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    Act IV

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    Chapter 5
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    The church of a convent.
    Elizabeth, Conrad, Gerard, Monks, an Abbess, Nuns, etc., in the distance.

    Conrad. What's this new weakness? At your own request
    We come to hear your self-imposed vows--
    And now you shrink: where are the high-flown fancies
    Which but last week, beside your husband's bier,
    You vapoured forth? Will you become a jest?
    You might have counted this tower's cost, before
    You blazoned thus your plans abroad.

    Eliz. Oh! spare me!

    Con. Spare? Spare yourself; and spare big easy words,
    Which prove your knowledge greater than your grace.

    Eliz. Is there no middle path? No way to keep
    My love for them, and God, at once unstained?

    Con. If this were God's world, Madam, and not the devil's,
    It might be done.

    Eliz. God's world, man! Why, God made it--
    The faith asserts it God's.

    Con. Potentially--
    As every christened rogue's a child of God,
    Or those old hags, Christ's brides--Think of your horn-book--
    The world, the flesh, and the devil--a goodly leash!
    And yet God made all three. I know the fiend;
    And you should know the world: be sure, be sure.
    The flesh is not a stork among the cranes.
    Our nature, even in Eden gross and vile,
    And by miraculous grace alone upheld,
    Is now itself, and foul, and damned, must die
    Ere we can live; let halting worldlings, madam,
    Maunder against earth's ties, yet clutch them still.

    Eliz. And yet God gave them to me--

    Con. In the world;
    Your babes are yours according to the flesh;
    How can you hate the flesh, and love its fruit?

    Eliz. The Scripture bids me love them.

    Con. Truly so,
    While you are forced to keep them; when God's mercy
    Doth from the flesh and world deliverance offer,
    Letting you bestow them elsewhere, then your love
    May cease with its own usefulness, and the spirit
    Range in free battle lists; I'll not waste reasons--
    We'll leave you, Madam, to the Spirit's voice.

    [Conrad and Gerard withdraw.]

    Eliz. [alone]. Give up his children! Why, I'd not give up
    A lock of hair, a glove his hand had hallowed:
    And they are his gift; his pledge; his flesh and blood
    Tossed off for my ambition! Ah! my husband!
    His ghost's sad eyes upbraid me! Spare me, spare me!
    I'd love thee still, if I dared; but I fear God.
    And shall I never more see loving eyes
    Look into mine, until my dying day?
    That's this world's bondage: Christ would have me free,
    And 'twere a pious deed to cut myself
    The last, last strand, and fly: but whither? whither?
    What if I cast away the bird i' the hand
    And found none in the bush? 'Tis possible--
    What right have I to arrogate Christ's bride-bed?
    Crushed, widowed, sold to traitors? I, o'er whom
    His billows and His storms are sweeping? God's not angry:
    No, not so much as we with buzzing fly;
    Or in the moment of His wrath's awakening
    We should be--nothing. No--there's worse than that--
    What if He but sat still, and let be be?
    And these deep sorrows, which my vain conceit
    Calls chastenings--meant for me--my ailments' cure--
    Were lessons for some angels far away,
    And I the corpus vile for the experiment?
    The grinding of the sharp and pitiless wheels
    Of some high Providence, which had its mainspring
    Ages ago, and ages hence its end?
    That were too horrible!--
    To have torn up all the roses from my garden,
    And planted thorns instead; to have forged my griefs,
    And hugged the griefs I dared not forge; made earth
    A hell, for hope of heaven; and after all,
    These homeless moors of life toiled through, to wake,
    And find blank nothing! Is that angel-world
    A gaudy window, which we paint ourselves
    To hide the dead void night beyond? The present?
    Why here's the present--like this arched gloom,
    It hems our blind souls in, and roofs them over
    With adamantine vault, whose only voice
    Is our own wild prayers' echo: and our future?--
    It rambles out in endless aisles of mist,
    The farther still the darker--O my Saviour!
    My God! where art Thou? That's but a tale about Thee,
    That crucifix above--it does but show Thee
    As Thou wast once, but not as Thou art now--
    Thy grief, but not Thy glory: where's that gone?
    I see it not without me, and within me
    Hell reigns, not Thou!

    [Dashes herself down on the altar steps.]

    [Monks in the distance chanting.]

    'Kings' daughters were among thine honourable women'--

    Eliz. Kings' daughters! I am one!

    Monks. 'Hearken, O daughter, and consider; incline thine ear:
    Forget also thine own people, and thy father's house,
    So shall the King have pleasure in thy beauty:
    For He is thy Lord God, and worship thou Him.'

    Eliz. [springing up]. I will forget them!
    They stand between my soul and its allegiance.
    Thou art my God: what matter if Thou love me?
    I am Thy bond-slave, purchased with Thy life-blood;
    I will remember nothing, save that debt.
    Do with me what Thou wilt. Alas, my babies!
    He loves them--they'll not need me.

    [Conrad advancing.]

    Con. How now, Madam!
    Have these your prayers unto a nobler will
    Won back that wandering heart?

    Eliz. God's will is spoken!
    The flesh is weak; the spirit's fixed, and dares,--
    Stay! confess, sir,
    Did not yourself set on your brothers here
    To sing me to your purpose?

