Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

. (page 16 of 198)
Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 16 of 198)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


I would not look upon Pym's faoe again.

Leuiy Cctr. Stay, let me have to think I
pressed your hand !

[Stbatiobd aaui kit Frlenda yo out,
(Bnier Haiodbh and \axm.)

Vane, O Hampden, save the great miaguided
mani
Plead Strafford's cause with Pym I I hare re-
marked
He moyed no muscle when we all declaimed
Against him: you had but to breathe — he turned
Those kind calm eyes upon you.
[Snitr Ptm, the Bolicitor-0«iienJ St. Jorh, the Mana-
gen cfths Trial, Fmnns, Budtau), ete.

Bua, Horrible I

Till now an hearts were with you : I withdraw
For one. Too horrible I But we mistake
Tour purpose, Pym : you cannot snatch away
The last spar from the drowning man.

Fien, He talks

With St. John of it — see, how quietly I
[To other Presbyterians.] Tou'U join us?

Strafford may deserre the worst :
But this new course is monstrous. Vane, take

heart I
This Bill of his Attainder shall not hare
One true man's hand to it.

Vane, Consider, Pym !

Confront your Bill, your own Bill : what is

it?
You cannot catch the Earl on any charge, —
No man will say the law has hold of him
On any charge ; and therefore yon resolye
To take the general sense on his desert.
As though no law existed, and we met
To found one. You refer to Parliament
To speak its thought upon the abortive mass
Of hfdf-bome-out assertions, dubious hints
Hereafter to be cleared, distortions — ay.
And wild inventions. Every man is saved
The task of fixing any single charge
On Strafford : he has but to see in nim
The enemy of England.

Pym, A right scruple I

I have heard some called England's enemy
With lees consideration.

Vane, Pity me I

Indeed you make me think I was your friend I
I who have murdered Strafford, how remove
That memory from me ?

Pym, I absolve vou. Vane.

Take you no care for aught that you nave done !



Vcme. John Hampden, not this Bill I Re-
ject this Bill I
He staggers through the ordeal : let him go.
Strew no fresh fire before him I Plead for us I
When Strafford spoke, your eyes were thick
with tears!
Hamp. England speaks louder: who axe we^
to play
The generous pardoner at her expense,
Magnanimonsfy waive advantages.
And, if he conquer us, applaud nis skill ?
Vane, He was your mend.
Pym, I have heard that befora.

Fien, And England trusts you.^
Hamp, Shame be his, who turns

The opportunity of serving her
She trusts him with, to his own mean account —
Who would look nobly frank at her expense !
.Fien. I never thought it could have come to

this.
Pym, But I have made myself familiar*
Fiennes,
With this one thought — have walked, and sat*

and slept.
This thought before me. I have done sueh

things.
Being the chosen man that should destroy
The traitor. Yon have taken m> this thought
To play with, for a gpBntle stimulant.
To give a dignity to idler life
By the dim proqieot of emprise to come,
But ever with the softening, sure belief.
That all would end some strange way right at
last.
Fien. Had we made out some weightier

charge!
Pym. You say

That these are petty charges: can we come
To the real charge at all ? There he is safe
In tyrannjr's stronghold. Apostasy
Is not a crime, treachery not a crime:
The cheek bums, the blood tingles, when yon

speak
The words, but where 's the power to take re*

▼enge
Upon them ? We must make occasion serve, —
The oversight shall pay for the main sin
That mocks us.

Rud, But this unexampled course.

This Bill I

Pym, By this, we roll the clouds away
Of precedent and custom, and at once
Bid the great beacon-light God sets in all.
The conscience of each Dosom, shine upon
The guilt of Straff ord : each man lay his hand
Upon his breast, and judge I

Vane, I onlv see

Strafford, nor pass his corpse for all beyond !
Bud, and others, Fornve him ! He would
join usj now he finds
What the King counts reward 1 Hie pardon,

too.
Should be your own. Yourself should bear to

Strafford
The piKrdon of the Commons.

Pym, Meet him? Strafford?

Have we to meet once more, then ? Be it so !
And yet — the prophecy seemed half fulfilled



Digitized by



Google



STRAFFORD



WbeiL, at the Trial, as he gued, mj youth.
Our friendahip, diTen thoughts oame back at



And left me, for a time . . . ^Tisverysadl
To-morrow we discuss the points of law
'With Lane — to-morrow ?

