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    Act III

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    Chapter 4
    Previous Chapter
    SCENE I

    A chamber in the Wartburg. Elizabeth sitting in widow's weeds;
    Guta and Isentrudis by her.

    Isen. What? Always thus, my Princess? Is this wise,
    By day with fasts and ceaseless coil of labour;
    About the ungracious poor--hands, eyes, feet, brain
    O'ertasked alike--'mid sin and filth, which make
    Each sense a plague--by night with cruel stripes,
    And weary watchings on the freezing stone,
    To double all your griefs, and burn life's candle,
    As village gossips say, at either end?
    The good book bids the heavy-hearted drink,
    And so forget their woe.

    Eliz. 'Tis written too
    In that same book, nurse, that the days shall come
    When the bridegroom shall be taken away--and then--
    Then shall they mourn and fast: I needed weaning
    From sense and earthly joys; by this way only
    May I win God to leave in mine own hands
    My luxury's cure: oh! I may bring him back,
    By working out to its full depth the chastening
    The need of which his loss proves: I but barter
    Less grief for greater--pain for widowhood.

    Isen. And death for life--your cheeks are wan and sharp
    As any three-days' moon--you are shifting always
    Uneasily and stiff, now, on your seat,
    As from some secret pain.

    Eliz. Why watch me thus?
    You cannot know--and yet you know too much--
    I tell you, nurse, pain's comfort, when the flesh
    Aches with the aching soul in harmony,
    And even in woe, we are one: the heart must speak
    Its passion's strangeness in strange symbols out,
    Or boil, till it bursts inly.

    Guta. Yet, methinks,
    You might have made this widowed solitude
    A holy rest--a spell of soft gray weather,
    Beneath whose fragrant dews all tender thoughts
    Might bud and burgeon.

    Eliz. That's a gentle dream;
    But nature shows nought like it: every winter,
    When the great sun has turned his face away,
    The earth goes down into the vale of grief,
    And fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables,
    Leaving her wedding-garlands to decay--
    Then leaps in spring to his returning kisses--
    As I may yet!--

    Isen. There, now--my foolish child!
    You faint: come--come to your chamber--

    Eliz. Oh, forgive me!
    But hope at times throngs in so rich and full,
    It mads the brain like wine: come with me, nurse,
    Sit by me, lull me calm with gentle tales
    Of noble ladies wandering in the wild wood,
    Fed on chance earth-nuts, and wild strawberries,
    Or milk of silly sheep, and woodland doe.
    Or how fair Magdalen 'mid desert sands
    Wore out in prayer her lonely blissful years,
    Watched by bright angels, till her modest tresses
    Wove to her pearled feet their golden shroud.
    Come, open all your lore.

    [Sophia and Agnes enter.]

    My mother-in-law!

    [Aside] Shame on thee, heart! why sink, whene'er we meet?

    Soph. Daughter, we know of old thy strength, of metal
    Beyond us worldlings: shrink not, if the time
    Be come which needs its use--

    Eliz. What means this preface? Ah! your looks are big
    With sudden woes--speak out.

    Soph. Be calm, and hear
    The will of God toward my son, thy husband.

    Eliz. What? is he captive? Why then--what of that?
    There are friends will rescue him--there's gold for ransom--
    We'll sell our castles--live in bowers of rushes--
    O God! that I were with him in the dungeon!

    Soph. He is not taken.

    Eliz. No! he would have fought to the death!
    There's treachery! What paynim dog dare face
    His lance, who naked braved yon lion's rage,
    And eyed the cowering monster to his den?
    Speak! Has he fled? or worse?

    Soph. Child, he is dead.

    Eliz [clasping her hands on her knees.]. The world is dead to me,
    and all its smiles!

    Isen. Oh, woe! my Prince! and doubly woe, my daughter.

    [Elizabeth springs up and rushes out.]

    Oh, stop her--stop my child! She will go mad--
    Dash herself down--Fly--Fly--She is not made
    Of hard, light stuff, like you.

    Soph. I had expected some such passionate outbreak
    At the first news: you see now, Lady Agnes,
    These saints, who fain would 'wean themselves from earth,'
    Still yield to the affections they despise
    When the game's earnest--Now--ere they return--
    Your brother, child, is dead--

    Agnes. I know it too well.
    So young--so brave--so blest!--And she--she loved him--
    Oh! I repent of all the foolish scoffs
    With which I crossed her.

    Soph. Yes--the Landgrave's dead--
    Attend to me--Alas! my son! my son!
    He was my first-born! But he has a brother--
    Agnes! we must not let this foreign gipsy,
    Who, as you see, is scarce her own wits' mistress,
    Flaunt sovereign over us, and our broad lands,
    To my son's prejudice--There are barons, child,
    Who will obey a knight, but not a saint:
    I must at once to them.

    Agnes. Oh, let me stay.

    Soph. As you shall please--Your brother's landgravate
    Is somewhat to you, surely--and your smiles
    Are worth gold pieces in a court intrigue.
    For her, on her own principles, a downfall
    Is a chastening mercy--and a likely one.

