Author: Pedro Calderon de la Barca - Now First Translated Fully From The Spanish In The Metre Of The Original By Denis Florence MacCarthy.
* * * * *
BASILIUS, King of Poland.
SIGISMUND, his Son.
ASTOLFO, Duke of Muscovy.
CLOTALDO, a Nobleman.
ESTRELLA, a Princess.
ROSAURA, a Lady.
CLARIN, her Servant.
* * * * *
The Scene is in the Court of Poland, in a fortress at some distance, and in the open field.
LIFE IS A DREAM.
* * * * *
ACT THE FIRST.
At one side a craggy mountain, at the other a tower, the lower part of which serves as the prison of Sigismund. The door facing the spectators is half open. The action commences at nightfall.
ROSAURA in man's attire appears on the rocky heights and descends to the plain. She is followed by CLARIN.
ROSAURA. Wild hippogriff swift speeding,
Thou that dost run, the winged winds exceeding,
Bolt which no flash illumes,
Fish without scales, bird without shifting plumes,
And brute awhile bereft
Of natural instinct, why to this wild cleft,
This labyrinth of naked rocks, dost sweep
Unreined, uncurbed, to plunge thee down the steep?
Stay in this mountain wold,
And let the beasts their Phaeton behold.
For I, without a guide,
Save what the laws of destiny decide,
Benighted, desperate, blind.
Take any path whatever that doth wind
Down this rough mountain to its base,
Whose wrinkled brow in heaven frowns in the sun's bright face.
Ah, Poland! in ill mood
Hast thou received a stranger, since in blood
The name thou writest on thy sands
Of her who hardly here fares hardly at thy hands.
My fate may well say so:--
But where shall one poor wretch find pity in her woe?
CLARIN. Say two, if you please;
Don't leave me out when making plaints like these.
For if we are the two
Who left our native country with the view
Of seeking strange adventures, if we be
The two who, madly and in misery,
Have got so far as this, and if we still
Are the same two who tumbled down this hill,
Does it not plainly to a wrong amount,
To put me in the pain and not in the account?
ROSAURA. I do not wish to impart,
Clarin, to thee, the sorrows of my heart;
Mourning for thee would spoil the consolation
Of making for thyself thy lamentation;
For there is such a pleasure in complaining,
That a philosopher I've heard maintaining
One ought to seek a sorrow and be vain of it,
In order to be privileged to complain of it.
CLARIN. That same philosopher
Was an old drunken fool, unless I err:
Oh, that I could a thousand thumps present him,
In order for complaining to content him!
But what, my lady, say,
Are we to do, on foot, alone, our way
Lost in the shades of night?
For see, the sun descends another sphere to light.
ROSAURA. So strange a misadventure who has seen?
But if my sight deceives me not, between
These rugged rocks, half-lit by the moon's ray
And the declining day,
It seems, or is it fancy? that I see
A human dwelling?
CLARIN. So it seems to me,
Unless my wish the longed-for lodging mocks.
ROSAURA. A rustic little palace 'mid the rocks
Uplifts its lowly roof,
Scarce seen by the far sun that shines aloof.
Of such a rude device
Is the whole structure of this edifice,
That lying at the feet
Of these gigantic crags that rise to greet
The sun's first beams of gold,
It seems a rock that down the mountain rolled.
CLARIN. Let us approach more near,
For long enough we've looked at it from here;
Then better we shall see
If those who dwell therein will generously
A welcome give us.
ROSAURA. See an open door
(Funereal mouth 'twere best the name it bore),
From which as from a womb
The night is born, engendered in its gloom.
[The sound of chains is heard within.]
CLARIN. Heavens! what is this I hear?
ROSAURA. Half ice, half fire, I stand transfixed with fear.
CLARIN. A sound of chains, is it not?
Some galley-slave his sentence here hath got;
My fear may well suggest it so may be.
* * * * *
SIGISMUND, [in the tower.] ROSAURA, CLARIN.
SIGISMUND [within]. Alas! Ah, wretched me! Ah, wretched me!
ROSAURA. Oh what a mournful wail!
Again my pains, again my fears prevail.
CLARIN. Again with fear I die.
CLARIN. My lady!
ROSAURA. Let us turn and fly
The risks of this enchanted tower.
CLARIN. For one,
I scarce have strength to stand, much less to run.
ROSAURA. Is not that glimmer there afar --
That dying exhalation -- that pale star --
A tiny taper, which, with trembling blaze
Flickering 'twixt struggling flames and dying rays,
With ineffectual spark
Makes the dark dwelling place appear more dark?
Yes, for its distant light,
Reflected dimly, brings before my sight
A dungeon's awful gloom,
Say rather of a living corse, a living tomb;
And to increase my terror and surprise,
Drest in the skins of beasts a man there lies:
A piteous sight,
Chained, and his sole companion this poor light.
Since then we cannot fly,
Let us attentive to his words draw nigh,
Whatever they may be.
[The doors of the tower open wide, and SIGISMUND is discovered in
chains and clad in the skins of beasts. The light in the tower
SIGISMUND. Alas! Ah, wretched me! Ah, wretched me!
Heaven, here lying all forlorn,
I desire from thee to know,
Since thou thus dost treat me so,
Why have I provoked thy scorn
By the crime of being born?--
Though for being born I feel
Heaven with me must harshly deal,
Since man's greatest crime on earth
Is the fatal fact of birth --
Sin supreme without appeal.
This alone I ponder o'er,
My strange mystery to pierce through;
Leaving wholly out of view
Germs my hapless birthday bore,
How have I offended more,
That the more you punish me?
Must not other creatures be
Born? If born, what privilege
Can they over me allege
Of which I should not be free?
Birds are born, the bird that sings,
Richly robed by Nature's dower,
Scarcely floats -- a feathered flower,
Or a bunch of blooms with wings --
When to heaven's high halls it springs,
Cuts the blue air fast and free,
And no longer bound will be
By the nest's secure control:--
And with so much more of soul,
Must I have less liberty?
