A HALL OF THE PRISON.
ENTER CAMILLO AND BERNARDO.
CAMILLO: The Pope is stern; not to be moved or bent. He looked as calm and keen as is the engine Which tortures and which kills, exempt itself From aught that it inflicts; a marble form, A rite, a law, a custom: not a man. He frowned, as if to frown had been the trick Of his machinery, on the advocates Presenting the defences, which he tore And threw behind, muttering with hoarse, harsh voice: 'Which among ye defended their old father Killed in his sleep?' Then to another: 'Thou Dost this in virtue of thy place; 'tis well.' He turned to me then, looking deprecation, And said these three words, coldly: 'They must die.'
BERNARDO: And yet you left him not?
CAMILLO: I urged him still; Pleading, as I could guess, the devilish wrong Which prompted your unnatural parent's death. And he replied: 'Paolo Santa Croce Murdered his mother yester evening, And he is fled. Parricide grows so rife That soon, for some just cause no doubt, the young Will strangle us all, dozing in our chairs. Authority, and power, and hoary hair Are grown crimes capital. You are my nephew, 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 Upon 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!
CAMILLO: Alas, poor boy! A wreck-devoted seaman thus might pray To the deaf sea.
[ENTER LUCRETIA, BEATRICE, AND GIACOMO, GUARDED.]
BEATRICE: 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]: O My God! Can it be possible I have To die so suddenly? So young to go Under 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 Upon 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, gray, lampless, deep, unpeopled world! If all things then should be...my father's spirit, His eye, 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 gray 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?
LUCRETIA: Trust in God's sweet love, The tender promises of Christ: ere night, Think, we shall be in Paradise.
BEATRICE: '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.]
GIACOMO: Know you not, Mother...Sister, know you not? Bernardo even now is gone to implore The Pope to grant our pardon.
LUCRETIA: 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.
BEATRICE: 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.]
BERNARDO: 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 made all lovely thou didst look upon... Thee, 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 loves... Dead! 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 mayest thou die as I do; fear and pain Being subdued. Farewell! Farewell! Farewell!
BERNARDO: I cannot say, farewell!
CAMILLO: 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.