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LUCRETIA.

CENCI.

CENCI.

THIRD GUEST. It is indeed a most desired event.

No, stay!
If when a parent from a parent's heart

I do believe it is some jest; though, faith!
Lifts from this earth to the great Father of all "Tis mocking us somewhat too solemnly.
A prayer, both when he lays him down to sleep,

I think his son has married the Infanta,
And when he rises up from dreaming it;

Or found a mine of gold in El Dorado. One supplication, one desire, one hope,

"Tis but to season some such news; stay, stay! That he would grant a wish for his two sons

I see 'tis only raillery by his smile. Even all that he demands in their regard

CENCI (filling a bowl of wine, and lifting it up). And suddenly beyond his dearest hope

Oh, thou bright wine, whose purple splendor leaps It is accomplish’d, he should then rejoice,

And bubbles gaily in this golden bowl
And call his friends and kinsmen to a feast, Under the lamplight, as my spirits do,
And task their love to grace his merriment, To hear the death of my accursed sons!
Then honor me thus far-for I am he.

Could I believe thou wert their mingled blood,
BEATRICE (60 LUCRETIA).

Then would I taste thee like a sacrament,
Great God! How horrible! Some dreadful ill And pledge with thee the mighty Devil in Hell,
Must have befallen my brothers.

Who, if a father's curses, as men say,
Climb with swift wings after their children's souls,

And drag them from the very throne of Heaven,

Fear not, child, He speaks 100 frankly.

Now triumphs in my triumph-But thou art

Superfluous; I have drunken deep of joy,
BEATRICE.

And I will taste no other wine to-night.
Ah! My blood runs cold. Here, Andrea! Bear the bowl around.
I fear that wieked laughter round his eye,
Which wrinkles up the skin even to the hair.

A GUEST (rising).

Thou wretch

Will none among this noble company
Here are the letters brought from Salamanca ; Check the abandon'd villain?
Beatrice, read them to your mother. God!

CAMILLO.
I thank thee! In one night didst thou perform
By ways inscrutable, the thing I sought.

For God's sake,
My disobedient and rebellious sons

Let me dismiss the guests! You are insane, Are dead Why dead What means this change Some ill will come of this. of cheer?

SECOND GUEST. You hear me not, I tell you they are dead;

Seize, silence him! And they will need no food or raiment more:

FIRST GUEST. The tapers that did light them the dark way

I will! Are their last cost. The Pope, I think, will not

THIRD GUEST.
Expect I should maintain them in their coffins.

And I!
Rejoice with me my heart is wondrous glad.
BEATRICE (LUCRETIA sinks, half fainting ; BEATRICE

CENCI (addressing those who rise with a threatening

gesture). supports her).

Who moves? Who speaks? It is not true-Dear lady, pray look up.

[Turning to the Company Had it been true, there is a God in Heaven,

"Tis nothing,
He would not live to boast of such a boon.
Unnatural man, thou knowest that it is false.

Enjoy yourselves.—Beware! for my revenge
Is as the seal'd commission of a king,

That kills, and none dare name the murderer.
Ay, as the word of God; whom here I call

[The Banquet is broken up; several of the To witness that I speak the sober truth ;

guests are departing.
And whose most favoring Providence was shown
Even in the manner of their deaths. For Rocco
Was kneeling at the mass, with sixteen others,

I do entreat you, go not, noble guests :
When the church fell and crush'd him to a mummy, What although tyranny, and impious hate
The resi escaped unhurt. Cristofano

Stand shelter'd by a father's hoary hair? Was stabb'd in error by a jealous man,

What if 't is he who clothed us in these limbs Whilst she he loved was sleeping with his rival;

Who tortures them, and triumphs ? What, if we, All in the self-same hour of the same night;

The desolate and the dead, were his own flesh, Which shows that Heaven has special care of me.

His children and his wife, whom he is bound I beg those friends who love me, that they mark

To love and shelter ? Shall we therefore find The day a feast upon their calendars.

No refuge in this merciless wide world ? It was the twenty-seventh of December :

Oh, think what deep wrongs must have blotted out Ay, read the letters if you doubt my oath.

First love, then reverence in a child's prone mind [The assembly appears confused ; several of Till it thus vanquish shame and fear! Oh, think the guests rise.

I have borne much, and kiss'd the sacred hand

Which crush'd us to the earth, and thought its stroke
FIRST GUEST.
Oh, horrible! I will depart

Was perhaps some paternal chastisement !
Have excused much ; doubted; and when no doubt

Remain'd, have sought by patience, love and tears
And I.-
To soften him; and when this could not be

303

CENCI.