Beasts are born, the beast whose skin
Dappled o'er with beauteous spots,
As when the great pencil dots
Heaven with stars, doth scarce begin
From its impulses within--
Nature's stern necessity,
To be schooled in cruelty,--
Monster, waging ruthless war:--
And with instincts better far
Must I have less liberty?
Fish are born, the spawn that breeds
Where the oozy sea-weeds float,
Scarce perceives itself a boat,
Scaled and plated for its needs,
When from wave to wave it speeds,
Measuring all the mighty sea,
Testing its profundity
To its depths so dark and chill:--
And with so much freer will,
Must I have less liberty?
Streams are born, a coiled-up snake
When its path the streamlet finds,
Scarce a silver serpent winds
'Mong the flowers it must forsake,
But a song of praise doth wake,
Mournful though its music be,
To the plain that courteously
Opes a path through which it flies:--
And with life that never dies,
Must I have less liberty?
When I think of this I start,
Aetna-like in wild unrest
I would pluck from out my breast
Bit by bit my burning heart:--
For what law can so depart
From all right, as to deny
One lone man that liberty --
That sweet gift which God bestows
On the crystal stream that flows,
Birds and fish that float or fly?
ROSAURA. Fear and deepest sympathy
Do I feel at every word.
SIGISMUND. Who my sad lament has heard?
CLARIN [aside to his mistress]. Say 'tis he.
ROSAURA. No, 'tis but a wretch (ah, me!)
Who in these dark caves and cold
Hears the tale your lips unfold.
SIGISMUND. Then you'll die for listening so,
That you may not know I know
That you know the tale I told.
Yes, you'll die for loitering near:
In these strong arms gaunt and grim
I will tear you limb from limb.
CLARIN. I am deaf and couldn't hear:--
ROSAURA. If human heart you bear,
'Tis enough that I prostrate me.
At thy feet, to liberate me!
SIGISMUND. Strange thy voice can so unbend me,
Strange thy sight can so suspend me,
And respect so penetrate me!
Who art thou? for though I see
Little from this lonely room,
This, my cradle and my tomb.
Being all the world to me,
And if birthday it could be,
Since my birthday I have known
But this desert wild and lone,
Where throughout my life's sad course
I have lived, a breathing corse,
I have moved, a skeleton;
And though I address or see
Never but one man alone,
Who my sorrows all hath known,
And through whom have come to me
Notions of earth, sky, and sea;
And though harrowing thee again,
Since thou'lt call me in this den,
Monster fit for bestial feasts,
I'm a man among wild beasts,
And a wild beast amongst men.
But though round me has been wrought
All this woe, from beasts I've learned
Polity, the same discerned
Heeding what the birds had taught,
And have measured in my thought
The fair orbits of the spheres;
You alone, 'midst doubts and fears,
Wake my wonder and surprise --
Give amazement to my eyes,
Admiration to my ears.
Every time your face I see
You produce a new amaze:
After the most steadfast gaze,
I again would gazer be.
I believe some hydropsy
Must affect my sight, I think
Death must hover on the brink
Of those wells of light, your eyes,
For I look with fresh surprise,
And though death result, I drink.
Let me see and die: forgive me;
For I do not know, in faith,
If to see you gives me death,
What to see you not would give me;
Something worse than death would grieve me,
Anger, rage, corroding care,
Death, but double death it were,
Death with tenfold terrors rife,
Since what gives the wretched life,
Gives the happy death, despair!
ROSAURA. Thee to see wakes such dismay,
Thee to hear I so admire,
That I'm powerless to inquire,
That I know not what to say:
Only this, that I to-day,
Guided by a wiser will,
Have here come to cure my ill,
Here consoled my grief to see,
If a wretch consoled can be
Seeing one more wretched still.
Of a sage, who roamed dejected,
Poor, and wretched, it is said,
That one day, his wants being fed
By the herbs which he collected,
"Is there one" (he thus reflected)
"Poorer than I am to-day?"
Turning round him to survey,
He his answer got, detecting
A still poorer sage collecting
Even the leaves he threw away.
Thus complaining to excess,
Mourning fate, my life I led,
And when thoughtlessly I said
To myself, "Does earth possess
One more steeped in wretchedness?"
I in thee the answer find.
Since revolving in my mind,
I perceive that all my pains
To become thy joyful gains
Thou hast gathered and entwined.
And if haply some slight solace
By these pains may be imparted,*
Hear attentively the story
Of my life's supreme disasters.
I am ....
[footnote] *The metre changes here to the vocal "asonante" in "a--e", and continues to the end of the Fourth Scene.
* * * * *
CLOTALDO, Soldiers, SIGISMUND, ROSAURA, CLARIN.
CLOTALDO [within]. Warders of this tower,
Who, or sleeping or faint-hearted,
Give an entrance to two persons
Who herein have burst a passage . . . .
ROSAURA. New confusion now I suffer.
SIGISMUND. 'Tis Clotaldo, who here guards me;
Are not yet my miseries ended?
CLOTALDO [within]. Hasten hither, quick! be active!
And before they can defend them,
Kill them on the spot, or capture!
[Voices within.] Treason!
CLARIN. Watchguards of this tower,
Who politely let us pass here,
Since you have the choice of killing
Or of capturing, choose the latter.
[Enter CLOTALDO and Soldiers; he with a pistol, and all with their faces covered.]
CLOTALDO [aside to the Soldiers]. Keep your faces all well covered,
For it is a vital matter
That we should be known by no one,
While I question these two stragglers.
CLARIN. Are there masqueraders here?
CLOTALDO. Ye who in your ignorant rashness
Have passed through the bounds and limits
Of this interdicted valley,
'Gainst the edict of the King,
Who has publicly commanded
None should dare descry the wonder
That among these rocks is guarded,
Yield at once your arms and lives,
Or this pistol, this cold aspic
Formed of steel, the penetrating
Poison of two balls will scatter,
The report and fire of which
Will the air astound and startle.