    Con. As I live
    I meant it not; yet had I bribed them to it,
    Those words were no less God's.

    Eliz. I know it, I know it;
    And I'll obey them: come, the victim's ready.

    [Lays her hand on the altar. Gerard, Abbess, and Monks descend and

    All worldly goods and wealth, which once I loved,
    I do now count but dross: and my beloved,
    The children of my womb, I now regard
    As if they were another's. God is witness
    My pride is to despise myself; my joy
    All insults, sneers, and slanders of mankind;
    No creature now I love, but God alone.
    Oh, to be clear, clear, clear, of all but Him!
    Lo, here I strip me of all earthly helps--

    [Tearing off her clothes.]

    Naked and barefoot through the world to follow
    My naked Lord--And for my filthy pelf--

    Con. Stop, Madam--

    Eliz. Why so, sir?

    Con. Upon thine oath!
    Thy wealth is God's, not thine--How darest renounce
    The trust He lays on thee? I do command thee,
    Being, as Aaron, in God's stead, to keep it
    Inviolate, for the Church and thine own needs.

    Eliz. Be it so--I have no part nor lot in't--
    There--I have spoken.

    Abbess. O noble soul! which neither gold, nor love,
    Nor scorn can bend!

    Gerard. And think what pure devotions,
    What holy prayers must they have been, whose guerdon
    Is such a flood of grace!

    Nuns. What love again!
    What flame of charity, which thus prevails
    In virtue's guest!

    Eliz. Is self-contempt learnt thus?
    I'll home.

    Abbess. And yet how blest, in these cool shades
    To rest with us, as in a land-locked pool,
    Touched last and lightest by the ruffling breeze.

    Eliz. No! no! no! no! I will not die in the dark:
    I'll breathe the free fresh air until the last,
    Were it but a month--I have such things to do--
    Great schemes--brave schemes--and such a little time!
    Though now I am harnessed light as any foot-page.
    Come, come, my ladies. [Exeunt Elizabeth, etc.]

    Ger. Alas, poor lady!

    Con. Why alas, my son?
    She longs to die a saint, and here's the way to it.

    Ger. Yet why so harsh? why with remorseless knife
    Home to the stem prune back each bough and bud?
    I thought the task of education was
    To strengthen, not to crush; to train and feed
    Each subject toward fulfilment of its nature,
    According to the mind of God, revealed
    In laws, congenital with every kind
    And character of man.

    Con. A heathen dream!
    Young souls but see the gay and warm outside,
    And work but in the shallow upper soil.
    Mine deeper, and the sour and barren rock
    Will stop you soon enough. Who trains God's Saints,
    He must transform, not pet--Nature's corrupt throughout--
    A gaudy snake, which must be crushed, not tamed,
    A cage of unclean birds, deceitful ever;
    Born in the likeness of the fiend, which Adam
    Did at the Fall, the Scripture saith, put on.
    Canst thou draw out Leviathan with a hook,
    To make him sport for thy maidens? Scripture saith
    Who is the prince of this world--so forget not.

    Ger. Forgive, if my more weak and carnal judgment
    Be startled by your doctrines, and doubt trembling
    The path whereon you force yourself and her.

    Con. Startled? Belike--belike--let doctrines be;
    Thou shalt be judged by thy works; so see to them,
    And let divines split hairs: dare all thou canst;
    Be all thou darest;--that will keep thy brains full.
    Have thy tools ready, God will find thee work--
    Then up, and play the man. Fix well thy purpose--
    Let one idea, like an orbed sun,
    Rise radiant in thine heaven; and then round it
    All doctrines, forms, and disciplines will range
    As dim parhelia, or as needful clouds,
    Needful, but mist-begotten, to be dashed
    Aside, when fresh shall serve thy purpose better.

    Ger. How? dashed aside?

    Con. Yea, dashed aside--why not?
    The truths, my son, are safe in God's abysses--
    While we patch up the doctrines to look like them.
    The best are tarnished mirrors--clumsy bridges,
    Whereon, as on firm soil, the mob may walk
    Across the gulf of doubt, and know no danger.
    We, who see heaven, may see the hell which girds it.
    Blind trust for them. When I came here from Rome,
    Among the Alps, all through one frost-bound dawn,
    Waiting with sealed lips the noisy day,
    I walked upon a marble mead of snow--
    An angel's spotless plume, laid there for me:
    Then from the hillside, in the melting noon,
    Looked down the gorge, and lo! no bridge, no snow--
    But seas of writhing glacier, gashed and scored
    With splintered gulfs, and fathomless crevasses,
    Blue lips of hell, which sucked down roaring rivers
    The fiends who fled the sun. The path of Saints
    Is such; so shall she look from heaven, and see
    The road which led her thither. Now we'll go,
    And find some lonely cottage for her lodging;
    Her shelter now is but a crumbling ruin
    Roofed in with pine boughs--discipline more healthy
    For soul, than body: She's not ripe for death.



    Open space in a suburb of Marpurg, near Elizabeth's Hut. Count
    Walter and Count Pama of Hungary entering.

