ePub 版
[blocks in formation]


To flatter their tormentors. Have they said
That they were guilty? O white innocence!
That thou shouldst wear the mask of guilt to hide
Thine awful and serenest countenance

From those who know thee not!

Enter JUDGE with LUCRETIA and GIACOMO, guarded.

Ignoble hearts!
For some brief spasms of pain, which are at least
As mortal as the limbs through which they pass,
Are centuries of high splendour laid in dust?
And that eternal honour which should live
Sunlike, above the reek of mortal fame,
Changed to a mockery and a bye-word? What!
these bodies to be dragg'd
At horses' heels, so that our hair should sweep
The footsteps of the vain and senseless crowd,
Who, that they may make our calamity
Their worship and their spectacle, will leave
The churches and the theatres as void

you give up

As their own hearts? Shall the light multitude Fling, at their choice, curses or faded pity, Sad funeral flowers to deck a living corpse, Upon us as we pass to pass away,

And leave-what memory of our having been? Infamy, blood, terror, despair? O thou,

Who wert a mother to the parentless,

Kill not thy child! Let not her wrongs kill thee!
Brother, lie down with me upon the rack,
And let us each be silent as a corpse;
It soon will be as soft as any grave.

'T is but the falsehood it can wring from fear
Makes the rack cruel.

[blocks in formation]

What wouldst thou tell, sweet brother? The rack henceforth into a spinning-wheel!

[blocks in formation]

Torture your dog, that he may tell when last
He lapp'd the blood his master shed--not me!
My pangs are of the mind, and of the heart,
And of the soul; aye, of the inmost soul,
Which weeps within tears as of burning gall
To see, in this ill world where none are true,
My kindred false to their deserted selves,
And with considering all the wretched life
Which I have lived, and its now wretched end,
And the small justice shown by Heaven and Earth
To me or mine; and what a tyrant thou art,
And what slaves these; and what a world we make,
The oppressor and the oppress'd-such pangs compel
My answer. What is it thou wouldst with me?

[blocks in formation]

Have I confessed? Is it all over now?

No hope! No refuge! O, weak, wicked tongue
Which hast destroy'd me, would that thou hadst been
Cut out and thrown to dogs first! To have killed
My father first, and then betrayed my sister;
Aye, thee! the one thing innocent and pure
In this black guilty world, to that which I
So well deserve! My wife! my little ones!
Destitute, helpless; and I-Father! God!
Canst thou forgive even the unforgiving,
When their full hearts break thus, thus!-

[blocks in formation]

The Pope is stern; not to be moved or bent.
He look'd 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 frown'd, 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 Kill'd in his sleep? Then to another: Thou [Covers his face and weeps. Dost this in virtue of thy place; 't is well.» He turn'd to me then, looking deprecation,


To what a dreadful end are we all come! Why did I yield? Why did I not sustain

Those torments?

O, my child! And said these three words, coldly: «They must die..

Oh! that I were all dissolved

Into these fast and unavailing tears,
Which flow and feel not!


What 't was weak to do,

"T is weaker to lament, once being done;

Take cheer! The God who knew my wrong, and made
Our speedy act the angel of his wrath,
Seems, and but seems to have abandon'd us.
Let us not think that we shall die for this.
Brother, sit near me; give me your firm hand,
You had a manly heart. Bear up! bear up!
Oh dearest Lady, put your gentle head
Upon my lap, and try to sleep awhile:
Your look pale, hollow and overworn,
With heaviness of watching and slow grief.
Come, I will sing you some low, sleepy tune,
Not cheerful, nor yet sad; some dull old thing,
Some outworn and unused monotony,


And yet you left him not?


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 fulfill'd.»


O, God, not so! I did believe indeed

That all you said was but sad preparation
For happy news. O, there are words and looks

To bend the sternest purpose! Once I knew them,

[blocks in formation]


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
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? O, where am I? Let me not go mad!

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:
O, what a thought! It gushes to my heart

Like the warm blood.


Yet both will soon be cold,
O, 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 yawns, like death. O, 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;

Sweet Heaven, forgive weak thoughts! If there should be Such the alleviation of worst wrongs.

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
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,
Mask'd 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 return'd
To teach the laws of death's untrodden realm?
Unjust perhaps as those which drive us now,
O, whither, whither?


