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Locrine - A Tragedy
by Algernon Charles Swinburne
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This etext was produced from the 1887 Chatto & Windus edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk



LOCRINE—A TRAGEDY

by Algernon Charles Swinburne



DEDICATION TO ALICE SWINBURNE.



I.

The love that comes and goes like wind or fire Hath words and wings wherewith to speak and flee. But love more deep than passion's deep desire, Clear and inviolable as the unsounded sea, What wings of words may serve to set it free, To lift and lead it homeward? Time and death Are less than love: or man's live spirit saith False, when he deems his life is more than breath.

II.

No words may utter love; no sovereign song Speak all it would for love's sake. Yet would I Fain cast in moulded rhymes that do me wrong Some little part of all my love: but why Should weak and wingless words be fain to fly? For us the years that live not are not dead: Past days and present in our hearts are wed: My song can say no more than love hath said.

III.

Love needs nor song nor speech to say what love Would speak or sing, were speech and song not weak To bear the sense-belated soul above And bid the lips of silence breathe and speak. Nor power nor will has love to find or seek Words indiscoverable, ampler strains of song Than ever hailed him fair or shewed him strong: And less than these should do him worse than wrong.

IV.

We who remember not a day wherein We have not loved each other,—who can see No time, since time bade first our days begin, Within the sweep of memory's wings, when we Have known not what each other's love must be, - We are well content to know it, and rest on this, And call not words to witness that it is. To love aloud is oft to love amiss.

V.

But if the gracious witness borne of words Take not from speechless love the secret grace That binds it round with silence, and engirds Its heart with memories fair as heaven's own face, Let love take courage for a little space To speak and be rebuked not of the soul, Whose utterance, ere the unwitting speech be whole, Rebukes itself, and craves again control.

VI.

A ninefold garland wrought of song-flowers nine Wound each with each in chance-inwoven accord Here at your feet I lay as on a shrine Whereof the holiest love that lives is lord. With faint strange hues their leaves are freaked and scored: The fable-flowering land wherein they grew Hath dreams for stars, and grey romance for dew: Perchance no flower thence plucked may flower anew.

VII.

No part have these wan legends in the sun Whose glory lightens Greece and gleams on Rome. Their elders live: but these—their day is done, Their records written of the wind in foam Fly down the wind, and darkness takes them home. What Homer saw, what Virgil dreamed, was truth, And dies not, being divine: but whence, in sooth, Might shades that never lived win deathless youth?

VIII.

The fields of fable, by the feet of faith Untrodden, bloom not where such deep mist drives. Dead fancy's ghost, not living fancy's wraith, Is now the storied sorrow that survives Faith in the record of these lifeless lives. Yet Milton's sacred feet have lingered there, His lips have made august the fabulous air, His hands have touched and left the wild weeds fair.

IX.

So, in some void and thought-untrammelled hour, Let these find grace, my sister, in your sight, Whose glance but cast on casual things hath power To do the sun's work, bidding all be bright With comfort given of love: for love is light. Were all the world of song made mine to give, The best were yours of all its flowers that live: Though least of all be this my gift, forgive.

July 1887.



PERSONS REPRESENTED.



LOCRINE, King of Britain. CAMBER, King of Wales, brother to LOCRINE. MADAN, son to LOCRINE and GUENDOLEN. DEBON, Lord Chamberlain.

GUENDOLEN, Queen of Britain, cousin and wife to LOCRINE. ESTRILD, a German princess, widow of the Scythian king HUMBER. SABRINA, daughter to LOCRINE and ESTRILD.

Scene, BRITAIN.



ACT I.



SCENE I.—Troynovant. A Room in the Palace.



Enter GUENDOLEN and MADAN.

GUENDOLEN.

Child, hast thou looked upon thy grandsire dead?

MADAN.

Ay.

GUENDOLEN.

Then thou sawest our Britain's heart and head Death-stricken. Seemed not there my sire to thee More great than thine, or all men living? We Stand shadows of the fathers we survive: Earth bears no more nor sees such births alive.

MADAN.

Why, he was great of thews—and wise, thou say'st: Yet seems my sire to me the fairer-faced - The kinglier and the kindlier.

GUENDOLEN.

Yea, his eyes Are liker seas that feel the summering skies In concord of sweet colour—and his brow Shines gentler than my father's ever: thou, So seeing, dost well to hold thy sire so dear.

MADAN.

I said not that his love sat yet so near My heart as thine doth: rather am I thine, Thou knowest, than his.

GUENDOLEN.

Nay—rather seems Locrine Thy sire than I thy mother.

MADAN.

Wherefore?

GUENDOLEN.

Boy, Because of all our sires who fought for Troy Most like thy father and my lord Locrine, I think, was Paris.

MADAN.

How may man divine Thy meaning? Blunt am I, thou knowest, of wit; And scarce yet man—men tell me.

GUENDOLEN.

Ask not it. I meant not thou shouldst understand—I spake As one that sighs, to ease her heart of ache, And would not clothe in words her cause for sighs - Her naked cause of sorrow.

MADAN.

Wert thou wise, Mother, thy tongue had chosen of two things one - Silence, or speech.

GUENDOLEN.

Speech had I chosen, my son, I had wronged thee—yea, perchance I have wronged thine ears Too far, to say so much.

MADAN.

Nay, these are tears That gather toward thine eyelids now. Thou hast broken Silence—if now thy speech die down unspoken, Thou dost me wrong indeed—but more than mine The wrong thou dost thyself is.

GUENDOLEN.

And Locrine - Were not thy sire wronged likewise of me?

MADAN.

Yea.

GUENDOLEN.

Yet—I may choose yet—nothing will I say More.

MADAN.

Choose, and have thy choice; it galls not me.

GUENDOLEN.

Son, son! thy speech is bitterer than the sea.

MADAN.

Yet, were the gulfs of hell not bitterer, thine Might match thy son's, who hast called my sire—Locrine - Thy lord, and lord of all this land—the king Whose name is bright and sweet as earth in spring, Whose love is mixed with Britain's very life As heaven with earth at sunrise—thou, his wife, Hast called him—and the poison of the word Set not thy tongue on fire—I lived and heard - Coward.

GUENDOLEN.

Thou liest.

MADAN.

If then thy speech rang true, Why, now it rings not false.

GUENDOLEN.

Thou art treacherous too - His heart, thy father's very heart is thine - O, well beseems it, meet it is, Locrine, That liar and traitor and changeling he should be Who, though I bare him, was begot by thee.

MADAN.

How have I lied, mother? Was this the lie, That thou didst call my father coward, and I Heard?

GUENDOLEN.

Nay—I did but liken him with one Not all unlike him; thou, my child, his son, Art more unlike thy father.

MADAN.

Was not then, Of all our fathers, all recorded men, The man whose name, thou sayest, is like his name - Paris—a sign in all men's mouths of shame?

GUENDOLEN.

Nay, save when heaven would cross him in the fight, He bare him, say the minstrels, as a knight - Yea, like thy father.

MADAN.

Shame then were it none Though men should liken me to him?

GUENDOLEN.

My son, I had rather see thee—see thy brave bright head, Strong limbs, clear eyes—drop here before me dead.

MADAN.

If he were true man, wherefore?

GUENDOLEN.

False was he; No coward indeed, but faithless, trothless—we Hold therefore, as thou sayest, his princely name Unprincely—dead in honour—quick in shame.

MADAN.

And his to mine thou likenest?

GUENDOLEN.

Thine? to thine? God rather strike thy life as dark as mine Than tarnish thus thine honour! For to me Shameful it seems—I know not if it be - For men to lie, and smile, and swear, and lie, And bear the gods of heaven false witness. I Can hold not this but shameful.

MADAN.

Thou dost well. I had liefer cast my soul alive to hell Than play a false man false. But were he true And I the traitor—then what heaven should do I wot not, but myself, being once awake Out of that treasonous trance, were fain to slake With all my blood the fire of shame wherein My soul should burn me living in my sin.

GUENDOLEN.

Thy soul? Yea, there—how knowest thou, boy, so well? - The fire is lit that feeds the fires of hell. Mine is aflame this long time now—but thine - O, how shall God forgive thee this, Locrine, That thou, for shame of these thy treasons done, Hast rent the soul in sunder of thy son?

MADAN.

My heart is whole yet, though thy speech be fire Whose flame lays hold upon it. Hath my sire Wronged thee?

GUENDOLEN.

Nay, child, I lied—I did but rave - I jested—was my face, then, sad and grave, When most I jested with thee? Child, my brain Is wearied, and my heart worn down with pain: I thought awhile, for very sorrow's sake, To play with sorrow—try thy spirit, and take Comfort—God knows I know not what I said, My father, whom I loved, being newly dead.

MADAN.

I pray thee that thou jest with me no more Thus.

GUENDOLEN.

Dost thou now believe me?

MADAN.

No.

GUENDOLEN.

I bore A brave man when I bore thee.

MADAN.

I desire No more of laud or leasing. Hath my sire Wronged thee?

GUENDOLEN.

Never. But wilt thou trust me now?

MADAN.

As trustful am I, mother of mine, as thou.

Enter LOCRINE.

LOCRINE.

The gods be good to thee! How farest thou?

GUENDOLEN.

Well. Heaven hath no power to hurt me more: and hell No fire to fear. The world I dwelt in died With my dead father. King, thy world is wide Wherein thy soul rejoicingly puts trust: But mine is strait, and built by death of dust.

LOCRINE.

Thy sire, mine uncle, stood the sole man, then, That held thy life up happy? Guendolen, Hast thou nor child nor husband—or are we Worth no remembrance more at all of thee?

GUENDOLEN.

Thy speech is sweet; thine eyes are flowers that shine: If ever siren bare a son, Locrine, To reign in some green island and bear sway On shores more shining than the front of day And cliffs whose brightness dulls the morning's brow, That son of sorceries and of seas art thou.

LOCRINE.

