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Griselda: a dramatic poem in five acts online

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You too would take my child away from me !
Ah, go, disguise yourselves, that one may fear you !
Slave Rupert clinks his chains when he approaches,
The were-wolf howls when on the track of children !

62 G rise Ida : [ACT II.

Ah, gentlemen, you must not play the goblin
In knightly guise, with spurs upon your heels !


My word thou doubtest, and a thoughtless child
Thou sportest, smiling, with the Terrible ;
Speak you, then, you, the royal messengers,
And be my witnesses.

Sir Percival

Speaks truth.


Truly ! So is it as he says !
We were sent here to take away your child.

It is no jest — the King will tear my child.
My darling child will tear from out my heart }
But wherefore .' Why.? What, shall he penance do
Because his mother's lot was lowliness ?


He is the King, and royal power is his ;
No opposition to his will he suffers ;
Make thy resolve, deliver up the child.

SCENE IV.] A Dramatic Poem. 63


Thou wert resolved, Percival, thou would st —

Thou canst a moment think of yielding him ?

Thou wilt no longer look upon the features

So full of smiling, full of careless trust ?

No more the ring of that sweet voice wilt hear,

When lovingly it cries, " Dear little father?"

O, Percival, thou wilt disown thy child ?

Bethink thee of the day on which I bore him,

When thou didst clasp him to thy father's breast,

Crying aloud, "A boy, it is a boy !"

Think of the lively tumult of thy joy ;

For him thou didst forget me ; from his face

There sprang for thee a living fount of bliss,

There was no star that seemed too far away.

With light and glory to adorn his life,

And now thou giv'st him up ? I'll not believe it !

Who can despoil the lion of his young ;

No, Percival will not give up his child !


I must ! Where'er I turn and look for refuge,
I no evasion, no escape can find ;
I am constrained this path alone to choose ;
'Tis the King's will, I must give up the boy.

64 G rise Ida : [ACT II.


Thou hast slain Cathraor, and thou Swen hast slain ;
He who slew kings, their anger can sustain :
My Percival, thou'lt not give up the boy !
With every sacrifice that can be made,
Appease our monarch ; give him blood and life ;
Thy child, thine only child, thou canst not give.


I tell thee, wife, I must ! Thou pleadest vainly !
I must give up the boy ! I must and will !


He is my child, as thine he is, I'll see .
If thou wilt give him up. He is my blood,
I bore him in my bosom, gave him birth,
I suckled him ; it was mine eye that watched
With silent joy his progress beautiful.
And my whole future rests upon his head !
Dare strange caprices tear away my child,
And rob it of the guardianship of love ?

\^She suddenly stops j then goes on in restless haste
The King no right possesses to my boy ;
He knows him not ; his birth has angered him ;
He hates him cordially, and when he has him —

SCENE IV.] A Dramatic Poem. 6$

Say, gentlemen, what will he with the boy ?

What, silent ! Say ! What will he with the child ?

Be not concerned ! The King is just and mild.


What was commanded that must be fulfilled ;
He gave us orders, but concealed his will.

Griselda [wi//i an expression of utmost angj/ish.)

Nay, you deceive me not ! It is inscribed
Upon your brows, in your uneasy glances :
He wants to kill him !— Will he } Yes, he will !
For this you'll take from me my darling child.
From me, his mother ? Rather both mine eyes !
Attempt it, bloody murderers: come on.
Snatch him if possible from his sweet dreams
Before you see me lifeless at your feet !
Shed, if you can, his blood, ere mine flows forth !
Forsaken child, thy father shields thee not,
I '11 do it, I a woman, yet a mother !

Gawain [to Tristan.)
Right well I knew she'd not give up the boy.

66 Grisclda : [ACT II.

Now or never !

{Turning to Griselda.)
Be it so, Griselda!
Keep thy child, then ! But guard his precious life
Henceforth with sleepless care and vigilance ;
Protect him ever from a breath of air ;
Like a rare gem preserve him, like a crown ;
For thou a costly price for him hast given,
And with the father's life hast bought the boy !

Griselda {jvith a cry.)

With thy life, Percival ?


Why tremblest thou }
Thy precious child remains ! Though I'm proscribed
And made an outlaw, though my power is crushed,
Though through these valleys royal rage pursues me
As he unwearied hunts the timid deer ;
Though treason hastens after, might o'erwhelms,
Although the hangman to the scaffold drags,
Yet hesitate, yet falter not, Griselda!
Leave me unburied, leave my bones to bleach.
Saving thy boy, thy highest wish thou'lt reach !

