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The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 06 Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English. in Twenty Volumes online

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Lured by a woman's too lascivious charm,
A thing in no wise seeming us to judge -
The Queen!

_The_ QUEEN, _accompanied by_ DOÑA CLARA _and several ladies, enters
from the right, and seats herself on the throne, after she has indicated
to the grandees who have arisen that they are to resume their seats._

MANRIQUE. Have I permission, Majesty?

QUEEN. Proceed.

MANRIQUE. What I just said, I shall repeat
"A thing in no wise seeming us to judge."
But at the bound'ries arms him now the Moor,
And threats with war the hard-oppressed land;
So now the right and duty of the King
Is straight to ward this danger from us all,
With forces he has called and raised himself.
But see, the King is missing! He will come,
I know, if only angry that we called
Of our own power and will this parliament.
But if the cause remains that keeps him hence,
Unto his former bonds he will return,
And, first as last, we be an orphan land.
Your pardon?

[_The_ QUEEN _signs him to continue._]

First of all, the girl must go.
Full many propositions are at hand.
Some are there here who wish to buy her off,
And others wish to send her from the land,
A prisoner in some far distant clime.
The King has money, too, and though she's far,
You know that power can find whate'er it seeks.
A third proposal -

[_The_ QUEEN, _at these words, has arisen._]

Pardon, noble Queen!
You are too mild for this our business drear!
Your very kindness, lacking vigorous will
From which to draw renewal of its strength,
Has most of all, perhaps, estranged our King.
I blame you not, I say but what is true.
I pray you, then, to waive your own desire,
But if it please you otherwise, then speak!
What flow'ry fate, what flatt'ring punishment,
Is suited to the sin this drab has done?

QUEEN (_softly_).
Death.

MANRIQUE. In truth?

QUEEN (_more firmly_).

Yes, death.

MANRIQUE. Ye hear, my lords!
This was the third proposal, which, although
A man, I did not earlier dare to speak.

QUEEN. Is marriage not the very holiest,
Since it makes right what else forbidden is,
And that, which horrible to all the chaste,
Exalts to duty, pleasing unto God?
Other commandments of our God most high
Give added strength to our regard for right,
But what so strong that it ennobles sin
Must be the strongest of commandments all.
Against that law this woman now has sinned.
But if my husband's wrong continueth,
Then I myself, in all my married years,
A sinner was and not a wife, our son
Is but a misborn bastard-spawn, a shame
Unto himself, and sore disgrace to us.
If ye in me see guilt, then kill me, pray!
I will not live if I be flecked with sin.
Then may he from the princesses about
A spouse him choose, since only his caprice,
And not what is allowed, can govern him.
But if she is the vilest of this earth,
Then purify your King and all his land.
I am ashamed to speak like this to men,
It scarce becomes me, but I needs must speak.

MANRIQUE. But will the King endure this? If so, how?

QUEEN. He will, indeed, because he ought and must.
Then on the murd'rers he can take revenge,
And first of all strike me and this, my breast.

[_She sits down._]

MANRIQUE. There is no hope of any other way.
The noblest in the battle meet their doom -
To die a bitter, yea, a cruel death -
Tortured with thirst, and under horses' hoofs,
A doubler, sharper, bitt'rer meed of pain
Than ever, sinner on the gallows-tree,
And sickness daily takes our best away;
For God is prodigal with human life;
Should we be timid, then, where his command,
His holy law, which he himself has giv'n,
Demands, as here, that he who sins shall die?
Together then, we will request the King
To move from out his path this stumbling-block
Which keeps him from his own, his own from him.
If he refuse, blood's law be on the land,
Until the law and prince be one again,
And we may serve them both by serving one.

_A servant comes._

SERVANT. Don Garceran!

MANRIQUE. And does the traitor dare?
Tell him -

SERVANT. The message is his Majesty's.

MANRIQUE. That's diff'rent. An' he were my deadly foe,
He has my ear, when speaks he for the King.

_Enter _GARCERAN.

MANRIQUE. At once your message give us; then, farewell.

GARCERAN. O Queen, sublime, and thou my father, too,
And ye besides, the best of all the land!
I feel today, as ne'er before I felt,
That to be trusted is the highest good,
And that frivolity, though free of guilt,
Destroys and paralyzes more than sin
Itself. _One_ error is condoned at last,
Frivolity is ever prone to err.
And so, today, though conscious of no fault,
I stand before you sullied, and atone
For youthful heedlessness that passed for wrong.

MANRIQUE. Of that, another time! Your message now!

GARCERAN. The King through me dissolves this parliament.

