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Mart. The day wears,
And those that have been offering early prayers,
Are now retiring homeward.

Thier. Stand and mark then.
Mart. Is it the first must suffer?
Thier. The first woman,
Mart. What hand shall do it, sir?

Thier. This hand, Martel:
For who less dare presume to give the gods
An incense of this offering?

Mart. Would I were she,
For such a way to die, and such a blessing,
Can never crown my parting.
Here comes a woman.

Ordella comes out from the Temple, veiled.
Thier. Stand and behold her then,
Mart. I think a fair one.
Thier. Move not whilst I prepare her: may her

peace,
Like his whose innocence the gods are pleas'd with,
And offering at their altars, gives his soul
Far purer than those fires, pull heaven upon her ;
You holy powers, no human spot dwell in her;
No love of any thing, but you and goodness,
Tie her to earth; fear be a stranger to her,
And all weak blood's affections, but thy hope,
Let her bequeath to women: hear me, heaven,
Give her a spirit masculine and noble,
Fit for yourselves to ask, and me to offer.
O let her meet my blow, doat on her death;
And as a wanton vine bows to the

pruner,
That by his cutting off more may increase,
So let her fall to raise me fruit. Hail womar!
The happiest and the best (if the dull will
Do not abuse thy fortune) France e'er found yet.
Ordel. She's more than dull, sir, less and worse than wo-

man, That may inherit such an infinite

As

1

As you propound, a greatness so near goodness,
And brings a will to rob her.

Thier. Tell me this then,
Was there e'er woman yet, or may be found,
That for fair fame, unspotted memory,
For virtue's sake, and only for its self sake,
Has, or dare make a story?

Ordel. Many dead, sir, living I think as many.

Thier. Say the kingdom
May from a woman's will receive a blessing,
The king and kingdom, not a private safety;
A general blessing, lady.

Ordel. A general curse light on her heart denies it.

Thier. Full of honour; And such examples as the former ages Were but dim shadows of and empty figures. Ordel. You strangely stir me, sir, and were my weak

ness In any

other flesh but modest woman's, You should not ask more questions; may I do it?

Thier. You may, and which is more, you must.

Ordel. I joy in't,
Above a moderate gladness; sir, you promise
It shall be honest.

Thier. As ever time discover'd.

Ordel. Let it be what it may then, what it dare, I have a mind will hazard it.

Thier. But hark ye,
What

may that woman merit, makes this blessing?
Ordel. Only her duty, sir.
Thier. 'Tis terrible.
Ordel. "Tis so much the more noble.
Thier. 'Tis full of fearful shadows.

Ordel. So is sleep, sir,
Or any thing that's merely ours and mortal;
We were begotten gods else : but those fears,
Feeling but once the fires of nobler thoughts,
Fly, like the shapes of clouds we form, to nothing.
Thier. Suppose it death.
Dd

Ordel. Ordel. I do

Thier. And endless parting
With all we can call ours, with all our sweetness,
With youth, strength, pleasure, people, time, nay reason :
For in the silent grave, no conversation,99
No joyful tread of friends, no voice of lovers,
No careful father's counsel, nothing's heard,
Nor nothing is, but all oblivion,
Dust and an endless darkness: and dare you, woman,
Desire this place?

Ordel. 'Tis of all sleeps the sweetest ;
Children begin it to us, strong men seek it,
And kings from height of all their painted glories
Fall like spent exhalations to this centre :
And those are fools that fear it, or imagine,
A few unhandsome pleasures, or life's profits,
Can recompence

this place; and mad that stay it,
Till
age

blow out their lights, or rotten humours Bring

them dispers'd to the earth. Thier. Then you can suffer? Ordel. As willingly as say it.

Thier. Martel, a wonder!
Here is a woman that dares die. Yet tell me,
Are you a wife?

Ordel. I am, sir.
Thier. And have children? She sighs and weeps.
Ordel. O none, sir.

Thier. Dare you venture,
For a poor barren praise you ne'er shall hear,
To part with these sweet hopes ?

Ordel. With all but heaven,
And yet die full of children; he that reads me
When I am ashes, is my son in wishes;
And those chaste dames that keep my memory,
Singing my yearly requiems, are my daughters.
Thier. Then there is nothing wanting but my know-

ledge,

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And

99 There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdon, in the grave, whither thou goest. Eccles.

And what I must do, lady.

Ordel. You are the king, sir, And what

you

do I'll suffer; and that blessing That

you desire, the gods shower on the kingdom. Thier. Thus much before I strike then, for I must kill

you,
The gods have will'd it so, they've made the blessing
Must make France young again, and me a man.
Keep up your strength still nobly,

Ordel. Fear me not.
Thier. And meet death like a measure,
Ordel. I am stedfast.

Thier. Thou shalt be sainted, woman, and thy tomb
Cut out in chrystal pure and good as thou art;
And on it shall be graven every age
Succeeding peers of France that rise by thy fall,
Till thou liest there like old and fruitful Nature.
Darest thou behold thy happiness?
Ordel. I dare, sir.

(Pulls off her veil: he lets fall his sword.) Thier. Ha! Mar. 0, sir, you must not do it.

Thier. No, I dare not.
There is an angel keeps that paradise,
A fiery angel friend : O virtue, virtue,
Ever and endless virtue.

Ordel. Strike, sir, strike;
And if in my poor death fair France may merit,
Give me a thousand blows, be killing me
A thousand days.

Thier. First let the earth be barren,
And man no more remember'd. Rise, Ordella,
The nearest to thy maker, and the purest
That ever dull flesh shewed us,—Oh my heart strings.100
Dd 2

Martel

100 I have always considered this to be the finest scene in Fletcher, and Ordella the most perfect idea of the female heroic character, next to Calantha in the Broken Heart of Ford, that has been embodied in fiction. She is a piece of sainted nature. Yet noble as

Martel relates to Thierry the manner of Ordella's death.

Mar. The grier'd Ordella, (for all other titles
But take away from that) having from me,
Prompted by your last parting groan, enquir'd
What drew it from you, and the cause soon learn'd:
For she whom barbarism could deny nothing,
With such prevailing earnestness desir'd it,
'Twas not in me, though it had been my death,
To hide it from her; she, I say, in whom
All was, that Athens, Rome, or warlike Sparta,
Have register'd for good in their best women,
But nothing of their ill; knowing herself
Mark'd out, (I know not by what power, but sure
A cruel one) to die, to give you children ;
Having first with a settled countenance
Look'd up to heaven, and then upon herself,
(It being the next best object) and then smild,
As if her joy in death to do you

service,
Would break forth, in despite of the much sorrow
She shew'd she had to leave you; and then taking
Me by the hand, this hand which I must ever

Love

the whole scene is, it must be confessed that the manner of it, compared with Shakspeare's finest scenes, is slow and languid. Its motion is circular, not progressive. Each line revolves on itself in a sort of separate orbit. They do not join into one another like a running hand. Every step that we go we are stopped to admire some single object, like walking in beautiful scenery with a guide. This slowness I shall elsewhere have occasion to remark as characteristic of Fletcher. Another striking difference perceivable between Fletcher and Shakspeare, is the fondness of the former for unnatural and violent situations, like that in the scene before us. He seems to have thought that nothing great could be produced in an ordinary way. The chief incidents in the Wife for a Month, in Cupid's Revenge, in the Double Marriage, and in many more of his Tragedies, shew this. Shakspeare had nothing of this contortion in his mind, none of that craving after romantic incidents, and flights of strained and improbable virtue, which I think always betrays an imperfect moral sensibility,

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