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Of my imperious step, scoring surprise,
But not of my intent !-Andrea !
My lord. Cenci. Bid Beatrice attend me in her chamber This evening-no, at midnight ; and alone.
SCENE II.-A Garden of the Cenci Palace.
Enter Beatrice and Orsino, as in conversation.
Beatrice. Pervert not truth,
Orsino. You remember where we held
That conversation ;--nay, we see the spot
Even from this cypress. Two long years are past
Since on an April midnight, underneath
The moonlight ruins of Mount Palatine,
I did confess to you my secret mind.
Orsino. You said you loved me then.
You are a priest :
Speak to me not of love.
I may obtain
The dispensation of the Pope to marry.
Because I am a priest, do you believe
Your image, as the hunter some struck deer,
Follows me not whether I wake or sleep?
Beatrice. As I have said, speak to me not of love.
Had you a dispensation, I have not ;
Nor will I leave this home of misery
Whilst my poor Bernard, and that gentle lady
To whom I owe life and these virtuous thoughts,
Must suffer what I still have strength to share.
Alas, Orsino! all the love that once
I felt for you is turned to bitter pain.
Ours was a youthful contract, which you first
Broke by assuming vows no Pope will loose.
And yet I love you still, but holily,
Even as a sister or a spirit might;
And so I swear a cold fidelity.
And it is well perhaps we shall not marry:
You have a sly equivocating vein
That suits me not.—Ah! wretched that I am!
Where shall I turn? Even now you look on me
As you were not my friend, and as if you
Discovered that I thought so, with false smiles
Making my true suspicion seem your wrong.
Ah no! Forgive me. Sorrow makes me seem
Sterner than else my nature might have been;
I have a weight of melancholy thoughts, .
And they forebode—but what can they forebode
Worse than I now endure?
All will be well.
Is the petition yet prepared? You know
My zeal for all you wish, sweet Beatrice;
Doubt not but I will use my utmost skill
So that the Pope attend to your complaint.
Beatrice. Your zeal for all I wish!- Ah me! you are cold !
Your utmost skill!-Speak but one word—(Aside)—Alas!
Weak and deserted creature that I am,
Here I stand bickering with my only friend !
(To Orsino.) This night my father gives a sumptuous feast,
Orsino; he has heard some happy news
From Salamanca, from my brothers there,
And with this outward show of love he mocks
His inward hate. 'Tis bold hypocrisy,
For he would gladlier celebrate their deaths,
Which I have heard him pray for on his knees.
Great God! that such a father should be mine!
But there is mighty preparation made,
And all our kin, the Cenci, will be there,
And all the chief nobility of Rome.
And he has bidden me and my pale mother
Attire ourselves in festival array.
Poor lady! she expects some happy change
In his dark spirit from this act; I, none.
At supper I will give you the petition:
I know the Pope
Will ne'er absolve me from my priestly vow
But by absolving me from the revenue
Of many a wealthy see; and, Beatrice,
I think to win thee at an easier rate.
Nor shall he read her eloquent petition:
He might bestow her on some poor relation
Of his sixth cousin, as he did her sister,
And I should be debarred from all access.
Then, as to what she suffers from her father,
In all this there is much exaggeration.
Old men are testy, and will have their way.
A man may stab his enemy or his vassal,
And live a free life as to wine or women,
And with a peevish temper may return
To a dull home, and rate his wife and children;
Daughters and wives call this foul tyranny.
I shall be well content if on my conscience
There rest no heavier sin than what they suffer,
From the devices of my love—a net
From which she shall escape not. Yet I fear
Her subtle mind, her awe-inspiring gaze,
Whose beams anatomize me nerve by nerve,
And lay me bare, and make me blush to see
My hidden thoughts.—Ah no! A friendless girl,
Who clings to me as to her only hope:-
I were a fool, not less than if a panther
Were panic-stricken by the antelope's eye,
If she escape me.
Scene III.-A magnificent Hall in the Cenci Palace.
