Obrazy na stronie

as if death scarcely could extinguish.

for our own age which they have done for theirs. But it must be the real language of men in general, and not that of any particular class, to whose society the writer happens to belong. So much for what I have attempted: I need not be assured that success is a very different matter; particularly for one whose attention has but newly been awakened to the study of dramatic literature. I endeavoured whilst at Rome to observe such monuments of this story as might be accessible to a stranger. The portrait of Beatrice at the Colonna Palace is most admirable as a work of art: it was taken by Guido during her confinement in prison. But it is most interesting as a just representation of one of the loveliest specimens of the workmanship of Nature. There is a fixed and pale composure upon the features: she seems sad and stricken down in spirit, yet the despair thus expressed is lightened by the patience of gentleness. Her head is bound with folds of white drapery, from which the yellow strings of her golden hair escape and fall about her neck. The moulding of her face is exquisitely delicate; the eye-brows are distinct and arched; the lips have that permanent meaning of imagination and sensibility which suffering has not repressed, and which it seems Her forehead is large and clear; her eyes, which we are told were remarkable for their vivacity, are swollen with weeping and lustreless, but beautifully tender and serene. In the whole mien there is a simplicity and dignity

which, united with her exquisite loveliness and deep sorrow, are inexpressibly pathetic. Beatrice Cenci appears to have been one of those rare persons in whom energy and gentleness dwell together without destroying one another: her nature was simple and profound. The crimes and miseries in which she was an actor and a sufferer, are as the mask and the mantle in which circumstances clothed her for her impersonation on the scene of the world.

The Cenci Palace is of great extent; and, though in part modernised, there yet remains a vast and gloomy pile of feudal architecture in the same state as during the dreadful scenes which are the subject of this tragedy. The palace is situated in an obscure corner of Rome, near the quarter of the Jews, and from the upper windows you see the immense ruins of Mount Palatine half hidden under their profuse overgrowth of trees. There is a court in one part of the palace (perhaps that in which Cenci built the chapel to St. Thomas), supported by granite columns and adorned with antique friezes of fine workmanship, and built up, according to the ancient Italian fashion, with balcony over balcony of open work. One of the gates of the palace, formed of immense stones, and leading through a passage dark and lofty, and opening into gloomy subterranean chambers, struck me particularly.

Of the Castle of Petrella, I could obtain no further information than that which is to be found in the manuscript.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The Scrwr lies principally in Rome, but changes during the Fourth Act to Petrella, a Castle among the
Apulian Apennines.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

That which the vassal threatened to divulge,
Whose throat is choked with dust for his reward.
The deed he saw could not have rated higher
Than his most worthless life:—it angers me !
Respited from Hell —So may the Devil
Respite their souls from Heaven. No doubt Pope
And his most charitable nephews, pray [Clement,
That the Apostle Peter and the saints
Will grant for their sake that I long enjoy
Strength, wealth, and pride, and lust, and length of
Wherein to act the deeds which are the stewards
Of their revenue.—But much yet remains
To which they show no title.


Oh, Count Cenci! So much that thou might'st honourably live, And reconcile thyself with thine own heart And with thy God, and with the offended world. How hideously look deeds of lust and blood Through those snow-white and venerable hairs Your children should be sitting round you now, But that you fear to read upon their looks The shame and misery you have written there. Where is your wife? Where is yourgentle daughter? Methinks hersweet looks, which make all things else Beauteous and glad, might kill the fiend within you. Why is she barred from all society But her own strange and uncomplaining wrongs? Talk with me, Count, you know I mean you well. I stood beside your dark and fiery youth, Watching its bold and bad career, as men Watch meteors, but it vanished not—I marked Your desperate and remorseless manhood; now Do I behold you, in dishonoured age, Charged with a thousand unrepented crimes. Yet I have ever hoped you would amend, And in that hope have saved your life three times.

CENCI. For which Aldobrandino owes you now My fief beyond the Pincian—Cardinal, One thing, I pray you, recollect henceforth, And so we shall converse with less restraint. A man you knew spoke of my wife and daughter, He was accustomed to frequent my house; So the next day his wife and daughter came And asked if I had seen him ; and I smiled : I think they never saw him any more.

CAMI i.i.o. Thou execrable man, beware —


Of thee Nay, this is idle –We should know each other. As to my character for what men call crime, Seeing I please my senses as I list, And vindicate that right with force or guile, It is a public matter, and I care not If I discuss it with you. I may speak Alike to you and my own conscious heart; For you give out that you have half reformed me, Therefore strong vanity will keep you silent If fear should not ; both will, I do not doubt. All men delight in sensual luxury, All men enjoy revenge; and most exult Over the tortures they can never feel ; Flattering their secret peace with others’ pain. But I delight in nothing else. I love

The sight of agony, and the sense of joy,
When this shall be another's, and that mine.
And I have no remorse, and little fear,
Which are, I think, the checks of other men.
This mood has grown upon me, until now
Any design my captious fancy makes
The picture of its wish, and it forms none
But such as men like you would start to know,
Is as my natural food and rest debarred
Until it be accomplished.

