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Bar all access to retribution first?
And then, when Heaven doth interpose to do
What ye neglect, arming familiar things
To the redress of an unwonted crime,
Make ye the victims who demanded it
Culprits ? 'Tis ye are culprits! That poor wretch
Who stands so pale and trembling and amazed,
If it be true he murdered Cenci, was
A sword in the right hand of justest God.
Wherefore should I have wielded it? unless
The crimes which mortal tongue dare never name
God therefore scruples to avenge.
That you desired his death?
It would have been
A crime no less than his if for one moment
That fierce desire had faded in my heart.
'Tis true I did believe, and hope and pray,
Ay, I even knew-for God is wise and just-
That some strange sudden death hung over him.
'Tis true that this did happen, and most true
There was no other rest for me on earth,
No other hope in heaven ;—now what of this? [are both.
Savella. Strange thoughts beget strange deeds; and here I judge thee not.
Beatrice. And yet, if you arrest me,
You are the judge and executioner
Of that which is the life of life : the breath
Of accusation kills an innocent name,
And leaves for lame acquittal the poor life
Which is a mask without it. 'Tis most false
That I am guilty of foul parricide ;
Although I must rejoice, for justest cause,
That other hands have sent my father's soul
To ask the mercy he denied to me.
Now leave us free : stain not a noble house
With vague surmises of rejected crime ;
Add to our sufferings and your own neglect
No heavier sum ; let them have been enough.
Leave us the wreck we have.
I dare not, lady,
I pray that you prepare yourselves for Rome :
There the Pope's farther pleasure will be known.
Laita. Oh not to Rome! Oh take us not to Rome!
Buttrice. Why not to Rome, dear mother? There, as bere,
Our innocence is as an armed heel
To trample accusation. God is there
As here, and with his shadow ever clothes
The innocent, the injured, and the weak;
And such are we. Cheer up, dear lady! lean
On me; collect your wandering thoughts. My lord,
As soon as you have taken some refreshment,
And had all such examinations made
U pon the spot as may be necessary
To the full anderstanding of this matter,
We shall be ready. Mother, will you come?
Laurdia. Ha! they will bind us to the rack, and wrest
Sef-accusation from our agony !
Will Giacomo be there? Orsino? Marzio?
All present; all confronted ; all demanding,
Each from the other's countenance, the thing
Which is in every heart! Oh misery!
(She faints, and is borne out. Sorella. She faints; an ill appearance this. Beatrice.
My lord, She knows not yet the uses of the world. She fears that Power is as a beast which grasps And loosens not: a snake whose look transmutes All things to guilt, which is its nutriment. She cannot know how well the supine slaves Of blind authority read the truth of things When written on a brow of guilelessness : She sees not yet triumphant Innocence Stand at the judgment-seat of mortal man, A judge and an accuser of the wrong Which drags it there.—Prepare yourself, my lord; Our suite will join yours in the court below. [Excunt.
Scene I.-An Apartment in Orsino's Palace.
Enter ORSINO and GIACOMO. Giacomo. Do evil deeds thus quickly come to end ? Oh that the vain remorse which must chastise Crimes done had but as loud a voice to warn As its keen sting is mortal to avenge! Oh that the hour when present had cast off The mantle of its mystery, and shown The ghastly form with which it now returns, When its scared game is roused, cheering the hounds Of conscience to their prey! Alas, alas ! It was a wicked thought, a piteous deed, To kill an old and hoary-headed father!
Orsino. It has turned out unluckily, in truth.
Giacomo. To violate the sacred doors of sleep ;
To cheat kind Nature of the placid death
Which she prepares for overwearied age;
To drag from heaven an unrepentant soul,
Which might have quenched in reconciling prayers
A life of burning crimes—
You cannot say
I urged you to the deed.
Oh ! had I never
Found in thy smooth and ready countenance
The mirror of my darkest thoughts; hadst thou
Never with hints and questions made me look
Upon the monster of my thought, until
It grew familiar to desire-
Men cast the blame of their unprosperous acts
Upon the abettors of their own resolve,
Or anything but their weak guilty selves.
And yet, confess the truth, it is the peril
In which you stand that gives you this pale sickness
Of penitence ; confess, 'tis Fear, disguised
From its own shame, that takes the mantle now
Of thin Remorse. What if we yet were safe?
Giacomo. How can that be? Already Beatrice, Lucretia, and the murderer, are in prison.
I doubt not, officers are, whilst we speak,
Sent to arrest us.
Orsino. I have all prepared
For instant flight. We can escape even now,
So we take fleet Occasion by the hair.
Giacomo. Rather expire in tortures, as I may !
What ! will you cast by self-accusing flight
Assured conviction upon Beatrice ?
She who alone, in this unnatural work,
Stands like God's angel ministered upon
By fiends; avenging such a nameless wrong
As turns black parricide to piety ;
Whilst we for basest ends . . . I fear, Orsino,
While I consider all your words and looks,
Comparing them with your proposal now,
That you must be a villain. For what end
Could you engage in such a perilous crime,
Training me on with hints and signs and smiles
Even to this gulf? Thou art no liar? No,
Thou art a lie! Traitor and murderer !
Coward and slave! But no-defend thyself; [Drawing.
Let the sword speak what the indignant tongue
Disdains to brand thee with !
Put up your weapon.
Is it the desperation of your fear
Makes you thus rash and sudden with a friend
Now ruined for your sake? If honest anger
Have moved you, know that what I just proposed
Was but to try you. As for me, I think
Thankless affection led me to this point;
From which, if my firm temper could repent,
I cannot now recede. Even whilst we speak,
The ministers of justice wait below :
They grant me these brief moments. Now, if you
Have any word of melancholy comfort
To speak to your pale wife, 'twere best to pass
Out at the postern, and avoid them so.
Giacomo. O generous friend ! How canst thou pardon me?
Would that my life could purchase thine !
That wish Now comes a day too late. Haste ; fare thee well ! Hear'st thou not steps along the corridor? [Exit GIACOMO.
I'm sorry for it; but the guards are waiting
At his own gate, and such was my contrivance
That I might rid me both of him and them.
I thought to act a solemn comedy
Upon the painted scene of this new world,
And to attain my own peculiar ends
By some such plot of mingled good and ill
As others weave ; but there arose a Power
Which grasped and snapped the threads of my device,
And turned it to a net of ruin-Ha! [A shout is heard.
Is that my name I hear proclaimed abroad?
But I will pass, wrapped in a vile disguise,
Rags on my back, and a false innocence
Upon my face, through the misdeeming crowd
Which judges by what seems. 'Tis easy then,
For a new name and for a country new,
And a new life fashioned on old desires,
To change the honours of abandoned Rome :
And these must be the masks of that within,
Which must remain unaltered.-Oh! I fear
That what is past will never let me rest!
Why, when none else is conscious, but myself,
Of my misdeeds, should my own heart's contempt
Trouble me? have I not the power to fly
My own reproaches ? shall I be the slave
Of-what? A word ! which those of this false world
Employ against each other, not themselves ;
As men wear daggers not for self-offence.
But, if I am mistaken, where shall I
Find the disguise to hide me from myself,
As now I skulk from every other eye?
SCENE II.--A Hall of Justice.
CAMILLO, JUDGES, &c., are discovered seated ; Marzio is led in.
First Judge. Accused, do you persist in your denial ?
I ask you, are you innocent or guilty ?
I demand who were the participators
In your offence? Speak truth, and the whole truth.
Marzio. My God ! I did not kill him ; I know nothing ;
Olimpio sold the robe to me from which
You would inser my guilt.