THE BEARERS. He climbed up to the robin's nest, And out there darted, from his rest, A serpent with a crimson crest, And stung him in the arm.
JESUS. Bring him to me, and let me feel The wounded place; my touch can heal The sting of serpents, and can steal The poison from the bite!
He touches the wound, and the boy begins to cry.
Cease to lament! I can foresee That thou hereafter known shalt be, Among the men who follow me, As Simon the Canaanite!
EPILOGUE In the after part of the day Will be represented another play, Of the Passion of our Blessed Lord, Beginning directly after Nones! At the close of which we shall accord, By way of benison and reward, The sight of a holy Martyr's bones!
THE ROAD TO HIRSCHAU
PRINCE HENRY and ELSIE, with their attendants on horseback.
ELSIE. Onward and onward the highway runs to the distant city, impatiently bearing Tidings of human joy and disaster, of love and of hate, of doing and daring!
PRINCE HENRY. This life of ours is a wild aeolian harp of many a joyous strain, But under them all there runs a loud perpetual wail, as of souls in pain.
ELSIE. Faith alone can interpret life, and the heart that aches and bleeds with the stigma Of pain, alone bears the likeness of Christ, and can comprehend its dark enigma.
PRINCE HENRY. Man is selfish, and seeketh pleasure with little care of what may betide, Else why am I travelling here beside thee, a demon that rides by an angel's side?
ELSIE. All the hedges are white with dust, and the great dog under the creaking wain Hangs his head in the lazy heat, while onward the horses toil and strain.
PRINCE HENRY. Now they stop at the wayside inn, and the wagoner laughs with the landlord's daughter, While out of the dripping trough the horses distend their leathern sides with water.
ELSIE. All through life there are wayside inns, where man may refresh his soul with love; Even the lowest may quench his thirst at rivulets fed by springs from above.
PRINCE HENRY. Yonder, where rises the cross of stone, our journey along the highway ends, And over the fields, by a bridle path, down into the broad green valley descends.
ELSIE. I am not sorry to leave behind the beaten road with its dust and heat The air will be sweeter far, and the turf will be softer under our horses' feet.
They turn down a green lane.
ELSIE. Sweet is the air with the budding haws, and the valley stretching for miles below Is white with blossoming cherry-trees, as if just covered with lightest snow.
PRINCE HENRY. Over our heads a white cascade is gleaming against the distant hill; We cannot hear it, nor see it move, but it hangs like a banner when winds are still.
ELSIE. Damp and cool is this deep ravine, and cool the sound of the brook by our side! What is this castle that rises above us, and lords it over a land so wide?
PRINCE HENRY. It is the home of the Counts of Calva; well have I known these scenes of old, Well I remember each tower and turret, remember the brooklet, the wood, and the wold.
ELSIE. Hark! from the little village below us the bells of the church are ringing for rain! Priests and peasants in long procession come forth and kneel on the arid plain.
PRINCE HENRY. They have not long to wait, for I see in the south uprising a little cloud, That before the sun shall be set will cover the sky above us as with a shroud.
They pass on.
THE CONVENT OF HIRSCHAU IN THE BLACK FOREST.
The Convent cellar. FRIAR CLAUS comes in with a light and a basket of empty flagons.
FRIAR CLAUS. I always enter this sacred place With a thoughtful, solemn, and reverent pace, Pausing long enough on each stair To breathe an ejaculatory prayer, And a benediction on the vines That produce these various sorts of wines! For my part, I am well content That we have got through with the tedious Lent! Fasting is all very well for those Who have to contend with invisible foes; But I am quite sure it does not agree With a quiet, peaceable man like me, Who am not of that nervous and meagre kind, That are always distressed in body and mind! And at times it really does me good To come down among this brotherhood, Dwelling forever underground, Silent, contemplative, round and sound; Each one old, and brown with mould, But filled to the lips with the ardor of youth, With the latent power and love of truth, And with virtues fervent and manifold.
I have heard it said, that at Easter-tide, When buds are swelling on every side, And the sap begins to move in the vine, Then in all cellars, far and wide, The oldest as well as the newest wine Begins to stir itself, and ferment, With a kind of revolt and discontent At being so long in darkness pent, And fain would burst from its sombre tun To bask on the hillside in the sun; As in the bosom of us poor friars, The tumult of half-subdued desires For the world that we have left behind Disturbs at times all peace of mind! And now that we have lived through Lent, My duty it is, as often before, To open awhile the prison-door, And give these restless spirits vent.
Now here is a cask that stands alone, And has stood a hundred years or more, Its beard of cobwebs, long and hoar, Trailing and sweeping along the floor, Like Barbarossa, who sits in his cave, Taciturn, sombre, sedate, and grave, Till his beard has grown through the table of stone! It is of the quick and not of the dead! In its veins the blood is hot and red, And a heart still beats in those ribs of oak That time may have tamed, but has not broke! It comes from Bacharach on the Rhine, Is one of the three best kinds of wine, And costs some hundred florins the ohm; But that I do not consider dear, When I remember that every year Four butts are sent to the Pope of Rome. And whenever a goblet thereof I drain, The old rhyme keeps running in my brain;
At Bacharach on the Rhine, At Hochheim on the Main, And at Wurzburg on the Stein, Grow the three best kinds of wine!
They are all good wines, and better far Than those of the Neckar, or those of the Ahr. In particular, Wurzburg well may boast Of its blessed wine of the Holy Ghost, Which of all wines I like the most. This I shall draw for the Abbot's drinking, Who seems to be much of my way of thinking.
Fills a flagon.
Ah! how the streamlet laughs and sings! What a delicious fragrance springs From the deep flagon, while it fills, As of hyacinths and daffodils! Between this cask and the Abbot's lips Many have been the sips and slips; Many have been the draughts of wine, On their way to his, that have stopped at mine; And many a time my soul has hankered For a deep draught out of his silver tankard, When it should have been busy with other affairs, Less with its longings and more with its prayers. But now there is no such awkward condition, No danger of death and eternal perdition; So here's to the Abbot and Brothers all, Who dwell in this convent of Peter and Paul!
O cordial delicious! O soother of pain! It flashes like sunshine into my brain! A benison rest on the Bishop who sends Such a fudder of wine as this to his friends! And now a flagon for such as may ask A draught from the noble Bacharach cask, And I will be gone, though I know full well The cellar's a cheerfuller place than the cell. Behold where he stands, all sound and good, Brown and old in his oaken hood; Silent he seems externally As any Carthusian monk may be; But within, what a spirit of deep unrest! What a seething and simmering in his breast! As if the heaving of his great heart Would burst his belt of oak apart! Let me unloose this button of wood, And quiet a little his turbulent mood.
Sets it running.
See! how its currents gleam and shine, As if they had caught the purple hues Of autumn sunsets on the Rhine, Descending and mingling with the dews; Or as if the grapes were stained with the blood Of the innocent boy, who, some years back, Was taken and crucified by the Jews, In that ancient town of Bacharach! Perdition upon those infidel Jews, In that ancient town of Bacharach! The beautiful town, that gives us wine With the fragrant odor of Muscadine! I should deem it wrong to let this pass Without first touching my lips to the glass, For here in the midst of the current I stand Like the stone Pfalz in the midst of the river, Taking toll upon either hand, And much more grateful to the giver.
Here, now, is a very inferior kind, Such as in any town you may find, Such as one might imagine would suit The rascal who drank wine out of a boot. And, after all, it was not a crime, For he won thereby Dorf Huffelsheim. A jolly old toper! who at a pull Could drink a postilion's jack-boot full, And ask with a laugh, when that was done, If the fellow had left the other one! This wine is as good as we can afford To the friars who sit at the lower board, And cannot distinguish bad from good, And are far better off than if they could, Being rather the rude disciples of beer, Than of anything more refined and dear!
Fills the flagon and departs.
FRIAR PACIFICUS transcribing and illuminating.
FRIAR PACIFICUS. It is growing dark! Yet one line more, And then my work for to-day is o'er. I come again to the name of the Lord! Ere I that awful name record, That is spoken so lightly among men, Let me pause awhile and wash my pen; Pure from blemish and blot must it be When it writes that word of mystery!
Thus have I labored on and on, Nearly through the Gospel of John. Can it be that from the lips Of this same gentle Evangelist, That Christ himself perhaps has kissed, Came the dread Apocalypse! It has a very awful look, As it stands there at the end of the book, Like the sun in an eclipse. Ah me! when I think of that vision divine, Think of writing it, line by line, I stand in awe of the terrible curse, Like the trump of doom, in the closing verse! God forgive me! if ever I Take aught from the book of that Prophecy, Lest my part too should be taken away From the Book of Life on the Judgment Day. This is well written, though I say it! I should not be afraid to display it In open day, on the selfsame shelf With the writings of St. Thecla herself, Or of Theodosius, who of old Wrote the Gospels in letters of gold! That goodly folio standing yonder, Without a single blot or blunder, Would not bear away the palm from mine, If we should compare them line for line.
There, now, is an initial letter! Saint Ulric himself never made a better! Finished down to the leaf and the snail, Down to the eyes on the peacock's tail! And now, as I turn the volume over, And see what lies between cover and cover, What treasures of art these pages hold, All ablaze with crimson and gold, God forgive me! I seem to feel A certain satisfaction steal Into my heart, and into my brain, As if my talent had not lain Wrapped in a napkin, and all in vain. Yes, I might almost say to the Lord, Here is a copy of thy Word, Written out with much toil and pain; Take it, O Lord, and let it be As something I have done for thee!
He looks from the window.
How sweet the air is! how fair the scene! I wish I had as lovely a green To paint my landscapes and my leaves! How the swallows twitter under the eaves! There, now, there is one in her nest; I can just catch a glimpse of her head and breast, And will sketch her thus, in her quiet nook For the margin of my Gospel book.
He makes a sketch.
I can see no more. Through the valley yonder A shower is passing; I hear the thunder Mutter its curses in the air, The devil's own and only prayer! The dusty road is brown with rain, And, speeding on with might and main, Hitherward rides a gallant train. They do not parley, they cannot wait, But hurry in at the convent gate. What a fair lady! and beside her What a handsome, graceful, noble rider! Now she gives him her hand to alight; They will beg a shelter for the night. I will go down to the corridor, And try to see that face once more; It will do for the face of some beautiful Saint, Or for one of the Maries I shall paint.
