Becket and other plays
by Alfred Lord Tennyson
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_To you, the honoured Chancellor of our own day, I dedicate this dramatic memorial of your great predecessor;—which, altho' not intended in its present form to meet the exigencies of our modern theatre, has nevertheless—for so you have assured me—won your approbation.

Ever yours_,



HENRY II. (son of the Earl of Anjou). THOMAS BECKET, Chancellor of England, afterwards Archbishop of Canterbury. GILBERT FOLIOT, Bishop of London. ROGER, Archbishop of York. Bishop of Hereford. HILARY, Bishop of Chichester. JOCELYN, Bishop of Salisbury. JOHN OF SALISBURY HERBERT OF BOSHAM friends of Becket. WALTER MAP, reputed author of 'Golias,' Latin poems against the priesthood. KING LOUIS OF FRANCE. GEOFFREY, son of Rosamund and Henry. GRIM, a monk of Cambridge. SIR REGINALD FITZURSE SIR RICHARD DE BRITO the four knights of the King's SIR WILLIAM DE TRACY household, enemies of Becket. SIR HUGH DE MORVILLE DE BROC OF SALTWOOD CASTLE. LORD LEICESTER. PHILIP DE ELEEMOSYNA. TWO KNIGHT TEMPLARS. JOHN OF OXFORD (called the Swearer). ELEANOR OF AQUITAINE, Queen of England (divorced from Louis of France). ROSAMUND DE CLIFFORD. MARGERY.

Knights, Monks, Beggars, etc.


A Castle in Normandy. Interior of the Hall. Roofs of a City seen thro' Windows.

HENRY and BECKET at chess.

HENRY. So then our good Archbishop Theobald Lies dying.

BECKET. I am grieved to know as much.

HENRY. But we must have a mightier man than he For his successor.

BECKET. Have you thought of one?

HENRY. A cleric lately poison'd his own mother, And being brought before the courts of the Church, They but degraded him. I hope they whipt him. I would have hang'd him.

BECKET. It is your move.

HENRY. Well—there. [Moves. The Church in the pell-mell of Stephen's time Hath climb'd the throne and almost clutch'd the crown; But by the royal customs of our realm The Church should hold her baronies of me, Like other lords amenable to law. I'll have them written down and made the law.

BECKET. My liege, I move my bishop.

HENRY. And if I live, No man without my leave shall excommunicate My tenants or my household.

BECKET. Look to your king.

HENRY. No man without my leave shall cross the seas To set the Pope against me—I pray your pardon.

BECKET. Well—will you move?

HENRY. There. [Moves.

BECKET. Check—you move so wildly.

HENRY. There then! [Moves.

BECKET. Why—there then, for you see my bishop Hath brought your king to a standstill. You are beaten.

HENRY (kicks over the board). Why, there then—down go bishop and king together. I loathe being beaten; had I fixt my fancy Upon the game I should have beaten thee, But that was vagabond.

BECKET. Where, my liege? With Phryne, Or Lais, or thy Rosamund, or another?

HENRY. My Rosamund is no Lais, Thomas Becket; And yet she plagues me too—no fault in her— But that I fear the Queen would have her life.

BECKET. Put her away, put her away, my liege! Put her away into a nunnery! Safe enough there from her to whom thou art bound By Holy Church. And wherefore should she seek The life of Rosamund de Clifford more Than that of other paramours of thine?

HENRY. How dost thou know I am not wedded to her?

BECKET. How should I know?

HENRY. That is my secret, Thomas.

BECKET. State secrets should be patent to the statesman Who serves and loves his king, and whom the king Loves not as statesman, but true lover and friend.

HENRY. Come, come, thou art but deacon, not yet bishop, No, nor archbishop, nor my confessor yet. I would to God thou wert, for I should find An easy father confessor in thee.

BECKET. St. Denis, that thou shouldst not. I should beat Thy kingship as my bishop hath beaten it.

HENRY. Hell take thy bishop then, and my kingship too! Come, come, I love thee and I know thee, I know thee, A doter on white pheasant-flesh at feasts, A sauce-deviser for thy days of fish, A dish-designer, and most amorous Of good old red sound liberal Gascon wine: Will not thy body rebel, man, if thou flatter it?

BECKET. That palate is insane which cannot tell A good dish from a bad, new wine from old.

HENRY. Well, who loves wine loves woman.

BECKET. So I do. Men are God's trees, and women are God's flowers; And when the Gascon wine mounts to my head, The trees are all the statelier, and the flowers Are all the fairer.

HENRY. And thy thoughts, thy fancies?

BECKET. Good dogs, my liege, well train'd, and easily call'd Off from the game.

HENRY. Save for some once or twice, When they ran down the game and worried it.

BECKET. No, my liege, no!—not once—in God's name, no!

HENRY. Nay, then, I take thee at thy word—believe thee The veriest Galahad of old Arthur's hall. And so this Rosamund, my true heart-wife, Not Eleanor—she whom I love indeed As a woman should be loved—Why dost thou smile So dolorously?

BECKET. My good liege, if a man Wastes himself among women, how should he love A woman, as a woman should be loved?

HENRY. How shouldst thou know that never hast loved one? Come, I would give her to thy care in England When I am out in Normandy or Anjou.

BECKET. My lord, I am your subject, not your—

HENRY. Pander. God's eyes! I know all that—not my purveyor Of pleasures, but to save a life—her life; Ay, and the soul of Eleanor from hell-fire. I have built a secret bower in England, Thomas, A nest in a bush.

BECKET. And where, my liege?

HENRY (whispers). Thine ear.

BECKET. That's lone enough.

HENRY (laying paper on table). This chart here mark'd 'Her Bower,' Take, keep it, friend. See, first, a circling wood, A hundred pathways running everyway, And then a brook, a bridge; and after that This labyrinthine brickwork maze in maze, And then another wood, and in the midst A garden and my Rosamund. Look, this line— The rest you see is colour'd green—but this Draws thro' the chart to her.

BECKET. This blood-red line?

HENRY. Ay! blood, perchance, except thou see to her.

BECKET. And where is she? There in her English nest?

HENRY. Would God she were—no, here within the city. We take her from her secret bower in Anjou And pass her to her secret bower in England. She is ignorant of all but that I love her.

BECKET. My liege, I pray thee let me hence: a widow And orphan child, whom one of thy wild barons—

HENRY. Ay, ay, but swear to see to her in England.

BECKET. Well, well, I swear, but not to please myself.

HENRY. Whatever come between us?

BECKET. What should come Between us, Henry?

HENRY. Nay—I know not, Thomas.

BECKET. What need then? Well—whatever come between us. [Going.

HENRY. A moment! thou didst help me to my throne In Theobald's time, and after by thy wisdom Hast kept it firm from shaking; but now I, For my realm's sake, myself must be the wizard To raise that tempest which will set it trembling Only to base it deeper. I, true son Of Holy Church—no croucher to the Gregories That tread the kings their children underheel— Must curb her; and the Holy Father, while This Barbarossa butts him from his chair, Will need my help—be facile to my hands. Now is my time. Yet—lest there should be flashes And fulminations from the side of Rome, An interdict on England—I will have My young son Henry crown'd the King of England, That so the Papal bolt may pass by England, As seeming his, not mine, and fall abroad. I'll have it done—and now.

BECKET. Surely too young Even for this shadow of a crown; and tho' I love him heartily, I can spy already A strain of hard and headstrong in him. Say, The Queen should play his kingship against thine!

HENRY. I will not think so, Thomas. Who shall crown him? Canterbury is dying.

BECKET. The next Canterbury.

HENRY. And who shall he be, my friend Thomas? Who?

BECKET. Name him; the Holy Father will confirm him.

HENRY (lays his hand on BECKET'S shoulder). Here!

BECKET. Mock me not. I am not even a monk. Thy jest—no more. Why—look—is this a sleeve For an archbishop?

HENRY. But the arm within Is Becket's, who hath beaten down my foes.

BECKET. A soldier's, not a spiritual arm.

HENRY. I lack a spiritual soldier, Thomas— A man of this world and the next to boot.

BECKET. There's Gilbert Foliot.

HENRY. He! too thin, too thin. Thou art the man to fill out the Church robe; Your Foliot fasts and fawns too much for me.

BECKET. Roger of York.

HENRY. Roger is Roger of York. King, Church, and State to him but foils wherein To set that precious jewel, Roger of York. No.

BECKET. Henry of Winchester?

HENRY. Him who crown'd Stephen— King Stephen's brother! No; too royal for me. And I'll have no more Anselms.

BECKET. Sire, the business Of thy whole kingdom waits me: let me go.

HENRY. Answer me first.

BECKET. Then for thy barren jest Take thou mine answer in bare commonplace— Nolo episcopari.

HENRY. Ay, but Nolo Archiepiscopari, my good friend, Is quite another matter.

BECKET. A more awful one. Make me archbishop! Why, my liege, I know Some three or four poor priests a thousand times Fitter for this grand function. Me archbishop! God's favour and king's favour might so clash That thou and I——That were a jest indeed!

HENRY. Thou angerest me, man: I do not jest.


ELEANOR (singing).

Over! the sweet summer closes, The reign of the roses is done—

HENRY (to BECKET, who is going). Thou shalt not go. I have not ended with thee.

ELEANOR (seeing chart on table). This chart with the red line! her bower! whose bower?

HENRY. The chart is not mine, but Becket's: take it, Thomas.

ELEANOR. Becket! O—ay—and these chessmen on the floor—the king's crown broken! Becket hath beaten thee again—and thou hast kicked down the board. I know thee of old.

HENRY. True enough, my mind was set upon other matters.

ELEANOR. What matters? State matters? love matters?

HENRY. My love for thee, and thine for me.


Over! the sweet summer closes, The reign of the roses is done; Over and gone with the roses, And over and gone with the sun.

Here; but our sun in Aquitaine lasts longer. I would I were in Aquitaine again—your north chills me.

Over! the sweet summer closes, And never a flower at the close; Over and gone with the roses, And winter again and the snows.

That was not the way I ended it first—but unsymmetrically, preposterously, illogically, out of passion, without art—like a song of the people. Will you have it? The last Parthian shaft of a forlorn Cupid at the King's left breast, and all left-handedness and under-handedness.

And never a flower at the close, Over and gone with the roses, Not over and gone with the rose.

True, one rose will outblossom the rest, one rose in a bower. I speak after my fancies, for I am a Troubadour, you know, and won the violet at Toulouse; but my voice is harsh here, not in tune, a nightingale out of season; for marriage, rose or no rose, has killed the golden violet.

BECKET. Madam, you do ill to scorn wedded love.

ELEANOR. So I do. Louis of France loved me, and I dreamed that I loved Louis of France: and I loved Henry of England, and Henry of England dreamed that he loved me; but the marriage-garland withers even with the putting on, the bright link rusts with the breath of the first after-marriage kiss, the harvest moon is the ripening of the harvest, and the honeymoon is the gall of love; he dies of his honeymoon. I could pity this poor world myself that it is no better ordered.

HENRY. Dead is he, my Queen? What, altogether? Let me swear nay to that by this cross on thy neck. God's eyes! what a lovely cross! what jewels!

ELEANOR. Doth it please you? Take it and wear it on that hard heart of yours— there. [Gives it to him.

HENRY (puts it on).

