Cromwell (Hugo, tr. Ives)/Act third
ACT THIRD. THE JESTERS.
Scene 1.—Cromwell's Four Jesters.—Trick, First Jester, dressed in a suit of yellow and black motley, pointed cap of the same, with gold bells; he has the Protector's arms embroidered in gold on his breast. Giraff, Second Jester, in yellow and red motley, with cap of the same, bordered with silver bells; the Protector's arms in silver on his breast. Gramadoch, Third Jester, and train-bearer to his Highness, in black and red motley, with a square cap of the same, with gold bells; the Protector's arms in gold on his breast. Elespuru, Fourth Jester, costume entirely black, with black three-cornered hat, a silver bell hanging from each horn, and the Protector's arms in silver on his breast. Each of the four has at his side a short sword, with a huge belt and a wooden blade; Trick has in addition a fool's bauble in his hand. They come prancing upon the stage.
Hark ye, gentle lords and dames,
I have travelled far thro' hell:
Moloch, Lucifer and Baal
Would have tossed me in the flames
With their forks of iron fell.
The fire it caught my linen cape,
My doublet blazed right merrily,
When, God be thanked, most happily
Old Satan took me for an ape,
And let me go—and here am I!
Giraff [gravely.]Think'st thou he let thee go? What's Cromwell, pray,
Our spiritual head and temp'ral king?
Gramadoch [to Giraff.] Is one a devil just by wearing horns?
If it be so, then hell can have no bounds.
Elespuru.What! darest thou to utter such a doubt
Of Mistress Cromwell's virtuous deportment?
Gramadoch.Hark ye. They have a song like this in France:—
Dreams come thro' two doors, my word therefor,
In Paris, 'twixt night and morn;
For lovers they come thro' the ivory door,
For husbands thro' that of horn.
Trick. 'Tis a foul shame; your words deserre the gibbet.
Mistress Elizabeth's true knight am I.
For Cromwell's honour and for hers I plead.
I'll be her guarantor without a qualm,
She is so ugly!
Gramadoch. True. I'll not deny,
When one has nought to say one talks to talk.
For my own part I have a deadly fear
Of ennui, which would make me ill, and so
I'll sing a song to Echo. [He sings.
O monk, why with such an uproar
Oh, say, doth thy Rose thee betray?
And why art thou on the rampage,
Art thou Rose's lover also?
What gives thee that air morose,
—The husband, whom no one recalls,
From the bed where thou'rt held by love,
Thou seest him returning, alas!
Thine ear, which his coming fears,
The trot of his mule too soon.
He'll punish thy shameless life,
Ah! tremble! 'tis he! he is there!
In vain do the monk and the lover
The manor walls seek to fly,
He seizes them 'neath the wall,
And gives to his varlet old
His voice like the autumn storms,
"Throw them both to the birds of prey,
Save the crows none shall find them sweet
The tomb shall their bones receive
O yawn 'neath the churl of low birth,
Thou fiend, who husbands dost flout,
When he, faithful and true, from her side
And to God his love did entrust,
No tender Adonis, soft-eyed,
With glances that, managed with skill,
To lure the amatory belle
And when he returned, she'd a score
Trick [to Gramadoch.
Now listen to my legend, in thy turn. [He sings.
Job and Lazarus
Have gold in store
The while King Crœsus
Doth alms implore.
Epoch strange, I trow!
Of black and white as snow.
Of imp and angel, too,
A mixture rare!
And damsels fair to see,
Who spotless virgins be,
Or say they are!
Beauties not unkind,
Husbands quick to mind,
Whose Lucreces gay
(No she-dragons they)
Make them cuckolds
Kings without crowns;
Full of fantasies,
And thinking clowns.
Halberd and sword
For cogent arguments;
Fond lovers' sentiments
By philters cured;
Wolves and asses grey,
And gleaming snakes;
Whores and harlots gay
And courtly rakes.
And headsmen affable;
Nuns not intractable
And priests defiant;
Titans who pygmies are,
Dwarfs who are giants!
Such is the age
In which we live,
And save the plagues
Nought doth survive.
From bad to worse
The realm doth course.
Our great Cæsars
Are but lizards;
Our dear Cyclops
All are myopes;
Is a Morpheus;
A Scapin, sir.
Sad times be these;
The nations grin
Doth sit and spin.
Some climb, some crawl,
Urged by the devil,
And make it all
A witches' revel.
Gramadoch.Thy ballad's execrable, and the rhyme
Impedes the sense.
Elespuru. 'Tis my turn now.
You at whom in night's dark spaces
All hell's demons make grimaces,
Priests of Angus and Errol;
You who know the witches' jargon,
You who have, the Styx' dark marge on,
No nightingale except the owl;
Undines who, in your cascades,
Do without a parasol;
Sylphs, whose merry cavalcades
Braving hills and barricades
Hasten in two leaps, you jades,
E'en to the steeple of St. Paul;
Huntsmen damned of the Tyrol,
Whose wild hounds, and undismayed,
Ceaseless roam through forest glade;
Priests of Argand; guards of Roll;
And ye grisly hanged men all,
Who renew your vital flame
'Neath the kiss of a beldame;
Caliban, Macduff, Pistol;
Ye Zingari, horde of evil,
In whose train dark crimes befall;
Say, which is the greater devil,
Is't old Nick, or is't old Noll?
Of all the serpents Satan rears
Which is the serpent he prefers?
The aspic to the deaf addérs,
Good old Nick to the aspic,
And good old Noll to good old Nick.
Old Nick is Satan's left eye,
And old Noll, he's his right;
Old Nick is shrewd and deft, he,
And old Noll's no clumsy wight;
And Beelzebub in his flight doth prick
From old Noll to good old Nick.
When the twain go forth to ride,
Death with his scythe is close beside.
Hell doth furnish the relay;
And both of the two, without delay,
Spring to their trusty chargers' backs;
Nick on a broom-stick rides away,
And Noll on the handle of an axe.
To conclude this roundelay:—
Ere he seeks a hermit's cell,
May I—for he deserves it well—
Live to see old Noll in public
Carried off by the old Nick.
Or, to wring his neck and end it all,
Old Nick call upon old Noll!
Or, to wring his neck and end it all,
Old Nick call upon old Noll.
Trick.Now, for our glosses to supply a text,
D'ye know mysterious things are here toward?
Giraff.Cromwell turns king; old Satan would be God.
Gramadoch.'Tis said his game by two conspiracies
Is brought to nought.
Elespuru. The army's malcontent,
The people murmur.
Trick. If he put aside
His armour for the royal robe, woe, woe
To the apostate! his unshielded heart
Offers a fairer mark to vengeful blades.
Giraff.For me, I revel in confusion dire.
I'll spur the dogs and wolves to rend and tear.
'Twould give me keenest pleasure to behold
Satan, upon a monstrous gridiron,
Place in Noll Cromwell's hands a red-hot sword,
Ride madly upon Cavaliers, and play
At bowls with Roundheads!
Trick. Brothers, what say you
To the new chaplain, who his blessing gave
With such a crafty grimace?
Giraff. The deuce!
Gramadoch.A plague on him?
Trick. E'en so!—That all of us
Do think alike in his regard, is plain.
Gramadoch. Friends, listen to a tale I have to telL
[They gather about Gramadoch.
While shooting in the park, the holy man,
Dear Obededom, saw I near the gate,
And talking with the soldiers of the guard
On the pretext of edifying them
By preaching to them. Then he gave them drink,
Then money, and at last he said to them:
"Until to-night! The countersign will be
"'Cologne and Whitehall.'"
Giraff [clapping his hands joyfully.
'Tis some emissary
Elespuru.Of Cromwell, rather, my good friend,
If by the imprecations I may judge
Which in his savage wrath our master's son,
Richard, imprisoned on the traitor's word,
Did vomit forth against him.
Giraff [laughing.] True it is!
Richard, who'll be condemned to death ere long,
Would fain have killed his father! On my soul,
'Tis most diverting.
Trick. I have something here
That is more laughable than that.
Gramadoch. In truth?
Giraff.Nay, Master Trick, that may not be!
Elespuru.What is it, pray?
Trick. Into my hand it fell
From out the pocket of our sapient priest.
Gramadoch.Bah! His some sermon, dismal and horrific,
With hell beginning, ending with the devil.
Let us forthwith instruct ourselves. 'Tis meet
That every fool should study carefully
The jargon of the Puritans.
[Untying the roll, which Trick has handed him.
More fool than we, this chaplain splénetic?
With ribbons pink he ties his thunderbolts!
Elespuru [laughing.]This sermon by a merry imp was preached!
Trick [laughing.]What say you to't?
Elespuru [reading.] "Quatrain to my divinity:
"O fair Egeria, you set my heart aflame—"
Giraff [snatching the parchment, and reading.
"Your eyes wherein Dan Cupid lights a conquering fire"
Gramadoch [taking possession of it in his turn.
"Are glowing mirrors which do concentrate the flame
"Whose rays consume my very soul."
[They all laugh more heartily than ever.
Elespuru.You say these lines from Puritan pocket fell?
Gramadoch [as if suddenly struck with an idea.
I have it! Yes, 'tis past a doubt!—
Brothers, you all do know Dame Guggligoy,
The Lady Frances's duenna?
Gramadoch.I saw the chaplain speak to her
In secret, and a purse bestow on her.
Trick.And what said the old dame?
Gramadoch. She said: "To-night,
My pretty stripling, you shall be with her,
Alone."—Whereon I sang this song:
Said the sorceress to the buccaneer,
"Good captain, in good sooth," said she,
"In the wink of an eye you shall have your dear,
For I will not ungrateful be.
But first select amongst your crew
Some comely page, all fresh and new,
Who, spite my years not a few,
Will say a kindly word or two.
And, for the bliss that I provide,
I'll take four sheep, each with its hide,
The jaw-bone of a whale, beside,
Chameleons of changing hue,
Some charm or cantrap magical,
Six asps, three skins of a jackal,
And the thinnest man in all your crew
To make a skeleton withal."
Surely the Guggligoy doth sell herself
More cheaply. Sooth to say, in her own skin
A living skeleton. But I conclude
From such procedure that this shaven-crowned
Corrupter of duennas and of soldiers
Is here for neither Charles nor Oliver,
Elespuru. By my faith, I'm more at sea
Than ever. What's the meaning of it all?
Giraff.I know not; but 'tis most original.
Gramadoch.Our Cromwell who conceives that everyone
Must to his sway submit, if well-advised,
Would borrow the sharp eyes of his four fools.
Suppose we warn him?
Giraff. What's that? warn him? we?
Art thou mad, Gramadoch? Is't our affair?
Pray, what are we to Noll? Let us remain
In our own sphere. He hires us and 'faith
He might most fitly pay us better wage—
Not to safeguard his life, but gladden it.
Let them abduct his daughter, force his door,
Shave him or strangle him, what is't to us?
Elespuru. Beyond a doubt.
Trick. Each to his trade.
He reigns, we laugh.—Let him be cut in quarters,
Or burned or flayed, he's nought to say to us,
So long as we lack not the merry quip.
Elespuru.How our avenging laughter will chastise
His haughty scorn, and how the fools will laugh
At him who would be king but missed his aim!
Gramadoch.And that false chaplain doth resemble us.
Lovers and fools aye well assorted are.
His name of Obededom seems to be
Contrived to mate with Trick, Elespuru,
Giraff and Gramadoch.
Trick. But look you, friends,
If he conspires, we must defend ourselves.
If Stuart should return, he'd hang us all.
Elespuru.What! hang poor, harmless fools for a mere jest?
Trick.Were't but to see the grimaces they'd make
Upon the gibbet. Vainly should we cry
For mercy: everyone delights to see
A jumping-jack a-dangling on a string.
Giraff.Hang us, who've done no wrong?—Be not alarmed.
Let Charles return—he needs must have his fools,
And we're at hand.—Can he, in all the world,
Find fools who've conned their art more thoroughly?
Some are by instinct fools, of purpose we!
Go to! A jester always doth escape
From all mishap. Who would grow old on earth,
Where all is fleeting, he must e'en turn fool;
Such is the wisest course.
Trick. In very truth,
Cromwell doth weary me! 'Tis said that Charles
Elespuru. The tyrant's eagle eye,
Is it fatigued! What! it is we who know
What even he knows not; we hold the thread
That he as yet sees not! We, Cromwell's fools!
