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Will none among this noble company
Check the abandoned villain?
For God's sake,
Let me dismiss the guests! You are insane!
Some ill will come of this.
Seize, silence him!
First Guest. I will !
Third Guest. And I !
Cenci (addressing those who rise with a threatening gesture).
Who moves? Who speaks? [Turning to the company.
'Tis nothing, Enjoy yourselves.—Beware! for my revenge Is as the sealed commission of a king, That kills, and none dare name the murderer. [The Banquet is broken up; several of the Guests are departing:
Beatrice. I do entreat you, go not, noble guests;
What although tyranny and impious hate
Stand sheltered by a father's hoary hair ?
What if 'tis he who clothed us in these limbs
Who tortures them and triumphs ? What if we,
The desolate and the dead, were his own flesh,
His children and his wife, whom he is bound
To love and shelter? Shall we therefore find
No refuge in this merciless wide world ?
Oh think what deep wrongs must have blotted out
First love, then reverence, in a child's prone mind,
Till it thus vanquish shame and fear! Oh think!
I have borne much, and kissed the sacred hand
Which crushed us to the earth, and thought its stroke
Was perhaps some paternal chastisement;
Have excused much ; doubted ; and, when no doubt
Remained, have sought by patience, love, and tears,
To soften him ; and, when this could not be,
I have knelt down through the long sleepless nights,
And lifted up to God the Father of all
Passionate prayers; and, when these were not heard,
I have still borne ;—until I meet you here,
Princes and kinsmen, at this hideous feast
Given at my brothers' deaths. Two yet remain,
His wife remains and I,-whom if ye save not,
Ye may soon share such merriment again
As fathers make over their children's graves.
O Prince Colonna, thou art our near kinsman ;
Cardinal, thou art the Pope's chamberlain ;
Camillo, thou art chief Justiciary ;-
Take us away ! -
Cenci. (He has been conversing with CAMILLO during the
first part of BEATRICE's speech; he hears the conclusion,
and now advances.)
I hope my good friends here
Will think of their own daughters—or perhaps
Of their own throats-before they lend an ear
To this wild girl.
Beatrice (not noticing the words of Cenci).
Dare not one look on me?
None answer? Can one tyrant overbear
The sense of many best and wisest men ?
Or is it that I sue not in some form
Of scrupulous law, that ye deny my suit?
O God! that I were buried with my brothers !
And that the flowers of this departed Spring
Were fading on my grave! and that my father
Were celebrating now one feast for all !
Camillo. A bitter wish for one so young and gentle ;
Can we do nothing?
Nothing that I see.
Count Cenci were a dangerous enemy :
Yet I would second any one.
Cenci. Retire to your chamber, insolent girl!
Beatrice. Retire thou, impious man! Ay, hide thysell
Where never eye can look upon thee more !
Wouldst thou have honour and obedience,
Who art a torturer ? Father, never dream,
Though thou mayst overbear this company,
But ill must come of ill.-Frown not on me!
Haste, hide thyself, lest with avenging looks
My brothers' ghosts should hunt thee from thy seat !
Cover thy face from every living eye,
And start if thou but hear a human step :
Seek out some dark and silent corner ; there
Bow thy white head before offended God,-
And we will kneel around, and servently
Pray that he pity both ourselves and thee!
Cenci. My friends, I do lament this insane girl Has spoilt the mirth of our festivity. Good night, farewell; I will not make you longer Spectators of our dull domestic quarrels. Another time. - [Exeunt all but Cenci and BEATRICE.
My brain is swimming round;
Give me a bowl of wine.
(To BEATRICE). Thou painted viper !
Beast that thou art ! Fair and yet terrible !
I know a charm shall make thee meek and tame.
Now get thee from my sight!
Here, Andrea, Fill up this goblet with Greek wine. I said I would not drink this evening, but I must; For, strange to say, I feel my spirits fail With thinking what I have decreed to do. [Drinking the wine. Be thou the resolution of quick youth Within my veins, and manhood's purpose stern, And age's firm, cold, subtle villany; As if thou wert indeed my children's blood Which I did thirst to drink. The charm works well ;It must be done, it shall be done, I swear!