The ABBOT ERNESTUS pacing to and fro.
ABBOT. Slowly, slowly up the wall Steals the sunshine, steals the shade; Evening damps begin to fall, Evening shadows are displayed. Round me, o'er me, everywhere, All the sky is grand with clouds, And athwart the evening air Wheel the swallows home in crowds. Shafts of sunshine from the west Paint the dusky windows red; Darker shadows, deeper rest, Underneath and overhead. Darker, darker, and more wan, In my breast the shadows fall; Upward steals the life of man, As the sunshine from the wall. From the wall into the sky, From the roof along the spire; Ah, the souls of those that die Are but sunbeams lifted higher.
Enter PRINCE HENRY.
PRINCE HENRY. Christ is arisen!
ABBOT. Amen! He is arisen! His peace be with you!
PRINCE HENRY. Here it reigns forever! The peace of God, that passeth understanding, Reigns in these cloisters and these corridors. Are you Ernestus, Abbot of the convent?
ABBOT. I am.
PRINCE HENRY. And I Prince Henry of Hoheneck, Who crave your hospitality to-night.
ABBOT. You are thrice welcome to our humble walls. You do us honor; and we shall requite it, I fear, but poorly, entertaining you With Paschal eggs, and our poor convent wine, The remnants of our Easter holidays.
PRINCE HENRY. How fares it with the holy monks of Hirschau? Are all things well with them?
ABBOT. All things are well.
PRINCE HENRY. A noble convent! I have known it long By the report of travellers. I now see Their commendations lag behind the truth. You lie here in the valley of the Nagold As in a nest: and the still river, gliding Along its bed, is like an admonition How all things pass. Your lands are rich and ample, And your revenues large. God's benediction Rests on your convent.
ABBOT. By our charities We strive to merit it. Our Lord and Master, When He departed, left us in his will, As our best legacy on earth, the poor! These we have always with us; had we not, Our hearts would grow as hard as are these stones.
PRINCE HENRY. If I remember right, the Counts of Calva Founded your convent.
ABBOT. Even as you say.
PRINCE HENRY. And, if I err not, it is very old.
ABBOT. Within these cloisters lie already buried Twelve holy Abbots. Underneath the flags On which we stand, the Abbot William lies, Of blessed memory.
PRINCE HENRY. And whose tomb is that, Which bears the brass escutcheon?
ABBOT. A benefactor's. Conrad, a Count of Calva, he who stood Godfather to our bells.
PRINCE HENRY. Your monks are learned And holy men, I trust.
ABBOT. There are among them Learned and holy men. Yet in this age We need another Hildebrand, to shake And purify us like a mighty wind. The world is wicked, and sometimes I wonder God does not lose his patience with it wholly, And shatter it like glass! Even here, at times, Within these walls, where all should be at peace, I have my trials. Time has laid his hand Upon my heart, gently, not smiting it, But as a harper lays his open palm Upon his harp to deaden its vibrations, Ashes are on my head, and on my lips Sackcloth, and in my breast a heaviness And weariness of life, that makes me ready To say to the dead Abbots under us, "Make room for me!" Ony I see the dusk Of evening twilight coming, and have not Completed half my task; and so at times The thought of my shortcomings in this life Falls like a shadow on the life to come.
PRINCE HENRY. We must all die, and not the old alone; The young have no exemption from that doom.
ABBOT. Ah, yes! the young may die, but the old must! That is the difference.
PRINCE HENRY. I have heard much laud Of your transcribers, Your Scriptorium Is famous among all; your manuscripts Praised for their beauty and their excellence.
ABBOT. That is indeed our boast. If you desire it You shall behold these treasures. And meanwhile Shall the Refectorarius bestow Your horses and attendants for the night.
They go in. The Vesper-bell rings.
Vespers: after which the monks retire, a chorister leading an old monk who is blind.
PRINCE HENRY. They are all gone, save one who lingers, Absorbed in deep and silent prayer. As if his heart could find no rest, At times he beats his heaving breast With clenched and convulsive fingers, Then lifts them trembling in the air. A chorister, with golden hair, Guides hitherward his heavy pace. Can it be so? Or does my sight Deceive me in the uncertain light? Ah no! I recognize that face Though Time has touched it in his flight, And changed the auburn hair to white. It is Count Hugo of the Rhine, The deadliest foe of all our race, And hateful unto me and mine!
THE BLIND MONK. Who is it that doth stand so near His whispered words I almost hear?
PRINCE HENRY. I am Prince Henry of Hoheneck, And you, Count Hugo of the Rhine! I know you, and I see the scar, The brand upon your forehead, shine And redden like a baleful star!
THE BLIND MONK. Count Hugo once, but now the wreck Of what I was. O Hoheneck! The passionate will, the pride, the wrath That bore me headlong on my path, Stumbled and staggered into fear, And failed me in my mad career, As a tired steed some evil-doer, Alone upon a desolate moor, Bewildered, lost, deserted, blind, And hearing loud and close behind The o'ertaking steps of his pursuer. Then suddenly from the dark there came A voice that called me by my name, And said to me, "Kneel down and pray!" And so my terror passed away, Passed utterly away forever. Contrition, penitence, remorse, Came on me, with o'erwhelming force; A hope, a longing, an endeavor, By days of penance and nights of prayer, To frustrate and defeat despair! Calm, deep, and still is now my heart, With tranquil waters overflowed; A lake whose unseen fountains start, Where once the hot volcano glowed. And you, O Prince of Hoheneck! Have known me in that earlier time, A man of violence and crime, Whose passions brooked no curb nor check. Behold me now, in gentler mood, One of this holy brotherhood. Give me your hand; here let me kneel; Make your reproaches sharp as steel; Spurn me, and smite me on each cheek; No violence can harm the meek, There is no wound Christ cannot heal! Yes; lift your princely hand, and take Revenge, if 't is revenge you seek; Then pardon me, for Jesus' sake!
PRINCE HENRY. Arise, Count Hugo! let there be No further strife nor enmity Between us twain; we both have erred Too rash in act, too wroth in word, From the beginning have we stood In fierce, defiant attitude, Each thoughtless of the other's right, And each reliant on his might. But now our souls are more subdued; The hand of God, and not in vain, Has touched us with the fire of pain. Let us kneel down and side by side Pray till our souls are purified, And pardon will not be denied!
Gaudiolum of Monks at midnight. LUCIFER disguised as a Friar.
FRIAR PAUL sings. Ave! color vini clari, Dulcis potus, non amari, Tua nos inebriari Digneris potentia!
FRIAR CUTHBERT. Not so much noise, my worthy freres, You'll disturb the Abbot at his prayers.
FRIAR PAUL sings. O! quam placens in colore! O! quam fragrans in odore! O! quam sapidum in ore! Dulce linguae vinculum!
FRIAR CUTHBERT. I should think your tongue had broken its chain!
FRIAR PAUL sings. Felix venter quem intrabis! Felix guttur quod rigabis! Felix os quod tu lavabis! Et beata labia!
FRIAR CUTHBERT. Peace! I say, peace! Will you never cease! You will rouse up the Abbot, I tell you again!
FRIAR JOHN. No danger! to-night he will let us alone, As I happen to know he has guests of his own.
FRIAR CUTHBERT. Who are they?
FRIAR JOHN. A German Prince and his train, Who arrived here just before the rain. There is with him a damsel fair to see, As slender and graceful as a reed! When she alighted from her steed, It seemed like a blossom blown from a tree.
FRIAR CUTHBERT. None of your pale-faced girls for me! None of your damsels of high degree!
FRIAR JOHN. Come, old fellow, drink down to your peg! But do not drink any further, I beg!
FRIAR PAUL sings. In the days of gold, The days of old, Crosier of wood And bishop of gold!
FRIAR CUTHBERT. What an infernal racket and riot! Can you not drink your wine in quiet? Why fill the convent with such scandals, As if we were so many drunken Vandals?
FRIAR PAUL continues. Now we have changed That law so good To crosier of gold And bishop of wood!
FRIAR CUTHBERT. Well, then, since you are in the mood To give your noisy humors vent, Sing and howl to your heart's content!
CHORUS OF MONKS. Funde vinum, funde! Tanquam sint fluminis undae, Nec quaeras unde, Sed fundas semper abunde!
FRIAR JOHN. What is the name of yonder friar, With an eye that glows like a coal of fire, And such a black mass of tangled hair?
FRIAR PAUL. He who is sitting there, With a rollicking, Devil may care, Free and easy look and air, As if he were used to such feasting and frolicking?
FRIAR JOHN. The same.
FRIAR PAUL. He's a stranger. You had better ask his name, And where he is going and whence he came.
FRIAR JOHN. Hallo! Sir Friar!
FRIAR PAUL. You must raise your voice a little higher, He does not seem to hear what you say. Now, try again! He is looking this way.
FRIAR JOHN. Hallo! Sir Friar, We wish to inquire Whence you came, and where you are going, And anything else that is worth the knowing. So be so good as to open your head.
LUCIFER. I am a Frenchman born and bred, Going on a pilgrimage to Rome. My home Is the convent of St. Gildas de Rhuys, Of which, very like, you never have heard.
MONKS. Never a word.
LUCIFER. You must know, then, it is in the diocese Called the Diocese of Vannes, In the province of Brittany. From the gray rocks of Morbihan It overlooks the angry sea; The very sea-shore where, In his great despair, Abbot Abelard walked to and fro, Filling the night with woe, And wailing aloud to the merciless seas The name of his sweet Heloise, Whilst overhead The convent windows gleamed as red As the fiery eyes of the monks within, Who with jovial din Gave themselves up to all kinds of sin! Ha! that is a convent! that is an abbey! Over the doors, None of your death-heads carved in wood, None of your Saints looking pious and good, None of your Patriarchs old and shabby! But the heads and tusks of boars, And the cells Hung all round with the fells Of the fallow-deer. And then what cheer! What jolly, fat friars, Sitting round the great, roaring fires, Roaring louder than they, With their strong wines, And their concubines, And never a bell, With its swagger and swell, Calling you up with a start of affright In the dead of night, To send you grumbling down dark stairs, To mumble your prayers; But the cheery crow Of cocks in the yard below, After daybreak, an hour or so, And the barking of deep-mouthed hounds, These are the sounds That, instead of bells, salute the ear. And then all day Up and away Through the forest, hunting the deer! Ah, my friends, I'm afraid that here You are a little too pious, a little too tame, And the more is the shame. 'T is the greatest folly Not to be jolly; That's what I think! Come, drink, drink, Drink, and die game!