Gramadoch.I'll said, Elespuru. We are his jesters,
But he's our fool. He thinks that we're his toys;
Poor man! he's ours. Doth he deceive us e'er
With all his prayers? Or doth he frighten us
With that loud voice and pious upward glance
The which cause kings to tremble? When he prays
Or preaches or proscribes, the hypocrite,
Can he e'en glance at us without a smile?
His secret policies and deeplaid plans
Cozen the whole world save us jesters four.
His reign, so fatal to this hapless folk
Whom he doth tease and worry, in our sight
A foolish drama is, which he doth play.
Let us observe. Before our eyes ere long
A score of mimes will pass, now calm, now sad,
Now merry; we the while, in shadow here,
Silent and philosophic lookers-on,
Applaud the happy strokes and mock and jeer
At the mishaps. Leave we Cromwell and Charles
To struggle blindly and each other rend
For our diversion! We alone possess
The key to this strange riddle. Let us not
Say to the master aught thereof.
Elespuru. I' faith,
Let him protect himself!
Giraff. Let us say nought
Trick. On all sides we triumphant are.
Satan makes tyrants for the jesters' pleasure.
While the whole world before the despot quakes,
We make of Cromwell's sceptre our fool's bauble!
Cromwell.Ah! my four fools.—Faith, 'tis a fitting time
To recreate ourselves. [Enter Thurloe.
Thurloe [to Cromwell.] The Parliament
In the throne-room awaits—
Cromwell [testily.] Oh! let them wait!
Thurloe [to Cromwell, in an undertone.
The Address, wherein the people humbly pray
His Highness, the Protector, to vouchsafe
To be made king, they bring.
Cromwell [beaming with joy.] So then 'tis done!
[Aside.]What fools they be!
[To Thurloe.]I'll hear them in good time,
After my Council; then I must inspect
The Frisian greys that Holstein's Duke hath sent.
Do you the honours, keep alive their zeal,
Bid them discuss some text until I come.
Gramadoch [to Trick, in an undertone.
In the Book of Kings, for instance! [Exit Thurloe.
Rochester [aside.] What do I hear?
O martyred Charles! how he avengeth thee!
What a vile scourge succeeds thy glorious sceptre!
Cromwell [calling Rochester's attention to his fools.
As we're alone, I fain would merry be.
These be my jesters, O most reverend sir,—
I make them known to you.
[Lord Eochester and the jesters bow.
When we're inclined
To merriment, they most diverting are.
We all make verses here, ay, everyone,
Even my old Milton takes a hand therein.
Milton [in dudgeon.]Old Milton, say you? By your leave, my lord,
I am full nine years younger than yourself.
Milton. But you, my lord, were born
In ninety-nine, and I in sixteen eight.
Cromwell.A courteous reminder!
Milton [earnestly.] It were meet
That you do deal with me more civilly!
An alderman and notary's son am I.
Cromwell.O be not angry, Milton; well I know
That you're a mighty theologian, too;
Nay, more,—but heaven's sparing of its gifts,—
A poet of a sort, but far below
Wither and Donne!
Milton [as if speaking to himself.] Below! a cruel word!
But let us bide our time, and we shall see
If heaven hath to me denied its gifts!
The future is my judge. 'Twill understand
My Eve descending like a blissful dream
To hell's dark night; and Adam, good though guilty;
And the indomitable archangel,
Proud to hold sway o'er an eternity,
Wise in his madness, grand in his despair,
Forthcoming from the blazing lake of fire
O'er which he slowly flaps his monstrous wings.—
For in my breast an ardent genius toils.
I muse in silence on a strange design.
In his thoughts Milton lives and solace finds.—
I purpose, I, aweless competitor
Of the supreme Creator, to create
A world 'twixt hell and earth and highest heaven.
Rochester [aside.] What in the devil is he saying there?
Hannibal Sesthead [to the jesters.
Cromwell [glancing at Milton, with a shrug.
Is very well; but as for your great devil,
A new Leviathan, he's execrable.
Milton [indignantly, between his teeth.
And Cromwell at my Satan dares to laugh!
Rochester [going up to Milton.
Good Master Milton—
Milton [with his face turned toward Cromwell, does not hear Rochester.
'Tis pure jealousy
Bids him speak thus!
Rochester [to Milton, who listens with a distraught air.
You do not understand
True poesy, 'pon honour. Wit you have,
But you lack taste. The French our masters are
In all things. Study Racan. Read his Bergeries.
Amongst your fields let fair Aminta stray
With Thyrsis; even let her lead a lamb
By a blue ribbon. But your Adam, Eve,
And hell and lake of fire! Shocking, all!
Satan unclad beneath his scorchèd wings!—
'Twere bearable if he but cloaked his form
Beneath a dainty costume; if he wore
On flowing wig a jewel-studded casque,
A dawn-hued doublet and a Florence cloak;
As I recall, in the French Opéra,
Wherewith the court at Paris did erstwhile
Regale us, to have seen the Sun arrayed!
Milton [amazed.]What! all this worldly jargon from a saint!
Rochester [biting his lips, aside.
Another foolish outbreak! Luckily
He heard me ill; but nathless Rochester
Doth constantly mismanage the affairs
Of solemn Obededom.
[Aloud, to Milton.] 'T was in jest.
Milton.Jesting 's a foolish thing!
[Aside, still facing Cromwell.
Doth Oliver entreat me!—When all 's said,
What is 't to govern Europe, tell me, pray?
'Tis mere child's play! I fain would see him write,
As I do, Latin verses.
'Twere well to laugh a while. Bethink you, fools,
Some pleasant quip. Sir Hannibal Sesthead—
Hannibal Sesthead [with a piqued expression.
My lord, your pardon.—I no jester am,
But cousin to a king of ancient race
Who, be it said without offence to you,
Rules Denmark by an immemorial right.
Cromwell [biting his lips, aside.
I comprehend: he would insult me! Ah!
Why may not my just wrath him overwhelm?
[Roughly, to the jesters.
Come, laugh, I say!
The Jesters. Ha! ha! ha! ha!
Cromwell [aside.] Meseems
Their laughter is sardonic.
[Aloud and angrily.] Hold your peace!
[The Jesters are silent. Cromwell continues bitterly.]'Tis Milton, the Satanic versifier,
Who with his visions, doth confuse our wits.
[Milton turns proudly toward Cromwell.
[Aside.]I must restrain myself.
[Aloud.] What were we saying?
Trick, bid them bring us beer and pipes.
My lord would smoke.
I would be gay!—
[Aside.]Betrayed by my own son!
Have you made any verses since I writ
Those in response to Colonel Lilburne's sonnet?
Trick.Nay, Hippocrene doth give us of her fount
But sparingly. But here—
[He offers Cromwell the parchment.
Cromwell. Read on.
Trick [unrolling it.] Ahem!
"Quatrain."—'Tis wretched stuff!—"To my divinity."
"O fair Egeria"—
Rochester [aside.] God! my quatrain 'tis!
[He rushes at Trick and snatches the parchment from him.
Demons! damnation! Heaven pardon me,
[He hows to Cromwell.
And you, my lord, if I do swear, but how
Listen unmoved the while before my face
A torrent of obscenities bursts forth?
[To Trick, who is roaring with laughter.
Away, thou Edomite, thou Midianite.
[Aside.]I can recall no other rhyme in ite!
Those devils filched my quatrain from my pocket!
Cromwell [to Rochester.]I well believe these verses do arouse
Rochester [aside.] Nay, nay!
Cromwell. But we are not in church;
And I would read what doth incur your blame.
So give it me.
Rochester.What! songs of hell, my lord!
Cromwell [impatiently.]Give, or I—
Rochester. But, my lord—
Cromwell [imperatively.] Sirrah, obey.
These verses are as bad as bad can be!
Rochester [aside.]My verses bad! thou liest! Save the mark!
Cromwell, this regicide, a judge of verse!
Cromwell.This quatrain's savourless.
Rochester. Forever damned
The authors of such writings are, my lord.
But in themselves the verses seem well turned.
Trick [to the other Jesters, in an undertone.
'Tis sure, he is the author!
[Aloud.] I, who built
Those rhymes, agree that in Apollo's eyes
They'd loom as crimes, so pitiful they are!
Rochester [looking askance at the Jesters, aside.
Ay, jeer and mock, ye vulture's parroquets,
Ye leopard's monkeys!
Cromwell. Learned Obededom,
'Tis not within your province to appraise
These amorously soporific lines.
Rochester [putting the paper in his pocket, aside.
Frances will surely find them to her taste.
Trick [saluting Rochester ironically.
My lord is far too kind to me!
Rochester. To thee!
How so? 'Twould give me pleasure thee to drive
Through London, riding backward on an ass,
And scourge thee lustily while God doth damn thee!
Trick.The quatrain's author you would punish so?
Rochester [confused.] Nay, I—
Trick. Am I the man to hide his name?
Rochester [with increasing perturbation.
Trick. 'Tis not my purpose to entreat
His pardon. He deserves the lash!
Rochester [aside.] The knave!
[Enter the Earl of Carlisle.
The devil take Lord Carlisle!
He spoils our sport.
Rochester [drawing a long breath.] Ah! ah!
Carlisle.He's changed his residence.
Cromwell. And Rochester?
Carlisle.We cannot find him. He in hiding is.
Carlisle. He doth shamelessly insist
Upon denying all. The question might extort
Cromwell [sternly.] Carlisle, for his every hair
Your head is answerable. Well you know
How I abhor the torture. And for my son!
'Tis well enough for his confederates.—
Carlisle. In his country-house entrenched,
Well guarded, he is busy with his flowers.
Cromwell [bitterly.]Most touching, verily! They all escape.—
At least I have a firm grasp on the crown!
Carlisle.About Westminster, by the crowd engirt,
The people and the soldiers loudly curse
The royal title which the Parliament
Of late hath voted to bestow on you.
Cromwell.Weigh well your words!
Carlisle. I crave your Highness' pardon.
Cromwell [aside.]Ah! all goes ill.
[Aloud, wrathfully.] Did I not bid you, knaves,
To entertain me? Pray, what think you on?
[Aside.]They're listening! the flatterers!
[To Carlisle, in an undertone.]My lord,
Double the guard about this palace.
What of this quatrain?
[Aside.]I am choked with wrath!
Thurloe [to Cromwell.]The Ranters, whom the Holy Spirit moves,
Touching a point of faith would fain consult
My lord. They are without.
Cromwell. Admit them.
Were I but king by birth, I'd drive them forth!
But one who by the people's choice doth lead,
To guide the mob must study them to please.
The Leader of the Deputation [solemnly.
O Oliver, in Zion chief and judge,
The saints in solemn convocation met
In London, knowing that thy learning is
An overflowing vessel, through our mouths
Do ask thee whether we must burn or hang
Them who, not speaking as St. John did speak,
Say Siboleth instead of Shiboleth.
Cromwell [meditating.]'Tis a momentous question and should be
Well thought on. Siboleth's idolatry,
A crime deserving death, whereat doth smile
Beelzebub. But every punishment
Should have a twofold aim; humanity
Insists upon it for the sufferer's sake.
Scourging his body, we must save his soul.
Now, whether is the better, fire or rope,
To reconcile a sinner with his God?
The fire purifies him—
Rochester [aside.] And the rope
Doth strangle him.
Cromwell. Daniel was purified
I' the burning triangle. But none the less
The gallows has its own advantages;
The Cross a gibbet was—
Rochester [aside.] I much admire
The charming fashion wherein Oliver,
As in his own domain, ambles along
From punishment to punishment; drops one,
Takes up another, and unstumbling goes
From stake to rope, from rope to stake again.
He coruscates with many a hidden charm!
Cromwell [still reflecting.]How difficult it is to know the truth!
A knotty question 'tis; I reckon it
Among the subtlest and most delicate.
[After a moment's silence, he suddenly addresses Rochester.
Doctor, decide for us.
Rochester [aside.] As Pilate did,
Cromwell [to the Ranters, pointing to Rochester.
He is another Cromwell, sirs.
Rochester [bowing.]Your Highness flatters me!
The Leader of the Deputation [to Rochester.
If one should fall
Into such depths of crime, would he incur
The fire or the rope?
Rochester [authoritatively.] The rope. And may
His Amorrhean father and Cethean mother,
'Neath the same condemnation, die with him!
The Leader [gravely.]But why the rope?
Rochester [embarrassed.]The rope?—Oh! oh! 'Tis thus—
One mounts the gallows by a ladder, and—
God shewed his faithful shepherd in a dream,
That by a ladder one to Heav'n ascends.