SCENE IV.] A Dramatic Poem. 6y

Griselda {liiith her folded hands pressed o?i her heart,
looks absently before her for some moments ; then speaks
slowly and wearily).

Does the King's anger threaten banishment,
And put thy life in danger ?


Ay, Griselda !

Griselda {almost inandibly).
Then take away the boy !


Thou wilt contend
No more ; thou giv'st the child ?


I must ! ! ! —


The victory's mine ! Sir Gawain, take the boy !

[Gawaix approaches the next room, Griselda
hastens after him.

Hold ! Take him ! Stay ! I cannot, God in heaven !

68 Grisclda : [act II.

Hither, my Griselda !

[Griselda turns^ throws herself at Percival's
feet, and looks up to him 7vith her clasped
hands on his knees. As Gawain enters the
ante-room the curtain falls.


Scene I. — Castle Pendejinys — A richly-adorned saloon.

Percival {springing up).

If right it is or wrong ? That is the question !
But mine own right to use, cannot be wrong ;
Yet what I dare, I should do joyfully ;
I am not joyful, wherefore am I not ?

\He 7oalks up and down restlessly ; standing still
again, he proceeds :
That which torments me is a mere chimera !
I through so many charming days have yearned,
Yea, felt constrained to know, not to believe,
With mine own eye to see, with mine own ear
To hear, and tangibly with mine own hand
To seize upon and hold conviction fast ;
For there is faith in all things, e'en in madness !
But I for proofs have longed, and I have sighed
For one of the first tests of destiny;
And shall I tremble now at their mere aspect,
And from their phantoms shrink ?


70 Griselda : [act III.

I prove my war-horse ere in him I trust ;

I prove my armor's weight, and my sword's temper,

Before the noise of battle rages round me ;

And may not prove my wife ?

Shall I, for a mere fancy, lose the pleasure
Of looking down into her inmost soul,
To see mine image in its crystal mirror,
Mine image only, none approaching it,
To see her spirit so to mine enthralled.
By my breath ruffled, trembling at my look.
Moved by the slightest motion of my brows,
That in my will she feels and she exists,
That I am all in all to her on earth :
Her lord, her king, her destiny, her god !
Love knows no line or measure, knows no bound.
No more, no less, is indivisible,
And if one grain is wanting in its weight,
A mote, an atom, then it is not love !
And shall I bind me to the possible,
When a mere test authenticates the real }
And shall I rest content with empty trust
When I can revel in a certainty }
Truly what tortures me is a chimera !

SCENE 11. ' A Dramatic Poem. 71

Scene II. — Percival — Gawain — Later., Tristan.

Percival {rushing up to Gawain).
Now, Gawain, say where have you left my boy ?

In faithful keeping, noble Percival,
Yet hostile is he to attendant strange,
And with his hands with scorn repulses her ;
He weeps, and with his father's anger threatens
The hand that tore him from his mother's arms.


He will complain to me, and of myself?
Now, by mine oath he's not so far from right.
And in due time I'll make atonement for it !
But say, Sir Gawain, have you summoned them,
My knights and vassals, unto Pendennys ?

From all the valleys they are flowing hither.

Thank you ! [Tristan appears.

But see, what bring you us, Sir Tristan }

Saw you Griselda }

72 G rise Ida : [ACT III.


Yes, I saw her, Sir !


You found her sorely troubled, and in tears ?

You hesitate ? Speak ! You shall naught conceal !

In bearing to Griselda thy command
To meet thee here, I through apartments passed,
Until I reached the turret's winding stair,
That upward leads to the bow-windowed room ;
And having reached the door that open stood,
With scope for sight and sound, I saw Griselda.
Her hair fell limp and unadorned about her,
A stony image, motionless she sat,
Scarce breathing, dead though living ; on her cheek
Not even the color of a faded rose,
And from her eyes such seas of sorrow fell.
That overflowed by tears, her lips, in truth,
A cup of wormwood drank. Upon her lap
There lay a plaything that had been her child's ; —
Once joy to him, now sting to her distress.
She sat bent over, with her folded hands
Laid passive on her lap, and steadfast looked

SCENE II.J A Dramatic Pocju. 73

On her child's cradle, like to one benumbed.
A sigh, heart-rending, from her tortured breast
Wrung itself sharply out, her briny tears
Gushed forth again redoubled and afresh.
She pressed the toy with ardor to her breast,
And echoed now from heaven and now from earth,
She cried aloud, My child, my darling child !
And crying thus a heart-string broke within
And lifeless sank she down upon the earth !

Enough ! Enough !

