William Edmondstoune Aytoun.

Firmilian : or, The student of Badajoz. A spasmodic tragedy online

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That cannot be gainsayed. I know you loved me,
When, by the gentle Guadiana's stream.
We interchanged our troth.


And what hath chanced
Since then to make vou doubt me ? Have a care

38 F I R M I L I A N .

Of what you say, Firmilian ! Women's hearts
Are tender and impressible as wax,
But underneath there lies a solid fold
Of pride. You'd best be cautious !


Lo you now —
She makes me an accuser ! Mariana I
My own, my beautiful — I'd rather doubt
The lustre of the star Aldebaran
Than the firm faith of thine unbiassed soul.
But I have enemies. It is the fate
Of genius that it cannot spread its wings.
And soar triumphant to the welcoming clouds,
Without a hateful cawing from the crows.
Mark me ! I am not quite as other men ;
My aims are higher, more resolved than theirs.
And therefore they detest me. There's no shaft
Within the power of calumny to loose
Which is not bent at me. I am not blind


With soaring near the sun. I know full well
That envious men have termed me libertine —
And, from the frank out-welling of my mind
(Which never flowed from impulse save to thee),
Have done me fearful wrong. And this it is
That racks my being. There's your kinsman now,
Alonzo Olivarez — he makes free,
I'm told, with my fair fame.


You need not fear him.
Surely you know Alonzo.


Yes. I know him
As a strong fool, who, in his roystering cups.
Does far more mischief than the veriest knave
Whose power of satire makes his words suspect.
There's no such libeller as your arrant ass !
Men know he can't invent ; and what he says

40 F I R M I L I A N .

Gains credit from his sheer stupidity.
Hath he not talked of me ?


Indeed he has ;
But what he said escaped me.


Then I'm right !
He's Garcia's mouthpiece ; and I know the man
That sets them on— Alphonzo D'Aguilar —
Who swears you loved him once.


If he does so,
He's an unmeasured vilhiin ! What — Alphonzo ?
Had I ne'er seen thy face, Firmilian,
And did my choice lie 'twixt a muleteer
And that stiff scion of Castilian blood,

F I R M I L I A N . 41

I'd wed the peasant ! Do yon tell me this ?
O, now I understand their treachery !


And therefore solely have I tried thee thus.
Dear Mariana, weep not ! I perceive
What hath been done. Tis an accursed world,
Wherein bright things have little leave to shine
Without the sullying of some envious hand.
Henceforth be thou and I sole witnesses
Against each other. Let us shut the door
To all the outward blasts of calumny,
And live by mutual trusting. Dry your tears !
Or, if you will, weep on, and I shall count
For every pearly drop with D'Aguilar,
Making him pay the ransom with his blood.
O that a caitiff's slander should have power
To rack thee thus !

42 F I R M I L I A N .



'Tis gone — the storm has past.
'Twas but a bitter hail-sbower, and the sun
Laughs out again within the tranquil blue.
Henceforth, Firmilian, thou art safe with me.
If all the M'orld consi^ired to do thee wrong,
And heap its ugly slanders on thy head —
Yea, though an angel should denounce my love,
I would not listen. From thy lips alone
I'll hear confession.


And the penance, sweet —
Make it no more than this.

O balmy breath !

\Tlie scene closes.



A Tavern. Alphonzo D'Aguilae, Gaecia Pekez,
Alonzo Olivarez, and Fiemllian.


You take it far too hotly, D'Aguilar —
All men are fanciful in love, and beauty-
Is as abundant as the open air
In every region of this bounteous world.
You stand for Spanish beauty— what's your type ?
Dark hair, vermilion lips, an olive tint,
A stately carriage, and a flashing eye,
Go northward : there's your Dutchman — he prefers
Blonde tresses, dove-like glances and a form
Of most enticing plumpness. Then the Dane
Is all for red and blue ; the brighter color
Pertaining chiefly to the lady's hair,

ii F I R r.I I L I A N .

The duller to her eyes. For my own part,
I love variety.


And so do I,
Within its proper bounds. No grander show
Could poet fancy in his wildest dreams,
Than a great tournament of Europe's knights,
The free, the strong, the noble, and the brave,
Splintering their lances in a guarded list,
Beneath a balcony of Europe's dames.
Oh, could I sound a trump and bring them here.
In one vast troop of valor and renown !
The gay, light-hearted chivalry of France,
Tlie doughty English, and the hard}' Scot,
The swart Italian, and the ponderous Swede,
With those who dwell besidt) the castled Rhino.
Nor they alone, but witli them all the flowers
That send their odor over Christendom —
The fair and blushinji: bcauticf^ of the lands



From the far Baltic to our inland sea.
By him of Compostella ! 'twere a field
"Wherein a noble might be proud to die.


