Obrazy na stronie

You come to ask their pardon. Stay a moment;
Here is their sentence; never see me more,
Till to the letter it be all fulfilled.”

Bernardo. O God, not so ! I did believe indeed
That all you said was but sad preparation
For happy news. Oh there are words and looks
To bend the sternest purpose! Once I knew them;
Now I forget them at my dearest need.
What think you if I seek him out, and bathe
His feet and robe with hot and bitter tears?
Importune him with prayers, vexing his brain
With my perpetual cries, until in rage
He strike me with his pastoral cross, and trample
l'pon my prostrate head so that my blood
May stain the senseless dust on which he treads,
And remorse waken mercy? I will do it!
Oh wait till I return !

[Rushes out. Camillo.

Alas! poor boy! A wreck-devoted seaman thus might pray To the deaf sea.


I hardly dare to fear
That thou bring'st other news than a just pardon.

Camillo, May God in heaven be less inexorable
To the Pope's prayers than he has been to mine!
Here is the sentence and the warrant.
Beatrice (wildly).

My God! Can it be possible I have
To die so suddenly? so young to go
L'nder the obscure, cold, rotting, wormy ground?
To be nailed down into a narrow place;
To see no more sweet sunshine ; hear no more
Blithe voice of living thing ; muse not again
l'pon familiar thoughts, -sad, yet thus lost
How fearful ! To be nothing ! or to be-
What? Oh where am I? Let me not go mad !
Sweet Heaven, forgive weak thoughts! If there should be
No God, no heaven, no earth, in the void world,
The wide, grey, lampless, deep, unpeopled world!
If all things then should be my father's spirit,
Hincre. his voice, his touch, surrounding me,

The atmosphere and breath of my dead life !
If sometimes, as a shape more like himself,
Even the form which tortured me on earth,
Masked in grey hairs and wrinkles, he should come,
And wind me in his hellish arms, and fix
His eyes on mine, and drag me down, down, down!
For was he not alone omnipotent
On earth, and ever present? Even though dead
Does not his spirit live in all that breathe,
And work for me and mine still the same ruin,
Scorn, pain, despair? Who ever yet returned
To teach the laws of Death's untrodden realm?
Unjust perhaps as those which drive us now,
Oh whither, whither?

Trust in God's sweet love,
The tender promises of Christ : ere night
Think we shall be in paradise.

... 'Tis past !
Whatever comes, my heart shall sink no more.
And yet, I know not why, your words strike chill.
How tedious, false, and cold, seem all things ! I
Have met with much injustice in this world;
No difference has been made by God or man,
Or any power moulding my wretched lot,
'Twixt good or evil, as regarded me.
I am cut off from the only world I know,
From light and life and love, in youth's sweet prime.
You do well telling me to trust in God;
I hope I do trust in him : in whom else
Can any trust? And yet my heart is cold.
[During the latter speeches GIACOMO has retired conversing

with CAMILLO, who now goes out ; GIACOMO advances.
Giaconio. Know you not, mother-sister, know you not?
Bernardo even now is gone to implore
The Pope to grant our pardon.

Child, perhaps
It will be granted ! We may all then live
To make these woes a tale for distant years.
Oh what a thought! It gushes to my heart
Like the warm blood.

Yet both will soon be cold.
Oh trample out that thought! Worse than despair,

Worse than the bitterness of death, is hope :
It is the only ill which can find place
Upon the giddy, sharp, and narrow hour
Tottering beneath us. Plead with the swift frost
That it should spare the eldest flower of Spring :
Plead with awakening earthquake, o'er whose couch
Even now a city stands, strong, fair, and free-
Now stench and blackness yawn, like death : oh plead
With famine or wind-walking pestilence,
Blind lightning or the deaf sea ;—not with man!
Cruel, cold, formal man; righteous in words,
In deeds a Cain! No, mother, we must die :
Since such is the reward of innocent lives,
Such the alleviation of worst wrongs.
And, whilst our murderers live, and hard cold men,
Smiling and slow, walk through a world of tears
To death as to life's sleep, 'twere just the grave
Were some strange joy for us. Come, obscure Death,
And wind me in thine all-embracing arms !
Like a fond mother hide me in thy bosom,
And rock me to the sleep from which none wake!
Live, ye who live, subject to one another,
As we were once, who now-

BERNARDO rushes in.

Oh horrible! That tears, that looks, that hope poured forth in prayer Even till the heart is vacant and despairs, Should all be vain! The ministers of death Are waiting round the doors. I thought I saw Blood on the face of one.- What if 'twere fancy? Soon the heart's blood of all I love on earth Will sprinkle him, and he will wipe it off As if 'twere only rain. O life ! O world ! Cover me ! let me be no more! To see That perfect mirror of pure innocence, Wherein I gazed, and grew happy and good, Shivered to dust! To see thee, Beatrice, Who mad'st all lovely thou didst look uponThee, light of life-dead, dark ! while I say “Sister," To hear I have no sister! And thou, mother, Whose love was as a bond to all our lovesDead-the sweet bond broken !

