Robert Browning.

The complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning online

. (page 46 of 198)
Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 46 of 198)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

He enters not I Gerard, some wretched fool
Dares pry into my sister^s privacy I
When such are young, it seems a precious thing
To have appr<Niohea, — to merely have ap-

Got sight of, the abode of her they set
Their frantic thoughts upon I He does not


Ger. There is a lamp that *8 full i' the midst.
Under a red square in the painted glass

Of Lady Mildred's . . .

Tresh. Leave that name out I Well?


Ger. — Is moved at midnight higher up

To one pane — a small dark-blue pane : he waits
For that among the boughs : at sight of that,
I see him, plain as I see you, my lord.
Open the lady's casement, enter there . . .

TresA. — And stay?

Ger, An hour, two hours.

Tresh. And this you saw

Once ? —twice ? —quick !

Ger. Twenty times.

Tresh. And what brings you

Under the yew-trees ?

Ger. The first night I left

My range so far, to track the stranger stag
That broke the pale, I saw the man.

Tresh, Yet sent

No cross-bow shaft through the marauder ?

Ger, But.

He came, my lord, the first time he was seen.
In a great moonlif^t, light as any day.
From Lady Mildred's chamber.

Tresh. \After a pauseJ] You have no cause
— Who could have cause to do my sister wrong ?

Ger. Oh, my lord, only once — let me this
Speak what is on my mind I Since first I noted
AlU this, I 've groaned as if a fiery net
Plucked me this way and that — fire if I turned
To her, fire if I turned to vou, and fire
If down I flun^ myself ana strove to die.
The lady could not have been seven years old
When I was trusted to conduct her safe
Through the deer-herd to stroke the snow-white

I brought to eat bread from her tiny hand
Within a month. She ever had a smile
To greet me with — she ... if it could undo
What 's done, to lop each limb ^m off this

trunk . . .
All that is foolish talk, not fit for you —
I mean, I could not speak and bring her hurt
For Heaven's compelling. But when I was

To hold my peace, each morsel of your food
Eaten beneath your roof, my birth-place too.
Choked me. I wish I had STpwn mad in doubts
What it behoved me do. This mom it seemed
Either I must confess to you. or die :
Now it is done, I seem tiie vilest worm
That crawls, to have betrayed my lady ?

Tresh, No—

No, Gerard I

Ger, Let me go I

Tresh. A man, you say :

What man? Young? Not a vulgar hind?
What dress?

Ger. A slouched hat and a large dark foreign
Wraps his whole form ^ even his face is hid ;
But 1 should judge him young: no hind, be

Treslu Why?

Ger. He is ever armed: his sword project!
Beneath the cloak.

Tresh. Gerard,— I will not saj

Digitized by




Ko word, no br ea th of this I

6cr. Thanks, thanks, my lord I LGoes,

Tmmkmam pace* ths room, A/Urapamto,
Oh^ thoofirht *s absnrd ! — as with some mon-

Whieh, when ill thooghts beaet ns, seems to

Meroiral God that made the son and stars,
The waters and the green delights of earth.
The lie ! I apprehend the monstrous fact —
Yet know the maker of all worlds is good,
And yield my reason np inadequate
To reooncile what yet I do behold —
Blaatinpr my sense I There 's cheerful 6mj out-
This is my library, and this the ohair
Mv father used to sit in carelessly
After his soldier-fashion, while I stood
Between his knees to question him : and here
Qerard our gray retainer, — as he says.
Fed with our food, from sire to son, an age —
Has told a story — I am to believe !
That Mildred ... oh, no, no I both tales are

Her pure cheek's story and the forester's I
Would she. or could she, err — much less, con-
AH guilts of treachery, of craft, of . . . Heaven
Keep me within its hand I — I will sit here
Untu thought settle and I see my course.
Avert, O God, only this woe from me I
{A* he Hnki Air head between Me arme on the table^

OuBSDOLBit's voiDe U heard at the door.
LordTreshamlCiSAeimodb.] Is Lord Tresham

p*— ■*-, haetOw turning^ pmllt down the /tret book
eibove him and opene it.
Tresh, Gome in I C^^ enter*.