Nay, now thy tongue it is that plays on men; And yet no siren's honey, Guendolen, Is this fair speech, though soft as breathes the south, Which thus I kiss to silence on thy mouth.

GUENDOLEN.

Thy soul is softer than this boy's of thine: His heart is all toward battle. Was it mine That put such fire in his? for none that heard Thy flatteries—nay, I take not back the word - A flattering lover lives my loving lord - Could guess thine hand so great with spear or sword.

LOCRINE.

What have I done for thee to mock with praise And make the boy's eyes widen? All my days Are worth not all a week, if war be all, Of his that loved no bloodless festival - Thy sire, and sire of slaughters: this was one Who craved no more of comfort from the sun But light to lighten him toward battle: I Love no such life as bids men kill or die.

GUENDOLEN.

Wert thou not woman more in word than act, Then unrevenged thy brother Albanact Had given his blood to guard his realm and thine: But he that slew him found thy stroke, Locrine, Strong as thy speech is gentle.

LOCRINE.

God assoil The dead our friends and foes!

GUENDOLEN.

A goodly spoil Was that thine hand made then by Humber's banks Of all who swelled the Scythian's riotous ranks With storm of inland surf and surge of steel: None there were left, if tongues ring true, to feel The yoke of days that breathe submissive breath More bitter than the bitterest edge of death.

LOCRINE.

None.

GUENDOLEN.

This was then a day of blood. I heard, But know not whence I caught the wandering word, Strange women were there of that outland crew, Whom ruthlessly thy soldiers ravening slew.

LOCRINE.

Nay, Scythians then had we been, worse than they.

GUENDOLEN.

These that were taken, then, thou didst not slay?

LOCRINE.

I did not say we spared them.

GUENDOLEN.

Slay nor spare?

LOCRINE.

How if they were not?

GUENDOLEN.

What albeit they were? Small hurt, meseems, my husband, had it been Though British hands had haled a Scythian queen - If such were found—some woman foul and fierce - To death—or aught we hold for shame's sake worse.

LOCRINE.

For shame's own sake the hand that should not fear To take such monstrous work upon it here, And did not wither from the wrist, should be Hewn off ere hanging. Wolves or men are we, That thou shouldst question this?

GUENDOLEN.

Not wolves, but men, Surely: for beasts are loyal.

LOCRINE.

Guendolen, What irks thee?

GUENDOLEN.

Nought save grief and love; Locrine, A grievous love, a loving grief is mine. Here stands my husband: there my father lies: I know not if there live in either's eyes More love, more life of comfort. This our son Loves me: but is there else left living one That loves me back as I love?

LOCRINE.

Nay, but how Has this wild question fired thine heart?

GUENDOLEN.

Not thou! No part have I—nay, never had I part - Our child that hears me knows it—in thine heart. Thy sire it was that bade our hands be one For love of mine, his brother: thou, his son, Didst give not—no—but yield thy hand to mine, To mine thy lips—not thee to me, Locrine. Thy heart has dwelt far off me all these years; Yet have I never sought with smiles or tears To lure or melt it meward. I have borne - I that have borne to thee this boy—thy scorn, Thy gentleness, thy tender words that bite More deep than shame would, shouldst thou spurn or smite These limbs and lips made thine by contract—made No wife's, no queen's—a servant's—nay, thy shade. The shadow am I, my lord and king, of thee, Who art spirit and substance, body and soul to me. And now,—nay, speak not—now my sire is dead Thou think'st to cast me crownless from thy bed Wherein I brought thee forth a son that now Shall perish with me, if thou wilt—and thou Shalt live and laugh to think of us—or yet Play faith more foul—play falser, and forget.

LOCRINE.

Sharp grief has crazed thy brain. Thou knowest of me -

GUENDOLEN.

I know that nought I know, Locrine, of thee.

LOCRINE.

What bids thee then revile me, knowing no cause?

GUENDOLEN.

Strong sorrow knows but sorrow's lawless laws.

LOCRINE.

Yet these should turn not grief to raging fire.

GUENDOLEN.

They should not, had my heart my heart's desire.

LOCRINE.

Would God that love, my queen, could give thee this!

GUENDOLEN.

Thou dost not call me wife—nor call'st amiss.

LOCRINE.

What name should serve to stay this fitful strife?

GUENDOLEN.

Thou dost not ill to call me not thy wife.

LOCRINE.

My sister wellnigh wast thou once: and now -

GUENDOLEN.

Thy sister never I: my brother thou.

LOCRINE.

How shall man sound this riddle? Read it me.

GUENDOLEN.

As loves a sister, never loved I thee.

LOCRINE.

Not when we played as twinborn child with child?

GUENDOLEN.

If then thou thought'st it, both were sore beguiled.

LOCRINE.

I thought thee sweeter then than summer doves.

GUENDOLEN.

Yet not like theirs—woe worth it!—were our loves.

LOCRINE.

No—for they meet and flit again apart.

GUENDOLEN.

And we live linked, inseparate—heart in heart.

LOCRINE.

Is this the grief that wrings and vexes thine?

GUENDOLEN.

Thy mother laughed when thou wast born, Locrine.

LOCRINE.

Did she not well? sweet laughter speaks not scorn.

GUENDOLEN.

And thou didst laugh, and wept'st not, to be born.

LOCRINE.

Did I then ill? didst thou, then, weep to be?

GUENDOLEN.

The same star lit not thee to birth and me.

LOCRINE.

Thine eyes took light, then, from the fairer star.

GUENDOLEN.

Nay; thine was nigh the sun, and mine afar.

LOCRINE.

Too bright was thine to need the neighbouring sun.

GUENDOLEN.

Nay, all its life of light was wellnigh done.

LOCRINE.

If all on thee its light and life were shed And darkness on thy birthday struck it dead, It died most happy, leaving life and light More fair and full in loves more thankful sight.

GUENDOLEN.

Art thou so thankful, king, for love's kind sake? Would I were worthier thanks like these I take! For thanks I cannot render thee again.

LOCRINE.

Too heavy sits thy sorrow, Guendolen, Upon thy spirit of life: I bid thee not Take comfort while the fire of grief is hot Still at thine heart, and scarce thy last keen tear Dried: yet the gods have left thee comfort here.

GUENDOLEN.

Comfort? In thee, fair cousin—or my son?

LOCRINE.

What hast thou done, Madan, or left undone? Toward thee and me thy mother's mood to-day Seems less than loving.

MADAN.

Sire, I cannot say.

LOCRINE.

Enough: an hour or half an hour is more Than wrangling words should stuff with barren store. Comfort may'st thou bring to her, if I may none, When all her father quickens in her son. In Cornish warfare if thou win thee praise, Thine shall men liken to thy grandsire's days.

GUENDOLEN.

To Cornwall must he fare and fight for thee?

LOCRINE.

If heart be his—and if thy will it be.

GUENDOLEN.

What is my will worth more than wind or foam?

LOCRINE.

Why, leave is thine to hold him here at home.

GUENDOLEN.

What power is mine to speed him or to stay?

LOCRINE.

None—should thy child cast love and shame away.

GUENDOLEN.

Most duteous wast thou to thy sire—and mine.

LOCRINE.

Yea, truly—when their bidding sealed me thine.

GUENDOLEN.

Thy smile is as a flame that plays and flits.

LOCRINE.

Yet at my heart thou knowest what fire there sits.

GUENDOLEN.

Not love's—not love's—toward me love burns not there.

LOCRINE.

What wouldst thou have me search therein and swear?

GUENDOLEN.

Swear by the faith none seeking there may find -

LOCRINE.

Then—by the faith that lives not in thy kind -

GUENDOLEN.

Ay—women's faith is water. Then, by men's -

LOCRINE.

Yea—by Locrine's, and not by Guendolen's -

GUENDOLEN.

Swear thou didst never love me more than now.

LOCRINE.

I swear it—not when first we kissed. And thou?

GUENDOLEN.

I cannot give thee back thine oath again.

LOCRINE.

If now love wane within thee, lived it then?

GUENDOLEN.

I said not that it waned. I would not swear -

LOCRINE.

That it was ever more than shadows were?

GUENDOLEN.

- Thy faith and heart were aught but shadow and fire.

LOCRINE.

But thou, meseems, hast loved—thy son and sire.

GUENDOLEN.

And not my lord: I cross and thwart him still.

LOCRINE.

Thy grief it is that wounds me—not thy will.

GUENDOLEN.

Wound? if I would, could I forsooth wound thee?

LOCRINE.

I think thou wouldst not, though thine hands were free.

GUENDOLEN.

These hands, now bound in wedlock fast to thine?

LOCRINE.

Yet were thine heart not then dislinked from mine.

GUENDOLEN.

Nay, life nor death, nor love whose child is hate, May sunder hearts made one but once by fate. Wrath may come down as fire between them—life May bid them yearn for death as man for wife - Grief bid them stoop as son to father—shame Brand them, and memory turn their pulse to flame - Or falsehood change their blood to poisoned wine - Yet all shall rend them not in twain, Locrine.

LOCRINE.

Who knows not this? but rather would I know What thought distempers and distunes thy woe. I came to wed my grief awhile to thine For love's sake and for comfort's -

GUENDOLEN.

Thou, Locrine? Today thou knowest not, nor wilt learn tomorrow, The secret sense of such a word as sorrow. Thy spirit is soft and sweet: I well believe Thou wouldst, but well I know thou canst not grieve. The tears like fire, the fire that burns up tears, The blind wild woe that seals up eyes and ears, The sound of raging silence in the brain That utters things unutterable for pain, The thirst at heart that cries on death for ease, What knows thy soul's live sense of pangs like these?

LOCRINE.

Is no love left thee then for comfort?

GUENDOLEN.

Thine?

LOCRINE.

Thy son's may serve thee, though thou mock at mine.

GUENDOLEN.

Ay—when he comes again from Cornwall.

LOCRINE.

Nay; If now his absence irk thee, bid him stay.