SIGISMUND. Ere you wound them, ere you hurt them,
Will my life, O tyrant master,
Be the miserable victim
Of these wretched chains that clasp me;
Since in them, I vow to God,
I will tear myself to fragments
With my hands, and with my teeth,
In these rocks here, in these caverns,
Ere I yield to their misfortunes,
Or lament their sad disaster.
CLOTALDO. If you know that your misfortunes,
Sigismund, are unexampled,
Since before being born you died
By Heaven's mystical enactment;
If you know these fetters are
Of your furies oft so rampant
But the bridle that detains them,
But the circle that contracts them.
Why these idle boasts? The door
[To the Soldiers.]
Of this narrow prison fasten;
Leave him there secured.
SIGISMUND. Ah, heavens,
It is wise of you to snatch me
Thus from freedom! since my rage
'Gainst you had become Titanic,
Since to break the glass and crystal
Gold-gates of the sun, my anger
On the firm-fixed rocks' foundations
Would have mountains piled of marble.
CLOTALDO. 'Tis that you should not so pile them
That perhaps these ills have happened,
[Some of the SOLDIERS lead SIGISMUND into his prison, the doors of which are closed upon him.]
* * * * *
ROSAURA, CLOTALDO, CLARIN, Soldiers.
ROSAURA. Since I now have seen how pride
Can offend thee, I were hardened
Sure in folly not here humbly
At thy feet for life to ask thee;
Then to me extend thy pity,
Since it were a special harshness
If humility and pride,
Both alike were disregarded.
CLARIN. If Humility and Pride
Those two figures who have acted
Many and many a thousand times
In the "autos sacramentales",
Do not move you, I, who am neither
Proud nor humble, but a sandwich
Partly mixed of both, entreat you
To extend to us your pardon.
SOLDIERS. My lord?
CLOTALDO. Disarm the two,
And their eyes securely bandage,
So that they may not be able
To see whither they are carried.
ROSAURA. This is, sir, my sword; to thee
Only would I wish to hand it,
Since in fine of all the others
Thou art chief, and I could hardly
Yield it unto one less noble.
CLARIN. Mine I'll give the greatest rascal
Of your troop: [To a Soldier.] so take it, you.
ROSAURA. And if I must die, to thank thee
For thy pity, I would leave thee
This as pledge, which has its value
From the owner who once wore it;
That thou guard it well, I charge thee,
For although I do not know
What strange secret it may carry,
This I know, that some great mystery
Lies within this golden scabbard,
Since relying but on it
I to Poland here have travelled
To revenge a wrong.
CLOTALDO [aside.] Just heavens!
What is this? Still graver, darker,
Grow my doubts and my confusion,
My anxieties and my anguish.--
Speak, who gave you this?
ROSAURA. A woman.
CLOTALDO. And her name?
ROSAURA. To that my answer
Must be silence.
CLOTALDO. But from what
Do you now infer, or fancy,
That this sword involves a secret?
ROSAURA. She who gave it said: "Depart hence
Into Poland, and by study,
Stratagem, and skill so manage
That this sword may be inspected
By the nobles and the magnates
Of that land, for you, I know,
Will by one of them be guarded,"--
But his name, lest he was dead,
Was not then to me imparted.
CLOTALDO [aside]. Bless me, Heaven! what's this I hear?
For so strangely has this happened,
That I cannot yet determine
If 'tis real or imagined.
This is the same sword that I
Left with beauteous Violante,
As a pledge unto its wearer,
Who might seek me out thereafter,
As a son that I would love him,
And protect him as a father.
What is to be done (ah, me!)
In confusion so entangled,
If he who for safety bore it
Bears it now but to dispatch him,
Since condemned to death he cometh
To my feet? How strange a marvel!
What a lamentable fortune!
How unstable! how unhappy!
This must be my son -- the tokens
All declare it, superadded
To the flutter of the heart,
That to see him loudly rappeth
At the breast, and not being able
With its throbs to burst its chamber,
Does as one in prison, who,
Hearing tumult in the alley,
Strives to look from out the window;
Thus, not knowing what here passes
Save the noise, the heart uprusheth
To the eyes the cause to examine --
They the windows of the heart,
Out through which in tears it glances.
What is to be done? (O Heavens!)
What is to be done? To drag him
Now before the King were death;
But to hide him from my master,
That I cannot do, according
To my duty as a vassal.
Thus my loyalty and self-love
Upon either side attack me;
Each would win. But wherefore doubt?
Is not loyalty a grander,
Nobler thing than life, than honour?
Then let loyalty live, no matter
That he die; besides, he told me,
If I well recall his language,
That he came to revenge a wrong,
But a wronged man is a lazar,--
No, he cannot be my son,
Not the son of noble fathers.
But if some great chance, which no one
Can be free from, should have happened,
Since the delicate sense of honour
Is a thing so fine, so fragile,
That the slightest touch may break it,
Or the faintest breath may tarnish,
What could he do more, do more,
He whose cheek the blue blood mantles,
But at many risks to have come here
It again to re-establish?
Yes, he is my son, my blood,
Since he shows himself so manly.
And thus then betwixt two doubts
A mid course alone is granted:
'Tis to seek the King, and tell him
Who he is, let what will happen.
A desire to save my honour
May appease my royal master;
Should he spare his life, I then
Will assist him in demanding
His revenge; but if the King
Should, persisting in his anger,
Give him death, then he will die
Without knowing I'm his father.--
[To ROSAURA and CLARIN.]
Come, then, come then with me, strangers.
Do not fear in your disasters
That you will not have companions
In misfortune; for so balanced
Are the gains of life or death,
That I know not which are larger.
* * * * *
A HALL IN THE ROYAL PALACE.
[Enter at one side ASTOLFO and Soldiers, and at the other the INFANTA ESTRELLA and her Ladies. Military music and salutes within.]
ASTOLFO. Struck at once with admiration
At thy starry eyes outshining,
Mingle many a salutation,
Drums and trumpet-notes combining,
Founts and birds in alternation;
Wondering here to see thee pass,
Music in grand chorus gathers
All her notes from grove and grass:
Here are trumpets formed of feathers,
There are birds that breathe in brass.