[Aside.]I cannot easily forbear to flout
These fellows to their faces.
Cromwell [observing Rochester with satisfaction.
In good sooth
He is a learned man!
The Leader [thanking Rochester with a gesture.
We'll hang them, then.
[Exeunt the Ranters.
Rochester [aside.] Gad; there are some poor fellows fairly tried!
Cromwell [to Rochester.]I am content with you.
Rochester [with a reverence.] My lord's too kind.
Giraff [to the other Jesters.
No one of us could better have adjudged.
Thurloe [to Cromwell.]The Privy Council.
Thurloe. Their purpose is—
Cromwell [hastily.]I know. Let them come in.
Trick [to the Jesters, in an undertone.
Give place to the wise men.
Cromwell [aside.]The twitter of these birds we'll e'en abide.
[Aloud.]Most honourable privy councillors,
Be seated all and let us pray a moment.
To govern England I have scant desert;
But God, whom my resistance doth make wroth,
Bids Parliament my burdens multiply
By overwhelming me with too great power.
Wherefore I ordered that you be convoked,
That we might speak together and confer.—
And, first of all, is't meet to choose a king?
Second, should I be chosen?—On these points
Give your opinions, free and uncontrolled.
Let each in turn set forth his theory.
I in all frankness speak—do you the same.
The Earl of Warwick is of highest rank.
Let him begin.—Now, Master Milton, list.
Warwick [rising.]My lord, your faith, your lofty character,
Your intellect, are unexcelled on earth;
And, to your greater glory, you are kin
On the maternal side to all the Warwicks.
Your noble arms bear the same helm as ours.
Now, as a kingdom needs must have a king,
A Rich may no less fitly England rule
Than any Stuart.
[He resumes his seat.
Cromwell [aside.] He's but too o'erjoyed
To exalt his family! Cromwell obscure
Is nought; but let him glitter on the throne,
The Riches are his grandfathers and cousins.
Ay, they have been my ancestors—four years!
[Aloud.]'Tis your turn, Fleetwood.
Lieutenant-General Fleetwood [rising.]I, my lord, declare
For the republic! I make known my views
Without reserve, my honoured father-in-law.
For it we reared the scaffold of the Stuart,
For it we fought. It we must have and will.
To God alone leave we the one true crown.
No Oliver the first nor Charles the Second!
No king forever!
[He resumes his seat.
Carlisle [rising.] Your triumphant head, my lord,
Is made to wear the crown.
[He resumes his seat.
Cromwell. Now, Broghill, you.
Broghill.I venture, good my lord, to supplicate
That what I say be for your private ear.
[Aside.]With Ormond's plot I all bewildered am.
In this bold drama, how discreet my rôle!
Cromwell's adviser, Charles's confidant!
Traitor alike, if I say nought or speak!
Cromwell.And wherefore, pray?
Broghill [bowing.] Reasons of state, my lord.
Broghill [to Cromwell, in an undertone.
Might it not be that we should treat with Charles?
What if you offer him your daughter's hand?
Cromwell [surprised.]To—the young man?
Broghill. Ay, Lady Frances' hand.
Cromwell.What of his family?
Broghill. You may be crowned
By the name of Oliver. You both are kings.
Cromwell.And what of January thirtieth?
Broghill.You give to him a father.
Cromwell. One may give.
But how restore?
Broghill. He would forget—
Cromwell [with a scornful laugh.]My crime?
He cannot fathom it. He would not see
The end I sought, and he is too debauched
To pardon me. 'Tis a mad scheme, Broghill!
Major-General Desborough [rising.] In secret you contrive
A foolhardy design, my brother-in-law.
What! we submit anew to the affront
Of royalty! No king, whoe'er he be!
The troops will Cromwell hail with cries of love,
But Oliver with maledictions.
Death to all systems, clerks and courtiers!
Cromwell.You wage war, Desborough, 'gainst a word, a name.
For if this guiltless people fain would have
A king, why should they not? The kingly name,
Proscribed by your overweening arrogance,—
What is it to a soldier? In his casque
A plume the more!
Whitelocke [glaring at Desborough, aside.
That ploughboy speak ere I!
[Aloud.]My lord, I will be true, come what come may.
No nation without law, no law without
A king.—Hark ye: the argument is sound.
[Aside.]Before me! Desborough! homunculus!
[Aloud.]The king was of all time called legislator
Lator, the bearer, legis, of the law;
Whence I conclude, a king is to the law
WTiat Adam is to Eve. If, then, the king
Is fountain-head and father of the law,
I say again, no land without a king.
My well-assured opinion to confirm,
See Moses, Aaron, Cicero, St. John,
And Selden on Abuses, book the third:
Quid de his censetur modo codicibus.—
My lord, you needs must reign!
[He resumes his seat.
Cromwell [congratulating Whitelocke with look and gesture.
How well he reasons!
How meetly he doth intersperse his speech
With tags of Latin!—Wolseley let us hear.
Sir Charles Wolseley [rising.]My lord, I, too, shall venture, in my turn,
To undeceive your Highness in plain words.
The chief of a free people, saith the prophet,
Tanquam in medio positus, and not
Upon the summit. But however high
His seat, this chief is major singulis,
And minor universis. Hence the name
Of king our privileges doth subvert:
Rex legem violat.
[He resumes his seat.
Cromwell. A schoolboy's plea!
In Latin phrases I am little versed.
'Tis poorly reasoned.
[To Pierpoint.] Pierpoint, you.
Pierpoint [rising.] My lord,
Buttress invincible of Israel,
Who rules the earth through you, thus do I say:
This English people, whose high Parliament
Doth designate itself imperial,
Hath the time-honoured, glorious, sacred right
To have for head a king; its dignity
Demands it. Let your Highness, then, accept
A title which doth irk you. 'Tis your duty.
Yes, good my lord, methinks you fail therein
To rule this people and not be their king.
[He resumes his seat.
Cromwell.Now, Master Lenthall.
Lenthall [rising.] Sire, the Parliament
The counsels of the nation doth direct,
In whom alone the royalty resides.
Both small and great are bound by its decrees.
If, then, the Parliament doth make you king.
You must, according to the Roman law
And to the Decalogue, obey and reign,
Cromwell [aside.]A demagogic courtier!
Lenthall [aside.] He'll yield,
And in that case I hope he'll not forget
To raise me to the House of Peers.
Thurloe [to Cromwell, in an undertone.]My lord,
The Parliament still waits—
Cromwell [in an undertone, impatiently.
Thurloe [in an undertone.] But, my lord—
Cromwell [in the same tone.]Before accepting, I must needs reflect.
Fleetwood [rising.] Oh! pray refuse, my lord! For your own sake,
And for your honour's sake, I make so bold—
Cromwell [dismissing them all with a wave of the hand.
Go all and pray,—seek counsel from the Lord!
Scene 4.—Cromwell, Milton.
Milton [aside.]I can no longer hold myself in check.
I must unbosom.
[He walks straight to Cromwell's side.
Cromwell, look at me!
Already, doubtless, flames dart from thy eyes,
And thou wilt ask how thus audaciously
I dare to speak without leave first obtained.—
For in thy Council mine is a strange rôle.
Among those wise men should one seek for me,
They'd say to him: "Those sweet-tongued orators
Are Warwick and Pierpoint ; and yonder mute
Is Milton."—You have Milton? To what end?
To play the mute—no other part has he.
Thus I, whose words the world some day will hear,
Alone in Cromwell's Council have no voice!
But to be blind and dumb—'tis too much now.
Thou 'rt lured to ruin, brother, with the bait
Of an ill-omened diadem, and I
Do plead with thee for thee, against thyself.
So, Cromwell, thou 'ldst be king, and in thy heart
Thou 'st said : "For me this people everywhere
Victorious are. The object of its strife,
Its prayers, its pious toils, and martial fame,
Of all its bloodshed and its bitter tears,
Of all its evils, is myself. I reign,
And that's enough. They should esteem themselves
Thrice blest that, after so much suffering,
They have changed kings and have renewed their chains."—
At the bare thought my brow doth flush with shame.—
Nay, listen, Cromwell, 'tis of thee I speak.—
So all the leaders of our civil wars,
Vane, Pym, who at a word made cities march,
Ireton, thy son-in-law, yes, Ireton,
That martyr to our rights, whom, in thy pride,
Thou exil'st to the sepulchre of kings;
And Sydney, Hollis, Martin, Bradshaw, too,
That stern-faced judge, who read the death-decree
To Charles the First; and Hampden, who so young
Went down into the grave—these laboured all
For Cromwell, undistinguished in their midst.
'Twas thou who didst ordain the funeral rites
Of the two camps, and didst despoil the dead
Upon the battle-field. These fifteen years,
The people, risen in revolt for thee,
Have liberty enjoyed to thy behoof!
In its vast interests nought hast thou seen
Save speculation; in the King's death, too,
Nought save a rich inheritance to grasp!—
'Tis not that I'd disparage thy just fame;
Not so; none but thyself could have outdone thee.
Mighty in mind, and mighty by the sword,
Thou wert so great that verily I thought
That I had found in thee my dream, my hero.
In all of Israel thee I loved the best.
And no one placed thee higher in the sky!—
And for a title, for an empty name,
A name as empty as magniloquent,
The hero, saint, apostle, sells his honour!
In his profound designs 'twas this he sought—
The purple, a vile rag: the crown, a bauble!
Cast by the tempest on the highest peak
Of power, drunken with thy destiny,
Thy head thou wouldst encircle with the vain
Forgotten splendour of our former kings;
Tremble! when one is dazzled, one is blind.
Of Cromwell, Oliver, I summon thee
To give account; and of thy glory, too,
Which has become our shame! What hast thou done,
Old man, with thy young virtue? To thyself
Thou said'st: "'Tis sweet, when one has fought and won,
To fall asleep upon the throne, engirt
With homage; to be king in very truth;
To spread one's features broadcast through the land.
One has one's levee; in a chariot
One goes to sit in state at Westminster,
To pray at Temple Bar; one traverses
The servile crowd with a resplendent train;
One listens to harangues by aldermen;
One bears the royal emblems on his crest."—
Is that all, Cromwell?—Think on Charles the First.
Dar'st thou take up the crown from out his blood,
And with his scaffold build thyself a throne?
What! Cromwell, wouldest thou, in truth, be king?
Canst think of it? Dost thou not fear a day
When, clad in mourning garb, this same Whitehall,
Wherein thy grandeur doth disport itself,
Shall once again its fatal window ope?—
Ah! thou dost laugh! But hast thou in thy star
Such confidence entire? Remember Charles!
Bethink thyself! When that king was to die,
When ready was the axe, his head was severed
By a masked headsman. King although he was,
He died before the eyes of all his people
Friendless, nor knew who cut his thread of life.
By the same road thou'rt marching to thy doom,
And with a mask thy future, too, is veiled.
Beware lest it be like that maskèd spectre
That mounts a scaffold on th' appointed day,
A fearful ending of vainglorious dreams!
The throne may be approached from but one side;
On that side one ascends, and on the other,
Goes downward to the tomb. Should'st thou assume
Those tattered purple robes, beware the day
When thou shalt see in this same hall a court,
Whereof thou wilt no longer be a part.
For it may be, believe me, that at last,
'Gainst a new sceptre armed with thy old sword,
This people, whom thy precept still doth guide,
Will take alarm, and of thy royalty
Think less than of thy regicidal deed!—
Dost not recoil?—Oh! prithee cast away
This player's sceptre and this kingly mask!
Be Cromwell still. The balance of the world
Do thou hold true. Let this free people reign
Over the nations. Reign not over it.
Safeguard its liberties. Ah! in its pride
How often hath this people blushed to see
Thy genius supplicate in Parliament,
By dint of gold, a tyrant's privilege!
Oh! give the lie to thy base flatterers;
Be great and noble. Legislator, judge,
Apostle, conqueror, be more than king.
Ascend once more to thy first eminence.
It needed but a word to make the light:
At Milton's voice be Cromwell once again!
[He throws himself at Cromwell's feet.
Cromwell [raising him, with a scornful gesture.
The good man views the thing in a strange light!—
You are too much the poet, Master Milton,
The Privy Council's clerk-interpreter.
In the fierce ardour of a lyric fit,
You have forgotten that men call me now
"Your Highness" and "my lord." These titles vain
Do much importune my humility.
But, to my great affliction and regret,
The people who hold sway, and in whose cause
I sacrifice myself, will have it so.
I am resigned; be you resigned, likewise.