GUENDOLEN. -

I will not—yea, I would not, though I might. Go, child: God guard and grace thine hand in fight!

MADAN.

My heart shall give it grace to guard my head.

LOCRINE.

Well thought, my son: but scarce of thee well said.

MADAN.

No skill of speech have I: words said or sung Help me no more than hand is helped of tongue: Yet, would some better wit than mine, I wis, Help mine, I fain would render thanks for this.

GUENDOLEN.

Think not the boy I bare thee too much mine, Though slack of speech and halting: I divine Thou shalt not find him faint of heart or hand, Come what may come against him.

LOCRINE.

Nay, this land Bears not alive, nor bare it ere we came, Such bloodless hearts as know not fame from shame, Or quail for hope's sake, or more faithless fear, From truth of single-sighted manhood, here Born and bred up to read the word aright That sunders man from beast as day from night. That red rank Ireland where men burn and slay Girls, old men, children, mothers, sires, and say These wolves and swine that skulk and strike do well, As soon might know sweet heaven from ravenous hell.

GUENDOLEN.

Ay: no such coward as crawls and licks the dust Till blood thence licked may slake his murderous lust And leave his tongue the suppler shall be bred, I think, in Britain ever—if the dead May witness for the living. Though my son Go forth among strange tribes to battle, none Here shall he meet within our circling seas So much more vile than vilest men as these. And though the folk be fierce that harbour there As once the Scythians driven before thee were, And though some Cornish water change its name As Humber then for furtherance of thy fame, And take some dead man's on it—some dead king's Slain of our son's hand—and its watersprings Wax red and radiant from such fire of fight And swell as high with blood of hosts in flight - No fiercer foe nor worthier shall he meet Than then fell grovelling at his father's feet. Nor, though the day run red with blood of men As that whose hours rang round thy praises then, Shall thy son's hand be deeper dipped therein Than his that gat him—and that held it sin To spill strange blood of barbarous women—wives Or harlots—things of monstrous names and lives - Fit spoil for swords of harsher-hearted folk; Nor yet, though some that dared and 'scaped the stroke Be fair as beasts are beauteous,—fit to make False hearts of fools bow down for love's foul sake, And burn up faith to ashes—shall my son Forsake his father's ways for such an one As whom thy soldiers slew or slew not—thou Hast no remembrance of them left thee now. Even therefore may we stand assured of this: What lip soever lure his lip to kiss, Past question—else were he nor mine nor thine - This boy would spurn a Scythian concubine.

LOCRINE.

Such peril scarce may cross or charm our son, Though fairer women earth or heaven sees none Than those whose breath makes mild our wild south-west Where now he fares not forth on amorous quest.

GUENDOLEN.

Wilt thou not bless him going, and bid him speed?

LOCRINE.

So be it: yet surely not in word but deed Lives all the soul of blessing or of ban Or wrought or won by manhood's might for man. The gods be gracious to thee, boy, and give Thy wish its will!

MADAN.

So shall they, if I live. [Exeunt.



SCENE II.—Gardens of the Palace.



Enter CAMBER and DEBON.

CAMBER.

Nay, tell not me: no smoke of lies can smother The truth which lightens through thy lies: I see Whose trust it is that makes a liar of thee, And how thy falsehood, man, has faith for mother. What, is not thine the breast wherein my brother Seals all his heart up? Had he put in me Faith—but his secret has thy tongue for key, And all his counsel opens to none other. Thy tongue, thine eye, thy smile unlocks his trust Who puts no trust in man.

DEBON.

Sir, then were I A traitor found more perfect fool than knave Should I play false, or turn for gold to dust A gem worth all the gold beneath the sky - The diamond of the flawless faith he gave Who sealed his trust upon me.

CAMBER.

What art thou? Because thy beard ere mine were black was grey Art thou the prince, and I thy man? I say Thou shalt not keep his counsel from me.

DEBON.

Now, Prince, may thine old born servant lift his brow As from the dust to thine, and answer—Nay. Nor canst thou turn this nay of mine to yea With all the lightning of thine eyes, I trow, Nor this my truth to treason.

CAMBER.

God us aid! Art thou not mad? Thou knowest what whispers crawl About the court with serpent sound and speed, Made out of fire and falsehood; or if made Not all of lies—it may be thus—not all - Black yet no less with poison.

DEBON.

Prince, indeed I know the colour of the tongues of fire That feed on shame to slake the thirst of hate; Hell-black, and hot as hell: nor age nor state May pluck the fangs forth of their foul desire: I that was trothplight servant to thy sire, A king more kingly than the front of fate That bade our lives bow down disconsolate When death laid hold on him—for hope nor hire, Prince, would I lie to thee: nay, what avails Falsehood? thou knowest I would not.

CAMBER.

Why, thou art old; To thee could falsehood bear but fruitless fruit - Lean grafts and sour. I think thou wouldst not.

DEBON.

Wales In such a lord lives happy: young and bold And yet not mindless of thy sire King Brute, Who loved his loyal servants even as they Loved him. Yea, surely, bitter were the fruit, Prince Camber, and the tree rotten at root That bare it, whence my tongue should take today For thee the taste of poisonous treason.

CAMBER.

Nay, What boots it though thou plight thy word to boot? True servant wast thou to my sire King Brute, And Brute thy king true master to thee.

DEBON.

Yea. Troy, ere her towers dropped hurtling down in flame, Bare not a son more noble than the sire Whose son begat thy father. Shame it were Beyond all record in the world of shame, If they that hither bore in heart that fire Which none save men of heavenly heart may bear Had left no sign, though Troy were spoiled and sacked, That heavenly was the seed they saved.

CAMBER.

No sign? Though nought my fame be,—though no praise of mine Be worth men's tongues for word or thought or act - Shall fame forget my brother Albanact, Or how those Huns who drank his blood for wine Poured forth their own for offering to Locrine? Though all the soundless maze of time were tracked, No men should man find nobler.

DEBON.

Surely none. No man loved ever more than I thy brothers, Prince.

CAMBER.

Ay—for them thy love is bright like spring, And colder toward me than the wintering sun. What am I less—what less am I than others, That thus thy tongue discrowns my name of king, Dethrones my title, disanoints my state, And pricks me down but petty prince?

DEBON.

My lord -

CAMBER.

Ay? must my name among their names stand scored Who keep my brother's door or guard his gate? A lordling—princeling—one that stands to wait - That lights him back to bed or serves at board. Old man, if yet thy foundering brain record Aught—if thou know that once my sire was great, Then must thou know he left no less to me, His youngest, than to those my brethren born, Kingship.

DEBON.

I know it. Your servant, sire, am I, Who lived so long your sire's.

CAMBER.

And how had he Endured thy silence or sustained thy scorn? Why must I know not what thou knowest of?

DEBON.

Why? Hast thou not heard, king, that a true man's trust Is king for him of life and death? Locrine Hath sealed with trust my lips—nay, prince, not mine - His are they now.

CAMBER.

Thou art wise as he, and just, And secret. God requite thee! yea, he must, For man shall never. If my sword here shine Sunward—God guard that reverend head of thine!

DEBON.

My blood should make thy sword the sooner rust, And rot thy fame for ever. Strike.

CAMBER.

Thou knowest I will not. Am I Scythian born, or Greek, That I should take thy bloodshed on my hand?

DEBON.

Nay—if thou seest me soul to soul, and showest Mercy -

CAMBER.

Thou think'st I would have slain thee? Speak.

DEBON.

Nay, then I will, for love of all this land: Lest, if suspicion bring forth strife, and fear Hatred, its face be withered with a curse; Lest the eyeless doubt of unseen ill be worse Than very truth of evil. Thou shalt hear Such truth as falling in a base man's ear Should bring forth evil indeed in hearts perverse; But forth of thine shall truth, once known, disperse Doubt: and dispersed, the cloud shall leave thee clear In judgment—nor, being young, more merciless, I think, than I toward hearts that erred and yearned, Struck through with love and blind with fire of life Enkindled. When the sharp and stormy stress Of Scythian ravin round our borders burned Eastward, and he that faced it first in strife, King Albanact, thy brother, fought and fell, Locrine our lord, and lordliest born of you, - Thy chief, my prince, and mine—against them drew With all the force our southern strengths might tell, And by the strong mid water's seaward swell That sunders half our Britain met and slew The prince whose blood baptized its fame anew And left no record of the name to dwell Whereby men called it ere it wore his name, Humber; and wide on wing the carnage went Along the drenched red fields that felt the tramp At once of fliers and slayers with feet like flame: But the king halted, seeing a royal tent Reared, with its ensign crowning all the camp, And entered—where no Scythian spoil he found, But one fair face, the Scythian's sometime prey, A lady's whom their ships had borne away By force of warlike hand from German ground, A bride and queen by violent power fast bound To the errant helmsman of their fierce array. And her, left lordless by that ended fray, Our lord beholding loved, and hailed, and crowned Queen.

CAMBER.

Queen! and what perchance of Guendolen? Slept she forsooth forgotten?

DEBON.

Nay, my lord Knows that albeit their hands were precontract By Brute your father dying, no man of men May fasten hearts with hands in one accord. The love our master knew not that he lacked Fulfilled him even as heaven by dawn is filled With fire and light that burns and blinds and leads All men to wise or witless works or deeds, Beholding, ere indeed he wist or willed, Eyes that sent flame through veins that age had chilled.

CAMBER.

Thine—with that grey goat's fleece on chin, sir? Needs Must she be fair: thou, wrapt in age's weeds, Whose blood, if time have touched it not and stilled, The sun's own fire must once have kindled,—thou Sing praise of soft-lipped women? doth not shame Sting thee, to sound this minstrel's note, and gild A girl's proud face with praises, though her brow Were bright as dawn's? And had her grace no name For men to worship by? Her name?

DEBON.

Estrild.

CAMBER.