MONKS. And your Abbot What's-his-name?
MONKS. Did he drink hard?
LUCIFER. Oh, no! Not he! He was a dry old fellow, Without juice enough to get thoroughly mellow. There he stood, Lowering at us in sullen mood, As if he had come into Brittany Just to reform our brotherhood!
A roar of laughter.
But you see It never would do! For some of us knew a thing or two, In the Abbey of St. Gildas de Rhuys! For instance, the great ado With old Fulbert's niece, The young and lovely Heloise.
FRIAR JOHN. Stop there, if you please, Till we drink so the fair Heloise.
ALL, drinking and shouting. Heloise! Heloise!
The Chapel-bell tolls.
LUCIFER, starting. What is that bell for! Are you such asses As to keep up the fashion of midnight masses?
FRIAR CUTHBERT. It is only a poor unfortunate brother, Who is gifted with most miraculous powers Of getting up at all sorts of hours, And, by way of penance and Christian meekness, Of creeping silently out of his cell To take a pull at that hideous bell; So that all monks who are lying awake May murmur some kind of prayer for his sake, And adapted to his peculiar weakness!
FRIAR JOHN. From frailty and fall—
ALL. Good Lord, deliver us all!
FRIAR CUTHBERT. And before the bell for matins sounds, He takes his lantern, and goes the rounds, Flashing it into our sleepy eyes, Merely to say it is time to arise. But enough of that. Go on, if you please, With your story about St. Gildas de Rhuys.
LUCIFER. Well, it finally came to pass That, half in fun and half in malice, One Sunday at Mass We put some poison into the chalice. But, either by accident or design, Peter Abelard kept away From the chapel that day, And a poor young friar, who in his stead Drank the sacramental wine, Fell on the steps of the altar, dead! But look! do you see at the window there That face, with a look of grief and despair, That ghastly face, as of one in pain?
MONKS. Who? where?
LUCIFER. As I spoke, it vanished away again.
FRIAR CUTHBERT. It is that nefarious Siebald the Refectorarius, That fellow is always playing the scout, Creeping and peeping and prowling about; And then he regales The Abbot with scandalous tales.
LUCIFER. A spy in the convent? One of the brothers Telling scandalous tales of the others? Out upon him, the lazy loon! I would put a stop to that pretty soon, In a way he should rue it.
MONKS. How shall we do it!
LUCIFER. Do you, brother Paul, Creep under the window, close to the wall, And open it suddenly when I call. Then seize the villain by the hair, And hold him there, And punish him soundly, once for all.
FRIAR CUTHBERT. As Saint Dunstan of old, We are told, Once caught the Devil by the nose!
LUCIFER. Ha! ha! that story is very clever, But has no foundation whatsoever. Quick! for I see his face again Glaring in at the window-pane; Now! now! and do not spare your blows.
FRIAR PAUL opens the window suddenly, and seizes SIEBALD. They beat him.
FRIAR SIEBALD. Help! help! are you going to slay me?
FRIAR PAUL. That will teach you again to betray me!
FRIAR SIEBALD. Mercy! mercy!
FRIAR PAUL, shouting and beating.
Rumpas bellorum lorum Vim confer amorum Morum verorum rorum Tu plena polorum!
LUCIFER. Who stands in the doorway yonder, Stretching out his trembling hand, Just as Abelard used to stand, The flash of his keen, black eyes Forerunning the thunder?
THE MONKS, in confusion. The Abbot! the Abbot!
FRIAR CUTHBERT. And what is the wonder! He seems to have taken you by surprise.
FRIAR FRANCIS. Hide the great flagon From the eyes of the dragon!
FRIAR CUTHBERT. Pull the brown hood over your face! This will bring us into disgrace!
ABBOT. What means this revel and carouse? Is this a tavern and drinking-house? Are you Christian monks, or heathen devils, To pollute this convent with your revels? Were Peter Damian still upon earth, To be shocked by such ungodly mirth, He would write your names, with pen of gall, In his Book of Gomorrah, one and all! Away, you drunkards! to your cells, And pray till you hear the matin-bells; You, Brother Francis, and you, Brother Paul! And as a penance mark each prayer With the scourge upon your shoulders bare; Nothing atones for such a sin But the blood that follows the discipline. And you, Brother Cuthbert, come with me Alone into the sacristy; You, who should be a guide to your brothers, And are ten times worse than all the others, For you I've a draught that has long been brewing, You shall do a penance worth the doing! Away to your prayers, then, one and all! I wonder the very convent wall Does not crumble and crush you in its fall!
THE NEIGHBORING NUNNERY
The ABBESS IRMINGARD Sitting with ELSIE in the moonlight.
IRMINGARD. The night is silent, the wind is still, The moon is looking from yonder hill Down upon convent, and grove, and garden; The clouds have passed away from her face, Leaving behind them no sorrowful trace, Only the tender and quiet grace Of one whose heart has been healed with pardon!
And such am I. My soul within Was dark with passion and soiled with sin. But now its wounds are healed again; Gone are the anguish, the terror, and pain; For across that desolate land of woe, O'er whose burning sands I was forced to go, A wind from heaven began to blow; And all my being trembled and shook, As the leaves of the tree, or the grass of the field, And I was healed, as the sick are healed, When fanned by the leaves of the Holy Book!
As thou sittest in the moonlight there, Its glory flooding thy golden hair, And the only darkness that which lies In the haunted chambers of thine eyes, I feel my soul drawn unto thee, Strangely, and strongly, and more and more, As to one I have known and loved before; For every soul is akin to me That dwells in the land of mystery! I am the Lady Irmingard, Born of a noble race and name! Many a wandering Suabian bard, Whose life was dreary, and bleak, and hard, Has found through me the way to fame.
Brief and bright were those days, and the night Which followed was full of a lurid light. Love, that of every woman's heart Will have the whole, and not a part, That is to her, in Nature's plan, More than ambition is to man, Her light, her life, her very breath, With no alternative but death, Found me a maiden soft and young, Just from the convent's cloistered school, And seated on my lowly stool, Attentive while the minstrels sung.
Gallant, graceful, gentle, tall, Fairest, noblest, best of all, Was Walter of the Vogelweid; And, whatsoever may betide, Still I think of him with pride! His song was of the summer-time, The very birds sang in his rhyme; The sunshine, the delicious air, The fragrance of the flowers, were there; And I grew restless as I heard, Restless and buoyant as a bird, Down soft, aerial currents sailing, O'er blossomed orchards and fields in bloom, And through the momentary gloom, Of shadows o'er the landscape trailing, Yielding and borne I knew not where, But feeling resistance unavailing.
And thus, unnoticed and apart, And more by accident than choice, I listened to that single voice Until the chambers of my heart Were filled with it by night and day. One night,—it was a night in May,— Within the garden, unawares, Under the blossoms in the gloom, I heard it utter my own name With protestations and wild prayers; And it rang through me, and became Like the archangel's trump of doom, Which the soul hears, and must obey; And mine arose as from a tomb. My former life now seemed to me Such as hereafter death may be, When in the great Eternity We shall awake and find it day.
It was a dream, and would not stay; A dream, that in a single night Faded and vanished out of sight. My father's anger followed fast This passion, as a freshening blast Seeks out and fans the fire, whose rage It may increase, but not assuage. And he exclaimed: "No wandering bard Shall win thy hand, O Irmingard! For which Prince Henry of Hoheneck By messenger and letter sues."
Gently, but firmly, I replied: "Henry of Hoheneck I discard! Never the hand of Irmingard Shall lie in his as the hand of a bride! This said I, Walter, for thy sake This said I, for I could not choose. After a pause, my father spake In that cold and deliberate tone Which turns the hearer into stone, And seems itself the act to be That follows with such dread certainty "This or the cloister and the veil!" No other words than these he said, But they were like a funeral wail; My life was ended, my heart was dead.
That night from the castle-gate went down With silent, slow, and stealthy pace, Two shadows, mounted on shadowy steeds, Taking the narrow path that leads Into the forest dense and brown. In the leafy darkness of the place, One could not distinguish form nor face, Only a bulk without a shape, A darker shadow in the shade; One scarce could say it moved or stayed. Thus it was we made our escape! A foaming brook, with many a bound, Followed us like a playful hound; Then leaped before us, and in the hollow Paused, and waited for us to follow, And seemed impatient, and afraid That our tardy flight should be betrayed By the sound our horses' hoof-beats made. And when we reached the plain below, We paused a moment and drew rein To look back at the castle again; And we saw the windows all aglow With lights, that were passing to and fro; Our hearts with terror ceased to beat; The brook crept silent to our feet; We knew what most we feared to know. Then suddenly horns began to blow; And we heard a shout, and a heavy tramp, And our horses snorted in the damp Night-air of the meadows green and wide, And in a moment, side by side, So close, they must have seemed but one, The shadows across the moonlight run, And another came, and swept behind, Like the shadow of clouds before the wind!
How I remember that breathless flight Across the moors, in the summer night! How under our feet the long, white road Backward like a river flowed, Sweeping with it fences and hedges, Whilst farther away and overhead, Paler than I, with fear and dread, The moon fled with us as we fled Along the forest's jagged edges!
All this I can remember well; But of what afterwards befell I nothing further can recall Than a blind, desperate, headlong fall; The rest is a blank and darkness all. When I awoke out of this swoon, The sun was shining, not the moon, Making a cross upon the wall With the bars of my windows narrow and tall; And I prayed to it, as I had been wont to pray From early childhood, day by day, Each morning, as in bed I lay! I was lying again in my own room! And I thanked God, in my fever and pain, That those shadows on the midnight plain Were gone, and could not come again! I struggled no longer with my doom!
This happened many years ago. I left my father's home to come Like Catherine to her martyrdom, For blindly I esteemed it so. And when I heard the convent door Behind me close, to ope no more, I felt it smite me like a blow. Through all my limbs a shudder ran, And on my bruised spirit fell The dampness of my narrow cell As night-air on a wounded man, Giving intolerable pain.