BEATRICE.

SECOND GUEST.

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I have knelt down through the long sleepless nights Beast that thou art! Fair and yet terrible!
And lifted up to God, the father of all,

I know a charm shall make thee meek and tame. Passionate prayers : and when these were not heard Now get thee from my sight! [Erit BEATRICE I have still borne,-until I meet you here,

Here, Andrea,
Princes and kinsmen, at this hideous feast

Fill up this goblet with Greek wine. I said
Given at my brothers' deaths. Two yet remain, I would not drink this evening, but I must;
His wife remains and I, whom if ye save not, For, strange to say, I feel my spirits fail
Ye may soon share such merriment again

With thinking what I have decreed to do.
As fathers make over their children's graves.

(Drinking the wine Oh! Prince Colonna, thou art our near kinsman, Be thou the resolution of quick youth Cardinal, thou art the Pope's chamberlain,

Within my veins, and manhood's purpose stern, Camillo, thou art chief justiciary,

And age's firm, cold, subtle villany;
Take us away!

As if thou wert indeed my children's blood
CENCI. [He has been conversing with CAMILLO Which I did thirst to drink. The charm works well

during the first part of BEATRICE's speech ; It must be done, it shall be done, I swear!
he hears the conclusion, and now advances.

(Exit
I hope my good friends here
Will think of their own daughters or perhaps
Of their own throats-before they lend an ear

ACT II.
To this wild girl.

SCENE I.
BEATRICE (not noticing the words of CENCI).
Dare not one look on me?

An Apartment in the Cenci Palace.
None answer? Can one tyrant overbear
The sense of many best and wisest men ?

Enter LUCRETIA and BERNARDO.
Or is it that I sue not in some form

LUCRETIA. Of scrupulous law, that ye deny my suit?

Weep not, my gentle boy; he struck but me, Oh, God! that I were buried with my brothers!

Who have borne deeper wrongs. In truth, if he And that the flowers of this departed spring

Had kill'd me, he had done a kinder deed. Were fading on my grave! And that my father

Oh, God Almighty, do thou look upon us,
Were celebrating now one feast for all !

We have no other friend but only thee!
CAMILLO.

Yet weep not; though I love you as my own,
A bitter wish for one so young and gentle ; I am not your true mother.
Can we do nothing ?-

BERNARDO.
COLONNA.

Oh, more, more
Nothing that I see. Than ever mother was to any child
Count Cenci were a dangerous enemy:

That have you been to me! Had he not been Yet I would second any one.

My father, do you think that I should weep?
A CARDINAL.

LUCRETIA.
And I.

Alas! poor boy, what else couldst thou have done!

Enter BEATRICE.
Retire to your chamber, insolent girl!

BEATRICE (in a hurried voice).
BEATRICE.

Did he pass this way? Have you seen him, brother!
Retire, thou impious man! Ay, hide thyself Ah! no, that is bis step upon the stairs ;
Where never eye can look upon thee more ! "Tis nearer now; his hand is on the door;
Wouldst thou have honor and obedience

Mother, if I to thee have ever been Who art a torturer? Father, never dream, A duteous child, now save me! Thou, great God, Though thou mayst overbear this company, Whose image upon earth a father is, But ill must come of ill.–Frown not on me! Dost thou indeed abandon me? He comes ; Haste, hide thyself, lest with avenging looks The door is opening now; I see his face; My brothers' ghosts should hunt thee from thy seat! He frowns on others, but he smiles on me, Cover thy face from every living eye,

Even as he did after the feast last night.
And start if thou but hear a human step:

Enter a SERVANT.
Seek out some dark and silent corner, there
Bow thy white head before offended God,

Almighty God, how merciful thou art!
And we will kneel around, and fervently

"Tis but Orsino's servant.-Well, what news Pray that he pity both ourselves and thee. CENCI.

My master bids me say, the Holy Father My friends, I do lament this insane girl

Has sent back your petition thus unopen'd. Has spoilt the mirth of our festivity.

[Giving a Paper Good night, farewell ; I will not make you longer

And he demands at what hour 't were secure Spectators of our dull domestic quarrels.

To visit you again? Another time.

LUCRETIA. (Exeunt all but CENCI and BEATRICE.

At the Ave-Mary. (Exit SERVANT My brain is swimming round; So, daughter, our last hope has fail'd! Ah me! Give me a bowl of wine!

How pale you look; you tremble, and you stand (To BEATRICE). Thou painted viper ! Wrapp'd in some fix'd and fearful meditation,

CENCI.

SERVANT

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LUCRETIA.

LUCRETIA.

BEATRICE.