    Agnes. Oh! let me stay, and comfort her!

    Soph. Romance!
    You girls adore a scene--as lookers on.

    [Exit Sophia.]

    Agnes [alone]. Well spoke the old monks, peaceful watching life's turmoil,
    'Eyes which look heavenward, weeping still we see:
    God's love with keen flame purges, like the lightning flash,
    Gold which is purest, purer still must be.'

    [Guta enters.]

    Alas! Returned alone! Where has my sister been?

    Guta. Thank heaven you hear alone, for such sad sight would haunt
    Henceforth your young hopes--crush your shuddering fancy down
    With dread of like fierce anguish.
    You saw her bound forth: we towards her bower in haste
    Ran trembling: spell-bound there, before her bridal-bed
    She stood, while wan smiles flickered, like the northern dawn,
    Across her worn cheeks' ice-field; keenest memories then
    Rushed with strong shudderings through her--as the winged shaft
    Springs from the tense nerve, so her passion hurled her forth
    Sweeping, like fierce ghost, on through hall and corridor,
    Tearless, with wide eyes staring, while a ghastly wind
    Moaned on through roof and rafter, and the empty helms
    Along the walls ran clattering, and above her waved
    Dead heroes' banners; swift and yet more swift she drove
    Still seeking aimless; sheer against the opposing wall
    At last dashed reckless--there with frantic fingers clutched
    Blindly the ribbed oak, till that frost of rage
    Dissolved itself in tears, and like a babe,
    With inarticulate moans, and folded hands,
    She followed those who led her, as if the sun
    On her life's dial had gone back seven years,
    And she were once again the dumb sad child
    We knew her ere she married.

    Isen [entering]. As after wolf wolf presses, leaping through the snow-glades,
    So woe on woe throngs surging up.

    Guta. What? treason?

    Isen. Treason, and of the foulest. From her state she's rudely thrust;
    Her keys are seized; her weeping babies pent from her:
    The wenches stop their sobs to sneer askance,
    And greet their fallen censor's new mischance.

    Agnes. Alas! Who dared to do this wrong?

    Isen. Your mother and your mother's son--
    Judge you, if it was knightly done.

    Guta. See! see! she comes, with heaving breast,
    With bursting eyes, and purpled brow:
    Oh that the traitors saw her now!
    They know not, sightless fools, the heart they break.

    [Elizabeth enters slowly.]

    Eliz. He is in purgatory now! Alas!
    Angels! be pitiful! deal gently with him!
    His sins were gentle! That's one cause left for living--
    To pray, and pray for him: why all these months
    I prayed,--and here's my answer: Dead of a fever!
    Why thus? so soon! Only six years for love!
    While any formal, heartless matrimony,
    Patched up by Court intrigues, and threats of cloisters,
    Drags on for six times six, and peasant slaves
    Grow old on the same straw, and hand in hand
    Slip from life's oozy bank, to float at ease.

    [A knocking at the door.]

    That's some petitioner.
    Go to--I will not hear them: why should I work,
    When he is dead? Alas! was that my sin?
    Was he, not Christ, my lodestar? Why not warn me?
    Too late! What's this foul dream? Dead at Otranto--
    Parched by Italian suns--no woman by him--
    He was too chaste! Nought but rude men to nurse!--
    If I had been there, I should have watched by him--
    Guessed every fancy--God! I might have saved him!

    [A servant-man bursts in.]

    Servant. Madam, the Landgrave gave me strict commands--

    Isen. The Landgrave, dolt?

    Eliz. I might have saved him!

    Servant [to Isen.] Ay, saucy madam!--
    The Landgrave Henry, lord and master,
    Freer than the last, and yet no waster,
    Who will not stint a poor knave's beer,
    Or spin out Lent through half the year.
    Why--I see double!

    Eliz. Who spoke there of the Landgrave? What's this drunkard?
    Give him his answer--'Tis no time for mumming--

    Serv. The Landgrave Henry bade me see you out
    Safe through his gates, and that at once, my Lady.
    Come!

    Eliz. Why--that's hasty--I must take my children
    Ah! I forgot--they would not let me see them.
    I must pack up my jewels--

    Serv. You'll not need it--
    His Lordship has the keys.

    Eliz. He has indeed.
    Why, man!--I am thy children's godmother--
    I nursed thy wife myself in the black sickness--
    Art thou a bird, that when the old tree falls,
    Flits off, and sings in the sapling?

    [The man seizes her arm.]

    Keep thine hands off--
    I'll not be shamed--Lead on. Farewell, my Ladies.
    Follow not! There's want to spare on earth already;
    And mine own woe is weight enough for me.
    Go back, and say, Elizabeth has yet
    Eternal homes, built deep in poor men's hearts;
    And, in the alleys underneath the wall,
    Has bought with sinful mammon heavenly treasure,
    More sure than adamant, purer than white whales' bone,
    Which now she claims. Lead on: a people's love shall right me.
    [Exit with Servant.]

    Guta. Where now, dame?

    Isen. Where, but after her?

