T. Sturge (Thomas Sturge) Moore.

A Sicilian idyll and Judith. A conflict online

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To think I pleased so wonderful a man.

But let me send my maid to fetch some wine :

For thou hast drunk and art aglow with it,

But I have fasted and have danced, and now

I feel a chill and sinking of the heart.

Nor may I taste thy wine, for my vow's sake ;

But thou mayst taste of mine ; and I do think,

When thou hast touched it once, thou'lt drink again.

Go, Mira, haste thee, fetch our wine-skin hither,

Some of those yellow figs, and half a loaf.

[Exit MIRA left]


Yea, I will drink with thee, since thou art cold,

Though I have drunk enough for both already.


Thy vows are strict, since they forbid our wine,

I doubt if thine's as good.


It is not lawful

For any of our tribes to taste of aught
Or drink from vessel, or eat, which hath not been
First purified according to our law.
But thou wilt own my countrymen good vintners.

The country that affordeth such a woman
May well produce a wine unrivalled : enter.
[The first two BLACK SLAVES enter the tent, and
holding back the porch-curtain discover couches round a
table served with fruit flagons and cups. From the four
corners of the chief couch wands of silver lift a canopy of
jewelled needlework.]

I'll follow thee, my lord, I'll follow thee.

Precede me, dear dame, skilled in dance and wisdom !
My heart invites thee with a gleefulness
That fills me with assurance of long life.

JUDITH [half chanting]

My wisdom readeth prophecies in joy ;

All great joys shout to my fore-knowing heart

And wake its power divine :

Thy full glee speaks plain speech

And speech it loves to hear

To my fore-knowing heart.


Enter, and sing to me who dote on songs.



When I have rested, eaten, tasted wine,
Light-hearted will thine handmaid serve her lord.
[The curtain closes on JUDITH, HOLOFERNES,and the
FOUR remaining BLACK SLAVES, then BAGOAS comes
forth from the tent and forward. The glare from the
right has by now dispersed, and the darkness is faint
and blue with eastern starlight.]


He is a fool : no, he is very wise ;

I think of all my life and envy him :

Yet my heart loves to hear him called a fool,

And so I call him fool : wasting his time !

Last week it was to-day that we should march,

But now it is when next this woman's prayer

Is answered : well, who knows but what her prayer

Will be to him, and him beguile to spare

Her tribes ? he disobeys the great king thus !

Yet, if the great king's angered, he is dead :

But will have had the woman even so ...

[The moon rises in the left wing and casts level rays

along in front of the tent. BAGOAS peers under his

hand at it]

This orb blinds, but beauty salves my sight.

Who comes here ?

[Enter MIRA left, carrying the skin bottle and a bag.]

Come, damsel, give that me.


Nay, I must serve my mistress.


They'll send thee forth at once,


When I have given them wine.


Nay, let me serve them, damsel !

These poor old eyes are dim ;

Thy mistress' beauty is their cure ; each glance

I take at her doth seem to bathe my sight

Puts off the time when I shall be quite blind

Some hour. Thou dost not credit it ? alack !


My lord has smiled himself.


Thou dost not know what I shall give thee yet.

No, what ?


I said thou didst not know, nor canst thou till

Thou let me serve.


Thou pour my mistress' wine ?
Not unclean as thou art! Then she will have
A thing to say to me.


These are the best of reasons

To let me enter first ;

For both will have their wish ; I mine, thou thine.


Thou sayest thou wilt give me something, eh ?


I swear it, damsel ; let mine eyes drink light !


Tis true I call her oft the light of mine.

Go in : I shall be called for, I am sure.

[He goes in : she, left alone, speaks to herself.]

May God preserve us from these wicked men !

We do such brave things, I have quaked these days

More than in all my life before ; to live

Among the heathen, and they, soldiers, thus !

It is the thing no woman else would do.

BAGOAS [returning from the tent]
Woman, thy mistress hath a word for thee.
[He holds the curtain while MIRA enters the tent.]
Having now laved these old eyes in that vision
[He turns left from the tent, having closed its curtain.]
I look to dream as young men when the moon
Shines on Astarte's garden. There they smile
Sleeping among the flowers ; for through their lids
[He gazes up at the moon.]

That bright blank face seems womanly, loving and near.

[Exit left.]

[JUDITH'S voice from within

' Come for me on the midnight without fail :

Be very heedful lest thou oversleep.'

MIRA'S voice from within
' Thine handmaid hears.']

JUDITH [comes with MIRA to the curtain, which she
draws back and stands in the entrance]
At midnight then.