I am not noble, and I'd rather die
At peace in my own bed. But, D'Aguilar, —
Are you not too exclusive ? I have read — •
For I have been a student of romance,
And pored upon the tomes of chivalry —
How ere the days of mighty Charlemagne
The South did glorious battle with the North,
And Afric's atabals were heard to clang
'Among the thickets by the turbid Seine.
Yea, I have heard of knights of old descent,
Cross-hilted warriors, Paladins indeed,
"Who would have bartered all tlie boasted charms
Of Europe's beauties, for one kindly glance
Shot from the eyelids of a Paynim maid.

46 firmilian.


Firmilian, thou blasphemest ! Never knight
To whom the stroke of chivahy was given,
Could stoop to such an utter infamy !


Your pardon, Count ! When English Richard bore
Upon his bosom the Crusader's sign,
And fought in Palestine, he laid his sword
Upon the shoulder of a Moslem chief
And dubbed him, knight.


The greater villain he !
I've heard of that same Richard as a most
Malignant child of Luther.


Have you so ?

F I K M 1 L I A N . 47

Nay, then, cAronology must do him wrong :
But that's no matter. Then you would exchide
All beauty from that tournament of yours
Which did not appertain to Christendom ?


Doubt you the answer of a Christian peer,
Within whose veins the blood of old Castile,
Undimmed by peasant or mechanic mud,
Flows bright as ruby ? Yes, what mean you. Sir,
By asking such a question ?


Soft you now !
ThesB's no oifence. Let's hear Firmilian.


I knew a poet once ; and he was young.
And intermingled with such fierce desires
As made pale Eros veil his face with grief,

48 F I R M I L I A N .

And caused his lustier brother to rejoice.

He was as amorous as a crocodile

In the spring season, when the Memphian bank,

Receiving substance from the glaring sun,

Resolves itself from mud into a shore.

And — as the scaly creature wallowing there,

In its hot fits of passion, belches forth

The steam from out its nostrils, half in love,

And half in grim defiance of its kind ;

Trusting that cither, from the reedv fen.

Some reptile-virgin coyly may appear,

Or that the hoary Sultan of the Nile

May make tremendous challenge Avith his jaws,

And, like ]\[ark Anthony, assert his right

To all the Cleopatras of the ooze —

So fared it with the poet that I knew.

He had a soul beyond the vulgar reach,
Sun rii)Cuod swarthy. He was not the fool
To pluck the feeble lily from its siiade

F I K M I L I A N . 4:9

When the black hyacinth stood in fragrance by.
The lady of his love was dusk as Ind,
Her lips as plenteous as the Sphinx's arc,
And her short hair crisp with Numidian curl.
She was a negress. You have heard the strains
That Dante, Petrarch, and such puling fools
As loved the daughters of cold Japhet's race,
Have lavished idly on their icicles.
As snow melts snow, so their unhasty fall
Fell chill and barren on a pulseless heart.
But, would you know what noontide ardor is,
Or in what mood the lion, in the waste.
All fever-maddened, and intent on cubs,
At the oasis waits the lioness —
That shall you gather from the fiery song
Which that young poet framed, before he dared
Invade the vastness of his lady's lips.

Spawn of Mahmoud ! woukFst thou pollute mine
ears 3

50 I"- I K M I L I A N .

With tliy lewd ditties? There ! {Strikes him.)

Thou hast the hand
For once, of a true noble, on thy cheek ; •
And what the hand has done, it will defend.


This is too much ! Nay, D'Aguilar, you're wrong !
Alonzo Olivarez — rouse, thee, man !
Lay down the wine-pot for a moment's space.
There's a brawl here !


I wish you fellows would keep quiet, and not inter-
rupt drinking. It is a very disagreeable thing for
a sober man to be disturbed over his liquor. I sup-
pose you are quite aware that I can throw the
whole of you over the window in a minute. My
opinion is that you are a couple of bloody fools.
I don't know what you are quarrelling about, but
I won't stand auv nonsense.



You struck me, sir ?


I did.


And you're aware,
Of course, of what the consequence must be,
Unless you tender an apology ?


Of course I am.


Madman ! wouldst thou provoke
The slide o' the avalanche ?

62 firmilian.


I wait its fall
In perfect calmness.


O thou rash younp; lord !
Beware in time ! A liurricane of wratli
Is raging in my soul — If it burst fortli,
'Twere better for thee tliat within the waste
Thou inet'st a ravening tigress, or wert bound
In a lone churchyard where hy;\inas prowl !
I may forget myself !