MANRIQUE. And since he sent frivolity itself
He surely gave some token from his hand,
Some written word as pledge and surety?

GARCERAN. Hot-foot he followeth.

MANRIQUE. That is enough!
So in the royal name I now dissolve
This parliament. Ye are dismissed. But list
Ye to my wish and my advice: Return
Ye not at once unto your homes, but wait
Ye rather, round about, till it appears
Whether the King will take the task we leave,
Or we must still perform it in his name.

(_To_ GARCERAN.)

However, you, in princely service skilled,
If spying be your office 'mongst us here,
I beg you tell your King what I advised,
And that th' estates in truth have been dissolved,
But yet are ready to unite for deeds.

GARCERAN. Then once again, before you all, I say
No tort have I in this mad escapade.
As it was chance that brought me from the camp,
So chanced it that the King selected me
To guard this maiden from the people's rage;
And what with warning, reason, argument,
A man may do to ward off ill, although
'Twas fruitless, I admit, - that have I tried.
I should deserve your scorn were this not so.
And Doña Clara, doubly destined mine,
By parents both and by my wish as well,
You need not hang your noble head, for though
Unworthy of you - never worthy, - I
Not less am worthy now than e'er before.
I stand before you here and swear: 'Tis so.

MANRIQUE. If this is so, and thou art still a man,
Be a Castilian now and join with us
To serve thy country's cause as we it serve.
Thou art acquainted in the castle there;
The captain opes the gates if thou demand.
Perhaps we soon shall need to enter thus,
If deaf the King, our noble lord.

GARCERAN. No word
Against the King, my master!

MANRIQUE. Thine the choice!
But follow for the nonce these other lords,
The outcome may be better than we think.

[_Servant entering from the left._]

SERVANT. His Majesty, the King!

MANRIQUE (_to the estates, pointing to the middle door_).

This way - withdraw!

(_To the servants._)

And ye, arrange these chairs along the wall.
Naught shall remind him that we gathered here

QUEEN (_who has stepped down from the throne_).

My knees are trembling, yet there's none to aid.

MANRIQUE. Virtue abode with strength in days of yore,
But latterly, estranged, they separate.
Strength stayed with youth - where she was wont to be -
And virtue fled to gray and ancient heads.
Here, take my arm! Though tottering the step,
And strength be lacking, - virtue still abides.

[_He leads the _QUEEN _off at the right. The estates, with _GARCERAN,_
have gone out through the centre door. The_ KING _comes from the left,
behind him his page._]

KING. The sorrel, say you, limps? The pace was fast,
But I no further need shall have of him.
So to Toledo, pray you, have him led,
Where rest will soon restore him. I, myself,
Will at my spouse's side, in her own coach
Return from here, in sight of all the folk,
That what they see they may believe, and know
That discord and dissension are removed.

[_The page goes._]

I am alone. Does no one come to meet?
Naught but bare walls and silent furniture!
It is but recently that they have met.
And oh, these empty chairs much louder speak
Than those who sat upon them e'er have done!
What use to chew the bitter cud of thought?
I must begin to remedy the ill.
Here goes the way to where my wife doth dwell. -
I'll enter on this most unwelcome path.

[_He approaches the side door at the right._]

What, barred the door? Hallo, in there! The King
It is, who's master in this house! For me
There is no lock, no door to shut me out.

[_A waiting-woman enters through the door._]

KING. Ye bar yourselves?

WAITING WOMAN. The Queen, your Majesty -

(_As the _KING _is about to enter rapidly._)

The inner door she, too, herself, has locked.

KING. I will not force my way. Announce to her
That I am back, and this my summons is -
Say, rather, my request - as now I say.

[_Exit waiting-woman._]

KING (_standing opposite the throne_).

Thou lofty seat, o'ertopping others all,
Grant that we may no lower be than thou,
And even unexalted by these steps
We yet may hold just measure of the good.

_Enter the _QUEEN.

KING (_going toward her with outstretched hands_).

I greet thee, Leonore!

QUEEN. Be welcome, thou!

KING. And not thy hand?

QUEEN. I'm glad to see thee here.

KING. And not thy hand?

QUEEN (_bursting into tears_).

O help me, gracious God!

KING. This hand is not pest-stricken, Leonore,
Go I to battle, as I ought and must,
It will be smeared and drenched with hostile blood;
Pure water will remove the noisome slime,
And for thy "welcome" I shall bring it pure.
Like water for the gross and earthly stain
There is a cleanser for our sullied souls.
Thou art, as Christian, strong enough in faith
To know repentance hath a such-like might.
We others, wont to live a life of deeds,
Are not inclined to modest means like this,
Which takes the guilt away, but not the harm -
Yes, half but is the fear of some new sin.
If wishing better things, if glad resolve
Are any hostage-bond for now and then,
Take it - as I do give it - true and whole!

