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From hall to hall by the entangled hair;
At others, pens up naked in damp cells
Where scaly reptiles crawl, and starves her there, SCENE I.
Till she will eat strange flesh. This woful story
That I imagined-no, it cannot be !
Horrible things have been in this wild world,
Of good and ill; and worse have been conceived
But never fancy imaged such a deed
(Pauses, suddenly recollecting herself. LUCRETIA.
Who art thou ? Swear to me, ere I die
With fearful expectation, that indeed
Thou art not what thou seemest—Mother!
My sweet child, know you-
Yet speak it not:
Never to change, never to pass away. The beautiful blue Heaven is fleck'd with blood!
Why so it is. This is the Cenci Palace; The sunshine on the floor is black! The air
Thou art Lucretia; I am Beatrice. Is changed to vapors such as the dead breathe I have talk'd some wild words, but will no more. In charnel-pits ! Pah! I am choked! There creeps Mother, come near me: from this point of time, A clinging, black, contaminating mist
(Her voice dies away fainly. About me—'tis substantial, heavy, thick. I cannot pluck it from me, for it glues
LUCRETIA. My fingers and my limbs to one another,
Alas! What has befallen thee, child ? And eats into my sinews, and dissolves
What has thy father done? My flesh to a pollution, poisoning
BEATRICE The subtle, pure, and inmost spirit of life!
What have I done! My God! I never knew what the mad felt
Am I not innocent ? Is it my crime Before ; for I am mad beyond all doubt!
That one with white hair, and imperious brow,
[ More wildly. Who tortured me from my forgotten years, No, I am dead! These putrefying limbs
As parents only dare, should call himself Shut round and sepulchre the panting soul
My father, yet should be !Oh, what am I? Which would burst forth into the wandering air! What name, what place, what memory shall be mine!
[A pause. What retrospects, outliving even despair ? What hideous thought was that I had even now?
LUCRETIA "Tis gone; and yet its burthen remains here O’er these dull eyes—upon this weary heart !
He is a violent tyrant, surely, child :
We know that death alone can make us free;
Of deadlier outrage or worse injury?
A wandering and strange spirit. Speak to me: But not its cause; suffering has dried away Unlock those pallid hands whose fingers twine The source from which it sprung.
With one another.
"T'is the restless life Misery has kill'd its father : yet its father Tortured within them. If I try to speak Never like mine—0, God! What thing am I? I shall go mad. Ay, something must be done ;
What, yet I know not-something which shall make LUCRETIA.
The thing that I have suffer'd but a shadow
In the dread lightning which avenges it;
Brief, rapid, irreversible, destroying
[Aside. Some such thing is to be endured or done : She is the madhouse nurse who tends on me: When I know what, I shall be still and calm, It is a piteous office.
And never any thing will move me more. [TO LUCRETIA, in a slow, subdued voice. But now !-Oh blood, which art my father's blood, Do you know,
Circling through these contaminated veins, I thought I was that wretched Beatrice
If thou, pour'd forth on the polluted earth, Men speak of, whom her father sometimes hales Could wash away the crime, and punishment
By which I suffer-no, that cannot be!
Might be no refuge from the consciousness Many might doubt there were a God above of what is yet unexpiated. Oh, speak! Who sees and permits evil, and so die:
Accuse him of the deed, and let the law
BEATRICE. Yet what, I dare not guess. Oh! my lost child,
Oh, ice-hearted counsellor! Hide not in proud impenetrable grief
If I could find a word that might make known
The crime of my destroyer; and that done,
My tongue should like a knife tear out the secret
Which cankers my heart's core ; ay, lay all bare, What are the words which you would have me speak? So that my unpolluted fame should be I, who can feign no image in my mind
With vilest gossips a stale-mouth'd story; Of that which has transform'd me. I, whose thought A mock, a byword, an astonishment: Is like a ghost shrouded and folded up
If this were done, which never shall be done, In its own formless horror. Of all words,
Think of the offender's gold, his dreaded hate, That minister 10 mortal intercourse,
And the strange horror of the accuser's tale, Which wouldst thou hear ? For there is none to tell Baffling belief, and overpowering speech; My misery: if another ever knew
Scarce whisper'd, unimaginable, wrapt
In hideous hints—Oh, most assured redress!
It seems your counsel is small profit.
[Turns from him, and speaks half to herself. Till in your season you be called to heaven.
Ay, Whate'er you may have suffer'd, you have done
All must be suddenly resolved and done. No evil. Death must be the punishment
What is this undistinguishable mist Of crime, or the reward of trampling down
Of thoughts, which rise, like shadow after shadow, The thorns which God has strew'd upon the path
Darkening each other? Which leads to immortality.
Should the offender live! Ay, death
Triumph in his misdeed ? and make, by use, The punishment of crime. I pray thee, God, His crime, whate'er it is, dreadful no doubt, Let me not be bewilder'd while I judge.