Ha, GuendcJen I — good mormnfl[.

Ouen. Nothing more ?

Tresh. What should I say more ?
Guen. Pleasant question I more ?

This more. Did I besiege poor Mildred's brain
Last niarht till dose on monung with ** the Earl,"
'' The Earl " — whose worthdid I asseverate
Till I am very fain to hope that . . . Thorold,
What is all this? Tou are not well !

Tresh. Who, I?

You laugh at me.

Guen. Has what I 'm fain to hope.

Arrived then? Does that huge tome show some

Li the EarVa 'scutcheon come no longer back
Than Arthur's time ?

Tresh. When left vou Mildred's chamber ?
Ouen. Oh, late enough, I told yon ! The main
To ask isThow I left her chamber, — sure.
Content yourself, she 'U grant this paragon
Of E^ls no such ungraoions . . .

Tresh. Sendherherel

Gven. Thorold?

Trtsh, 1 mean — acquaint her, Guendolen,
— But mildly I

Guen. Mildly?

Tresk. Ah, you guessed aright I

I am not well : there is no hiding it.
Bat tell her I would see her at her leisure —

That is, at once I here m the library !
The pasBHge in that old Italian book
We hunted for so long is found, say, found ~
And if I let it slip again . . . you see.
That she must come — and instantly !

Guen. I 'D die

Piecemeal, record that, if there have not

Some blot i' the 'scutcheon !

Tresh. Go I or, Guendolen,

Be you at call, — with Austin, if yon choose, —
In the adjoining gallery I There, go :

[QvMMDauBK goe*.
Another lesson to me ! You might bid
A child disguiw his heart's sore, and conduct
Some sly investigation pcnnt by point
With a smooth brow, as well as bid me catdi
The inquisitorial cleverness some praise !
If you had told me yesterday, ** There 's one
You needs must circumvent and practise with.
Entrap by policies, if you would worm
The truth out: and that one is— Mildredl'^

There — reasoning is thrown away on it I
Prove she 's unchaste . . . why, you may after

That she 's a poisoner, traitress, what you will I
Where I can comprehend naught, naught 's to

Or do, or think I Force on me but the first
Aborainadon, — then outpour all plagues.
And I shall ne'er make count of them I
{Enter Mn.nssD.)
Mil. What book

Is it I wanted, Thorold ? Guendolen
Thought you were pale; you are not pale.

That book?
That 's Latin surely.

Tresh. Mildred, here 's a line,

(Don't lean on me : 1 11 English it for vou)
*' Love conquers all things." What love con-
quers them ?
What love should you esteem — best love ?
Mil. True love^

Tresh. I mean, and should have said, whoso

love is best
Of all that love or that profess to love ?
Mil. The hst's so long: there's father's,

mother's, husband's . . .
Tresh. Mildred, I do believe a brother's love
For a sole sister must exceed them all.
For see now, only see I there 's no alloy
Of earth that creeps into the perfect'st gold
Of other lores — no eratitude to claim ;
You never gave her life, not even auji^ht
That keeps life — never tended her, mstructed.
Enriched her — so, vour love can claim no right
O^er her save pure love's claim : that 's what I

Freedom from earthliness. You 'U never hope
To be such frienda, for instance, she and you,
As when yon hunted cowslips in the woods
Or played together in the meadow hay.
Oh yes — with age, respect comes, and your

Is felt, there 's growing sjrmpathy of tastes.
There 's ripened friendship, there 's confirmed


Digitized by




— Much head these make against the new-
The startling apparition, the strange vonth —
Whom one half-hour^s conversing with, or, say.
Mere gazing at, shall change (beyond all change
This Ovid ever san^ abont) your soul
• • . Uer sool, that is, — the sister^s sool ! With

*T was winter ^eeterda^ ; now, all is warmth.
The ^reen leaf s springing and the turtle's voice,
** Arise and come away I" Come whither? —