But now a better life began. I felt the agony decrease By slow degrees, then wholly cease, Ending in perfect rest and peace! It was not apathy, nor dulness, That weighed and pressed upon my brain, But the same passion I had given To earth before, now turned to heaven With all its overflowing fulness.
Alas! the world is full of peril! The path that runs through the fairest meads, On the sunniest side of the valley, leads Into a region bleak and sterile! Alike in the high-born and the lowly, The will is feeble, and passion strong. We cannot sever right from wrong; Some falsehood mingles with all truth; Nor is it strange the heart of youth Should waver and comprehend but slowly The things that are holy and unholy! But in this sacred, calm retreat, We are all well and safely shielded From winds that blow, and waves that beat, From the cold, and rain, and blighting heat, To which the strongest hearts have yielded. Here we stand as the Virgins Seven, For our celestial bridegroom yearning; Our hearts are lamps forever burning, With a steady and unwavering flame, Pointing upward, forever the same, Steadily upward toward the heaven!
The moon is hidden behind a cloud; A sudden darkness fills the room, And thy deep eyes, amid the gloom, Shine like jewels in a shroud. On the leaves is a sound of falling rain; A bird, awakened in its nest, Gives a faint twitter of unrest, Then smooths its plumes and sleeps again. No other sounds than these I hear; The hour of midnight must be near. Thou art o'erspent with the day's fatigue Of riding many a dusty league; Sink, then, gently to thy slumber; Me so many cares encumber, So many ghosts, and forms of fright, Have started from their graves to-night, They have driven sleep from mine eyes away: I will go down to the chapel and pray.
A COVERED BRIDGE AT LUCERNE
PRINCE HENRY. God's blessing on the architects who build The bridges o'er swift rivers and abysses Before impassable to human feet, No less than on the builders of cathedrals, Whose massive walls are bridges thrown across The dark and terrible abyss of Death. Well has the name of Pontifex been given Unto the Church's head, as the chief builder And architect of the invisible bridge That leads from earth to heaven.
ELSIE. How dark it grows! What are these paintings on the walls around us?
PRINCE HENRY. The Dance Macaber!
PRINCE HENRY. The Dance of Death! All that go to and fro must look upon it, Mindful of what they shall be, while beneath, Among the wooden piles, the turbulent river Rushes, impetuous as the river of life, With dimpling eddies, ever green and bright, Save where the shadow of this bridge falls on it.
ELSIE. Oh yes! I see it now!
PRINCE HENRY. The grim musician Leads all men through the mazes of that dance, To different sounds in different measures moving; Sometimes he plays a lute, sometimes a drum, To tempt or terrify.
ELSIE. What is this picture?
PRINCE HENRY. It is a young man singing to a nun, Who kneels at her devotions, but in kneeling Turns round to look at him; and Death, meanwhile, Is putting out the candles on the altar!
ELSIE. Ah, what a pity 't is that she should listen Unto such songs, when in her orisons She might have heard in heaven the angels singing!
PRINCE HENRY. Here he has stolen a jester's cap and bells And dances with the Queen.
ELSIE. A foolish jest!
PRINCE HENRY. And here the heart of the new-wedded wife, Coming from church with her beloved lord, He startles with the rattle of his drum.
ELSIE. Ah, that is sad! And yet perhaps 't is best That she should die, with all the sunshine on her, And all the benedictions of the morning, Before this affluence of golden light Shall fade into a cold and clouded gray, Then into darkness!
PRINCE HENRY. Under it is written, "Nothing but death shall separate thee and me!"
ELSIE. And what is this, that follows close upon it?
PRINCE HENRY. Death playing on a dulcimer. Behind him, A poor old woman, with a rosary, Follows the sound, and seems to wish her feet Were swifter to o'ertake him. Underneath, The inscription reads, "Better is Death than Life."
ELSIE. Better is Death than Life! Ah yes! to thousands Death plays upon a dulcimer, and sings That song of consolation, till the air Rings with it, and they cannot choose but follow Whither he leads. And not the old alone, But the young also hear it, and are still.
PRINCE HENRY. Yes, in their sadder moments. 'T is the sound Of their own hearts they hear, half full of tears, Which are like crystal cups, half filled with water, Responding to the pressure of a finger With music sweet and low and melancholy. Let us go forward, and no longer stay In this great picture-gallery of Death! I hate it! ay, the very thought of it!
ELSIE. Why is it hateful to you?
PRINCE HENRY. For the reason That life, and all that speaks of life, is lovely, And death, and all that speaks of death, is hateful.
ELSIE. The grave itself is but a covered bridge, Leading from light to light, through a brief darkness!
PRINCE HENRY, emerging from the bridge. I breathe again more freely! Ah, how pleasant To come once more into the light of day, Out of that shadow of death! To hear again The hoof-beats of our horses on firm ground, And not upon those hollow planks, resounding With a sepulchral echo, like the clods On coffins in a churchyard! Yonder lies The Lake of the Four Forest-Towns, apparelled In light, and lingering, like a village maiden, Hid in the bosom of her native mountains Then pouring all her life into another's, Changing her name and being! Overhead, Shaking his cloudy tresses loose in air, Rises Pilatus, with his windy pines.
They pass on.
THE DEVIL'S BRIDGE
PRINCE HENRY and ELSIE crossing with attendants.
GUIDE. This bridge is called the Devil's Bridge. With a single arch, from ridge to ridge, It leaps across the terrible chasm Yawning beneath us, black and deep, As if, in some convulsive spasm, The summits of the hills had cracked, And made a road for the cataract That raves and rages down the steep!
LUCIFER, under the bridge. Ha! ha!
GUIDE. Never any bridge but this Could stand across the wild abyss; All the rest, of wood or stone, By the Devil's hand were overthrown. He toppled crags from the precipice, And whatsoe'er was built by day In the night was swept away; None could stand but this alone.
LUCIFER, under the bridge. Ha! ha!
GUIDE. I showed you in the valley a bowlder Marked with the imprint of his shoulder; As he was bearing it up this way, A peasant, passing, cried, "Herr Je! And the Devil dropped it in his fright, And vanished suddenly out of sight!
LUCIFER, under the bridge. Ha! ha!
GUIDE. Abbot Giraldus of Einsiedel, For pilgrims on their way to Rome, Built this at last, with a single arch, Under which, on its endless march, Runs the river, white with foam, Like a thread through the eye of a needle. And the Devil promised to let it stand, Under compact and condition That the first living thing which crossed Should be surrendered into his hand, And be beyond redemption lost.
LUCIFER, under the bridge. Ha! ha! perdition!
GUIDE. At length, the bridge being all completed, The Abbot, standing at its head, Threw across it a loaf of bread, Which a hungry dog sprang after; And the rocks re-echoed with the peals of laughter, To see the Devil thus defeated!
They pass on.
LUCIFER, under the bridge. Ha! ha! defeated! For journeys and for crimes like this I let the bridge stand o'er the abyss!
THE ST. GOTHARD PASS
PRINCE HENRY. This is the highest point. Two ways the rivers Leap down to different seas, and as they roll Grow deep and still, and their majestic presence Becomes a benefaction to the towns They visit, wandering silently among them, Like patriarchs old among their shining tents.
ELSIE. How bleak and bare it is! Nothing but mosses Grow on these rocks.
PRINCE HENRY. Yet are they not forgotten; Beneficent Nature sends the mists to feed them.
ELSIE. See yonder little cloud, that, borne aloft So tenderly by the wind, floats fast away Over the snowy peaks! It seems to me The body of St. Catherine, borne by angels!
PRINCE HENRY. Thou art St. Catherine, and invisible angels Bear thee across these chasms and precipices, Lest thou shouldst dash thy feet against a stone!
ELSIE. Would I were borne unto my grave, as she was, Upon angelic shoulders! Even now I seem uplifted by them, light as air! What sound is that?
PRINCE HENRY. The tumbling avalanches!
ELSIE. How awful, yet how beautiful!
PRINCE HENRY. These are The voices of the mountains! Thus they ope Their snowy lips, and speak unto each other, In the primeval language, lost to man.
ELSIE. What land is this that spreads itself beneath us?
PRINCE HENRY. Italy! Italy!
ELSIE. Land of the Madonna! How beautiful it is! It seems a garden Of Paradise!
PRINCE HENRY. Nay, of Gethsemane To thee and me, of passion and of prayer! Yet once of Paradise. Long years ago I wandered as a youth among its bowers, And never from my heart has faded quite Its memory, that, like a summer sunset, Encircles with a ring of purple light All the horizon of my youth.
GUIDE. O friends! The days are short, the way before us long: We must not linger, if we think to reach The inn at Belinzona before vespers!
They pass on.
AT THE FOOT OF THE ALPS
A halt under the trees at noon.
PRINCE HENRY. Here let us pause a moment in the trembling Shadow and sunshine of the roadside trees, And, our tired horses in a group assembling, Inhale long draughts of this delicious breeze. Our fleeter steeds have distanced our attendants; They lag behind us with a slower pace; We will await them under the green pendants Of the great willows in this shady place. Ho, Barbarossa! how thy mottled haunches Sweat with this canter over hill and glade! Stand still, and let these overhanging branches Fan thy hot sides and comfort thee with shade!
ELSIE. What a delightful landscape spreads before us, Marked with a whitewashed cottage here and there! And, in luxuriant garlands drooping o'er us, Blossoms of grape-vines scent the sunny air.
PRINCE HENRY. Hark! what sweet sounds are those, whose accents holy Fill the warm noon with music sad and sweet!
ELSIE. It is a band of pilgrims, moving slowly On their long journey, with uncovered feet.
PILGRIMS, chanting the Hymn of St. Hildebert. Me receptet Sion illa, Sion David, urbs tranquilla, Cujus faber auctor lucis, Cujus portae lignum crucis, Cujus claves lingua Petri, Cujus cives semper laeti, Cujus muri lapis vivus, Cujus custos rex festivus!
