Algernon Charles Swinburne.

Bothwell : a tragedy online

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Aesch. Cho. 585-601,













Comme un fieuve qui donne a V ocean son dme,
yapporte au lieu sacre d^ott le vers tonne et luit
Mon dravie ^pique et plein de tumulte et de flamme^
Ou vibre un siecle eteint, oil flotte un jour qui fuit.

Un peuple qui rugit sous les pieds d^une femme
Passe, et son souffle emplit d'aube et d^ombre et de bruit
Un del dpre et guerrier qui luit comme une la?ne
Sur Vavenir debout, sur le passe detruit.

Au fond des cieux hagards, par Vorage battue,
Une figure d'ojnbre et d^dtoiles vitue
Pleure et menace et brille en s'dvanouissant ;

Eclair d^amour qui blesse et de haine qui tue,
Fleur dclose au sommet du sihcle dblouissant,
Rose d tige dpineuse et que rougit le sang.



Mary Stuart.

Mary Beaton.

Mary Seyton.

Mary Carmichael.

Jane Gordon, Countess of

Janet Stuart, Countess of

Margaret Lady Douglas

of Lochleven.
Lady Reres.
Henry Lord Darnley, King

James Hepburn, Earl of

James Stuart, Earl of
James Douglas, Earl of

William Maitland of Leth-

ington, Secretary of State.
John Knox.
David Rizzio.

The Earls of HUNTLEY,
Argyle, Caithness, Rothes,
Cassilis, Athol, and
Lords Herries, Lindsay,
RuTHVEN, Fleming, Sey-
ton, Boyd, Ochiltree,
Hume, Arbroath, and
Tlie younger Ruth yen.
The Master of Ochiltree,

son to Lord Ochiltree.
The Master of Maxwell,

son to Lord Herries.
Sir James Melville.

Sir Robert Melville.

Sir George Douglas, uncle

to Darnley.
Sir William Douglas of

George Douglas, his brother.
Sir William Kirkaldy of

Lord Robert Stuart, Abbot

of St. Cross.
Du Croc, Ambassador from

Sir Nicholas Throgmorton,

Ambassador from England.
John Hamilton, Archbishop

of St. Andrew's.
John Leslie, Bishop of Ross.
Arthur Erskine, Captain of

the Guard.
Anthony Stan den and

Stuart of Traquair,

John Erskine of Dun.
Andrew Ker of Fauldonside.
Henry Drummond ofRicarton.
Archibald Beaton.
John Hepburn of Bolton,

Ormiston, Hay of Talla,

Conspirators with Bothwell.
Crawford, Nelson, Taylor,

servants to Darnley.
Nicholas Hubert, surnamed

Paris, servafit to Bothwell.
The Provost of Edinburgh.
Robert Cunningham, steward

to the Earl of Leimox.
Page and Girl attending on

Lady Lochleven.

Burgesses, Citizens, Soldiers, Attendants, &'c.
Time— March 9, 1566, to May 16, 1568.



Time, March 9, 1566.


Scene I. — Holyrood.

Enter Darnley and Mary Carmichael.

Darnley. But you mil not believe me though you
You have no faith ; you steer by sight, and see
This fellow gilt and garnished with her grace
Sit covered by the queen where lords stand bare
And jet before them lordlier ; and the sight
Makes firm your faith that in his hand and eye
This land is but a harp to play upon,
Whose strings may turn to serpents or to swords
To maim his hand or charm his eye to death.
You have no faith to see this, or to read
The sentence that ensuing shall write me king,
And worth men's fears or faiths : lo, now you laugh,
As though my hope were braggart, and myself
A fool and mouthpiece of its foolish vaunt :
You have no faith.

Mary Carmichael. I have no wit nor will
To choose Between St. David for my lord
And sweet St. Henry.

B 2

4 BOTHWELL [act i.

Darnley. Nay, King David now,

King David psalmist ; but for all his song
I doubt he hath lost the old trick of touch he had
Once in the sword-play.

Mary Carmichael. See you play not Saul,

Who are something of his stature in our eyes,
Much of his mighty presence ; be it not said
He hath snipt your skirts already.

Darnley. Who said that ?

Who speaks of me so, lies to the blood and bone.
To the heart and soul lies. I am no king mayhap —
I do not say yet I shall die no king —
God knows that, and is wise — but man I am,
Look else, who love you

Mary Carmichael. Sir, be king for me.