MIRA [turning towards the left]

By Jacob's God, at midnight.

[Exit left.]

JUDITH [looking in at HOLOFERNES]
Send forth thy slaves.




I am not as thy nation's women are.

How so ?


I cannot feel at ease while these stand by.


Tut ! black men have no souls, they are as dogs !


Not even a dog's eyes shall o'erlook my pleasures :

Nor can I empty my heart before cropped ears.


Well, well. Begone, ye rascals !


Bid them
Put out the lamps. The night is light enough.


Put out the lamps.

[The six BLACK SLAVES obey, then file out right.]

JUDITH [pours a cup of wine from the skin which
lies just within the tent, then bearing it inwards to

Empty this cup, my lord.

HOLOFERNES [sipping]

Rare wine it is.


I know not what beneath the flavour lurks

Like foreign women's thoughts behind thy smile.

JUDITH [returning to the door of the tent begins to


It goes down smoothly when one sips,

Doth the best juice of the best vine ;

We sleep, and, lo,

It brings speech from our mouths asleep :

And even so,

When drained from off beloved lips,

Kisses act like the best of wine . . .

HOLOFERNES [interrupting]

Call a slave to me !


What dost thou lack ?

Just the boy, Adonikam : call him.
Art thou afraid ?

HOLOFERNES [rises and staggers to the door]
It is a child. He'll lie beneath a mat
And neither see, nor think, nor understand.

JUDITH [meeting him]
Thou fearest me ?


I am drunk and not myself.


Look in my eyes.


O, those soft eyes ! those tantalizing eyes !


Forgive a queer chill thought that from the moon
Entered the tent despite of thy sweet singing.


A lover's thoughts should be red as dark wine.

[She leads him back to the couch, then comes and refills

his cup, and, making a few rhythmic steps as though she

would dance, bears it back to him while she croons]

Drink, drink, and drink again !

There is no other end of pain.


Now, thou art beautiful !

Thou fillest my heart with joy !

I think 'tis true, I've drunk more wine to-day

Than I have drunk in any single day

Since I was born : yet I will drink again,

For thou art beautiful,

And fillest my heart with joy.

JUDITH [returns half-dancing to the door of the tent and

takes up her song]

Drink, drink, and drink again !

There is no other end of pain,

No other rest for care,

No solace anywhere

For all that in our life we miss,

Save in this juice ; none save in this ;

None save in this !

HOLOFERNES [very thickly]
Thou art witty in thy words and in thy songs :
It is a god's doing when a woman is wise.
Lie down by my side ; I care not to get up
And I would kiss thee.


[JUDITH closes the curtain. HOLOFERNES' voice is
heard continuing as before from within

' By my soul's soul,

Here hath a great desire grown to kiss thee :
I'm very, very heavy and must sleep,
But when, when I have slept a while, wake me
And I will kiss thee ; lie thou close here,
And in a short time wake me, and I will kiss thee.
Yes, when thou wake me I
Will kiss thee ; truth, I will.'

A pause while HOLOFERNES makes certain indistinct
snore-like attempts at speech ; then a full silence, after
which JUDITH appears at the tent door and looks right
and left ; then looking upward she speaks]
Thou moon and O ye stars, ye hosts of light !
Terrible is your beauty unto me.
What am I ?

[She steps forward in front of the curtain.]
And what am I to do ?
Now is the time to help me ;
Thou hast seen me, O Lord God ;
He did not touch me to defile me, and he sleeps :
Thou puttedst this deed in my heart to do,
For all up at Bethulia did prepare
Being starved and thirsty did prepare their hearts
To anger thee and eat forbidden things ;
And they had opened the town gates ere long,
And given all thy land unto thy foe,
Unto this drunken beast.
Alas, I am alone,
Alone, in this huge night.
Ah, what am I to do ?

The most that can be done, the best, is like

A single point of light, a lonely star ;

Yea, this deed which so cries on me to do it

Will be for clearness but one fevered lamp ;

And all my life obscure and all the lives

Of those I live among, quite lustreless ;

Darkness in which this throbbing act of blood

Demands to shine. O God, it is thy will,

That didst create the evil and the good.

Pour thou thy strength into my weakness now ;

Pierce thou my life's obscurity at once !

Now is the time to help me, now at once,

For all around me sleep thine enemies.

[She returns to the tent. HOLOFERNES moans and

turns, and she takes up her crooning again, standing in

the door.]

With limbs that ache

Full many lie awake ;

With pangs as they were breaking

The jealous hearts lie waking :

Deep is the dream of mutual sleep

And kind as deep.