Small chance of that.
Words are your weapons, and you wield them well ;
But gentlemen, when struck, are not in use
To rail like muleteers. You wear a sword, sir !



Are you mad, D'Aguilar, to court a brawl
Within the college precincts ! Olivarez —
Set down the flagon, and bestir thee, man ;
This must not be !


Nay, Perez, stand thou back —
He hath provoked his fate, and he must die.



I'll score the first man that makes a thrust, over
the costard with this pint-pot ! If you needs must
fight, fight like gentlemen in the open air, and at
a reasonable hour. What right has either of you
to disturb the conviviality of the evening ?


A blow — a blow ! I have received a blow —

54 F I R M I L I A N .

My soul's athirst for vengeance, and I'll have it!
Come not between the lion and his prey.


To the devil with yonr lions ! I suppose you think
it safe enough to roar now? Once for all, if you
can't settle this matter without fighting, fix some
hour to-morrow morning, and take your fill of it.
But here you shall not fight. What say you, Al-
phonzo ?


He hath the blow, so let him speak the first.


Agreed ! Until to-morrow, then, I'll keep
My rage unsated. Let the hour bo eight ;
The place, the meadow where the stream turns round
Beside the cork-trees ; and for witnesses,
Perez and Olivarez. D'Aguilar —

F I R M I L I A N . 55

If I should fail thee at the rendezvous,
Perpetual shame and infamy be mine !


Agreed ! And I rejoice to hear thee speak
So manfully. If I have done thee wrong,
I'll give thee satisfaction with my sword :
You show at least a nobler temper now.


Fail you not, D'Aguilar — /shall not fail.


Well — all that is comfortably adjusted, and just
as it should be. Let's have some more wine — this
talking makes a man thirsty.


No more for me.



Your pardon — I'd provided
(Not dreaming of this hot dispute to-niglit),
Some flasks of rarest wine — 'Tis lldefonso,
Of an old vintage. I'll not leave them here
To be a perquisite unto our host ;
And, lest our early parting lience should breed
Suspicion of to-morrow, let us stay
And drink another cup. You, D'Aguilar,
Whose sword must presently be crossed with mine,
Will not refuse a pledge ?


Not I, in faith !
Now you have shown your mettle, I regard you
More than I did before.


Fill then ycnir cups.
Nay, to the brim — the toast rccpiires it, sirs.
Here's to the ivin'r !



The King !


Fill up again —
'Tis my last pledge.


Why don't you help yourself ? The wine is capital.


My goblet's full. Drink to another King,
Whose awful aspect doth o'erawe the world —
The conqueror of conquerors — the vast
But unseen monarch to whose sceptre bow
The heads of kings and beggars !


That's the Pope !

58 F I It M I 1. I A N .


JSTo — not the Pope — but he that hnmbleth Popes.
Drink to King Death! — You stare, and stand

amazed —
O, you have much mista'en me, if you think
That some slight spurting of Castilian blood,
Or poet's ichor, can suffice to lay
The memory of to-night's affront asleep !
Death hath been sitting with us all the night.
Glaring through hollow eye-holes — to the doomed
He is invisible, but I have seen him
Point with his iiesliless linger ! Put no more —
Farewell ! — I go : and if you chance to hear
A passing-bell — be it a comfort to you !
At eight to-morrow I shall keep my time.
See you are there ! [Exit.


I think the fellow's mad !
I held liim oven as a mere poltroon ;

F I b' M I L I A N . 59

But that same blow of yoiu-'s, Alplionzo — 'faith,
'Twas wrong in you to give it — hath prevailed,
Like steel against a flint. He shows some fire,
And seems in deadly earnest — what's the matter ?


Don't ask — I'm sick and faint.


I'm not drunk, I am sure— hut I have the strangest
throbbing in my teinples. Do you think you could
get a waiter or two to carry me home ? I feel as
cold as a cucumber.


My brain swims too. Hark ! what is that without?

{The Passing-Ml tolls, and Monks are heard
chaunting the Penitential Psalms. Slow and
wailing mitsic as the scene closes.']


F I R M I r. I A N


Cloisters. Enter Firmilian.

This was a splendid iiioniing ! Tlic dew lay

In amplest drops upon the loaded o^rass,

And filled the buttercups hard by the place

Where I expected fiery D'Aguilar.

He did not come. Well — I was there at leaat,

And waited for an hour beyond the time,

During which while I studied botany,

And yet my proud opponent showed no face !