My brother is a prince of paramours - Eyes coloured like the springtide sea, and hair Bright as with fire of sundawn—face as fair As mine is swart and worn with haggard hours, Though less in years than his—such hap was ours When chance drew forth for us the lots that were Hid close in time's clenched hand: and now I swear, Though his be goodlier than the stars or flowers, I would not change this head of mine, or crown Scarce worth a smile of his—thy lord Locrine's - For that fair head and crown imperial; nay, Not were I cast by force of fortune down Lower than the lowest lean serf that prowls and pines And loathes for fear all hours of night and day.

DEBON.

What says my lord? how means he?

CAMBER.

Vex not thou Thine old hoar head with care to learn of me This. Great is time, and what he wills to be Is here or ever proof may bring it: now, Now is the future present. If thy vow Constrain thee not, yet would I know of thee One thing: this lustrous love-bird, where is she? What nest is hers on what green flowering bough Deep in what wild sweet woodland?

DEBON.

Good my lord, Have I not sinned already—flawed my faith, To lend such ear even to such royal suit?

CAMBER.

Yea, by my kingdom hast thou—by my sword, Yea. Now speak on.

DEBON.

Yet hope—or honour—saith I did not ill to trust the blood of Brute Within thee. Not prince Hector's sovereign soul, The light of all thy lineage, more abhorred Treason than all his days did Brute my lord. My trust shall rest not in thee less than whole.

CAMBER.

Speak, then: too long thou falterest nigh the goal.

DEBON.

There is a bower built fast beside a ford In Essex, held in sure and secret ward Of woods and walls and waters, still and sole As love could choose for harbourage: there the king Keeps close from all men now these seven years since The light wherein he lives: and there hath she Borne him a maiden child more sweet than spring.

CAMBER.

A child her daughter? there now hidden?

DEBON.

Prince, What ails thee?

CAMBER.

Nought. This river's name?

DEBON.

The Ley.

CAMBER.

Nigh Leytonstone in Essex—called of old By men thine elders Durolitum? There Are hind and fawn couched close in one green lair? Speak: hast thou not my faith in pawn, to hold Fast as my brother's heart this love, untold And undivined of all men? must I swear Twice—I, to thee?

DEBON.

But if thou set no snare, Why shine thine eyes so sharp? I am overbold: Sir, pardon me.

CAMBER.

My sword shall split thine heart With pardon if thou palter with me.

DEBON.

Sir, There is the place: but though thy brow be grim As hell—I knew thee not the man thou art - I will not bring thee to it.

CAMBER.

For love of her? Nay—better shouldst thou know my love of him. [Exeunt.



ACT II.



SCENE I.—The banks of the Ley.



Enter ESTRILD and SABRINA.

SABRINA.

But will my father come not? not today, Mother?

ESTRILD.

God help thee! child, I cannot say. Why this of all days yet in summer's sight?

SABRINA.

My birthday!

ESTRILD.

That should bring him—if it may.

SABRINA.

May should be must: he must not be away. His faith was pledged to me as king and knight.

ESTRILD.

Small fear he should not keep it—if he might.

SABRINA.

Might! and a king's might his? do kings bear sway For nought, that aught should keep him hence till night? Why didst thou bid God help me when I sought To know but of his coming?

ESTRILD.

Even for nought But laughter even to think how strait a bound Shuts in the measure of thy sight and thought Who seest not why thy sire hath heed of aught Save thee and me—nor wherefore men stand crowned And girt about with empire.

SABRINA.

Have they found Such joy therein as meaner things have wrought? Sing me the song that ripples round and round.

ESTRILD (sings):-

Had I wist, quoth spring to the swallow, That earth could forget me, kissed By summer, and lured to follow Down ways that I know not, I, My heart should have waxed not high: Mid March would have seen me die, Had I wist.

Had I wist, O spring, said the swallow, That hope was a sunlit mist And the faint light heart of it hollow, Thy woods had not heard me sing, Thy winds had not known my wing; It had faltered ere thine did, spring, Had I wist.

SABRINA.

That song is hardly even as wise as I - Nay, very foolishness it is. To die In March before its life were well on wing, Before its time and kindly season—why Should spring be sad—before the swallows fly - Enough to dream of such a wintry thing? Such foolish words were more unmeet for spring Than snow for summer when his heart is high; And why should words be foolish when they sing? The song-birds are not.

ESTRILD.

Dost thou understand, Child, what the birds are singing?

SABRINA.

All the land Knows that: the water tells it to the rushes Aloud, and lower and softlier to the sand: The flower-fays, lip to lip and hand in hand, Laugh and repeat it all till darkness hushes Their singing with a word that falls and crushes All song to silence down the river-strand And where the hawthorns hearken for the thrushes. And all the secret sense is sweet and wise That sings through all their singing, and replies When we would know if heaven be gay or grey And would not open all too soon our eyes To look perchance on no such happy skies - As sleep brings close and waking blows away.

ESTRILD.

What gives thy fancy faith enough to say This?

SABRINA.

Why, meseems the sun would hardly rise Else, nor the world be half so glad of day.

ESTRILD.

Why didst thou crave of me that song, Sabrina?

SABRINA.

Because, methought, though one were king or queen And had the world to play with, if one missed What most were good to have, such joy, I ween, Were woful as a song with sobs between And well might wail for ever, 'Had I wist!' And might my father do but as he list, And make this day what other days have been, I should not shut tonight mine eyes unkissed.

ESTRILD.

I wis thou wouldst not.

SABRINA.

Then I would he were No king at all, and save his golden hair Wore on his gracious head no golden crown. Must he be king for ever?

ESTRILD.

Not if prayer Could lift from off his heart that crown of care And draw him toward us as with music down.

SABRINA.

Not so, but upward to us. He would but frown To hear thee talk as though the woodlands there Were built no lordlier than the wide-walled town. Thou knowest, when I desire of him to see What manner of crown that wreath of towers may be That makes its proud head shine like older Troy's, His brows are bent even while he laughs on me And bids me think no more thereon than he, For flowers are serious things, but towers are toys.

ESTRILD.

Ay, child; his heart was less care's throne than joy's, Power's less than love's friend ever: and with thee His mood that plays is blither than a boy's.

SABRINA.

I would the boy would give the maid her will.

ESTRILD.

Has not thine heart as mine has here its fill?

SABRINA.

So have our hearts while sleeping—till they wake.

ESTRILD.

Too soon is this for waking: sleep thou still.

SABRINA.

Bid then the dawn sleep, and the world lie chill.

ESTRILD.

This nest is warm for one small wood-dove's sake.

SABRINA.

And warm the world that feels the sundawn break.

ESTRILD.

But hath my fledgeling cushat here slept ill?

SABRINA.

No plaint is this, but pleading, that I make.

ESTRILD.

Plead not against thine own glad life: the plea Were like a wrangling babe's that fain would be Free from the help its hardy heart contemns, Free from the hand that guides and guards it, free To take its way and sprawl and stumble. See! Have we not here enough of diadems Hung high round portals pillared smooth with stems More fair than marble?

SABRINA.

This is but the Ley: I fain would look upon the lordlier Thames.

ESTRILD.

A very water-bird thou art: the river So draws thee to it that, seeing, my heart-strings quiver And yearn with fear lest peril teach thee fear Too late for help or daring to deliver.

SABRINA.

Nay, let the wind make willows weep and shiver: Me shall nor wind nor water, while I hear What goodly words saith each in other's ear. And which is given the gift, and which the giver, I know not, but they take and give good cheer.

ESTRILD.

Howe'er this be, thou hast no heed of mine, To take so little of this life of thine I gave and would not see thee cast away For childishness in childhood, though it shine For me sole comfort, for my lord Locrine Chief comfort in the world.

SABRINA.

Nay, mother, nay, Make me not weep with chiding: wilt thou say I love thee not? Hark! see, my sire for sign! I hear his horse.

ESTRILD.

He comes!

SABRINA.

He comes today! [Exeunt



SCENE II.—Troynovant. A Room in the Palace.



Enter GUENDOLEN and CAMBER.

GUENDOLEN.

I know not, sir, what ails you to desire Such audience of me as I give.

CAMBER.

What ails Me, sister? Were the heart in me no higher Than his who heeds no more than harpers' tales Such griefs as set a sister's heart on fire -

GUENDOLEN.

Then were my brother now at rest in Wales, And royal.

CAMBER.

Am I less than royal here?

GUENDOLEN.

Even here as there alike, sir.

CAMBER.

Dost thou fear Nothing?

GUENDOLEN.

My princely cousin, not indeed Much that might hap at word or will of thine.

CAMBER.

Ay—meanest am I of my father's seed, If men misjudge not, cousin; and Locrine Noblest.

GUENDOLEN.

Should I gainsay their general rede, My heart would mock me.

CAMBER.

Such a spirit as mine Being spiritless—my words heartless—mine acts Faint shadows of Locrine's or Albanact's?

GUENDOLEN.

Nay—not so much—I said not so. Say thou What thou wouldst have—if aught thou wouldst—with me.

CAMBER.

No man might see thine eyes and lips and brow Who would not—what he durst not crave of thee.

GUENDOLEN.

Ay, verily? And thy spirit exalts thee now So high that these thy words fly forth so free, And fain thine act would follow—flying above Shame's reach and fear's? What gift may this be? Love? Or liking? or compassion?

CAMBER.

Take not thus Mine innocent words amiss, nor wrest awry Their piteous purpose toward thee.

GUENDOLEN.

Piteous! Who lives so low and looks upon the sky As would desire—who shares the sun with us That might deserve thy pity?

CAMBER.

Thou.

GUENDOLEN.

Not I, Though I were cast out hence, cast off, discrowned, Abject, ungirt of all that guards me round, Naked. What villainous madness, knave and king, Is this that puts upon thy babbling tongue Poison?

CAMBER.

The truth is as a snake to sting That breathes ill news: but where its fang hath stung The very pang bids health and healing spring. God knows the grief wherewith my spirit is wrung - The spirit of thee so scorned, so misesteemed, So mocked with strange misprision and misdeemed Merciless, false, unbrotherly—to take Such task upon it as may burn thine heart With bitterer hatred of me that I spake What, had I held my peace and crept apart And tamed my soul to silence for thy sake And mercy toward the royal thing thou art, Chance haply might have made a fiery sword To slay thee with—slay thee, and spare thy lord.