All salute thee, fair Senora,
Ordnance as their Queen proclaim thee,
Beauteous birds as their Aurora,
As their Pallas trumpets name thee,
And the sweet flowers as their Flora;
For Aurora sure thou art,
Bright as day that conquers night --
Thine is Flora's peaceful part,
Thou art Pallas in thy might,
And as Queen thou rul'st my heart.
ESTRELLA. If the human voice obeying
Should with human action pair,
Then you have said ill in saying
All these flattering words and fair,
Since in truth they are gainsaying
This parade of victory,
'Gainst which I my standard rear,
Since they say, it seems to me,
Not the flatteries that I hear,
But the rigours that I see.
Think, too, what a base invention
From a wild beast's treachery sprung,--
Fraudful mother of dissension --
Is to flatter with the tongue,
And to kill with the intention.
ASTOLFO. Ill informed you must have been,
Fair Estrella, thus to throw
Doubt on my respectful mien:
Let your ear attentive lean
While the cause I strive show.
King Eustorgius the Fair,
Third so called, died leaving two
Daughters, and Basilius heir;
Of his sisters I and you
Are the children -- I forbear
To recall a single scene
Save what's needful. Clorilene,
Your good mother and my aunt,
Who is now a habitant
Of a sphere of sunnier sheen,
Was the elder, of whom you
Are the daughter; Recisunda,
Whom God guard a thousand years,
Her fair sister (Rosamunda
Were she called if names were true)
Wed in Muscovy, of whom
I was born. 'Tis needful now
The commencement to resume.
King Basilius, who doth bow
'Neath the weight of years, the doom
Age imposes, more inclined
To the studies of the mind
Than to women, wifeless, lone,
Without sons, to fill his throne
I and you our way would find.
You, the elder's child, averred,
That the crown you stood more nigh:
I, maintaining that you erred,
Held, though born of the younger, I,
Being a man, should be preferred.
Thus our mutual pretension
To our uncle we related,
Who replied that he would mention
Here, and on this day he stated,
What might settle the dissension.
With this end, from Muscovy
I set out, and with that view,
I to-day fair Poland see,
And not making war on you,
Wait till war you make on me.
Would to love -- that God so wise --
That the crowd may be a sure
Astrologue to read the skies,
And this festive truce secure
Both to you and me the prize,
Making you a Queen, but Queen
By my will, our uncle leaving
You the throne we'll share between --
And my love a realm receiving
Dearer than a King's demesne.
ESTRELLA. Well, I must be generous too,
For a gallantry so fine;
This imperial realm you view,
If I wish it to be mine
'Tis to give it unto you.
Though if I the truth confessed,
I must fear your love may fail --
Flattering words are words at best,
For perhaps a truer tale
Tells that portrait on your breast.
ASTOLFO. On that point complete content
Will I give your mind, not here,
For each sounding instrument
[Drums are heard.]
Tells us that the King is near,
With his Court and Parliament.
* * * * *
The KING BASILIUS, with his retinue. --
ASTOLFO, ESTRELLA, Ladies, Soldiers.
ESTRELLA. Learned Euclid . . .
ASTOLFO. Thales wise . .
ESTRELLA. The vast Zodiac . . .
ASTOLFO. The star spaces . . .
ESTRELLA. Who dost soar to . . .
ASTOLFO. Who dost rise...
ESTRELLA. The sun's orbit . . .
ASTOLFO. The stars' places . . .
ESTRELLA. To describe . . .
ASTOLFO. To map the skies . . .
ESTRELLA. Let me humbly interlacing . . .
ASTOLFO. Let me lovingly embracing . . .
ESTRELLA. Be the tendril of thy tree.
ASTOLFO. Bend respectfully my knee.
BASILIUS. Children, that dear word displacing
Colder names, my arms here bless;
And be sure, since you assented
To my plan, my love's excess
Will leave neither discontented,
Or give either more or less.
And though I from being old
Slowly may the facts unfold,
Hear in silence my narration,
Keep reserved your admiration,
Till the wondrous tale is told.
You already know -- I pray you
Be attentive, dearest children,*
Great, illustrious Court of Poland,
Faithful vassals, friends and kinsmen,
You already know -- my studies
Have throughout the whole world given me
The high title of "the learned,"
Since 'gainst time and time's oblivion
The rich pencils of Timanthes,
The bright marbles of Lysippus,
Universally proclaim me
Through earth's bounds the great Basilius.
You already know the sciences
That I feel my mind most given to
Are the subtle mathematics,
By whose means my clear prevision
Takes from rumour its slow office,
Takes from time its jurisdiction
Of, each day, new facts disclosing;
Since in algebraic symbols
When the fate of future ages
On my tablets I see written,
I anticipate time in telling
What my science hath predicted.
All those circles of pure snow,
All those canopies of crystal,
Which the sun with rays illumines,
Which the moon cuts in its circles,
All those orbs of twinkling diamond,
All those crystal globes that glisten,
All that azure field of stars
Where the zodiac signs are pictured,
Are the study of my life,
Are the books where heaven has written
Upon diamond-dotted paper,
Upon leaves by sapphires tinted,
With light luminous lines of gold,
In clear characters distinctly
All the events of human life,
Whether adverse or benignant.
These so rapidly I read
That I follow with the quickness
Of my thoughts the swiftest movements
Of their orbits and their circles.
Would to heaven, that ere my mind
To those mystic books addicted
Was the comment of their margins
And of all their leaves the index,
Would to heaven, I say, my life
Had been offered the first victim
Of its anger, that my death-stroke
Had in this way have been given me,
Since the unhappy find even merit
Is the fatal knife that kills them,
And his own self-murderer
Is the man whom knowledge injures!--
I may say so, but my story
So will say with more distinctness,
And to win your admiration
Once again I pray you listen.--
Clorilene, my wife, a son
Bore me, so by fate afflicted
That on his unhappy birthday
All Heaven's prodigies assisted.