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


"T is 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.

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; 't were 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-

That tears,

BERNARDO rushes in.


Oh, horrible!

that looks, that hope pour'd 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 't were fancy?
Soon the heart's blood of all I love on earth
Will sprinkle him, and he will wipe it off
As if't were 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,
Shiver'd 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 a bond to all our loves-
Dead! The sweet bond broken!

[blocks in formation]

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; aye, that does well.

Though wrapt in a strange cloud of crime and shame, And yours I see is coming down. How often
Lived ever holy and unstain'd. And though

Ill tongues shall wound me, and our common name
Be as a mark stamp'd on thine innocent brow

Ilave we done this for one another! now We shall not do it any more. My Lord, We are quite ready. Well, 't is very well.

Prometheus Unbound;


Audisne hæc, Amphiarae, sub terram abdite?


THE Greek tragic writers, in selecting as their subject any portion of their national history or mythology, employed in their treatment of it a certain arbitrary discretion. They by no means conceived themselves bound to adhere to the common interpretation, or to imitate in story as in title their rivals and predecessors. Such a system would have amounted to a resignation of those claims to preference over their competitors which incited the composition. The Agamemnonian story was exhibited on the Athenian theatre with as many variations as dramas.

I have presumed to employ a similar licence. The Prometheus Unbound of Æschylus supposed the reconciliation of Jupiter with his victim as the price of the disclosure of the danger threatened to his empire by the consummation of his marriage with Thetis. Thetis, according to this view of the subject, was given in marriage to Peleus, and Prometheus, by the permission of Jupiter, delivered from his captivity by Hercules. Had I framed my story on this model, I should have done no more than have attempted to restore the lost drama of Æschylus; an ambition, which, if my preference to this mode of treating the subject had incited me to cherish, the recollection of the high comparison such an attempt would challenge might well abate. But, in truth, I was averse from a catastrophe so feeble as that of reconciling the Champion with the Oppressor of mankind. The moral interest of the fable, which is so powerfully sustained by the sufferings and endurance of Prometheus, would be annihilated if we could conceive of him as

unsaying his high language and quailing before his successful and perfidious adversary. The only imaginary being resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan; and Prometheus is, in my judgment, a more poctical character than Satan, because, in addition to courage, and majesty, and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent force, he is susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandisement, which, in the Hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest. The character of Satan engenders in the mind a pernicious casuistry which leads us to weigh his faults with his wrongs, and to excuse the former because the latter exceed all measure. In the minds of those who consider that magnificent fiction with a religious feeling, it engenders something worse. But Prometheus is, as it were, the type of the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature, impelled by the purest and the truest motives to the best and noblest ends.

This Poem was chiefly written upon the mountainous ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, among the flowery glades, and thickets of odoriferous blossoming trees, which are extended in ever-winding labyrinths upon its immense platforms and dizzy arches suspended in the air. The bright blue sky of Rome, and the effect of the vigorous awakening spring in that divinest climate, and the new life with which it drenches the spirits even to intoxication, were the inspiration of this drama.

The imagery which I have employed will be found, in many instances, to have been drawn from the operations of the human mind, or from those external actions by which they are expressed. This is unusual in modern poetry, although Dante and Shakspeare are full of in

stances of the same kind: Dante indeed more than any other poet, and with greater success. But the Greek poets, as writers to whom no resource of awakening the sympathy of their contemporaries was unknown, were in the habitual use of this power; and it is the study of their works (since a higher merit would probably be denied me), to which I am willing that my readers should impute this singularity.

his mind should no longer be the mirror of all that is lovely in the visible universe, as exclude from his contemplation the beautiful which exists in the writings of a great contemporary. The pretence of doing it would be a presumption in any but the greatest; the effect, even in him, would be strained, unnatural, and ineffectual. A poet is the combined product of such internal powers as modify the nature of others; and of such external influences as excite and sustain these powers; he is not one, but both. Every man's mind is, in this respect, modified by all the objects of nature and art; by every word and every suggestion which he ever admitted to act upon his consciousness; it is the mirror upon which all forms are reflected, and in which they compose one form. Poets, not otherwise than philosophers, painters, sculptors, and musicians, are, in one sense, the creators, and, in another, the creations, of their age. From this subjection the loftiest do not escape. There is a similarity between Homer and Hesiod, between Eschylus and Euripides, between Vir