GUENDOLEN.

Worse had it done to slay my lord, and spare Me. Wilt thou now show mercy toward me? Then Strike with that sword mine heart through—if thou dare. All know thy tongue's edge deadly.

CAMBER.

Guendolen, Thou seest me like a vassal bound to bear All bitter words that bite the hearts of men From thee, so be it this please thy wrath. I stand Slave of thy tongue and subject of thine hand, And pity thee. Take, if thou wilt, my head; Give it my brother. Thou shalt hear me speak First, though the soothfast word that hangs unsaid As yet, being spoken,—albeit this hand be weak And faint this heart, thou sayest—should strike thee dead Even with that rose of wrath on brow and cheek.

GUENDOLEN.

I hold not thee too faint of heart to slay Women. Say forth whate'er thou hast heart to say.

CAMBER.

Silence I have not heart to keep, and see Scorn and derision gird thee round with shame, Not knowing what all thy serfs who mock at thee Know, and make mirth and havoc of thy name. Does this not move thee?

GUENDOLEN.

How should aught move me Fallen from such tongues as falsehood finds the same - Such tongues as fraud or treasonous hate o'erscurfs With leprous lust—a prince's or a serf's?

CAMBER.

That lust of the evil-speaking tongue which gives Quick breath to deadly lies, and stings to life The rottenness of falsehood, when it lives, Falls dumb, and leaves the lie to bring forth strife. The liar will say no more—his heart misgives His knaveship—should he sunder man and wife? Such, sister, in thy sight, it seems, am I. Yet shalt thou take, to keep or cast it by, The truth of shame I would not have thee hear, - Not might I choose,—but choose I may not.

GUENDOLEN.

Shame And truth? Shame never toward thine heart came near, And all thy life hath hung about thy name. Nor ever truth drew nigh the lips that fear Whitens, and makes the blood that feeds them tame. Speak all thou wilt—but even for shame, forsooth, Talk not of shame—and tell me not of truth.

CAMBER.

Then shalt thou hear a lie. Thy loving lord Loves none save thee; his heart's pulse beats in thine; No fairer woman, captive of his sword, Caught ever captive and subdued Locrine: The god of lies bear witness. At the ford Of Humber blood was never shed like wine: Our brother Albanact lived, fought, and died, Never: and I that swear it have not lied.

GUENDOLEN.

Fairer?

CAMBER.

They say it: but what are lies to thee?

GUENDOLEN.

Art thou nor man nor woman?

CAMBER.

Nay—I trust - Man.

GUENDOLEN.

And hast heart to make thy spoil of me?

CAMBER.

Would God I might!

GUENDOLEN.

Thou art made of lies and lust - Earth's worst is all too good for such to see, And yet thine eyes turn heavenward—as they must, Being man's—if man be such as thou—and soil The light they see. Thou hast made of me thy spoil, Thy scorn, thy profit—yea, my whole soul's plunder Is all thy trophy, thy triumphal prize And harvest reaped of thee; nay, trampled under And rooted up and scattered. Yet the skies That see thy trophies reared are full of thunder, And heaven's high justice loves not lust and lies.

CAMBER.

Ill then should fare thy lord—if heaven be just, And lies be lies, and lawless love be lust.

GUENDOLEN.

Thou liest. I know my lord and thee. Thou liest.

CAMBER.

If he be true and truth be false, I lie.

GUENDOLEN.

Thou art lowest of all men born—while he sits highest.

CAMBER.

Ay—while he sits. How long shall he sit high?

GUENDOLEN.

If I but whisper him of thee, thou diest.

CAMBER.

I fear not, if till then secure am I.

GUENDOLEN.

Secure as fools are hardy live thou still.

CAMBER.

While ill with good is guerdoned, good with ill.

GUENDOLEN.

I have it in my mind to take thine head. Dost thou not fear to put me thus in fear?

CAMBER.

I fear nor man nor woman, quick nor dead: And dead in spirit already stand'st thou here.

GUENDOLEN.

Thou darest not swear my lord hath wronged my bed. Thou darest but smile and mutter, lie and leer.

CAMBER.

I swear no queen bore ever crown on brow Who meeklier bore a heavier wrong than thou.

GUENDOLEN.

From thee will I bear nothing. Get thee hence: Thine eyes defile me. Get thee from my sight.

CAMBER.

The gods defend thee, soul and spirit and sense, From sense of things thou darest not read aright! Farewell. [Exit.

GUENDOLEN.

Fare thou not well, and be defence Far from thy soul cast naked forth by night! Hate rose from hell a liar: love came divine From heaven: yet she that bore thee bore Locrine. [Exit.



ACT III.



SCENE I.—Troynovant. A Room in the Palace.



Enter LOCRINE and DEBON.

LOCRINE.

Thou knowest not what she knows or dreams of? why Her face is dark and wan, her lip and eye Restless and red as fever? Hast thou kept Faith?

DEBON.

Has my master found my faith a lie Once all these years through? have I strayed or slept Once, when he bade me watch? what proof has leapt At last to light against me?

LOCRINE.

Surely, none. Weep not.

DEBON.

My lord's grey vassal hath not wept Once, even since darkness covered from the sun The woman's face—the sole sweet wifelike one - Whose memory holds his heart yet fast: but now Tears, were old age not poor in tears, might run Free as the words that bid his stricken brow Burn and bow down to hear them.

LOCRINE.

Hast not thou Held counsel—played the talebearer whose tales Bear plague abroad and poison, knowing not how - Not with my wife nor brother?

DEBON.

Nought avails Falsehood: and truth it is, the king of Wales So plied me, sir, with force of craft and threat -

LOCRINE.

That thou, whose faith swerves never, flags nor fails Nor falters, being as stars are loyal, yet Wast found as those that fall from heaven, forget Their station, shoot and shudder down to death Deep as the pit of hell? What snares were set To take thy soul—what mist of treasonous breath Made blind in thee the sense that quickeneth In true men's inward eyesight, when they know And know not how they know the word it saith, The warning word that whispers loud or low - I ask not: be it enough these things are so. Thou hast played me false.

DEBON.

Nay, now this long time since We have seen the queen's face wan with wrath and woe - Have seen her lip writhe and her eyelid wince To take men's homage—proof that might convince Of grief inexpiable and insatiate shame Her spirit in all men's judgment.

LOCRINE.

But the prince - My brother, whom thou knowest by proof, not fame, A coward whose heart is all a flickering flame That fain would burn and dares not—whence had he The poison that he gave her? Speak: this came By chance—mishap—most haplessly for thee Who hadst my heart in thine, and madest of me No more than might for folly's sake or fear's Be bared for even such eyes as his to see? Old friend that wast, I would not see thy tears. God comfort thy dishonour!

DEBON.

All these years Have I not served thee?

LOCRINE.

Yea. So cheer thee now.

DEBON.

Cheered be the traitor, whom the true man cheers? Nay, smite me: God can be not such as thou, And will not damn me with forgiveness. How Hast thou such heart, to comfort such as me? God's thunder were less fearful than the brow That frowns not on thy friend found false to thee. Thy friend—thou said'st—thy friend. Strange friends are we. Nay, slay me then—nay, slay me rather.

LOCRINE.

Friend, Take comfort. God's wide-reaching will shall be Here as of old accomplished, though it blend All good with ill that none may mar or mend. Thy works and mine are ripples on the sea. Take heart, I say: we know not yet their end. [Exeunt.



SCENE II.—Gardens of the Palace.



Enter CAMBER and MADAN.

CAMBER.

Hath no man seen thee?

MADAN.

Had he seen, and spoken, His head should lose its tongue. I am far away In Cornwall.

CAMBER.

Where the front of war is broken By the onset of thy force—the rebel fray Shattered. Had no man—canst thou surely say? - Knowledge betimes, to give us knowledge here - Us babblers, tongues made quick with fraud and fear - That thou wast bound from Cornwall hither?

MADAN.

None, I think, who knowing of steel and fire and cord That they can smite and burn and strangle one Would loose without leave of his parting lord The tongue that else were sharper than a sword To cut the throat it sprang from.

CAMBER.

Nephew mine, I have ever loved thee—not thy sire Locrine More—and for very and only love of thee Have I desired, or ever even thy mother Beheld thee, here to know of thee and me Which loves her best—her and thy sire my brother.

MADAN.

He being away, far hence—and so none other - Not he—should share the knowledge?

CAMBER.

Surely not He. Knowest thou whither hence he went?

MADAN.

God wot, No: haply toward some hidden paramour.

CAMBER.

And that should set not, for thy mother's sake, And thine, the heart in thee on fire?

MADAN.

An hour Is less than even the time wherein we take Breath to let loose the word that fain would break, And cannot, even for passion,—if we set An hour against the length of life: and yet Less in account of life should be those hours - Should be? should be not, live not, be not known, Not thought of, not remembered even as ours, - Whereon the flesh or fancy bears alone Rule that the soul repudiates for its own, Rejects and mocks and mourns for, and reclaims Its nature, none the ignobler for the shames That were but shadows on it—shed but shade And perished. If thy brother and king, my sire -

CAMBER.

No king of mine is he—we are equal, weighed Aright in state, though here his throne stand higher.

MADAN.

So be it. I say, if even some earth-born fire Have ever lured the loftiest head that earth Sees royal, toward a charm of baser birth And force less godlike than the sacred spell That links with him my mother, what were this To her or me?

CAMBER.

To her no more than hell To souls cast forth who hear all hell-fire hiss All round them, and who feel the red worm's kiss Shoot mortal poison through the heart that rests Immortal: serpents suckled at her breasts, Fire feeding on her limbs, less pain should be Than sense of pride laid waste and love laid low, If she be queen or woman: and to thee -

MADAN.