[She fetches HOLOFERNES' faulchion from the interior

and, carrying it in its sheath, comes forward out of the


Oh, I have never killed a man before !

No, never even slaughtered goat or sheep.

I have taken down his faulchion,

And now must make it bare.

[She prepares to draw the blade.]

To have stripped off my clothes before that man,

Whom wine had heated and whose god is vile,


Could not have caused more terror to my soul
Than now, before my hard unshrinking purpose,
To bare this blade.
[She draws the faulchion.]


Ravish not thou my heart !

[She lowers it and holds it behind her.]

1 have been praised for loving tenderness :
It was like sunshine to me when a child
Or a poor beggar knew my heart was kind,
Although before he had no knowledge of me . . .
Oh, this is vain as girls are vain for beauty !

It must be done.

[She raises the blade and looks at it.]

His hair must be put by and his thick beard ;

Swords will not cut them through, I've heard it said.

Shall I have strength to carve right through his bone ?

[She holds it up in her hands and prays.]

Be present with me now !

For the exaltation of thy people aid me now,

Approver of the righteous will that livest

Even in a woman's heart !

[She returns into the tent and draws the curtain.

Silence ; then the sound of the faulchion clinking against

something, a pause, then


' I will kiss thee, when I can ; 'deed I will.'

Soon after he gives a sharp groan, on which JUDITH'S

VOICE utters a little cry. A dead silence. Then a

noise of approaching voices from the right wing.


' Come nearer ! '


SECOND VOICE, as though struggling,

' You're drunk.']

[Enter two captains, one dragging the other, who



His own affairs absorb the man in there.

SECOND CAPTAIN [recoiling from the tent into the


Speak lower.

FIRST CAPTAIN [following and still holding him by

the wrist]

He is well occupied, deliciously engaged.


For my part, I would as soon sleep in a tomb

As lie with a witch !


Fie, think what eyes she has !


Who could feel certain he alone was with her ?


Her eyes keep to themselves more than they give,

Yet every man has from them all he wants.


Man most wants to be alone with woman . . .


You infer that the invisible demons attend

On witches . . .


Hush ! hour and place forbid.


[drags his fellow back from the tent which he is again


Why were things female stoned forth from our camp ?


Faint in attack is he who knows one waits

Within his tent to welcome, feed him, spoil him.

FIRST CAPTAIN [approaching the tent and gesticu-
lating with his free arm]

Yet this jimp damsel, large-eyed and small-handed,
Holds back these troops of men deprived of women.

SECOND CAPTAIN [hanging back]
Hush ! how you shout !

FIRST CAPTAIN [as before]

Its singularity magnifies the pleasure

He only in this army tastes to-night.


You're drunk, you're mad !

[wrenching free] Good night ! save your own neck !

[Exit right.]

FIRST CAPTAIN [throwing up his arms, in amused

disparagement of the coward]

Thy loins contain no boy-seed ripe for planting !


The unborn are our lords : they govern us :

It is the sons mewed up within a man

That egg him on to hazardous attempts.

[addressing the tent]

Part with thy teasing progeny and sleep ;


Parcel thy soul, but force me husband mine :
Thus shalt thou work thy fall and my promotion.

[Exit, stumbling among the tent pins on the right]
[Silence ; into which suddenly rises the sound of an
agony of weeping from within the tent, and as briefly
subsides; after which JUDITH, her face streaming with
tears, looks out, glances right and left and then retires.
There follows the noise of a heavy weight tumbled down
and some hasty moving of furniture. MIRA enters from
the right and standing outside cries :]
Lady, awake ; thou hast slept long enough.
[A silence.]

Hast thou heard ? Hast thou heard ? Oh, answer me !
Oh, I am greatly afraid, I know not why !

[JUDITH'S VOICE, with a strangely altered accent from

the tent

' All that there was to do, is done, is done ;

It is accomplished now, the cruel deed

That like this world went on with lies and mirth.']


It is an angel's voice ; save me, O God!

[JUDITH'S VOICE as before

4 Change not the heart because the hand is soiled ! '

More passionately

* Change not the heart that loves thy righteousness ! ']

MIRA [in terror]

Oh, what has happened ? should they both be dead

Slain by an angel, and I find them, oh !

[JUDITH'S VOICE, still more passionately
' Change not my heart ! ']


MIRA [stuffing her hands into her ears]

The angel speaks again : I will not listen,

For fear his words should strike my hearing dead,

Since those are blind who have once looked on angels.