Enter Camillo and Guards.

They come! Let me
Kiss those warm lips before their crimson leaves
Are blighted-white-cold. Say farewell, before
Death chokes that gentle voice! Oh let me hear
You speak!

Beatrice. Farewell, my tender brother. Think
Of our sad fate with gentleness, as now:
And let mild pitying thoughts lighten for thee
Thy sorrow's load. Err not in harsh despair,
But tears and patience. One thing more, my child :
For thine own sake be constant to the love
Thou bearest us; and to the faith that I,
Though wrapped in a strange cloud of crime and shame,
Lived ever holy and unstained. And, though
Ill tongues shall wound me, and our common name
Be as a mark stamped on thine innocent brow
For men to point at as they pass, do thou
Forbear, and never think a thought unkind
Of those who perhaps love thee in their graves.
So mayst thou die as I do, fear and pain
Being subdued. Farewell ! farewell ! farewell !

Bernardo. I cannot say farewell !

Oh Lady Beatrice !
Beatrice. Give yourself no unnecessary pain,
My dear Lord Cardinal.--Here, mother, tie
My girdle for me, and bind up this hair
In any simple knot : ay, that does well.
And yours, I see, is coming down. How often
Have we done this for one another ! now
We shall not do it any more. My lord,
We are quite ready. Well, 'tis very well.


The sort of mistake that Shelley made as to the extent of his own genius and powers, which led him deviously at first, but lastly into the direct tract that enabled him fully to develop them, is a curious instance of his modesty of feeling, and of the methods which the human mind uses at once to deceive itself, and yet, in its very delusion, to make its way out of error into the path which Nature has marked out as its right one. He often incited me to attempt the writing a tragedy: he conceived that I

possessed some dramatic talent, and he was always most earnest and energetic in his exhortations that I should cultivate any talent I possessed, to the utmost. I entertained a truer estimate of my powers; and above all (though at that time not exactly aware of the fact) I was far too young to have any chance of succeeding, even moderately, in a species of composition that requires a greater scope of experience in, and sympathy with, human passion than could then have fallen to my lot, or than any perhaps, except Shelley, ever possessed, even at the age of twenty-six, at which he wrote The Cenci.

On the other hand, Shelley most erroneously conceived himself to be destitute of this talent. He believed that one of the first requisites was the capacity of forming and following up a story or plot. He fancied himself to be defective in this portion of imagination: it was that which gave him least pleasure in the writings of others, though he laid great store by it, as the proper framework to support the sublimest efforts of poetry. He asserted that he was too metaphysical and abstract, too fond of the theoretical and the ideal, to succeed as a tragedian. Jt perhaps is not s that I shared this opinion with himself ; for he had hitherto shown no inclination for, nor given any specimen of his powers in, framing and supporting the interest of a story, either in prose or verse. Once or twice, when he attempted such, he had speedily thrown it aside, as being even disagreeable to him as an occupation

ect he had suggested for a tragedy was Cbarles I.; and he had written to me; “Remember, remember Charles I. I have been already imagining how you would conduct some scenes. The second volume of St. Leon begins with this proud and true sentiment, “There is nothing which the human mind can conceive which it may not execute.' Shakspeare was only a human being.” These words were w in 1818, while we were in Lombardy, when he little thought how soon a work of his own would prove a proud comment on the passage he quoted. When in Rome, in 1819, a friend put into our hands the old manuscript account of the story of the Cenci. We visited the Colonna and Doria palaces, where the portraits of Beatrice were to be found; and her beauty cast the reflection of its own grace over her appalling story. Shelley's imagination became strongly excited, and he urged the subject to me as one fitted for a tragedy. More than ever, I felt my incompetence ; but I entreated him to write it instead ; and he began and proceeded swiftly, urged on by intense sympathy with the sufferings of the human beings whose passions, so long cold in the tomb, he revived, and gifted with poetic language. This tragedy is the only one of his works that he communicated to me during its progress. We talked over the arrangement of the scenes together. I speedily saw the great mistake we had made, and triumphed in the discovery of the new talent brought to light from that mine of wealth (never, alas! through his untimely death, worked to its depths) his richly. gifted mind.

We suffered a severe affliction in Rome by the loss of our eldest child, who was of such beauty and promise as to cause him deservedly to be the idol of our hearts. We left the capital of the world, anxious for a time to escape a spot associated too intimately with his presence and loss. * Some friends of ours were residing in the neighbourhood of Leghorn, and we took a small house, Villa Valsovano, about halfway between the town and Monte Nero, where we remained during the summer.

* Such feelings haunted him when, in The Cenci, he makes Beatrice speak to Cardinal Camillo of

" that fair blue-eyed child Who was the lodestar of your life"and say

"All see, since his most swift and piteous death,

That day and night, and heaven and carth, and time,
And all the things hoped for or done therein,
Are changed to you, through your exceeding grief.”

« PoprzedniaDalej »