A Banquet. Enter CENCI, LUCRETIA, BEATRICE, ORSINO,
Cenci. Welcome, my friends and kinsmen; welcome je,
Princes and Cardinals, Pillars of the Church,
Whose presence honours our festivity.
I have too long lived like an anchorite,
And, in my absence from your merry meetings,
An evil word is gone abroad of me;
But I do hope that you, my noble friends,
When you have shared the entertainment here,
And heard the pious cause for which 'tis given,
And we have pledged a health or two together,
Will think me flesh and blood as well as you;
Sinful indeed, for Adam made all so,
But tender-hearted, meek, and pitiful.
First Guest. In truth, my lord, you seem too light o
Too sprightly and companionable a man,
To act the deeds that rumour pins on you.
(To his Companion.) I never saw such blithe and open cheer
In any eye.
Second Guest. Some most desired event,
In which we all demand a common joy,
Has brought us hither; let us hear it, Count.
Cenci. It is indeed a most desired event.
If, when a parent, from a parent's heart,
Lifts from this earth to the great Father of all
A prayer, both when he lays him down to sleep,
And when he rises up from dreaming it,-
One supplication, one desire, one hope, -
That he would grant a wish for his two sons,
Even all that he demands in their regard;
And suddenly, beyond his dearest hope,
It is accomplished; he should then rejoice,
And call his friends and kinsmen to a feast,
And task their love to grace his merriment.
Then honour me thus far-for I am he.
Beatrice (10 LUCRETIA). Great God! how horrible! Some Must have befallen my brothers !
[dreadful ill Lucretia.
Fear not, child;
He speaks too frankly.
Ah! my blood runs cold.
I fear that wicked laughter round his eye,
Which wrinkles up the skin even to the hair.
Cenci. Here are the letters brought from Salamanca;
Beatrice, read them to your mother. God,
I thank thee! In one night didst thou perform,
By ways inscrutable, the thing I sought.
My disobedient and rebellious sons
Are dead.—Why, dead.—What means this change of cheer?
You hear me not, I tell you they are dead:
And they will need no food or raiment more;
The tapers that did light them the dark way
Are their last cost. The Pope, I think, will not
Expect I should maintain them in their coffins.
Rejoice with me-my heart is wondrous glad !
(LUCRETIA sinks, half fainting; BEATRICE supports her).
Beatrice. It is not true !—Dear lady, pray look up. Had it been true,-there is a God in Heaven,
He would not live to boast of such a boon. VOL. I.
Unnatural man, thou know'st that it is false!
Cenci. Ay, as the word of God; whom here I call
To witness that I speak the sober truth:
And whose most favouring providence was shown
Even in the manner of their deaths. For Rocco
Was kneeling at the mass, with sixteen others,
When the church fell and crushed him to a mummy;
The rest escaped unhurt. Cristofano
Was stabbed in error by a jealous man,
Whilst she he loved was sleeping with his rival.
All in the self-same hour of the same night;
Which shows that Heaven has special care of me.
I beg those friends who love me that they mark
The day a feast upon their calendars.
It was the twenty-seventh of December :
Ay, read the letters if you doubt my oath.
[The assembly appears confused; several of the guests rise. First Guest. Oh horrible! I will depart! Second Guest.
Third Guest. No, stay!
I do believe it is some jest; though, faith!
'Tis mocking us somewhat too solemnly.
I think his son has married the Infanta,
Or found a mine of gold in El Dorado.
'Tis but to season some such news; stay, stay !
I see 'tis only raillery by his smile.
Cenci (filling a bowl of wine, and lifting it up).
O thou bright wine, whose purple splendour leaps
And bubbles gaily in this golden bowl
Under the lamplight, as my spirits do
To hear the death of my accursèd sons!
Could I believe thou wert their mingled blood,
Then would I taste thee like a sacrament,
And pledge with thee the mighty Devil in hell;
Who, if a father's curses, as men say,
Climb with swift wings after their children's souls,
And drag them from the very throne of heaven,
Now triumphs in my triumph !--But thou art
Superfluous; I have drunken deep of joy,
And I will taste no other wine to-night.
Here, Andrea! Bear the bowl around.
A Guest (rising).