Vfine. Not before to-morrow —

So, time enough I I knew you would relent !
^^Pym, The next day, Haselrig, tou intioduoe



The Bill of his Attainder.



Scm m. WhitehaU,
The



Cha. My loral servant I To defend himself
Thus irresistibly,— withholding aught
Tliat seemed to implicate us I

We hare done
Less gallantly by Strafford. Well, the future
Must recompense the past.

She tarries long.
I understand you, Strafford^ now I

The scheme —
Carlisle's mad scheme — he '11 sanction it, 1 fear,
For loTe of me. 'T was too precipitate :
Before the army 's fairly on its march.
He 11 be at large: no matter.

Well, Carlisle?
{Enter Trx,)

Pym, Fear me not, sir: — my mission is to

Tms time.

Cha. To break ihus on me ! unannounoedl

Pvm. It is of Strafford I would q;>eak.

CAo. No more

Of Strafford! I hare heard too much from
yon.

PjfBi. I spoke, sir, for the People ; will you
hear
A word upon my own account ?

Cha, Of Strafford?

@p turns the tide already ? Have we tamed
The insolent brawler ? — Strafford's elo<)uence
Is swift in its effect.) Lord Strafford, sir,
Has spoken for himself.

Plfm. Sufficiently.

I would apprise yon of the noyel course
The People take : the Trial fails.

Cka. Yes, yes:

We are aware, sir : for your nart in it
Means shall be found to thank you.

Pym, Pray yon, read

This schedule I I would learn from your own

mouth
— (It is a matter much concerning me) —
Whether, if two Estates of us concede
The death of Strafford, on the i^jounds set forth
Within that parchment, you, sir, can resolve
To grant your own consent to it. ^ This Bill
I Is named by me. If you determine, sir,
' That EIngland's manifested will should guide
Tour judgment, ere another week such will
Shall manifest itseH. Ifnot, — least
Aside the measure.

Cha, You can hinder, then,

Hie introduction of this Bill?

Pym. lean.



Cha, He IB my friend, sir : I have wronged

him: mark you.
Had I not wronged him, this might be. Yoq

think
Because you hate the Earl . . . (turn not away,
We know you hate him) — no one else oonld love
Strafford : but he has saved me, some affirm.
Think of his pride! And do yon know one

strange.
One frightful thing ? We all have used the man
As though a drudge of ours, with not a source
Of happv thoughts ezoei>t in us ; and yet
Straffwa has wife and children, household oaies,
Just as if we had never been. Ah, sir.
You are moved, even you, a solitary man
Wed to your cause — to England if you will !
Pj/iR. Yes— think, my soul — to England!

Draw not back I
Cha. Prevent that Bill, sir ! All your ooune

seems fair
TiU now. Why. in the end^t is I should sign
The warrant for nis death ! You have said much
I ponder on ; I never meant, indeed,
Strafford should serve me any more. I take
The Commons' counsel ; but this BilliByouis—
Nor worUiy of its leader : care not, sir.
For that, however ! I will quite foivet
You named it to me. You are satisfied ?

Pym. Listen to me, sir ! Eliot laid his hand.
Wasted and white, upon my forehead once :
Wentworth — he 's gone now ! — has talked on*

whole ni^ts.
And I beside him ; Hampden loves me : sir.
How can 1 breathe and not wish England well*
And her King well?

Cha, I thank yon, sir, who leave

That King his servant. Thanks, sir!

Pym, Let me speak I

— Who may not speak again ; whose spirit yearns
For a cool night after this weanr day :
— Who would not have my soul turn sicker yet
In a new task, more fatal, more augfust,
More full of England's utter weal or woe.
I thought, sir, oonld I find myself with you.
After this trial, alone, as man to man —
I might say something, warn you, pray yon*



Mark me. King Charles, save — yon I

But Qod must do it. Yet I warn yon, sir —

(With Strafford's faded eyes yet full on roe)

As von would have no deeper question moved

— How lon^ the Many must endure the One,'*

Assure me, sir, if England ^ve assent

To Strafford's death, you will not interfere !