    C. Pama. I have prepared my nerves for a shock.

    C. Wal. You are wise, for the world's upside down here. The last
    gateway brought us out of Christendom into the New Jerusalem, the
    fifth Monarchy, where the Saints possess the earth. Not a beggar
    here but has his pockets full of fair ladies' tokens: not a
    barefooted friar but rules a princess.

    C. Pama. Creeping, I opine, into widows' houses, and for a pretence
    making long prayers.

    C. Wal. Don't quote Scripture here, sir, especially in that gross
    literal way! The new lights here have taught us that Scripture's
    saying one thing, is a certain proof that it means another. Except,
    by the bye, in one text.

    C. Pama. What's that?

    C. Wal. 'Ask, and it shall be given you.'

    C. Pama. Ah! So we are to take nothing literally, that they may
    take literally everything themselves?

    C. Wal. Humph! As for your text, see if they do not saddle it on
    us before the day is out, as glibly as ever you laid it on them.
    Here comes the lady's tyrant, of whom I told you.

    [Conrad advances from the Hut.]

    Con. And what may Count Walter's valour want here?

    [Count Walter turns his back.]

    C. Pama. I come, Sir Priest, from Andreas, king renowned
    Of Hungary, ambassador unworthy
    Unto the Landgravine, his saintly daughter;
    And fain would be directed to her presence.

    Con. That is as I shall choose. But I'll not stop you.
    I do not build with straw. I'll trust my pupils
    To worldlings' honeyed tongues, who make long prayers,
    And enter widows' houses for pretence.
    There dwells the lady, who has chosen too long
    The better part, to have it taken from her.
    Besides that with strange dreams and revelations
    She has of late been edified.

    C. Wal. Bah! but they will serve your turn--and hers.

    Con. What do you mean?

    C. Wal. When you have cut her off from child and friend, and even
    Isentrudis and Guta, as I hear, are thrust out by you to starve, and
    she sits there, shut up like a bear in a hole, to feed on her own
    substance; if she has not some of these visions to look at, how is
    she, or any other of your poor self-gorged prisoners, to help
    fancying herself the only creature on earth?

    Con. How now? Who more than she, in faith and practice, a living
    member of the Communion of Saints? Did she not lately publicly
    dispense in charity in a single day five hundred marks and more? Is
    it not my continual labour to keep her from utter penury through her
    extravagance in almsgiving? For whom does she take thought but for
    the poor, on whom, day and night, she spends her strength? Does she
    not tend them from the cradle, nurse them, kiss their sores, feed
    them, bathe them, with her own hands, clothe them, living and dead,
    with garments, the produce of her own labour? Did she not of late
    take into her own house a paralytic boy, whose loathsomeness had
    driven away every one else? And now that we have removed that
    charge, has she not with her a leprous boy, to whose necessities she
    ministers hourly, by day and night? What valley but blesses her for
    some school, some chapel, some convent, built by her munificence?
    Are not the hospices, which she has founded in divers towns, the
    wonder of Germany?--wherein she daily feeds and houses a multitude
    of the infirm poor of Christ? Is she not followed at every step by
    the blessings of the poor? Are not her hourly intercessions for the
    souls and bodies of all around incessant, world-famous, mighty to
    save? While she lives only for the Church of Christ, will you
    accuse her of selfish isolation?

    C. Wal. I tell you, monk, if she were not healthier by God's making
    than ever she will be by yours, her charity would be by this time
    double-distilled selfishness; the mouths she fed, cupboards to store
    good works in; the backs she warmed, clothes-horses to hang out her
    wares before God; her alms not given, but fairly paid, a halfpenny
    for every halfpenny-worth of eternal life; earth her chess-board,
    and the men and women on it merely pawns for her to play a winning
    game--puppets and horn-books to teach her unit holiness--a private
    workshop in which to work out her own salvation. Out upon such

    Con. God hath appointed that our virtuous deeds
    Each merit their rewards.

    C. Wal. Go to--go to. I have watched you and your crew, how you
    preach up selfish ambition for divine charity and call prurient
    longings celestial love, while you blaspheme that very marriage from
    whose mysteries you borrow all your cant. The day will come when
    every husband and father will hunt you down like vermin; and may I
    live to see it.

    Con. Out on thee, heretic!

    C. Wal. [drawing]. Liar! At last?

    C. Pama. In God's name, sir, what if the Princess find us?

    C. Wal. Ay--for her sake. But put that name on me again, as you do
    on every good Catholic who will not be your slave and puppet, and if
    thou goest home with ears and nose, there is no hot blood in

    [They move towards the cottage.]

    Con. [alone]. Were I as once I was, I could revenge:
    But now all private grudges wane like mist
    In the keen sunlight of my full intent;
    And this man counts but for some sullen bull
    Who paws and mutters at unheeding pilgrims
    His empty wrath: yet let him bar my path,
    Or stay me but one hour in my life-purpose,
    And I will fell him as a savage beast,
    God's foe, not mine. Beware thyself, Sir Count!

    [Exit. The Counts return from the Cottage.]

    C. Pama. Shortly she will return; here to expect her
    Is duty both, and honour. Pardon me--
    Her humours are well known here? Passers by
    Will guess who 'tis we visit?

