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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
Discover'd that I thought so, with false smiles
Making my true suspicion seem your wrong.
Ah! No, forgive me; sorrow makes me seem
Sterner than else my nature might have been;
I have a weight of melancholy thoughts,
And they forebode,—but what can they forebode
Worse than I now endure?
All will be well. Is the petition yet prepared? You know My zeal for all you wish, sweet Beatrice; Doubt not but I will use my utmost skill So that the Pope attend to your complaint.
Your zeal for all I wish;-Ah me, you are cold!
Your utmost skill-speak but one word-
Weak and deserted creature that I am,
Here I stand bickering with my only friend!
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. T is 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 nobility 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.
[Exit 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 debarr'd 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 slave,
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. Her subtle mind, her awe-inspiring gaze, Whose beams anatomize 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.
A magnificent Hall in the Cenci Palace.
A Banquet. Enter CENCI, LUCRETIA, BEATRICE, ORSINO,
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 cause for which 't is 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.
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 accomplish'd, 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.
BEATRICE (to LUCRETIA).
Great God! How horrible! Some dreadful ill
Must have befallen my brothers.
Here are the letters brought from Salamanca;
Beatrice, read them to your mother. God!
I thank thee! In one night didst thou perform,
By ways inscrutable, the thing I sought.
My disobedient and rebellious sons
I do believe it is some jest; though faith!
'T is mocking us somewhat too solemnly.
I think his son has married the Infanta,
Or found a mine of gold in El Dorado
"T is but to season some such news; stay, stay!
I see 't is only raillery by his smile.
CENCI (filling a bowl of wine, and lifting it up).
Oh, thou bright wine, whose purple splendor 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 childrens 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).
Will none among this noble company
Check the abandon'd villain?
Let me dismiss the guests! You are insane,
Are dead!-Why dead!-What means this change of Some ill will come of this.
You hear me not, I tell you they are dead;
And they will need no food or raiment more:
The tapers that did light them the dark way
Are their last cost. The Pope, I think, will not
Expect I should maintain them in their coffins.
Rejoice with me-my heart is wondrous glad.
BEATRICE. (LUCRETIA sinks, half fainting; BEATRICE
It is not true!-Dear lady, pray look up.
Had it been true, there is a God in Heaven,
He would not live to boast of such a boon.
Unnatural man, thou knowest that it is false.
Aye, 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 fell and crush'd him to a mummy,
The rest escaped unhurt. Cristofano
Was stabb'd 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:
Aye, read the letters if you doubt my
I do entreat you, go not, noble guests;
What although tyranny, and impious hate
Stand shelter'd by a father's hoary hair?
What if 't is 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
[The assembly appears confused; several of the I have borne much, and kiss'd the sacred hand
Oh, horrible! I will depart.
Which crush'd us to the earth, and thought its stroke
Was perhaps some paternal chastisement!
Have excused much, doubted; and when no doubt
Remain'd, 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
Given at my brothers' deaths. 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,
Retire, thou impious man! Aye, hide thyself
Where never eye can look upon thee more!
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.
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,
[Exeunt all but CENCI and BEATRICE.
My brain is swimming round;
(TO BEATRICE.) Thou painted viper!
Did he pass this way? Have you seen him, brother? Ah! no, that is his step upon the stairs;
"T is nearer now; his hand is on the door; Mother, if I to thee have ever been
A duteous child, now save me! Thou, great God,
Whose image upon earth a father is,
Dost thou indeed abandon me! He comes;
The door is opening now; I see his face;
He frowns on others, but he smiles on me,
Even as he did after the feast last night.
Enter a SERVANT.
Almighty God, how merciful thou art!
'T is but Orsino's servant.-Well, what news?
My master bids me say, the Holy father
Has sent back your petition thus unopen'd.
[Giving a Paper. And he demands at what hour 't were secure To visit you again?
At the Ave Mary. [Exit SERVANT. So, daughter, our last hope has fail'd! Ah me! How pale you look; you tremble and you stand
Wrapp'd in some fix'd and fearful meditation,
You talk'd of something that your father did
After that dreadful feast? Could it be worse
Than when he smiled, and cried, My sons are dead!
And every one look'd in his neighbour's face
To see if others were as white as he?
At the first word he spoke I felt the blood
Rush to my heart, and fell into a trance;
And when it past I sat all weak and wild;
Whilst you alone stood up, and with strong words
Check'd his unnatural pride; and I could see
The devil was rebuked that lives in him.
Until this hour thus you have ever stood
Between us and your father's moody wrath
Like a protecting presence: your firm mind
Has been our only refuge and defence:
What can have thus subdued it? What can now
Have given you that cold melancholy look,
Succeeding to your unaccustom'd fear?