As if one thought were over-strong for you : Whilst I, then dead, and all this hideous coil,
Your eyes have a chill glare; oh, dearest child! Shall be remember'd only as a dream.
Are you gone mad? If not, pray speak to me.

BEATRICE.
BEATRICE.

Talk not to me, dear lady, of a husband :
You see I am not mad; I speak to you.

Did you not nurse me when my mother died ?
Did you not shield me and that dearest boy?

And had we any other friend but you
You talk'd of something that your father did
After that dreadful feast? Could it be worse

In infancy, with gentle words and looks

To win our father not to murder us?
Than when he smiled, and cried, My sons are dead! And shall I now desert you? May the ghost
And every one look'd in his neighbor's face

Of my dead mother plead against my soul f'o see if others were as white as he ?

If I abandon her who fill'd the place
At the first word he spoke, I felt the blood

She left, with more, even, than a mother's love!
Rush to my heart, and fell into a trance ;
And when it past, I sat all weak and wild ;

BERNARDO.
Whilst you alone stood up, and with strong words And I am of my sister's mind. Indeed
Check'd his unnatural pride ; and I could see

I would not leave you in this wretchedness,
The devil was rebuked that lives in him.

Even though the Pope should make me free to live Until this hour thus you have ever stood

In some blithe place, like others of my age, Between us and your father's moody wrath With sports, and delicate food, and the fresh air. Like a protecting presence : your firm mind Oh, never think that I will leave you, Mother! Has been our only refuge and defence : What can have thus subdued it? What can now My dear, dear children! Have given you that cold melancholy look, Succeeding to your unaccustom'd fear?

Enter CENCI, suddenly.

CENCI. What is it that you say? I was just thinking

What, Beatrice here! Twere better not to struggle any more.

Come hither! (She shrinks back, and covers her face. Men, like my father, have been dark and bloody,

Nay, hide not your face, 'tis fair ; Yet never-O! before worse comes of it,

Look up! Why, yester-night you dared to look Twere wise to die: it ends in that at last.

With disobedient insolence upon me,

Bending a stern and an inquiring brow
LUCRETIA.

On what I meant; whilst I then sought to hide
Oh, talk not so, dear child! Tell me at once

That which I came to tell you—but in vain.
What did your father do or say to you?
He stay'd not after that accursed feast

BEATRICE (wildly, staggering towards the door). One inoment in your chamber.-Speak to me. Oh, that the earth would gape! Hide me, oh God! BERNARDO.

CENCI. Oh, sister, sister, prithee, speak to us!

Then it was I whose inarticulate words

Fell from my lips, who with toitering steps BEATRICE (speaking very slowly with a forced Fled from your presence, as you now from mine. calmness.

Stay, I command you—from this day and hour It was one word, mother, one little word ;

Never again, I think, with fearless eye, One look, one smile.

[Wildly. And brow superior, and unalter'd cheek, Oh! he has trampled me And that lip made for tenderness or scorn, Under his feet, and made the blood stream down

Shalt thou strike dumb the meanest of mankind; My pallid cheeks. And he has given us all

Me least of all. Now get thee to thy chamber, Ditch-water, and the fever-stricken flesh

Thou too, lothed image of thy cursed mother, Of buffaloes, and bade us eat or starve,

[To BERNARDO. And we have eaten.--He has made me look

Thy milky, meek face makes me sick with hate ! On my beloved Bernardo, when the rust

(Exeunt BEATRICE and BERNARDO. Of heavy chains has gangrened his sweet limbs,

(Aside). So much has past between us as must make And I have never yet des pair'd—but now!

Me bold, her fearful.-"Tis an awful thing What would I say?

[Recovering herself. To touch such mischief as I now conceive: Ah! no, 'tis nothing new.

So men sit shivering on the dewy bank, The sufferings we all share have made me wild :

And try the chill stream with their feet; once inHe only struck and cursed me as he pass'd ;

How the delighted spirit pants for joy!
He said, he look'd, he did nothing at all
Beyond his wont, yet it disorder'd me.

LUCRETIA (advancing timidly founrds him). Alas! I am forgetful of my duty,

Oh, husband ! Pray forgive poor Beatrice, I should preserve my senses for your sake.

She meant not any ill.

CENCI.

LUCRETIA.

Nay, Beatrice; have courage, my sweet girl.

Nor you perhaps ? If any one despairs, it should be I,

Nor that young imp, whom you have taught by rote Who loved him once, and now must live with him Parricide with his alphabet? Nor Giacomo? Till God in pity call for him or me;

Nor those two most unnatural sons, who stirr'u For you may, like your sister, find some husband, Enmity up against me with the Pope ! And smile, years hence, with children round your Whom in one night merciful God cut off: knees;

Innocent lambs! They thought not any ill,

305

CAMILLO.