    C. Wal. Very likely.

    C. Pama. Well, travellers see strange things--and do them too.
    Hem! this turf-smoke affects my breath: we might
    Draw back a space.

    C. Wal. Certie, we were in luck,
    Or both our noses would have been snapped off
    By those two she-dragons; how their sainthoods squealed
    To see a brace of beards peep in! Poor child!
    Two sweet companions for her loneliness!

    C. Pama. But ah! what lodging! 'Tis at that my heart bleeds!
    That hut, whose rough and smoke-embrowned spars
    Dip to the cold clay floor on either side!
    Her seats bare deal!--her only furniture
    Some earthen crock or two! Why, sir, a dungeon
    Were scarce more frightful: such a choice must argue
    Aberrant senses, or degenerate blood!

    C. Wal. What? Were things foul?

    C. Pama. I marked not, sir.

    C. Wal. I did.
    You might have eat your dinner off the floor.

    C. Pama. Off any spot, sir, which a princess' foot
    Had hallowed by its touch.

    C. Wal. Most courtierly.
    Keep, keep those sweet saws for the lady's self.
    [Aside] Unless that shock of the nerves shall send them flying.

    C. Pama. Yet whence this depth of poverty? I thought
    You and her champions had recovered for her
    Her lands and titles.

    C. Wal. Ay; that coward Henry
    Gave them all back as lightly as he took them:
    Certie, we were four gentle applicants--
    And Rudolph told him some unwelcome truths--
    Would God that all of us might hear our sins,
    As Henry heard that day!

    C. Pama. Then she refused them?

    C. Wal. 'It ill befits,' quoth she, 'my royal blood,
    To take extorted gifts; I tender back
    By you to him, for this his mortal life,
    That which he thinks by treason cheaply bought;
    To which my son shall, in his father's right,
    By God's good will, succeed. For that dread height
    May Christ by many woes prepare his youth!'

    C. Pama. Humph!

    C. Wal. Why here--no, 't cannot be--

    C. Pama. What hither comes
    Forth from the hospital, where, as they told us,
    The Princess labours in her holy duties?
    A parti-coloured ghost that stalks for penance?
    Ah! a good head of hair, if she had kept it
    A thought less lank; a handsome face too, trust me,
    But worn to fiddle-strings; well, we'll be knightly--

    [As Elizabeth meets him.]

    Stop, my fair queen of rags and patches, turn
    Those solemn eyes a moment from your distaff,
    And say, what tidings your magnificence
    Can bring us of the Princess?

    Eliz. I am she.

    [Count Pama crosses himself and falls on his knees.]

    C. Pama. O blessed saints and martyrs! Open, earth!
    And hide my recreant knighthood in thy gulf!
    Yet, mercy, Madam! for till this strange day
    Who e'er saw spinning wool, like village-maid,
    A royal scion?

    C. Wal. [kneeling]. My beloved mistress!

    Eliz. Ah! faithful friend! Rise, gentles, rise, for shame;
    Nay, blush not, gallant sir. You have seen, ere now,
    Kings' daughters do worse things than spinning wool,
    Yet never reddened. Speak your errand out.

    C. Pama. I from your father, Madam--

    Eliz. Oh! I divine;
    And grieve that you so far have journeyed, sir,
    Upon a bootless quest.

    C. Pama. But hear me, Madam--
    If you return with me (o'erwhelming honour!
    For such mean bodyguard too precious treasure)
    Your father offers to you half his wealth;
    And countless hosts, whose swift and loyal blades
    From traitorous grasp shall vindicate your crown.

    Eliz. Wealth? I have proved it, and have tossed it from me:
    I will not stoop again to load with clay.
    War? I have proved that too: should I turn loose
    On these poor sheep the wolf whose fangs have gored me,
    God's bolt would smite me dead.

    C. Pama. Madam, by his gray hairs he doth entreat you.

    Eliz. Alas! small comfort would they find in me!
    I am a stricken and most luckless deer,
    Whose bleeding track but draws the hounds of wrath
    Where'er I pause a moment. He has children
    Bred at his side, to nurse him in his age--
    While I am but an alien and a changeling,
    Whom, ere my plastic sense could impress take
    Either of his feature or his voice, he lost.

    C. Pama. Is it so? Then pardon, Madam, but your father
    Must by a father's right command--

    Eliz. Command! Ay, that's the phrase of the world: well--tell him,
    But tell him gently too--that child and father
    Are names, whose earthly sense I have forsworn,
    And know no more: I have a heavenly spouse,
    Whose service doth all other claims annul.

    C. Wal. Ah, lady, dearest lady, be but ruled!
    Your Saviour will be there as near as here.

    Eliz. What? Thou too, friend? Dost thou not know me better?
    Wouldst have me leave undone what I begin?
    [To Count Pama] My father took the cross, sir: so did I:
    As he would die at his post, so will I die:
    He is a warrior: ask him, should I leave
    This my safe fort, and well-proved vantage-ground,
    To roam on this world's flat and fenceless steppes?