LUCIFER, as a Friar in the procession. Here am I, too, in the pious band, In the garb of a barefooted Carmelite dressed! The soles of my feet are as hard and tanned As the conscience of old Pope Hildebrand, The Holy Satan, who made the wives Of the bishops lead such shameful lives, All day long I beat my breast, And chant with a most particular zest The Latin hymns, which I understand Quite as well, I think, as the rest. And at night such lodging in barns and sheds, Such a hurly-burly in country inns, Such a clatter of tongues in empty heads, Such a helter-skelter of prayers and sins! Of all the contrivances of the time For sowing broadcast the seeds of crime, There is none so pleasing to me and mine As a pilgrimage to some far-off shrine!
PRINCE HENRY. If from the outward man we judge the inner, And cleanliness is godliness, I fear A hopeless reprobate, a hardened Sinner, Must be that Carmelite now passing near.
LUCIFER. There is my German Prince again, Thus far on his journey to Salern, And the lovesick girl, whose heated brain Is sowing the cloud to reap the rain; But it's a long road that has no turn! Let them quietly hold their way, I have also a part in the play. But first I must act to my heart's content This mummery and this merriment, And drive this motley flock of sheep Into the fold, where drink and sleep The jolly old friars of Benevent. Of a truth, it often provokes me to laugh To see these beggars hobble along, Lamed and maimed, and fed upon chaff, Chanting their wonderful puff and paff, And, to make up for not understanding the song, Singing it fiercely, and wild, and strong! Were it not for my magic garters and staff, And the goblets of goodly wine I quaff, And the mischief I make in the idle throng, I should not continue the business long.
PILGRIMS, chanting. In hac urbe, lux solennis, Ver aeternum, pax perennis; In hac odor implens caelos, In hac semper festum melos!
PRINCE HENRY. Do you observe that monk among the train, Who pours from his great throat the roaring bass, As a cathedral spout pours out the rain, And this way turns his rubicund, round face?
ELSIE. It is the same who, on the Strasburg square, Preached to the people in the open air.
PRINCE HENRY. And he has crossed o'er mountain, field, and fell, On that good steed, that seems to bear him well, The hackney of the Friars of Orders Gray, His own stout legs! He, too, was in the play, Both as King Herod and Ben Israel. Good morrow, Friar!
FRIAR CUTHBERT. Good morrow, noble Sir!
PRINCE HENRY. I speak in German, for, unless I err, You are a German.
FRIAR CUTHBERT. I cannot gainsay you. But by what instinct, or what secret sign, Meeting me here, do you straightway divine That northward of the Alps my country lies?
PRINCE HENRY. Your accent, like St. Peter's, would betray you, Did not your yellow beard and your blue eyes. Moreover, we have seen your face before, And heard you preach at the Cathedral door On Easter Sunday, in the Strasburg square. We were among the crowd that gathered there, And saw you play the Rabbi with great skill, As if, by leaning o'er so many years To walk with little children, your own will Had caught a childish attitude from theirs, A kind of stooping in its form and gait, And could no longer stand erect and straight. Whence come you now?
FRIAR CUTHBERT. From the old monastery Of Hirschau, in the forest; being sent Upon a pilgrimage to Benevent, To see the image of the Virgin Mary, That moves its holy eyes, and sometimes speaks, And lets the piteous tears run down its cheeks, To touch the hearts of the impenitent.
PRINCE HENRY. Oh, had I faith, as in the days gone by, That knew no doubt, and feared no mystery!
LUCIFER, at a distance. Ho, Cuthbert! Friar Cuthbert!
FRIAR CUTHBERT. Fare well, Prince; I cannot stay to argue and convince.
PRINCE HENRY. This is indeed the blessed Mary's land, Virgin and mother of our dear redeemer! All hearts are touched and softened at her name, Alike the bandit, with the bloody hand, The priest, the prince, the scholar, and the peasant, The man of deeds, the visionary dreamer, Pay homage to her as one ever present! And even as children, who have much offended A too indulgent father, in great shame, Penitent, and yet not daring unattended To go into his presence, at the gate Speak with their sister, and confiding wait Till she goes in before and intercedes; So men, repenting of their evil deeds, And yet not venturing rashly to draw near With their requests an angry father's ear, Offer to her their prayers and their confession, And she for them in heaven makes intercession. And if our faith had given us nothing more Than this example of all womanhood, So mild, so merciful, so strong, so good, So patient, peaceful, loyal, loving, pure, This were enough to prove it higher and truer Than all the creeds the world had known before.
PILGRIMS, chanting afar off. Urbs coelestis, urbs beata, Supra petram collocata, Urbs in portu satis tuto De longinquo te saluto, Te saluto, te suspiro, Te affecto, te requiro!
THE INN AT GENOA
A terrace overlooking the sea. Night.
PRINCE HENRY. It is the sea, it is the sea, In all its vague immensity, Fading and darkening in the distance! Silent, majestical, and slow, The white ships haunt it to and fro, With all their ghostly sails unfurled, As phantoms from another world Haunt the dim confines of existence! But ah! how few can comprehend Their signals, or to what good end From land to land they come and go! Upon a sea more vast and dark The spirits of the dead embark, All voyaging to unknown coasts. We wave our farewells from the shore, And they depart, and come no more, Or come as phantoms and as ghosts.
Above the darksome sea of death Looms the great life that is to be, A land of cloud and mystery, A dim mirage, with shapes of men Long dead and passed beyond our ken, Awe-struck we gaze, and hold our breath Till the fair pageant vanisheth, Leaving us in perplexity, And doubtful whether it has been A vision of the world unseen, Or a bright image of our own Against the sky in vapors thrown.
LUCIFER, singing from the sea. Thou didst not make it, thou canst not mend it, But thou hast the power to end it! The sea is silent, the sea is discreet, Deep it lies at thy very feet; There is no confessor like unto Death! Thou canst not see him, but he is near; Thou needst not whisper above thy breath, And he will hear; He will answer the questions, The vague surmises and suggestions, That fill thy soul with doubt and fear!
PRINCE HENRY. The fisherman, who lies afloat, With shadowy sail, in yonder boat, Is singing softly to the Night! But do I comprehend aright The meaning of the words he sung So sweetly in his native tongue? Ah yes! the sea is still and deep. All things within its bosom sleep! A single step, and all is o'er; A plunge, a bubble an no more; And thou, dear Elsie, wilt be free From martyrdom and agony.
ELSIE, coming from her chamber upon the terrace. The night is calm and cloudless, And still as still can be, And the stars come forth to listen To the music of the sea. They gather, and gather, and gather, Until they crowd the sky, And listen, in breathless silence, To the solemn litany. It begins in rocky caverns, As a voice that chants alone To the pedals of the organ In monotonous undertone; And anon from shelving beaches, And shallow sands beyond, In snow-white robes uprising The ghostly choirs respond. And sadly and unceasing The mournful voice sings on, And the snow-white choirs still answer Christe eleison!
PRINCE HENRY. Angel of God! thy finer sense perceives Celestial and perpetual harmonies! Thy purer soul, that trembles and believes, Hears the archangel's trumpet in the breeze, And where the forest rolls, or ocean heaves, Cecilia's organ sounding in the seas, And tongues of prophets speaking in the leaves. But I hear discord only and despair, And whispers as of demons in the air!
IL PADRONE. The wind upon our quarter lies, And on before the freshening gale, That fills the snow-white lateen sail, Swiftly our light felucca flies, Around the billows burst and foam; They lift her o'er the sunken rock, They beat her sides with many a shock, And then upon their flowing dome They poise her, like a weathercock! Between us and the western skies The hills of Corsica arise; Eastward in yonder long blue line, The summits of the Apennine, And southward, and still far away, Salerno, on its sunny bay. You cannot see it, where it lies.
PRINCE HENRY. Ah, would that never more mine eyes Might see its towers by night or day!
ELSIE. Behind us, dark and awfully, There comes a cloud out of the sea, That bears the form of a hunted deer, With hide of brown, and hoofs of black And antlers laid upon its back, And fleeing fast and wild with fear, As if the hounds were on its track!
PRINCE HENRY. Lo! while we gaze, it breaks and falls In shapeless masses, like the walls Of a burnt city. Broad and red The flies of the descending sun Glare through the windows, and o'erhead, Athwart the vapors, dense and dun, Long shafts of silvery light arise, Like rafters that support the skies!
ELSIE. See! from its summit the lurid levin Flashes downward without warning, As Lucifer, son of the morning, Fell from the battlements of heaven!
IL PADRONE. I must entreat you, friends, below! The angry storm begins to blow, For the weather changes with the moon. All this morning, until noon, We had baffling winds, and sudden flaws Struck the sea with their cat's-paws. Only a little hour ago I was whistling to Saint Antonio For a capful of wind to fill our sail, And instead of a breeze he has sent a gale. Last night I saw St. Elmo's stars, With their glimmering lanterns, all at play On the tops of the masts and the tips of the spars, And I knew we should have foul weather to-day. Cheerily, my hearties! yo heave ho! Brail up the mainsail, and let her go As the winds will and Saint Antonio!
Do you see that Livornese felucca, That vessel to the windward yonder, Running with her gunwale under? I was looking when the wind o'ertook her, She had all sail set, and the only wonder Is that at once the strength of the blast Did not carry away her mast. She is a galley of the Gran Duca, That, through the fear of the Algerines, Convoys those lazy brigantines, Laden with wine and oil from Lucca. Now all is ready, high and low; Blow, blow, good Saint Antonio!
Ha! that is the first dash of the rain, With a sprinkle of spray above the rails, Just enough to moisten our sails, And make them ready for the strain. See how she leaps, as the blasts o'ertake her, And speeds away with a bone in her mouth! Now keep her head toward the south, And there is no danger of bank or breaker. With the breeze behind us, on we go; Not too much, good Saint Antonio!
THE SCHOOL OF SALERNO
A travelling Scholastic affixing his Theses to the gate of the College.
SCHOLASTIC. There, that is my gauntlet, my banner, my shield, Hung up as a challenge to all the field! One hundred and twenty-five propositions, Which I will maintain with the sword of the tongue Against all disputants, old and young. Let us see if doctors or dialecticians Will dare to dispute my definitions, Or attack any one of my learned theses. Here stand I; the end shall be as God pleases. I think I have proved, by profound researches, The error of all those doctrines so vicious Of the old Areopagite Dionysius, That are making such terrible work in the churches, By Michael the Stammerer sent from the East, And done into Latin by that Scottish beast, Johannes Duns Scotus, who dares to maintain, In the face of the truth, the error infernal, That the universe is and must be eternal; At first laying down, as a fact fundamental, That nothing with God can be accidental; Then asserting that God before the creation Could not have existed, because it is plain That, had He existed, He would have created; Which is begging the question that should be debated, And moveth me less to anger than laughter. All nature, he holds, is a respiration Of the Spirit of God, who, in breathing, hereafter Will inhale it into his bosom again, So that nothing but God alone will remain. And therein he contradicteth himself; For he opens the whole discussion by stating, That God can only exist in creating. That question I think I have laid on the shelf!