Or —

Cha, God forsakes me. I am in a net
And cannot move. Let all be as you say 1
{Enter Lftdy Cablulb.)
Lady Car, He loves you — looking beautifal

with joy
Because you sent me ! he would spare you all
The pain I he never dreamed you would forsake
Your servant in the evil day— nay, see
Your scheme returned I That generous heart

ofhisi
He needs it not — or, needing it, disduns
A course that might endanger you — you, sir,
. Whom Strafford from his inmost soul . . .



Digitized by



Google



TO



STRAFFORD



[Seeina Pym.] WeU met 1

Ko fear tor Strafford I All that *s tme and braye
On your own side shall help us : we are now
Stronger than ever.

Ha — what, sir, is this ?
All is not well! What parohnient have you
there?

Pym. Sir, much is saved us both.

Lady Car, This Bill I Your lip

Whitens — you could not read one line to me
Your voice would falter so 1

Pym. No recreant yet I

The great word went from England to my soul.
And! arose. The end is very near.

JJady Car. I am to save him! All have
shrunk beside ;
*T is only I am left. Heaven will make strong
The hand now as the heart. Then let both die 1



ACT V

ScsvB L WhUehatt.

HoLLn, Lady Cabuslb.

Hdl. Tell the King then I Come in with me I

Lady Car. Not so !

He must not hear till it succeeds.

Hoi. Succeed?

No dream was half so vain — yon 'd rescue Straf-
ford
And outwit Pym ! I cannot tell ^on . . . lady,
The block pursues me, and the hideous diow.
To-day ... is it to-day ? And all the while
He *s sure of the King's pardon. Think, I have
To tell this man he is to die. The King
May rend his hair, for me I I 'U not see Straf-
ford

LadyCar. Only, if I succeed, remember —
Charles
Has saved him. He would hardly value life
Unless his gift. My stanch friends wait. Go in —
You must go in to Charles I

Hoi. And all beside

Left Strafford long ago. The King has signed
The warrant for his death! the Queen was

sick
Of the eternal subject. For the Court, —
The Trial was arousing in its wa^,
Onl^ too much of it : the Earl withdrew
In time. But you, fragile, alone, so young,
Amid rude mercenaries — yon devise
Apian to save him I Even though it fails,
What shall reward you I

Lady Car. I may go, you think,

To Fiance with him? And you reward me,

friend,
Who lived with Strafford even from^ his youth
Before he set his heart on state-affairs
And they bent down that noble brow of his.
I have learned somewhat of his latter life.
And all the future I shall know : but, Hollis,
I ought to make his prouth mv own as well.
Tell me, —when he is saved I

Hoi. My gentle friend,

Sb should know all and love yon, but *t is vain I

LadyCar, Love? no — too late now! Let
him love the King!



'Tib the King's scheme! I have your word,

remember I
We ni keep the old delusion up. But, <^uick I
Quick ! Each of us has work to do, beside I
Go to the King I I hope — Hollis — I hope I
Say nothing of my scheme ! Hush, wmle we

speak
Think where he is I Now for m^ gallant friends I
Hoi. Where he is ? Calling wildly upon
Charles,
GuesednghiB fate, pacing the prison-floor.
Let the King tell him I I 'Unot look on Straf-
ford.

Scsm n. The Tower.

SrmArtaBD simny wUh his Children. They Hny.

ObeU*aiidare



Per baroa in mare.
Verso la sera
Di PiiiDATera I



Andante.



^ii^^^^jMuU



Ifcfc



Obell*an-da-re,Perbar-ca In



fiH{i\^nn



ma -re, Ver-so la se-ra, Di pri-ma-



ff^-M-t



ve - ra, O bell* an -
slentando e diminuendo.



da- re,



^^



^n



O bell* an -da



re.



i



William. The boat *s in the broad moonlight
all this while —

Verso la aera
DiPrimavera!

And the boat shoots from underneath the mooB
Into the shadowy distance ; only still
You hear the dipping oar —

Verso la sera,

And faint, and fainter, and then all 's quite gone,
Music and light and all, like a lost star.
Anne. But vou should sleep, father : you

were to sleep.
Strc^. 1 do sleep, Anne ; or If not — you must
Know
There 's such a thing as • . .



