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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
An Apartment in the Cenci Palace. So did I overact in my sick dreams,

That I imagined-no, it cannot be !
LUCRETIA ; to her enter BEATRICE.

Horrible things have been in this wild world,
BEATRICE (She enters staggering, and speaks wildly). Prodigious mixtures, and confusions strange
Reach me that handkerchief!-My brain is hurt;

Of good and ill; and worse have been conceived
My eyes are full of blood ; just wipe them for me- Than ever there was found a heart to do.
I see but indistinctly -

But never fancy imaged such a deed

(Pauses, suddenly recollecting herself. LUCRETIA.

Who art thou ? Swear to me, ere I die
My sweet child,

With fearful expectation, that indeed
You have no wound ; 't is only a cold dew

Thou art not what thou seemest—Mother!
That starts from your dear brow-Alas! alas!
What has befallen!

How comes this hair undone?

My sweet child, know you-
Its wandering strings must be what blind me so,
And yet I tied it fast.—0, horrible!

Yet speak it not:
The pavement sinks under my feet! The walls For then if this be truth, that other too
Spin round! I see a woman weeping there, Must be a truth, a firm enduring truth,
And standing calm and motionless, whilst I Link'd with each lasting circumstance of life,
Slide giddily as the world reels, My God!

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

I am

(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 :
O, world! O, life! O, day! O, misery!

We know that death alone can make us free;
His death or ours. But what can he have done

Of deadlier outrage or worse injury?
What ails thee, my poor child? She answers not: Thou art unlike thyself; thine eyes shoot forth
Her spirit apprehends the sense of pain,

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.
BEATRICE (franticly).
Like parricide-

"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
My dearest child, what has your father done?

In the dread lightning which avenges it;
BEATRICE (doublfully).

Brief, rapid, irreversible, destroying
Who art thou, questioner? I have no father. The consequence of what it cannot cure.

[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:

That faith no agony shall obscure in me.

Accuse him of the deed, and let the law

Avenge thee.
It must indeed have been some bitter wrong;

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
Thy sufferings from my fear.

The crime of my destroyer; and that done,

My tongue should like a knife tear out the secret
I hide them not.

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
Aught like to it, she died as I will die,

In hideous hints—Oh, most assured redress!
And left it, as I must, without a name.
Death! Death! Our law and our religion call thee You will endure it then?
A punishment and a reward-Oh, which
Have I deserved ?

Endure !_Orsino,

It seems your counsel is small profit.
The peace of innocence;

[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
If I must live day after day, and keep

Utterly lost; subdued even to the hue
These limbs, the unworthy temple of thy spirit, of that which thou permittest?
As a foul den from which what thou abhorrest

BEATRICE (to herself).
May mock thee, unavenged-it shall not be!
Self-murder-no, that might be no escape,

Mighty Death!

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
I have to tell you that, since last we met,

Its glory on this earth, and their own wrongs
I have endured a wrong so great and strange, Into the hands of men ; if they neglect
That neither life nor death can give me rest.

To punish crime-
Ask me not what it is, for there are deeds
Which have no form, sufferings which have no tongue.

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
The guiltiest tremble? If because our wrongs,

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
What it can be, or not,

Than that appointed for their torturer ?
Forbear to think. It is, and it has been;

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

Why, his late outrage to Beatrice;

He must not arrive.
For it is such, as I but faintly guess,

As makes remorse dishonor, and leaves her
Only one duty, how she may avenge :

Will it be dark before you reach the tower?

You, but one refuge from ills ill endured;
Me, but one counsel

The sun will scarce be set.

For we cannot hope

But I remember
That aid, or retribution, or resource

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,
Which has, from unimaginable years,

Sustain'd itself with terror and with toil

Over a gulf, and with the agony

With which it clings, seems slowly coming down;
Peace, Orsino!

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
And all the fit restraints of daily life,
Which have been borne from childhood, but which the melancholy mountain yawns—below,

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
Pledge thy salvation ere I speak.


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:
To thy commands.