In her attendant's arms,
A dawning life and strength crept slowly back :
She raised herself : a picture caught her eye.
The dolorous mother gazing on her Son ;
Trembling, she staggered toward it, bent the knee ;
Her hands dev^outly folded on her breast.
Her quivering lips convulsed and cramped together,
She bowed her head. The veil of clouds was rent
That lay on hill and mountain dark without,
A ray of sunshine came and kissed her cheek,
And all her features with its light illumed ;

74 Griselda : [act III.

She smiled, O Sir, what think you, said the smile ?
The bud has fall'n, the flower shall fade erewhile.

[Percival /ooAs dozvn in silence j after a pause-,
Tristan steps nearer, and continues.
That saw I, Sir, and sharing in her grief.
Unmanned by witnessing her martyrdom,
My own eye moistened, hastened I away,
AVith her attendants leaving thy behest.

Percival (after a pause proudly erects himself.)

Dost thou begin to tremble, Percival ?
Is thy strong nature overwhelmed by tears ?
The cup is filled and she must empty it ;
It is resolved on, it shall be fulfilled !
I will, I must, I have no other path.


No other path ? Here lies one close at hand ;
A single word will soothe Griselda's grief;
A single word the clouds will scatter wide,
That fold her spirit in a starless night !
Explain the riddle of this cruel sport.
And to the mother's arms restore her boy.

What of my honor, what my plighted word.-'

SCENE II.] A Dramatic Poem. 75

Have it redeemed in presence of the Queen.

What, I shall kneel 1 shall kneel before her feet 1

Thy pride conceived this outrage ; humble it.


I, never ! never ! Not for all earth's treasures !

Not for a life ! Not for a heavenly kingdom !

A woman's tears are like the summer shower,

That sprinkles gently down from fleeting clouds ;

It passes over, and the sun bursts forth,

And the well-watered fields grow fresh and green.

Griselda shall make proof what love can do ;

But when th' appointed course she shall have run,

When from this night of clouds she has emerged,

I with a rainbow will enarch her sky ;

Its thousand hues shall float above her head ;

One rapture only all her life shall be !

I much demand and your reproof is vital,

But I. too, am the man to make requital !

^6 Griselda : [ACT III.


Banners are waving yonder on the heights,
And armor glitters in the vale below ;
They are your vassals, and assembled, Sir.

I will go forth to meet th' approaching host;
And you meanwhile, with re-assuring words.
Prepare the tender heart of my Griselda
For this new torture ; tell me, will you not }

It shall be done.



Your wish shall be fulfilled.

Farewell, then ! Soon the drama will be ended,
Already I rejoice as conqueror. [Goes.

Ay ! But the angel who the record keeps
Of our life's seed-time, unto thee shall mete
A victory that ends in thy defeat.

SCENE III.] A Dramatic Poem. 77

Here comes Griselda ; slowly through the halls
She by her host of servants is conducted.

The picture she of grief! Like the full ear,
Her heavy head droops downward to the earth.

Scene III.

Griselda {to her women.)
For all your love accept my warmest thanks !
My steps no longer need to be supported.
I beg you leave me no\v ; it all is over !
{The women retire to the background j Griselda steps

Speak, noble knights, where tarries Percival }
It was at his request I hither came.

Not long need you await his coming, lady.

You turn away your face from us in anger.
Our very presence with abhorrence fills you ;

78 Grisdda : [ACT III.

Just is your hatred, and your just reproach
Though wordless 'tis, speaks loudly to my soul.

Hate you ? Nay, noble knights, I hate you not ;
I no man hate, not even the King himself.

And yet his is the hand that wounded you.

The deed was his; the will was from above.
Not his the hand that presses on my head :
Th' Omnipotent of whom the air is full,
Who tosses crowns about like feather-down,
Who knits His brow, and kingdoms shake and fall,
Who nods, and worlds appear, and stars shine forth,
Who nods, and they are gone ! He smote me. He !
God tried the strength of this my haughty heart,
And see, it broke, and into tears dissolved.

So humble, so submissive in your grief !

So humble and suljmissive? Was I not
Right full of haughty pride and self-conceit ?

SCENE III.] A Dramatic Poem. 79

Received I not as if they were my due,
The love of Percival, and then his hand ?
Was I not proud when I was called his wife ?
Did I not glory in my beauteous child?
But I in lowly poverty was born ;
Nor recognized the favor shown by heaven,
But took as mine own right its tender gift ;
So in my boy the Lord admonished me,
He, blameless, makes atonement for my guilt.