    C. Pama. Pardon me, Madam, if my grosser wit
    Fail to conceive your sense.

    Eliz. It is not needed.
    Be but the mouthpiece to my father, sir;
    And tell him--for I would not anger him--
    Tell him, I am content--say, happy--tell him
    I prove my kin by prayers for him, and masses
    For her who bore me. We shall meet on high.
    And say, his daughter is a mighty tree,
    From whose wide roots a thousand sapling suckers,
    Drink half their life; she dare not snap the threads,
    And let her offshoots wither. So farewell.
    Within the convent there, as mine own guests,
    You shall be fitly lodged. Come here no more.

    C. Wal. C. Pama. Farewell, sweet Saint! [Exeunt.]

    Eliz. May God go with you both.
    No! I will win for him a nobler name,
    Than captive crescents, piles of turbaned heads,
    Or towns retaken from the Tartar, give.
    In me he shall be greatest; my report
    Shall through the ages win the quires of heaven
    To love and honour him; and hinds, who bless
    The poor man's patron saint, shall not forget
    How she was fathered with a worthy sire. [Exit.]


    Night. Interior of Elizabeth's hut. A leprous boy sleeping on a
    Mattress. Elizabeth watching by him.]

    Eliz. My shrunk limbs, stiff from many a blow,
    Are crazed with pain.
    A long dim formless fog-bank, creeping low,
    Dulls all my brain.

    I remember two young lovers,
    In a golden gleam.
    Across the brooding darkness shrieking hovers
    That fair, foul dream.

    My little children call to me,
    'Mother! so soon forgot?'
    From out dark nooks their yearning faces startle me,
    Go, babes! I know you not!

    Pray! pray! or thou'lt go mad.
    . . . . .
    The past's our own:
    No fiend can take that from us! Ah, poor boy!
    Had I, like thee, been bred from my black birth-hour
    In filth and shame, counting the soulless months
    Only by some fresh ulcer! I'll be patient--
    Here's something yet more wretched than myself.
    Sleep thou on still, poor charge--though I'll not grudge
    One moment of my sickening toil about thee,
    Best counsellor--dumb preacher, who dost warn me
    How much I have enjoyed, how much have left,
    Which thou hast never known. How am I wretched?
    The happiness thou hast from me, is mine,
    And makes me happy. Ay, there lies the secret--
    Could we but crush that ever-craving lust
    For bliss, which kills all bliss, and lose our life,
    Our barren unit life, to find again
    A thousand lives in those for whom we die.
    So were we men and women, and should hold
    Our rightful rank in God's great universe,
    Wherein, in heaven and earth, by will or nature,
    Nought lives for self--All, all--from crown to footstool--
    The Lamb, before the world's foundations slain--
    The angels, ministers to God's elect--
    The sun, who only shines to light a world--
    The clouds, whose glory is to die in showers--
    The fleeting streams, who in their ocean-graves
    Flee the decay of stagnant self-content--
    The oak, ennobled by the shipwright's axe--
    The soil, which yields its marrow to the flower--
    The flower, which feeds a thousand velvet worms,
    Born only to be prey for every bird--
    All spend themselves for others: and shall man,
    Earth's rosy blossom--image of his God--
    Whose twofold being is the mystic knot
    Which couples earth and heaven--doubly bound
    As being both worm and angel, to that service
    By which both worms and angels hold their life--
    Shall he, whose every breath is debt on debt,
    Refuse, without some hope of further wage
    Which he calls Heaven, to be what God has made him?
    No! let him show himself the creature's lord
    By freewill gift of that self-sacrifice
    Which they perforce by nature's law must suffer.
    This too I had to learn (I thank thee, Lord!),
    To lie crushed down in darkness and the pit--
    To lose all heart and hope--and yet to work.
    What lesson could I draw from all my own woes--
    Ingratitude, oppression, widowhood--
    While I could hug myself in vain conceits
    Of self-contented sainthood--inward raptures--
    Celestial palms--and let ambition's gorge
    Taint heaven, as well as earth? Is selfishness
    For time, a sin--spun out to eternity
    Celestial prudence? Shame! Oh, thrust me forth,
    Forth, Lord, from self, until I toil and die
    No more for Heaven and bliss, but duty, Lord,
    Duty to Thee, although my meed should be
    The hell which I deserve!


    [Two women enter.]

    1st Woman. What! snoring still? 'Tis nearly time to wake her
    To do her penance.

    2d Woman. Wait a while, for love:
    Indeed, I am almost ashamed to punish
    A bag of skin and bones.

    1st Woman. 'Tis for her good:
    She has had her share of pleasure in this life
    With her gay husband; she must have her pain.
    We bear it as a thing of course; we know
    What mortifications are, although I say it
    That should not.

    2d Woman. Why, since my old tyrant died,
    Fasting I've sought the Lord, like any Anna,
    And never tasted fish, nor flesh, nor fowl,
    And little stronger than water.

    1st Woman. Plague on this watching!
    What work, to make a saint of a fine lady!
    See now, if she had been some labourer's daughter,
    She might have saved herself, for aught he cared;
    But now--

    2d Woman. Hush! here the master comes:
    I hear him.--

    [Conrad enters.]