To me that wax not woman though I know This, what shall hap or hap not?

CAMBER.

Were it so, It should not irk thee, she being wronged alone; Thy mother's bed, and not thy father's throne, Being soiled with usurpation. Ay? but say That now mine uncle and her sire lies dead And helpless now to help her, or affray The heart wherein her ruin and thine were bred, Not she were cast forth only from his bed, But thou, loathed issue of a contract loathed Since first their hands were joined not but betrothed, Wert cast forth out of kingship? stripped of state, Unmade his son, unseated, unallowed, Discrowned, disorbed, discrested—thou, but late Prince, and of all men's throats acclaimed aloud, Of all men's hearts accepted and avowed Prince, now proclaimed for some sweet bastard's sake Peasant?

MADAN.

Thy sire was sure less man than snake, Though mine miscall thee brother.

CAMBER.

Coward or mad? Which might one call thee rather, whose harsh heart Envenoms so thy tongue toward one that had No thought less kindly—toward even thee that art Kindless—than best beseems a kinsman's part?

MADAN.

Lay not on me thine own foul shame, whose tongue Would turn my blood to poison, while it stung Thy brother's fame to death. I know my sire As shame knows thee—and better no man knows Aught.

CAMBER.

Have thy will, then: take thy full desire: Drink dry the draught of ruin: bid all blows Welcome: being harsh with friends, be mild with foes, And give shame thanks for buffets. Yet I thought - But how should help avail where heart is nought?

MADAN.

Yet—thou didst think to help me?

CAMBER.

Kinsman, ay. My hand had held the field beside thine own, And all wild hills that know my rallying cry Had poured forth war for heart's pure love alone To help thee—wouldst thou heed me—to thy throne.

MADAN.

For pure heart's love? what wage holds love in fee? Might half my kingdom serve? Nay, mock not me, Fair uncle: should I cleave the crown in twain And gird thy temples with the goodlier half, Think'st thou my debt might so be paid again - Thy sceptre made a more imperial staff Than sways as now thy hill-folk?

CAMBER.

Dost thou laugh? Were this too much for kings to give and take? If warrior Wales do battle for thy sake, Should I that kept thy crown for thee be held Worth less than royal guerdon?

MADAN.

Keep thine own, And let the loud fierce knaves thy brethren quelled Ward off the wolves whose hides should line thy throne, Wert thou no coward, no recreant to the bone, No liar in spirit and soul and heartless heart, No slave, no traitor—nought of all thou art. A thing like thee, made big with braggart breath, Whose tongue shoots fire, whose promise poisons trust, Would cast a shieldless soldier forth to death And wreck three realms to sate his rancorous lust With ruin of them who have weighed and found him dust. Get thee to Wales: there strut in speech and swell: And thence betimes God speed thee safe to hell. [Exeunt severally.



ACT IV.



SCENE I.—The banks of the Ley.



Enter LOCRINE and ESTRILD.

LOCRINE.

If thou didst ever love me, love me now. I am weary at heart of all on earth save thee. And yet I lie: and yet I lie not. Thou - Dost thou not think for love's sake scorn of me?

ESTRILD.

As earth of heaven: as morning of the sun.

LOCRINE.

Nay, what thinks evening, whom he leaves undone?

ESTRILD.

Thou madest me queen and woman: though my life Were taken, these thou couldst not take again, The gifts thou gavest me. More am I than wife, Whom, till my tyrant by thy strength were slain And by thy love my servile shame cast out, My naked sorrows clothed and girt about With princelier pride than binds the brows of queens, Thou sawest of all things least and lowest alive. What means thy doubt?

LOCRINE.

Fear knows not what it means: And I was fearful even of clouds that drive Across the dawn, and die—of all, of nought - Winds whispering on the darkling ways of thought, Sunbeams that flash like fire, and hopes like fears That slay themselves, and live again, and die. But in mine eyes thy light is, in mine ears Thy music: I am thine, and more than I, Being half of thy sweet soul.

ESTRILD.

Woe worth me then! For one requires thee wholly.

LOCRINE.

Guendolen?

ESTRILD.

I said she was the fairer—and I lied not.

LOCRINE.

Thou art the fairest fool alive.

ESTRILD.

But she, Being wise, exceeds me: yet, so she divide not Thine heart, my best-beloved of liars, with me, I care not—nor I will not care. Some part She hath had, it may be, of thy fond false heart - Nay, couldst thou choose? but now, though she be fairer, Let her take all or none: I will not be Partaker of her perfect sway, nor sharer With any on earth more dear or less to thee. Nay, be not wroth: what wilt thou have me say? That I can love thee less than she can? Nay, Thou knowest I will not ill to her; but she - Would she not burn my child and me with fire To wreak herself, who loved thee once, on thee?

LOCRINE.

Thy fear is darker, child, than her desire.

ESTRILD.

I fear not her at all: I would not fear The one thing fearful to me yet, who here Sit walled around with waters and with woods From all things fearful but the fear of change.

LOCRINE.

Fear thou not that: for nothing born eludes Time; and the joy were sorrowful and strange That should endure for ever. Yea, I think Such joy would pray for sorrow's cup to drink, Such constancy desire an end, for mere Long weariness of watching. Thou and I Have all our will of life and loving here, - A heavenlier heaven on earth: but we shall die, And if we died not, love we might outlive As now shall love outlive us.

ESTRILD.

We?

LOCRINE.

Forgive!

ESTRILD.

King! and I held thee more than man!

LOCRINE.

God wot, Thou art more than I—more strong and wise; I know Thou couldst not live one hour if love were not.

ESTRILD

And thou? -

LOCRINE.

I would not. All the world were woe, And all the day night, if the love I bear thee Were plucked out of the life wherein I wear thee As crown and comfort of its nights and days.

ESTRILD.

Thou liest—for love's sake and for mine—and I Lie not, who swear by thee whereon I gaze I hold no truth so hallowed as the lie Wherewith my love redeems me from the snare Dark doubt had set to take me.

LOCRINE.

Wilt thou swear - By what thou wilt soever—by the sun That sees us—by the light of all these flowers - By this full stream whose waves we hear not run - By all that is nor mine nor thine, but ours - That thou didst ever doubt indeed? or dream That doubt, whose breath bids love of love misdeem, Were other than the child of hate and hell, The liar first-born of falsehood?

ESTRILD.

Nay—I think - God help me!—hardly. Never? can I tell? When half our soul and all our senses sink From dream to dream down deathward, slain with sleep, How may faith hold assurance fast, or keep Her power to cast out fear for love's sake?

LOCRINE.

Could doubt not thee, waking or sleeping.

ESTRILD.

No - Thou art not mad. How should the sunlit sky Betray the sun? cast out the sunshine? So Art thou to me as light to heaven: should light Die, were not heaven as hell and noon as night? And wherefore should I hold more dear than life Death? Could I live, and lack thee? Thou, O king, Hast lands and lordships—and a royal wife - And rule of seas that tire the seamew's wing - And fame as far as fame can travel; I, What have I save this home wherein to die, Except thou love me? Nay, nor home were this, No place to die or live in, were I sure Thou didst not love me. Swear not by this kiss That love lives longer—faith may more endure - Than one poor kiss that passes with the breath Of lips that gave it life at once and death. Why shouldst thou swear, and wherefore should I trust? When day shall drive not night from heaven, and night Shall chase not day to deathward, then shall dust Be constant—and the stars endure the sight Of dawn that shall not slay them.

LOCRINE.

By thine eyes - Turned stormier now than stars in bare-blown skies Wherethrough the wind rings menace,—I will swear Nought: so shall fear, mistrust, and jealous hate Lie foodless, if not fangless. Thou, so fair That heaven might change for thee the seal of fate, How darest thou doubt thy power on souls of men?

ESTRILD.

What vows were those that won thee Guendolen?

LOCRINE.

I sware not so to her. Thou knowest -

ESTRILD.

Not I. Thou knowest that I know nothing.

LOCRINE.

Nay, I know That nothing lives under the sweet blue sky Worth thy sweet heeding, wouldst thou think but so, Save love—wherewith thou seest thy world fulfilled.

ESTRILD.

Ay,—would I see but with thine eyes.

LOCRINE.

Estrild, Estrild!

ESTRILD.

No soft reiterance of my name Can sing my sorrow down that comes and goes And colours hope with fear and love with shame. Rose hast thou called me: were I like the rose, Happier were I than woman: she survives Not by one hour, like us of longer lives, The sun she lives in and the love he gives And takes away: but we, when love grows sere, Live yet, while trust in love no longer lives, Nor drink for comfort with the dying year Death.

LOCRINE.

Wouldst thou drink forgetfulness for wine To heal thine heart of love toward me?

ESTRILD.

Locrine, Locrine!

LOCRINE.

Thou wouldst not: do not mock me then, Saying out of evil heart, in evil jest, Thy trust is dead to meward.

ESTRILD.

King of men, Wouldst thou, being only of all men lordliest, Be lord of women's thoughts and loving fears? Nay, wert thou less than lord of worlds and years, Of stars and suns and seasons, couldst thou dream To take such empire on thee?

LOCRINE.

Nay, not I - No more than she there playing beside the stream To slip within a stormier stream and die.

ESTRILD.

She runs too near the brink. Sabrina!

LOCRINE.

See, Her hands are lily-laden: let them be A flower-sweet symbol for us. Enter SABRINA.

SABRINA.

Sire! O sire, See what fresh flowers—you knew not these before - The spring has brought, to serve my heart's desire, Forth of the river's barren bed! no more Will I rebuke these banks for sterile sloth When spring restores the woodlands. By my troth, I hoped not, when you came again, to bring So large a tribute worth so full a smile.

LOCRINE.

Child! how should I to thee pay tribute?

ESTRILD.

King, Thou hast not kissed her.

LOCRINE.

Dare my lips defile Heaven? O my love, in sight of her and thee I marvel how the sun should look on me And spare to turn his beams to fire.