It shall content my will to youward, seeing
I take you to be royal, and myself

Darnley. Why honest ? what a gibe is this !
What make you of me ?

Mary Carmichael. Yea, what should I make ?

'Tis time I were on service.

Darnley. O, the queen's ?

She gets good service, excellent service done.
And worthy servants hath she — a liberal queen.
Well, if you will. \Exit Mary Carmichael.

I would the month were out.
If earth were easier by just one less knave,
I might sleep well and laugh and walk at ease,


With none to mate me.

Enter Morton.

Ah, my good lord and friend,
I had somewhat I would say — but let words be.
The man you know of— I would you had made him

I would have told you this much.

Morton. Sir, the earl

Murray being with us in the main thing here,
Though he keep hand from the red handiwork,
Shall enough help us.

Darnley. Let him know it not then :

Let him stand by : he must not know it. Why, well,
It is the more our honour : yet would God
He, being not with us, were not anywhere, \/^

But dead, sir, dead. I say, who hath eyes to see
May see him dangerous to us, and manifest.
Ye have no eyes who see not : for my part,
I noted him at once. Sir, by this light,
When I jfirst saw him — and I have eyes to see —
I knew what manner of meaning in his face
Lay privy and folded up and sealed and signed.
1 would you lords had sight and heart like mine,
He should not long live dangerous ; yet, God wot,
For my poor personal peril I would match
This body against his better.

Morton. There's no need

Of iron words and matches here of men.
Save this we meet upon ; which being played out
Leaves our hands full and henceforth peaceable.

6 BOTHWELL [act i.

For the earl, he makes no part of men's designs,
Nor would I have you keen to strive with him
Who lies yet still and is well liked of men
That are well-willers to this common state
9^nd the open peace of the people. Let him be ;
Keep your heart here.

Darnley. Here is it fixed and set

With roots of iron. 'Tis more honour to us,
Being so more perilous, to have no help
Of popular hands and common friendhness,
But our hearts helpful only. I am sure of her.
That she suspects not — I do surely think :
But yet she is subtle and secret-souled and wise,
Wise woman-fashion ; look you be not caught
Through too much trust in what of her is weak,
In her light mind and mutability,
For subtlety lies close in her light wit.
And wisdom wantons in her wantonness :
I know her, I know her ; I have seen ere now, and am
Not all to learn in women.

Morton. I believe

Your grace hath grace with women as with men,
And skill of sense alike in those and these,
I doubt not ; which is well and profitable.
For this, how shall she know it, except you slip
And let her wring the truth out from your hand,
Or kiss the truth out, hanging mouth on mouth?
But if no pressure press from hand or lip
The unripe truth, the fruit so soon so red,
What can she to us, though doubting, help or harm


How, if she know not surely ?

Darnley. So I say. *

And we that do it, we do it for all men's good,
For the main people's love, thankworthily —
And this is matter of law we take in hand,
Is it not, lawful ? for the man is judged, C^

Doomed dead and damned by sentence, in good deed,
Though not by scruple and show of trial and test,
By clearer cause and purer policy —
We cannot stand toward any accountable
As for a slaughter, a treasonable shame,
To mark us red in the world's eyes ? no man
Can say our fame is blotted with his blood.
No man, albeit he hate us, bring in doubt —
Woman or man — our right, our absolute law,
Giving us leave — nay, bidding us do so ?
So that we stand after the deed as now,
In no more danger or fear ?

Morton. In less fear, you.

And much more honour ; now it might please you fear,
Being overborne of woman and fast bound
With feminine shame and weakness; th^ man's

The sinew and nerve and spirit of royalty.
Hers, and all power to use her power on you
Hers, and all honour and pleasure of high place
That should make sweet your lips and bright your

Hers, and the mockery of mismarried men

8 BOTHWELL [acti.

Darnley. Nay, by God I said so ; why, I knew it \
I told you thus aforetime, did I not ?

Morton. Truly and wisely ; if this content you thus,
He is even our king.

Darnley. Methinks he should be king.

And I, God wot, content. Here came a man
Some few days back, a goodly, a gentleman,
An honourable, that for king knave's behoof
Was stript out of the better of all his lands
As I of what was best part of my wife.
My place, and honour that grows up with hers —
For of her love small fruit was left to strip,
Few leaves for winter weather — but of these,
These good things, am I stript as bare as shame.
Even beggared as was this man. By God's light,
It seems this is but justice, doth it not.
And I so gentle and temperate — as, by God,
I was not nor I will not.