What is it that you say? I was just thinking
"T were better not to struggle any more.
Men, like my father, have been dark and bloody,
Yet never-O! before worse comes of it,
'T were wise to die: it ends in that at last.
Oh, talk not so, dear child! Tell me at once
What did your father do or say to you?
He stay'd not after that accursed feast
One moment in your chamber.-Speak to me.
Oh! he has trampled me
Under his feet, and made the blood stream down
My pallid cheeks. And he has given us all
Ditch-water, and the fever-stricken flesh
Of buffaloes, and bade us eat or starve,
And we have eaten.-He has made me look
my beloved Bernardo, when the rust
Of heavy chains has gangrened his sweet limbs,
And I have never yet despair'd-but now!
What would I say?
Ah! no, 't is nothing new.
The sufferings we all share have made me wild:
He only struck and cursed me as he pass'd;
He said, he look'd, he did,-nothing at all
Beyond his wont, yet it disorder'd me.
Alas! I am forgetful of my duty,
I should preserve my senses for
Nay, Beatrice; have courage, my sweet girl.
If any one despairs it should be I,
Who loved him once, and now must live with him
Till God in pity call for him or me;
For you may, like your sister, find some husband,
And smile, years hence, with children round your knees;
Then it was I whose inarticulate words
Fell from my lips, who with tottering steps
Fled from your presence, as you now from mine.
Stay, I command you-from this day and hour
Never again, I think, with fearless eye,
And brow superior, and unalter'd cheek,
And that lip made for tenderness or scorn,
Shalt thou strike dumb the meanest of mankind;
Me least of all. Now get thee to thy chamber,
Thou too, loathed image of thy cursed mother,
Thy milky, meek face makes me sick with hate!
[Exeunt BEATRICE and BERNARDO.
(Aside.) So much has past between us as must make
Me bold, her fearful.-'T is an awful thing
To touch such mischief as I now conceive:
So men sit shivering on the dewy bank,
And try the chill stream with their feet; once in
flow the delighted spirit pants for joy!
LUCRETIA (advancing timidly towards him).
Oh, husband! Pray forgive poor Beatrice,
She meant not any ill.
You were not here conspiring? You said nothing
Of how I might be dungeon'd as a madman;
Or be condemn'd to death for some offence,
And you would be the witnesses?-This failing,
How just it were to hire assassins, or
Put sudden poison in my evening drink?
Or smother me when overcome by wine?
Seeing we had no other judge but God,
And he had sentenced me, and there were none
But you to be the executioners
Of his decree enregister'd in heaven?
Oh, no! You said not this?
Blaspheming liar! You are damn'd for this!
But I will take
you may persuade
The stones you tread on to deliver you:
For men shall there be none but those who dare
All things-not question that which I command.
On Wednesday next I shall set out: you know
That savage rock, the Castle of Petrella,
'T is safely wall'd, and moated round about:
Its dungeons under ground, and its thick towers
Never told tales; though they have heard and seen
What might make dumb things speak.-Why do you
Make speediest preparation for the journey!
The all beholding sun yet shines; I hear A busy stir of men about the streets;
I see the bright sky through the window panes :
It is a garish, broad, and peering day;
Loud, light, suspicious, full of eyes and ears,
And every little corner, nook and hole
Is penetrated with the insolent light.
Come darkness! Yet, what is the day to me?
And wherefore should I wish for night, who do
A deed which shall confound both night and day?
"T is she shall grope through a bewildering mist
Of horror: if there be a sun in heaven,
She shall not dare to look upon its beams;
Nor feel its warmth. Let her then wish for night;
The act I think shall soon extinguish all
For me: 1 bear a darker deadlier gloom
Than the earth's shade, or interlunar air,
Or constellations quench'd in murkiest cloud,
Though your peculiar case is hard, I know
The Pope will not divert the course of law.
After that impious feast the other night
I spoke with him, and urged him then to check
Your father's cruel hand; he frown'd and said,
Children are disobedient, and they sting
Their father's hearts to madness and despair,
Requiting years of care with contumely.
I pity the Count Cenci from my heart;
His outraged love perhaps awaken'd hate,
And thus he is exasperated to ill.
In the great war between the old and young,
I, who have white hairs and a tottering body,
Will keep at least blameless neutrality.
Alas, repeat them not again! There then is no redress for me, at least None but that which I may achieve myself, Since I am driven to the brink.-But, say, My innocent sister and my only brother Are dying underneath my father's eye, The memorable torturers of this land, Galeaz Visconti, Borgia, Ezzelin,