CENCI.

GIACOMO.

You were not here conspiring? You said nothing

SCENE II.
Of how I might be dungeon'd as a madman;
Or be condemn’d to death for some offence,

A Chamber in the Vatican.
And you would be the witnesses ?— This failing,
How just it were to hire assassins, or

Enter CAMILLO and Giacomo, in conversation.
Put sudden poison in my evening's drink ?
Or smother me when overcome by wine?

There is an obsolete and doubtful law,
Seeing we had no other judge but God,
And he had sentenced me, and there were none

By which you might obtain a bare provision

Of food and clothing.
But you to be the executioners
Of his decree enregister'd in Heaven?

GIACOMO.
Oh, no! You said not this?

Nothing more? Alas!

Bare must be the provision which strict law
LUCRETIA.

Awards, and aged sullen avarice pays.

So help me God, Why did my father not apprentice me I never thought the things you charge me with! To some mechanic trade ? I should have then

Been train'd in no high-born necessities

Which I could meet not by my daily toil. If you dare speak that wicked lie again,

The eldest son of a rich nobleman I'll kill you. What! it was not by your counsel Is heir to all his incapacities; That Beatrice disturb'd the feast last night? He has wide wants, and narrow powers. If you, You did not hope to stir some enemies

Cardinal Camillo, were reduced at once
Against me, and escape, and laugh to scorn From thrice-driven beds of down, and delicate food
What every nerve of you now trembles at ? An hundred servants, and six palaces,
You judged that men were bolder than they are : To that which nature doth indeed require !
Few dare to stand between their grave and me.

CAMILLO.
LUCRETIA.

Nay, there is reason in your plea ; 't were hard
Look not so dreadfully! By my salvation
I knew not aught that Beatrice design'd;
Nor do I think she design'd any thing

'Tis hard for a firm man to bear: but I Until she heard you talk of her dead brothers.

Have a dear wife, a lady of high birth,

Whose dowry in ill hour I lent my father,
CENCI.

Without a bond or witness to the deed ;
Blaspheming liar! You are damn'd for this!

And children, who inherit her fine senses, But I will take you where you may persuade

The fairest creatures in this breathing world; The stones you tread on to deliver you :

And she and they reproach me not. Cardinal, For men shall there be none but those who dare

Do you not think the Pope would interpnse All things—not question that which I command.

And stretch authority beyond the law? On Wednesday next I shall set out: you know

CAMILLO. That savage rock, the Castle of Petrella,

Though your peculiar case is hard, I know "Tis safely wall'd, and moated round about :

The Pope will not divert the course of law. Its dungeons under ground, and its thick towers

After that impious feast the other night Never told tales; though they have heard and seen I spoke with him, and urged him then to check What might make dumb things speak.-Why do you Your father's cruel hand; he frown'd, and said linger?

Children are disobedient, and they sting Make speediest preparation for the journey! Their fathers' hearts to madness and despair,

[Evil LUCRETIA. Requiting years of care with contumely. The all-beholding sun yet shines; I hear

I pity the Count Cenci from my heart; A busy stir of men about the streets;

His outraged love perhaps awaken'd hate, I see the bright sky through the window-panes :

And thus he is exasperated to ill. It is a garish, broad, and peering day ;

In the great war between the old and young, Loud, light, suspicious, full of eyes and ears, I, who have white hairs and a tontering body, And every little corner, nook and hole

Will keep at least blameless neutrality."
Is penetrated with the insolent light.
Come, darkness! Yet, what is the day to me?

Enter ORSINO.
And wherefore should I wish for night, who do

You, my good lord Orsino, heard those words
A deed which shall confound both night and day?
"Tis she shall grope through a bewildering mist
Of horror: if there be a sun in heaven,

What words?
She shall not dare to look upon its beams;
Nor feel its warmth. Let her then wish for night;

Alas, repeat them not again!
The act I think shall soon extinguish all

There then is no redress for me, at least For me: I bear a darker deadlier gloom

None but that which I may achieve myself, 'Than the earth's shade, or interlunar air,

Since I am driven to the brink.—But say,
Or constellations quench'd in murkiest cloud, My innocent sister and my only brother
In which I walk secure and unbeheld

Are dying underneath my father's eye,
Towards my purpose.—Would that it were done! The memorable torturers of this land,

(Erit. Galeaz Visconti, Borgia, Ezzelin,

66

ORSINO.

GIACOMO.