[Milton rises proudly, and exit.
In truth, he's right.—Ay, but he vexes me.
Charles First?—But no, thou dost but ill foresee
My fortunes, Milton: kings like Oliver
Die not such deaths. They may be poniarded,
Not tried.—Nathless I will reflect thereon.—
A dread alternative!
Scene 5.—Cromwell, Lady Frances.
Cromwell [seeing Lady Frances as she enters.
Frances!—'Twould seem that, heedful of my griefs,
Radiant she comes to banish my black humours,
Like a young star, shining in darkest night.
Come hither, child. When I am ill at ease
Some instinct always brings thee to my side,
Thou lovely angel with a human face.
Whene'er I see thee I am overjoyed.
Thy bright and sparkling eye, thy soft, sweet voice
Have charms for me that give me back my youth.
Come, child, and let thy father at thy side
Be born again. Alone thou knowest nought
Of the world's villainy.—Kiss me, my love.—
I love thee better far than all thy sisters.
Lady Frances [kissing him, with a joyous air.
I prithee tell me, father, is it true
That you do purpose to restore the throne?
Lady Frances. O happy day! England, my lord,
Will owe its new-found happiness to you.
Cromwell.Always that was my aim.
Lady Frances. My lord and father,
How overjoyed will your dear sister be!
After eight years of waiting we shall see
Our good Charles Stuart once again!
Cromwell [surprised.] How now!
Lady Frances.How good you are, and great, my father dear!
Cromwell.'Tis not a Stuart.
Lady Frances. Who, then, can it be?
A Bourbon? They've no claim to England's throne.
Cromwell.I think the same.
Lady Frances. Who, then, dares lay his hand
On the hereditary sceptre?
Cromwell [aside.] Woe is me!
What answer shall I make? 'Tis hard for me
To speak my name; it seems to me a crime,
[Aloud.] My Frances, other times another race
Demand. Hast thou not thought, to fill that throne—
Lady Frances.Of whom?
Cromwell [gently.] Of thy own father, for example—
Lady Frances. Now may Heaven strike me dumb
If such a thought had ever come to me!
Lady Frances. What! father, I insult you so!
Deem you a perjured, impious usurper?
Cromwell.My child, my virtue you exalt too far.
Lady Frances.With temporary power you are clothed;
'Tis one of the misfortunes of the time,
Wherefrom you, too, do suffer grievously.
But you, assume the martyr-king his crown!
You, join his murderers! reign through his death!
Cromwell. Dost thou know who caused his death?
Lady Frances. Not I.
I was so young, and, reared in solitude,
I felt our woes, but understood them not.
Cromwell.Did no one ever read to thee the list,
In the King's trial, of the judges,—those—
Lady Frances.The regicides!
Cromwell. Yes, of the regicides!
Lady Frances.No one e'er told me who those traitors were.
I cursed their crime, but I knew not their names.
We spoke not of them in our peaceful home.
Cromwell.My sister never talked to you of me?
Lady Frances.Dear father! who says that? I learned to love you—
Cromwell.I trust 'tis so.—But dost thou so abhor
Those fearless subjects who condemned King Charles?
Lady Frances.Oh! may they all be curst!
Cromwell. What! all?
Lady Frances. Yes, all!
Cromwell [aside.]Struck to the heart in my own family!
Cursed by my daughter, by my son betrayed!
Lady Frances.May each of them partake the fate of Cain!
Cromwell [aside.]Pitiless innocence! And still men deem
That I go unchastised! My dearest child,
My last-born, an accusing conscience seems.
A young girl's guilelessness, her eye, her voice
Cause Cromwell, at whose frown kings quake with fear,
To tremble! All my strength doth fade away
Before her purity. And shall I persevere?
Shall I lay hands upon the kingly power?
Prostrate before the throne whereon I sit,
The world would cower; but what would Frances say?
And what her glance, as gentle as her speech,
Which charms me, while it drives me to despair?
Dear child! with what dismay her heart would learn
That I am of the regicides, and that
I dare be king! She needs must be sent back
To the seclusion of the provinces.
My joy must to my destiny's dictates
Be sacrificed, and my last years lack
Her loving care which I so dearly loved.
More than all else, oh, let me not afflict
Or undeceive the only soul on earth
Who loves me still without my rank and power.
Who only in my innocence has faith;
Let not her fate with mine become involved!
I will be king, since it must e'en be so,
And she know nought of it.
[Aloud to Frances.] My dearest heart,
Retain that pure and guileless heart of thine;
I love thee so. [Exit.
Lady Frances [looking after him.
What doth disquiet him?
I saw a tear a-glistening in his eye.
Dear father, how he loves me!
[Enter Dame Guggligoy and Rochester.
Dame Guggligoy [at the back of the stage, to Rochester.
What power the devil hath bestowed
On paltry gold! Thanks to its influence
I have contrived the rigour to abate
Of divers saints in garb of musketeers
And of a damned duenna. She gave way
Incontinently; but at first methought
The troopers, pillars of the holy mount,
Were less amenable. But let the hand
Of one of those dragoon-apostles touch
A piece of gold, and the round head doth turn
More readily than others. They have grown
Weary of Cromwell, who enslaveth them.—
Ormond's advised ere this that the park gate
Will be surrendered on demand to-night.
And now for Frances! I am all aflame.
But I have potent secrets for success:
Doubloons and quatrains I can sow in streams!
I'll try my fate!
[Aside, glancing at Rochester.
Upon my word, he is a comely youth!
In this disguisement, to risk all, for love!
At his age they 're all mad! Each in his turn.
E'en so would Amadis of Gaul have done.—
And yet, should I allow—Is this my duty?
I' faith, this knight has not a word for me;
Money, no more.—
[She checks Rochester, who seems to be on the point of accosting Frances.
A moment, by your leave.
Rochester [turning about.]What now?
Dame Guggligoy [leading him to another part of the stage.] A moment.
Dame Guggligoy [smiling on him.
Have you nought else
To say to me?
Rochester [aside.] Eh! 'twas a heavy purse
And should suffice.
Dame Guggligoy [aside.] Surely it cannot be
That he'll put me to shame with more doubloons!
Rochester [putting his hand to his empty pockets, aside.
The deuce! I've no more money—not a doit!
I'll try her on the vulnerable side
Of elderly duennas, and I'll breathe
Soft nothings in her ear.
[Aloud.] Oh! who could tire
Of speech with you? But for the urgent call
Which takes me hence—
Dame Guggligoy [drawing back.] Softly! You flatter me.
Rochester.Nay. But, alas, time flies.
[He steps toward Frances. The old woman stops him.
Dame Guggligoy. Ah yes! I see
That you've no eyes for any but my mistress.
Rochester.Ah! you are charming, and if I must choose—
[Aside.]Does she propose to keep me loit'ring here?
Dame Guggligoy [aside.
He has good taste. I still am worth a glance,
When I have first arranged myself a bit.
In truth, I'm not deserving of disdain
When my pink skirt and farthingale I wear,
My love-knots, and my pretty full-sleeved gown,
And my two tonnelets upon my hips.
Rochester [turning toward Frances.
Permit me, pray—
Dame Guggligoy [detaining him.]Remorse, fair sir,
Doth harass me. My duty is to keep
Close watch upon the daughter of my lord.
Rochester.Your bright eyes, in their prime, O mistress mine,
Would Galaor have made false to his troth,
Esplandian inconstant, on my word.
Dame Guggligoy [still detaining him.
I am at fault. And someone may surprise you.
Rochester.Sir Pandarus of Troy your colours would
Have worn with pride.
Dame Guggligoy [aside.]He talks like a grandee!
Rochester [aside.]What fools we be!
Dame Guggligoy. By scruples I'm assailed;
I shiver, and my very blood runs cold.
[She takes Rochester's hands.
Rochester.Your hands are soft as silk.
[Aside.] Oh! must I waste
On this old beldame, with the skinny claws,
All the fine speeches that the Loves suggest?
What will remain for Frances?
Dame Guggligoy. Leave me, pray.
Rochester. Mars would have quitted Venus, had he seen
Dame Guggligoy [aside.]
In sooth, would not one say he loved me well?
She'd like a husband! I do pity him!
But, to be flattered, she will e'en remain,
The stubborn fool, whose like in Spain alone
Is found, the land of mules and of duennas!
Dame Guggligoy.Good sir, you seem to be a man of taste;
Pray tell me—
Rochester [aside.]What, again! My blood is boiling!
Dame Guggligoy [pointing to Frances.
Wherein such giddy-heads have power to charm?
Dame Guggligoy. What in them your passions doth arouse?
How do the airs and graces of such chits
Rochester [aside.] On my word! and with her skin,
The colour of a Chinese mandarin's!
Dame Guggligoy.Youth—that they have, 'tis true; but, when all's said,
'Tis but the beauty of the devil.
Rochester [aside.] Ay
And thou his ugliness. Deuce take the hag!
O Heaven! how can I best be rid of her?
[Aloud.]Leave me to talk with Frances for a space.
After that interview, my rosebud dear,
My knightly faith doth something promise you;
Ay, something—something you do not suspect!
Free entrance into Bedlam.
Dame Guggligoy. Be it so.
I will remain near by.
Rochester [drawing a long breath.] At last! at last!
Dame Guggligoy.Be prudent. Above all, come what come may,
Name not my name—they'd burn me at the stake.
Rochester.Fear not.—Go, walk about a bit.
[Aside, looking after her as she leaves the stage.
Are dry enough to make a cheerful blaze!
Scene 7.—Lady Frances, Lord Rochester.
Rochester [aside.]At last I'm free of her.—I'll risk the throw!
What loveliness and grace! celestial creature!
I'll reconnoitre first, ere I attack.
A maid's a fortress, I have oft remarked.
The winks that one bestows, the deference,
The artful manner, and the gallant speech,—
These are the trenches dug in zigzag course;
The declaration's the assault; the quatrain—
Surrender. In this case the common rules
I cannot follow; therefore I'll abridge
[He approaches Frances.
[Aloud, bowing.] Miss—My lady!—
Lady Frances [turning, with an air of surprise.] Sir!
Rochester [aside.]Her glance doth strike me dumb.
Lady Frances [smiling.] Ah! 'tis the chaplain.
Rochester.Accurst canonicals! In vain do I
Assume the most coquettish, killing air,—
In me she sees nought but a canting Roundhead!
Lady Frances.O holy man, give me your blessing, pray.
Upon what text do you design to preach?
Lady Frances. Ah! my heart is deeply touched
By the great zeal that seems to urge you on.
A humble sinner at your feet behold,
Rochester [aside.] Ah! her father! then 'twould seem
That I am not suspicious to the eye?
[Aloud.]Listen, my child.
Lady Frances. I listen with respect.
Rochester [aside.]Am I unfortunate to that degree
That I seem worthy of respect?
[Aloud.] My child,
Hear what I say.—To cause such dire distress
Where'er you go, is most uncharitable.
Lady Frances [surprised.
Rochester.A single glance from out your eyes
Doth drive a hundred mortals to despair.
Lady Frances.Nay, you mistake.
Rochester. Oh, no!
Lady Frances. But tell me, pray,
Wherein I do them wrong.
Rochester. Before your eyes
There stands one of your victims.
Lady Frances. You? What have
I done to you? If I have done you wrong,
I fly to beg my father—
Rochester [detaining her.] Nay, you need
Have no remorse. Of all the ills you cause
You guiltless are.
Lady Frances. I do not understand.
Lady Frances. But if I've done you wrong,
I fain would make amends to you.
Rochester [placing his hand on his heart.] Ah me!
Lady Frances.Indeed it is a duty.
Rochester. What do I hear?
Upon my passion you will deign to smile?
Princess adorable, my heart o'erflows!
[He tries to take Frances's hand; she draws back.
Lady Frances.No princess I.—God only is adored.
You frighten me!
[She starts to leave him.
Rochester [detaining her by holding her dress.
Frances, I conjure thee,
Do not bid me adieu!
Lady Frances. He calls me "thee"!
[Approaching Rochester with a sympathetic expression.
I wonder, is his head a little touched?
Rochester.Nay, but his heart.
Lady Frances. Poor man!
Rochester [aside.] 'Tis time to try
The escalade. She seems to pity me,
And love's not far.
[Aloud.] Oh! give me back my life!
Lady Frances. Yes, you should have a doctor. On my word,
He's burning up with fever!
Rochester. Soon 'twill be
Four years that I have haunted your abode.