Enough from the esteem, respect, and all
The brother's somewhat insignificant
Array of rights I All which he knows before.
Has calculated on so long ago I
I think such love, (apart from yours and mine,)
Contented with its little term of life.
Intending to retire betimes, aware
How soon the background must be place for it,
— I think, am sure, a brother's love exceeds
All the world's love in its nnworldliness.
Mil. What is this for?
Tresh. 'Hiis, Mildred, is it for I

Or, no, I cannot go to it so soon I
That 's one of many points my haste left out —
Each day, each hour throws forth its silk-slight

Between the being tied to you by birth.
And von, ontil those slender threads compose
A web that shrouds her daily life of hopes
And fears and fancies, all her life, from yours :
So dose you live and yet so far apart I
And must I rend this web, tear up, break down
The sweet and palpitating mystery
That makes her sacred ? You — for you I mean,
Shall I speak, shall I not speak ?
Mil. Speak I

Tresh. Iwill,

Is there a story men could — any man
Could tell of yon, you would conceal from me ?
I 'U never think there 's falsehood on that lip.
Say ** There is no such story men could tell,"
And I '11 believe yon. though I disbelieve
The world —the world of better men than I.
And women such as I suppose vou. Speak I
[After a pause.] Not speak? Explain then I

Clear it up then ! Move
Some of the miserable weight away
That presses lower than the grave ! Not speak ?
Some of the dead weight, Mildred ! Ah, if I
Could bring myself to plainly make their charge
Against you I Must I. Mildred ? Silent still ?
lAft^ <> pause.] Is there a gallant that has

night by night
Admittance to your chamber ?

[After a pause,] Then, his name I

Till now, I only had a thought for you :
But now, — his name I

Mil. Thorold, do you devise

Fit expiation for my guilt, if fit
There be I 'T is naught to sa^ that I 'U endure
And bless you, — that my spirit yearns to purge
Her stains off in the fierce renewing fire :
But do not plunge me into other gmlt !
Oh, guilt enough I I cannot tell his name.
iVeiA. Then judge yourself I How should I

act? Pronounce I

Mil. Oh, Thorold, yon mnst never tempt me
To die here in thb chamber by that sword
Would seem like punishment : so should I glide*
Like an arch-cheat, into extremeet bliss I
'T were easilv arranged for me : but you —
What would become of you ?

Tresh. And what will now

Become of me ? I '11 hide your shame and mine
From every eye ; the dead must heave their

Under the marble of our chapel-floor;
They cannot rise and bUst yon. You may wed
Your paramour above our mother's tomb ;
Our mother cannot move from 'neath your foot.
We too will somehow wear this one day ont :
But with to-morrow hastens here — the Earl I
The youth without suspicion face can come
From heaven, and heart from . . . whence

proceed such hearts ?
I have dispatched last nifi^t at vour command
A missive bidding him present Jiimself
To-morrow — here — thus much is said; the

Is understood as if 't were written down —
**His suit finds favor in your eyes." Now

This morning's letter that shall countermand
Last night's — do dictate that !

Mil. But, Thorold ~ if

I will receive him as I said ?
Treih. The Earl?

Mil. I will receive him.
Tresh. [Starling up,] Ho there 1 ChiendolenI
(OusNDOLBH and Ausmr enter,)
And, Austin, you are welcome, tool Look

there I
The woman there I
Aus.andGuen, How? Mildred?
Tresh. MUdredonoe!

Now the receiver night by night, when sleep
Blesses the inmates of hep father's house,
— I say^ the soft sly wanton that receives
Her guilt's accomplice 'neath this roof which

You, Guendolen, you, Austin, and has held
A thousand Treshams — never one like her !
No lighter of the signal-lamp her quick
Foul breath near ouenches in hot eagerness
To mix with breath as foul 1 no loosener
O' the lattice, practised in the stealthy tread.
The low voice and tlie noiseless come-and-go I
Not one composer of the bacchant's mien
Into— what you thought Mildred's, in a word t
Know her I

Guen. Oh. Mildred, look to me, at least I
Thorold— she *s dead, I'd say, but that she

Rigid as stone and whiter I
Tresh. You have heard . . .