    Con. My peace, most holy, wise, and watchful wardens!
    She sleeps? Well, what complaints have you to bring
    Since last we met? How? blowing up the fire?
    Cold is the true saint's element--he thrives
    Like Alpine gentians, where the frost is keenest--
    For there Heaven's nearest--and the ether purest--
    [Aside] And he most bitter.

    2d Woman. Ah! sweet master,
    We are not yet as perfect as yourself.

    Con. But how has she behaved?

    1st Woman. Just like herself--
    Now ruffling up like any tourney queen;
    Now weeping in dark corners; then next minute
    Begging for penance on her knees.

    2d Woman. One trick's cured;
    That lust of giving; Isentrude and Guta,
    The hussies, came here begging but yestreen,
    Vowed they were starving.

    Con. Did she give to them?

    2d Woman. She told them that she dared not.

    Con. Good. For them,
    I will take measures that they shall not want:
    But see you tell her not: she must be perfect.

    1st Woman. Indeed, there's not much chance of that a while.
    There's others, might be saints, if they were young,
    And handsome, and had titles to their names,
    If they were helped toward heaven, now--

    Con. Silence, horse-skull!
    Thank God, that you are allowed to use a finger
    Towards building up His chosen tabernacle.

    2d Woman. I consider that she blasphemes the means of grace.

    Con. Eh? that's a point, indeed.

    2d Woman. Why, yesterday,
    Within the church, before a mighty crowd,
    She mocked at all the lovely images,
    And said 'the money had been better spent
    On food and clothes, instead of paint and gilding:
    They were but pictures, whose reality
    We ought to bear within us.'

    Con. Awful doctrine!

    1st Woman. Look at her carelessness, again--the distaff
    Or woolcomb in her hands, even on her bed.
    Then, when the work is done, she lets those nuns
    Cheat her of half the price.

    2d Woman. The Aldenburgers.

    Con. Well, well, what more misdoings?
    [aside] Pah! I am sick on't.
    [Aloud] Go sit, and pray by her until she wakes.

    [The women retire. Conrad sits down by the fire.]

    I am dwindling to a peddling chamber-chaplain,
    Who hunts for crabs and ballads in maids' sleeves,
    I, who have shuffled kingdoms. Oh! 'tis easy
    To beget great deeds; but in the rearing of them--
    The threading in cold blood each mean detail,
    And furzebrake of half-pertinent circumstance--
    There lies the self-denial.

    Women [in a low voice]. Master! sir! look here!

    Eliz. [rising]. Have mercy, mercy, Lord!

    Con. What is it, my daughter? No--she answers not--
    Her eyeballs through their sealed lids are bursting,
    And yet she sleeps: her body does but mimic
    The absent soul's enfranchised wanderings
    In the spirit-world.

    Eliz. Oh! she was but a worldling!
    And think, good Lord, if that this world is hell,
    What wonder if poor souls whose lot is fixed here,
    Meshed down by custom, wealth, rank, pleasure, ignorance,
    Do hellish things in it? Have mercy, Lord;
    Even for my sake, and all my woes, have mercy!

    Con. There! she is laid again--Some bedlam dream.
    So--here I sit; am I a guardian angel
    Watching by God's elect? or nightly tiger,
    Who waits upon a dainty point of honour
    To clutch his prey, till it shall wake and move?
    We'll waive that question: there's eternity
    To answer that in.
    How like a marble-carven nun she lies
    Who prays with folded palms upon her tomb,
    Until the resurrection! Fair and holy!
    O happy Lewis! Had I been a knight--
    A man at all--What's this? I must be brutal,
    Or I shall love her: and yet that's no safeguard;
    I have marked it oft: ay--with that devilish triumph
    Which eyes its victim's writhings, still will mingle
    A sympathetic thrill of lust--say, pity.

    Eliz. [awaking]. I am heard! She is saved!
    Where am I? What! have I overslept myself?
    Oh, do not beat me! I will tell you all--
    I have had awful dreams of the other world.

    1st Woman. Ay! ay! a fine excuse for lazy women,
    Who cry nightmare with lying on their backs.

    Eliz. I will be heard! I am a prophetess!
    God hears me, why not ye?

    Con. Quench not the Spirit:
    If He have spoken, daughter, we must listen.

    Eliz. Methought from out the red and heaving earth
    My mother rose, whose broad and queenly limbs
    A fiery arrow did impale, and round
    Pursuing tongues oozed up of nether fire,
    And fastened on her: like a winter-blast
    Among the steeples, then she shrieked aloud,
    'Pray for me, daughter; save me from this torment,
    For thou canst save!' And then she told a tale;
    It was not true--my mother was not such--
    O God! The pander to a brother's sin!

    1st Woman. There now? The truth is out! I told you, sister,
    About that mother--

    Con. Silence, hags! what then?

    Eliz. She stretched her arms, and sank. Was it a sin
    To love that sinful mother? There I lay--
    And in the spirit far away I prayed;
    What words I spoke, I know not, nor how long;
    Until a small still voice sighed, 'Child, thou art heard:'
    Then on the pitchy dark a small bright cloud
    Shone out, and swelled, and neared, and grew to form,
    Till from it blazed my pardoned mother's face
    With nameless glory! Nearer still she pressed,
    And bent her lips to mine--a mighty spasm
    Ran crackling through my limbs, and thousand bells
    Rang in my dizzy ears--And so I woke.

