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A Chamber in the Vatican.
There is an obsolete and doubtful law,
By which you might obtain a bare provision
Of food and clothing.
Nothing more I Alas I Bare must be the provision which strict law Awards, and aged sullen avarice pays. Why did my father not apprentice me To some mechanic trade! I should have then Been trained in no high-born necessities Which I could meet not by my daily toil. The eldest son of a rich nobleman Is heir to all his incapacities; H% has wide wants, and narrow powers. If you, Cardinal Camillo, were reduced at once From thrice-driven beds of down, and delicate food, An hundred servants, and six palaces, To that which nature doth indeed require!—
Nay, there is reason in your plea ; 'twere hard.
'Tis hard for a firm man to bear: but I
Though your peculiar case is hard, I know
The Pope will not divert the course of law.
After that impious feast the other night
I spoke with him, and urged him then to check
Your father's cruel hand; he frowned, and said,
"Children are disobedient, and they sting
Their fathers' hearts to madness and despair,
Requiting years of care with contumely.
I pity the Count Ccnci from my heart;
His outraged love perhaps awakened hate,
And thus he is exasperated to ill.
In the great war between the old and young,
I, who have white hairs and a tottering body,
Will keep at least blameless neutrality."
Alas, repeat them not again! There then is no redress for me; at least None but that which I may achieve myself, Since I am driven to the brink. But, say, My innocent sister and my only brother" Are dying underneath my father's eye. The memorable torturers of this land, Galeaz Visconti, Borgia, Ezzelin, Never inflicted on their meanest slave What these endure; shall they have no protection 1
Why, if they would petition to the Pope,
But you, Orsino, Have the petition ; wherefore not present it!
I have presented it, and backed it with
My friend, that palace-walking devil, Gold,
Has whispered silence to his Holiness:
And we are left, as scorpions ringed with fire.
Wliat should we do but strike ourselves to death '.
For he who is our murderous persecutor
Is shielded by a father's holy name,
Or I would—
[Stops abrvptt^ ORSINO.
What? Fear not to speak your thought Words are but holy as the deeds they cover: A priest who has forsworn the God he serves; A judge who makes the truth weep at his decree; A friend who should weave counsel, as I now, But as the mantle of some selfish guile; A father who is all a tyrant seems, Were the profaner for his sacred name.
Ask me not what I think ; the unwilling brain
But a friend's bosom Is as the inmost cave of our own mind, Where we sit shut from the wide gaze of day, And from the all-communicating air. You look what I suspected—
Spare me now!
Orsi.no. Farewell!—Be your thoughts better or more bold.
[Exit Giagomo. I had disposed the Cardinal Camillo To feed his hope with cold encouragement: It fortunately serves my close designs That 'tis a trick of this same family To analyse their own and other minds. Such self-anatomy shall teach the will Dangerous secrets: for it tempts our powers, Knowing what must be thought, and may be done, Into the depth of darkest purposes: So Cenci fell into the pit; even I, Since Beatrice unveiled me to myself, And made me shrink from what I cannot shun, Show a poor figure to my own esteem, To which I grow half reconciled. I'll do As little mischief as I can; that thought Shall fee the accuser conscience.
[After a pause. Now what harm If Cenci should be murdered ?—Yet, if murdered, Wherefore by me! And what if I could take The profit, yet omit the sin and peril In such an action? Of all earthly things I fear a man whose blows outspeed his words; And such is Cenci: and while Cenci lives Mis daughter's dowry were a secret grave If a priest wins her.—Oh, fair Beatrice! Would that I loved thee not, or, loving thee, Could but despise danger, and gold, and all That frowns between my wish and its effect,
Or smiles beyond it! There is no escape:
Her bright form kneels beside me at the altar,
And follows me to the resort of men,
And fills my slumber with tumultuous dreams,
So when I wake my blood seems liquid fire;
And if I strike my damp and dizzy head,
My hot palm scorches it: her very name,
But spoken by a stranger, makes my heart
Sicken and pant; and thus unprofitably
I clasp the phantom of unfelt delights,
Till weak imagination half possesses
The self-created shadow. Yet much longer
Will I not nurse this life of feverous hours:
From the unravelled hopes of Giacomo
I must work out my own dear purposes.