ESTRILD.

The child Hears, and is troubled.

SABRINA.

Did I wrong, to say 'Sire?' but you bade me say so. He is mild, And will not chide me. Father!

ESTRILD.

Hear'st thou?

LOCRINE.

Yea - I hear. I would the world beyond our sight Were dead as worlds forgotten.

ESTRILD.

Wouldst thou fright Her?

LOCRINE.

Hath all sense forsaken me? Sabrina, Thou dost not fear me?

SABRINA.

No. But when your eyes Wax red and dark, with flaughts of fire between, I fear them—or they fright me.

LOCRINE.

Wert thou wise, They would not. Never have I looked on thee So.

SABRINA.

Nay—I fear not what might fall on me. Here laughs my father—here my mother smiles - Here smiles and laughs the water—what should I Fear?

LOCRINE.

Nought more fearful than the water's wiles - Which whoso fears not ere he fear shall die.

SABRINA.

Die? and is death no less an ill than dread? I had liefer die than be nor quick nor dead. I think there is no death but fear of death.

LOCRINE.

Of death or life or anything but love What knowest thou?

SABRINA.

Less than these, my mother saith - Less than the flowers that seeing all heaven above Fade and wax hoar or darken, lose their trust And leave their joy and let their glories rust And die for fear ere winter wound them: we Live no less glad of snowtime than of spring: It cannot change my father's face for me Nor turn from mine away my mother's. King They call thee: hath thy kingship made thee less In height of heart than we are?

LOCRINE.

No, and yes. Here sits my heart at height of hers and thine, Laughing for love: here not the quiring birds Sing higher than sings my spirit: I am here Locrine, Whom no sound vexes here of swords or words, No cloud of thought or thunder: were my life Crowned but as lord and sire of child and wife, Throned but as prince of woodland, bank and bower, My joys were then imperial, and my state Firm as a star, that now is as a flower.

SABRINA.

Thou shouldst not then—if joy grow here so great - Part from us.

LOCRINE.

No: for joy grows elsewhere scant.

SABRINA.

I would fain see the towers of Troynovant.

LOCRINE.

God keep thine eyes fulfilled with sweeter sights, And this one from them ever!

SABRINA.

Why? Men say Thine halls are full of guests, princes and knights, And lordly musters of superb array; Why are we thence alone, and alway?

ESTRILD.

Peace, Child: let thy babble change its note, or cease Here; is thy sire not wiser—by God's grace - Than I or thou?

LOCRINE.

Wouldst thou too see fulfilled The fear whose shadow fallen on joy's fair face Strikes it more sad than sorrow's own? Estrild, Wast thou then happier ere this wildwood shrine Hid thee from homage, left thee but Locrine For worshipper less worthy grace of thee Than those thy sometime suppliants?

ESTRILD.

Nay; my lord Takes too much thought—if tongues ring true—for me.

LOCRINE.

Such tongues ring falser than a broken chord Whose jar distunes the music.

ESTRILD.

Wilt thou stay But three nights here?

LOCRINE.

I had need be hence today.

ESTRILD.

Go.

SABRINA.

But I bid thee tarry; what am I That thou shouldst heed not what I bid thee?

LOCRINE.

Queen And empress more imperious and more high And regent royaller than time hath seen And mightier mistress of thy sire and thrall: Yet must I go. But ere the next moon fall Again will I grow happy.

ESTRILD.

Who can say?

LOCRINE.

So much can I—except the stars combine Unseasonably to stay me.

ESTRILD.

Let them stay The tides, the seasons rather. Love! Locrine! I never parted from thee, nor shall part, Save with a fire more keen than fire at heart: But now the pang that wrings me, soul and sense, And turns fair day to darkness deep as hell, Warns me, the word that seals thy parting hence - 'Farewell'—shall bid us never more fare well.

SABRINA.

Lo! she too bids thee tarry; dost thou not Hear?

LOCRINE.

Might I choose, small need were hers, God wot, Or thine, to bid me tarry. When I come Again -

SABRINA.

Thou shalt not see me: I will hide From sight of such a sire—or bow down dumb Before him—strong and hard as he in pride - And so thou shalt not hear me.

LOCRINE.

Who can tell? So now say I.

ESTRILD.

God keep my lord!

LOCRINE.

Farewell. [Exeunt.



SCENE II.—Troynovant. A Room in the Palace.



Enter GUENDOLEN and MADAN.

GUENDOLEN.

Come close, and look upon me. Child or man, - I know not how to call thee, being my child, Who know not how myself am called, nor can - God witness—tell thee what should she be styled Who bears the brand and burden set on her That man hath set on me—the lands are wild Whence late I bade thee hither, swift of spur As he that rides to guard his mother's life; Thou hast found nought loathlier there, nought hate-fuller In all the wilds that seethe with fluctuant strife, Than here besets thine advent. Son, if thou Be son of mine, and I thy father's wife -

MADAN.

If heaven be heaven, and God be God.

GUENDOLEN.

As now We know not if they be. Give me thine hand. Thou hast mine eyes beneath thy father's brow, - And therefore bears it not the traitor's brand. Swear—But I would not bid thee swear in vain Nor bind thee ere thine own soul understand, Ere thine own heart be molten with my pain, To do such work for bitter love of me As haply, knowing my heart, thou wert not fain - Even thou—to take upon thee—bind on thee - Set all thy soul to do or die.

MADAN.

I swear.

GUENDOLEN.

And though thou sworest not, yet the thing should be. The burden found for me so sore to bear Why should I lay on any hand but mine, Or bid thine own take part therein, and wear A father's blood upon it—here—for sign? Ay, now thou pluck'st it forth of hers to whom Thou sworest and gavest it plighted. O Locrine, Thy seed it was that sprang within my womb, Thine, and none other—traitor born and liar, False-faced, false-tongued—the fire of hell consume Me, thee, and him for ever!

MADAN.

Hath my sire Wronged thee?

GUENDOLEN.

Thy sire? my lord? the flower of men? How?

MADAN.

For thy tongue was tipped but now with fire - With fire of hell—against him.

GUENDOLEN.

Now, and then, Are twain; thou knowest not women, how their tongue Takes fire, and straight learns patience: Guendolen Is there no more than crownless woman, wrung At heart with anguish, and in utterance mad As even the meanest whom a snake hath stung So near the heart that all the pulse it had Grows palpitating poison. Wilt thou know Whence?

MADAN.

Could I heal it, then mine own were glad.

GUENDOLEN.

What think'st thou were the bitterest wrong, the woe Least bearable by woman, worst of all That man might lay upon her? Nay, thou art slow: Speak: though thou speak but folly. Silent? Call To mind whatso thou hast ever heard of ill Most monstrous, that should turn to fire and gall The milk and blood of maid or mother—still Thou shalt not find, I think, what he hath done - What I endure, and die not. For my will It is that holds me yet alive, O son, Till all my wrong be wroken, here to keep Fast watch, a living soul before the sun, Anhungered and athirst for night and sleep, That will not slake the ravin of her thirst Nor quench her fire of hunger, till she reap The harvest loved of all men, last as first - Vengeance.

MADAN.

What wrong is this he hath done thee? Words Are edgeless weapons: live we blest or curst, No jot the more of evil or good engirds The life with bitterest curses compassed round Or girt about with blessing. Hinds and herds Wage threats and brawl and wrangle: wind and sound Suffice their souls for vengeance: we require Deeds, and till place for these and time be found Silence. What bids thee bid me slay my sire?

GUENDOLEN.

I praise the gods that gave me thee: thine heart Is none of his, no changeling's in desire, No coward's as who begat thee: mine thou art All, and mine only. Lend me now thine ear: Thou knowest -

MADAN.

What anguish holds thy lips apart And strikes thee silent? Am I bound to hear What thou to speak art bound not?

GUENDOLEN.

How my lord, Our lord, thy sire—the king whose throne is here Imperial—smote and drove the wolf-like horde That raged against us from the raging east, And how their chief sank in the unsounded ford He thought to traverse, till the floods increased Against him, and he perished: and Locrine Found in his camp for sovereign spoil to feast The sense of power with lustier joy than wine A woman—Dost thou mock me?

MADAN.

And a fair Woman, if all men lie not, mother mine - I have heard so much. And then?

GUENDOLEN.

Thou dost not dare Mock me?

MADAN.

I know not what should make thee mad Though this and worse, howbeit it irk thee, were. Art thou discrowned, dethroned, disrobed, unclad Of empire? art thou powerless, bloodless, old? This were some hurt: but now—thou shouldst be glad To take this chance upon thee, and to hold So large a lordly happiness in hand As when my father's and thy lord's is cold Shall leave in thine the sway of all this land.

GUENDOLEN.

And thou? no she-wolf whelps upon the wold Whose brood is like thy mother's.

MADAN.

Nay—I stand A man thy son before thee.

GUENDOLEN.

And a bold Man: is thine heart flesh, or a burning brand Lit to burn up and turn for thee to gold The kingship of thy sire?

MADAN.

Why, blessed or banned, We thrive alike—thou knowest it—why, but now I said so,—scarce the glass has dropped one sand - And thou didst smile on me—and all thy brow Smiled.

GUENDOLEN.

Thou dost love then, thou, thy mother yet - Me, dost thou love a little? None but thou There is to love me; for the gods forget - Nor shall one hear of me a prayer again; Yea, none of all whose thrones in heaven are set Shall hear, nor one of all the sons of men.

MADAN.

What wouldst thou have?

GUENDOLEN.

Thou knowest.

MADAN.

I know not. Speak.

GUENDOLEN.

Have I kept silence all this while?

MADAN.

What then? What boots it though thy word, thine eye, thy cheek, Seem all one fire together, if that fire Sink, and thy face change, and thine heart wax weak, To hear what deed should slake thy sore desire And satiate thee with healing? This alone - Except thine heart be softer toward my sire Still than a maid's who hears a wood-dove moan And weeps for pity—this should comfort thee: His death.