Digitized by



Google



STRAFFORD



71



Wil. You 're too tired to deep?

Strqf. ItiviUoomeby-aiid-byandalldaylongrf
In that old auiet house I told yon of :
We sleep safe there.

Anne. Why not in Ireland ?

Strqf. No I

Too many dreams!— That mmg''B for Venice,

William:
Yon know how Venice looks apon the map —
Isles that the mainland hardly can let go ?

Wil. You 've been to Vemce, faUier ?

Straf, 1 was voun^, then.

Wif, A citr with no King ; that si^byllike
£Ten a song that comes from Venice.

Straf, William?

Wif. Oh, I know why I Anne, do yon love
theKi^?
Bnt 1 11 see Venice for myself one day.

Strcif. 8ee many lands, boy — England last
of all,—
Hiat way you 'U love her best.

Wil. Why do men say

Yon soQfi^t to min her, then ?

Strqf. Ah, — they say that.

Wa. Why?

Stri^. I suppose they must have words to say,
Aa YOU to sing.

Anne, But they make songs beside :

Last nieht I heard one, in the street beneath.
That ciQled you . . . Oh, the names !

wa. Don't mind her, father I

Hiey soon left off when I cried out to them.

Strcif, We shall so soon be out of it. my boy I
'T is not worthwhile: who heeds a foolish song?
WU. Why, not the King.

StrtJ^f. Well: It has been the fate

Of better; and yet, — who^ore not feel sure
That Time, who in the twilight comes to mend
All the fantastic day's caprice, consign
To the low ground once more the ignoble Term,
And laise the Genius on his orb again, —
That 'Hme will do me riffht ?

Anne. (Shall we sing. William ?

He does not look thus when we sing^
„ Straf. JFor Ireland,

Something is done : too little, but enough
To show what might haye been.

Wil. (I haye no heart

To sins: now I Anne, how yerv sad he looks !
01^ I so hate the King for all he says I)

Straf. Forsook them? What, the common
songs will run
That I forsook the Peonle ? Nothing more ?
Ay, Fame, the busy scribe, will pause, no doubt,
Turning a deaf ear to her thousand slayes
Noisy to be enrolled, — will register
The curious glosses, subtle notices.
Ingenious dearings-up one fain would see
Beside that ^ain inscription of The Name —
The Patriot Fym, or the Apostate Strafford I
ITke Chfldren resume their song timidly, but break off.
{Enter Bollu and an Attendant.)

Strqf. No, — HoUis? in good time! — Who
IS he?

Hoi. One

That must be present.

Strqf. Ah— I understand.

They will not let me see poor Laud alone.



How politic I They 'd use me by degrees

To solitude : and, just as you came in,

I was solicitous what life to lead

When Strafford 's ** not so much as Constable

In the King's senrice." Is there any means

To keep one's self awake ? What would you do

After this bustle. HoUis, in my place ?

Hoi. Strafford 1

Strof. Observe, not but that Pym and you
Will mid me news enough — news I shall hear
Under a quince-tree by a 6sh-pond side
At Wentworth. Garrard must be re-engaged
My newsman. Or, a better proiect now —
\Viiat if when all 's consummated, and the Sainta
Reign,^ and the Senate's work goes swim-

What if I yenture up, some day, unseen,

To saunter through the Town, notice how Pym»

Your Tribune, likes Whitehall, droo quietly

Into a tavern, hear a point discusseo.

As, whether Strafford's name were John or

James —
And be myself appealed to — I, who shall
Myself have near forgotten I

jlol. I would speak . . .

Strttf. Then you shall speak, — not now. I
want just now.
To hear the sound of my own tongue. Thia

place
Is full of ghosts.

Hoi. Nay, you must hear me, Strafford !

Strcf. Oh, readily! Only, one rare things
more, —
The minister I Who will advise the King,
Turn his Sejanus, Richelieu and what not.
And yet have health — children, for aught I

know —
My patient pair of traitors I Ah, — but, Wil-
liam —
Does not his cheek grow thin ?

Wil. 'T is you look thin,.

Father!

Strof. A scamper o*er the breexy wolds
Sets all to-rights.

Hoi. You cannot sure forget

A prison-roof is o'er you, Strafford ?