O, guard the pious mind that strengthens you,
With patience clad, with patience arm your soul !
Yet darker is the fate that comes to meet you.
Still greater sacrifice the King requires.


Yet greater sacrifice.'' Say, what demands he .?

Threatens he Percival with his displeasure .''

Does he demand my life ? Speak ! Let me know !


Fear not for Percival ! The King's displeasure
Threatens your life !

8o Griselda: [act III.

Make known to me his will !
What he demands, make known !

Then hear : he wills
That Percival the marriage tie unloose
That bound him imto you, and choose a wife
Of noble lineage equal to his own.
To give him heirs befitting to his rank.


O gloomy phantom of my troubled dreams,
So quickly hast thou come ! A single day
From my brow snatches every crown of joy,
And plucks away the only flower of hope !
Husband and child ! Alone, and desolate,
A sea of sorrows gathered in one breast !
And he ? And Percival — O let me know it.
What answered Percival ?

His heart was heavy
When he obeyed his master, that his race
Might not prove traceless in the stream of time,
And distant ages still his fame regard.

SCENE III.] A Dramatic Poem.


I have foreseen it I Many a silent night
My spirit prophesied it ! Far too rich,
Too perfect was my happiness for life ;
It could but hover o'er me as a dream,
And like a lovely dream must flee away.
I see it plainly, it should come to this !
Should he deny himself a father's joys.^*
And unto strangers alienate his rights }
Who can reproach him ? He has rightly done.

Can you conceive it, Tristan .'' She defends him !

So turn thee home into the forest shadows,
Thou child of poverty and servitude !
Never within this castle was thy place,
Upon its threshold bravely turn thy back ;
With thee thou tak'st his image, bear'st thy dreams.
Thou wast by him beloved, and that affection
No royal mandate from his heart can drive ;
He will remember thee, will ne'er forget thee,
He feels with thee the sundering of these ties !
O, comfort thee and learn to yield, my heart !

82 Grisdda : [ACT III.

Be strong ! No tears shalt thou from him exact,
Nor with complaints add stings to his distress ;
But you, most noble knights, make known to me,
Drives me this very day my fate from hence ?
Shall I not see him more ?


Sir Percival
Himself your sentence will make known to you :
In open hall, before his nobles all,
He will dissolve your union, and your fate
This day restores you to your forest home.


There sound his hasty footsteps in the hall.
Now summon to you all your nature's strength.
And calmly go to meet your cruel lot.

Scene IV. — Percival joins the preceding with some of
his most renowned vassals ; is joined by his remaining
Knights and vassals, jvho enter noiselessly.

Percival {after a pause.)

Receive my greetings, vassals, men at arms !
As it beseems, you come in ranks complete

SCENE IV.] A Dramatic Poem. 83

Unto Pendennys, to my feudal halls;

I called you and you came. If now amazed

And wondering you ask, and cannot guess,

Wherefore I called you, this is my response :

You know how, stimulated by your prayers,

Griselda there I took to be my wife ;

Child of the woods, low was her origin,

Though full of graces, virtuous, and true !

You know that she a little son hath borne me,

As heir to my domains you greeted him :

Our royal master and our lord, King Arthur,

Rejecting both my marriage and its fruit,

Demands renunciation of the child, *

That the dominion and the dignity

Descending to my race from eagle proud,

Be not degraded to a spariow's brood ;

And truly I the King's behest fulfil.

[Griselda shrinks painfully into herself ;
after a pause 'P¥.^ci\a'l proceeds.
To the King's messengers the child I gave.
Yet farther still, my royal master wills
That I his sister. Morgana, should wed,
Griselda there from out my castle thrusting.
In open hall, before my noble men.
As in their sight I took her for my wife.

84 Grisclda : . [ACT III.

And in obedience to the King's command,
I in this open hall assemble you,
To see me yield myself to his behest.

One of Percival's Knights.
What, Percival ?

Thou hast decided, Sir .''

A Third.
Thou wilt disown thy wife, disown Griselda ?

Be silent there ! Silenced by my displeasure !
You are called hither but as witnesses,
And not to sit in judgment on my deeds.
Behold and listen then, but tame your tongues!
Step forth, Griselda !

Griselda. ^

Here I am, my lord !


Listen and understand ! The sacred ties
That once united us, now severed are :

SCENE IV.] A Dramatic Poem. 85

This hour our mutual compact renders void !
Griselda, dost thou hear?


I do, my lord !