He goes out. Two Doctors come in disputing, and followed by pupils.
DOCTOR SERAFINO. I, with the Doctor Seraphic, maintain, That a word which is only conceived in the brain Is a type of eternal Generation; The spoken word is the Incarnation.
DOCTOR CHERUBINO. What do I care for the Doctor Seraphic, With all his wordy chaffer and traffic?
DOCTOR SERAFINO. You make but a paltry show of resistance; Universals have no real existence!
DOCTOR CHERUBINO. Your words are but idle and empty chatter; Ideas are eternally joined to matter!
DOCTOR SERAFINO. May the Lord have mercy on your position, You wretched, wrangling culler of herbs!
DOCTOR CHERUBINO. May he send your soul to eternal perdition, For your Treatise on the Irregular verbs!
They rush out fighting. Two Scholars come in.
FIRST SCHOLAR. Monte Cassino, then, is your College. What think you of ours here at Salern?
SECOND SCHOLAR. To tell the truth, I arrived so lately, I hardly yet have had time to discern. So much, at least, I am bound to acknowledge: The air seems healthy, the buildings stately, And on the whole I like it greatly.
FIRST SCHOLAR. Yes, the air is sweet; the Calabrian hills Send us down puffs of mountain air; And in summer-time the sea-breeze fills With its coolness cloister, and court, and square. Then at every season of the year There are crowds of guests and travellers here; Pilgrims, and mendicant friars, and traders From the Levant, with figs and wine, And bands of wounded and sick Crusaders, Coming back from Palestine.
SECOND SCHOLAR. And what are the studies you pursue? What is the course you here go through?
FIRST SCHOLAR. The first three years of the college course Are given to Logic alone, as the source Of all that is noble, and wise, and true.
SECOND SCHOLAR. That seems rather strange, I must confess, In a Medical School; yet, nevertheless, You doubtless have reasons for that.
FIRST SCHOLAR. Oh yes For none but a clever dialectician Can hope to become a great physician; That has been settled long ago. Logic makes an important part Of the mystery of the healing art; For without it how could you hope to show That nobody knows so much as you know? After this there are five years more Devoted wholly to medicine, With lectures on chirurgical lore, And dissections of the bodies of swine, As likest the human form divine.
SECOND SCHOLAR. What are the books now most in vogue?
FIRST SCHOLAR. Quite an extensive catalogue; Mostly, however, books of our own; As Gariopontus' Passionarius, And the writings of Matthew Platearius; And a volume universally known As the Regimen of the School of Salern, For Robert of Normandy written in terse And very elegant Latin verse. Each of these writings has its turn. And when at length we have finished these Then comes the struggle for degrees, Will all the oldest and ablest critics; The public thesis and disputation, Question, and answer, and explanation Of a passage out of Hippocrates, Or Aristotle's Analytics. There the triumphant Magister stands! A book is solemnly placed in his hands, On which he swears to follow the rule And ancient forms of the good old School; To report if any confectionarius Mingles his drugs with matters various, And to visit his patients twice a day, And once in the night, if they live in town, And if they are poor, to take no pay. Having faithfully promised these, His head is crowned with a laurel crown; A kiss on his cheek, a ring on his hand, The Magister Artium et Physices Goes forth from the school like a lord of the land. And now, as we have the whole morning before us, Let us go in, if you make no objection, And listen awhile to a learned prelection On Marcus Aurelius Cassioderus.
They go in. Enter Lucifer as a Doctor.
LUCIFER. This is the great School of Salern! A land of wrangling and of quarrels, Of brains that seethe, and hearts that burn, Where every emulous scholar hears, In every breath that comes to his ears, The rustling of another's laurels! The air of the place is called salubrious; The neighborhood of Vesuvius lends it Au odor volcanic, that rather mends it, And the building's have an aspect lugubrious, That inspires a feeling of awe and terror Into the heart of the beholder. And befits such an ancient homestead of error, Where the old falsehoods moulder and smoulder, And yearly by many hundred hands Are carried away in the zeal of youth, And sown like tares in the field of truth, To blossom and ripen in other lands.
What have we here, affixed to the gate? The challenge of some scholastic wight, Who wishes to hold a public debate On sundry questions wrong or right! Ah, now this is my great delight! For I have often observed of late That such discussions end in a fight. Let us see what the learned wag maintains With such a prodigal waste of brains.
"Whether angels in moving from place to place Pass through the intermediate space. Whether God himself is the author of evil, Or whether that is the work of the Devil. When, where, and wherefore Lucifer fell, And whether he now is chained in hell." I think I can answer that question well! So long as the boastful human mind Consents in such mills as this to grind, I sit very firmly upon my throne! Of a truth it almost makes me laugh, To see men leaving the golden grain To gather in piles the pitiful chaff That old Peter Lombard thrashed with his brain, To have it caught up and tossed again On the horns of the Dumb Ox of Cologne!
But my guests approach! there is in the air A fragrance, like that of the Beautiful Garden Of Paradise, in the days that were! An odor of innocence and of prayer, And of love, and faith that never fails, Such as the fresh young heart exhales Before it begins to wither and harden! I cannot breathe such an atmosphere! My soul is filled with a nameless fear, That after all my trouble and pain, After all my restless endeavor, The youngest, fairest soul of the twain, The most ethereal, most divine, Will escape from my hands for ever and ever. But the other is already mine! Let him live to corrupt his race, Breathing among them, with every breath, Weakness, selfishness, and the base And pusillanimous fear of death. I know his nature, and I know That of all who in my ministry Wander the great earth to and fro, And on my errands come and go, The safest and subtlest are such as he.
Enter PRINCE HENRY and ELSIE, with attendants.
PRINCE HENRY. Can you direct us to Friar Angelo?
LUCIFER. He stands before you.
PRINCE HENRY. Then you know our purpose. I am Prince Henry of Hoheneck, and this The maiden that I spake of in my letters.
LUCIFER. It is a very grave and solemn business! We must nor be precipitate. Does she Without compulsion, of her own free will, Consent to this?
PRINCE HENRY. Against all opposition, Against all prayers, entreaties, protestations, She will not be persuaded.
LUCIFER. That is strange! Have you thought well of it?
ELSIE. I come not here To argue, but to die. Your business is not To question, but to kill me. I am ready, I am impatient to be gone from here Ere any thoughts of earth disturb again The spirit of tranquillity within me.
PRINCE HENRY. Would I had not come here! Would I were dead, And thou wert in thy cottage in the forest, And hadst not known me! Why have I done this? Let me go back and die.
ELSIE. It cannot be; Not if these cold, flat stones on which we tread Were coulters heated white, and yonder gateway Flamed like a furnace with a sevenfold heat. I must fulfil my purpose.
PRINCE HENRY. I forbid it! Not one step further. For I only meant To put thus far thy courage to the proof. It is enough. I, too, have strength to die, For thou hast taught me!
ELSIE. O my Prince! remember Your promises. Let me fulfil my errand. You do not look on life and death as I do. There are two angels, that attend unseen Each one of us, and in great books record Our good and evil deeds. He who writes down The good ones, after every action closes His volume, and ascends with it to God. The other keeps his dreadful day-book open Till sunset, that we may repent; which doing, The record of the action fades away, And leaves a line of white across the page. Now if my act be good, as I believe, It cannot be recalled. It is already Sealed up in heaven, as a good deed accomplished. The rest is yours. Why wait you? I am ready.
To her attendants. Weep not, my friends! rather rejoice with me. I shall not feel the pain, but shall be gone, And you will have another friend in heaven. Then start not at the creaking of the door Through which I pass. I see what lies beyond it.
To PRINCE HENRY. And you, O Prince! bear back my benison Unto my father's house, and all within it. This morning in the church I prayed for them, After confession, after absolution, When my whole soul was white, I prayed for them. God will take care of them, they need me not. And in your life let my remembrance linger, As something not to trouble and disturb it, But to complete it, adding life to life. And if at times beside the evening fire, You see my face among the other faces, Let it not be regarded as a ghost That haunts your house, but as a guest that loves you. Nay, even as one of your own family, Without whose presence there were something wanting. I have no more to say. Let us go in.
PRINCE HENRY. Friar Angelo! I charge you on your life, Believe not what she says, for she is mad, And comes here not to die, but to be healed.
ELSIE. Alas! Prince Henry!
LUCIFER. Come with me; this way.
ELSIE goes in with LUCIFER, who thrusts PRINCE HENRY back and closes the door.
PRINCE HENRY. Gone! and the light of all my life gone with her! A sudden darkness falls upon the world! Oh, what a vile and abject thing am I That purchase length of days at such a cost! Not by her death alone, but by the death Of all that's good and true and noble in me All manhood, excellence, and self-respect, All love, and faith, and hope, and heart are dead! All my divine nobility of nature By this one act is forfeited forever. I am a Prince in nothing but in name!
To the attendants. Why did you let this horrible deed be done? Why did you not lay hold on her, and keep her From self destruction? Angelo! murderer!
Struggles at the door, but cannot open it.
ELSIE, within. Farewell, dear Prince! farewell!
PRINCE HENRY. Unbar the door!
LUCIFER. It is too late!
PRINCE HENRY. It shall not be too late.
They burst the door open and rush in.
THE FARM-HOUSE IN THE ODENWALD
URSULA spinning. A summer afternoon. A table spread.
URSULA. I have marked it well,—it must be true,— Death never takes one alone, but two! Whenever he enters in at a door, Under roof of gold or roof of thatch, He always leaves it upon the latch, And comes again ere the year is o'er. Never one of a household only! Perhaps it is a mercy of God, Lest the dead there under the sod, In the land of strangers, should be lonely! Ah me! I think I am lonelier here! It is hard to go,—but harder to stay! Were it not for the children, I should pray That Death would take me within the year! And Gottlieb!—he is at work all day, In the sunny field, or the forest murk, But I know that his thoughts are far away, I know that his heart is not in his work! And when he comes home to me at night He is not cheery, but sits and sighs, And I see the great tears in his eyes, And try to be cheerful for his sake. Only the children's hearts are light. Mine is weary, and ready to break. God help us! I hope we have done right; We thought we were acting for the best!