Nay, ere yet to life's sweet life
Gave him forth her womb, that living
Sepulchre (for death and life
Have like ending and beginning),
Many a time his mother saw
In her dreams' delirious dimness
From her side a monster break,
Fashioned like a man, but sprinkled
With her blood, who gave her death,
By that human viper bitten.
Round his birthday came at last,
All its auguries fulfilling
(For the presages of evil
Seldom fail or even linger):
Came with such a horoscope,
That the sun rushed blood-red tinted
Into a terrific combat
With the dark moon that resisted;
Earth its mighty lists outspread
As with lessening lights diminished
Strove the twin-lamps of the sky.
'Twas of all the sun's eclipses
The most dreadful that it suffered
Since the hour its bloody visage
Wept the awful death of Christ.
For o'erwhelmed in glowing cinders
The great orb appeared to suffer
Nature's final paroxysm.
Gloom the glowing noontide darkened,
Earthquake shook the mightiest buildings,
Stones the angry clouds rained down,
And with blood ran red the rivers.
In this frenzy of the sun,
In its madness and delirium,
Sigismund was born, thus early
Giving proofs of his condition,
Since his birth his mother slew,
Just as if these words had killed her,
"I am a man, since good with evil
I repay here from the beginning,"--
I, applying to my studies,
Saw in them as 'twere forewritten
This, that Sigismund would be
The most cruel of all princes,
Of all men the most audacious,
Of all monarchs the most wicked;
That his kingdom through his means
Would be broken and partitioned,
The academy of the vices,
And the high school of sedition;
And that he himself, borne onward
By his crimes' wild course resistless,
Would even place his feet on me;
For I saw myself down-stricken,
Lying on the ground before him
(To say this what shame it gives me!)
While his feet on my white hairs
As a carpet were imprinted.
Who discredits threatened ill,
Specially an ill previsioned
By one's study, when self-love
Makes it his peculiar business?--
Thus then crediting the fates
Which far off my science witnessed,
All these fatal auguries
Seen though dimly in the distance,
I resolved to chain the monster
That unhappily life was given to,
To find out if yet the stars
Owned the wise man's weird dominion.
It was publicly proclaimed
That the sad ill-omened infant
Was stillborn. I then a tower
Caused by forethought to be builded
'Mid the rocks of these wild mountains
Where the sunlight scarce can gild it,
Its glad entrance being barred
By these rude shafts obeliscal.
All the laws of which you know,
All the edicts that prohibit
Anyone on pain of death
That secluded part to visit
Of the mountain, were occasioned
By this cause, so long well hidden.
There still lives Prince Sigismund,
Miserable, poor, in prison.
Him alone Clotaldo sees,
Only tends to and speaks with him;
He the sciences has taught him,
He the Catholic religion
Has imparted to him, being
Of his miseries the sole witness.
Here there are three things: the first
I rate highest, since my wishes
Are, O Poland, thee to save
From the oppression, the affliction
Of a tyrant King, because
Of his country and his kingdom
He were no benignant father
Who to such a risk could give it.
Secondly, the thought occurs
That to take from mine own issue
The plain right that every law
Human and divine hath given him
Is not Christian charity;
For by no law am I bidden
To prevent another proving,
Say, a tyrant, or a villain,
To be one myself: supposing
Even my son should be so guilty,
That he should not crimes commit
I myself should first commit them.
Then the third and last point is,
That perhaps I erred in giving
Too implicit a belief
To the facts foreseen so dimly;
For although his inclination
Well might find its precipices,
He might possibly escape them:
For the fate the most fastidious,
For the impulse the most powerful.
Even the planets most malicious
Only make free will incline,
But can force not human wishes.
And thus 'twist these different causes
Vacillating and unfixed,
I a remedy have thought of
Which will with new wonder fill you.
I to-morrow morning purpose,
Without letting it be hinted
That he is my son, and therefore
Your true King, at once to fix him
As King Sigismund (for the name
Still he bears that first was given him)
'Neath my canopy, on my throne,
And in fine in my position,
There to govern and command you,
Where in dutiful submission
You will swear to him allegiance.
My resources thus are triple,
As the causes of disquiet
Were which I revealed this instant.
The first is; that he being prudent,
Careful, cautious and benignant,
Falsifying the wild actions
That of him had been predicted,
You'll enjoy your natural prince,
He who has so long been living
Holding court amid these mountains,
With the wild beasts for his circle.
Then my next resource is this:
If he, daring, wild, and wicked,
Proudly runs with loosened rein
O'er the broad plain of the vicious,
I will have fulfilled the duty
Of my natural love and pity;
Then his righteous deposition
Will but prove my royal firmness,
Chastisement and not revenge
Leading him once more to the prison.
My third course is this: the Prince
Being what my words have pictured,
From the love I owe you, vassals,
I will give you other princes
Worthier of the crown and sceptre;
Namely, my two sisters' children,
Who their separate pretensions
Having happily commingled
By the holy bonds of marriage,
Will then fill their fit position.
This is what a king commands you,
This is what a father bids you,
This is what a sage entreats you,
This is what an old man wishes;
And as Seneca, the Spaniard,
Says, a king for all his riches
Is but slave of his Republic,
This is what a slave petitions.
[footnote] *The metre changes here to the "asonante" in "i--e", or their vocal equivalents, and is kept up for the remainder of the Act.
ASTOLFO. If on me devolves the answer,
As being in this weighty business
The most interested party,
I, of all, express the opinion:--
Let Prince Sigismund appear;
He's thy son, that's all-sufficient.
ALL. Give to us our natural prince,
We proclaim him king this instant!
BASILIUS. Vassals, from my heart I thank you
For this deference to my wishes:--
Go, conduct to their apartments
These two columns of my kingdom,
On to-morrow you shall see him.
ALL. Live, long live great King Basilius!
[Exeunt all, accompanying ESTRELLA and ASTOLFO;
The King remains.]
* * * * *
CLOTALDO, ROSAURA, CLARIN, and BASILIUS.
CLOTALDO. May I speak to you, sire?
You are always welcome with me.