[JUDITH'S VOICE as before

' Change not my heart ; though now my tears have dried,

Assure me that I shall weep ere I die ! ']

MIRA [gradually releasing her ears]

I dreamed I saw my mistress bathing naked ;

She dipped, then rose up black ; which black was red

The darkness made look black :

I screamed and called it blood and woke . . .

Hark, someone moves !

JUDITH [throws open the curtain ; all is dark within

the tent]

There is the canopy ; give me the bag,

Fold it up quickly lest the gems be seen.


What, has he given thee his fair cloth broidered

With peacocks' tails in emeralds and sapphires ?


It shall be dedicated to our God.

[While MIRA is busied wrapping up the canopy

JUDITH comes forward with the bag in her hand and

looking up speaks]

Oh, thou didst widow me unto this end !

No maid had known all this, and no wife could

Have left her husband for a work like mine.

But I, I knew the ways of men in drink,


The ways of drunken men in love ; O God,

My weak estate proved strength that I grieved for,

With that thou didst begird Manasses' widow ;

She grieved to think her husband such a man

As this bland easy-going Holofernes ;

She grieved to lose so kind and fond a husband :

Yea, both these griefs did long time suck my heart,

My childless heart, my widowed childless heart.

They were thy preparation for this deed ;

I am that woman whom thou didst prepare,

And what should my life henceforth be, O Lord ?

[MIR A, who has wrapped up the canopy, approaches her

mistress, and looks at her, trying to understand her


Pride 'tis and joy ! to have done a thing so needed !

I vow to live in a booth beside thy temple :

No more to pine for children, having conceived,

Ay, and with what shrewd throes brought forth, this


She who brings forth a son, compared with mine,
Tastes common glee, is proud for trivial cause !
This memory, breast-fed, shall be my daughter,
Live at my side, become a nobler woman
Than she who thought God had allotted her
A life already spoiled . . .

[MIRA, unable to understand, now touches her mistress's

JUDITH [starting]


I've packed it up and wrapped it in my shawl.



Here, take the bag again and hold it open.

[She returns into the tent, and immediately comes back

with the head and drops it into the bag held open by

MIRA, then says]

Ah ! Pull the strings tight !

[She rubs her hands together, then wipes them on the

curtain of the tent.]

MIRA [holding the bag still at arms'-length]

What ! was that his head ?

The captain's head ?

[Attempting to kneel before JUDITH]

Thou wonderful woman,

Thou daughter of God !

JUDITH [arresting her]

Now shall these heathen scud before our tribes,

Suspicious and amazed, in tumult captainless !

MIRA [as before]

By the lips of our elders should thy feet be kissed . .

Thou wilt not have me kneel ?

No, stand up.


In the clothes of a woman hast thou lived thy life,

And known the troubles of a maiden's bed.

I may not worship thee ?

No, not now.


A lady's jewels have not made thee vain,


Nor weakness taught thee fear of a drawn sword !


Enough !

MIRA [desisting from her attempts to kneel at her

mistress's feet]

We have lived here for this !

[She moves gravely away from her mistress towards the

canopy, then suddenly recollecting what she carries]

How heavy a head is !


Put it across thy shoulder.

Would that my knees felt stronger !

Bethulia's gate is full a league uphill.

Oh ! to be safe with friends !

MIRA [as she hoists the bag on to her shoulder]
So lordly, so good-humoured ; would I had
Made the bag clean . . . Look ! who is it comes ?


It does not know its way : it wanders, wanders !


" Its way " ? It is Bagoas ; can he have heard ?


Bagoas ? Art thou sure ?


Yes, yes, 'tis he.
Where is the canopy ? didst fold it up


Yea, there it is.


JUDITH [starting again]

Is the tent curtain drawn ?
[Enter BAGOAS from the left]

God ! [recovering herself]

Bagoas, hast had ill-dreams ?
BAGOAS [wearily]

My dreams are rarely good, but waking's worse :
The plague of pains that tease until you move,
And then begin elsewhere, lie how you may.

JUDITH [goes up to the tent and draws the curtain

across its entrance]

He sleeps, and we might wake him.

BAGOAS [with sudden vivacity]

Ah ! he sleeps ?

1 think he sleeps as he has rarely slept !

What mean those words ?

BAGOAS [startled at her tone]

Why ! what they mean, of course,
[chuckling once more.]
Thou know'st how he procured so sound a sleep.



O God ! indeed, O God ! [chuckles again.]


What must 1 do ?