Looking through the open door.
Who is it coming under the trees? A man, in the Prince's livery dressed! He looks about him with doubtful face, As if uncertain of the place. He stops at the beehives;—now he sees The garden gate;—he is going past! Can he be afraid of the bees? No; he is coming in at last! He fills my heart with strange alarm!
Enter a Forester.
FORESTER. Is this the tenant Gottlieb's farm?
URSULA. This is his farm, and I his wife. Pray sit. What may your business be?
FORESTER. News from the Prince!
URSULA. Of death or life?
FORESTER. You put your questions eagerly!
URSULA. Answer me, then! How is the Prince?
FORESTER. I left him only two hours since Homeward returning down the river, As strong and well as if God, the Giver, Had given him back his youth again.
URSULA, despairing. Then Elsie, my poor child, is dead!
FORESTER. That, my good woman, I have not said. Don't cross the bridge till you come to it, Is a proverb old, and of excellent wit.
URSULA. Keep me no longer in this pain!
FORESTER. It is true your daughter is no more;— That is, the peasant she was before.
URSULA. Alas! I am simple and lowly bred, I am poor, distracted, and forlorn. And it is not well that you of the court Should mock me thus, and make a sport Of a joyless mother whose child is dead, For you, too, were of mother born!
FORESTER. Your daughter lives, and the Prince is well! You will learn erelong how it all befell. Her heart for a moment never failed; But when they reached Salerno's gate, The Prince's nobler self prevailed, And saved her for a noble fate. And he was healed, in his despair, By the touch of St. Matthew's sacred bones; Though I think the long ride in the open air, That pilgrimage over stocks and stones, In the miracle must come in for a share.
URSULA. Virgin! who lovest the poor and lowly, If the loud cry of a mother's heart Can ever ascend to where thou art, Into thy blessed hands and holy Receive my prayer of praise and thanksgiving! Let the hands that bore our Saviour bear it Into the awful presence of God; For thy feet with holiness are shod, And if thou hearest it He will hear it. Our child who was dead again is living!
FORESTER. I did not tell you she was dead; If you thought so 't was no fault of mine; At this very moment while I speak, They are sailing homeward down the Rhine, In a splendid barge, with golden prow, And decked with banners white and red As the colors on your daughter's cheek. They call her the Lady Alicia now; For the Prince in Salerno made a vow That Elsie only would he wed.
URSULA. Jesu Maria! what a change! All seems to me so weird and strange!
FORESTER. I saw her standing on the deck, Beneath an awning cool and shady; Her cap of velvet could not hold The tresses of her hair of gold, That flowed and floated like the stream, And fell in masses down her neck. As fair and lovely did she seem As in a story or a dream Some beautiful and foreign lady. And the Prince looked so grand and proud, And waved his hand thus to the crowd That gazed and shouted from the shore, All down the river, long and loud.
URSULA. We shall behold our child once more; She is not dead! She is not dead! God, listening, must have overheard The prayers, that, without sound or word, Our hearts in secrecy have said! Oh, bring me to her; for mine eyes Are hungry to behold her face; My very soul within me cries; My very hands seem to caress her, To see her, gaze at her, and bless her; Dear Elsie, child of God and grace!
Goes out toward the garden.
FORESTER. There goes the good woman out of her head; And Gottlieb's supper is waiting here; A very capacious flagon of beer, And a very portentous loaf of bread. One would say his grief did not much oppress him. Here's to the health of the Prince, God bless him!
Ha! it buzzes and stings like a hornet! And what a scene there, through the door! The forest behind and the garden before, And midway an old man of threescore, With a wife and children that caress him. Let me try still further to cheer and adorn it With a merry, echoing blast of my cornet!
Goes out blowing his horn.
THE CASTLE OF VAUTSBERG ON THE RHINE
PRINCE HENRY and ELSIE standing on the terrace at evening.
The sound of tells heard from a distance.
PRINCE HENRY. We are alone. The wedding guests Ride down the hill, with plumes and cloaks, And the descending dark invests The Niederwald, and all the nests Among its hoar and haunted oaks.
ELSIE. What bells are those, that ring so slow, So mellow, musical, and low?
PRINCE HENRY. They are the bells of Geisenheim, That with their melancholy chime Ring out the curfew of the sun.
ELSIE. Listen, beloved.
PRINCE HENRY. They are done! Dear Elsie! many years ago Those same soft bells at eventide Rang in the ears of Charlemagne, As, seated by Fastrada's side At Ingelheim, in all his pride He heard their sound with secret pain.
ELSIE. Their voices only speak to me Of peace and deep tranquillity, And endless confidence in thee!
PRINCE HENRY. Thou knowest the story of her ring, How, when the court went back to Aix, Fastrada died; and how the king Sat watching by her night and day, Till into one of the blue lakes, Which water that delicious land, They cast the ring, drawn from her hand: And the great monarch sat serene And sad beside the fated shore, Nor left the land forevermore.
ELSIE. That was true love.
PRINCE HENRY. For him the queen Ne'er did what thou hast done for me.
ELSIE. Wilt thou as fond and faithful be? Wilt thou so love me after death?
PRINCE HENRY. In life's delight, in death's dismay, In storm and sunshine, night and day, In health, in sickness, in decay, Here and hereafter, I am thine! Thou hast Fastrada's ring. Beneath the calm, blue waters of thine eyes, Deep in thy steadfast soul it lies, And, undisturbed by this world's breath, With magic light its jewels shine! This golden ring, which thou hast worn Upon thy finger since the morn, Is but a symbol and a semblance, An outward fashion, a remembrance, Of what thou wearest within unseen, O my Fastrada, O my queen! Behold! the hill-trips all aglow With purple and with amethyst; While the whole valley deep below Is filled, and seems to overflow, With a fast-rising tide of mist. The evening air grows damp and chill; Let us go in.
ELSIE. Ah, not so soon. See yonder fire! It is the moon Slow rising o'er the eastern hill. It glimmers on the forest tips And through the dewy foliage drips In little rivulets of light, And makes the heart in love with night.
PRINCE HENRY. Oft on this terrace, when the day Was closing, have I stood and gazed, And seen the landscape fade away, And the white vapors rise and drown Hamlet and vineyard, tower and town, While far above the hill-tops blazed. But then another hand than thine Was gently held and clasped in mine; Another head upon my breast Was laid, as thine is now, at rest. Why dost thou lift those tender eyes With so much sorrow and surprise? A minstrel's, not a maiden's hand, Was that which in my own was pressed, A manly form usurped thy place, A beautiful, but bearded face, That now is in the Holy Land, Yet in my memory from afar Is shining on us like a star. But linger not. For while I speak, A sheeted spectre white and tall, The cold mist climbs the castle wall, And lays his hand upon thy cheek!
They go in.
THE TWO RECORDING ANGELS ASCENDING
THE ANGEL OF GOOD DEEDS, with closed book. God sent his messenger the rain, And said unto the mountain brook, "Rise up, and from thy caverns look And leap, with naked, snow-white feet, From the cool hills into the heat Of the broad, arid plain.
God sent his messenger of faith, And whispered in the maiden's heart, "Rise up and look from where thou art, And scatter with unselfish hands Thy freshness on the barren sands And solitudes of Death."
O beauty of holiness, Of self-forgetfulness, of lowliness! O power of meekness, Whose very gentleness and weakness Are like the yielding, but irresistible air! Upon the pages Of the sealed volume that I bear, The deed divine Is written in characters of gold, That never shall grow old, But through all ages Burn and shine, With soft effulgence! O God! it is thy indulgence That fills the world with the bliss Of a good deed like this!
THE ANGEL OF EVIL DEEDS, with open book. Not yet, not yet Is the red sun wholly set, But evermore recedes, While open still I bear The Book of Evil Deeds, To let the breathings of the upper air Visit its pages and erase The records from its face! Fainter and fainter as I gaze In the broad blaze The glimmering landscape shines, And below me the black river Is hidden by wreaths of vapor! Fainter and fainter the black lines Begin to quiver Along the whitening surface of the paper; Shade after shade The terrible words grow faint and fade, And in their place Runs a white space!
Down goes the sun! But the soul of one, Who by repentance hath escaped the dreadful sentence, Shines bright below me as I look. It is the end! With closed Book To God do I ascend. Lo! over the mountain steeps A dark, gigantic shadow sweeps Beneath my feet; A blackness inwardly brightening With sullen heat, As a storm-cloud lurid with lightning. And a cry of lamentation, Repeated and again repeated, Deep and loud As the reverberation Of cloud answering unto cloud, Swells and rolls away in the distance, As if the sheeted Lightning retreated. Baffled and thwarted by the wind's resistance.
It is Lucifer, The son of mystery; And since God suffers him to be, He, too, is God's minister. And labors for some good By us not understood!
A CHAMBER IN THE WARTBURG. MORNING. MARTIN LUTHER WRITING.
MARTIN LUTHER. Our God, a Tower of Strength is He, A goodly wall and weapon; From all our need He helps us free, That now to us doth happen. The old evil foe Doth in earnest grow, In grim armor dight, Much guile and great might; On earth there is none like him.
Oh yes; a tower of strength indeed, A present help in all our need, A sword and buckler is our God. Innocent men have walked unshod O'er burning ploughshares, and have trod Unharmed on serpents in their path, And laughed to scorn the Devil's wrath!
Safe in this Wartburg tower I stand Where God hath led me by the hand, And look down, with a heart at ease, Over the pleasant neighborhoods, Over the vast Thuringian Woods, With flash of river, and gloom of trees, With castles crowning the dizzy heights, And farms and pastoral delights, And the morning pouring everywhere Its golden glory on the air. Safe, yes, safe am I here at last, Safe from the overwhelming blast Of the mouths of Hell, that followed me fast, And the howling demons of despair That hunted me like a beast to his lair.