GUENDOLEN.

And sight of Madan on his throne?

MADAN

What ailed thy wits, mother, to send for me?

GUENDOLEN.

Yet shalt thou not go back.

MADAN.

Why, what should I Do here, where vengeance has not heart to be And wrath dies out in weeping? Let it die - And let me go.

GUENDOLEN.

I did not bid thee spare.

MADAN.

Speak then, and bid me smite.

GUENDOLEN.

Thy father?

MADAN.

Ay - If thus it please my mother.

GUENDOLEN.

Dost thou dare This?

MADAN.

Nay, I lust not after empire so That for mine own hand I should haply care To take this deed upon it: but the blow, Thou sayest, that speeds my father forth of life, Speeds too my mother forth of living woe That till he dies may die not. If his wife Set in his son's right hand the sword to slay - No poison brewed of hell, no treasonous knife - The sword that walks and shines and smites by day, Not on his hand who takes the sword shall cleave The blood that clings on hers who gives it.

GUENDOLEN.

Yea - So be it. What levies wilt thou raise, to heave Thy father from his seat?

MADAN.

Let that be nought Of all thy care: do thou but trust—believe Thy son's right hand no feebler than thy thought, If that be strong to smite—and thou shalt see Vengeance.

GUENDOLEN.

I will. But were thy musters brought Whence now thou art come to cheer me, this should be A sign for us of comfort.

MADAN.

Dost thou fear Signs?

GUENDOLEN.

Nay, child, nay—thou art harsh as heaven to me - I would but have of thee a word of cheer.

MADAN.

I am weak in words: my tongue can match not thine, Mother. Voices within] The king!

GUENDOLEN.

Hearst thou? Voices within.] The king!

MADAN.

I hear.

Enter LOCRINE.

LOCRINE.

How fares my queen?

GUENDOLEN.

Well. And this child of mine - How he may fare concerns not thee to know?

LOCRINE.

Why, well I see my boy fares well.

GUENDOLEN.

Locrine, Thou art welcome as the sun to fields of snow.

LOCRINE.

But hardly would they hail the sun whose face Dissolves them deathward. Was thy meaning so?

GUENDOLEN.

Make answer for me, Madan.

LOCRINE.

In thy place? The boy's is not beside thee.

GUENDOLEN.

Speak, I say.

MADAN.

God guard my lord and father with his grace!

LOCRINE.

Well prayed, my child.

GUENDOLEN.

Children—who can but pray - Pray better, if my sense not err, than we. The God whom all the gods of heaven obey Should hear them rather, seeing—as gods may see - How pure of purpose is their perfect prayer.

LOCRINE.

I think not else—the better then for me. But ours—what manner of child is this? the hair Buds flowerwise round his darkening lips and chin, This hand's young hardening palm knows how to bear The sword-hilt's poise that late I laid therein - Ha? doth not it?

GUENDOLEN.

Thine enemies know that well.

MADAN.

I make no boast of battles that have been; But, so God help me, days unborn shall tell What manner of heart my father gave me.

LOCRINE.

Good. I doubt thee not.

GUENDOLEN.

In Cornwall they that fell So found it, that of all their large-limbed brood No bulk is left to brave thee.

LOCRINE.

Yea, I know Our son hath given the wolf our foes for food And won him worthy praise from friend or foe; And heartier praise and trustier thanks from none, Boy, than thy father pays thee.

GUENDOLEN.

Wouldst thou show Thy love, thy thanks, thy fatherhood in one, Thy perfect honour—yea, thy right to stand Crowned, and lift up thine eyes against the sun As one so pure in heart, so clean of hand, So loyal and so royal, none might cast A word against thee burning like a brand, A sound that withers honour, and makes fast The bondage of a recreant soul to shame - Thou shouldst, or ever an hour be overpast, Slay him.

LOCRINE.

Thou art mad.

GUENDOLEN.

What, is not then thy name Locrine? and hath this boy done ill to thee? Hath he not won him for thy love's sake fame? Hath he not served thee loyally? is he So much thy son, so little son of mine, That men might call him traitor? May they see The brand across his brow that reddens thine? How shouldst thou dare—how dream—to let him live? Is he not loyal? art not thou Locrine? What less than death for guerdon shouldst thou give My son who hath done thee service? Me thou hast given - Who hast found me truer than falsehood can forgive - Shame for my guerdon: yea, my heart is riven With shame that once I loved thee.

LOCRINE.

Guendolen, A woman's wrath should rest not unforgiven Save of the slightest of the sons of men: And no such slight and shameful thing am I As would not yield thee pardon.

GUENDOLEN.

Slay me then.

LOCRINE.

Thee, or thy son? but now thou bad'st him die.

GUENDOLEN.

Thou liest: I bade thee slay him.

LOCRINE.

Art thou mad Indeed?

GUENDOLEN.

O liar, is all the world a lie? I bade thee, knowing thee what thou art—I bade My lord and king and traitor slay my son - A heartless hand that lacks the power it had Smite one whose stroke shall leave it strengthless—one Whose loyal loathing of his shame in thee Shall cast it out of eyeshot of the sun.

LOCRINE.

Thou bad'st me slay him that he might—he, slay me?

GUENDOLEN.

Thou hast said—and yet thou hast lied not.

LOCRINE.

Hell's own hate Brought never forth such fruit as thine.

GUENDOLEN.

But he Is the issue of thy love and mine, by fate Made one to no good issue. Didst thou trust That grief should give to men disconsolate Comfort, and treason bring forth truth, and dust Blossom? What love, what reverence, what regard, Shouldst thou desire, if God or man be just, Of this thy son, or me more evil-starred, Whom scorn salutes his mother?

LOCRINE.

How should scorn Draw near thee, girt about with power for guard, Power and good fame? unless reproach be born Of these thy violent vanities of mood That fight against thine honour.

GUENDOLEN.

Dost thou mourn For that? Too careful art thou for my good, Too tender and too true to me and mine, For shame to make my heart or thine his food Or scorn lay hold upon my fame or thine. Art thou not pure as honour's perfect heart - Not treason-cankered like my lord Locrine, Whose likeness shows thee fairer than thou art And falser than thy loving care of me Would bid my faith believe thee?

LOCRINE.

What strange part Is this that changing passion plays in thee? Know'st thou me not?

GUENDOLEN.

Yea—witness heaven and hell, And all the lights that lighten earth and sea, And all that wrings my heart, I know thee well. How should I love and hate and know thee not?

LOCRINE.

Thy voice is as the sound of dead love's knell.

GUENDOLEN.

Long since my heart has tolled it—and forgot All save the cause that bade the death-bell sound And cease and bring forth silence.

LOCRINE.

Is thy lot Less fair and royal, girt with power and crowned, - Than might fulfil the loftiest heart's desire?

GUENDOLEN.

Not air but fire it is that rings me round - Thy voice makes all my brain a wheel of fire. Man, what have I to do with pride of power? Such pride perchance it was that moved my sire To bid me wed—woe worth the woful hour! - His brother's son, the brother's born above Him as above me thou, the crown and flower Of Britain, gentler-hearted than the dove And mightier than the sunward eagle's wing: But nought moved me save one thing only—love.

LOCRINE.

I know it.

GUENDOLEN.

Thou knowest? but this thou knowest not, king, How near of kin are bitter love and hate - Nor which of these may be the deadlier thing.

LOCRINE.

What wouldst thou?

GUENDOLEN.

Death. Would God my heart were great! Then would I slay myself.

LOCRINE.

I dare not fear That heaven hath marked for thee no fairer fate.

GUENDOLEN.

Ay! wilt thou slay me then—and slay me here?

LOCRINE.

Mock not thy wrath and me. No hair of thine Would I—thou knowest it—hurt; nor vex thine ear With answering wrath more vain than fumes of wine. I have wronged and yet not wronged thee. Whence or when Strange whispers rose that turned thy heart from mine I would not know for shame's sake, Guendolen, And honour's that I bear thee.

GUENDOLEN.

Didst thou deem I would outlive with thee the scorn of men, A slave enthroned beside a traitor? Seem These eyes and lips and hands of mine a slave's Uplift for mercy toward thee? Such a dream Sets realms on fire, and turns their fields to graves.

LOCRINE.

No dream is mine that does thee less than right: Albeit thy words be wild as warring waves, I know thee higher of heart than shame could smite And queenlier than thy queenship.

GUENDOLEN.

Dost the know What day records to day and night to night - How he whose wrath was rained as hail or snow On Troy's adulterous towers, when treacherous flame Devoured them, and our fathers' roofs lay low, And all their praise was turned to fire and shame - All-righteous God, who herds the stars of heaven As sheep within his sheepfold—God, whose name Compels the wandering clouds to service, given As surely as even the sun's is—loves or hates Treason? He loved our sires: were they forgiven? Their walls upreared of gods, their sevenfold gates, Might these keep out his justice? What art thou To make thy will more strong and sure than fate's? Thy fate am I, that falls upon thee now. Wilt thou not slay me yet—and slay thy son? So shall thy fate change, and unbend the brow That now looks mortal on thee.

LOCRINE.

What is done Lies now past help or pleading: nor would I Plead with thee, knowing that love henceforth is none Nor trust between us till the day we die. Yet, if thy name be woman,—if thine heart Be not burnt up with fire of hell, and lie Not wounded even to death—albeit we part, Let there not be between us war, but peace, Though love may be not.

GUENDOLEN.

Peace? The man thou art Craves—and shame bids not breath within him cease - Craves of the woman that thou knowest I am Peace? Ay, take hands at parting, and release Each heart, each hand, each other: shall the lamb, The lamb-like woman, born to cower and bleed, Withstand his will whose choice may save or damn Her days and nights, her word and thought and deed - Take heart to outdare her lord the lion? How Should this be—if the lion's imperial seed Life not against his sire as brave a brow As frowns upon his mother?—Peace be then Between us: none may stand before thee now: No son of thine keep faith with Guendolen.

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