On this left breast before so hard a heart, To hide the scar left by thy Parthian dart.

ELEANOR. Has my simple song set you jingling? Nay, if I took and translated that hard heart into our Provencal facilities, I could so play about it with the rhyme—

HENRY. That the heart were lost in the rhyme and the matter in the metre. May we not pray you, Madam, to spare us the hardness of your facility?

ELEANOR. The wells of Castaly are not wasted upon the desert. We did but jest.

HENRY. There's no jest on the brows of Herbert there. What is it, Herbert?


HERBERT. My liege, the good Archbishop is no more.

HENRY. Peace to his soul!

HERBERT. I left him with peace on his face—that sweet other-world smile, which will be reflected in the spiritual body among the angels. But he longed much to see your Grace and the Chancellor ere he past, and his last words were a commendation of Thomas Becket to your Grace as his successor in the archbishoprick.

HENRY. Ha, Becket! thou rememberest our talk!

BECKET. My heart is full of tears—I have no answer.

HENRY. Well, well, old men must die, or the world would grow mouldy, would only breed the past again. Come to me to-morrow. Thou hast but to hold out thy hand. Meanwhile the revenues are mine. A-hawking, a-hawking! If I sit, I grow fat. [Leaps over the table, and exit.

BECKET. He did prefer me to the chancellorship, Believing I should ever aid the Church— But have I done it? He commends me now From out his grave to this archbishoprick.

HERBERT. A dead man's dying wish should be of weight.

BECKET. His should. Come with me. Let me learn at full The manner of his death, and all he said. [Exeunt HERBERT and BECKET.

ELEANOR. Fitzurse, that chart with the red line—thou sawest it—her bower.

FITZURSE. Rosamund's?

ELEANOR. Ay—there lies the secret of her whereabouts, and the King gave it to his Chancellor.

FlTZURSE. To this son of a London merchant—how your Grace must hate him.

ELEANOR. Hate him? as brave a Soldier as Henry and a goodlier man: but thou— dost thou love this Chancellor, that thou hast sworn a voluntary allegiance to him?

FlTZURSE. Not for my love toward him, but because he had the love of the King. How should a baron love a beggar on horseback, with the retinue of three kings behind him, outroyalling royalty? Besides, he holp the King to break down our castles, for the which I hate him.

ELEANOR. For the which I honour him. Statesman not Churchman he. A great and sound policy that: I could embrace him for it: you could not see the King for the kinglings.

FlTZURSE. Ay, but he speaks to a noble as tho' he were a churl, and to a churl as if he were a noble.

ELEANOR. Pride of the plebeian!

FlTZURSE. And this plebeian like to be Archbishop!

ELEANOR. True, and I have an inherited loathing of these black sheep of the Papacy. Archbishop? I can see further into a man than our hot-headed Henry, and if there ever come feud between Church and Crown, and I do not then charm this secret out of our loyal Thomas, I am not Eleanor.

FlTZURSE. Last night I followed a woman in the city here. Her face was veiled, but the back methought was Rosamund—his paramour, thy rival. I can feel for thee.

ELEANOR. Thou feel for me!—paramour—rival! King Louis had no paramours, and I loved him none the more. Henry had many, and I loved him none the less—now neither more nor less—not at all; the cup's empty. I would she were but his paramour, for men tire of their fancies; but I fear this one fancy hath taken root, and borne blossom too, and she, whom the King loves indeed, is a power in the State. Rival!—ay, and when the King passes, there may come a crash and embroilment as in Stephen's time; and her children—canst thou not—that secret matter which would heat the King against thee (whispers him and he starts). Nay, that is safe with me as with thyself: but canst thou not—thou art drowned in debt—thou shalt have our love, our silence, and our gold—canst thou not—if thou light upon her—free me from her?

FITZURSE. Well, Madam, I have loved her in my time.

ELEANOR. No, my bear, thou hast not. My Courts of Love would have held thee guiltless of love—the fine attractions and repulses, the delicacies, the subtleties.

FITZURSE. Madam, I loved according to the main purpose and intent of nature.

ELEANOR. I warrant thee! thou wouldst hug thy Cupid till his ribs cracked— enough of this. Follow me this Rosamund day and night, whithersoever she goes; track her, if thou canst, even into the King's lodging, that I may (clenches her fist)—may at least have my cry against him and her,—and thou in thy way shouldst be jealous of the King, for thou in thy way didst once, what shall I call it, affect her thine own self.

FITZURSE. Ay, but the young colt winced and whinnied and flung up her heels; and then the King came honeying about her, and this Becket, her father's friend, like enough staved us from her.


FITZURSE. Yea, by the Blessed Virgin! There were more than I buzzing round the blossom—De Tracy—even that flint De Brito.

ELEANOR. Carry her off among you; run in upon her and devour her, one and all of you; make her as hateful to herself and to the King, as she is to me.

FITZURSE. I and all would be glad to wreak our spite on the rose-faced minion of the King, and bring her to the level of the dust, so that the King—

ELEANOR. Let her eat it like the serpent, and be driven out of her paradise.


SCENE I.—BECKET'S House in London. Chamber barely furnished. BECKET unrobing. HERBERT OF BOSHAM and SERVANT.

SERVANT. Shall I not help your lordship to your rest?

BECKET. Friend, am I so much better than thyself That thou shouldst help me? Thou art wearied out With this day's work, get thee to thine own bed. Leave me with Herbert, friend. [Exit SERVANT. Help me off, Herbert, with this—and this.

HERBERT. Was not the people's blessing as we past Heart-comfort and a balsam to thy blood?

BECKET. The people know their Church a tower of strength, A bulwark against Throne and Baronage. Too heavy for me, this; off with it, Herbert!

HERBERT. Is it so much heavier than thy Chancellor's robe?

BECKET. No; but the Chancellor's and the Archbishop's Together more than mortal man can bear.

HERBERT. Not heavier than thine armour at Thoulouse?

BECKET. O Herbert, Herbert, in my chancellorship I more than once have gone against the Church.

HERBERT. To please the King?

BECKET. Ay, and the King of kings, Or justice; for it seem'd to me but just The Church should pay her scutage like the lords. But hast thou heard this cry of Gilbert Foliot That I am not the man to be your Primate, For Henry could not work a miracle— Make an Archbishop of a soldier?

HERBERT. Ay, For Gilbert Foliot held himself the man.

BECKET. Am I the man? My mother, ere she bore me, Dream'd that twelve stars fell glittering out of heaven Into her bosom.

HERBERT. Ay, the fire, the light, The spirit of the twelve Apostles enter'd Into thy making.

BECKET. And when I was a child, The Virgin, in a vision of my sleep, Gave me the golden keys of Paradise. Dream, Or prophecy, that?

HERBERT. Well, dream and prophecy both.

BECKET. And when I was of Theobald's household, once— The good old man would sometimes have his jest— He took his mitre off, and set it on me, And said, 'My young Archbishop—thou wouldst make A stately Archbishop!' Jest or prophecy there?

HERBERT. Both, Thomas, both.

BECKET. Am I the man? That rang Within my head last night, and when I slept Methought I stood in Canterbury Minster, And spake to the Lord God, and said, 'O Lord, I have been a lover of wines, and delicate meats, And secular splendours, and a favourer Of players, and a courtier, and a feeder Of dogs and hawks, and apes, and lions, and lynxes. Am I the man?' And the Lord answer'd me, 'Thou art the man, and all the more the man.' And then I asked again, 'O Lord my God, Henry the King hath been my friend, my brother, And mine uplifter in this world, and chosen me For this thy great archbishoprick, believing That I should go against the Church with him. And I shall go against him with the Church, And I have said no word of this to him: 'Am I the man?' And the Lord answer'd me, 'Thou art the man, and all the more the man.' And thereupon, methought, He drew toward me, And smote me down upon the Minster floor. I fell.

HERBERT. God make not thee, but thy foes, fall.

BECKET. I fell. Why fall? Why did He smite me? What? Shall I fall off—to please the King once more? Not fight—tho' somehow traitor to the King— My truest and mine utmost for the Church?

HERBERT. Thou canst not fall that way. Let traitor be; For how have fought thine utmost for the Church, Save from the throne of thine archbishoprick? And how been made Archbishop hadst thou told him, 'I mean to fight mine utmost for the Church, Against the King?'

BECKET. But dost thou think the King Forced mine election?

HERBERT. I do think the King Was potent in the election, and why not? Why should not Heaven have so inspired the King? Be comforted. Thou art the man—be thou A mightier Anselm.

BECKET. I do believe thee, then. I am the man. And yet I seem appall'd—on such a sudden At such an eagle-height I stand and see The rift that runs between me and the King. I served our Theobald well when I was with him; I served King Henry well as Chancellor; I am his no more, and I must serve the Church. This Canterbury is only less than Rome, And all my doubts I fling from me like dust, Winnow and scatter all scruples to the wind, And all the puissance of the warrior, And all the wisdom of the Chancellor, And all the heap'd experiences of life, I cast upon the side of Canterbury— Our holy mother Canterbury, who sits With tatter'd robes. Laics and barons, thro' The random gifts of careless kings, have graspt Her livings, her advowsons, granges, farms, And goodly acres—we will make her whole; Not one rood lost. And for these Royal customs, These ancient Royal customs—they are Royal, Not of the Church—and let them be anathema, And all that speak for them anathema.

HERBERT. Thomas, thou art moved too much.

BECKET. O Herbert, here I gash myself asunder from the King, Tho' leaving each, a wound; mine own, a grief To show the scar for ever—his, a hate Not ever to be heal'd.

Enter ROSAMUND DE CLIFFORD, flying from SIR REGINALD FITZURSE. Drops her veil.

BECKET. Rosamund de Clifford!

ROSAMUND. Save me, father, hide me—they follow me— and I must not be known.

BECKET. Pass in with Herbert there.

[Exeunt ROSAMUND and HERBERT by side door.


FITZURSE. The Archbishop!

BECKET. Ay! what wouldst thou, Reginald?

FITZURSE. Why—why, my lord, I follow'd—follow'd one—

BECKET. And then what follows? Let me follow thee.

FITZURSE. It much imports me I should know her name.

BECKET. What her?

FITZURSE. The woman that I follow'd hither.

BECKET. Perhaps it may import her all as much Not to be known.

FITZURSE. And what care I for that? Come, come, my lord Archbishop; I saw that door Close even now upon the woman.


FITZURSE (making for the door). Nay, let me pass, my lord, for I must know.

BECKET. Back, man!

FITZURSE. Then tell me who and what she is.

BECKET. Art thou so sure thou followedst anything? Go home, and sleep thy wine off, for thine eyes Glare stupid—wild with wine.

FITZURSE (making to the door). I must and will. I care not for thy new archbishoprick.

BECKET. Back, man, I tell thee! What! Shall I forget my new archbishoprick And smite thee with my crozier on the skull? 'Fore God, I am a mightier man than thou.

FlTZURSE. It well befits thy new archbishoprick To take the vagabond woman of the street Into thine arms!

BECKET. O drunken ribaldry! Out, beast! out, bear!

FlTZURSE. I shall remember this.

BECKET. Do, and begone! [Exit FITZURSE. [Going to the door, sees DE TRACY.] Tracy, what dost thou here?

DE TRACY. My lord, I follow'd Reginald Fitzurse.