Straf. No,

Why, no. I would not touch on that, the fimt..
I left you that. Well,Hollis? Say at once,
The King can find no time to set me free 1
A mask at Theobald's?

Hoi. ^ Hold: no such affair

Detains him.

Straf. True: what needs so great a matter?'
The Queen's lip may be sore. Well : when he^

pleases, —
Only, 1 want the air : it vexes flesh
To be pent up so long.

Hoi. The King — I bear

His message, Strafford : pray you, let me speak t

Strcf. Go, William! Anne, try o'er your
song again I

[The Chfldren retire^
They shall be loyal, friend, at all events.
I know your message : you have nothing new
To tell me : from the first I guessed as much.
I know, instead of coming here himself,
T leading me forth in pubUc by the hand.



Digitized by



Google



72



STRAFFORD



The Einff prefers to leave the door ajar
As thouffh I were escaping — bids me tmdge
While the mob gapes upon some show prepared
On the other side of the river J Give at once
His onler of release ! I *ve heard, as well.
Of certain poor manoeuvres to avoid
The granting pardon at his proper risk ;
First, he most prattle somewhat to the Lords,
Most talk a trifle with the Commons first,
Be crieved I should abuse his confidence.
Ana far from bUming them, and . . . Where's
the order ?

Hoi. bpare me 1

Strcif. Why, he 'd not have me steal away ?
With an old doublet and a steeple hat
Lake Prsmne^s? Be smuggled into France,

perhaps?
Hollis, 't is tor my children I *T was for them
1 first consented to stand day by day
And give your Puritans the best of words.
Be patient, speak when called upon, observe
Their rules, and not return them prompt their

lie I
What *8 in that boy of mine that he should prove
Son to a prison-breaker ? I shall stay
And he *ll stay with me. Charles should know

as much.
He too has children !
[Turning to Hollib's companion,'] Sir, you

feel for me I
Ko need to hide that face! Though it have

looked
Upon roe from the judgment-seat ... I know
Strangely, that somewhere it has looked on

me . . .
Tour coming has my pardon, nay, my thanks :
For there is one who comes not.

Hoi, Whom forgave,

As one to die I

Strqf, True, all die, and all need

Forgiveness : I forgive him from my soul.

Mol, 'T is a wond^s wonder : Strafford, you
must die I

Strqf. Sir, if your errand is to set me free
This heartless jest mars much. Ha I Tears in

truth?
We H end this I See this paper, warm— feel

— warm
With lying next my heart! Whose hand is

there?
\7hose promise ? Read, and loud for God to

hear!
** Strafford shall take no hurt " — read it, I say !
•* In person, honor, nor estate " —

Hoi. The Kmg . . .

8tr({f. I could unking him by a breath!
lousit
Where Loudon sat, who came to prophesy
The certain end, and offer me Pvm's grace
If I M renounce the King : and I stood firm
On the King's faith. The King who lives . . .

Hoi. To sign

The warrant for your death.

Strcif. " Put not your trust

In princes, neither in the sons of men.
In whom is no salvation ! "

Hoi. Trust in God!

The scaffold is prepared : they wait for you :



He has consented. Cast the earth behind !
Cka. Ton would not see me, Strafford, at
your foot I
It was wrung from me ! Only, curse me not I
Hoi. [To Straffobd.] As you hope grace
ana pardon in your need.
Be merciful to this most wretched man.

[ Voices from wUMn,

Ver$o la sera
Di Frimavera.

Strcif, You 11 be good to those children, sir f

1 know
You *11 not believe her, even should the Queen
Think they take after one they rarely saw.
I had intended that my son should live
A stranger to these matters : but you are
So utterly deprived of friends ! He too
Must serve you — will you not be good to him ?
Or, stav, sir, do not promise — do not swear !
You, Hollis — do the best you can for me !
I *ve not asoul to trust to : Wandeeford 's dead.
And you 've got Radcliffe safe, Laud's turn

oomes next :
I 've found small time of late for my affairs.
But I trust any of you, Pym himself —
No one could hurt them: there's an infant,

too, —
These tedious cares t Your Majesty could spare

them.
Nay — pardon me, my Kng ! I had forgotten
Your education, trials, much temptation.
Some weakness: there escaped a peevish

word —
'T is gone: I bless you at the last. You know
All 's between you and me : what has the world
To do with it? Farewell!
Cha. [at the door.] Balfour! Balfour I

(fiUer Balvoub.)
The Parliament ! — go to them : I grant all
Demands. Their sittings shall be permanent :
Tell them to keep their money if they will :
I 'U oome to them for every coat I wear
And every crust I eat : only I choose
To pardon Strafford. As the Queen shall

choose!
— You never heard the People howl for blood.
Beside !