Thine element; until thou mayest become
Utterly lost; subdued even to the hue
BEATRICE (to herself).
Thou double-visaged shadow! Only judge! For thy decree yawns like a Hell between
Rightfullest arbiter! Our will and it :-Oh! in this mortal world
[She retires absorbed in thought. There is no vindication and no law Which can adjudge and execute the doom
LUCRETIA. Of that through which I suffer.
If the lightning
Of God has e'er descended to avengeEnter ORSINO. (She approaches him solemnly). Welcome, Friend!
Blaspheme not! His high Providence commits
Its glory on this earth, and their own wrongs
To punish crime-
But if one, like this wretch,
Should mock with gold, opinion, law, and power ? And what is he who has thus injured you ?
If there be no appeal to that which makes
For that they are unnatural, strange and monstrous, The man they call my father: a dread name. Exceed all measure of belief? Oh, God!
If, for the very reasons which should make It cannot be
Redress most swift and sure, our injurer triumphs !
And we the victims, bear worse punishment
Than that appointed for their torturer ?
ORSINO. Advise me how it shall not be again.
Think not I thought to die ; but a religious awe
But that there is redress where there is wrong, Restrains me, and the dread lest death itself So we be bold enough to seize it.
To-morrow before dawn, If there were any way to make all sure,
Cenci will take us to that lonely rock, I know not—but I think it might be good
Petrella, in the Apulian Apennines.
If he arrive there
He must not arrive.
Will it be dark before you reach the tower?
The sun will scarce be set.
But I remember
Two miles on this side of the fort, the road Will arise thence, where every other one
Crosses a deep ravine ; 'tis rough, and narrow, Might find them with less need.
And winds with short turns down the precipice; (BEATRICE advances.)
And in its depth there is a mighty rock,
Sustain'd itself with terror and with toil
Over a gulf, and with the agony
With which it clings, seems slowly coming down;
Even as a wretched soul, hour after hour, And, honor'd lady, while I speak, I pray
Clings to the mass of life; yet clinging, leans; That you put off, as garments overworn,
And leaning, makes more dark the dread abyss Forbearance and respect, remorse and fear,
In which it fears to fall: beneath this crag
Huge as despair, as if in weariness,
You hear but see not an impetuous torrent Would be a mockery to my holier plea.
Raging among the caverns, and a bridge As I have said, I have endured a wrong,
Crosses the chasm; and high above there grow, Which, though it be expressionless, is such
With intersecting trunks, from crag to crag, As asks atonement; both for what is past,
Cedars, and yews, and pines; whose tangled hair And lest I be reserved, day after day,
Is matted in one solid roof of shade To load with crimes an overburthen'd soul,
By the dark ivy's twine. At noonday here And be—what ye can dream not. I have pray'd
'Tis twilight, and at sunset blackest night. To God, and I have talk'd with my own heart, And have unravell'd my entangled will, And have at length determined what is right. Before you reach that bridge, make some excuse Art thou my friend, Orsino ? False or true ?
For spurring on your mules, or loitering
What sound is that?
I swear To dedicate my cunning, and my strength,
LUCRETIA. My silence, and whatever else is mine,
Hark! No, it cannot be a servant's step:
It must be Cenci, unexpectedly
Return'd—Make some excuse for being here.
BEATRICE (lo ORSINO, as she goes oul). His death?
That step we hear approach must never pass
The bridge of which we spoke.
(Exeunt LUCRETIA and BEATRICE And suddenly. We must be brief and bold. ORSINO.
ORSINO. And yet most cautious.
What shall I do?
The imperious inquisition of his looks
As to what brought me hither : let me mask
Mine own in some inane and vacant smile.
Enter Giacomo, in a hurried manner.
That Cenci is from home ?
I sought him here;
And now must wait till he returns.
Great God What we now want.
Weigh you the danger of this rashness !
The other day when we conversed together?
Ay! My wrongs were then less. That word parricide. Does my destroyer know his danger? We Although I am resolved, haunts me like fear. Are now no more, as once, parent and child, But man to man; the oppressor to the oppress'd ; The slanderer to the slander'd; foe to foe :
It must be fear itself, for the bare word He has cast Nature off, which was his shield,
Is hollow mockery. Mark, how wisest God And Nature casts him off, who is her shame;
Draws to one point the threads of a just doom, And I spurn both. Is it a father's throat
So sanctifying it: what you devise Which I will shake, and say, I ask not gold ;
Is, as it were, accomplish'd. I ask not happy years; nor memories
Is he dead?
His grave is ready. Know that since we met
Cenci has done an outrage to his daughter. Or I will—God can understand and pardon :
GIACOMO. Why should I speak with man?
What outrage ?
That she speaks not, but you may
From her fix'd paleness, and the lofty grief Well, I will calmly tell you what he did.