BECKET. Follow him out!

DE TRACY. I shall remember this Discourtesy. [Exit.

BECKET. Do. These be those baron-brutes That havock'd all the land in Stephen's day. Rosamund de Clifford.


ROSAMUND. Here am I.

BECKET. Why here? We gave thee to the charge of John of Salisbury. To pass thee to thy secret bower to-morrow. Wast thou not told to keep thyself from sight?

ROSAMUND. Poor bird of passage! so I was; but, father, They say that you are wise in winged things, And know the ways of Nature. Bar the bird From following the fled summer—a chink—he's out, Gone! And there stole into the city a breath Full of the meadows, and it minded me Of the sweet woods of Clifford, and the walks Where I could move at pleasure, and I thought Lo! I must out or die.

BECKET. Or out and die. And what hast thou to do with this Fitzurse?

ROSAMUND. Nothing. He sued my hand. I shook at him. He found me once alone. Nay—nay—I cannot Tell you: my father drove him and his friends, De Tracy and De Brito, from our castle. I was but fourteen and an April then. I heard him swear revenge.

BECKET. Why will you court it By self-exposure? flutter out at night? Make it so hard to save a moth from the fire?

ROSAMUND. I have saved many of 'em. You catch 'em, so, Softly, and fling them out to the free air. They burn themselves within-door.

BECKET. Our good John Must speed you to your bower at once. The child Is there already.

ROSAMUND. Yes—the child—the child— O rare, a whole long day of open field.

BECKET. Ay, but you go disguised.

ROSAMUND. O rare again! We'll baffle them, I warrant. What shall it be? I'll go as a nun.


ROSAMUND. What, not good enough Even to play at nun?

BECKET. Dan John with a nun, That Map, and these new railers at the Church May plaister his clean name with scurrilous rhymes! No! Go like a monk, cowling and clouding up That fatal star, thy Beauty, from the squint Of lust and glare of malice. Good night! good night!

ROSAMUND. Father, I am so tender to all hardness! Nay, father, first thy blessing.

BECKET. Wedded?


BECKET. Well, well! I ask no more. Heaven bless thee! hence!

ROSAMUND. O, holy father, when thou seest him next, Commend me to thy friend.

BECKET. What friend?


BECKET. Herbert, take out a score of armed men To guard this bird of passage to her cage; And watch Fitzurse, and if he follow thee, Make him thy prisoner. I am Chancellor yet. [Exeunt HERBERT and ROSAMUND. Poor soul! poor soul! My friend, the King!... O thou Great Seal of England, Given me by my dear friend the King of England— We long have wrought together, thou and I— Now must I send thee as a common friend To tell the King, my friend, I am against him. We are friends no more: he will say that, not I. The worldly bond between us is dissolved, Not yet the love: can I be under him As Chancellor? as Archbishop over him? Go therefore like a friend slighted by one That hath climb'd up to nobler company. Not slighted—all but moan'd for: thou must go. I have not dishonour'd thee—I trust I have not; Not mangled justice. May the hand that next Inherits thee be but as true to thee As mine hath been! O, my dear friend, the King! O brother!—I may come to martyrdom. I am martyr in myself already.—Herbert!

HERBERT (re-entering). My lord, the town is quiet, and the moon Divides the whole long street with light and shade. No footfall—no Fitzurse. We have seen her home.

BECKET. The hog hath tumbled himself into some corner, Some ditch, to snore away his drunkenness Into the sober headache,—Nature's moral Against excess. Let the Great Seal be sent Back to the King to-morrow.

HERBERT. Must that be? The King may rend the bearer limb from limb Think on it again.

BECKET. Against the moral excess No physical ache, but failure it may be Of all we aim'd at. John of Salisbury Hath often laid a cold hand on my heats, And Herbert hath rebuked me even now. I will be wise and wary, not the soldier As Foliot swears it.—John, and out of breath!


JOHN OF SALISBURY. Thomas, thou wast not happy taking charge Of this wild Rosamund to please the King, Nor am I happy having charge of her— The included Danae has escaped again Her tower, and her Acrisius—where to seek? I have been about the city.

BECKET. Thou wilt find her Back in her lodging. Go with her—at once— To-night—my men will guard you to the gates. Be sweet to her, she has many enemies. Send the Great Seal by daybreak. Both, good night!

SCENE II.—Street in Northampton leading to the Castle.

ELEANOR'S RETAINERS and BECKET'S RETAINERS fighting. Enter ELEANOR and BECKET from opposite streets.

ELEANOR. Peace, fools!

BECKET. Peace, friends! what idle brawl is this?

RETAINER OF BECKET. They said—her Grace's people—thou wast found— Liars! I shame to quote 'em—caught, my lord, With a wanton in thy lodging—Hell requite 'em!

RETAINER OF ELEANOR. My liege, the Lord Fitzurse reported this In passing to the Castle even now.

RETAINER OF BECKET. And then they mock'd us and we fell upon 'em, For we would live and die for thee, my lord, However kings and queens may frown on thee.

BECKET TO HIS RETAINERS. Go, go—no more of this!


BECKET. Nay, let him be.

ELEANOR. No, no, my Lord Archbishop, 'Tis known you are midwinter to all women, But often in your chancellorship you served The follies of the King.

BECKET. No, not these follies!

ELEANOR. My lord, Fitzurse beheld her in your lodging.


ELEANOR. Well—you know—the minion, Rosamund.

BECKET. He had good eyes!

ELEANOR. Then hidden in the street He watch'd her pass with John of Salisbury And heard her cry 'Where is this bower of mine?'

BECKET. Good ears too!

ELEANOR. You are going to the Castle, Will you subscribe the customs?

BECKET. I leave that, Knowing how much you reverence Holy Church, My liege, to your conjecture.

ELEANOR. I and mine— And many a baron holds along with me— Are not so much at feud with Holy Church But we might take your side against the customs— So that you grant me one slight favour.


ELEANOR. A sight of that same chart which Henry gave you With the red line—'her bower.'

BECKET. And to what end?

ELEANOR. That Church must scorn herself whose fearful Priest Sits winking at the license of a king, Altho' we grant when kings are dangerous The Church must play into the hands of kings; Look! I would move this wanton from his sight And take the Church's danger on myself.

BECKET. For which she should be duly grateful.

ELEANOR. True! Tho' she that binds the bond, herself should see That kings are faithful to their marriage vow.

BECKET. Ay, Madam, and queens also.

ELEANOR. And queens also! What is your drift?

BECKET. My drift is to the Castle, Where I shall meet the Barons and my King. [Exit.


ELEANOR. To the Castle?


ELEANOR. Stir up the King, the Lords! Set all on fire against him!

DE BRITO. Ay, good Madam! [Exeunt.

ELEANOR. Fool! I will make thee hateful to thy King. Churl! I will have thee frighted into France, And I shall live to trample on thy grave.

SCENE III.—The Hall in Northampton Castle.

On one side of the stage the doors of an inner Council-chamber, half-open. At the bottom, the great doors of the Hall. ROGER ARCHBISHOP OF YORK, FOLIOT BISHOP OF LONDON, HILARY OF CHICHESTER, BISHOP OF HEREFORD, RICHARD DE HASTINGS (Grand Prior of Templars), PHILIP DE ELEEMOSYNA (the Pope's Almoner), and others. DE BROC, FITZURSE, DE BRITO, DE MORVILLE, DE TRACY, and other BARONS assembled—a table before them. JOHN OF OXFORD, President of the Council.


BECKET. Where is the King?

ROGER OF YORK. Gone hawking on the Nene, His heart so gall'd with thine ingratitude, He will not see thy face till thou hast sign'd These ancient laws and customs of the realm. Thy sending back the Great Seal madden'd him, He all but pluck'd the bearer's eyes away. Take heed, lest he destroy thee utterly.

BECKET. Then shalt thou step into my place and sign.

ROGER OF YORK. Didst thou not promise Henry to obey These ancient laws and customs of the realm?

BECKET. Saving the honour of my order—ay. Customs, traditions,—clouds that come and go; The customs of the Church are Peter's rock.

ROGER OF YORK. Saving thine order! But King Henry sware That, saving his King's kingship, he would grant thee The crown itself. Saving thine order, Thomas, Is black and white at once, and comes to nought. O bolster'd up with stubbornness and pride, Wilt thou destroy the Church in fighting for it, And bring us all to shame?

BECKET. Roger of York, When I and thou were youths in Theobald's house, Twice did thy malice and thy calumnies Exile me from the face of Theobald. Now I am Canterbury and thou art York.

ROGER OF YORK. And is not York the peer of Canterbury? Did not Great Gregory bid St. Austin here Found two archbishopricks, London and York?

BECKET. What came of that? The first archbishop fled, And York lay barren for a hundred years. Why, by this rule, Foliot may claim the pall For London too.

FOLIOT. And with good reason too, For London had a temple and a priest When Canterbury hardly bore a name.

BECKET. The pagan temple of a pagan Rome! The heathen priesthood of a heathen creed! Thou goest beyond thyself in petulancy! Who made thee London? Who, but Canterbury?

JOHN OF OXFORD. Peace, peace, my lords! these customs are no longer As Canterbury calls them, wandering clouds, But by the King's command are written down, And by the King's command I, John of Oxford, The President of this Council, read them.


JOHN OF OXFORD (reads). 'All causes of advowsons and presentations, whether between laymen or clerics, shall be tried in the King's court.'

BECKET. But that I cannot sign: for that would drag The cleric before the civil judgment-seat, And on a matter wholly spiritual.

JOHN OF OXFORD. 'If any cleric be accused of felony, the Church shall not protect him: but he shall answer to the summons of the King's court to be tried therein.'

BECKET. And that I cannot sign. Is not the Church the visible Lord on earth? Shall hands that do create the Lord be bound Behind the back like laymen-criminals? The Lord be judged again by Pilate? No!

JOHN OF OXFORD. 'When a bishoprick falls vacant, the King, till another be appointed, shall receive the revenues thereof.'

BECKET. And that I cannot sign. Is the King's treasury A fit place for the monies of the Church, That be the patrimony of the poor?

JOHN OF OXFORD. 'And when the vacancy is to be filled up, the King shall summon the chapter of that church to court, and the election shall be made in the Chapel Royal, with the consent of our lord the King, and by the advice of his Government.'

BECKET. And that I cannot sign: for that would make Our island-Church a schism from Christendom, And weight down all free choice beneath the throne.

FOLIOT. And was thine own election so canonical, Good father?

BECKET. If it were not, Gilbert Foliot, I mean to cross the sea to France, and lay My crozier in the Holy Father's hands, And bid him re-create me, Gilbert Foliot.

FOLIOT. Nay; by another of these customs thou Wilt not be suffer'd so to cross the seas Without the license of our lord the King.

BECKET. That, too, I cannot sign.

DE BROC, DE BRITO, DE TRACY, FITZURSE, DE MORVILLE, start up—a clash of swords.

Sign and obey!

BECKET. My lords, is this a combat or a council? Are ye my masters, or my lord the King? Ye make this clashing for no love o' the customs Or constitutions, or whate'er ye call them, But that there be among you those that hold Lands reft from Canterbury.

DE BROC. And mean to keep them, In spite of thee!

LORDS (shouting). Sign, and obey the crown!