Morton, There's more need

That you seem resolutely temperate then
And temperately be resolute, I say,
Till the hour to cast off temperance and put on
Plain passion for the habit of your heart
Which now it wears in darkness, and by day
The cloak and hood of temperance. But these fits
And gusts and starts of will and will not, these
Blow you this side and that side till men see
Too much, and trust too little.

Darnley. O sir, you are wise.

You are honourable, and a counsellor, and my friend,


And I too light, too light — yet by this light
I think I am worth more than your counsel is
If I be worth this work here to be done —
I think I am so much.

Morton. It may well be, sir,

And you much wiser ; yet forbear your wrath
If you would have it ready to your hand.

Darnley. I will forbear nothing — nor nothing bear—
Nor live by no man's bidding. This year through
I have even been surfeited with wise men's breath
And winds of wordy weather round mine ears —
Do this, spare that, walk thus, look otherwise,
Hold your head kingly, or wisely bow your neck —
A man might come to doubt himself no man,
Being so long childlike handled. Now, look you,
Look she, look God to it if I be not man !
Now is my way swept, and ray foot shod now,
My wallet full now for the travelling day
That I fare forth and forward, arrow- straight.
Girt for the goal, red battle-ripe at need —
As need there is — you are sure — and utter need ?

Morton. Is my lord not sure ?

Varnley, Ay, as sure as you —

Surer maybe — the need is more of mine —
This grazes your bare hand that grates my heart :
Your queen it is wrongs you, and me my wife.

Morton. You see that sure, too? sharp sight,
have you not ?

Darnley. I saw it, I first — I knew her — who knew
her but I,

lo BOTHWELL [act i.

That swore — at least I swore to mine own soul,
Would not for shame's sake swear out wide to the world,
But in myself swore with my heart to hear —
There was more in it, in all their commerce, more
Than the mere music — he is warped, worn through.
Bow-bent, uncomely in wholesome eyes that see
Straight, seeing him crooked — but she seeing awry
Sees the man straight enough for paramour.
This I saw, this I swore to — silently,
Not loud but sure, till time should be to speak
Sword's language, no fool's jargon like his tongue,
But plain broad steel speech and intelligible.
Though not to the ear, Italian's be it or Scot's,
But to the very life intelligible.
To the loosed soul, to the shed blood — ^for blood
There must be — one must slay him — ^you are sure —

as I am?
For I was sure of it always — while you said,
All you, 'twas council-stuff, state-handicraft,
Cunning of card-play between here and there,
I knew 'twas this and more, sir, I kept sight,
Kept heed of her, what thing she was, what wife.
What manner of stateswoman and governess —
More than all you saw — did you see it or I ?

Morton. You saw first surely, and some one spoke

first out —
You had eyes, he tongue — and both bear witness now
If this must be or not be.
/ Darnley. Death, is that ?

I must kill — bid you kill him ?


Morioft. Nowise, sir;

As little need of one as the other is here ;
As little of either as no need at all.

Darnley. You doubt or hand or tongue then, sir,
of mine?
I would not strike, if need were, or bid strike ?

Morton. Neither we doubt, nor neither do we
need —
Having you with us.

Darnley. *Twas but so you meant ?

I had else been angry — nay, half wroth I was —
Not as I took it — I had else been wroth indeed.

Morton. That had been grievous to me and
This time of all times.

Darnley. Ay, you need me, ay,

I am somewhat now then, somewhat more than wont,
Who thus long have been nothing — but will be ?
Well, so, I am with you. Shall he die — how soon ?
To-day I had said, but haply not to-day —
There might fall somewhat, something slip awry,
In such swift work, ha ? Then, what day ? Perchance
'Twere better he died abed — or were there charms.
Spells — if himself though be not witch, drug-proof
'Tis like, and devil-witted, being a knave
Bom poisonous and bred sorcerous like his kind —
We have heard what manner of plague his south land

What sort of kith and kin to hell and him,
How subtle in starry riddles and earth's roots

12 BOTH WELL [act i.

The dog-leeches that kill your soul in you,
Or only body, or both, as Catherine please,
Mother that was to our Mary — ^have we not ?
We must look to it, and closely look.

Morton. My lord,

Of so much being so sure, of this be too ;
That surely and soon in some wise very sure
We are quit of him with God's help or without.