Balfour, Your Majesty ma}[ hear them now :
The walls can hardly keep their murmurs out :
Please yon retire !
Cha. Take all the troops, Balfour !

Bal. There are some hundred thousand o€

the crowd.
Cha. Come with me, Strafford ! You 11 not

fear, at least !
Straf, Balfour, say nothing to the world of

this!
I charge you, as a djing man, forget
You gazed upon this agony of one . . .
Of one . . . or if . . . why, you may say, Bal-
four,
The King was sony : 'tis no shame in him :
Yes, you may say he even wept, Balfour,
And that I walked the lighter to the block
Because of it. I shall walk lightly, sir !
Earth fades, heaven breaks on me: I shall

stand next



Digitized by



Google



STRAFFORD



73



Before Qod's thione : ihe moment 's close at

hand
When man the first, U»t time, has leare to lay
His whole heart bare before its Blaker, leave
To dear np the long error of a life
And choose one happiness for evermore.
With all mortality about me, Charles,
The sadden wreck, the dregs of violent death —
What if, despite the opening angel-song.
There penetrate one prayer for yon ? Be saved
Throngh me 1 Bear witness, no one ooold pre-
vent
My death 1 Lead on! ere he awake — best,

now!
AIT mnst be ready : did yon say, Balf onr.
The crowd began to murmur? They'll be

kept
Too late tor sermon at St. Antholin's 1
Now I But tread softly — children are at play
In the next room. Preicede I I follow —
(Enter Lsdy Ciir.nu, wUh many AtteocUnta.)
Lady Car. Mel



Follow



Strafford, and be savedl The



[To the KisqJ] Well — as yon ordered, they

are ranged without.
The eonvgy . . . [seeing the Kino's state,!
[To Straffobd.] You know all, then I Why,

I thought
It looked best that the King should save you,

~ Charles
Alone; 'tisa shame that you should owe me

aught.
Or no, not shame I Strafford, you 11 not feel



At being saved by me ?

Hoi. Alltmel Oh Strafford,

She saves you 1 all her deed t this ladpr's deed 1
And is the boat in readiness ? You, niend.
Are Billingsley, no doubt. Speak to her,

See how she trembles, waiting for your voice I
The worid 's to leam its bravest story yet.

Leidy Car. Talk afterward I Long nights
m France enough.
To sit beneath the vines and talk of home.

Strt^f. You love me, child ? Ah, Staifford
can be loved
Aa wdl as Vane I I could esci^M, then ?

Lady Car. Haste!

Advance the torches, Bryan I

Strqf. I wiU die.

They call me proud : but England had no tight.
When she encountered me — her strength to



To find the chosen foe a craven. Girl,

I fought her to the utterance, I fell,

I am ners now, and I will die. Beside,

The lookers-on ! £liot is all about ^

This place, with his most uncomplaining brow.

Lady Car. Strafford I

Strcif. I think if you could know how much
X love you, you would be repaid, my friend !

Lady Car, Then, for my sake I

Strqf. Even tor your sweet sake,

I stay.

Hoi. For their sake !

Strqf. To bequeath a stain ?



MvKingI
I of friends 1



Leave me I Girl, humor me and let me die !
Lady Car. Bid him escape— wake. King!

Bid him escape I
Strqf. True,Iwdlgol Die and forsake the

1 11 not draw back from the last service.

Lady Car. btraffurd !

iS/rq/l And, after all, what is disgrace to me?
Let us come, child I That it should end this

way!
Lead then I but I feel strangely : it was not
To end this wav.

Lady Car. Lean —lean on me!

Strc^.
Oh, had he trusted me — his friend o. &. »

Lady Car. I can support him, Uollis I



Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 16 of 198)