One word is due in candour to the degree in which the study of contemporary writings may have tinged my composition, for such has been a topic of censure with regard to poems far more popular, and indeed more deservedly popular, than mine. It is impossible that any one who inhabits the same age with such writers as those who stand in the foremost ranks of our own, can conscientiously assure himself that his language and tone of thought may not have been modified by the study of the productions of those extraordinary intellects. It is true, that, not the spirit of their genius, but the forms in which it has manifested itself, are due less to the peculiarities of their own minds than to the pecu-gil and Horace, between Dante and Petrarch, between liarity of the moral and intellectual condition of the minds among which they have been produced. Thus a number of writers possess the form, whilst they want the spirit of those whom, it is alleged, they imitate; because the former is the endowment of the age in which they live, and the latter must be the uncommunicated lightning of their own mind.

Shakspeare and Fletcher, between Dryden and Pope; each has a generic resemblance under which their specific distinctions are arranged. If this similarity be the result of imitation, I am willing to confess that I have imitated.

Let this opportunity be conceded to me of acknowledging that I have, what a Scotch philosopher characThe peculiar style of intense and comprehensive teristically terms, «< a passion for reforming the world: imagery which distinguishes the modern literature of what passion incited him to write and publish his book, England, has not been, as a general power, the product he omits to explain. For my part I had rather be of the imitation of any particular writer. The mass of damned with Plato and Lord Bacon, than go to Heaven capabilities remains at every period materially the with Paley and Malthus. But it is a mistake to suppose same; the circumstances which awaken it to action that I dedicate my poetical compositions solely to the perpetually change. If England were divided into direct enforcement of reform, or that I consider them forty republics, each equal in population and extent in any degree as containing a reasoned system on the to Athens, there is no reason to suppose but that, under theory of human life. Didactic poetry is my abhorinstitutions not more perfect than those of Athens, rence; nothing can be equally well expressed in prose each would produce philosophers and poets equal to that is not tedious and supererogatory in verse. My those who (if we except Shakspeare) have never been purpose has hitherto been simply to familiarize the surpassed. We owe the great writers of the golden age highly refined imagination of the more select classes of of our literature to that fervid awakening of the public | poetical readers with beautiful idealisms of moral exmind which shook to dust the oldest and most oppres-cellence; aware that until the mind can love, and sive form of the Christian religion. We owe Milton to admire, and trust, and hope, and endure, reasoned printhe progress and development of the same spirit: the ciples of moral conduct are seeds cast upon the highway sacred Milton was, let it ever be remembered, a repub- of life, which the unconscious passenger tramples into lican, and a bold inquirer into morals and religion. dust, although they would bear the harvest of his hapThe great writers of our own age are, we have reason piness. Should I live to accomplish what I purpose, to suppose, the companions and forerunners of some that is, produce a systematical history of what appear to unimagined change in our social condition or the me to be the genuine elements of human society, let opinions which cement it. The cloud of mind is dis- not the advocates of injustice and superstition flatter charging its collected lightning, and the equilibrium themselves that I should take Eschylus rather than between institutions and opinions is now restoring, or Plato as my model. is about to be restored.

As to imitation, poetry is a mimetic art. It creates, but it creates by combination and representation. Poetical abstractions are beautiful and new, not because the portions of which they are composed had no previous existence in the mind of man or in nature, but because the whole produced by their combination has some intelligible and beautiful analogy with those sources of emotion and thought, and with the contemporary condition of them: one great poet is a masterpiece of nature, which another not only ought to study but must study. He might as wisely and as easily determine that

The having spoken of myself with unaffected freedom will need little apology with the candid; and let the uncandid consider that they injure me less than their own hearts and minds by misrepresentation. Whatever talents a person may possess to amuse and instruct others, be they ever so inconsiderable, he is yet bound to exert them: if his attempt be ineffectual, let the punishment of an unaccomplished purpose have been sufficient; let none trouble themselves to heap the dust of oblivion upon his efforts; the pile they raise will betray his grave, which might otherwise have been unknown.

« 上一頁繼續 »