    Guta. True heart!
    I'll follow to the death. [Exeunt.]

    SCENE II

    A street. Elizabeth and Guta at the door of a Convent. Monks in the porch.

    Eliz. You are afraid to shelter me--afraid.
    And so you thrust me forth, to starve and freeze.
    Soon said. Why palter o'er these mean excuses,
    Which tempt me to despise you?

    Monks. Ah! my lady,
    We know your kindness--but we poor religious
    Are bound to obey God's ordinance, and submit
    Unto the powers that be, who have forbidden
    All men, alas! to give you food or shelter.

    Eliz. Silence! I'll go. Better in God's hand than man's.
    He shall kill us, if we die. This bitter blast
    Warping the leafless willows, yon white snow-storms,
    Whose wings, like vengeful angels, cope the vault,
    They are God's,--We'll trust to them.

    [Monks go in.]

    Guta. Mean-spirited!
    Fair frocks hide foul hearts. Why, their altar now
    Is blazing with your gifts.

    Eliz. How long their altar?
    To God I gave--and God shall pay me back.
    Fool! to have put my trust in living man,
    And fancied that I bought God's love, by buying
    The greedy thanks of these His earthly tools!
    Well--here's one lesson learnt! I thank thee, Lord!
    Henceforth I'll straight to Thee, and to Thy poor.
    What? Isentrudis not returned? Alas!
    Where are those children?
    They will not have the heart to keep them from me--
    Oh! have the traitors harmed them?

    Guta. Do not think it.
    The dowager has a woman's heart.

    Eliz. Ay, ay--
    But she's a mother--and mothers will dare all things--
    Oh! Love can make us fiends, as well as angels.
    My babies! Weeping? Oh, have mercy, Lord!
    On me heap all thy wrath--I understand it:
    What can blind senseless terror do for them?

    Guta. Plead, plead your penances! Great God, consider
    All she has done and suffered, and forbear
    To smite her like a worldling!

    Eliz. Silence, girl!
    I'd plead my deeds, if mine own character,
    My strength of will had fathered them: but no--
    They are His, who worked them in me, in despite
    Of mine own selfish and luxurious will--
    Shall I bribe Him with His own? For pain, I tell thee
    I need more pain than mine own will inflicts,
    Pain which shall break that will.--Yet spare them, Lord!
    Go to--I am a fool to wish them life--
    And greater fool to miscall life, this headache--
    This nightmare of our gross and crude digestion--
    This fog which steams up from our freezing clay--
    While waking heaven's beyond. No! slay them, traitors!
    Cut through the channels of those innocent breaths
    Whose music charmed my lone nights, ere they learn
    To love the world, and hate the wretch who bore them!

    [Weeps.]

    Guta. This storm will blind us both: come here, and shield you
    Behind this buttress.

    Eliz. What's a wind to me?
    I can see up the street here, if they come--
    They do not come!--Oh! my poor weanling lambs--
    Struck dead by carrion ravens!
    What then, I have borne worse. But yesterday
    I thought I had a husband--and now--now!
    Guta! He called a holy man before he died?

    Guta. The Bishop of Jerusalem, 'tis said,
    With holy oil, and with the blessed body
    Of Him for whom he died, did speed him duly
    Upon his heavenward flight.

    Eliz. O happy bishop!
    Where are those children? If I had but seen him!
    I could have borne all then. One word--one kiss!
    Hark! What's that rushing? White doves--one--two--three--
    Fleeing before the gale. My children's spirits!
    Stay, babies--stay for me! What! Not a moment?
    And I so nearly ready to be gone?

    Guta. Still on your children?

    Eliz. Oh! this grief is light
    And floats a-top--well, well; it hides a while
    That gulf too black for speech--My husband's dead!
    I dare not think on't.
    A small bird dead in the snow! Alas! poor minstrel!
    A week ago, before this very window,
    He warbled, may be, to the slanting sunlight;
    And housewives blest him for a merry singer:
    And now he freezes at their doors, like me.
    Poor foolish brother! didst thou look for payment?

    Guta. But thou hast light in darkness: he has none--
    The bird's the sport of time, while our life's floor
    Is laid upon eternity; no crack in it
    But shows the underlying heaven.

    Eliz. Art sure?
    Does this look like it, girl? No--I'll trust yet--
    Some have gone mad for less; but why should I?
    Who live in time, and not eternity.
    'Twill end, girl, end; no cloud across the sun
    But passes at the last, and gives us back
    The face of God once more.

    Guta. See here they come,
    Dame Isentrudis and your children, all
    Safe down the cliff path, through the whirling snow-drifts.

    Eliz. O Lord, my Lord! I thank thee!
    Loving and merciful, and tender-hearted,
    And even in fiercest wrath remembering mercy.
    Lo! here's my ancient foe. What want you, Sir?

    [Hugo enters.]

    Hugo. Want? Faith, 'tis you who want, not I, my Lady--
    I hear, you are gone a begging through the town;
    So, for your husband's sake, I'll take you in;
    For though I can't forget your scurvy usage,
    He was a very honest sort of fellow,
    Though mad as a March hare; so come you in.