CLOTALDO. Although coming to your feet
Shows how freely I'm admitted,
Still, your majesty, this once,
Fate as mournful as malicious
Takes from privilege its due right,
And from custom its permission.
BASILIUS. What has happened?
CLOTALDO. A misfortune,
Sire, which has my heart afflicted
At the moment when all joy
Should have overflown and filled it.
BASILIUS. Pray proceed.
CLOTALDO. This handsome youth here,
Inadvertently, or driven
By his daring, pierced the tower,
And the Prince discovered in it.
Nay . . . .
BASILIUS. Clotaldo, be not troubled
At this act, which if committed
At another time had grieved me,
But the secret so long hidden
Having myself told, his knowledge
Of the fact but matters little.
See me presently, for I
Much must speak upon this business,
And for me you much must do
For a part will be committed
To you in the strangest drama
That perhaps the world e'er witnessed.
As for these, that you may know
That I mean not your remissness
To chastise, I grant their pardon.
CLOTALDO. Myriad years to my lord be given!
* * * * *
CLOTALDO, ROSAURA, and CLARIN.
CLOTALDO [aside]. Heaven has sent a happier fate;
Since I need not now admit it,
I'll not say he is my son.--
Strangers who have wandered hither,
You are free.
ROSAURA. I give your feet
A thousand kisses.
CLARIN. I say misses,
For a letter more or less
'Twixt two friends is not considered.
ROSAURA. You have given me life, my lord,
And since by your act I'm living,
I eternally will own me
As your slave.
CLOTALDO. The life I've given
Is not really your true life,
For a man by birth uplifted
If he suffers an affront
Actually no longer liveth;
And supposing you have come here
For revenge as you have hinted,
I have not then given you life,
Since you have not brought it with you,
For no life disgraced is life.--
[Aside.] (This I say to arouse his spirit.)
ROSAURA. I confess I have it not,
Though by you it has been given me;
But revenge being wreaked, my honour
I will leave so pure and limpid,
All its perils overcome,
That my life may then with fitness
Seem to be a gift of yours.
CLOTALDO. Take this burnished sword which hither
You brought with you; for I know,
To revenge you, 'tis sufficient,
In your enemy's blood bathed red;
For a sword that once was girded
Round me (I say this the while
That to me it was committed),
Will know how to right you.
In your name once more I gird it,
And on it my vengeance swear,
Though the enemy who afflicts me
Were more powerful.
CLOTALDO. Is he so?
ROSAURA. Yes; so powerful, I am hindered
Saying who he is, not doubting
Even for greater things your wisdom
And calm prudence, but through fear
Lest against me your prized pity
Might be turned.
CLOTALDO. 'Twill rather be,
By declaring it, more kindled;
Otherwise you bar the passage
'Gainst your foe of my assistance.--
[Aside.] (Would that I but knew his name!)
ROSAURA. Not to think I set so little
Value on such confidence,
Know my enemy and my victim
Is no less than Prince Astolfo,
Duke of Muscovy.
CLOTALDO [aside]. Resistance
Badly can my grief supply
Since 'tis heavier than I figured.
Let us sift the matter deeper.--
If a Muscovite by birth, then
He who is your natural lord
Could not 'gainst you have committed
Any wrong; reseek your country,
And abandon the wild impulse
That has driven you here.
ROSAURA. I know,
Though a prince, he has committed
'Gainst me a great wrong.
CLOTALDO. He could not,
Even although your face was stricken
By his angry hand. [Aside.] (Oh, heavens!)
ROSAURA. Mine's a wrong more deep and bitter.
CLOTALDO. Tell it, then; it cannot be
Worse than what my fancy pictures.
ROSAURA. I will tell it; though I know not,
With the respect your presence gives me,
With the affection you awaken,
With the esteem your worth elicits,
How with bold face here to tell you
That this outer dress is simply
An enigma, since it is not
What it seems. And from this hint, then,
If I'm not what I appear,
And Astolfo with this princess
Comes to wed, judge how by him
I was wronged: I've said sufficient.
[Exeunt ROSAURA and CLARIN.]
CLOTALDO. Listen! hear me! wait! oh, stay!
What a labyrinthine thicket
Is all this, where reason gives
Not a thread whereby to issue?
My own honour here is wronged,
Powerful is my foe's position,
I a vassal, she a woman;
Heaven reveal some way in pity,
Though I doubt it has the power;
When in such confused abysses,
Heaven is all one fearful presage,
And the world itself a riddle.
* * * * *
ACT THE SECOND.
A HALL IN THE ROYAL PALACE.
* * * * *
BASILIUS and CLOTALDO.
CLOTALDO. Everything has been effected
As you ordered.
BASILIUS. How all happened*
Let me know, my good Clotaldo.
[footnote] *The metre of this and the following scene is the asonante in a--e.
CLOTALDO. It was done, sire, in this manner.
With the tranquillising draught,
Which was made, as you commanded,
Of confections duly mixed
With some herbs, whose juice extracted
Has a strange tyrannic power,
Has some secret force imparted,
Which all human sense and speech
Robs, deprives, and counteracteth,
And as 'twere a living corpse
leaves the man whose lips have quaffed it
So asleep that all his senses,
All his powers are overmastered . . . .
-- No need have we to discuss
That this fact can really happen,
Since, my lord, experience gives us
Many a clear and proved example;
Certain 'tis that Nature's secrets
May by medicine be extracted,
And that not an animal,
Not a stone, or herb that's planted,
But some special quality
Doth possess: for if the malice
Of man's heart, a thousand poisons
That give death, hath power to examine,
Is it then so great a wonder
That, their venom being abstracted,
If, as death by some is given,
Sleep by others is imparted?
Putting, then, aside the doubt
That 'tis possible this should happen,
A thing proved beyond all question
Both by reason and example . . . .
-- With the sleeping draught, in fine,
Made of opium superadded
To the poppy and the henbane,
I to Sigismund's apartment --
Cell, in fact -- went down, and with him
Spoke awhile upon the grammar
Of the sciences, those first studies
Which mute Nature's gentle masters,
Silent skies and hills, had taught him;
In which school divine and ample,
The bird's song, the wild beast's roar,
Were a lesson and a language.
