to Charles,
And for his banner takes a weather-cock.
Giraff.The palm is Richard's, son of Belial,
Dying for Rochester through filial love.
Trick.If Cromwell had slain Richard in his rage,
It had been well.
Giraff. Ay, but the play is done.
Gramadoch. So to Richard you award
The prize fool's bauble, and the laurel wreath
Of our profession?
Elespuru. I do much prefer
Good Doctor Jenkins' learned simplicity..
Trick.And Ormond giving Cromwell moral lessons!
Is 't not diverting? I would rather choose
To teach a lawyer justice, or to comb
A polar bear, or milk a pantheress,
Or sweep Vesuvius's red-hot crater.
Giraff.And the vile Jew, who in this moral drama
Is not the least important character!
That rabbi-spy, magician-usurer,
Who, gloating o'er his caroluses' charms,
Comes with his lantern to consult the stars.
Elespuru.Amphibious beast, a stranger to both camps,
That Jew came hither even as the bat
That flies amid the darkness of a tomb.
Giraff.Herein the simile is the more apt,
That Noll will have him nailed upon a cross
Before some portal, like a monstrous fan.
Trick.Thus, then, the bluster of the Cavaliers
Doth Cromwell punish! To his gallows, friends,
He has more ropes than one.
Gramadoch. Although he bears
A world upon his neek, of all of those
Of whom we speak, he, Cromwell is the maddest.
He 'd still be king, and death is at his door.
Giraff [to Gramadoch.
What say'st thou?
Gramadoch. You will see.
Trick [to Gramadoch.] But tell me, pray—
Elespuru [to Gramadoch.
But what matters it to thee?
Gramadoch [shaking his head.
A mystery's an egg—list, an you please—
The which one must not break, if one would have
A chicken. Stay.—This Cromwell, unto whom
All things propitious seem, if he doth take
This final step, then he doth hurl himself
Over the precipice. There death awaits him.
Be at his coronation: you will see;
And you will laugh! Surely he is more mad,
Than all these dwarfs he crushes 'neath his feet,—
A hundred times more mad, say I, because
He deems himself the wisest of mankind.
Trick.To close the competition, the most mad,
Even including Cromwell, gentlemen,
Are we ourselves. For is it sensible
To waste in this affair the precious hours
We might employ in doing nought, in sleeping,
Singing to echo of our tedium,
Or gazing at the moon from out a well?