BECKET. The crown? Shall I do less for Canterbury Than Henry for the crown? King Stephen gave Many of the crown lands to those that helpt him; So did Matilda, the King's mother. Mark, When Henry came into his own again, Then he took back not only Stephen's gifts, But his own mother's, lest the crown should be Shorn of ancestral splendour. This did Henry. Shall I do less for mine own Canterbury? And thou, De Broc, that holdest Saltwood Castle—

DE BROC. And mean to hold it, or—

BECKET. To have my life.

DE BROC. The King is quick to anger; if thou anger him, We wait but the King's word to strike thee dead.

BECKET. Strike, and I die the death of martyrdom; Strike, and ye set these customs by my death Ringing their own death-knell thro' all the realm.

HERBERT. And I can tell you, lords, ye are all as like To lodge a fear in Thomas Becket's heart As find a hare's form in a lion's cave.

JOHN OF OXFORD. Ay, sheathe your swords, ye will displease the King.

DE BROC. Why down then thou! but an he come to Saltwood, By God's death, thou shalt stick him like a calf! [Sheathing his sword.

HILARY. O my good lord, I do entreat thee—sign. Save the King's honour here before his barons. He hath sworn that thou shouldst sign, and now but shuns The semblance of defeat; I have heard him say He means no more; so if thou sign, my lord, That were but as the shadow of an assent.

BECKET. 'Twould seem too like the substance, if I sign'd.

PHILIP DE ELEEMOSYNA. My lord, thine ear! I have the ear of the Pope. As thou hast honour for the Pope our master, Have pity on him, sorely prest upon By the fierce Emperor and his Antipope. Thou knowest he was forced to fly to France; He pray'd me to pray thee to pacify Thy King; for if thou go against thy King, Then must he likewise go against thy King, And then thy King might join the Antipope, And that would shake the Papacy as it stands. Besides, thy King swore to our cardinals He meant no harm nor damage to the Church. Smoothe thou his pride—thy signing is but form; Nay, and should harm come of it, it is the Pope Will be to blame—not thou. Over and over He told me thou shouldst pacify the King, Lest there be battle between Heaven and Earth, And Earth should get the better—for the time. Cannot the Pope absolve thee if thou sign?

BECKET. Have I the orders of the Holy Father?

PHILIP DE ELEEMOSYNA. Orders, my lord—why, no; for what am I? The secret whisper of the Holy Father. Thou, that hast been a statesman, couldst thou always Blurt thy free mind to the air?

BECKET. If Rome be feeble, then should I be firm.

PHILIP. Take it not that way—balk not the Pope's will. When he hath shaken off the Emperor, He heads the Church against the King with thee.

RICHARD DE HASTINGS (kneeling). Becket, I am the oldest of the Templars; I knew thy father; he would be mine age Had he lived now; think of me as thy father! Behold thy father kneeling to thee, Becket. Submit; I promise thee on my salvation That thou wilt hear no more o' the customs.

BECKET. What! Hath Henry told thee? hast thou talk'd with him?

Another TEMPLAR (kneeling). Father, I am the youngest of the Templars, Look on me as I were thy bodily son, For, like a son, I lift my hands to thee.

PHILIP. Wilt thou hold out for ever, Thomas Becket? Dost thou not hear?

BECKET (signs). Why—there then—there—I sign, And swear to obey the customs.

FOLIOT. Is it thy will, My lord Archbishop, that we too should sign?

BECKET. O ay, by that canonical obedience Thou still hast owed thy father, Gilbert Foliot.

FOLIOT. Loyally and with good faith, my lord Archbishop?

BECKET. O ay, with all that loyalty and good faith Thou still hast shown thy primate, Gilbert Foliot. [BECKET draws apart with HERBERT. Herbert, Herbert, have I betray'd the Church? I'll have the paper back—blot out my name.

HERBERT. Too late, my lord: you see they are signing there.

BECKET. False to myself—it is the will of God To break me, prove me nothing of myself! This Almoner hath tasted Henry's gold. The cardinals have finger'd Henry's gold. And Rome is venal ev'n to rottenness. I see it, I see it. I am no soldier, as he said—at least No leader. Herbert, till I hear from the Pope I will suspend myself from all my functions. If fast and prayer, the lacerating scourge—

FOLIOT (from the table). My lord Archbishop, thou hast yet to seal.

BECKET. First, Foliot, let me see what I have sign'd. [Goes to the table. What, this! and this!—what! new and old together! Seal? If a seraph shouted from the sun, And bad me seal against the rights of the Church, I would anathematise him. I will not seal. [Exit with HERBERT.


HENRY. Where's Thomas? hath he sign'd? show me the papers! Sign'd and not seal'd! How's that?

JOHN OF OXFORD. He would not seal. And when he sign'd, his face was stormy-red— Shame, wrath, I know not what. He sat down there And dropt it in his hands, and then a paleness, Like the wan twilight after sunset, crept Up even to the tonsure, and he groan'd, 'False to myself! It is the will of God!'

HENRY. God's will be what it will, the man shall seal, Or I will seal his doom. My burgher's son— Nay, if I cannot break him as the prelate, I'll crush him as the subject. Send for him back. [Sits on his throne. Barons and bishops of our realm of England, After the nineteen winters of King Stephen— A reign which was no reign, when none could sit By his own hearth in peace; when murder common As nature's death, like Egypt's plague, had fill'd All things with blood; when every doorway blush'd, Dash'd red with that unhallow'd passover; When every baron ground his blade in blood; The household dough was kneaded up with blood; The millwheel turn'd in blood; the wholesome plow Lay rusting in the furrow's yellow weeds, Till famine dwarft the race—I came, your King! Nor dwelt alone, like a soft lord of the East, In mine own hall, and sucking thro' fools' ears The flatteries of corruption—went abroad Thro' all my counties, spied my people's ways; Yea, heard the churl against the baron—yea, And did him justice; sat in mine own courts Judging my judges, that had found a King Who ranged confusions, made the twilight day, And struck a shape from out the vague, and law From madness. And the event—our fallows till'd, Much corn, repeopled towns, a realm again. So far my course, albeit not glassy-smooth, Had prosper'd in the main, but suddenly Jarr'd on this rock. A cleric violated The daughter of his host, and murder'd him. Bishops—York, London, Chichester, Westminster— Ye haled this tonsured devil into your courts; But since your canon will not let you take Life for a life, ye but degraded him Where I had hang'd him. What doth hard murder care For degradation? and that made me muse, Being bounden by my coronation oath To do men justice. Look to it, your own selves! Say that a cleric murder'd an archbishop, What could ye do? Degrade, imprison him— Not death for death. JOHN OF OXFORD. But I, my liege, could swear, To death for death.

HENRY. And, looking thro' my reign, I found a hundred ghastly murders done By men, the scum and offal of the Church; Then, glancing thro' the story of this realm, I came on certain wholesome usages, Lost in desuetude, of my grandsire's day, Good royal customs—had them written fair For John of Oxford here to read to you. JOHN OF OXFORD. And I can easily swear to these as being The King's will and God's will and justice; yet I could but read a part to-day, because——

FITZURSE. Because my lord of Canterbury——

DE TRACY. Ay, This lord of Canterbury——

DE BRITO. As is his wont Too much of late whene'er your royal rights Are mooted in our councils——

FITZURSE. —made an uproar.

HENRY. And Becket had my bosom on all this; If ever man by bonds of gratefulness— I raised him from the puddle of the gutter, I made him porcelain from the clay of the city— Thought that I knew him, err'd thro' love of him, Hoped, were he chosen archbishop, Church and Crown, Two sisters gliding in an equal dance, Two rivers gently flowing side by side— But no! The bird that moults sings the same song again, The snake that sloughs comes out a snake again. Snake—ay, but he that lookt a fangless one, Issues a venomous adder. For he, when having dofft the Chancellor's robe— Flung the Great Seal of England in my face— Claim'd some of our crown lands for Canterbury— My comrade, boon companion, my co-reveller, The master of his master, the King's king.— God's eyes! I had meant to make him all but king. Chancellor-Archbishop, he might well have sway'd All England under Henry, the young King, When I was hence. What did the traitor say? False to himself, but ten-fold false to me! The will of God—why, then it is my will— Is he coming? MESSENGER (entering). With a crowd of worshippers, And holds his cross before him thro' the crowd, As one that puts himself in sanctuary.

HENRY. His cross!

ROGER OF YORK. His cross! I'll front him, cross to cross. [Exit ROGER OF YORK. HENRY. His cross! it is the traitor that imputes Treachery to his King! It is not safe for me to look upon him. Away—with me!

[Goes in with his BARONS to the Council Chamber, the door of which is left open.

Enter BECKET, holding his cross of silver before him. The BISHOPS come round him.

HEREFORD. The King will not abide thee with thy cross. Permit me, my good lord, to bear it for thee, Being thy chaplain.

BECKET. No: it must protect me.

HERBERT. As once he bore the standard of the Angles, So now he bears the standard of the angels.

FOLIOT. I am the Dean of the province: let me bear it. Make not thy King a traitorous murderer.

BECKET. Did not your barons draw their swords against me?

Enter ROGER OF YORK, with his cross, advancing to BECKET.


Wherefore dost thou presume to bear thy cross, Against the solemn ordinance from Rome, Out of thy province?

ROGER OF YORK. Why dost thou presume, Arm'd with thy cross, to come before the King? If Canterbury bring his cross to court, Let York bear his to mate with Canterbury.

FOLIOT (seizing hold of BECKET'S cross). Nay, nay, my lord, thou must not brave the King. Nay, let me have it. I will have it!


[Flinging him off.

FOLIOT. He fasts, they say, this mitred Hercules! He fast! is that an arm of fast? My lord, Hadst thou not sign'd, I had gone along with thee; But thou the shepherd hast betray'd the sheep, And thou art perjured, and thou wilt not seal. As Chancellor thou wast against the Church, Now as Archbishop goest against the King; For, like a fool, thou knowst no middle way. Ay, ay! but art thou stronger than the King?

BECKET. Strong—not in mine own self, but Heaven; true To either function, holding it; and thou Fast, scourge thyself, and mortify thy flesh, Not spirit—thou remainest Gilbert Foliot, A worldly follower of the worldly strong. I, bearing this great ensign, make it clear Under what Prince I fight.

FOLIOT. My lord of York, Let us go in to the Council, where our bishops And our great lords will sit in judgment on him.

BECKET. Sons sit in judgment on their father!—then The spire of Holy Church may prick the graves— Her crypt among the stars. Sign? seal? I promised The King to obey these customs, not yet written, Saving mine order; true too, that when written I sign'd them—being a fool, as Foliot call'd me. I hold not by my signing. Get ye hence, Tell what I say to the King.

[Exeunt HEREFORD, FOLIOT, and other BISHOPS.

ROGER OF YORK. The Church will hate thee. [Exit.

BECKET. Serve my best friend and make him my worst foe; Fight for the Church, and set the Church against me!

HERBERT. To be honest is to set all knaves against thee. Ah! Thomas, excommunicate them all!

HEREFORD (re-entering). I cannot brook the turmoil thou hast raised. I would, my lord Thomas of Canterbury, Thou wert plain Thomas and not Canterbury, Or that thou wouldst deliver Canterbury To our King's hands again, and be at peace.