What must thou do ? [alarmed] Art ill ? art ill ? faint, eh ?


JUDITH [faintly]
We must be gone.


He sleeps !

But thou, poor tired soul, must bathe and pray.

JUDITH [strangely, shaking herself]
Eunuch, I need to bathe ; I need to pray,
[to MIRA, recovering herself]
And we lose time.


I said I'ld give thee something.
Nay, do not start so ! 'Tis the best advice.
Neer trust an Eunuch, [chuckles.] 'Tis a rare gift.
The advice of one who knows so well as I
How true he speaks, [chuckles.]

JUDITH [in a whisper to MIRA]

What can he mean ?

MIRA [mazedly]

"Mean?" ah! .

BAGOAS [insinuatingly touching the bag on MIRA'S


Is it cosmetics? ointments, unguents, oils?

So many little pots, boxes with lids,

Sponges and pumice stones . . . [breaking off, surprised

at their terror]

Forgive, forgive !

My tongue appals you, yet would never blame you
For tending beauty with elaborate care !

JUDITH [picking up the canopy]
We must be gone at once.


BAGOAS [with a shiver, wrapping his cloak tighter]

And I take cold. Farewell.

MIRA [as she follows JUDITH out left]

Farewell ! [Exeunt.]

BAGOAS [turning appreciatively towards the tent]
What ease health hath ! contentment how it sleeps !
[He shuffles out on the left as the CURTAIN descends.]



I. Mr Sturge Moore's volume of poems, "THE VINEDRESSER," dis-
closed a more remarkable gift than any first book of verse of recent years. It
has puzzled the critics, who have contradicted each other more than usual
about it. ... Fertility and resourcefulness are excellent gifts, but they do
not of themselves imply high poetry, and I think Mr Moore has higher claims
than these. He has the creative imagination. . . . " The Vinedresser " has)
by its poetic accent, reminded Mr Quiller-Couch of Matthew Arnold . . . but
I think it recalls the author of the " Scholar Gipsy " in another quality also in
the felicity of its invention, in the discovery of a subject which, simple of itself
as a summer's day, is coloured with the ripe complexion of life, and yields vistas
into large and grave horizons. This is perhaps the most perfect thing in the
book, but Mr Moore's loftiest strain is in the poem on Jacob wrestling with
the Angel. Nothing could be more original or happy than the conception of
the two Angels conversing together on the heights above the valley where
Esau's and Jacob's tents are pitched. . . . But the whole poem should be
read ; it is woven of one tissue, not merely patched with beauties . . . the
verse has the high integrity of a style " relying for effect on the weight of
that which with entire fidelity it utters." Very few poems of recent years
approach this in its combined originality, dignity and strength. It was, I
think, scarcely mentioned by any reviewers. Mr Laurence Binyon in the
" Literary Year Book," 1899.

II. ON "POEMS," 1906

There are many pleasant poets of our time who might never have written
verse at all but for Keats or Shelley or Mr Swinburne. If anything could
have prevented Mr Moore from writing verse it would have been the over-
shadowing eminence of great men such as these. He is so determined not
to get any advantage from the facility which they have taught to the world,
and he would certainly rather write prose or not write at all than risk losing
the identity of his own thought in their borrowed glories. . . . Mr Moore is
not only a poet but a philosopher. The experience of life moves him to
meditation as well as to delight and to sorrow. . . . The bribe of inspiration
is too great for most poets to hesitate about accepting it on any terms.
When an ecstasy comes to them they will exploit it for all that it is worth.
They are apt, indeed, to cultivate an ecstatic habit of mind as one of
the conditions of their art. Mr Moore refuses to do this. He wants to
find the poetry in the nature of things, to experience life impartially, and
not as one who has an interest in being moved to tears or delight by
it. His search for the poetry in the nature of things is always worth
following. We can trust him not to cry poetry before he has found it, and
when he has found it our own trust in life is fortified by his success.
" The Speaker."



[In the volume of Poems, 1906, and also issued separately]

But the most magical passage in the whole poem, relating how the nymphs
of Artemis after the battle sought out and buried the dead Amazons, is
unfortunately too long to quote as a whole ; and to extract from it would
be to destroy that fine organic beauty of movement which is its singular
distinction. However, I would venture the assertion that, at least since the
"Artemis Prologizes" of Browning, there has been no passage of sustained
poetical harmony at all to be compared with this ; and, indeed, Browning's

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Online LibraryT. Sturge (Thomas Sturge) MooreA Sicilian idyll and Judith. A conflict → online text (page 3 of 4)