Of our own might we nothing can; We soon are unprotected: There fighteth for us the right Man, Whom God himself elected. Who is He; ye exclaim? Christus is his name, Lord of Sabaoth, Very God in troth; The field He holds forever.
Nothing can vex the Devil more Than the name of him whom we adore. Therefore doth it delight me best To stand in the choir among the rest, With the great organ trumpeting Through its metallic tubes, and sing: Et verbum caro factum est! These words the devil cannot endure, For he knoweth their meaning well! Him they trouble and repel, Us they comfort and allure, And happy it were, if our delight Were as great as his affright!
Yea, music is the Prophet's art; Among the gifts that God hath sent, One of the most magnificent! It calms the agitated heart; Temptations, evil thoughts, and all The passions that disturb the soul, Are quelled by its divine control, As the evil spirit fled from Saul, And his distemper was allayed, When David took his harp and played.
This world may full of Devils be, All ready to devour us; Yet not so sore afraid are we, They shall not overpower us. This World's Prince, howe'er Fierce he may appear, He can harm us not, He is doomed, God wot! One little word can slay him!
Incredible it seems to some And to myself a mystery, That such weak flesh and blood as we, Armed with no other shield or sword, Or other weapon than the Word, Should combat and should overcome A spirit powerful as he! He summons forth the Pope of Rome With all his diabolic crew, His shorn and shaven retinue Of priests and children of the dark; Kill! kill! they cry, the Heresiarch, Who rouseth up all Christendom Against us; and at one fell blow Seeks the whole Church to overthrow! Not yet; my hour is not yet come.
Yesterday in an idle mood, Hunting with others in the wood, I did not pass the hours in vain, For in the very heart of all The joyous tumult raised around, Shouting of men, and baying of hound, And the bugle's blithe and cheery call, And echoes answering back again, From crags of the distant mountain chain,— In the very heart of this, I found A mystery of grief and pain. It was an image of the power Of Satan, hunting the world about, With his nets and traps and well-trained dogs, His bishops and priests and theologues, And all the rest of the rabble rout, Seeking whom he may devour! Enough I have had of hunting hares, Enough of these hours of idle mirth, Enough of nets and traps and gins! The only hunting of any worth Is where I can pierce with javelins The cunning foxes and wolves and bears, The whole iniquitous troop of beasts, The Roman Pope and the Roman priests That sorely infest and afflict the earth! Ye nuns, ye singing birds of the air! The fowler hath caught you in his snare, And keeps you safe in his gilded cage, Singing the song that never tires, To lure down others from their nests; How ye flutter and heat your breasts, Warm and soft with young desires, Against the cruel, pitiless wires, Reclaiming your lost heritage! Behold! a hand unbars the door, Ye shall be captives held no more.
The Word they shall perforce let stand, And little thanks they merit! For He is with us in the land, With gifts of his own Spirit! Though they take our life, Goods, honors, child and wife, Lot these pass away, Little gain have they; The Kingdom still remaineth!
Yea, it remaineth forevermore, However Satan may rage and roar, Though often be whispers in my ears: What if thy doctrines false should be? And wrings from me a bitter sweat. Then I put him to flight with jeers, Saying: Saint Satan! pray for me; If thou thinkest I am not saved yet!
And my mortal foes that lie in wait In every avenue and gate! As to that odious monk John Tetzel, Hawking about his hollow wares Like a huckster at village fairs, And those mischievous fellows, Wetzel, Campanus, Carlstadt, Martin Cellarius, And all the busy, multifarious Heretics, and disciples of Arius, Half-learned, dunce-bold, dry and hard, They are not worthy of my regard, Poor and humble as I am.
But ah! Erasmus of Rotterdam, He is the vilest miscreant That ever walked this world below A Momus, making his mock and mow, At Papist and at Protestant, Sneering at St. John and St. Paul, At God and Man, at one and all; And yet as hollow and false and drear, As a cracked pitcher to the ear, And ever growing worse and worse! Whenever I pray, I pray for a curse On Erasmus, the Insincere!
Philip Melanethon! thou alone Faithful among the faithless known, Thee I hail, and only thee! Behold the record of us three! Res et verba Philippus, Res sine verbis Lutherus; Erasmus verba sine re!
My Philip, prayest thou for me? Lifted above all earthly care, From these high regions of the air, Among the birds that day and night Upon the branches of tall trees Sing their lauds and litanies, Praising God with all their might, My Philip, unto thee I write,
My Philip! thou who knowest best All that is passing in this breast; The spiritual agonies, The inward deaths, the inward hell, And the divine new births as well, That surely follow after these, As after winter follows spring; My Philip, in the night-time sing This song of the Lord I send to thee; And I will sing it for thy sake, Until our answering voices make A glorious antiphony, And choral chant of victory!
THE NEW ENGLAND TRAGEDIES
JOHN ENDICOTT Governor. JOHN ENDICOTT His son. RICHARD BELLINGHAM Deputy Governor. JOHN NORTON Minister of the Gospel. EDWARD BUTTER Treasurer. WALTER MERRY Tithing-man. NICHOLAS UPSALL An old citizen. SAMUEL COLE Landlord of the Three Mariners.
SIMON KEMPTHORN RALPH GOLDSMITH Sea-Captains.
WENLOCK CHRISTISON EDITH, his daughter EDWARD WHARTON Quakers Assistants, Halberdiers, Marshal, etc.
The Scene is in Boston in the year 1665.
To-night we strive to read, as we may best, This city, like an ancient palimpsest; And bring to light, upon the blotted page, The mournful record of an earlier age, That, pale and half effaced, lies hidden away Beneath the fresher writing of to-day.
Rise, then, O buried city that hast been; Rise up, rebuilded in the painted scene, And let our curious eyes behold once more The pointed gable and the pent-house door, The Meeting-house with leaden-latticed panes, The narrow thoroughfares, the crooked lanes!
Rise, too, ye shapes and shadows of the Past, Rise from your long-forgotten graves at last; Let us behold your faces, let us hear The words ye uttered in those days of fear Revisit your familiar haunts again,— The scenes of triumph, and the scenes of pain And leave the footprints of your bleeding feet Once more upon the pavement of the street!
Nor let the Historian blame the Poet here, If he perchance misdate the day or year, And group events together, by his art, That in the Chronicles lie far apart; For as the double stars, though sundered far, Seem to the naked eye a single star, So facts of history, at a distance seen, Into one common point of light convene.
"Why touch upon such themes?" perhaps some friend May ask, incredulous; "and to what good end? Why drag again into the light of day The errors of an age long passed away?" I answer: "For the lessons that they teach: The tolerance of opinion and of speech. Hope, Faith, and Charity remain,—these three; And greatest of them all is Charity."
Let us remember, if these words be true, That unto all men Charity is due; Give what we ask; and pity, while we blame, Lest we become copartners in the shame, Lest we condemn, and yet ourselves partake, And persecute the dead for conscience' sake.
Therefore it is the author seeks and strives To represent the dead as in their lives, And lets at times his characters unfold Their thoughts in their own language, strong and bold; He only asks of you to do the like; To hear hint first, and, if you will, then strike.
SCENE I. — Sunday afternoon. The interior of the Meeting-house.
On the pulpit, an hour-glass; below, a box for contributions. JOHN NORTON in the pulpit. GOVERNOR ENDICOTT in a canopied seat, attended by four halberdiers. The congregation singing.
The Lord descended from above, And bowed the heavens high; And underneath his feet He cast The darkness of the sky.
On Cherubim and Seraphim Right royally He rode, And on the wings of mighty winds Came flying all abroad.
NORTON (rising and turning the hourglass on the pulpit). I heard a great voice from the temple saying Unto the Seven Angels, Go your ways; Pour out the vials of the wrath of God Upon the earth. And the First Angel went And poured his vial on the earth; and straight There fell a noisome and a grievous sore On them which had the birth-mark of the Beast, And them which worshipped and adored his image. On us hath fallen this grievous pestilence. There is a sense of terror in the air; And apparitions of things horrible Are seen by many; from the sky above us The stars fall; and beneath us the earth quakes! The sound of drums at midnight from afar, The sound of horsemen riding to and fro, As if the gates of the invisible world Were opened, and the dead came forth to warn us,— All these are omens of some dire disaster Impending over us, and soon to fall, Moreover, in the language of the Prophet, Death is again come up into our windows, To cut off little children from without, And young men from the streets. And in the midst Of all these supernatural threats and warnings Doth Heresy uplift its horrid head; A vision of Sin more awful and appalling Than any phantasm, ghost, or apparition, As arguing and portending some enlargement Of the mysterious Power of Darkness!
EDITH, barefooted, and clad in sackcloth, with her hair hanging loose upon her shoulders, walks slowly up the aisle, followed by WHARTON and other Quakers. The congregation starts up in confusion.
EDITH (to NORTON, raising her hand). Peace!
NORTON. Anathema maranatha! The Lord cometh!
EDITH. Yea, verily He cometh, and shall judge The shepherds of Israel who do feed themselves, And leave their flocks to eat what they have trodden Beneath their feet.
NORTON. Be silent, babbling woman! St. Paul commands all women to keep silence Within the churches.
EDITH. Yet the women prayed And prophesied at Corinth in his day; And, among those on whom the fiery tongues Of Pentecost descended, some were women!
NORTON. The Elders of the Churches, by our law, Alone have power to open the doors of speech And silence in the Assembly. I command you!
EDITH. The law of God is greater than your laws! Ye build your church with blood, your town with crime; The heads thereof give judgment for reward; The priests thereof teach only for their hire; Your laws condemn the innocent to death; And against this I bear my testimony!
NORTON. What testimony?
EDITH. That of the Holy Spirit, Which, as your Calvin says, surpasseth reason.
NORTON. The laborer is worthy of his hire.
EDITH. Yet our great Master did not teach for hire, And the Apostles without purse or scrip Went forth to do his work. Behold this box Beneath thy pulpit. Is it for the poor? Thou canst not answer. It is for the Priest And against this I bear my testimony.
NORTON. Away with all these Heretics and Quakers! Quakers, forsooth! Because a quaking fell On Daniel, at beholding of the Vision, Must ye needs shake and quake? Because Isaiah Went stripped and barefoot, must ye wail and howl? Must ye go stripped and naked? must ye make A wailing like the dragons, and a mourning As of the owls? Ye verify the adage That Satan is God's ape! Away with them!