HILARY (re-entering). For hath not thine ambition set the Church This day between the hammer and the anvil— Fealty to the King, obedience to thyself?

HERBERT. What say the bishops?

HILARY. Some have pleaded for him, But the King rages—most are with the King; And some are reeds, that one time sway to the current, And to the wind another. But we hold Thou art forsworn; and no forsworn Archbishop Shall helm the Church. We therefore place ourselves Under the shield and safeguard of the Pope, And cite thee to appear before the Pope, And answer thine accusers.... Art thou deaf?

BECKET. I hear you. [Clash of arms.

HILARY. Dost thou hear those others?


ROGER OF YORK (re-entering). The King's 'God's eyes!' come now so thick and fast, We fear that he may reave thee of thine own. Come on, come on! it is not fit for us To see the proud Archbishop mutilated. Say that he blind thee and tear out thy tongue.

BECKET. So be it. He begins at top with me: They crucified St. Peter downward.

ROGER OF YORK. Nay, But for their sake who stagger betwixt thine Appeal, and Henry's anger, yield.

BECKET. Hence, Satan!


FITZURSE (re-entering), My lord, the King demands three hundred marks, Due from his castles of Berkhamstead and Eye When thou thereof wast warden.

BECKET. Tell the King I spent thrice that in fortifying his castles.

DE TRACY (re-entering.) My lord, the King demands seven hundred marks, Lent at the siege of Thoulouse by the King.

BECKET. I led seven hundred knights and fought his wars.

DE BRITO (re-entering). My lord, the King demands five hundred marks, Advanced thee at his instance by the Jews, For which the King was bound security.

BECKET. I thought it was a gift; I thought it was a gift.

Enter Lord LEICESTER (followed by BARONS and BISHOPS).

My lord, I come unwillingly. The King Demands a strict account of all those revenues From all the vacant sees and abbacies, Which came into thy hands when Chancellor.

BECKET. How much might that amount to, my lord Leicester?

LEICESTER. Some thirty—forty thousand silver marks.

BECKET. Are these your customs? O my good lord Leicester, The King and I were brothers. All I had I lavish'd for the glory of the King; I shone from him, for him, his glory, his Reflection: now the glory of the Church Hath swallow'd up the glory of the King; I am his no more, but hers. Grant me one day To ponder these demands.

LEICESTER. Hear first thy sentence! The King and all his lords—

BECKET. Son, first hear me!

LEICESTER. Nay, nay, canst thou, that holdest thine estates In fee and barony of the King, decline The judgment of the King?

BECKET. The King! I hold Nothing in fee and barony of the King. Whatever the Church owns—she holds it in Free and perpetual alms, unsubject to One earthly sceptre.

LEICESTER. Nay, but hear thy judgment. The King and all his barons—

BECKET. Judgment! Barons! Who but the bridegroom dares to judge the bride, Or he the bridegroom may appoint? Not he That is not of the house, but from the street Stain'd with the mire thereof. I had been so true To Henry and mine office that the King Would throne me in the great Archbishoprick: And I, that knew mine own infirmity, For the King's pleasure rather than God's cause Took it upon me—err'd thro' love of him. Now therefore God from me withdraws Himself, And the King too. What! forty thousand marks! Why thou, the King, the Pope, the Saints, the world, Know that when made Archbishop I was freed, Before the Prince and chief Justiciary, From every bond and debt and obligation Incurr'd as Chancellor. Hear me, son. As gold Outvalues dross, light darkness, Abel Cain, The soul the body, and the Church the Throne, I charge thee, upon pain of mine anathema, That thou obey, not me, but God in me, Rather than Henry. I refuse to stand By the King's censure, make my cry to the Pope, By whom I will be judged; refer myself, The King, these customs, all the Church, to him, And under his authority—I depart. [Going. [LEICESTER looks at him doubtingly. Am I a prisoner?

LEICESTER. By St. Lazarus, no! I am confounded by thee. Go in peace.

DE BROC. In peace now—but after. Take that for earnest. [Flings a bone at him from the rushes.

DE BRITO, FITZURSE, DE TRACY, and others (flinging wisps of rushes). Ay, go in peace, caitiff, caitiff! And that too, perjured prelate—and that, turncoat shaveling! There, there, there! traitor, traitor, traitor!

BECKET. Mannerless wolves! [Turning and facing them.

HERBERT. Enough, my lord, enough!

BECKET. Barons of England and of Normandy, When what ye shake at doth but seem to fly, True test of coward, ye follow with a yell. But I that threw the mightiest knight of France, Sir Engelram de Trie,—

HERBERT. Enough, my lord.

BECKET. More than enough. I play the fool again.


HERALD. The King commands you, upon pain of death, That none should wrong or injure your Archbishop.

FOLIOT. Deal gently with the young man Absalom.

[Great doors of the Hall at the back open, and discover a crowd. They shout:

Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!

SCENE IV.—Refectory of the Monastery at Northampton. A Banquet on the Tables.


1ST RETAINER. Do thou speak first.

2ND RETAINER. Nay, thou! Nay, thou! Hast not thou drawn the short straw?

1ST RETAINER. My lord Archbishop, wilt thou permit us—

BECKET. To speak without stammering and like a free man? Ay.

1ST RETAINER. My lord, permit us then to leave thy service.



BECKET. To-night?

1ST RETAINER. To-night, my lord.

BECKET. And why?

1ST RETAINER. My lord, we leave thee not without tears.

BECKET. Tears? Why not stay with me then?

1ST RETAINER. My lord, we cannot yield thee an answer altogether to thy satisfaction.

BECKET. I warrant you, or your own either. Shall I find you one? The King hath frowned upon me.

1ST RETAINER. That is not altogether our answer, my lord.

BECKET. No; yet all but all. Go, go! Ye have eaten of my dish and drunken of my cup for a dozen years.

1ST RETAINER. And so we have. We mean thee no wrong. Wilt thou not say, 'God bless you,' ere we go?

BECKET. God bless you all! God redden your pale blood! But mine is human-red; and when ye shall hear it is poured out upon earth, and see it mounting to Heaven, my God bless you, that seems sweet to you now, will blast and blind you like a curse.

1ST RETAINER. We hope not, my lord. Our humblest thanks for your blessing. Farewell! [Exeunt RETAINERS.

BECKET. Farewell, friends! farewell, swallows! I wrong the bird; she leaves only the nest she built, they leave the builder. Why? Am I to be murdered to-night?

[Knocking at the door.

ATTENDANT. Here is a missive left at the gate by one from the castle.

BECKET. Cornwall's hand or Leicester's: they write marvellously alike. [Reading. 'Fly at once to France, to King Louis of France: there be those about our King who would have thy blood.' Was not my lord of Leicester bidden to our supper?

ATTENDANT. Ay, my lord, and divers other earls and barons. But the hour is past, and our brother, Master Cook, he makes moan that all be a-getting cold.

BECKET. And I make my moan along with him. Cold after warm, winter after summer, and the golden leaves, these earls and barons, that clung to me, frosted off me by the first cold frown of the King. Cold, but look how the table steams, like a heathen altar; nay, like the altar at Jerusalem. Shall God's good gifts be wasted? None of them here! Call in the poor from the streets, and let them feast.

HERBERT. That is the parable of our blessed Lord.

BECKET. And why should not the parable of our blessed Lord be acted again? Call in the poor! The Church is ever at variance with the kings, and ever at one with the poor. I marked a group of lazars in the marketplace—half-rag, half-sore—beggars, poor rogues (Heaven bless 'em) who never saw nor dreamed of such a banquet. I will amaze them. Call them in, I say. They shall henceforward be my earls and barons— our lords and masters in Christ Jesus.


If the King hold his purpose, I am myself a beggar. Forty thousand marks! forty thousand devils—and these craven bishops!

A POOR MAN (entering) with his dog. My lord Archbishop, may I come in with my poor friend, my dog? The King's verdurer caught him a-hunting in the forest, and cut off his paws. The dog followed his calling, my lord. I ha' carried him ever so many miles in my arms, and he licks my face and moans and cries out against the King.

BECKET. Better thy dog than thee. The King's courts would use thee worse than thy dog—they are too bloody. Were the Church king, it would be otherwise. Poor beast! poor beast! set him down. I will bind up his wounds with my napkin. Give him a bone, give him a bone! Who misuses a dog would misuse a child—they cannot speak for themselves. Past help! his paws are past help. God help him!

Enter the BEGGARS (and seat themselves at the Tables). BECKET and HERBERT wait upon them.

1ST BEGGAR. Swine, sheep, ox—here's a French supper. When thieves fall out, honest men——

2ND BEGGAR. Is the Archbishop a thief who gives thee thy supper?

1ST BEGGAR. Well, then, how does it go? When honest men fall out, thieves—no, it can't be that.

2ND BEGGAR. Who stole the widow's one sitting hen o' Sunday, when she was at mass?

1ST BEGGAR. Come, come! thou hadst thy share on her. Sitting hen! Our Lord Becket's our great sitting-hen cock, and we shouldn't ha' been sitting here if the barons and bishops hadn't been a-sitting on the Archbishop.

BECKET. Ay, the princes sat in judgment against me, and the Lord hath prepared your table—Sederunt principes, ederunt pauperes.

A Voice. Becket, beware of the knife!

BECKET. Who spoke?

3RD BEGGAR. Nobody, my lord. What's that, my lord?

BECKET. Venison.

3RD BEGGAR. Venison?

BECKET. Buck; deer, as you call it.

3RD BEGGAR. King's meat! By the Lord, won't we pray for your lordship!

BECKET. And, my children, your prayers will do more for me in the day of peril that dawns darkly and drearily over the house of God—yea, and in the day of judgment also, than the swords of the craven sycophants would have done had they remained true to me whose bread they have partaken. I must leave you to your banquet. Feed, feast, and be merry. Herbert, for the sake of the Church itself, if not for my own, I must fly to France to-night. Come with me. [Exit with HERBERT.

3RD BEGGAR. Here—all of you—my lord's health (they drink). Well—if that isn't goodly wine—

1ST BEGGAR. Then there isn't a goodly wench to serve him with it: they were fighting for her to-day in the street.

3RD BEGGAR. Peace!


The black sheep baaed to the miller's ewe-lamb, The miller's away for to-night. Black sheep, quoth she, too black a sin for me. And what said the black sheep, my masters? We can make a black sin white.

3RD BEGGAR. Peace!


'Ewe lamb, ewe lamb, I am here by the dam.' But the miller came home that night, And so dusted his back with the meal in his sack, That he made the black sheep white.

3RD BEGGAR. Be we not of the family? be we not a-supping with the head of the family? be we not in my lord's own refractory? Out from among us; thou art our black sheep.

Enter the four KNIGHTS.

FITZURSE. Sheep, said he? And sheep without the shepherd, too. Where is my lord Archbishop? Thou the lustiest and lousiest of this Cain's brotherhood, answer.

3RD BEGGAR. With Cain's answer, my lord. Am I his keeper? Thou shouldst call him Cain, not me.

FITZURSE. So I do, for he would murder his brother the State.

3RD BEGGAR (rising and advancing). No my lord; but because the Lord hath set his mark upon him that no man should murder him.

FITZURSE. Where is he? where is he?

3RD BEGGAR. With Cain belike, in the land of Nod, or in the land of France for aught I know.