:

ORSINO.

GIACOMO.

Never inflicted on their meanest slave

Lone counsel from a night of sleepless care
What these endure: shall they have no protection ? Pardon me, that I say farewell—farewell!

I would that to my own suspected self
CAMILLO.

I could address a word so full of peace.
Why, if they would petition to the Pope,
I see not how he could refuse it-yet
He holds it of most dangerous example

Farewell -Be your thoughts better or more bold. In aught to weaken the paternal power,

(Exit GIACOMO Being, as 't were, the shadow of his own.

I had disposed the Cardinal Camillo
I pray you now excuse me. I have business To feed his hope with cold encouragement :
That will not bear delay.

(Exit CAMILLO. It fortunately serves my close designs
GIACOMO.

That 'tis a trick of this same family
But you, Orsino,

To analyze their own and other minds.
Have the petition ; wherefore not present it?

Such self-anatomy shall teach the will

Dangerous secrets: for it tempts our powers,
ORSINO.

Knowing what must be thought, and may be done, I have presented it, and back'd it with

Into the depth of darkest purposes : My earnest prayers, and urgent interest :

So Cenci fell into the pit; even I, It was return'd unanswer'd. I doubt not

Since Beatrice unveil'd me to myself, But that the strange and execrable deeds

And made me shrink from what I cannot shun, Alleged in it—in truth they might well baffle

Show a poor figure to my own esteem, Any belief-have turn'd the Pope's displeasure

To which I grow half reconciled. I'll do Upon the accusers from the criminal :

As little mischief as I can; that thought So I should guess from what Camillo said.

Shall fee the accuser Conscience. [After a pause.

Now what harm My friend, that palace-walking devil Gold

If Cenci should be murder'd ?-Yet, if murder'd, Has whisper'd silence to his Holiness :

Wherefore by me? And what if I could take
And we are left, as scorpions ring'd with fire. The profit, yet omit the sin and peril
What should we do but strike ourselves to death? In such an action? Or all earthly things
For he who is our murderous persecutor

I fear a man whose blows outspeed his words;
Is shielded by a father's holy name,

And such is Cenci : and while Cenci lives, Or I would

[Stops abruptly. His daughter's dowry were a secret grave

If a priest wins her.--Oh, fair Beatrice!
ORSINO.
What? Fear not to speak your thought. Could but despise danger and gold, and all

Would that I loved thee not, or loving thee
Words are but holy as the deeds they cover:

That frowns between my wish and its effect,
A priest who has forsworn the God he serves ;

Or smiles beyond it! There is no escape-
A judge who makes the truth weep at his decree;
A friend who should weave counsel, as I now,

Her bright form kneels beside me at the altar,

And follows me to the resort of men,
But as the mantle of some selfish guile;
A father who is all a tyrant seems,

And fills my slumber with tumultuous dreams,

So when I wake my blood seems liquid fire ;
Were the profaner for his sacred name.

And if I strike my damp and dizzy head,
GIACOMO.

My hot palm scorches it: her very name,
Ask me not what I think; the unwilling brain But spoken by a stranger, makes my heart
Feigns often what it would not; and we trust Sicken and pant; and thus unprofitably
Imagination with such phantasies

I clasp the phantom of unfelt delights,
As the tongue dares not fashion into words, Till weak imagination half possesses
Which have no words, their horror makes them dim The self-created shadow. Yet much longer
To the mind's eye-My heart denies itself

Will I not nurse this life of feverous hours:
To think what you demand.

From the unravell'd hopes of Giacomo

I must work out my own dear purposes.
ORSINO.

I see, as from a tower, the end of all :

But a friend's bosom Her father dead; her brother bound to me Is as the inmost cave of our own mind,

By a dark secret, surer than the grave; Where we sit shut from the wide gaze of day, Her mother scared and unexpostulating, And from the all-communicating air.

From the dread manner of her wish achieved: You look what I suspected.

And she Once more take courage, my faint heart;

What dares a friendless maiden match'd with thee?

Spare me now! I have such foresight as assures success! I am as one lost in a midnight wood,

Some unbeheld divinity doth ever,
Who dares not ask some harmless passenger When dread events are near, stir up men's minds
The path across the wilderness, lest he,

To black suggestions; and he prospers best,
As my thoughts are, should be—a' murderer. Not who becomes the instrument of ill,
I know you are my friend, and all I dare

But who can flatter the dark spirit, that makes
Speak to my soul ihat will I trust with thee. Its empire and its prey of other hearts
But now my heart is heavy, and would take Till it become his slave-as I will do. (Ent

30.

GIACOMO.

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