Guen. Too much ! Yon must proceed no

Mil. Yes-

Pmceed I All 's truth. Go from me I

Tresh, All is truth,

She tells you I Well, you know,* or ought to

All this I would forgive in her. I 'd con

Digitized by




Sach precept the harsh world enjoins, I 'd take

Our ancestors* stem ferdiots one bj one,

I 'd bind myself before them to exact

TTke prescribed vengeance — and one word of

*nie night of her, the bare least memory
Of Mildred, my one sister, mv hearths pride
^bove all prides, my all in all so long,
"Woold scatter every trace of my resolve.
What vere it silently to waste away
^nd see her waste away from this day forth,
TTwo scathM things with leisure to repent,
.Aj[id grow acquainted with the grave, and die
THred out if not at peace, and be forgotten ?
It were not so impossible to bear.

Cut this — that, fresh from last mint's pledge

Of love with the sncoeasfni gallant there,
•She calmly bids me help her to entice.

Inv eigle an unconscious trusting youtn

Who thinks her all that 's chauste and good and

— Invites me to betray him . . . who so fit

As honor's self to cover shame's arch-deed f

— That she 'U receive Lord Mertonn — (her own
phrase) —

This, who could bear ? Why, you have heard
of thieves,

Stabbers, the earth's disgrace, who yet have

^'Talk not to me of torture — 1 11 betray

No comrade I 've idedged faith to 1 " — jaa
have heard

Of wretched women — aU but SiGldreds — tied

By wild illicit ties to loeels vile

You 'd tempt them to forsake ; and they 'U

*" Gold, fnends, repute, I left for him, I find
In him, whv should I leave him then for gold,
Bepute or mends ? " — and you have felt your

Respond to such poor outcasts of the world
As toso many friends ; bad as you please,
Tou've felt they were God's men and women

So, not to be disowned bv jrou. But she
That stands there, calmly gives her lover up
As mrans to wed the Earl that she may hiae
Their intercourse the surelier : and, for this,
I curse her to her face before you all.
Shame hunt her from the earth I Then Heaven

do right

To both I It hears me now — shall judge her

then I

lAt MjLDWKDfainU and /alls. TianUH rushes out,

Aus- Stay, Ijreeham, we '11 accompany yon 1

Gueiu We?

What, and leave Ifildred? We? Why,

where 's my place
But by her side, and where youn but by mine ?
Mildred — one word I Only look at me, then I
Aus. No, Quendolenl I echo Thorold's
She is unworthy to behold . . .

Guen. ^ Us two?

If you spoke on reflection, and if I
Approved jrour speech — if you (to put the thing
At lowest) you the soldier, bound to make

The king's cause yours and fight for it, and

Regard to others of its right or wrong,
— If with a death-white wcmian you can he^
Let alone sister, let alone a Mildred,
You left her — or if I. her cousin, friend
This morning, playfellow but yesterday.
Who said, or thought at least a thousand times,
** I 'd serve yon if I could," should now face

And say, " Ah, that 's to only signify
I 'd serve you while you 're fit to serve yourself,
So long as fifty eyes await the turn
Of vours to forestall its yet half -formed wish,
I 'II proffer my assistance prou 'U not need —
When every tongue is praising yon, I '11 join
The praisers' chorus -


-when you're hemmad

With tives between you and detraction— Uves
To be laid down if a rude voice, rash eye,
Rou^ hand should violate the sacred riiig
Their worship throws about yon, — then indeed.
Who 11 stand up for yon stout as I?" Ifso
We said, and so we did. — not Mildred there
Would be unworthy to behold us both.
But we should be unworthy, both of us«
To be beheld by — by — your meanest aog.
Which, if that sword were broken in your

Before a crowd, that badge torn off your breast.
And you cast out with hooting and contempt,
— Would push his way through aU the hooters,

Your side, go off wHh yoQ and aU your shame^
To the next ditch you choose to die in ! Austin,
Do you love me ? Here 's Austin, Mildred, —

here 's
Your brother says he does not believe half —
No, nor half that — of all he heard 1 He says.
Look up and take his hand I

Aus, Look up and take

My hand, dear Mildred 1

mil, I — I was so young 1

Beside, I loved him, Thorold —and I had
No mother : God forgot me : so, Ifell.