FITZURSE. France! Ha! De Morville, Tracy, Brito—fled is he? Cross swords all of you! swear to follow him! Remember the Queen!

[The four KNIGHTS cross their swords.

DE BRITO. They mock us; he is here.

[All the BEGGARS rise and advance upon them.

FITZURSE. Come, you filthy knaves, let us pass.

3RD BEGGAR. Nay, my lord, let us pass. We be a-going home after our supper in all humbleness, my lord; for the Archbishop loves humbleness, my lord; and though we be fifty to four, we daren't fight you with our crutches, my lord. There now, if thou hast not laid hands upon me! and my fellows know that I am all one scale like a fish. I pray God I haven't given thee my leprosy, my lord.

[FITZURSE shrinks from him and another presses upon DE BRITO.

DE BRITO. Away, dog!

4TH BEGGAR. And I was bit by a mad dog o' Friday, an' I be half dog already by this token, that tho' I can drink wine I cannot bide water, my lord; and I want to bite, I want to bite, and they do say the very breath catches.

DE BRITO. Insolent clown. Shall I smite him with the edge of the sword?

DE MORVILLE. No, nor with the flat of it either. Smite the shepherd and the sheep are scattered. Smite the sheep and the shepherd will excommunicate thee.

DE BRITO. Yet my fingers itch to beat him into nothing.

5TH BEGGAR. So do mine, my lord. I was born with it, and sulphur won't bring it out o' me. But for all that the Archbishop washed my feet o' Tuesday. He likes it, my lord.

6TH BEGGAR. And see here, my lord, this rag fro' the gangrene i' my leg. It's humbling—it smells o' human natur'. Wilt thou smell it, my lord? for the Archbishop likes the smell on it, my lord; for I be his lord and master i' Christ, my lord.

DE MORVILLE. Faugh! we shall all be poisoned. Let us go.

[They draw back, BEGGARS following.

7TH BEGGAR. My lord, I ha' three sisters a-dying at home o' the sweating sickness. They be dead while I be a-supping.

8TH BEGGAR. And I ha' nine darters i' the spital that be dead ten times o'er i' one day wi' the putrid fever; and I bring the taint on it along wi' me, for the Archbishop likes it, my lord.

[Pressing upon the KNIGHTS till they disappear thro' the door.

3RD BEGGAR. Crutches, and itches, and leprosies, and ulcers, and gangrenes, and running sores, praise ye the Lord, for to-night ye have saved our Archbishop!

1ST BEGGAR. I'll go back again. I hain't half done yet.

HERBERT OF BOSHAM (entering). My friends, the Archbishop bids you good-night. He hath retired to rest, and being in great jeopardy of his life, he hath made his bed between the altars, from whence he sends me to bid you this night pray for him who hath fed you in the wilderness.

3RD BEGGAR. So we will—so we will, I warrant thee. Becket shall be king, and the Holy Father shall be king, and the world shall live by the King's venison and the bread o' the Lord, and there shall be no more poor for ever. Hurrah! Vive le Roy! That's the English of it.


SCENE I.—ROSAMUND'S Bower. A Garden of Flowers. In the midst a bank of wild-flowers with a bench before it.

Voices heard singing among the trees.


1. Is it the wind of the dawn that I hear in the pine overhead?

2. No; but the voice of the deep as it hollows the cliffs of the land.

1. Is there a voice coming up with the voice of the deep from the strand, One coming up with a song in the flush of the glimmering red?

2. Love that is born of the deep coming up with the sun from the sea.

1. Love that can shape or can shatter a life till the life shall have fled?

2. Nay, let us welcome him, Love that can lift up a life from the dead.

1. Keep him away from the lone little isle. Let us be, let us be.

2. Nay, let him make it his own, let him reign in it—he, it is he, Love that is born of the deep coming up with the sun from the sea.


ROSAMUND. Be friends with him again—I do beseech thee.

HENRY. With Becket? I have but one hour with thee— Sceptre and crozier clashing, and the mitre Grappling the crown—and when I flee from this For a gasp of freer air, a breathing-while To rest upon thy bosom and forget him— Why thou, my bird, thou pipest Becket, Becket— Yea, thou my golden dream of Love's own bower, Must be the nightmare breaking on my peace With 'Becket.'

ROSAMUND. O my life's life, not to smile Is all but death to me. My sun, no cloud! Let there not be one frown in this one hour. Out of the many thine, let this be mine! Look rather thou all-royal as when first I met thee.

HENRY. Where was that?

ROSAMUND. Forgetting that Forgets me too.

HENRY. Nay, I remember it well. There on the moors.

ROSAMUND. And in a narrow path. A plover flew before thee. Then I saw Thy high black steed among the flaming furze, Like sudden night in the main glare of day. And from that height something was said to me I knew not what.

HENRY. I ask'd the way.

ROSAMUND. I think so. So I lost mine.

HENRY. Thou wast too shamed to answer.

ROSAMUND. Too scared—so young!

HENRY. The rosebud of my rose!— Well, well, no more of him—I have sent his folk, His kin, all his belongings, overseas; Age, orphans, and babe-breasting mothers—all By hundreds to him—there to beg, starve, die— So that the fool King Louis feed them not. The man shall feel that I can strike him yet.

ROSAMUND. Babes, orphans, mothers! is that royal, Sire?

HENRY. And I have been as royal with the Church. He shelter'd in the Abbey of Pontigny. There wore his time studying the canon law To work it against me. But since he cursed My friends at Veselay, I have let them know, That if they keep him longer as their guest, I scatter all their cowls to all the hells.

ROSAMUND. And is that altogether royal?

HENRY. Traitress!

ROSAMUND. A faithful traitress to thy royal fame.

HENRY. Fame! what care I for fame? Spite, ignorance, envy, Yea, honesty too, paint her what way they will. Fame of to-day is infamy to-morrow; Infamy of to-day is fame to-morrow; And round and round again. What matters? Royal—I mean to leave the royalty of my crown Unlessen'd to mine heirs.

ROSAMUND. Still—thy fame too: I say that should be royal.

HENRY. And I say, I care not for thy saying.

ROSAMUND. And I say, I care not for thy saying. A greater King Than thou art, Love, who cares not for the word, Makes 'care not'—care. There have I spoken true?

HENRY. Care dwell with me for ever, when I cease To care for thee as ever!

ROSAMUND. No need! no need!... There is a bench. Come, wilt thou sit?... My bank Of wild-flowers [he sits]. At thy feet! [She sits at his feet.

HENRY. I had them clear A royal pleasaunce for thee, in the wood, Not leave these countryfolk at court.

ROSAMUND. I brought them In from the wood, and set them here. I love them More than the garden flowers, that seem at most Sweet guests, or foreign cousins, not half speaking The language of the land. I love them too, Yes. But, my liege, I am sure, of all the roses— Shame fall on those who gave it a dog's name— This wild one (picking a briar-rose)—nay, I shall not prick myself— Is sweetest. Do but smell!

HENRY. Thou rose of the world! Thou rose of all the roses! [Muttering. I am not worthy of her—this beast-body That God has plunged my soul in—I, that taking The Fiend's advantage of a throne, so long Have wander'd among women,—a foul stream Thro' fever-breeding levels,—at her side, Among these happy dales, run clearer, drop The mud I carried, like yon brook, and glass The faithful face of heaven— [Looking at her, and unconsciously aloud, —thine! thine!

ROSAMUND. I know it.

HENRY (muttering). Not hers. We have but one bond, her hate of Becket.

ROSAMUND (half hearing). Nay! nay! what art thou muttering? I hate Becket?

HENRY (muttering). A sane and natural loathing for a soul Purer, and truer and nobler than herself; And mine a bitterer illegitimate hate, A bastard hate born of a former love.

ROSAMUND, My fault to name him! O let the hand of one To whom thy voice is all her music, stay it But for a breath. [Puts her hand before his lips. Speak only of thy love. Why there—like some loud beggar at thy gate— The happy boldness of this hand hath won it Love's alms, thy kiss (looking at her hand)—Sacred! I'll kiss it too. [Kissing it. There! wherefore dost thou so peruse it? Nay, There may be crosses in my line of life.

HENRY. Not half her hand—no hand to mate with her, If it should come to that.

ROSAMUND. With her? with whom?

HENRY. Life on the hand is naked gipsy-stuff; Life on the face, the brows-clear innocence! Vein'd marble—not a furrow yet—and hers [Muttering. Crost and recrost, a venomous spider's web—

ROSAMUND (springing up). Out of the cloud, my Sun—out of the eclipse Narrowing my golden hour!

HENRY. O Rosamund, I would be true—would tell thee all—and something I had to say—I love thee none the less— Which will so vex thee.

ROSAMUND. Something against me?

HENRY. No, no, against myself.

ROSAMUND. I will not hear it. Come, come, mine hour! I bargain for mine hour. I'll call thee little Geoffrey.

HENRY. Call him!

ROSAMUND. Geoffrey! [Enter GEOFFREY.

HENRY. How the boy grows!

ROSAMUND. Ay, and his brows are thine; The mouth is only Clifford, my dear father.

GEOFFREY. My liege, what hast thou brought me?

HENRY. Venal imp! What say'st thou to the Chancellorship of England?

GEOFFREY. O yes, my liege.

HENRY. 'O yes, my liege!' He speaks As if it were a cake of gingerbread. Dost thou know, my boy, what it is to be Chancellor of England?

GEOFFREY. Something good, or thou wouldst not give it me.

HENRY. It is, my boy, to side with the King when Chancellor, and then to be made Archbishop and go against the King who made him, and turn the world upside down.

GEOFFREY. I won't have it then. Nay, but give it me, and I promise thee not to turn the world upside down.

HENRY (giving him a ball). Here is a ball, my boy, thy world, to turn anyway and play with as thou wilt—which is more than I can do with mine. Go try it, play. [Exit GEOFFREY. A pretty lusty boy.

ROSAMUND. So like to thee; Like to be liker.

HENRY. Not in my chin, I hope! That threatens double.

ROSAMUND. Thou art manlike perfect.

HENRY. Ay, ay, no doubt; and were I humpt behind, Thou'dst say as much—the goodly way of women Who love, for which I love them. May God grant No ill befall or him or thee when I Am gone.

ROSAMUND. Is he thy enemy?

HENRY. He? who? ay!

ROSAMUND. Thine enemy knows the secret of my bower.

HENRY. And I could tear him asunder with wild horses Before he would betray it. Nay—no fear! More like is he to excommunicate me.

ROSAMUND. And I would creep, crawl over knife-edge flint Barefoot, a hundred leagues, to stay his hand Before he flash'd the bolt.

HENRY. And when he flash'd it Shrink from me, like a daughter of the Church.

ROSAMUND. Ay, but he will not.

HENRY. Ay! but if he did?

ROSAMUND. O then! O then! I almost fear to say That my poor heretic heart would excommunicate His excommunication, clinging to thee Closer than ever.

HENRY (raising ROSAMUND and kissing her). My brave-hearted Rose! Hath he ever been to see thee?

ROSAMUND Here? not he. And it is so lonely here—no confessor.

HENRY. Thou shall confess all thy sweet sins to me.

ROSAMUND. Besides, we came away in such a heat, I brought not ev'n my crucifix.

HENRY. Take this.