Pshaw ! to myself I'll be no hypocrite —

If Eaymond Lully lied not, they are dead,

And I have done it ! {A pause^

llow is this '': My mind
Is light and jocund. Yesternight I deemed,
When tlie dull passing-bell announced the fate
Of those insensate and presumjituous fools.

F I K M I L I A N . 61

That, as a vulture liglits on carrion flesh
With a shrill scream and flapping of its wings,
Keen-beaked Remorse would settle on my soul,
And fix her talons there. She did not come ;
Nay, stranger still — methought the passing-bell
AY as but the prelude to a rapturous strain
Of highest music, that entranced me quite. ^
For sleep descended on me, as it falls
Upon an infant in its mother's arms.
And all night long I dreamed of Indiana.
What ! is Remorse a fable after all —
A mere invention, as the Harpies were,
Or crazed Orestes' furies ? Or have I
Mista'en the ready way to lure her down ?
There are no beads of sweat upon my brow —
My clustering Iiair nuiintains its wonted curl,
Nor rises horrent, as a murderer's should.
I do not shudder, start, nor scream aloud —
Tremble at every sound — grow ghastly pale

62 F I K M I L 1 A N .

When a leaf falls, or when a lizard stirs.

I do not wring my fingers from their joints,

Or madly thrust them quite into my ears

To bar the echo of a dying groan.

And, after all, what is there to regret ?

Three fools have died carousing as they lived,

And nature makes no special moan for them.

If I have gained no knowledge by this deed,

I have lost none. The subtle alchemist,

Whose aim is the elixir, or that stone

The touch whereof makes baser metals gold.

Must needs endure much failure, ere he finds

The grand Arcanum. So is it with me.

I have but shot an idle bolt away,

And need not seek it furthei-. Who comes here

Enter a Priest and a Graduate.


Believe mo, father, they are all accurs'd !
These marble garments of tbo ancient (lods.



Which the blaspheming hand of Babylon
Hath gathered out of ruins, and hath raised
In this her dark extremity of sin ;
Not in the hour when she was sending forth
Her champions to the highway and the field,
To pine in deserts and to writhe in flame —
But in the scarlet frontage of her guilt,
When, not with purple only, but with blood.
Were the priests vested, and their festive cups
Foamed with the hemlock rather than the wine !
Call them not Churches, t-ither— call them prisons ;
And yet not such as bind the body in.
Bat gravestones of the soul ! For, look you, sir,
Beneath that weight of square-cut weary stone
A thousand workmen's souls are pent alive !
And therefore I declare them all accurs'd.


Peace, son ! thou ravest.



Do I rave indeed ?
So raved the Prophets when they told the truth
To Israel's stubborn councillors and kings —
So raved Cassandra, when in Hector's ear
She shrieked the presage of his coming full.
I am a prophet also — and I say
That o'er those stones" wherein you place your pride
Annihilation waves her dusky wing ;
Yea, do not marvel if the earth itself.
Like a huge giant, weary of the load,
Should heave them from its shoulders. 1 have said it.
It is my purpose, and they all shall down !



Alas, to see a being so distraught !

And yet there may be danger in his words,

For heresy is rife. Jla ! who is this?

F I R M I r, I A N . 65

If I mistake not, 'tis Firniilian,
Mine ancient pupil !


And he craves your blessing !


Thou hast it, son. Now tell me — didst thou hear
The words yon Graduate uttered ere he left ?
Methought his speech was levelled at the Church.


I heard him say all Churches should be levelled ;
That they were built on souls ; that earth would rise
To shake them from its shoulders ; and he railed
At Mother Rome, and called her Babylon.
My ears yet tingle with the impious sounds.


Ha — did he so ? By holy Nicholas,

lo6 F I R M I L I A N .

I'll have him straight reported ! Dost thou think,
Good son Firinilian, he deviseth aught
Against the Church, or us her ministers ?


I do suspect him very grievously.


And so do I. We hold a festival
On Tuesday next, when the Inquisitor
Is certain to be present — it were best
Ere then to give him notice. Who shall say
That, like another Samson, this vile wretch
May not drag down the ])illars of the Church*
And whelm us all in ruin ? I am bound
To see to that. Son — Benedicite !


On Tucsdav next, wlien tlic Inquisitor

F I R M I L I A N . 67

Is certain to be present ? — Lilian's uncle ?

That were an opportunity too rare

To be allowed to pass ! For this same priest —

He is my old preceptor, and instilled,

By dint of frequent and remorseless stripes

Applied at random to my childish rear,

Some learning into me. I owe him much,

And fain I would repay it. Ila — ha — ha !

What a dull creature was that Graduate

To blurt his folly out ! If a church falls

Within the next ten years in Badajoz,

Nay, if a single stone should tumble down.