    Eliz. But know you, Sir, that all my husband's vassals
    Are bidden bar their doors to me?

    Hugo. I know it:
    And therefore come you in; my house is mine:
    No upstarts shall lay down the law to me;
    Not they, mass: but mind you, no canting here--
    No psalm-singing; all candles out at eight:
    Beggars must not be choosers. Come along!

    Eliz. I thank you, Sir; and for my children's sake
    I do accept your bounty. [aside] Down, proud heart--
    Bend lower--lower ever: thus God deals with thee.
    Go, Guta, send the children after me. [Exeunt severally.]

    [Two Peasants enter.]

    1st Peas. Here's Father January taken a lease of March month, and
    put in Jack Frost for bailiff. What be I to do for spring-feed if
    the weather holds,--and my ryelands as bare as the back of my hand?

    2d Peas. That's your luck. Freeze on, say I, and may Mary Mother
    send us snow a yard deep. I have ten ton of hay yet to sell--ten
    ton, man--there's my luck: every man for himself, and--Why here
    comes that handsome canting girl, used to be about the Princess.

    [Guta enters.]

    Guta. Well met, fair sirs! I know you kind and loyal,
    And bound by many a favour to my mistress:
    Say, will you bear this letter for her sake
    Unto her aunt, the rich and holy lady
    Who rules the nuns of Kitzingen?

    2d Peas. If I do, pickle me in a barrel among cabbage.
    She told me once, God's curse would overtake me,
    For grinding of the poor: her turn's come now.

    Guta. Will you, then, help her? She will pay you richly.

    1st Peas. Ay? How, dame? How? Where will the money come from?

    Guta. God knows--

    1st Peas. And you do not.

    Guta. Why, but last winter,
    When all your stacks were fired, she lent you gold.

    1st Peas. Well--I'll be generous: as the times are hard,
    Say, if I take your letter, will you promise
    To marry me yourself?

    Guta. Ay, marry you,
    Or anything, if you'll but go to-day:
    At once, mind. [Giving him the letter.]

    1st Peas. Ay, I'll go. Now, you'll remember?

    Guta. Straight to her ladyship at Kitzingen.
    God and His saints deal with you, as you deal
    With us this day. [Exit.]

    2d Peas. What! art thou fallen in love promiscuously?

    1st Peas. Why, see, now, man; she has her mistress' ear;
    And if I marry her, no doubt they'll make me
    Bailiff, or land-steward; and there's noble pickings
    In that same line.

    2d Peas. Thou hast bought a pig in a poke:
    Her priest will shrive her off from such a bargain.

    1st Peas. Dost think? Well--I'll not fret myself about it.
    See, now, before I start, I must get home
    Those pigs from off the forest; chop some furze;
    And then to get my supper, and my horse's:
    And then a man will need to sit a while,
    And take his snack of brandy for digestion;
    And then to fettle up my sword and buckler;
    And then, bid 'em all good-bye: and by that time
    'Twill be 'most nightfall--I'll just go to-morrow.
    Off--here she comes again. [Exeunt.]

    [Isentrudis and Guta enter, with the children.]

    Guta. I warned you of it; I knew she would not stay
    An hour, thus treated like a slave--an idiot.

    Isen. Well, 'twas past bearing: so we are thrust forth
    To starve again. Are all your jewels gone?

    Guta. All pawned and eaten--and for her, you know,
    She never bore the worth of one day's meal
    About her dress. We can but die--No foe
    Can ban us from that rest.

    Isen. Ay, but these children!--Well--if it must be,
    Here, Guta, pull off this old withered hand
    My wedding-ring; the man who gave it me
    Should be in heaven--and there he'll know my heart.
    Take it, girl, take it. Where's the Princess now?
    She stopped before a crucifix to pray;
    But why so long?

    Guta. Oh! prayer, to her rapt soul,
    Is like the drunkenness of the autumn bee,
    Who, scent-enchanted, on the latest flower,
    Heedless of cold, will linger listless on,
    And freeze in odorous dreams.

    Isen. Ah! here she comes.

    Guta. Dripping from head to foot with wet and mire!
    How's this?

    [Elizabeth entering.]

    Eliz. How? Oh, my fortune rises to full flood:
    I met a friend just now, who told me truths
    Wholesome and stern, of my deceitful heart--
    Would God I had known them earlier!--and enforced
    Her lesson so, as I shall ne'er forget it
    In body or in mind.

    Isen. What means all this?

    Eliz. You know the stepping-stones across the ford.
    There as I passed, a certain aged crone,
    Whom I had fed, and nursed, year after year,
    Met me mid-stream--thrust past me stoutly on--
    And rolled me headlong in the freezing mire.
    There as I lay and weltered,--'Take that, Madam,
    For all your selfish hypocritic pride
    Which thought it such a vast humility
    To wash us poor folk's feet, and use our bodies
    For staves to build withal your Jacob's-ladder.
    What! you would mount to heaven upon our backs?
    The ass has thrown his rider.' She crept on--
    I washed my garments in the brook hard by--
    And came here, all the wiser.