    Con. 'Twas but a dream.

    Eliz. 'Twas more! 'twas more! I've tests:
    From youth I have lived in two alternate worlds,
    And night is live like day. This was no goblin!
    'Twas a true vision, and my mother's soul
    Is freed by my poor prayers from penal files,
    And waits for me in bliss.

    Con. Well--be it so then.
    Thou seest herein what prize obedience merits.
    Now to press forwards: I require your presence
    Within the square, at noon, to witness there
    The fiery doom--most just and righteous doom--
    Of two convicted and malignant heretics,
    Who at the stake shall expiate their crime,
    And pacify God's wrath against this land.

    Eliz. No! no! I will not go!

    Con. What's here? Thou wilt not?
    I'll drive thee there with blows.

    Eliz. Then I will bear them,
    Even as I bore the last, with thankful thoughts
    Upon those stripes my Lord endured for me.
    Oh, spare them, sir! poor blindfold sons of men!
    No saint but daily errs,--and must they burn,
    Ah, God! for an opinion?

    Con. Fool! opinions?
    Who cares for their opinions? 'Tis rebellion
    Against the system which upholds the world
    For which they die: so, lest the infection spread,
    We must cut off the members, whose disease
    We'd pardon, could they keep it to themselves.

    [Elizabeth weeps.]

    Well, I'll not urge it,--Thou hast other work--
    But for thy petulant words do thou this penance:
    I do forbid thee here, to give henceforth
    Food, coin, or clothes, to any living soul.
    Thy thriftless waste doth scandalise the elect,
    And maim thine usefulness: thou dost elude
    My wise restrictions still: 'Tis great, to live
    Poor, among riches; when thy wealth is spent,
    Want is not merit, but necessity.

    Eliz. Oh, let me give!
    That only pleasure have I left on earth!

    Con. And for that very cause thou must forego it,
    And so be perfect. She who lives in pleasure
    Is dead, while yet she lives; grace brings no merit
    When 'tis the express of our own self-will.
    To shrink from what we practise; do God's work
    In spite of loathings; that's the path of saints.
    I have said. [Exit with the women.]

    Eliz. Well! I am freezing fast--I have grown of late
    Too weak to nurse my sick; and now this outlet,
    This one last thawing spring of fellow-feeling,
    Is choked with ice--Come, Lord, and set me free.
    Think me not hasty! measure not mine age,
    O Lord, by these my four-and-twenty winters.
    I have lived three lives--three lives.
    For fourteen years I was an idiot girl:
    Then I was born again; and for five years,
    I lived! I lived! and then I died once more;--
    One day when many knights came marching by,
    And stole away--we'll talk no more of that.
    And so these four years since, I have been dead,
    And all my life is hid with Christ in God.
    Nunc igitur dimittas, Domine, servam tuam.


    The same. Elizabeth lying on straw in a corner. A crowd of women
    round her. Conrad entering.

    Con. As I expected--
    A sermon-mongering herd about her death-bed,
    Stifling her with fusty sighs, as flocks of rooks
    Despatch, with pious pecks, a wounded brother.
    Cant, howl, and whimper! Not an old fool in the town
    Who thinks herself religious, but must see
    The last of the show and mob the deer to death.
    [Advancing] Hail! holy ones! How fares your charge to-day?

    Abbess. After the blessed sacrament received,
    As surfeited with those celestial viands,
    And with the blood of life intoxicate,
    She lay entranced: and only stirred at times
    To eructate sweet edifying doctrine
    Culled from your darling sermons.

    Woman. Heavenly grace
    Imbues her so throughout, that even when pricked
    She feels no pain.

    Con. A miracle, no doubt.
    Heaven's work is ripe, and like some more I know,
    Having begun in the spirit, in the flesh
    She's now made perfect: she hath had warnings, too,
    Of her decease; and prophesied to me,
    Three weeks ago, when I lay like to die,
    That I should see her in her coffin yet.

    Abbess. 'Tis said, she heard in dreams her Saviour call her
    To mansions built for her from everlasting.

    Con. Ay, so she said.

    Abbess. But tell me, in her confession
    Was there no holy shame--no self-abhorrence
    For the vile pleasures of her carnal wedlock?

    Con. She said no word thereon: as for her shrift,
    No Chrisom child could show a chart of thoughts
    More spotless than were hers.

    Nun. Strange, she said nought;
    I had hoped she had grown more pure.

    Con. When, next, I asked her,
    How she would be interred; 'In the vilest weeds,'
    Quoth she, 'my poor hut holds; I will not pamper
    When dead, that flesh, which living I despised.
    And for my wealth, see it to the last doit
    Bestowed upon the poor of Christ.'

    2d Woman. O grace!

    3d Woman. O soul to this world poor, but rich toward God!