CAMILL0. Art thou not Most miserable? CENci. Why miserable?— No. I am what your theologians call Hardened ; which they must be in impudence, So to revile a man's peculiar taste. True, I was happier than I am, while yet Manhood remained to act the thing I thought; While lust was sweeter than revenge; and now Invention palls; ay, we must all grow old : But that there yet remains a deed to act Whose horror might make sharp an appetite Duller than mine—I’d do, I know not what. When I was young I thought of nothing else But pleasure ; and I fed on honey sweets: Men, by St. Thomas 1 cannot live like bees, And I grew tired : yet, till I killed a foe, [groans, And heard his groans, and heard his children's Knew I not what delight was else on earth, Which now delights me little. I the rather Look on such pangs as terror ill conceals; The dry, fixed eye-ball; the pale, quivering lip, Which tell me that the spirit weeps within Tears bitterer than the bloody sweat of Christ. I rarely kill the body, which preserves, Like a strong prison, the soul within my power, Wherein I feed it with the breath of fear For hourly pain.

CAMillo. Hell’s most abandoned fiend Did never, in the drunkenness of guilt, Speak to his heart as now you speak to me; I thank my God that I believe you not.


ANDREA. My Lord, a gentleman from Salamanca Would speak with you.

CENCI. Bid him attend me in the grand saloon. [Erit ANDREA. CAMILL0. Farewell; and I will pray Almighty God that thy false, impious words Tempt not his spirit to abandon thee. [Erit CAMILLo. CENCI. The third of my possessions ! I must use Close husbandry, or gold, the old man's sword, Falls from my withered hand. But yesterday There came an order from the Pope to make Fourfold provision for my cursed sons; Whom I have sent from Rome to Salamanca, Hoping some accident might cut them off; And meaning, if I could, to starve them there. I pray thee, God, send some quick death upon them

Bernardo and my wife could not be worse
If dead and damned:—then, as to Beatrice—
[Looking around him suspiciously.
I think they cannot hear me at that door;
What if they should And yet I need not speak,
Though the heart triumphs with itself in words.
O, thou most silent air, that shall not hear
What now I think! Thou, pavement, which I tread
Towards her chamber, let your echoes talk
Of my imperious step, scorning surprise,
But not of my intent —Andrea 1


ANDREA. My lord CENCI. Bid Beatrice attend me in her chamber This evening:—no, at midnight, and alone. [Exeunt.


SCENE II. A Garden of the Cenci Palace. Enter BEATRice and Ohsino, 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 moon-light ruins of Mount Palatine, I did confess to you my secret mind.

orsi No. You said you loved me then.

beat Rice. You are a priest: Speak to me not of love.

ORSIN0. 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 miser 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 thus 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

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

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 mobility 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 :
Till when—farewell.

orsino. Farewell. [Erit BEATRICE. 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 anatomise 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. [Exit.

SCENE III. A magnificent Hall in the Cenci Palace.

A Banquet. Enter CENci, Luchetia, BEATRick, ORsiNo.

CAMillo, Nobles.

cenci. Welcome, my friends and kinsmen ; welcome ye, 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 eause 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 of heart,
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

sECON in 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.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]


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 felland 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.
And I.-

thi RD 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). Oh, thou bright wine, whose purple splendour leaps And bubbles gaily in this golden bowl Under the lamp-light, as my spirits do, To hear the death of my accursed 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). - Thou wretch Will none among this noble company Check the abandoned villain

CAMILL0. - - For God's sake, Let me dismiss the guests You are insane, Some ill will come of this.

Seize, silence him :


Given at my brothers' deaths.

rl RST GUESt. I will ! Third GUEST. And I'

cExci (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.


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

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
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.
Oh 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 no 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?
Oh, God that I were buried with my brothers
And that the flowers of this departed spring
Were fading on my gravel And that my father
Were celebrating now one feast for all !

CAMILL0. A bitter wish for one so young and gentle; Can we do nothing —

COLONNA. Nothing that I see. Count Cenci were a dangerous enemy: Yet I would second any one.


And I.

CENCI. Retire to your chamber, insolent girl

BEATRICE. Retire thou, impious man Ay, hide thyself Where never eye can look upon thee more 1 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 fervently Pray that he pity both ourselves and thee.

CeNCh. 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.— [Ereunt 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 ! [Erit BEATRice. 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 ! [Exit.

« PoprzedniaDalej »