    Guta. Miscreant hag!

    Isen. Alas, you'll freeze.

    Guta. Who could have dreamt the witch
    Could harbour such a spite?

    Eliz. Nay, who could dream
    She would have guessed my heart so well? Dull boors
    See deeper than we think, and hide within
    Those leathern hulls unfathomable truths,
    Which we amid thought's glittering mazes lose.
    They grind among the iron facts of life,
    And have no time for self-deception.

    Isen. Come--
    Put on my cloak--stand here, behind the wall.
    Oh! is it come to this? She'll die of cold.

    Guta. Ungrateful fiend!

    Eliz. Let be--we must not think on't.
    The scoff was true--I thank her--I thank God--
    This too I needed. I had built myself
    A Babel-tower, whose top should reach to heaven,
    Of poor men's praise and prayers, and subtle pride
    At mine own alms. 'Tis crumbled into dust!
    Oh! I have leant upon an arm of flesh--
    And here's its strength! I'll walk by faith--by faith
    And rest my weary heart on Christ alone--
    On him, the all-sufficient!
    Shame on me! dreaming thus about myself,
    While you stand shivering here. [To her little Son.]
    Art cold, young knight?
    Knights must not cry--Go slide, and warm thyself.
    Where shall we lodge to-night?

    Isen. There's no place open,
    But that foul tavern, where we lay last night.

    Elizabeth's Son [clinging to her]. O mother, mother! go not to that house--
    Among those fierce lank men, who laughed, and scowled,
    And showed their knives, and sang strange ugly songs
    Of you and us. O mother! let us be!

    Eliz. Hark! look! His father's voice!--his very eye--
    Opening so slow and sad, then sinking down
    In luscious rest again!

    Isen. Bethink you, child--

    Eliz. Oh yes--I'll think--we'll to our tavern friends;
    If they be brutes, 'twas my sin left them so.

    Guta. 'Tis but for a night or two: three days will bring
    The Abbess hither.

    Isen. And then to Bamberg straight
    For knights and men-at-arms! Your uncle's wrath--

    Guta [aside]. Hush! hush! you'll fret her, if you talk of vengeance.

    Isen. Come to our shelter.

    Children. Oh stay here, stay here!
    Behind these walls.

    Eliz. Ay--stay a while in peace. The storms are still.
    Beneath her eider robe the patient earth
    Watches in silence for the sun: we'll sit
    And gaze up with her at the changeless heaven,
    Until this tyranny be overpast.
    Come. [aside] Lost! Lost! Lost!
    [They enter a neighbouring ruin.]

    SCENE III

    A Chamber in the Bishop's Palace at Bamberg. Elizabeth and Guta.

    Guta. You have determined?

    Eliz. Yes--to go with him.
    I have kept my oath too long to break it now.
    I will to Marpurg, and there waste away
    In meditation and in pious deeds,
    Till God shall set me free.

    Guta. How if your uncle
    Will have you marry? Day and night, they say,
    He talks of nothing else.

    Eliz. Never, girl, never!
    Save me from that at least, O God!

    Guta. He spoke
    Of giving us, your maidens, to his knights
    In carnal wedlock: but I fear him not:
    For God's own word is pledged to keep me pure--
    I am a maid.

    Eliz. And I, alas! am none!
    O Guta! dost thou mock my widowed love?
    I was a wife--'tis true: I was not worthy--
    But there was meaning in that first wild fancy;
    'Twas but the innocent springing of the sap--
    The witless yearning of an homeless heart--
    Do I not know that God has pardoned me?
    But now--to rouse and turn of mine own will,
    In cool and full foreknowledge, this worn soul
    Again to that, which, when God thrust it on me,
    Bred but one shame of ever-gnawing doubt,
    Were--No, my burning cheeks! We'll say no more.
    Ah! loved and lost! Though God's chaste grace should fail me,
    My weak idolatry of thee would give
    Strength that should keep me true: with mine own hands
    I'd mar this tear-worn face, till petulant man
    Should loathe its scarred and shapeless ugliness.

    Guta. But your poor children? What becomes of them?

    Eliz. Oh! she who was not worthy of a husband
    Does not deserve his children. What are they, darlings,
    But snares to keep me from my heavenly spouse
    By picturing the spouse I must forget?
    Well--'tis blank horror. Yet if grief's good for me,
    Let me down into grief's blackest pit,
    And follow out God's cure by mine own deed.

    Guta. What will your kinsfolk think?

    Eliz. What will they think!
    What pleases them. That argument's a staff
    Which breaks whene'er you lean on't. Trust me, girl,
    That fear of man sucks out love's soaring ether,
    Baffles faith's heavenward eyes, and drops us down,
    To float, like plumeless birds, on any stream.
    Have I not proved it?
    There was a time with me, when every eye
    Did scorch like flame: if one looked cold on me,
    I straight accused myself of mortal sins:
    Each fopling was my master: I have lied
    From very fear of mine own serving-maids.--
    That's past, thank God's good grace!