Guen. Mildred!

Mil, Require no further I Did I dream

That I could palliate what is done ? All 's true.
Now, punirii me I» A woman takes my hand ?
Let go my hand 1 Yon do not know, I see.
I thought that Thorold told yon.

Guen. What is this?

Whei« start you to?

Mil, Oh, Austin, loosen me !

You heard the whole of it — your eyes were

In their surprise, than Thorold's I Oh, unless
You stay to execute his sentence, loose
My huid t Has Thorold gone, and are you here ?

Guen, Here, Mildred, we two friendiB of youn
will wait
Your bidding ; be you silent, sleep or muse I
Only, when you shall want your bidding donOp
How can we do it if we are not by ?
Here 'a Austin waiting patiently your will I
One spirit to command, and one to love
And to believe in it and do its beet, ^

Poor as that is, to help it — why, the world

Digitized by




Has been won many a time, its length and

breadth, '
By hist snoh a beginning !

Mil, I belieye

If once I threw my arms about your neck
And sunk my head upon your breast, that I
Should weep again.

Guen, Let go her hand now, Austin 1

Wait for me. Pace the gallery and think
On the world^s seemings and realities.
Until I call you. [Auirni goes.

Mil, No — I cannot weep.

No more tears from this brain — no sleep — no

Guendolen, I love you I

Guen. Yes: and "love »»

Is a short word that says so very much I
It says that you confide in me.

Mil. Confide I

Guen, Your lover's name, then! IVe so
much to leam.
Ere I can work in your behalf I

Mil, My friend.

You know I cannot tell his name.

Guen. At least

He is your lover ? and vou love him too ?

Mil. Ah, do you ask me that? — but I am

Chten. You love him still, then ?

MU. My sole prop

Against the guilt that crushes me I 1 say.
Each night ere I lie down, " I was so young —

1 had no mother, and I loved him so I "
And then Qod seems indulgent, and I dare
Trust him my soul in sleep.

Guen. How could you let us

£*en talk to you about Lord Mertoun then ?

Mil, There is a cloud around me.

Guen, But jon said

You would receive his suit in spite of this ?

Mil, I say there is a cloud . . .

Guen, No doud to me I

Lord Mertoun and your lover are the same I

Mil, What maddest fancv . . .

Guen, [Calling aloud,] Austin I (spare your
pains —
When! have got a truth, that truth I keep) —

MU. By all you love, sweet Quendolen, f or-
Have I confided in you ; . .

Guen. Just for this !

Austin ! — Oh, not to guess it at the first 1
But I did ^ew it — that is, I divined.
Fdt bv an instinct how it was: why else
Should I pronounce you free from all that heap
Of sins wnich had been irredeemable ?
I felt thev were not yours— what other way
Than this, not yours? The secret's whoUy
mine I

1ft/. If you would see me die before his face . . .

Guen. 1 M hold my peace I And if the Earl
To-night? _ . , , .

Mil. Ah Heaven, he 's lost 1

Guen. I thought so. Austin I

{Enter Aurmi.)
Oh, where have you been hiding ?

Atu. Thorold 's gone^

I know not how, across the meadow-land.
I watched him ml I lost him in the skirts
O' the beech-wood.

Guen, Gone ? All thwarts us.

Mil. Thorold too f

Guen, I have thought. First lead this Mil-
dred to her room.
Go on the other side : and then we 11 seek
Your brother : and I'll tell you, by the wa]{r.
The greatest comfort in the world. You said
There was a clue to all. Remember, Sweet,
He said there was a due I I hold it. Come I

ACT 111

Bonn I. Uie end tf the Tew-tne Avenue under Mil-
DBn>*s window, A light uen through a central red

Enter Tubhax through the trees.