QUEEN (_holding out both hands_).

O God, how gladly!

KING. No, not both thy hands!
The right alone, though farther from the heart,
Is giv'n as pledge of contract and of bond,
Perhaps to indicate that not alone
Emotion, which is rooted in our hearts,
But reason, too, the person's whole intent,
Must give endurance to the plighted word.
Emotion's tide is swift of change as time;
That which is pondered, has abiding strength.

QUEEN (_offering him her right hand_).

That too! Myself entire!

KING. Trembleth thy hand!

(_Dropping her hand._)

O noble wife, I would not treat thee ill.
Believe not that, because I speak less mild,
I know less well how great has been my fault,
Nor honor less the kindness of thy heart.

QUEEN. 'Tis easy to forgive; to comprehend
Is much more difficult. How it _could_ be,
I understand it not!

KING. My wife and queen,
We lived as children till but recently.
As such our hands were joined in marriage vows,
And then as guileless children lived we on.
But children grow, with the increase of years,
And ev'ry stage of our development
By some discomfort doth proclaim itself.
Often it is a sickness, warning us
That we are diff'rent - other, though the same,
And other things are fitting in the same.
So is it with our inmost soul as well -
It stretches out, a wider orbit gains,
Described about the selfsame centre still.
Such sickness have we, then, but now passed through;
And saying we, I mean that thou as well
Art not a stranger to such inner growth.
Let's not, unheeding, pass the warning by!
In future let us live as kings should live -
For kings we are. Nor let us shut ourselves
From out this world, and all that's good and great;
And like the bees which, at each close of day,
Return unto their hives with lading sweet,
So much the richer by their daily gain,
We'll find within the circle of our home,
Through hours of deprivation, added sweets.

QUEEN. If thou desirest, yes; for me, I miss them not.

KING. But thou wilt miss them then in retrospect,
When thou hast that whereby one judges worth.
But let us now forget what's past and gone!
I like it not, when starting on a course,
By any hindrance thus to bar the way
With rubbish from an earlier estate.
I do absolve myself from all my sins.
Thou hast no need - thou, in thy purity!

QUEEN. Not so! Not so! My husband, if thou knew'st
What black and mischief-bringing thoughts have found
Their way into my sad and trembling heart!

KING. Perhaps of vengeance? Why, so much the better!
Thou feel'st the human duty to forgive,
And know'st that e'en the best of us may err.
We will not punish, nor avenge ourselves;
For _she_, believe me, _she_ is guiltless quite,
As common grossness or vain weakness is,
Which merely struggles not, but limply yields.
I only bear the guilt, myself alone.

QUEEN. Let me believe what keeps and comforts me
The Moorish folk, and all that like them are,
Do practise secret and nefarious arts,
With pictures, signs and sayings, evil draughts,
Which turn a mortal's heart within his breast,
And make his will obedient to their own.

KING. Magic devices round about us are,
But we are the magicians, we ourselves.
That which is far removed, a thought brings near;
What we have scorned, another time seems fair;
And in this world so full of miracles,
We are the greatest miracle ourselves!

QUEEN. She has thy picture!

KING. And she shall return 't,
In full view I shall nail it to the wall,
And for my children's children write beneath:
A King, who, not so evil in himself,
Hath once forgot his office and his duty.
Thank God that he did find himself again.

QUEEN. But thou, thyself, dost wear about thy neck -

KING. Oh yes! Her picture? So you knew that, too?

[_He takes the picture with the chain from his neck, and lays it on the
table in the foreground to the right._]

So then I lay it down, and may it lie -
A bolt not harmful, now the thunder's past.
The girl herself - let her be ta'en away!
She then may have a man from out her race -

[_Walking fitfully back and forth from the rear to the front of the
stage, and stopping short now and then._]

But no, not that! - The women of this race
Are passable, good even, but the men
With dirty hands and narrow greed of gain -
This girl shall not be touched by such a one.
Indeed, she has to better ones belonged.
But then, what's that to me? - If thus or thus,
If near or far - they may look after that!

QUEEN. Wilt thou, then, Don Alfonso, stay thus strong?

KING (_standing still_).