    Guta. And now you leap
    To the other end of the line.

    Eliz. In self-defence.
    I am too weak to live by half my conscience;
    I have no wit to weigh and choose the mean;
    Life is too short for logic; what I do
    I must do simply; God alone must judge--
    For God alone shall guide, and God's elect--
    I shrink from earth's chill frosts too much to crawl--
    I have snapped opinion's chains, and now I'll soar
    Up to the blazing sunlight, and be free.

    [The bishop of Bamberg enters. Conrad following.]

    Bishop. The Devil plagued St. Antony in the likeness of a lean
    friar! Between mad monks and mad women, bedlam's broke loose, I
    think.

    Con. When the Spirit first descended on the elect, seculars then,
    too, said mocking, 'These men are full of new wine.'

    Bishop. Seculars, truly! If I had not in my secularity picked up a
    spice of chivalry to the ladies, I should long ago have turned out
    you and your regulars, to cant elsewhere. Plague on this gout--I
    must sit.

    Eliz. Let me settle your cushion, uncle.

    Bishop. So! girl! I sent for you from Botenstain. I had a mind,
    now, to have kept you there until your wits returned, and you would
    say Yes to some young noble suitor. As if I had not had trouble
    enough about your dower!--If I had had to fight for it, I should not
    have minded:--but these palavers and conferences have fretted me
    into the gout: and now you would throw all away again, tired with
    your toy, I suppose. What shall I say to the Counts, Varila, and
    the Cupbearer, and all the noble knights who will hazard their lands
    and lives in trying to right you with that traitor? I am ashamed to
    look them in the face! To give all up to the villain!--To pay him
    for his treason!

    Eliz. Uncle, I give but what to me is worthless. He loves these
    baubles--let him keep them, then: I have my dower.

    Bishop. To squander on nuns and beggars, at this rogue's bidding?
    Why not marry some honest man? You may have your choice of kings
    and princes; and if you have been happy with one gentleman, Mass!
    say I, why can't you be happy with another? What saith the
    Scripture? 'I will that the younger widows marry, bear children,'--
    not run after monks, and what not--What's good for the filly, is
    good for the mare, say I.

    Eliz. Uncle, I soar now at a higher pitch--

    To be henceforth the bride of Christ alone.

    Bishop. Ahem!--a pious notion--in moderation. We must be moderate,
    my child, moderate: I hate overdoing anything--especially religion.

    Con. Madam, between your uncle and myself

    This question in your absence were best mooted.

    [Exit Elizabeth.]

    Bishop. How, priest? do you order her about like a servant-maid?

    Con. The saints forbid! Now--ere I lose a moment--

    [Kneeling.]

    [Aside] All things to all men be--and so save some--
    [Aloud] Forgive, your grace, forgive me,
    If mine unmannered speech in aught have clashed
    With your more tempered and melodious judgment:
    Your courage will forgive an honest warmth.
    God knows, I serve no private interests.

    Bishop. Your order's, hey? to wit?

    Con. My lord, my lord,
    There may be higher aims: but what I said,
    I said but for our Church, and our cloth's honour.
    Ladies' religion, like their love, we know,
    Requires a gloss of verbal exaltation,
    Lest the sweet souls should understand themselves;
    And clergymen must talk up to the mark.

    Bishop. We all know, Gospel preached in the mother-tongue
    Sounds too like common sense.

    Con. Or too unlike it:
    You know the world, your grace; you know the sex--

    Bishop. Ahem! As a spectator.

    Con. Philosophice--
    Just so--You know their rage for shaven crowns--
    How they'll deny their God--but not their priest--
    Flirts--scandal-mongers--in default of both come
    Platonic love--worship of art and genius--
    Idols which make them dream of heaven, as girls
    Dream of their sweethearts, when they sleep on bridecake.
    It saves from worse--we are not all Abelards.

    Bishop [aside]. Some of us have his tongue, if not his face.

    Con. There lies her fancy; do but balk her of it--
    She'll bolt to cloisters, like a rabbit scared.
    Head her from that--she'll wed some pink-faced boy--
    The more low-bred and penniless, the likelier.
    Send her to Marpurg, and her brain will cool.
    Tug at the kite, 'twill only soar the higher:
    Give it but line, my lord, 'twill drop like slate.
    Use but that eagle's glance, whose daring foresight
    In chapter, camp, and council, wins the wonder
    Of timid trucklers--Scan results and outcomes--
    The scale is heavy in your grace's favour.

    Bishop. Bah! priest! What can this Marpurg-madness do for me?

    Con. Leave you the tutelage of all her children.

    Bishop. Thank you--to play the dry-nurse to three starving brats.

    Con. The minor's guardian guards the minor's lands.

    Bishop. Unless they are pitched away in building hospitals.

    Con. Instead of fattening in your wisdom's keeping.

    Bishop. Well, well,--but what gross scandal to the family!

    Con. The family, my lord, would gain a saint.

    Bishop. Ah! monk, that canonisation costs a frightful sum.

    Con. These fees, just now, would gladly be remitted.