    Eliz. [awaking]. Hark! how they cry for bread!
    Poor souls! be patient!
    I have spent all--
    I'll sell myself for a slave--feed them with the price.
    Come, Guta! Nurse! We must be up and doing!
    Alas! they are gone, and begging!
    Go! go! They'll beat me, if I give you aught:
    I'll pray for you, and so you'll go to Heaven.
    I am a saint--God grants me all I ask.
    But I must love no creature. Why, Christ loved--
    Mary he loved, and Martha, and their brother--
    Three friends! and I have none!
    When Lazarus lay dead, He groaned in spirit,
    And wept--like any widow--Jesus wept!
    I'll weep, weep, weep! pray for that 'gift of tears.'
    They took my friends away, but not my eyes,
    Oh, husband, babes, friends, nurse! To die alone!
    Crack, frozen brain! Melt, icicle within!

    Women. Alas! sweet saint! By bitter pangs she wins
    Her crown of endless glory!

    Con. But she wins it!
    Stop that vile sobbing! she's unmanned enough
    Without your maudlin sympathy.

    Eliz. What? weeping?
    Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me--
    Weep for yourselves.

    Women. We do, alas! we do!
    What are we without you? [A pause.]

    Woman. Oh, listen, listen!
    What sweet sounds from her fast-closed lips are welling,
    As from the caverned shaft, deep miners' songs?

    Eliz. [in a low voice]. Through the stifling room
    Floats strange perfume;
    Through the crumbling thatch
    The angels watch,
    Over the rotting roof-tree.
    They warble, and flutter, and hover, and glide,
    Wafting old sounds to my dreary bedside,
    Snatches of songs which I used to know
    When I slept by my nurse, and the swallows
    Called me at day-dawn from under the eaves.
    Hark to them! Hark to them now--
    Fluting like woodlarks, tender and low--
    Cool rustling leaves--tinkling waters--
    Sheepbells over the lea--
    In their silver plumes Eden-gales whisper--
    In their hands Eden-lilies--not for me--not for me--
    No crown for the poor fond bride!
    The song told me so,
    Long, long ago,
    How the maid chose the white lily;
    But the bride she chose
    The red red rose,
    And by its thorn died she.
    Well--in my Father's house are many mansions--
    I have trodden the waste howling ocean-foam,
    Till I stand upon Canaan's shore,
    Where Crusaders from Zion's towers call me home,
    To the saints who are gone before.

    Con. Still on Crusaders? [Aside.]

    Abbess. What was that sweet song, which just now, my Princess,
    You murmured to yourself?

    Eliz. Did you not hear
    A little bird between me and the wall,
    That sang and sang?

    Abbess. We heard him not, fair Saint.

    Eliz. I heard him, and his merry carol revelled
    Through all my brain, and woke my parched throat
    To join his song: then angel melodies
    Burst through the dull dark, and the mad air quivered
    Unutterable music. Nay, you heard him.

    Abbess. Nought save yourself.

    Eliz. Slow hours! Was that the cock-crow?

    Woman. St. Peter's bird did call.

    Eliz. Then I must up--
    To matins, and to work--No, my work's over.
    And what is it, what?
    One drop of oil on the salt seething ocean!
    Thank God, that one was born at this same hour,
    Who did our work for us: we'll talk of Him:
    We shall go mad with thinking of ourselves--
    We'll talk of Him, and of that new-made star,
    Which, as he stooped into the Virgin's side,
    From off His finger, like a signet-gem,
    He dropped in the empyrean for a sign.
    But the first tear He shed at this His birth-hour,
    When He crept weeping forth to see our woe,
    Fled up to Heaven in mist, and hid for ever
    Our sins, our works, and that same new-made star.

    Woman. Poor soul! she wanders!

    Con. Wanders, fool? her madness
    Is worth a million of your paters, mumbled
    At every station between--

    Eliz. Oh! thank God
    Our eyes are dim! What should we do, if he,
    The sneering fiend, who laughs at all our toil,
    Should meet us face to face?

    Con. We'd call him fool.

    Eliz. There! There! Fly, Satan, fly! 'Tis gone!

    Con. The victory's gained at last!
    The fiend is baffled, and her saintship sure!
    O people blest of Heaven!

    Eliz. O master, master,
    You will not let the mob, when I lie dead,
    Make me a show--paw over all my limbs--
    Pull out my hair--pluck off my finger-nails--
    Wear scraps of me for charms and amulets,
    As if I were a mummy, or a drug?
    As they have done to others--I have seen it--
    Nor set me up in ugly naked pictures
    In every church, that cold world-hardened wits
    May gossip o'er my secret tortures? Promise--
    Swear to me! I demand it!

    Con. No man lights
    A candle, to be hid beneath a bushel:
    Thy virtues are the Church's dower: endure
    All which the edification of the faithful
    Makes needful to be published.

    Eliz. O my God!
    I had stripped myself of all, but modesty!
    Dost Thou claim yet that victim? Be it so.
    Now take me home! I have no more to give Thee!
    So weak--and yet no pain--why, now naught ails me!
    How dim the lights burn! Here--
    Where are you, children?
    Alas! I had forgotten.
    Now I must sleep--for ere the sun shall rise,
    I must begone upon a long, long journey
    To him I love.

    Con. She means her heavenly Bridegroom--
    The Spouse of souls.

    Eliz. I said, to him I love.
    Let me sleep, sleep.
    You will not need to wake me--so--good-night.

    [Folds herself into an attitude of repose. The scene closes.]
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