Darnley. Why, that were well. I hold you resolute \
I pray you stay so, and all is well enough.
We have talked our time out — you had all to say —
All the thing's carriage— and my mind to take,
Which with plain heart I have made you understand.
My mind is, he must die then : keep you there. \Exit.

Morion. Had God but plagued Egypt with fools
for flies.
His Jews had sped the quicker.

Enter Mary Beaton.

Is the queen risen,

Mary Beaton. Not yet. Was not the king with you ?
I heard him high and shrill.

Morton. Ay, he was here,

/ If an5rwhere the king be. You are sad. ,

Mary Beaton. I am not bUthe of bearing, I wot well.
But the word sad is sadder than I am.
Is he not vexed ?

Morton. I have never seen him else,

Save when light-heartedness and loose-hung brain


Have made him proud and drunken : as of late

He has been but seldom. There's one sad at least ;

If it be sad to hang the head apart,

Walk with brows drawn and eyes disquieted,

Speak sullen under breath, and shrug and swear,

If any move him, and then again fall dumb ;

He has changed his fresher manner, and put off

What little grace made his ungracious youth \'

Fair in men's eyes a little ; if this last,

He will not long last in men's lordship here,

Except by love and favour shown of the queen.

Mary Beaton. There he sits strong in surety ; yet
men say
He is discontent, disheartened, for distaste
Of the like love and favour shown of her
(Or not the like, yet too much near the like)
Toward Rizzio ; but such men, seeing visionary,
Run wide in talk, and sleep with speech awake
And sight shut fast : are you not of my mind ?

Morton. I am most of theirs whose mind is most
toward hers.
As whose should be most noble ; but in truth
Mine own is moved to hear her gracious heart
Mismade of, her clear courtesies misread,
Misliked her liking, her goodwill maligned,
Even of his mouth who owes Hfe, breath, and place.
Honour and title, even to that clear goodwill,
To that her grace, liking, and courtesy.

Mary Beaton. You mean our lord and hers and
king of Scots ?

14 BOTHWELL [act i.

Morton. As kingly a king as masterful a lord,
And no less hers than ours ; as strong each way.

Mary Beaton. And he misreads so much the
queen's pure heart
As to mistake aloud her manner of life,
And teach the world's broad open popular ear
His graceless commentary on her mere grace
And simple favour shown a simple knave,
Her chamber-child, her varlet ? a poor man,
Stranger, skilled Httle in great men's policies
— Which is strange too, seeing he hath had some chance
To learn some tricks of courts and embassies,
Being therein bred, and not so very a fool
But one might teach him — ^yet no doubt a man,
Save for such teaching, simple and innocent ;
Only what heart, what spirit and wit he has.
Being hot and close as fire on the old faith's side
And the French party's — if his wit were great,
It might do more than simple service soon,
Having her heart as 'twere by the ear which leans
Still toward his saying or singing ; but ye know
There is no peril in him, and the king
More fool than he a knave.

Morton. Well, I know not ;

My skill is small in tunes, yet I can tell
Discord between kings' ear and people's tongue,
Which hearing as in spirit I forehear
Harsh future music in a state mistuned.
If such men lay but hand upon the keys,
Touch ne'er so slight a string of policy


With ne'er so light a finger : I would the queen,
For the dear faith I bear her, saw but this,
Or that the lords were heavier- eyed to see.

Mary Beaton. Are they so keen of soul as of their
To slay wrong as to see wrong ?

Morton. 'Faith, with us

The hand is matched against the eye for speed ;
And these no slower in stroke of sight and sword
Than their sharp-sighted swift-souled forefathers.
I say not this that you should gather fear
Out ot my saying to sow in the ear of the queen ;
But for truth's sake ; and truly I do not fear
That I have put fear in you, for you seem
Not lightly fearful to me.

Mary Beaton. I would not be.

Where I might keep good heart and open eye
Nor blind nor fevered with foolhardiness,
As here meseems I may keep ; for I see
No hurt yet nor hurt's danger steer in sight,
Save the mere daily danger of high-raised heads
To be misspoken and misseen of men,
Which is not for high-seated hearts to fear.

Morton. Her heart is high enough, and yours as
hers ;
You shall do well to hold your courage fast,
Keeping your wits awake ; whereof myself
I make no doubt, howbeit men fear the queen.
Having our bitter folk and faith to fight,
Out of sharp spirit and high-heartedness

i6 BOTHWELL [act i.