It must be Cenci, unexpectedly

Return'd—Make some excuse for being here.
You think we should devise

BEATRICE (lo ORSINO, as she goes oul). His death?

That step we hear approach must never pass

The bridge of which we spoke.
And execute what is devised,

(Exeunt LUCRETIA and BEATRICE And suddenly. We must be brief and bold. ORSINO.

ORSINO. And yet most cautious.

What shall I do?
Cenci must find me here, and I must bear

The imperious inquisition of his looks
For the jealous laws
Would punish us with death and infamy

As to what brought me hither : let me mask

Mine own in some inane and vacant smile.
For that which it became themselves to do.

Enter Giacomo, in a hurried manner.
Be cautious as ye may, but prompt. Orsino, How! Have you ventured thither? know you then
What are the means ?

That Cenci is from home ?

I know two dull, fierce outlaws,
Who think man's spirit as a worm's, and they

I sought him here;

And now must wait till he returns.
Would trample out, for any slight caprice,
The meanest or the noblest life. This mood

Is marketable here in Rome. They sell

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

Of tranquil childhood ; nor home-shelter'd love;

Is he dead?
Though all these hast thou torn from me, and more;
But only my fair fame; only one hoard
of peace, which I thought hidden from thy hate,

His grave is ready. Know that since we met
Under the penury heap'd on me by thee,

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
Be calm, dear friend. Conceive such half conjectures as I do,

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,
My wife was touch'd, and he went siniling forth.

Till he return, and stab him at the door?
And when I knew the impression he had made,
And felt my wife insult with silent scorn

My ardent truth, and look averse and cold, Not so; some accident might interpose
I went forth too: but soon return'd again ;

To rescue him from what is now most sure ;
Yet not so soon but that my wife had taught And you are unprovided where to fly,
My children her harsh thoughts, and they all cried, How to excuse or to conceal. Nay, listen :
"Give us clothes, father! Give us better food! All is contrived; success is so assured
What you in one night squander were enough That,
For months!" I look'd, and saw that home was hell.

And to that hell will I return no more
Until mine enemy has render'd up
Atonement, or, as he gave life to me,

"Tis my brother's voice! Ye know me not? I will, reversing nature's law,

My sister, my lost sister!

Trust me,
The compensation which thou seekest here

Lost indeed!
Will be denied.

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,
Then-Are you not my friend? He might return: yet kiss me; I shall know
Did you not hint at the alternative,

That then thou hast consented to his death. Upon the brink of which you see I stand. Farewell, farewell? Let piety to God,





Once gone,



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.
A mean apartment in Giacomo's house.

Why, what need of this ?
GIACOMO, alone.

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).
Feel with a worm like man? If so, the shaft And yet once quench'd I cannot thus relume
Of mercy-winged lightning would not fall My father's life : do you not think his ghost
On stones and trees. My wife and children sleep: Might plead that argument with God?
They are now living in unmeaning dreams :

But I must wake, still doubting if that deed
Be just which was most necessary. O,

You cannot now recall your sister's peace;
Thou unreplenish'd lamp! whose narrow fire

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-
Still flickerest up and down, how very soon,
Did I not feed thee, wouldst thou fail and be
As thou hadst never been! So wastes and sinks

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 ?
[A bell strikes.

One! Two!

I knew Olimpio; and they say he hated
The hours crawl on; and when my hairs are white Old Cenci so, that in his silent rage
My son will then perhaps be waiting thus, His lips grew white only to see him pass.
Tortured between just hate and vain remorse ; Of Marzio I know nothing.
Chiding the tardy messenger of news
Like those which I expect. I almost wish

Marzio's hate
He be not dead, although my wrongs are great ;
Yet-'tis Orsino's step-

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!
I am come

The moments, which even now
To say he has escaped.

Pass onward to to-morrow's midnight hour,

May memorize their flight with death : ere then
Escaped !

They must have talk'd, and may perhaps have done,

And made an end.
And safe

Within Petrella. He pass’d by the spot

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






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