    Bishop. These are the last days, faith, when Rome's too rich to take!

    Con. The Saints forbid, my lord, the fisher's see
    Were so o'ercursed by Mammon! But you grieve,
    I know, to see foul weeds of heresy
    Of late o'errun your diocese.

    Bishop. Ay, curse them!
    I've hanged some dozens.

    Con. Worthy of yourself!
    But yet the faith needs here some mighty triumph--
    Some bright example, whose resplendent blaze
    May tempt that fluttering tribe within the pale
    Of Holy Church again--

    Bishop. To singe their wings?

    Con. They'll not come near enough. Again--there are
    Who dare arraign your prowess, and assert
    A churchman's energies were better spent
    In pulpits than the tented field. Now mark--
    Mark, what a door is opened. Give but scope
    To this her huge capacity for sainthood--
    Set her, a burning and a shining light
    To all your people--Such a sacrifice,
    Such loan to God of your own flesh and blood,
    Will silence envious tongues, and prove you wise
    For the next world as for this; will clear your name
    From calumnies which argue worldliness;
    Buy of itself the joys of paradise;
    And clench your lordship's interest with the pontiff.

    Bishop. Well, well, we'll think on't.

    Con. Sir, I doubt you not.

    [Re-enter Elizabeth.]

    Eliz. Uncle, I am determined.

    Bishop. So am I.
    You shall to Marpurg with this holy man.

    Eliz. Ah, there you speak again like my own uncle.
    I'll go--to rest [aside] and die. I only wait
    To see the bones of my beloved laid
    In some fit resting-place. A messenger
    Proclaims them near. O God!

    Bishop. We'll go, my child,
    And meeting them with all due honour, show
    In our own worship, honourable minds.

    [Exit Elizabeth.]

    A messenger! How far off are they, then?

    Serv. Some two days' journey, sir.

    Bishop. Two days' journey, and nought prepared?
    Here, chaplain--Brother Hippodamas! Chaplain, I say! [Hippodamas
    enters.] Call the apparitor--ride off with him, right and left--
    Don't wait even to take your hawk--Tell my knights to be with me,
    with all their men-at-arms, at noon on the second day. Let all be
    of the best, say--the brightest of arms and the newest of garments.
    Mass! we must show our smartest before these crusaders--they'll be
    full of new fashions, I warrant 'em--the monkeys that have seen the
    world. And here, boy [to a page], set me a stoup of wine in the
    oriel-room, and another for this good monk.

    Con. Pardon me, blessedness--but holy rule--

    Bishop. Oh! I forgot.--A pail of water and a peck of beans for the
    holy man!--Order up my equerry, and bid my armourer--vestryman, I
    mean--look out my newest robes.--Plague on this gout.

    [Exeunt, following the Bishop.]



    SCENE IV

    The Nave of Bamberg Cathedral. A procession entering the West Door,
    headed by Elizabeth and the Bishop, Nobles, etc. Religious bearing
    the coffin which encloses Lewis's bones.

    1st Lady. See! the procession comes--the mob streams in
    At every door. Hark! how the steeples thunder
    Their solemn bass above the wailing choir.

    2d Lady. They will stop at the screen.

    Knight. And there, as I hear, open the coffin. Push forward,
    ladies, to that pillar: thence you will see all.

    1st Peas. Oh dear! oh dear! If any man had told me that I should
    ride forty miles on this errand, to see him that went out flesh come
    home grass, like the flower of the field!

    2d Peas. We have changed him, but not mended him, say I, friend.

    1st Peas. Never we. He knew where a yeoman's heart lay! One that
    would clap a man on the back when his cow died, and behave like a
    gentleman to him--that never met you after a hailstorm without
    lightening himself of a few pocket-burners.

    2d Peas. Ay, that's your poor-man's plaster: that's your right
    grease for this world's creaking wheels.

    1st Peas. Nay, that's your rich man's plaster too, and covers the
    multitude of sins. That's your big pike's swimming-bladder, that
    keeps him atop and feeding: that's his calling and election, his
    oil of anointing, his salvum fac regem, his yeoman of the wardrobe,
    who keeps the velvet-piled side of this world uppermost, lest his
    delicate eyes should see the warp that holds it.

    2d Peas. Who's the warp, then?

    1st Peas. We, man, the friezes and fustians, that rub on till we
    get frayed through with overwork, and then all's abroad, and the
    nakedness of Babylon is discovered, and catch who catch can.

    Old Woman. Pity they only brought his bones home! He would have
    made a lovely corpse, surely. He was a proper man!

    1st Lady. Oh the mincing step he had with him! and the delicate
    hand on a horse, fingering the reins as St. Cicely does the organ-
    keys!

    2d Lady. And for hunting, another Siegfried.

    Knight. If he was Siegfried the gay, she was Chriemhild the grim;
    and as likely to prove a firebrand as the girl in the ballad.

    1st Lady. Gay, indeed! His smiles were like plumcake, the sweeter
    the deeper iced. I never saw him speak civil word to woman, but to
    her.