Of her stern brow bent on the idle air, This old Francesco Cenci, as you know,
And her severe unmodulated voice, Borrow'd the dowry of my wife from me,
Drowning both tenderness and dread; and last And then denied the loan; and left me so
From this ; that whilst her stepmother and I, In poverty, the which I sought to mend
Bewilder'd in our horror, talk'd together By holding a poor office in the state.
With obscure hints ; both self-misunderstood It had been promised to me, and already
And darkly guessing, stumbling, in our talk, I bought new clothing for my ragged babes,
Over the truth, and yet to its revenge, And my wife smiled ; and my heart knew repose ;
She interrupted us, and with a look When Cenci's intercession, as I found,
Which told before she spoke it, he must die. Conferr'd this office on a wretch, whom thus
GIACOMO. He paid for vilest service. I return'd
It is enough. My doubts are well appeased; With this ill news, and we sate sad together
There is a higher reason for the act Solacing our despondency with tears
Than mine; there is a holier judge than me, Of such affection and unbroken faith
A more unblamed avenger. Beatrice, As temper life's worst bitterness; when he
Who in the gentleness of thy sweet youth As he is wont, came to upbraid and curse,
Hast never trodden on a worm, or bruised Mocking our poverty, and telling us
A living flower, but thou hast pitied it Such was God's scourge for disobedient sons. And then, that I might strike him dumb with shame, Men wonder'd how such loveliness and wisdom
With needless tears ! Fair sister, thou in whom I spoke of my wife's dowry; but he coin'd
Did not destroy each other! Is there made A brief yet specious tale, how I had wasted
Ravage of thee? O heart, I ask no more The sum in secret riot; and he saw
Justification! Shall I wait, Orsino,
Till he return, and stab him at the door?
To rescue him from what is now most sure ;
"Tis my brother's voice! Ye know me not? I will, reversing nature's law,
I see Orsino has talk'd with you, and
That you conjecture things too horrible
To speak, yet far less than the truth. Now, stay not,
That then thou hast consented to his death. Upon the brink of which you see I stand. Farewell, farewell? Let piety to God,
Brotherly love, justice and clemency,
ORSINO. And all things that make tender hardest hearts,
See, the lamp is out. Mako thine hard, brother. Answer not-farewell.
[Exeunt severally. If no remorse is oun when the dim air
Has drunk this innocent flame, why should we quail
When Cenci's life, that light by which ill spirits SCENE II.
See the worst deeds they prompt, shall sink for ever!
No, I am harden'd.
Why, what need of this ?
Who fear'd the pale intrusion of remorse
In a just deed ? Although our first plan fail'd, 'Tis midnight, and Orsino comes not yet.
Doubt not but he will soon be laid to rest. [Thunder, and the sound of a storm. But light the lamp; let us not talk i' the dark. What! can the everlasting elements
GIACOMO (lighting the lamp).
You cannot now recall your sister's peace;
Your own extinguish'd years of youth and hope ; Is shaken by the wind, and on whose edge
Nor your wife's bitter words; nor all the taunts Devouring darkness hovers! Thou small flame,
Which, from the prosperous, weak misfortune takes; Which, as a dying pulse rises and falls,
Nor your dead mother; nor-
O, speak no more! Even now, perhaps, the life that kindled mine :
I am resolved, although this very hand But that no power can fill with vital oil
Must quench the life that animated it That broken lamp of flesh. Ha! 'tis the blood Which fed these veins that ebbs till all is cold : There is no need of that. Listen : you know It is the form that moulded mine that sinks Olimpio, the castellan of Petrella Into the white and yellow spasms of death : In old Colonna's time ; him whom your father It is the soul by which mine was array'd
Degraded from his post ? And Marzio, In God's immortal likeness which now stands That desperate wretch, whom he deprived last year Naked before Heaven's judgment-seat!
Of a reward of blood, well earn'd and due ?
I knew Olimpio; and they say he hated
Matches Olimpio's. I have sent these men,
But in your name, and as at your request,
To talk with Beatrice and Lucretia.
Only to talk!
The moments, which even now
Pass onward to to-morrow's midnight hour,
May memorize their flight with death : ere then
They must have talk'd, and may perhaps have done,
And made an end.
Listen! what sound is that! Appointed for the deed an hour too soon. GIACOMO.
The house-dog moans, and the beams crack: naught Are we the fools of such contingencies ?
else. And do we waste in blind misgivings thus
GIACOMO. The hours when we should act? Then wind and It is my wife complaining in her sleep : thunder,
I doubt not she is saying bitter things Which seem'd to howl his knell, is the loud laughter of me; and all my children round her dreaming With which Heaven macks our weakness! I hence. That I deny them sustenance.
forth Will ne'er repent of aught design'd or done
Whilst he But my ropentance.
Who truly took it from them, and who fills