This very day depart thou from these halls.
And all the gifts with which my love endow'd thee,
Thy garments, jewels, all embellishments.
That do but heighten charms they cannot give,
Leave these behind ; for so decrees the King :
That thou shalt leave me helples:, naked, poor,
As naked, poor and helpless I received thee ;
And thus, before the King's ambassadors,
And the executors of his command,
Dismiss I thee. Depart !


My honored lord,
When from my lowly hut thou brought'st me home
To this proud castle, to unite thy power.
Thy name, thy dignity to nothingness,
O'erwhelmed with love the charcoal-burner's child.
When my felicity bloomed forth apace

86 Griselda : [ACT III.

Like flowers that open in a single night ;

A voice spake warning in my inmost soul :

Thy happiness shall not outlive the flowers,

And as it bloomed shall fade within a night.

And yielding to the dictate of my fate,

Not as a gift did I receive thy troth,

But as a loan, with love for interest,

Lightly recalled as it was lightly given.

And since thou now announcest that the day

Of reckoning has come, I'll not delay.

Take back what from thy hand I have received,

The proud adornment of nobility,

The clang of name, preeminence, and pomp

With which thy lavish hand invested me.

Yet lingering only, with a heart oppressed,

I give thee back the best and costliest

Of all the gifts thy love on me conferred ;

Receive this ring, of love the sign and pledge,

That made us one, and blessed in making one ;

It was my all, receive it back ! And so —

So go I helpless, poor, and naked hence,

As helpless, poor, and naked hither came I.

What thou hast brought with thee that take away,
Not more, not less.

SCENE IV.J A Dramatic Pocvi. 87


Full well, thou knowest, Sir,
How thou didst bear me from my father's house ;
An apron and a wretched woolen dress
1 brought to thee. No beast of burden needs
To bear my scanty goods from hence away.

Then take thine apron and thy woolen dress.


So will I, Sir ! What else was once mine own,
When for the castle I exchanged the hut.
Youth's cheerful heart, the bloom of innocence,
The spirit full of trust and full of hope,
These gifts I bartered for yet sweeter joys,
And for the memories of a happy past ;
In one thing only thou my debtor art,
For, leaving thee, my love remains behind,
As of thy ring my hand the trace retains.
So thy beloved image will my soul.


A pointed arrow is her every word,
And every look a double-edged sword !
Hasten, Griselda, for thy time is past !

88 G rise Ida : [act hi.

One of Percival's Knights.
How discontent and pity rend my heart !

O that obedience my lips should seal !


A single word yet trembles on my lips,
Then turning from this castle I will fly
To the maternal bosom of the wilds.
Farewell, my Percival ! This loving heart
Will ne'er forget the bliss endowed by thee.
'Twill think of thee when my remembrance long
In these apartments has for aye grown dim ;
For the dead past is like a withered leaf,
Swept lightly by, amid the whirl of time.
But henceforth live thou only joyful days !
Surrounded by the choicest gifts of heaven,
Thine ancient trunk keep green with noble shoots;
May laurel wreaths and crowns thee overwhelm.
And wife yet more beloved supply my place ;
O I will smile, will smile amid my tears.
If happier she makes thee ; love thee more
Can no one, no one on the whole round globe.

SCENE IV.] A Dramatic Poem. 89

Percival [milder, and with difficulty concealing his

Depart, Griselda, for thy time is past !


I stretch my arms out for a last embrace,

But they are empty ; and mine eye seeks thine,

And thou thy face concealest from my sight !

Yes, thou art right; wherefore augment my grief,

And push it to the horrors of despair ? *

We must be parted, quickly be it done !

Farewell, my Percival! With this one word

I put the cup of sorrow to my lips

And drink it dry ; for this one bitter word

Says all things, Percival ! The lexicon

Of grief has only this one word : Farewell !

Farewell, my Percival !


Depart, Griselda !

Griselda {tvith a glance towards heaven).

The Lord commandeth, and the maid obeys.

\She turns towards the background ; Percival
deeply moved, covers his face, while the women
of Griselda /r^j-j about her, weeping.

90 Griselda : [act hi.

One of the Women.
Say, dost thou leave us ?


Wilt thou leave us, lady ?

A Third.
Permit me first thy garment's hem to kiss !

Leave me : my time is past, I must away !

One of Percival's Knights.
Farewell, Griselda !


God go with you, lady !


Farewell to all ! Though driven hence by fate,

One comfort yet is left me in my pain ;

I go lamenting, but I go lamented !

{She passes tlirough the crowd that accompanies her
ill great agitaiiofi. Percival looks after her
till she has left the hall, then rushes down from
the estrade, seizes Tristan by the hand, and
leads him hastily forward some steps.

SCENE I V.J A Dramatic Poem. 91

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