Sometimes a lie's of use.
Lady Frances. What is your wish?
Rochester. To die! Your eyes alone, which made the wound,
Can cure it.
Lady Frances [moving away from him again.
In good sooth, he frightens me!
Rochester [aside.]'Tis flattering!
[Aloud, with clasped hands and in a tone of supplication.
O my divinity!
My nymph! my goddess! and my all in all!
Lady Frances [in terror.
What names are these? My name is Frances, sir.
Rochester.Princess, for you I burn and freeze at once!
In this disguise Love leads me to your side;
I am no parson, but a loyal knight.
Would I the sceptre of the Hindoos had
To offer you. Oh! can it be, in sooth,
That you, with eyes so soft and merciful,
Will be as cruel to a love like mine,
So tender and so true for twelve long years,
As Ophis was to Tiridates?—Ah!
You fly, you do not answer, heartless one!
This love which weighs me down will be my death.
My charming tigress, but a single word,
And of your thrice blest slave's most constant love,
You'll ever the celestial object be!
Lady Frances [staring at him in amazement.
In Heaven's name, what says he?
Rochester [aside.] Excellent!
I verily believe that she's entranced!
My speech is taken, almost word for word,
From that addressed to Zulmis by Lysander
In "Ibrahim or the Illustrious Bassa."
It is pure Scudéry.—Let us go on.
[Detaining Frances, who again seems disposed to retire.
Stay or I will drown myself
In the Euphrates!
Lady Frances [laughing.]
Or, better, carry out your purpose: take
This sword and plunge it in my breast!
[He puts his hand to his side as if to take his sword.
Oh! how, in such a garb, to make believe
To kill one's self, as is the custom? How
Pursue an amorous tête-à-tête therein?
But, lacking my good sword, what of the quatrain?
'Tis well! Beshrew me if I move her not!
[Aloud.]Divine Mandane, give ear to your slave!
[Handing her a roll of parchment tied with pink ribbon.
This scroll will faithfully depict my heart.
By fire or water 'twould have been destroyed,
Had not my ardent passion dried my tears,
And, in their turn, my tears put out my flame!
Take, read, and judge ye of my fervent love!
[He throws himself at Frances's feet.
I take you, sir! You are most insolent!
You dare intrude thus 'neath my father's roof!
The little one's not easily seduced.
Lady Frances.Rise, or I call.
Rochester [still on his knees.
Here at your feet stay I!
Lady Frances. Your insolence would be too well avenged,
Scene 8.—The Same, Cromwell.
Cromwell [spying Rochester at Frances's feet.
By what chance, my master, do I find
You at my daughter's feet?
Rochester [dumbfounded, without changing his position, aside.
'Tis Cromwell! God!
I am a dead man! 'Tis a grievous thing
For a mere peccadillo to be hanged!
Taken red-handed, too! No punishment
Will be too great for me!
Cromwell. How now, my chaplain!
Lady Frances [aside.
I must e'en be indulgent. He is mad!
Cromwell [to the terror-stricken Rochester.
You did not reckon on my vengeance, sirrah!
Lady Frances [aside.
My father in his wrath might kill the poor
Cromwell. The misbegotten knave!
He dares to be enamoured of my daughter!
And to his serpent's tongue my Eve gave ear!
What, Frances! You permit—
Lady Frances [with an embarrassed air.] Your pardon, father—
My lord—not of myself he spoke to me.
Cromwell.Prithee, of whom spake he, upon his knees?
Lady Frances.He but implored my aid to crown his flame;
He seeks the hand of one of my tire-women.
Rochester [springing to his feet in amazement, aside.
What does she say?
Cromwell. Whose hand?
Lady Frances [smiling.] Dame Guggligoy's.
Rochester [aside.]Ah! traitress!
Cromwell [appeased.] That's another matter.
Rochester [aside.] What!
The gallows or the hag! In this dire strait,
God grant that he do leave me free to choose!
Cromwell [to Rochester.
Why did you not speak out at once, my friend?
Since still you feel a hankering for the flesh—
Rochester [aside.]The flesh, forsooth! Say for a skin glued fast
To a duenna's bones.
Cromwell. We'll grant your prayer.
It is abhorrent to me to be feared.
I am content with you, and you shall have
Rochester [aside.] My fair! A damnable old ghost!
A body to repel the beasts of prey!
A face to make a sorceress miscarry.
Cromwell [aside.]Methought at first that he had better taste.
[Aloud.]Yes, I consent to marry you to her.
Rochester [bowing.]My lord, you are too kind.
Cromwell. All your desires
Shall be fulfilled.
[Enter Dame Guggligoy.
Scene 9.—The Same, Dame Guggligoy.
Dame Guggligoy [terrified, aside.
Heav'n help us! All is lost!
The father and the lovers cheek by jowl!
Cromwell.'Tis you, good dame!
Dame Guggligoy [aside.] I tremble with affright.
Cromwell.There's one who seeks you here.
Dame Guggligoy [in dismay.] What! me, my lord?
Cromwell.The chaplain's love was known to you?
Dame Guggligoy [aside.] Great God!
Cromwell.And you approved it?
Dame Guggligoy. Knew of it, my lord?
Approved it?—I?—My lord, I swear to you—
[Aside.]So he's betrayed me! Ah! the perjured knave!
'Tis plain to see from his affrighted air
Cromwell. I know all.
Dame Guggligoy [aside.]I had guessed as much.
Rochester [aside.] Gad! 'tis a transformation unforeseen
And hard to stomach!
Dame Guggligoy [throwing herself at Cromwell's feet.
Pardon, good my lord!
Cromwell [turning away.
She plays the prude. [He motions to her to rise.
Good Master Obededom
Is of our friends, and in his heart has nought
That lacks our sanction.
Dame Guggligoy. May he then aspire
To her he loves?
Cromwell. Whom does he love, I pray,
Who is so far above him? You!
Dame Guggligoy. What? I?
Cromwell.Yourself. Ask him the question if you will.
Is it not true? Speak, sirrah.
Rochester [confused.] I agree—
Dame Guggligoy.Is it for me, in very truth, you burn?
Rochester [aside.]Ay, were I hell!
Cromwell. Come, come, my master!
In all its fervour let your love appear.
You have my sanction. Tell Dame Guggligoy
That you did beg my daughter, on your knees,
For her fair hand.
Dame Guggligoy. My hand?
[To the crestfallen Rochester.
So 'twas for that?
But 'tis most insolent! Without my leave!
Rochester [with a reproachful glance at the laughing Frances.
Doubtless I am beyond all hope of pardon.
[To Dame Guggligoy.
Dame Guggligoy. Audacious man! Beware my wrath!
Rochester [aside.] With her grey hair, which once was fiery red!
Dame Guggligoy [aside.]But he is charming!
You love me, eh?
Rochester. I cannot say you nay.
[Aside.]O Wilmot, how thy plight would please the King,
'Twixt Lady Seymour and Dame Guggligoy!
Dame Guggligoy.You love me?
Rochester [aside.] Ah! if Cromwell could not hear!
But under pain of death I must be kind.
[Aloud.]I love you.
Dame Guggligoy [coyly.] 'Tis too much!
Rochester. So I agree.
Dame Guggligoy.You fain would marry me?
Rochester [biting his lips, aside.]Oh! there we are!
[Aloud, with embarrassment.
I do not say—
Dame Guggligoy [indignant at his hesitation.
Know that the honour done—
What an affront! What vile concupiscence!
Cromwell [to Rochester.
Console her, man! You'd have her for your wife!
[Aloud, to Dame Guggligoy.] Pray consent—
[Aside.] Thou damned old hide,
In witches' revels tanned!
Dame Guggligoy [sighing and looking down.
I can but yield.
[She offers a black hand, which he takes with an air of disgust.
Rochester [aside.]And I yield, likewise!
Dame Guggligoy. I am over-kind,—
The froward knave may take one little kiss.
Rochester [aside.]A blessed favour! I do much prefer
The gallows and a safe deliverance.
Dame Guggligoy.I give you leave to kiss the other cheek.
Dame Guggligoy. You turn away from me?
Rochester. Nay, nay.
Cromwell.No scandal here; you must be married straight.
Your bliss is not of those that are postponed;
I'll gratify you both without delay.
Cromwell. Love is aye in haste, I know full well.
'Tis truly touching!—Ho! a messenger!
[Enter three musketeers.
Rochester [aside.]Who would believe that 'tis my wedding-day?
Cromwell [to the chief of the musketeers.
Go bid Cham Biblechan, a Scottish seer,
Forthwith to marry, on the Book of Faith,
Dame Guggligoy and Master Obededom.
[To Rochester and Dame Guggligoy.
Go you with them.
[To Rochester.] An Anabaptist, Cham,
As you yourself are.
Lord Rochester [bowing, indignantly, aside.
Cromwell.I know you for an earnest dogmatist.
How neatly he is caught!
Rochester [aside.] A crafty trick
Hath this same Frances played me!—None the less
I love her so. Of craft and innocence
The mixture I adore; her childlike mischief,
And her angelic kindliness of heart:
To save me from her father, marry me
To her duenna; thus to find a way,
While saving me to punish me withal!
Dame Guggligoy [to Rochester.
Come hither, love. You stand there like a stone.
Rochester [sighing, aside.]This sibyl I must follow to the hell
[Exit with Dame Guggligoy and the musketeers.
Cromwell [to Frances.
I must leave you. I go hence
To listen to a sermon upon Rome
And priests of Ammon.
Scene 10.—Lady Frances, alone.
Lady Frances.My poor knight but a sorry figure cut.
In truth, the punishment was something harsh.
To marry thus, without well knowing why,
And turn his soft eyes on Dame Guggligoy!
It was ill done, and I am sorry for 't.—
But could I have done better? 'Tis past doubt
My father would have been far more severe.
[She spies the roll of parchment lying on the floor.
But there's his note.—What could he write to me?
I will not read it.
[She glances at the parchment with a curious and longing air.
But should I deny
All mercy?—And if I should read it? Well,
What harm? I can replace it, so that he—
I owe it him to read it—he has been
[She pounces on the parchment, unties the ribbon and unrolls it.
But shall I read? Is't wrong?
But no! that episode is closed. I'll read.
"My lord."—My lord! what a strange man is this!
He called me princess, angel, nymph, and queen;
And now, "my lord"! A madman!
[She reads on.]"All goes well!"—
He writes just as he speaks—past comprehension.—
What is it that goes well?—Let me read on.
"To-night, at midnight, at the park gate be."—
He loves me; did he mean to kidnap me?
"The guard is bribed."—That was, in truth, his plan.
The saucy knave feared lest he be discharged.
"The countersign is given, success is sure."—
"You will say to them, 'Cologne';
"And they will answer with the rest."—Less plain.
"You will be able, thanks to their assistance,
[Here her voice takes on an accent of terror.
"To capture Cromwell, who'll be fast asleep
Through my good offices.—The Devil's Chaplain."—
Great Heaven what is this that I have read?
The bandage from my eyes is torn away!
'Twas at my father that that villain aimed,
And him alone!
[She examines the paper carefully.
The address is here: "To Bloum,
The Rat Hotel, the Strand."—'Twas by mistake
The traitor gave me this. I go at once
To warn my father. Villainous design!
But someone comes. I must make no delay.
It may be the assassin.
[She rushes off the stage, carrying the parchment.
Scene 11.—Davenant; then Lord Rochester.
Davenant.Cromwell hath sent for me—and to what end?
Bah! surely nothing to disquiet me,—
[Enter Lord Rochester.
Davenant [spying Rochester.] But who is this?
Great God! a charming phiz! A saint, perhaps?
Some howling Puritan?
Rochester [who has not seen Davenant.
Well, it is done!
And I'm a married man!
[He walks toward the front of the stage, and recognizes Davenant.
Davenant [aside.]He knows my name!
[Aloud.] Sir.—But methinks I see
[They shake hands.
Davenant. You disguise yourself
With wondrous art. Were you a married man,
Your wife would hardly know you in that garb!
Rochester [sighing, aside.
God grant it!
[Aloud.] Davenant, no ribald jests.
Davenant.'Tis the first time your lordship has had need
Of urging to make sport of married men,
Rochester [aside.]Can one make sport and marry both at once?
I'd like to see him in this quandary!
Enough of this.—Dear poet, by what chance
Beneath our roof? Your coming doth alarm me.
Beneath our roof!—You speak with confidence!
My lord is speedily acclimated
In hell. But have no fear. 'Tis Cromwell's wont
To summon me whenever I return
From travelling. How do you stand with him?