May do such things for love's sake or for wrath's
As fools for fear's sake : which were no less harm
(Turning her wit and heart against herself)
Than to be coward or witless. Fare you well ;
I will not doubt but she is well advised. \Exit.

Mary Beaton. He is but dead by this then. I did
know it ;
And yet it strikes upon me sudden and sharp.
As a thing unforethought on. It is strange
To have one's foot as mine is on the verge.
The narrowing threshold of a thing so great,
To have within one's eyeshot the whole way,
The perfect reach of fate from end to end,
From life to life replying and death to death.
This is the first hour of the night, and I
The watcher of the first watch, by whose lamp
The starless sky that grows toward birth of stars
And the unlit earth and obscure air are seen
Pale as the lamp's self yet not well alight.
Yet by the Hght of my heart's fire, and mind
Kindled, I see what fires of storm, what flaws.
What windy meteors and cross-countering stars.
Shall be through all the watches to the dawn
And bloodlike sunrise of the fire-eyed day.
I am half content already ; and yet I would
This watch were through.

Enter the Queen, Rizzio, and Mary Seyton.

Qiteen. Nay, it is later, sure :

I am idle, I am idle, and flattered ; you say wrong.


To find my sloth some pardonable plea,
Which is not pardonable ; a perfect sin,
One writ among the sorest seven of all ;
Enough to load the soul past penitence.
Am I not late indeed ? speak truth and say.

Rizzio. To watchers the sun rises ever late
Though he keep time with summer ; but your grace
Keeps earlier than the sun's time.

Queen. 'Tis but March,

And a scant spring, a sharp and starveling year.
How bitter black the day grows ! one would swear
The weather and earth were of this people's faith,
And their heaven coloured as their thoughts of heaven.
Their light made of their love.

Rizzio. If it might please you

Look out and lift up heart to summer-ward,
There might be sun enough for seeing and sense,
To light men's eyes at and warm hands withal.

Queen. I doubt the winter's white is deeper dyed
And closer worn than I thought like to be ;
This land of mine hath folded itself round
With snow-cold, white, and leprous misbelief,
Till even the spirit is bitten, the blood pinched.
And the heart winter-wounded ; these starved slaves
That feed on frost and suck the snows for drink.
Hating the light for the heat's sake, love the cold :
We want some hotter fire than summer or sun
To burn their dead blood through and change their

Rizzio. Madam, those fires are all but ashen dust :

i8 BOTHWELL [act i.

'Tis by the sun we have now to walk warm.

If I had leave to give good counsel tongue

And wisdom words to work with, I would say

Rather by favour and seasonable grace

Shall your sweet light of summer- speaking looks

Melt the hard mould of earthen hearts, and put

Spring into spirits of snow. Your husband here,

Who was my friend before your lord, being grown

Doubtful, and evil-eyed against himself,

With a thwart wit crossing all counsel, turns

From usward to their close fierce intimacy

Who are bitterest of the faction against faith.

And through their violent friendship has become

His own and very enemy, being moved

Of mere loose heart to vex you. Now there stands

On the other hand, in no wise bound to him.

But as your rebel and his enemy

Cast forth condemned, one that called home again

Might be a bond between the time and you.

Tying the wild world tamer to your hand,

And in your husband's hot and unreined mouth

As bit and bridle against his wandering will.

Queen. What name is his who shall so strengthen

Rizzio. Your father gave him half a brother's name.

Queen, I have no brother; a bloodless traitor
he is
Who was my father's bastard bom. By heaven,
I had rather have his head loose at my foot
Than his tongue's counsel rounded in mine ear.


Rizzio. I would you had called him out of banish-

Quee7i. Thou art mad, thou art mad ; prate me no
more of him.

Rizzio. He is wise, and we need wisdom; penitent,
And God they say loves most his penitents \
Stout-hearted and well-minded toward your grace,
As you shall work him, and beguilable
Now at your need if you but will he be ;
And God he knows if there be need of such.

Queen. No need, no need ; I am crowned of mine
own heart
And of mine own will weaponed ; am I queen
To have need of traitors' leave to live by, and reign
By the God's grace of these ? I will not have it ;
Toward God I swear there shall be no such need.

Rizzio. Yet if there were no need, less harm it
To have him easily on your royal side
While the time serves that he may serve you in —
Less harm than none, and profit more than less.

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