I see, as from a tower, the end of all:
Her father dead; her brother bound to me
By a dark secret, surer than the grave;
Her mother scared and unexpostulating
From the dread manner of her wish achieved:
And she!—Once more take courage, my faint
heart; What dares a friendless maiden matched with
thee i I have such foresight as assures success; Some unbeheld divinity doth ever, When dread events are near, stir up men's minds To black suggestions ; and he prospers best, Not who becomes the instrument of ill, But who can flatter the dark spirit, that makes Its empire and its prey of other hearts, Till it become his slave—as I will do.
An Apartment in the Cenci Palace.
LrcitrnA; to her enter Beatrice, Uatbjce (the enters staggering, and speaks wildly). Reach me that handkerchief!—My brain is hurt; My eyes are full of blood; just wipe them for me— 1 see but indistinctly.—
My sweet child, You have no wound; 'tis only a cold dew That starts from your dear brow.—Alas! alas 1 What has befallen!
How comes this hair undone 1 Its wandering strings must be what blind me so, And yet I tied it fast. — 0, horrible! The pavement sinks under my feet! The walls Spin round! I see a woman weeping there, And standing calm and motionless, whilst I Slide giddily as the world reels.—My God! The beautiful blue heaven is flecked with blood! The sunshine on the floor is black! The air Is changed to vapours such as the dead breathe In charnel-pits! Pah! I am choked! There creeps A clinging, black, contaminating mist About me—'tis substantial, heavy, thick; 1 cannot pluck it from me, for it glues
My fingers and my limbs to one another,
[A pause What hideous thought was that I had even now! 'Tis gone; and yet its burthen remains here O'er these dull eyes—upon this weary heart! 0, world! 0, life! O, day! 0, misery!
LUCB.ETIA. What ails thee, my poor child? She answers not: Her spirit apprehends the sense of pain, But not its cause ; suffering has dried away The source from which it sprung.—
Like ParricideMisery has killed its father: yet its father Never like mine—O, God! What thing am I!
My dearest child, what has your father done?
[To Lucrktia, in a flow, subdued voice.
Do you know, I thought I was that wretched Beatrice Men speak of, whom her father sometimes hales From hall to hall by the entangled hair; At others, pens up naked in damp cells Where scaly reptiles crawl, and starves her there, Till she will eat strange flesh. This woful story So did I overact in my sick dreams, That I imagined—no, it cannot be! Horrible things have been in this wild world, Prodigious mixtures, and confusions strange Of good and ill ; and worse have been conceived Than ever there was found a heart to do. But never fancy imaged such a deed
[Pauses, suddenly recollecting herself. 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: For then if this be truth, that other too Must be a truth, a firm enduring truth, Linked with each lasting circumstance of life, Never to change, never to pass away. Why so it is. This is the Cenci Palace; Thou art Lucrctia; I am Beatrice. I have talked some wild words, but will no more. Mother, come near me: from this point of time, I am—
[Her voice diet ateay faintly.
What have I done 1 Am I not innocent 1 Is it my crime That one with white hair, and imperious brow, Who tortured me from my forgotten years, As parents only dare, should call himself My father, yet should be !—Oh, what am 11 What name, what place, what memory shall be What retrospects, outliving even despair 1 [mine i
He is a violent tyrant, surely, child:
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?
Thou art unlike thyself; thine eyes shoot forth
A wandering and strange spirit. Speak to me,
Unlock those pallid hands whose fingers twine
With one another.
Tis the restless life Tortured within them. If I try to speak 1 shall go mad. Ay, something must be done;
What, yet I know not—something which shall i ike
It must indeed have been some bitter wrong;
I hide them nol. What are the words which you would have me
Aught like to it, she died as I will die,
The peace of innocence; Till in your season you be called to heaven. Whate er you may have suffered, you have done No evil. Death must be the punishment Of crime, or the reward of trampling down The thorns which God has strewed upon the path Which leads to immortality.
Ay, death— The punishment of crime. I pray thee, Gud, Let me not be bewildered while I judge. If I must live day after day, and keep These limbs, the unworthy temple of thy spirit, As a foul den from which what thou abhorrest May mock thee, unavenged—it shall not be! Self-murder—no that might be no escape, For thy decree yawns like a Hell between
Our will and it Oh! in this mortal world
There is no vindication and no law,
iShe approaches him solemnly.) Welcome, Friend! have to tell you that, since last we met, I have endured a wrong so great and strange, That neither life nor death can give me rest. Ask me not what it is, for there are deeds Which have no form, sufferings which have no tongue.