Then to raise his spirit more
To the high design you planned here,
I discoursed on, as my theme,
The swift flight, the stare undazzled
Of a pride-plumed eagle bold,
Which with back-averted talons,
Scorning the tame fields of air,
Seeks the sphere of fire, and passes
Through its flame a flash of feathers,
Or a comet's hair untangled.
I extolled its soaring flight,
Saying, "Thou at last art master
Of thy house, thou'rt king of birds,
It is right thou should'st surpass them."
He who needed nothing more
Than to touch upon the matter
Of high royalty, with a bearing
As became him, boldly answered;
For in truth his princely blood
Moves, excites, inflames his ardour
To attempt great things: he said,
"In the restless realm of atoms
Given to birds, that even one
Should swear fealty as a vassal!
I, reflecting upon this,
Am consoled by my disasters,
For, at least, if I obey,
I obey through force: untrammelled,
Free to act, I ne'er will own
Any man on earth my master."--
This, his usual theme of grief,
Having roused him nigh to madness,
I occasion took to proffer
The drugged draught: he drank, but hardly
Had the liquor from the vessel
Passed into his breast, when fastest
Sleep his senses seized, a sweat,
Cold as ice, the life-blood hardened
In his veins, his limbs grew stiff,
So that, knew I not 'twas acted,
Death was there, feigned death, his life
I could doubt not had departed.
Then those, to whose care you trust
This experiment, in a carriage
Brought him here, where all things fitting
The high majesty and the grandeur
Of his person are provided.
In the bed of your state chamber
They have placed him, where the stupor
Having spent its force and vanished,
They, as 'twere yourself, my lord,
Him will serve as you commanded:
And if my obedient service
Seems to merit some slight largess,
I would ask but this alone
(My presumption you will pardon),
That you tell me, with what object
Have you, in this secret manner,
To your palace brought him here?
BASILIUS. Good Clotaldo, what you ask me
Is so just, to you alone
I would give full satisfaction.
Sigismund, my son, the hard
Influence of his hostile planet
(As you know) doth threat a thousand
Dreadful tragedies and disasters;
I desire to test if Heaven
(An impossible thing to happen)
Could have lied -- if having given us
Proofs unnumbered, countless samples
Of his evil disposition,
He might prove more mild, more guarded
At the lest, and self-subdued
By his prudence and true valour
Change his character; for 'tis man
That alone controls the planets.
This it is I wish to test,
Having brought him to this palace,
Where he'll learn he is my son,
And display his natural talents.
If he nobly hath subdued him,
He will reign; but if his manners
Show him tyrannous and cruel,
Then his chains once more shall clasp him.
But for this experiment,
Now you probably will ask me
Of what moment was't to bring him
Thus asleep and in this manner?
And I wish to satisfy you,
Giving all your doubts an answer.
If to-day he learns that he
Is my son, and some hours after
Finds himself once more restored
To his misery and his shackles,
Certain 'tis that from his temper
Blank despair may end in madness --
But once knowing who he is,
Can he be consoled thereafter?
Yes, and thus I wish to leave
One door open, one free passage,
By declaring all he saw
Was a dream. With this advantage
We attain two ends. The first
Is to put beyond all cavil
His condition, for on waking
He will show his thoughts, his fancies:
To console him is the second;
Since, although obeyed and flattered,
He beholds himself awhile,
And then back in prison shackled
Finds him, he will think he dreamed.
And he rightly so may fancy,
For, Clotaldo, in this world
All who live but dream they act here.
CLOTALDO. Reasons fail me not to show
That the experiment may not answer;
But there is no remedy now,
For a sign from the apartment
Tells me that he hath awoken
And even hitherward advances.
BASILIUS. It is best that I retire;
But do you, so long his master,
Near him stand; the wild confusion
That his waking sense may darken
Dissipate by simple truth.
CLOTALDO. Then your licence you have granted
That I may declare it?
For it possibly may happen
That admonished of his danger
He may conquer his worst passions.
* * * * *
CLARIN and CLOTALDO.
CLARIN [aside]. Four good blows are all it cost me
To come here, inflicted smartly
By a red-robed halberdier,
With a beard to match his jacket,
At that price I see the show,
For no window's half so handy
As that which, without entreating
Tickets of the ticket-master,
A man carried with himself;
Since for all the feasts and galas
Cool effrontery is the window
Whence at ease he gazes at them.
CLOTALDO [aside]. This is Clarin, heavens! of her,
Yes, I say, of her the valet,
She, who dealing in misfortunes,
Has my pain to Poland carried:--
Any news, friend Clarin?
Yes, sir, since your great compassion
Is disposed Rosaura's outrage
To revenge, she has changed her habit,
And resumed her proper dress.
CLOTALDO. 'Tis quite right, lest possible scandal
CLARIN. More news: her name
Having changed and wisely bartered
For your niece's name, she now
So in honour has advanced her,
That among Estrella's ladies
She here with her in the palace
CLOTALDO. 'Tis right that I once more
Should her honour re-establish.
CLARIN. News; that anxiously she waiteth
For that very thing to happen,
When you may have time to try it.
CLOTALDO. Most discreetly has she acted;
Soon the time will come, believe me,
Happily to end this matter.
CLARIN. News, too; that she's well regaled,
Feasted like a queen, and flattered
On the strength of being your niece.
And the last news, and the saddest,
Is that I who here came with her
Am with hunger almost famished.
None remember me, or think
I am Clarin, clarion rather,
And that if that clarion sounded,
All the Court would know what passes.
For there are two things, to wit,
A brass clarion and a lackey,
That are bad at keeping secrets;
And it so may chance, if haply
I am forced to break my silence,
They of me may sing this passage:
"Never, when the day is near,
Does clarion sound more clear."*
*[footnote] *"Clarin, que rompe el albor,
No suena mejor."--
This is a quotation by Calderon from his own drama, "En esta vida todo es verdad y todo mentira." -- Act 2, sc. x.