    2d Lady. O ye Saints! There was honey spilt on the ground! If I
    had such a knight, I'd never freeze alone on the chamber-floor, like
    some that never knew when they were well off. I'd never elbow him
    off to crusades with my pruderies.

    'Pluck your apples while they're ripe,

    And pull your flowers in May, O!'

    Eh! Mother?

    Old Woman. 'Till when she grew wizened, and he grew cold,

    The balance lay even 'twixt young and old.'

    Monk. Thus Satan bears witness perforce against the vanities of
    Venus! But what's this babbling? Carolationes in the holy place?
    Tace, vetula! taceas, taceto also, and that forthwith.

    Old Woman. Tace in your teeth, and taceas also, begging-box! Who
    put the halter round his waist to keep it off his neck,--who? Get
    behind your screen, sirrah! Am I not a burgher's wife? Am I not in
    the nave? Am I not on my own ground? Have I brought up eleven
    children, without nurse wet or dry, to be taced nowadays by friars
    in the nave? Help! good folks! Where be these rooks a going?

    Knight. The monk has vanished.

    1st Peas. It's ill letting out waters, he finds. Who is that old
    gentleman, sir, holds the Princess so tight by the hand?

    Knight. Her uncle, knave, the Bishop.

    1st Peas. Very right, he: for she's almost a born natural, poor
    soul. It was a temptation to deal with her.

    2d Peas. Thou didst cheat her shockingly, Frank, time o' the
    famine, on those nine sacks of maslin meal.

    Knight. Go tell her of it, rascal, and she'll thank you for it, and
    give you a shilling for helping her to a 'cross.'

    Old Woman. Taceing free women in the nave! This comes of your
    princesses, that turn the world upside down, and demean themselves
    to hob and nob with these black baldicoots!

    Eliz. [in a low voice]. I saw all Israel scattered on the hills
    As sheep that have no shepherd! O my people!
    Who crowd with greedy eyes round this my jewel,
    Poor ivory, token of his outward beauty--
    Oh! had ye known his spirit!--Let his wisdom
    Inform your light hearts with that Saviour's likeness
    For whom he died! So had you kept him with you;
    And from the coming evils gentle Heaven
    Had not withdrawn the righteous: 'tis too late!

    1st Lady. There, now, she smiles; do you think she ever loved him?

    Knight. Never creature, but mealy-mouthed inquisitors, and shaven
    singing birds. She looks now as glad to be rid of him as any colt
    broke loose.

    1st Lady. What will she do now, when this farce is over?

    2d Lady. Found an abbey, that's the fashion, and elect herself
    abbess--tyrannise over hysterical girls, who are forced to thank her
    for making them miserable, and so die a saint.

    Knight. Will you pray to her, my fair queen?

    2d Lady. Not I, sir; the old Saints send me lovers enough, and to
    spare--yourself for one.

    1st Lady. There is the giant-killer slain. But see--they have
    stopped: who is that raising the coffin lid?

    2d Lady. Her familiar spirit, Conrad the heretic-catcher.

    Knight. I do defy him! Thou art my only goddess;
    My saint, my idol, my--ahem!

    1st Lady. That well's run dry.
    Look, how she trembles--Now she sinks, all shivering,
    Upon the pavement--Why, you'll see nought there
    Flirting behind the pillar--Now she rises--
    And choking down that proud heart, turns to the altar--
    Her hand upon the coffin.

    Eliz. I thank thee, gracious Lord, who hast fulfilled
    Thine handmaid's mighty longings with the sight
    Of my beloved's bones, and dost vouchsafe
    This consolation to the desolate.
    I grudge not, Lord, the victim which we gave Thee,
    Both he and I, of his most precious life,
    To aid Thine holy city: though Thou knowest
    His sweetest presence was to this world's joy
    As sunlight to the taper--Oh! hadst Thou spared--
    Had Thy great mercy let us, hand in hand,
    Have toiled through houseless shame, on beggar's dole,
    I had been blest: Thou hast him, Lord, Thou hast him--
    Do with us what Thou wilt! If at the price
    Of this one silly hair, in spite of Thee,
    I could reclothe these wan bones with his manhood,
    And clasp to my shrunk heart my hero's self--
    I would not give it!
    I will weep no more--
    Lead on, most holy; on the sepulchre
    Which stands beside the choir, lay down your burden.

    [To the people.]

    Now, gentle hosts, within the close hard by,
    Will we our court, as queen of sorrows, hold--
    The green graves underneath us, and above
    The all-seeing vault, which is the eye of God,
    Judge of the widow and the fatherless.
    There will I plead my children's wrongs, and there,
    If, as I think, there boil within your veins
    The deep sure currents of your race's manhood,
    Ye'll nail the orphans' badge upon your shields,
    And own their cause for God's. We name our champions--
    Rudolf, the Cupbearer, Leutolf of Erlstetten,
    Hartwig of Erba, and our loved Count Walter,
    Our knights and vassals, sojourners among you.
    Follow us.

    [Exit Elizabeth, etc.; the crowd following.]
    Next Chapter
    Chapter 4
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