Forsooth, thou ne'er hast known or seen this girl!
Take all the faults that on this broad earth dwell,
Folly and vanity, and weakness, too,
Cunning and boldness, coquetry and greed -
Put them together and thou hast this woman;
And if, enigma thou, not magic art,
Shouldst call her power to charm me, I'll agree,
And were ashamed, were't not but natural, too!

QUEEN (_walks up and down_).

Believe me, husband, 'twas not natural!

KING (_standing still_).

Magic there is, in truth. Its name is custom,
Which first not potent, later holds us fast;
So that which at the outset shocked, appalled,
Sloughs off the first impression of disgust,
And grows, a thing continued, to a need -
Is this not of our very bodies true?
This chain I wore - which now here idly lies,
Ta'en off forever - breast and neck alike,
To this impression have become so used -

(_Shaking himself._)

The empty spaces make me shake with cold.
I'll choose myself another chain forthwith;
The body jests not when it warning sends.
And now enough of this!
But that you could
Avenge yourselves in blood on this poor fool -
That was not well!

(_Stepping to the table._)

For do but see these eyes -
Yes, see the eyes, the body, neck, and form!
God made them verily with master hand;
'Twas she _herself_ the image did distort.
Let us revere in her, then, God's own work,
And not destroy what he so wisely built.

QUEEN. Oh, touch it not!

KING. This nonsense now again!
And if I really take it in my hand,

(_He has taken the picture in his hand_)

Am I another, then? I wind the chain
In jest, to mock you, thus about my neck,

(_Doing it._)

The face that 'frights you in my bosom hide -
Am I the less Alfonso, who doth see
That he has err'd, and who the fault condemns?
Then of your nonsense let this be enough!

[_He draws away from the table._]

QUEEN. Only -

KING (_wildly looking at her_).

What is 't?

QUEEN. O God in heav'n!

KING. Be frighted not, good wife! Be sensible!
Repeat not evermore the selfsame thing!
It doth remind me of the difference.

(_Pointing to the table, then to his breast._)

This girl there - no, of course now she is here -
If she was foolish, foolish she would be,
Nor claimed that she was pious, chaste, and wise.
And this is ever virtuous women's way -
They reckon always with their virtue thus;
If you are sad, with virtue comfort they,
If joyous is your mood, virtue again,
To take your cheerfulness at last away,
And show you as your sole salvation, sin.
Virtue's a name for virtues manifold,
And diff'rent, as occasion doth demand -
It is no empty image without fault,
And therefore, too, without all excellence.
I will just doff the chain now from my neck,
For it reminds me -
And, then, Leonore,
That with the vassals thou didst join thyself -
That was not well, was neither wise nor just.
If thou art angry with me, thou art right;
But these men, my dependents, subjects all -
What want they, then? Am I a child, a boy,
Who not yet knows the compass of his place?
They share with me the kingdom's care and toil,
And equal care is duty, too, for me.
But I the _man_ Alfonso, not the King,
Within my house, my person, and my life -
Must I accounting render to these men?
Not so! And gave I ear but to my wrath,
I quickly would return from whence I came,
To show that they with neither blame nor praise
Shall dare to sit in judgment over me.

[_Stepping forward and stamping on the floor._]

And finally this dotard, Don Manrique,
If he was once my guardian, is he still?

[_DON MANRIQUE appears at the centre door. The QUEEN points to the KING,
and wrings her hand. MANRIQUE withdraws with a reassuring gesture._]

KING. Presumes he to his sov'reign to prescribe
The rustic precepts of senility?
Would he with secret, rash, and desp'rate deed -

(_Walking back and forth diagonally across the stage_)

I will investigate this case as judge;
And if there be a trace here of offense,
Of insolent intent or wrongful act,
The nearer that the guilty stand to me,
The more shall boldness pay the penalty.
Not thou, Leonore, no, thou art excused!

[_During the last speech, the QUEEN has quietly withdrawn through the
door at the right._]

Whither, then, went she? Leave they me alone?
Am I a fool within mine own abode?

[_He approaches the door at the right._]

I'll go to her - What, is it bolted, barred?

[_Bursting open the door with a kick._]

I'll take by storm, then, my domestic bliss.

[_He goes in._]

[_DON MANRIQUE and GARCERAN appear at the centre door. The latter takes
a step across the threshold._]

MANRIQUE. Wilt thou with, us?

GARCERAN. My father!

MANRIQUE. Wilt thou not?
The rest are gone - wilt follow them?

GARCERAN. I will.

[_They withdraw, the door closes. Pause. The_ KING _returns. In the



Online LibraryUnknownThe German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 06 Masterpieces of German Literature Translated into English. in Twenty Volumes → online text (page 29 of 37)