[Giving her the Crucifix which ELEANOR gave him.

ROSAMUND. O beautiful! May I have it as mine, till mine Be mine again?

HENRY (throwing it round her neck). Thine—as I am—till death!

ROSAMUND. Death? no! I'll have it with me in my shroud, And wake with it, and show it to all the Saints.

HENRY. Nay—I must go; but when thou layest thy lip To this, remembering One who died for thee, Remember also one who lives for thee Out there in France; for I must hence to brave The Pope, King Louis, and this turbulent priest.

ROSAMUND (kneeling). O by thy love for me, all mine for thee, Fling not thy soul into the flames of hell: I kneel to thee—be friends with him again.

HENRY. Look, look! if little Geoffrey have not tost His ball into the brook! makes after it too To find it. Why, the child will drown himself.

ROSAMUND. Geoffrey! Geoffrey!


SCENE II.—Montmirail. 'The Meeting of the Kings.'

JOHN OF OXFORD and HENRY. Crowd in the distance.

JOHN OF OXFORD. You have not crown'd young Henry yet, my liege?

HENRY. Crown'd! by God's eyes, we will not have him crown'd. I spoke of late to the boy, he answer'd me, As if he wore the crown already—No, We will not have him crown'd. 'Tis true what Becket told me, that the mother Would make him play his kingship against mine.

JOHN OF OXFORD. Not have him crown'd?

HENRY. Not now—not yet! and Becket Becket should crown him were he crown'd at all: But, since we would be lord of our own manor, This Canterbury, like a wounded deer, Has fled our presence and our feeding-grounds.

JOHN OF OXFORD. Cannot a smooth tongue lick him whole again To serve your will?

HENRY. He hates my will, not me.

JOHN OF OXFORD. There's York, my liege.

HENRY. But England scarce would hold Young Henry king, if only crown'd by York, And that would stilt up York to twice himself. There is a movement yonder in the crowd— See if our pious—what shall I call him, John?— Husband-in-law, our smooth-shorn suzerain, Be yet within the field.

JOHN OF OXFORD. I will. [Exit.

HENRY. Ay! Ay! Mince and go back! his politic Holiness Hath all but climb'd the Roman perch again, And we shall hear him presently with clapt wing Crow over Barbarossa—at last tongue-free To blast my realms with excommunication And interdict. I must patch up a peace— A piece in this long-tugged at, threadbare-worn Quarrel of Crown and Church—to rend again. His Holiness cannot steer straight thro' shoals, Nor I. The citizen's heir hath conquer'd me For the moment. So we make our peace with him. [Enter_ Louis. Brother of France, what shall be done with Becket?

LOUIS. The holy Thomas! Brother, you have traffick'd Between the Emperor and the Pope, between The Pope and Antipope—a perilous game For men to play with God.

HENRY. Ay, ay, good brother, They call you the Monk-King.

LOUIS. Who calls me? she That was my wife, now yours? You have her Duchy, The point you aim'd at, and pray God she prove True wife to you. You have had the better of us In secular matters.

HENRY. Come, confess, good brother, You did your best or worst to keep her Duchy. Only the golden Leopard printed in it Such hold-fast claws that you perforce again Shrank into France. Tut, tut! did we convene This conference but to babble of our wives? They are plagues enough in-door.

LOUIS. We fought in the East, And felt the sun of Antioch scald our mail, And push'd our lances into Saracen hearts. We never hounded on the State at home To spoil the Church.

HENRY. How should you see this rightly?

LOUIS. Well, well, no more! I am proud of my 'Monk-King,' Whoever named me; and, brother, Holy Church May rock, but will not wreck, nor our Archbishop Stagger on the slope decks for any rough sea Blown by the breath of kings. We do forgive you For aught you wrought against us. [HENRY holds up his hand. Nay, I pray you, Do not defend yourself. You will do much To rake out all old dying heats, if you, At my requesting, will but look into The wrongs you did him, and restore his kin, Reseat him on his throne of Canterbury, Be, both, the friends you were.

HENRY. The friends we were! Co-mates we were, and had our sport together, Co-kings we were, and made the laws together. The world had never seen the like before. You are too cold to know the fashion of it. Well, well, we will be gentle with him, gracious— Most gracious.


Only that the rift he made May close between us, here I am wholly king, The word should come from him.

BECKET (kneeling). Then, my dear liege, I here deliver all this controversy Into your royal hands.

HENRY. Ah, Thomas, Thomas, Thou art thyself again, Thomas again.

BECKET (rising). Saving God's honour!

HENRY. Out upon thee, man! Saving the Devil's honour, his yes and no. Knights, bishops, earls, this London spawn—by Mahound, I had sooner have been born a Mussulman— Less clashing with their priests— I am half-way down the slope—will no man stay me? I dash myself to pieces—I stay myself— Puff—it is gone. You, Master Becket, you That owe to me your power over me— Nay, nay— Brother of France, you have taken, cherish'd him Who thief-like fled from his own church by night, No man pursuing. I would have had him back. Take heed he do not turn and rend you too: For whatsoever may displease him—that Is clean against God's honour—a shift, a trick Whereby to challenge, face me out of all My regal rights. Yet, yet—that none may dream I go against God's honour—ay, or himself In any reason, choose A hundred of the wisest heads from England, A hundred, too, from Normandy and Anjou: Let these decide on what was customary In olden days, and all the Church of France Decide on their decision, I am content More, what the mightiest and the holiest Of all his predecessors may have done Ev'n to the least and meanest of my own, Let him do the same to me—I am content.

LOUIS. Ay, ay! the King humbles himself enough.

BECKET. (Aside) Words! he will wriggle out of them like an eel When the time serves. (Aloud.) My lieges and my lords, The thanks of Holy Church are due to those That went before us for their work, which we Inheriting reap an easier harvest. Yet—

LOUIS. My lord, will you be greater than the Saints, More than St. Peter? whom—what is it you doubt? Behold your peace at hand.

BECKET. I say that those Who went before us did not wholly clear The deadly growths of earth, which Hell's own heat So dwelt on that they rose and darken'd Heaven. Yet they did much. Would God they had torn up all By the hard root, which shoots again; our trial Had so been less; but, seeing they were men Defective or excessive, must we follow All that they overdid or underdid? Nay, if they were defective as St. Peter Denying Christ, who yet defied the tyrant, We hold by his defiance, not his defect. O good son Louis, do not counsel me, No, to suppress God's honour for the sake Of any king that breathes. No, God forbid!

HENRY. No! God forbid! and turn me Mussulman! No God but one, and Mahound is his prophet. But for your Christian, look you, you shall have None other God but me—me, Thomas, son Of Gilbert Becket, London merchant. Out! I hear no more. [Exit.

LOUIS. Our brother's anger puts him, Poor man, beside himself—not wise. My lord, We have claspt your cause, believing that our brother Had wrong'd you; but this day he proffer'd peace. You will have war; and tho' we grant the Church King over this world's kings, yet, my good lord, We that are kings are something in this world, And so we pray you, draw yourself from under The wings of France. We shelter you no more. [Exit.

JOHN OF OXFORD. I am glad that France hath scouted him at last: I told the Pope what manner of man he was. [Exit.

ROGER OF YORK. Yea, since he flouts the will of either realm, Let either cast him away like a dead dog! [Exit.

FOLIOT. Yea, let a stranger spoil his heritage, And let another take his bishoprick! [Exit.

DE BROC. Our castle, my lord, belongs to Canterbury. I pray you come and take it. [Exit.

FITZURSE. When you will. [Exit.

BECKET. Cursed be John of Oxford, Roger of York, And Gilbert Foliot! cursed those De Brocs That hold our Saltwood Castle from our see! Cursed Fitzurse, and all the rest of them That sow this hate between my lord and me!

Voices from the Crowd. Blessed be the Lord Archbishop, who hath withstood two Kings to their faces for the honour of God.

BECKET. Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, praise! I thank you, sons; when kings but hold by crowns, The crowd that hungers for a crown in Heaven Is my true king.

HERBERT. Thy true King bad thee be A fisher of men; thou hast them in thy net.

BECKET. I am too like the King here; both of us Too headlong for our office. Better have been A fisherman at Bosham, my good Herbert, Thy birthplace—the sea-creek—the petty rill That falls into it—the green field—the gray church— The simple lobster-basket, and the mesh— The more or less of daily labour done— The pretty gaping bills in the home-nest Piping for bread—the daily want supplied— The daily pleasure to supply it.

HERBERT. Ah, Thomas, You had not borne it, no, not for a day.

BECKET. Well, maybe, no.

HERBERT. But bear with Walter Map, For here he comes to comment on the time.


WALTER MAP. Pity, my lord, that you have quenched the warmth of France toward you, tho' His Holiness, after much smouldering and smoking, be kindled again upon your quarter.

BECKET. Ay, if he do not end in smoke again.

WALTER MAP. My lord, the fire, when first kindled, said to the smoke, 'Go up, my son, straight to Heaven.' And the smoke said, 'I go;' but anon the North-east took and turned him South-west, then the South-west turned him North-east, and so of the other winds; but it was in him to go up straight if the time had been quieter. Your lordship affects the unwavering perpendicular; but His Holiness, pushed one way by the Empire and another by England, if he move at all, Heaven stay him, is fain to diagonalise.

HERBERT. Diagonalise! thou art a word-monger! Our Thomas never will diagonalise. Thou art a jester and a verse-maker. Diagonalise!

WALTER MAP. Is the world any the worse for my verses if the Latin rhymes be rolled out from a full mouth? or any harm done to the people if my jest be in defence of the Truth?

BECKET. Ay, if the jest be so done that the people Delight to wallow in the grossness of it, Till Truth herself be shamed of her defender. Non defensoribus istis, Walter Map.

WALTER MAP. Is that my case? so if the city be sick, and I cannot call the kennel sweet, your lordship would suspend me from verse-writing, as you suspended yourself after subwriting to the customs.

BECKET. I pray God pardon mine infirmity.

WALTER MAP. Nay, my lord, take heart; for tho' you suspended yourself, the Pope let you down again; and tho' you suspend Foliot or another, the Pope will not leave them in suspense, for the Pope himself is always in suspense, like Mahound's coffin hung between heaven and earth—always in suspense, like the scales, till the weight of Germany or the gold of England brings one of them down to the dust—always in suspense, like the tail of the horologe—to and fro—tick-tack—we make the time, we keep the time, ay, and we serve the time; for I have heard say that if you boxed the Pope's ears with a purse, you might stagger him, but he would pocket the purse. No saying of mine—Jocelyn of Salisbury. But the King hath bought half the College of Red-hats. He warmed to you to-day, and you have chilled him again. Yet you both love God. Agree with him quickly again, even for the sake of the Church. My one grain of good counsel which you will not swallow. I hate a split between old friendships as I hate the dirty gap in the face of a Cistercian monk, that will swallow anything. Farewell.


BECKET. Map scoffs at Rome. I all but hold with Map. Save for myself no Rome were left in England, All had been his. Why should this Rome, this Rome, Still choose Barabbas rather than the Christ, Absolve the left-hand thief and damn the right? Take fees of tyranny, wink at sacrilege, Which even Peter had not dared? condemn The blameless exile?—

HERBERT. Thee, thou holy Thomas! I would that thou hadst been the Holy Father.