Or a stray pebble mutilate the nose

Of some old saint within a crumbling niche,

His life will pay the forfeit. As he spoke,

Methought I saw the solid vaults give way,

And the entire cathedral rise in air,

As if it leaped from Pandemonium's jaws.

But that's a serious matter. I have time

To meditate the deed. These cloister walks

68 F I R M I L I A X.

Are dull and cheerless, and my spirit pants
For kind emotion. Let me pass from hence
And wile away an hour with Lilian.



A Wine Sho^. Nicodemus and Two Familiars.


Not a drop more, gentlemen, if you love me !


Nonsense, man ! We have not had as much as
would satisfy the thirst of a chicken. Another
stoup here ! And now tell us a little more about
your master.


Aha, sirs ! He's an odd one, is Senor Firmilian.


A devil anioner the wenches, T sn])])()sc ?

70 F I K M I L I A N .


Mum for that, sir ! I hoj)e I am not the man to
betray confidence. What I see, I behold ; and
what I behold I can keep to myself ; and there's
enough on't. What have 3'ou black-coated gentry
to do with the daughters of Eve ?


Nay, no offence meant, Master Nicodemus — you
are sharper than Pedrillo's razor ! What — young
blood will have its way ! But you are happy in
serving, as I hear, the most promising student in


Serving, sir ? Marry come up ! I'd have you
know that I am his secretary.


Aha ! Your health. Master Secretary ! I fear mo
you have heavy labor.

F I K M I L I A N . Tl


Don't speak of it ! If you knew what I have to
do — the books I have to translate from the Coptic,
Latin, Welsh, and other ancient languages — you'd
pity me. I sometimes wish I had never been
familiar with foreign tongues. Learning, my mas-
ters, is no inheritance. And then, when you come
to deal with the Black Art —


Enlighten us. Master Secretary — what is that ?


The Black Art ? Here is your ver}^ good health ! —
I wish you could see my master's room, after he has
been trying to call up the devil ! Lord, sir ! there's
no end of skulls, and chalk marks on the floor, and
stench of sulphur, and what not— but I don't believe
that, with all his pains, he ever brought the devil up.



Take another cup. — But he tries it sometimes ?


Punctually upon Wednesdays — about midnight,
when the whole household have gone to sleep.
But he's not up to the trick : he never could raise
anything larger than a hedge-hog.


But he lias done that, has he ?


Of course ! Any one can raise a hedge-hog. But
I'm not going to sit here all night seeing you
drinking. I must go home to translate Plotinus,
who was a respectable father of the Latin Church.
Take my advice and go home too — you are both
rather drunk. Where's my beaver ? Don't attempt

F I li M I L I A N . 73

to ofter me two, in case I put the pliantoiu one on
my head. I say — if there is a drop remaining in
tlic bottle, you might offer it by way of courtesy.
Thanks, and take care of yourselves. {Exit.


What say you to this story ? A clearer proof
Of arrant sorcery was never given
Unto the Holy office.


It is complete.
He raises hedi:;e-hoo;s ! That's enough fur me.


74- F I K M I L I A N



Choir hea/rd chcmntinfj loithin.

Enter Firmilian.

How diirkly hangs yon cloud above the spire !
There's thunder in the air —

What if the flash
Should rend the solid walls, and reach the vault,
Where my terrestial thunder lies prepared,
And so, without the action of iny hand,
AVhirl up those thousand bigots in its blaze.
And leave me guiltless, save in the intent.

That were a vile defraudnient of my aim.
A petty larceny o' the element.
An interjection of exceeding wrong !

F I K M I L I A N . 75

Let the lioarse thunder rend the vault of heaven.
Yea, shake the stars bj myriads from their boughs.
As Autumn tempests shake the fruitage down ; —
Let the red lightning shoot athwart the sky,
Entangling comets by tlieii- spooming liair.
Piercing the zodiac belt, and carrying dread
To old Orion, and liis whimpering liound ; —
But let the glory of this deed be mine !


Sublimatus ad honorem

Nicholai presulis :
Pietatis ante rorem

Cunctis pluit populis :
Ut vix parem aut majoreni

Habeat in seculis.


Yet I could weep to hear the wretches sing !
There rolls the organ anthem down the aisle.

76 F 1 K M 1 L I A N .

And tliousand voices join in its acclaim.

All they are happy — they are on their knees ;

Round and above them stare the images

Of antique saints and martyrs. Censors steam

With their Arabian charge of frankincense,

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Online LibraryWilliam Edmondstoune AytounFirmilian : or, The student of Badajoz. A spasmodic tragedy → online text (page 2 of 5)