Rochester.Indifferent well. As Milton's protégé
Cromwell is well disposed, and in his way
Heaps favours manifold upon my head.
[Aside.]Indeed, I could have done without the last.
[Aloud.]However, in the nick of time I came.
A traitor in our ranks, an unknown spy,
Had told him all; but, thanks to my address,
Ormond's in hiding in the Strand, and I
In Cromwell's very house.
Davenant. The dastard spy!
Willis would have him flayed alive! 'Tis he
Whom we have charged to hunt the villain down.
Rochester.By fortune's aid we have the countermine
[Pointing to his waistcoat.
I have the phial here.
To-night 'twill all be done.
Davenant. Knows Cromwell nought
Of this bold scheme?
Rochester. Not he. We were but three
When we devised it.
Davenant. Is the guard suborned?
Davenant. 'Twas no easy task.
Rochester. The Roundhead spirit
Is dying fast, and gold makes docile saints.
Davenant.Noll has no doubts concerning me, you think?
Rochester.No, you would be in prison if he had
Your name upon his list.
Scene 12.—Davenant, Lord Rochester, Dame Guggligoy.
Dame Guggligoy [to Rochester.
Well, well, good sir! do you your sweetheart shun
Davenant [recoiling.] Whom has she in her vitreous eye,
In Heaven's name?
Dame Guggligoy [to Rochester.
Alas! I tear my hair,
I call, I weep, I pine away, I die,
I utter mournful moans that well might cleave
A heart as hard as flint, and you come not!
Ah! poor abandoned me! Can it be true
That your hot ardour has already passed?
Behold my tears! My heart doth melt away
Rochester [turning his eyes away, aside.
Heaven! what a shocking face!—
Is this buffoonery or melancholy?
[In an undertone, to Davenant, pointing to Guggligoy.
What say you to the lady?
Davenant [in an undertone.] Who is she,
Rochester [still in an undertone.
She's my wife.
Davenant [laughing.] Your wife? Ha! ha!
Rochester.Upon my honour, yes. Come, poet mine,
An epithalamium, without delay!
Davenant.My lord doth jest?
Rochester. By Heaven no! Than this
Nought could be less a subject for a jest.
Dame Guggligoy.Ah! traitor! What of all your fiery oaths?
Davenant [to Rochester, in an undertone.
Upon my soul, the lady, in her kind,
Is far from commonplace. I wish you joy
Of your fresh conquest.
Rochester [in an undertone.
Conquest! She's my wife,
And nothing more! The term is an affront.
Dame Guggligoy. My tears are thrown away. He listens not.
Davenant [in an undertone.
While she doth drivel on, explain to me—
Rochester [in an undertone.
Cromwell doth give her to me, with a dowry;
All from pure kindliness.
Dame Guggligoy [pulling him by the sleeve.
My husband dear!
What says she?
Rochester [in an undertone.
I will tell you the whole tale.
But for the nonce you needs must understand
That by good right the hag doth call me so.
'Tis done. A guardhouse for a chapel served;
A drum preached us a sermon, and it was
A corporal who married us. I' faith
I trembled at the end lest martial law
Should of a camp-bed make the nuptial couch.
But by good fortune—
The chaplain and duenna joined in wedlock
By a moss-trooper!
Rochester [in an undertone.] So the thing is done
Among us saints.
Davenant. Such marriages, I swear,
Are well adapted to unite the knots
Of a dramatic plot. A corporal
The lady and her lover doth unite.
Dame Guggligoy [sourly.
Of what are you two talking 'neath your breath?
He shuns me! Needs must I have fall'n so low,
I who am not ill-favoured, and possess
Two hundred old jacobuses, all new,
In honest gold!
Davenant [to Rochester.
Egad! this spouse of yours
Is better worth than many heiresses!
Two hundred old jacobuses and three
Almost whole teeth!
Dame Guggligoy [to Rochester.] You who so lavish were
Of loving words—
Rochester [to Davenant.
She dreamed it, my good friend.
Leave us in peace I say. Be damned to you!
[He pushes her away.
Dame Guggligoy.They're all alike, the wretches! Loving to
Their mistresses and harsh to their own wives!
Cats before marriage, tigers afterward!
What! cruel one! our myrtles thou wouldst change
To cypresses! abandon thy young wife!
Rochester.O thou old Jezebel, were Satan dead,
Thou 'ldst be his widow.
Dame Guggligoy. For a blessed saint,
Rochester [aside.] 'Tis too true; I quite forgot!
[Aloud.]O woman, I a vow have ta'en
[Aside.] I must
Assume my stupid air.
[Aloud.] Of chastity.
Dame Guggligoy.What's that?
Rochester [lowering his eyes.
In vain you say: "Come, lie with me! "
No cursed carnal joys!
Dame Guggligoy. What! drive me forth
All pitilessly from the marriage bed!
Rochester.Nay, madam, stay, for I care not a fig.
'Tis I myself alone whom I drive forth.
Dame Guggligoy [in a rage.
Oh! what an outrage! monster! traitor! snake!
Look you, beware my wrath!
Rochester [recoiling.] Touch not my eyes!
The fairy hath hooked nails, upon my word!
Dame Guggligoy [weeping.
Since to thy share a husband's rights did fall—
Dame Guggligoy. What icy coldness hath replaced
Thy ardent flame? Why dost thou shun me so?
What demon doth beset thee?
Rochester. Ask me not!
Dame Guggligoy.Come, sit beside me. I am mad for thee!
Rochester [flying from her.
O God in Heav'n! what shall I do to-night? [Exit.
Dame Guggligoy [running after him.
Davenant [with a shrug.
Wilmot is mad. What means this farce?
To mingle masquerade with tragedy!
Scene 13.—Davenant, Cromwell.
Another snare—wherein I well-nigh fell!
From my own house they planned to kidnap me;
And by the very madness of their plan,
They would perchance have triumphed,—who can say?
But for my daughter—a mere child—the kings
Had lost their master.—What audacity!
To come here to the very heart of London,
Cromwell to steal away, lacking the heart
To fight in open day! Could one foresee
So bold and insensate a stroke as this,
Unless one were as mad as they?—In vain
Do I this writing read and read again,
I grasp its meaning but imperfectly.—
'Tis my good fortune they 're all mad together.
Good lack! to pay court to the child the while
He plots her father to dethrone! To set
A pitfall for the lion in his den,
And 'neath his very claws play with his whelps!
Were they not mad, they 'd seem the greater fools.
"The Devil's Chaplain!"—Ah! thou double-face!
So Obededom is no saint at all
Save in his posturings. Who is he, then?
A leader of the accursèd Cavaliers.
But who of them? Is't Wilmot-Rochester
Or Villiers-Buckingham? A lovelorn swain
With Frances, and with me a sham apostle;
Wilmot or Villiers, one of that mad pair
He needs must be.—My soldiers are seduced!
No longer do they love me as of yore.
But we shall see. My plan 's already formed.
'Tis pity I 've but half the countersign,
Or I would lead them on to take the bait
More quickly.—But no matter! I await
Ormond and all his churchmen!
[Davenant returns to the front of the stage and spies Cromwell.
Davenant [aside.] It is Cromwell!
[Aloud, bowing.]My lord!
Cromwell [as if agreeably surprised.
Ah! Master Davenant, well met!
Davenant [bowing again.]As ever, at your Highness's commands.
Cromwell [with a smile.
Do you still lodge at the same hostelry,
Davenant. Ay, my lord.
Cromwell. A goodly place.
How fare you, with God's help?
Davenant. Indifferent well.
Cromwell. You had a pleasant journey?
Davenant. Ay, my lord.
Cromwell. Some object in your journeyings
Doubtless you had?—Business?—or pleasure?
Cromwell [aside.]I doubt if 'tis the better for this voyage.
[Aloud.]'Tis well at times to leave one's home, and take
A little air.—What countries have you seen?
Cromwell. Oho! you went not far!
'Tis said the banks of Rhine are beautiful.
Throughout my life I've longed to visit them.
Saw you them?
Davenant [in increasing confusion.] Ay.
Cromwell. In truth, you are most wise.
And Triers, too,—Mainz,—Frankfort,—and Cologne?
Davenant [aside.]He terrifies me with his gracious air.
[Aloud.]I did, my lord.
Cromwell. Cologne! a learned town!
The country of Cornelius Agrippa,
And of Saint Bruno.
Davenant [uneasily, aside.] Let us hasten on.
Cromwell. Let 's tarry at Cologne.
[Aside.]He fain would be at Bremen, I am sure.
[Aloud.]What of the University? 'Tis of
Davenant. The fourteenth.
Cromwell. For a mind
Of lettered tastes an interesting spot.
I doubt not that you saw in passing through—
Davenant [aside.]Great Heaven! can he know?
[Aloud.] I—nay—saw what?
Cromwell.The great cathedral. Universally
Admired, 'tis said to be. Saw you it not?
Davenant [aside.]He knows nought of our plans.
[Aloud.] I did, my lord;
The structure as a whole 's in wretched taste.
Cromwell.In wretched taste! Oh! that is quickly said.
A noble edifice, and well deserves
Our admiration. Ancient as it is,
Nought could surpass that temple, were it not
Degraded by the worship of false gods!
[After a pause.
And in that city you saw nothing more?
Davenant.Nothing, my lord.
Cromwell [smiling.] Nor e'en a visit paid
Of mere civility to one Charles Stuart?
Davenant [in consternation, aside.
An unexpected blow!
[Aloud.]My lord, I swear
I saw him not.
Cromwell. That papists to their oaths
Are true, I know full well.—But tell me this:
Who quenched the candles? Was it not Lord Miilgrave?
Ah! he knows all!
Cromwell. That you, in honour bound;
Saw not the King, I know.—The hat you wear
Is of peculiar shape. Prithee, excuse
My lack of ceremony: will you not
Exchange for this of mine?
Davenant [aside.] I am betrayed!
Cromwell [snatching his hat from him.
Nay, give it me! much thanks.
'Tis well! So Rochester 's the Devil's Chaplain!
'Tis wondrous well devised—ay, wondrous well!
They deem it no hard task to close my eyes.
They hoodwink me, drug me, and kidnap me;
[To Davenant.] Your tragi-comedies,
Sirrah, are past compare, if all your plays
Equal your perfidy.
[To Thurloe, who enters at this moment.
Let this good man
Be taken under escort to the Tower.
Charles hatted you, I lodge you in my turn.
May Heaven bless you!
Davenant [aside.] Ominous conclusion!
[Exit with the guards.
Thurloe [to Cromwell.]The Parliament, to whom, by your command,
A holy minister, my lord, has given
A solemn exhortation, waits without,
Bringing for your approval divers bills
And notably th' address whereby the crown
Is placed upon your head.
Cromwell. Let them come in.
O tenebrous affair! By their own ruse
They must be brought to nought. 'Tis my design
To ensnare them in the nets they spread for me.
[He looks at Rochester's scroll and Davenant's despatch in turn.
I hold them in my hand—
[He closes his hands with a forcible gesture.
Now nought remains
To do but crush them all!—'Tis manifest
That God is with me.—Ah! the Parliament.
[At a sign from Cromwell, Carlisle and Thurloe go to him.
Cromwell [in an undertone, to Carlisle.
Lord Carlisle, go you and arrest forthwith
The men on guard to-night at the park gate.
[Carlisle bows and exit.
[In an undertone, to Thurloe, handing him Rochester's scroll.
Take this upon the instant to one Bloum.
[Pointing to the superscription.
Thou 'lt see his address here. Or better still,
That my design may move more smoothly, let
Sir Richard Willis be the messenger.
Thurloe [takes the parchment, bowing.
Enough, my lord. [Exit.
Cromwell [aside.] That name of Bloum conceals
Old Ormond whom my star betrays to me.
[Aloud.]Now, gentlemen, we are prepared to listen.
The Speaker [standing, uncovered, like all the others.
My lord, we bring to you for your approval
The bills enacted by the Parliament,
Wherein 'twill to your Highness be made clear
How dearly we do love the good old cause.
Your sanction deign to give.
Cromwell. We will consider.
The Speaker [turning to the Clerk.
Clerk of the Commons, read the laws proposed.
On June the twenty-fifth, in the ninth year
Of our God-given liberty. The Parliament
Hath passed these bills, the last, that is to say:—
First. Inasmuch as men may sin, like Noah,
Through heedless misuse of the vine its fruit,
And swear by holy names, without intent
Evil to do, the Parliament decrees,
So purposing to temper present laws,
That drunkards shall be punished with the lash
And swearers with the cord.