BECKET. I would have done my most to keep Rome holy, I would have made Rome know she still is Rome— Who stands aghast at her eternal self And shakes at mortal kings—her vacillation, Avarice, craft—O God, how many an innocent Has left his bones upon the way to Rome Unwept, uncared for. Yea—on mine own self The King had had no power except for Rome. 'Tis not the King who is guilty of mine exile, But Rome, Rome, Rome!

HERBERT. My lord, I see this Louis Returning, ah! to drive thee from his realm.

BECKET. He said as much before. Thou art no prophet, Nor yet a prophet's son.

HERBERT. Whatever he say, Deny not thou God's honour for a king. The King looks troubled.

Re-enter KING LOUIS.

LOUIS. My dear lord Archbishop, I learn but now that those poor Poitevins, That in thy cause were stirr'd against King Henry, Have been, despite his kingly promise given To our own self of pardon, evilly used And put to pain. I have lost all trust in him. The Church alone hath eyes—and now I see That I was blind—suffer the phrase—surrendering God's honour to the pleasure of a man. Forgive me and absolve me, holy father. [Kneels.

BECKET. Son, I absolve thee in the name of God.

LOUIS (rising). Return to Sens, where we will care for you. The wine and wealth of all our France are yours; Rest in our realm, and be at peace with all. [Exeunt.

Voices from the Crowd. Long live the good King Louis! God bless the great Archbishop!


HENRY (looking after KING LOUIS and BECKET). Ay, there they go—both backs are turn'd to me— Why then I strike into my former path For England, crown young Henry there, and make Our waning Eleanor all but love me! John, Thou hast served me heretofore with Rome—and well. They call thee John the Swearer.

JOHN OF OXFORD. For this reason, That, being ever duteous to the King, I evermore have sworn upon his side, And ever mean to do it.

HENRY (claps him on the shoulder). Honest John! To Rome again! the storm begins again. Spare not thy tongue! be lavish with our coins, Threaten our junction with the Emperor—flatter And fright the Pope—bribe all the Cardinals—leave Lateran and Vatican in one dust of gold— Swear and unswear, state and misstate thy best! I go to have young Henry crown'd by York.



HENRY. All that you say is just. I cannot answer it Till better times, when I shall put away—

ROSAMUND. What will you put away?

HENRY. That which you ask me Till better times. Let it content you now There is no woman that I love so well.

ROSAMUND. No woman but should be content with that—

HENRY. And one fair child to fondle!

ROSAMUND. O yes, the child We waited for so long—heaven's gift at last— And how you doated on him then! To-day I almost fear'd your kiss was colder—yes— But then the child is such a child. What chance That he should ever spread into the man Here in our silence? I have done my best. I am not learn'd.

HENRY. I am the King, his father, And I will look to it. Is our secret ours? Have you had any alarm? no stranger?

ROSAMUND. No. The warder of the bower hath given himself Of late to wine. I sometimes think he sleeps When he should watch; and yet what fear? the people Believe the wood enchanted. No one comes, Nor foe nor friend; his fond excess of wine Springs from the loneliness of my poor bower, Which weighs even on me.

HENRY. Yet these tree-towers, Their long bird-echoing minster-aisles,—the voice Of the perpetual brook, these golden slopes Of Solomon-shaming flowers—that was your saying, All pleased you so at first.

ROSAMUND. Not now so much. My Anjou bower was scarce as beautiful. But you were oftener there. I have none but you. The brook's voice is not yours, and no flower, not The sun himself, should he be changed to one, Could shine away the darkness of that gap Left by the lack of love.

HENRY. The lack of love!

ROSAMUND. Of one we love. Nay, I would not be bold, Yet hoped ere this you might— [Looks earnestly at him.

HENRY. Anything further?

ROSAMUND. Only my best bower-maiden died of late, And that old priest whom John of Salisbury trusted Hath sent another.

HENRY. Secret?

ROSAMUND. I but ask'd her One question, and she primm'd her mouth and put Her hands together—thus—and said, God help her, That she was sworn to silence.

HENRY. What did you ask her?

ROSAMUND. Some daily something—nothing.

HENRY. Secret, then?

ROSAMUND. I do not love her. Must you go, my liege, So suddenly?

HENRY. I came to England suddenly, And on a great occasion sure to wake As great a wrath in Becket—

ROSAMUND. Always Becket! He always comes between us.

HENRY. —And to meet it I needs must leave as suddenly. It is raining, Put on your hood and see me to the bounds.


MARGERY (singing behind scene).

Babble in bower Under the rose! Bee mustn't buzz, Whoop—but he knows. Kiss me, little one, Nobody near! Grasshopper, grasshopper, Whoop—you can hear. Kiss in the bower, Tit on the tree! Bird mustn't tell, Whoop—he can see.


I ha' been but a week here and I ha' seen what I ha' seen, for to be sure it's no more than a week since our old Father Philip that has confessed our mother for twenty years, and she was hard put to it, and to speak truth, nigh at the end of our last crust, and that mouldy, and she cried out on him to put me forth in the world and to make me a woman of the world, and to win my own bread, whereupon he asked our mother if I could keep a quiet tongue i' my head, and not speak till I was spoke to, and I answered for myself that I never spoke more than was needed, and he told me he would advance me to the service of a great lady, and took me ever so far away, and gave me a great pat o' the cheek for a pretty wench, and said it was a pity to blindfold such eyes as mine, and such to be sure they be, but he blinded 'em for all that, and so brought me no-hows as I may say, and the more shame to him after his promise, into a garden and not into the world, and bad me whatever I saw not to speak one word, an' it 'ud be well for me in the end, for there were great ones who would look after me, and to be sure I ha' seen great ones to-day—and then not to speak one word, for that's the rule o' the garden, tho' to be sure if I had been Eve i' the garden I shouldn't ha' minded the apple, for what's an apple, you know, save to a child, and I'm no child, but more a woman o the world than my lady here, and I ha' seen what I ha' seen—tho' to be sure if I hadn't minded it we should all on us ha' had to go, bless the Saints, wi' bare backs, but the backs 'ud ha' countenanced one another, and belike it 'ud ha' been always summer, and anyhow I am as well-shaped as my lady here, and I ha' seen what I ha' seen, and what's the good of my talking to myself, for here comes my lady (enter ROSAMUND), and, my lady, tho' I shouldn't speak one word, I wish you joy o' the King's brother.

ROSAMUND. What is it you mean?


I mean your goodman, your husband, my lady, for I saw your ladyship a-parting wi' him even now i' the coppice, when I was a-getting o' bluebells for your ladyship's nose to smell on—and I ha' seen the King once at Oxford, and he's as like the King as fingernail to fingernail, and I thought at first it was the King, only you know the King's married, for King Louis—

ROSAMUND. Married!

MARGERY. Years and years, my lady, for her husband, King Louis—


MARGERY. —And I thought if it were the King's brother he had a better bride than the King, for the people do say that his is bad beyond all reckoning, and—

ROSAMUND. The people lie.

MARGERY. Very like, my lady, but most on 'em know an honest woman and a lady when they see her, and besides they say, she makes songs, and that's against her, for I never knew an honest woman that could make songs, tho' to be sure our mother 'ill sing me old songs by the hour, but then, God help her, she had 'em from her mother, and her mother from her mother back and back for ever so long, but none on 'em ever made songs, and they were all honest.

ROSAMUND. Go, you shall tell me of her some other time.

MARGERY. There's none so much to tell on her, my lady, only she kept the seventh commandment better than some I know on, or I couldn't look your ladyship i' the face, and she brew'd the best ale in all Glo'ster, that is to say in her time when she had the 'Crown.'

ROSAMUND. The crown! who?

MARGERY. Mother.

ROSAMUND. I mean her whom you call—fancy—my husband's brother's wife.

MARGERY. Oh, Queen Eleanor. Yes, my lady; and tho' I be sworn not to speak a word, I can tell you all about her, if——

ROSAMUND. No word now. I am faint and sleepy. Leave me. Nay—go. What! will you anger me.


He charged me not to question any of those About me. Have I? no! she question'd me. Did she not slander him? Should she stay here? May she not tempt me, being at my side, To question her? Nay, can I send her hence Without his kingly leave! I am in the dark. I have lived, poor bird, from cage to cage, and known Nothing but him—happy to know no more, So that he loved me—and he loves me—yes, And bound me by his love to secrecy Till his own time. Eleanor, Eleanor, have I Not heard ill things of her in France? Oh, she's The Queen of France. I see it—some confusion, Some strange mistake. I did not hear aright, Myself confused with parting from the King.

MARGERY (behind scene).

Bee mustn't buzz, Whoop—but he knows.

ROSAMUND. Yet her—what her? he hinted of some her— When he was here before— Something that would displease me. Hath he stray'd From love's clear path into the common bush, And, being scratch'd, returns to his true rose, Who hath not thorn enough to prick him for it, Ev'n with a word?

MARGERY (behind scene).

Bird mustn't tell, Whoop—he can see.

ROSAMUND. I would not hear him. Nay—there's more—he frown'd 'No mate for her, if it should come to that'— To that—to what?

MARGERY (behind scene).

Whoop—but he knows, Whoop—but he knows.

ROSAMUND. O God! some dreadful truth is breaking on me— Some dreadful thing is coming on me. [Enter GEOFFREY. Geoffrey!

GEOFFREY. What are you crying for, when the sun shines?

ROSAMUND. Hath not thy father left us to ourselves?

GEOFFREY. Ay, but he's taken the rain with him. I hear Margery: I'll go play with her. [Exit GEOFFREY.


Rainbow, stay, Gleam upon gloom, Bright as my dream, Rainbow, stay! But it passes away, Gloom upon gleam, Dark as my doom— O rainbow stay.

SCENE II.—Outside the Woods near ROSAMUND'S Bower.


ELEANOR. Up from the salt lips of the land we two Have track'd the King to this dark inland wood; And somewhere hereabouts he vanish'd. Here His turtle builds: his exit is our adit: Watch! he will out again, and presently, Seeing he must to Westminster and crown Young Henry there to-morrow.

FITZURSE. We have watch'd So long in vain, he hath pass'd out again, And on the other side. [A great horn winded. Hark! Madam!

ELEANOR. Ay, How ghostly sounds that horn in the black wood! [A countryman flying. Whither away, man? what are you flying from?

COUNTRYMAN. The witch! the witch! she sits naked by a great heap of gold in the middle of the wood, and when the horn sounds she comes out as a wolf. Get you hence! a man passed in there to-day: I holla'd to him, but he didn't hear me: he'll never out again, the witch has got him. I daren't stay—I daren't stay!

ELEANOR. Kind of the witch to give thee warning tho'. [Man flies. Is not this wood-witch of the rustic's fear Our woodland Circe that hath witch'd the King? [Horn sounded. Another flying.

FITZURSE. Again! stay, fool, and tell me why thou fliest.

COUNTRYMAN. Fly thou too. The King keeps his forest head of game here, and when that horn sounds, a score of wolf-dogs are let loose that will tear thee piecemeal. Linger not till the third horn. Fly! [Exit.

ELEANOR. This is the likelier tale. We have hit the place. Now let the King's fine game look to itself. [Horn.

FITZURSE. Again!— And far on in the dark heart of the wood I hear the yelping of the hounds of hell.

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