And what is he who has thus injured you!
The man they call my father: a dread name.
It cannot be—
What it can be, or not,
Accuse him of the deed, and let the law
Oh, ice-hearted counsellor! If I could find a word that might make known Tile 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, So that my unpolluted fame should be With vilest gossips a stale mouthed story; A mock, a by-word, an astonishment:— If this were done, which never shall be done, Think of the offender's gold, his dreaded hate, And the strange horror of the accuser's tale, Baffling belief, and overpowering speech; Scarce whispered, unimaginable, wrapt In hideous hints—Oh, most assured redress!
You will endure it then!
Endure!—Orsino, It seems your counsel is small profit.
[Turns from him, and speaks half to herself.
All must be suddenly resolved and done.
Should the offender live! Triumph in his misdeed! and make, by use, His crime, whate'er it is, dreadful no doubt, Thine element; until thou mayest become Utterly lost; subdued even to the hue Of that which thou permittest t
Beatrice (to herself).
Mighty death! Thou double-visagcd shadow! Only judge! Rightfullest arbiter 1
[.She retires, absorbed in thought.
If the lightning Of God has e'er descended to avenge—
Blaspheme not! His high Providence commits
But if one, like this wretch, Should mock, with gold, opinion, law, and power I If there be no appeal to that which makes The guiltiest tremble! If, because our wrongs, For that they are unnatural,strange, and monstrous, Exceed all measure of belief? Oh, God! If, for the very reasons which should make Redress most swift and sure, our inj urer triumphs 1 And we, the victims, bear worse punishment Than that appointed for their torturer!
Think not But that there is redress where there is wrong, So we be bold enough to seize it.
Why, his late outrage to Beatrice;
For we cannot hope
As I have said, I have endured a wrong,
You think we should devise His death!
And execute what is devised, And suddenly. We must be brief and hold.
I know two dull, fierce outlaws, Who think man's spirit as a worm's, and they Would trample out, for any slight caprice, The meanest or the noblest life. This mood Is marketable here in Rome. They sell What we now want.
To-morrow, before dawn, Cenci will take us to that lonely rock, Pctrella, 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 Crosses a deep ravine; 'tis rough and narrow, And winds with short turns down the precipice; And in its depth there is a mighty rock, Which has, from unimaginable years, Sustained 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 Clings to the mass of life ; yet, clinging, leans; And, leaning, makes more dark the dread abyss In which it fears to fall: beneath this crag Huge as despair, as if in weariness, The melancholy mountain yawns—below, You hear but see not an impetuous torrent Raging among the caverns, and a bridge Crosses the chasm ; and high above there grow, With intersecting trunks, from crag to crag, Cedars, and yews, and pines; whose tangled hair Is matted in one solid roof of shade By the dark ivy's twine. At noon-day here 'Tis twilight, and at sunset blackest night.
Before you reach that bridge make some excuse
What sound is that?
Hark! No, it cannot be a servant's step;
It must be Cenci, unexpectedly
Returned—Make some excuse for being here.
Beatrice (to Orsiho at the goes otu). That step we hear approach must never pass The bridge of which we spoke.
[Exeunt Locuiu <mt Rutkck.
What shall I do! Cenci must find me here, and I must bear 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. How ! Have you ventured thither! know you then That Cenci is from home!
I sought him here; And now must wait till he returns
Great God! Weigh you the danger of this rashness!
Does my destroyer know his danger? w e
Be calm, dear friend.
Well, I will calmly tell you what he did.
This old Francesco Cenci, as you know,
Borrowed the dowry of my wife from me,
And then denied the loan ; and left me so
In poverty, the which I sought to mend
By holding a poor office in the state.
It had been promised to me, and already
I bought new clothing for my ragged babes.
And my wife smiled ; and my heart knew repose;
When Cenci's intercession, as I found.
Conferred this office on a wretch, whom thus
He paid for vilest service. I returned
With this ill news, and we sate sad together
Solacing our despondency with tears
Of such affection and unbroken faith
As temper life's worst bitterness; when he,
As he is wont, came to upbraid and curse,
Mocking our poverty, and telling us
Such was God s scourge for disobedient sons.
And then, that I might strike him dumb with shame,
I spoke of my wife's dowry ; but he coined
A brief yet specious tale, how I had wasted
The sum in secret riot; and he saw
My wife was touched, and he went smiling forth.