Cromwell. 'Tis very mild.
He who blasphemes the God to whom we pray,
He 's quite as bad as any murderer,
Ay, or as any actor! Why should he
Be punished less?—These laws are temporary,
And for that reason we assent to them.
[The Speaker and the Members bow.
The Clerk [reading on.
Second. The victories but lately won
By Admiral Blake, shall by a general fast
Commemorated be. The Commons House,
Having with zeal conned o'er the sacred books,
Doth grant a diamond worth five hundred pounds
To the said admiral. And furthermore,
It orders that such noteworthy exploits
Be entered on its journals for all time.
Cromwell.We do assent.
Thurloe [to Cromwell, in an undertone.
The Clerk [reading on.] Third. Inasmuch
As the disorders late aroused in York
By unknown malcontents have stricken cold
With holy terror all good English hearts,
The Parliament, to place without delay
The mutineers of York outside the law,
Doth order that a writ of quo warranto issue
Against the ancient charters of the town.
Cromwell [to Thurloe, in an undertone.
A score of soldiers would be better far
Than all the quo warrantos in the world.
I'll look to that myself.
[Aloud.] We do assent.
[All bow once more.
The Clerk [reading on.
Fourthly. To fill its empty treasury,
The House decrees that every Englishman,
Seeking forgiveness for some heinous sin
In his past life, shall, to the State's behoof,
Fast in each week one day. A means unique,
And with the sacred ordinances, too,
In strict conformity, to save one's soul
While succouring the nation's finances.
Cromwell.We do assent.
[All bow yet again.
The Clerk [reading on, in a louder voice.
Fifth. The Humble Petition
Or Suppliant Address to Zion's Hero.
Whereas, 'tis custom immemorial
That all discussions on domestic themes
Shall by a king be closed; and whereas God himself,
When to his chosen people he had giv'n
The tables of the law, the pulpit changed
Into a throne, the judges he made kings;—
Now, having heard the arguments put forth
On either side, the Parliament doth shew
Unto the Lord Protector that 'tis meet
The people for their consecrated head
Should have a single person, upon whom
The title of the kings of former times
Should be bestowed; and humbly doth implore
Oliver, the Lord Protector, to receive
The English crown by right hereditary.
The Speaker [to Cromwell.
My lord, I crave your leave to speak.
Cromwell. Say on.
The Speaker. My lord, in all times, recent or remote,
Kings have held sway o'er the nations of the earth.
The first of books, which greatly doth abound
In wisdom, saith again and yet again,
In plain words: Reges gentium. We see,
If we consider Gibeon and Actium,
That when a deadly conflict doth arise
Within a nation, 'tis a Gordian knot
That can be severed only by a sword.
The sword becomes a sceptre, and so proves
That by a king all questions must be solved.
I know that many clerks of great renown
Maintain that Christ, assisted by his saints,
Himself may reign; but He who doth ordain
The everlasting destinies is not
A king that can be seen of mortal eyes;
Terrestrial kingdoms must have mortal kings,—
Reges substantiales, as 'tis said.
These arguments cannot be overthrown.—
Of all the forms of government the worst
Is the republic; every people needs
A king in whom they may repose their trust;
For peoples, good my lord, are like the heron,
Which cannot sleep save standing on one foot.
Now, is the sleeping heron therefore maimed?
The nation is the heron. Is it fain
To avenge its wrongs—the army is its beak,
The Houses are its wings. But when at last
The ship of State at anchor safely lies,
Then let the people sleep upon one foot!
Stans pede in uno. The argument
Is clear, too clear to need development.
Now therefore, holding Judah's sword aloft,
And Aaron's rod, Your Highness, over Europe,
Be King of England, be the heron's foot!
We here invoke laws common to the world.
Dixi quid dicendum, speaking in the name
The Speaker [aside.
What do I hear?
Whitelocke [in an undertone, to Thurloe.
What says he? He declines?
Thurloe.He hesitates. He fears some hidden peril.
Cromwell [to Thurloe, in an undertone.
It must be so!—Let us defer the hour.—
At swords'-points with the Cavaliers, 'twere well
To ensure Puritan neutrality;
And let us not, in this twofold dilemma,
Put two thorns in our foot and on our arms
Two burdens. Let us first of all elude
The net that Ormond close about me draws.
I shall have time enough to grasp the crown.
Let us appease the Puritans at first
By shunning that great honour.
[Aloud, to the others present.
Go in peace.
We seek the counsel of the Lord!
Scene 15.—Cromwell, Thurloe.
Thurloe [aside.]Something has happened here within the hour.
Cromwell [aside.]'Tis well! let this reluctance put them off
Cromwell [roughly.]Go bid them ring the curfew.
Thurloe. Need you not
To rest a while?
Thurloe. Where do you lie to-night, my lord?
Cromwell [aside.]Oh! what a life is mine! To hide each night
Like any lurking thief! Ah! who would reign,
To change each night the place where he may sleep!
And everywhere, about us, and within,
Fear, always fear!
[Aloud.] Here let my bed be placed
Thurloe.What! in the Painted Chamber! Charles's judges—
Cromwell [aside.]Ah me! again that memory invoked!
Thurloe.'Tis here, my lord, that they are said to meet—
[Aloud.] You have too long a memory!
Moreover, if the night be dark,
If there's a ghost here, me he will not see.
[Pressing Thurloe's hand, and pointing to the bed.
This bed is not for me.
Thurloe [in amazement.]For whom, then, is 't?
Cromwell [in an undertone.
Speak lower. He for whom this bed's prepared
Fears not kings' phantoms, no, nor headless ghosts.
Thurloe.What is the secret?—
Cromwell. Hush. Do what you're bid.
Later you shall know all.
Thurloe [aside.] Struck dumb am I!
'Tis thus he doth make use of us. Our lips
Forever closed! His plans to execute,
Though knowing nought of them; to be now deaf
And dumb and blind, and now to have, at need,
A hundred voices, arms and eyes!
Your pardon if I do presume too far,—
Home peril threatens you; what is it, pray?
[Pointing to the bed.
And who is destined here to take your place?
Cromwell.Peace! peace!—My chaplain tarries over-long.
[Aside, striding back and forth at the front of the stage.
How well content they are! The fools believe
They have me in their clutches. Ormond laughs
On one side, Rochester on th'other.—Good!
Their craft will soon be face to face with mine.
They dig my grave by their own narrow measure.
Why so much light? One candle is enough.
Pray let there be some slight economy
In my expenses.
[He himself blows out one of the candles.
Thus it is we quench
An enemy's life. One breath—and all is said.—
How now! my chaplain?
Thurloe.He is here.
[He rubs his hands in glee.
Scene 16.—The Same, Lord Rochester.
Rochester [aside.]The cup is full, and Noll must drink of it.
Egad! he'll have a glorious nap, poor man!
I drained the phial dry.—But, in good sooth,
I serve him well.—I save him from remorse;
Thanks to my kind attention, he will sleep
More soundly than for many a weary day.
Still must I stand on ceremony.
Pray drink this draught that my own hands have blest.
Oh! you have blest it?
[Aside.]Gad! what a look!
Cromwell.'Tis well; this draught is like to do me good?
Rochester.Ay, hippocras possesses wondrous power
To make one sleep.
Cromwell. In that case, drink yourself!
Rochester [drawing back in dismay.
[Aside.] A veritable thunderbolt!
Cromwell [with an equivocal smile.
Well, do you hesitate? Be not surprised,
Young man, at all the favours we bestow.
The end 's not yet.—Come, sirrah, take the cup!
Surmount the awe which doth perchance deter you,
[He forces the thunderstruck Rochester to take the goblet.
Knew you not how we cherish you?
May all your blessings fall on your own head!
Rochester [aside.]I am undone!
[Aloud.] My lord,—but—
Cromwell. Drink, I say!
Rochester [aside.]Some prodigy hath come to pass of late!
[Aloud.]I swear to you—
Cromwell. Drink; later you may swear.
Rochester [aside.]And what of our conspiracy? and all
Our crafty preparations?
Cromwell. Drink, I say.
Noll doth outdo us all in craft, 'tis plain.
Cromwell.Must I still urge you?
Rochester [aside.] Let us drink the cup!
Cromwell [with a sardonic laugh.
What think you of the draught?
Rochester [placing the goblet on the table.
God save the King!
[Aside.]At all events, I'm saved from Guggligoy.
Let Noll do what he will with me. What odds?
My spouse was waiting for me at the door.
I fall—thereby my shipwreck is less cruel—
From Scylla to Charybdis, from my wife
To Cromwell! One compels to sleep profound,
The other to give battle. I have changed
My demon, that is all.—Yawning—so soon?
[He seats himself on one of the folding chairs.
Thurloe [to Cromwell.
Is't poison that he drank?
Rochester [yawning.] Now, by my faith,
The question is most flattering to both,
To Cromwell and to me!
Cromwell [to Thurloe, in an undertone.
That we shall see.
Thurloe [aside, watching Rochester.
Rochester [yawning.] Ah me! my head is in a whirl.
When one has played a part the livelong day:
Fasted and prayed—preached much—and sworn but little,—
Worn a saint's mask—and borne a Hebrew name—
Old Noll's harangue—upon the Bible—heard—
'Tis hard— [He yawns.
To fall asleep—at the dénouement!
[He yawns again.
God grant I may not wake hanged by the neck!
But with me Ormond, too, will be undone;
That is my sole regret.—I must dispel
The melancholy thought.
[He yawns.] Phial of hell!—
I scarce can lift my head.—Give you good-night,
Good Master Cromwell.—And God save the King!
[His head falls forward and he sleeps.
Cromwell [with his eyes fixed on Rochester.
What marvellous devotion!—Who would do
As much for me?
[To Thurloe.] Let's place him on this bed.
Thurloe [with a perturbed air.
Someone is knocking.
Cromwell. I know who it is.
Open the door.
Thurloe [opening the door.] The rabbi!
Cromwell [to Manasseh, who prostrates himself as he crosses the threshold.
What brings the Jew to me?
[Manasseh rises and goes to Cromwell with an air of mystery.
Manasseh [to Cromwell, in an undertone.
Money, my lord.
[He opens his gown and displays a large bag which he can hardly carry.
Cromwell [to Thurloe.
[In an undertone.
But go not far.
[Thurloe bows and exit.
Manasseh [to Cromwell.] The Swedish brig
Is taken, and I hasten instantly
To bring my lord his share.
Cromwell [examining the bag.] Bah! what a tale!
This is my share?
Manasseh [biting his lips.
That is—'tis on account
[He takes the bag and places it on the table before him.
Nought can escape that lynx's eye.
The Cavaliers are easily deceived
At least: I take their ship away from them,
And place my bank at their command. And so,
Thanks to my craft, their resources are nought.
Thereon, as is the custom of our trade,
I sell to them again at cent per cent
The money that I stole from them. For most
Praiseworthy 'tis to steal from Christian dogs.
Cromwell.What know'st thou new, thou purgatory-face?
Manasseh.Nothing—save this: that 'tis in London rumoured
At Dover an astrologer's been hanged.
Cromwell.Well done! But art not an astrologer
Manasseh [after a moment's hesitation.
Thou shalt not, saith the Decalogue,
False witness bear. 'Tis true, I understand
That book which even Satan finds obscure,
Which Zoroaster read and Solomon.
Yes, in the starry heaven I can read
Your good and evil fortune.
Cromwell [aside, his eyes fixed on the Jew.
Strange his lot!
To keep close watch on men and on the stars!
Astrologer above, on earth a spy!
Look—yonder near the Scorpion, my lord,—
I see just at this moment—
Manasseh [without taking his eyes from the sky.
[Turning to Cromwell, in a solemn tone.
For me the veil that doth thy future hide
May be removed.
Cromwell [with a start.] In truth? Ah! can it be?
But no—old man, thou liest! Fear'st thou not
The dagger's point?
Manasseh [gravely.] If I do lie, may death,
Whose sudden coming doth confound us all,
Forever close these eyes to which the stars
Cromwell [pensively, aside.] Can it be? Of destiny
To raise the curtain; in the sky, afar,
To read the distant future; to decipher
The life and character of every man;
To find the answer to the mystery,—
The answer that a hand invisible
Doth trace with planets on the heavens' page!