Tresh. Again here I But I cannot lose my-
The heath — the orchard — I have traversed

And dells and bosky paths which used to lead
Into green wild-wood depths, bewildering
M^ boy's adventurous step. And now they tend
Hither or soon or late ; the blackest shade
Breaks up, the thronged trunks of liie trees ope


And the dim turret I have fled from, fronts
Again my step ; the very river put
Its arm about me and conducted me
To this detested spot. Why then, I 'U shun
Their will no longer: do your will with me !
Oh, bitter I To nave reiu^d a towering scheme
Of happiness, and to behold it razed.
Were nothing : all men ho^, and see their hopes
Frustrate, and grieve awmle, and hope anew.
But I ... to hope that from a line like ours
No horrid prodigy like this would spring.
Were iust as though I hoped that from these old
Confederates against the soverei^ day.
Children of older and yet older sires.
Whose living coral berries dropped, as now
On me, on many a baron's surcoat once.
On many a beauty's wimple — would proceed
No poison-tree, to thrust, from hell its root,
Hither and lather its strange snaky arms.
Why came I here ? What must I do ? [il fteS

strike8.\ A heil?
Midnight ! and 't is at midnight . . . Ah, I catch
— Woods, river, plains, I catch your meaning

And I obey you I Wat ! This tree will serve.
IHe retires behind one of the tree*. After a pause,
enter MBsroim doaJced as before,
Mer. Not time! Beat out thy last voluptuous

Of hope and fear, my heart ! I thought the

I' the chapel struck as I was pushing through
The ferns. And so I shall no more see rise
My love-star ! Oh, no matter for the past I
So much the more delicious task to watch
Mildred revive : to pluck out, thorn by thorn.
All traces of the rough forbidden path

Digitized by




My- rash love lured her to I Each day most see
i^<»ne fear of hen effaced, some hope renewed :
Then there will be sorprises, unforeseen
Delights in store. I 'II not regret the past.

iTke lipkt i» placed above in the purple pane.
And see, my signal rises, Mildred's star I
I never saw it lovelier than now
It rises for the last dme. If it sets,
'T is that the reassuring sun may dawn.
{As he prepares to ascend the last tree 0/ the avenue^

TaaaxiAU arrests his arm.
Unhand me — peasant, by your grasp I Here 's

T ^ras a mad freak of mine. I said I 'd pluck
A branch from the white-blossomed shrub be-
The casement there. Take this, and hold your

VesA. Int<

SVesA. Into the moonlight yonder, come with
Out of the shadow.

Mar, I am anned, fool I

Tresh. Yes,

Or no ? You II come into the light, or no ?
My hand is on your throat — refuse I —

Mer. That voice I

Where have I heard . . . no — that was mild

and slow.
I 'U oome with you. iThep advance,

Treak. You 're armed : that 's well. Dechire
Tour name: who are yon?

Mer. (TreshamI— sheislosti)

2Ve*A. Oh, silent? Do you know, you bear
Szaotly as, in curious dreams I 've had
How felons, this wild earth i» full of, look
When they're detected, still your kind has

looked I
Tlie bravo holds an assured countenance.
The thief is voluble and plausible.
But sUently the slave of lost has crouched
When I have fancied it before a man.
Your name I

Mer, 1 do conjure Lord Treaham — ay,

Ejssing his foot, if so I might pretaU —
That he for his own sake forbear to ask
My name I As heaven 's above, his future weal
Or woe depends u^n my silence I Vain I
I read your white mexorable face.
Know me, Lord Tresham I

{He throws offUe disffwises.

Tresh. MertonnI

[After a pause,] Draw now I

Mer. Hear me

But speak Erst !

IVesh. Not one least word on your Hf e I

Be sure that I will strangle in your throat
The least word that informs me how you live
And yet seem what you seem ! No doubt 't was

Taught Mildred still to keep that face and sin.
We should join hands in fnmtic svmpathy
If you once taught me the unteachable,

Online LibraryRobert BrowningThe complete poetic and dramatic works of Robert Browning → online text (page 46 of 198)