SCENE I.-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace.
Enter LUCRETIA and BERNARDO.
Lucretia. Weep not, my gentle boy ; he struck but me,
Who have borne deeper wrongs. In truth, if he
Had killed me, he had done a kinder deed.
O God Almighty, do thou look upon us !
We have no other friend but only thee.
Yet weep not ; though I love you as my own,
I am not your true mother.
Oh! more, more
Than ever mother was to any child,
That have you been to me! Had he not been
My father, do you think that I should weep?
Lucretia. Alas! poor boy, what else couldst thou have done?
Beatrice (in a hurried voice). Did he pass this way? Hare
you seen him, brother?
Ah ! no, that is his step upon the stairs ;
'Tis nearer now ; his hand is on the door!
Mother, if I to thee have ever been
A duteous child, now save me! Thou great God,
Whose image upon earth a father is,
Dost thou indeed abandon me? He comes-
The door is opening now! I see his face ;
He frowns on others, but he smiles on me,
Even as he did after the feast last night! [Enter a Sortant.
Almighty God, how merciful thou art !
'Tis but Orsino's servant.-Well, what news?
Serrant. My master bids me say the Holy Father Has sent back your petition thus unopened. [Giring a paper. And he demands at what hour 'twere secure To visit you again.
Lucretia. At the Ave Mary. [Erit Sertan. So, daughter, our last hope has failed. Ah me! How pale you look ! you tremble, and you stand Rapt in some fixed and fearful meditation, As if one thought were over-strong for you. Your eyes have a chill glare ! Oh! dearest child, Are you gone mad? If not, pray speak to me.
Beatrice. You see I am not mad ; I speak to you.
Lucretia. You talked of something that your father did
After that dreadful feast. Could it be worse
Than when he smiled, and cried “My sons are dead!”
And every one looked in his neighbour's face
To see if others were as white as he?
At the first word he spoke, I felt the blood
Rush to my heart, and fell into a trance.
And, when it passed, I sat all weak and wild ;
Whilst you alone stood up, and with strong words
Checked his unnatural pride ; and I could see
The devil was rebuked that lives in him.
Until this hour thus you have ever stood
Between us and your father's moody wrath
Like a protecting presence : your firm mind
Has been our only refuge and defence.
What can have thus subdued it? What can now
Have given you that cold melancholy look,
Succeeding to your unaccustomed fear?
Beatrice. What is it that you say? I was just thinking
'Twere better not to struggle any more.
Men, like my father, have been dark and bloody,
Yet never-Oh! before worse comes of it,
'Twere wise to die ! it ends in that at last.
Lucretia. Oh! talk not so, dear child ! Tell me at once
What did your father do or say to you?
He stayed not, after that accursèd feast,
One moment in your chamber.-Speak to me.
Bernardo. Oh sister, sister, prithee speak to us!
Beatrice (speaking very slowly with a forced calmness). It was
one word, mother, one little word ; One look, one smile.
[IVildly. Oh! he has trampled me Under his feet, and made the blood stream down My pallid cheeks. And he has given us all Ditch-water, and the fever-stricken flesh Of buffaloes, and bade us eat or starve, And we have eaten. He has made me look On my beloved Bernardo, when the rust Of heavy chains has gangrened his sweet limbs,And I have never yet despaired--But now ! What would I say?
Ah! no, 'tis nothing new.
The sufferings we all share have made me wild.
He only struck and cursed me as he passed :
He said, he looked, he did-nothing at all
Beyond his wont, yet it disordered me.
Alas ! I am forgetful of my duty :
I should preserve my senses for your sake.
Lucretia. Nay, Beatrice ; have courage, my sweet girl.
If any one despairs, it should be I,
Who loved him once, and now must live with him
Till God in pity call for him or me.
For you may, like your sister, find some husband,
And smile, years hence, with children round your knees;
Whilst I, then dead, and all this hideous coil,
Shall be remembered only as a dream.
Beatrice. Talk not to me, dear lady, of a husband.
Did you not nurse me when my mother died ?