Stupendous power! with God alone 'tis shared.—
And I, content with a mere earthly throne,
Content to shine upon the eminence
Whence kings their feeble radiance have cast,
I scorned this Jew.—Beside him, what am I?
And what my power beside his sovereignty?
Contrasted with the end that he attains,
What is the paltry goal of my ambition?
His realm's the world, and no horizon has.—
But no—it cannot be. For common sense—
A bottomless abyss, which swallows all,
And which can nought restore! Shortsighted doubt,
Which doth deny for lack of comprehension!
The idiot invokes it with a sneer.
It is the quicker way.—And yet, in sooth,
Whence doth this power proceed? God sets a goal,
A single goal for all created beings.
Of living things, whereof the endless chain
All nature doth embrace, all in their sphere,
About their common centre, aye remain.
The beasts know nought of man, nor man of God.
The heavens have their secret, we have ours.
I wonder can the soul from one world look
Into the other?—can it bring the torch
That lights the dead, and set before the living?
Abides it ever on one side the grave?
Hath it the power to come forth from the tomb,
Or hence to find its way within the tomb?
Who knows?—Must we deny what we see not?
Is every earthly bond destroyed by death?
Have not we all seen terrifying things?—
But that mere mortal man should read what's writ
Upon the blazing, pages of the skies!—
Who knows what God doth place within the soul
When he doth fashion it?—But this dog Jew,
This impure knave, assume to expound the world
In its symbolic meaning! to explore
The Holy of Holies with his impious gaze!—
But wherefore not? For all is mystery.
Suppose that to my curious, anxious mind
He could explain the language of my star?
Could tell me where this struggle will conclude
Wherein I am embarked?—But we're alone;
No witnesses at hand.—I'll make the trial.
[Aloud, to Manasseh.
Manasseh [who has been looking at the sky all the while, turns and bows.
That yon celestial rays illume thy soul
With their mysterious light, and to thine eyes
Impart the power of prophetic vision—
[He pauses and seems to hesitate.
Manasseh [prostrating himself.
Master, what would you at your servant's hands?
Cromwell [lowering his voice.
Manasseh [rising and drawing himself up.
What! dar'st thou, uncircumcised,
Lift up thine eyes to that bewildering height?
Wouldst thou, despite the barriers of flame,
Behold unveiled yon stars, the golden sand,
The diamond dust, which through the firmament's
Unfathomable depths roam ceaselessly?
The secret of the heavens thou wouldst solve—
Abode of glory, mystic sanctuary,
That laboratory girt about with flame,
Where sits Jehovah, who doth ne'er relax
His grasp upon the axis of the spheres
And the unfailing compass? Thou wouldst pierce
The threefold elements, air, water, fire,
The threefold veil that doth enshroud the skies,
The threefold wall that doth surround the world!
And know what suns the fiery letters be
Wherewith at midnight God's tiara gleams!
Thou, read the future! Couldst thou, godless man,
Endure the sight of the great mystery,
And live? O thou, whose thoughts are ever fixed
On things of earth, what hast thou done, in sooth,
In all thy life, that thou shouldst seek that power?
What mystery unveiled, what test endured?
Behold my pallid brow; I have attained
Tobias's great age. I've gone my way
Through this deceitful, narrow world of ours,
Nor ever for an instant have removed
My eyes from that which lies beyond the skies.—
Think well thereon! in a whole century,
Not for a single day, a single hour!—
How often I have left my home, at night,
To go and listen at the doors of tombs,
And drive away the worm that gnawed the shroud!
How I rejoiced, king of that dismal realm,
When I at last had power to change a corpse
Into a phantom, and compel a dead man,
Cut from the gallows-tree, to falter forth
A word of the celestial alphabet!
The dead resolved the problem of the spheres;
And I have almost seen with these mine eyes
The Being, all resplendent, who inscribes
His awful name (and known to him alone)
Upon the heavens as on the mortal's shroud.—
But to thy glance, which dies when dies the day,
The constellations are a rayless flame!
Tell me, hast thou, in thy consuming zeal
To lose thyself in the immortal work,
Seen thy dark beard turn white, thy hair fall out?
Hast thou, although the peer in mystic lore
Of the wise men of old, dragged out thy days
Proscribed, contemned, and wretched beyond words?
Cromwell [interrupting him, impatiently.
Enough. I do requite thee for thy service.
Manasseh.Thou dost confound two things. Man may to man
Enslave himself. Yes, while I still do live
This partial life, and while this flesh still clothes
My skeleton, mine eyes may minister
To thine ambitious projects here on earth;
But when, I prithee, did I promise thee
To watch the skies for thee?
Cromwell [aside.] No, 'tis not thus
A hypocrite doth speak. He hath full faith
In this his science; ay, he even boasts
That 'tis proscribed.
[Aloud, with vehemence.]Come, tell me if my star
Is to my aspirations favourable.
Manasseh. I cannot.
Cromwell. But it is my will.
Cromwell [putting his hand on his dagger.
Though powerless to make thee speak,
This dagger will at least put thee to silence.
Manasseh [after some hesitation.
Wilt thou not fear, if in the mystic rites,
The Koran and the Talmud I confuse,
And hell and heaven?
Manasseh. Unto the sword
The mind doth yield, the wise man to the tyrant.
Say on, my son.
Cromwell. To my bewildered mind
Disclose the secret of my destiny
And of my life. Hark ye: when yet a child,
I had a vision. I had been expelled,
Because I was of lowly origin,
From those proud swards, the glory of all Oxford,
Where none may tread save those of gentle birth.
Back in my cell, my heart inflamed with rage,
I wept, and cursed my humble rank in life.
Night fell; I sat, awake, beside my bed,
When suddenly my flesh began to creep
Beneath a human breath, and, sick with fear,
I heard a voice: "All honour to King Cromwell!"
That voice—almost inaudible it was—
Had in its tone menace and plaint at once.
Beside myself with terror, pale, I rose
Seeking the man who thus did speak to me.
I looked.—'Twas a dissevered head I saw.
Enveloped in the dark by pallid gleams,
It bore upon its livid, ghastly brow
A halo—ay, a halo red as blood.
Therein the fragments of a crown were mingled.
It moved not—see, old man, I shudder still!—
But gazed upon me with a fiendish sneer,
And murmured low: "All honour to King Cromwell!"
I took a step. It faded all away
And left no trace save on my heart alone,
Forever by that portent turned to stone!—
"All honour to King Cromwell!"—Hearest thou
And dost thou understand? What sayest thou?
The darkness, and therein those wandering gleams,
A hideous head, a fragment of a phantom,
A kingdom promising with ghastly smiles—
Ah me! 'twas horrible in very truth!
Was it not so, Manasseh?—Oh! that head!
And since, upon a cold and dreary day,
A day in winter, 'mid a restless crowd,
I saw it once again—but it was dumb.
Hark ye—'twas hanging from the headsman's hand!
In truth? Ezekiel, Jethro's son-in-law,
Had visions far less ominous, my son.
Nor e'en Belshazzar's, in his drunkenness,
Did equal it. Nor does the Toldos Jeschut
Tell aught resembling that which thee befel.
To see the head of a still living king!
'Tis strange, indeed!
Manasseh.Perchance.—But no; the spectres I recall
Were seeking vengeance for the past, but thine—
'Twas for the future.—Wert thou not asleep?
Manasseh. Such a vision ne'er was seen before!
For had it not appeared to thee awake,
'Twould be a dream, no more, and I have seen
More marv'lous ones.
[He falls to musing once more.
A ghost that from the tomb
Came not! In all my long and weary life,
I 've not seen such a spectre!
[He turns to Cromwell.
When it fled,
What odour did it leave?
Cromwell [roughly.] What matters it?
What does my vision mean? I bid you speak.
Is it the truth? or is it but illusion?
"All honour to King Cromwell!" Shall I be king?
Remove the veil that hides my destiny.
Manasseh [his eyes fixed on the sky.
Ay, that's the star! Wherever in the vault
Of heaven it shone, I should discover it;
Though fixed, one seems to see it larger grow;
Brilliant, but at its centre there's a spot.
Thine eyes have gazed upon the sky full long.
Shall I be king?
Manasseh. In vain should I attempt
To flatter thee, my son; one may not lie
To the broad heavens. I cannot hide from thee
That in its course elliptical thy star
Forms not the mystic triangle with Jod and Zain.
Cromwell.What care I for thy mystic triangle?
Thou son of Cain, expound to me the meaning
Of the dissevered head! Shall I be king?
Manasseh. Not so unless by miracle.
Cromwell [displeased and surly.
What meanest thou by that?
Manasseh. A miracle—
Manasseh. A miracle.
Cromwell. How now!
Am I a miracle?
Manasseh [pensively.] Perhaps.
Cromwell. So then,
It is the throne that you predict for me?
Manasseh.I cannot change the answers of the skies.
Cromwell.In heaven's name, what does the vision mean?
Was it a ghastly joke devised by death?
But I believe that you and all your like
Are rank impostors cozening with the stars.
Manasseh [gravely.]ive me thy hand, my son, and blaspheme not.
Hence away, ye fiends forsworn,
Witches all, to youth reborn
By a magic potion deadly,
Dragons fierce, moon-elf and fairy,
And the spinners centenary,
Whistling while each knot they tie.
Hence away, ye dragons ghostly,
Aspics, ghouls, who plunder mostly
From the crows their fetid prey,
Demons who for souls go seeking,
Monstrous dwarfs with squalor reeking,
Hovering flames o'er tombstones grey.
Don the robe patriarchal
And the belt zodiacal,
On thy fingers rings of gold,
The amice, mitre conical,
The purple scarf, and tunic all
Of scarlet, with its dye twofold.
[Aloud, after a moment's silence.
A peril threatens thee.
Cromwell. What peril?
If thou? rt determined to be king, my son,
Thy death is sure.
Cromwell.'Tis sure! my death?
Manasseh [placing his finger on Cromwell's heart.
There will the blow be dealt.
Cromwell [putting his hand to his heart.
Manasseh [with an affirmative gesture.
Cromwell. Liest thou not?
Manasseh.Thou son of Amnion! Lie! Is it thy wish
That I evoke thy demon here and now?
But first, to bring him to subjection, thou
Must needs repeat in unison with me
Eight lines beginning all with the same letter.
Manasseh [alarmed.]But some one hears us—
[He goes to the bed and discovers Rochester asleep.
Yes, the charm is broken.
He has heard all.
Cromwell. Nay, think'st thou that he could
Have overheard us?
Manasseh. Most assuredly.
Cromwell.Then he must die!
[He draws his dagger and goes to Rochester's side.
Manasseh. Strike! for thou canst not do
A better deed.
[Aside.] E'en by a Christian hand
We 'll immolate a Christian!
Cromwell. If it be
That he has overheard the interview
'Twixt Cromwell and the Jew, then let him die!
[He raises his dagger over Rochester, then pauses.
But he is sleeping.
Manasseh [touching his arm.] Well?
Cromwell [still uncertain.] He is so young!
Manasseh.It is the Sabbath! Strike!
Cromwell [with a start.]
What is it that I do? Upon a day
Of solemn fasting and divine repose,
I was about to kill a fellow-man!
And I give ear unto a soothsayer!
Thurloe [entering hastily.] My lord!
Manasseh [in amazement.] My lord!
Cromwell [to Manasseh.] Begone!
Manasseh [aside.] Is it a sudden stroke of vertigo?
Cromwell [going to Manasseh, in an undertone.
Begone! Thy death is even now decreed,
If thou dost lisp a word of what hath passed.
[Manasseh prostrates himself, and exit.
[To Thurloe.]O save me from yon Jew, and from myself,
Thurloe [anxiously.] What's amiss, my lord?
Cromwell [composing his features.] Amiss?
Nothing. I love thee, Thurloe.
Thurloe. But you said—
You seemed disturbed.
Cromwell. Did I say aught?
Thurloe. You spoke.
Cromwell.Of nothing. Follow me, and hold thy peace.
Thurloe.How pale you are!
Cromwell [smiling bitterly.] It is the tomb-like gleam
Of yonder torch. Come—I have need of thee.
Thurloe.See how he sleeps!
Cromwell. Ay, 'tis a sleep profound
And near to death! [Exeunt
- There is a play upon words here: the word queue (train) meaning also "tail"; and the same word, porter, being used for "to bear" and "to wear"; that is to say, porter sa queue may mean "wear his tail" as well as "bear his train."
- The following is Hugo's note on this couplet:—
"Et les fileuses centenaires
Qui soufflent en faisant des nœuds.