CLOTALDO. Your complaint is too well-founded;
I will get you satisfaction,
Meanwhile you may wait on me.
CLARIN. See, sir, Sigismund advances.
* * * * *
[Music and song.] SIGISMUND enters, lost in amazement. Servants minister to him, presenting costly robes. --CLOTALDO, and CLARIN.
SIGISMUND. Help me, Heaven, what's this I see!
Help me, Heaven, what's this I view!
Things I scarce believe are true,
But, if true, which fright not me.
I in palaces of state?
I 'neath silks and cloth of gold?
I, around me, to behold
Rich-robed servants watch and wait?
I so soft a bed to press
While sweet sleep my senses bowed?
I to wake in such a crowd,
Who assist me even to dress?
'Twere deceit to say I dream,
Waking I recall my lot,
I am Sigismund, am I not?
Heaven make plain what dark doth seem!
Tell me, what has phantasy --
Wild, misleading, dream-adept --
So effected while I slept,
That I still the phantoms see?
But let that be as it may,
Why perplex myself and brood?
Better taste the present good,
Come what will some other day.
FIRST SERVANT [aside to the' Second Servant, and to CLARIN]. What a sadness doth oppress him!
SECOND SERVANT. Who in such-like case would be
Less surprised and sad than he?
CLARIN. I for one.
SECOND SERVANT [to the First]. You had best address him.
FIRST SERVANT [to SIGISMUND]. May they sing again?
SIGISMUND. No, no;
I don't care to hear them sing.
SECOND SERVANT. I conceived the song might bring
To your thought some ease.
SIGISMUND. Not so;
Voiced that but charm the ear
Cannot soothe my sorrow's pain;
'Tis the soldier's martial strain
That alone I love to hear.
CLOTALDO. May your Highness, mighty Prince,
Deign to let me kiss your hand,
I would first of all this land
My profound respect evince.
SIGISMUND [aside]. 'Tis my gaoler! how can he
Change his harshness and neglect
To this language of respect?
What can have occurred to me?
CLOTALDO. The new state in which I find you
Must create a vague surprise,
Doubts unnumbered must arise
To bewilder and to blind you;
I would make your prospect fair,
Through the maze a path would show,
Thus, my lord, 'tis right you know
That you are the prince and heir
Of this Polish realm: if late
You lay hidden and concealed
'Twas that we were forced to yield
To the stern decrees of fate,
Which strange ills, I know not how,
Threatened on this land to bring
Should the laurel of a king
Ever crown thy princely brow.
Still relying on the power
Of your will the stars to bind,
For a man of resolute mind
Can them bind how dark they lower;
To this palace from your cell
In your life-long turret keep
They have borne you while dull sleep
Held your spirit in its spell.
Soon to see you and embrace
Comes the King, your father, here --
He will make the rest all clear.
SIGISMUND. Why, thou traitor vile and base,
What need I to know the rest,
Since it is enough to know
Who I am my power to show,
And the pride that fills my breast?
Why this treason brought to light
Has thou to thy country done,
As to hide from the King's son,
'Gainst all reason and all right,
This his rank?
CLOTALDO. Oh, destiny!
SIGISMUND. Thou the traitor's part has played
'Gainst the law; the King betrayed,
And done cruel wrong to me;
Thus for each distinct offence
Have the law, the King, and I
Thee condemned this day to die
By my hands.
SECOND SERVANT. Prince . . . .
SIGISMUND No pretence
Shall undo the debt I owe you.
Catiff, hence! By Heaven! I say,
If you dare to stop my way
From the window I will throw you.
SECOND SERVANT. Fly, Clotaldo!
CLOTALDO. Woe to thee,
In thy pride so powerful seeming,
Without knowing thou art dreaming!
SECOND SERVANT. Think . . . .
SIGISMUND. Away! don't trouble me.
SECOND SERVANT. He could not the King deny.
SIGISMUND. Bade to do a wrongful thing
He should have refused the King;
And, besides, his prince was I.
SECOND SERVANT. 'Twas not his affair to try
If the act was wrong or right.
SIGISMUND. You're indifferent, black or white,
Since so pertly you reply.
CLARIN. What the Prince says is quite true,
What you do is wrong, I say.
SECOND SERVANT. Who gave you this licence, pray?
CLARIN. No one gave; I took it.
Art thou, speak?
CLARIN. A meddling fellow,
Prating, prying, fond of scrapes,
General of all jackanapes,
And most merry when most mellow.
SIGISMUND. You alone in this new sphere
Have amused me.
CLARIN. That's quite true, sir,
For I am the great amuser
Of all Sigismunds who are here.
* * * * *
ASTOLFO, SIGISMUND, CLARIN, Servants, and Musicians.
ASTOLFO. Thousand tunes be blest the day,
Prince, that gives thee to our sight,
Sun of Poland, whose glad light
Makes this whole horizon gay,
As when from the rosy fountains
Of the dawn the stream-rays run,
Since thou issuest like the sun
From the bosom of the mountains!
And though late do not defer
With thy sovran light to shine;
Round thy brow the laurel twine --
SIGISMUND. God guard thee, sir.
ASTOLFO. In not knowing me I o'erlook,
But alone for this defect,
This response that lacks respect,
And due honour. Muscovy's Duke
Am I, and your cousin born,
Thus my equal I regard thee.
SIGISMUND. Did there, when I said "God guard thee,"
Lie concealed some latent scorn? --
Then if so, now having got
Thy big name, and seeing thee vexed,
When thou com'st to see me next
I will say God guard thee not.
SECOND SERVANT [to ASTOLFO]. Think, your Highness, if he errs
Thus, his mountain birth's at fault,
Every word is an assault.
Duke Astolfo, sir, prefers . . . .
SIGISMUND. Tut! his talk became a bore,
Nay his act was worse than that,
He presumed to wear his hat.
SECOND SERVANT. As grandee.
SIGISMUND. But I am more.
SECOND SERVANT. Nevertheless respect should be
Much more marked betwixt ye two
Than 'twixt others.
SIGISMUND. And pray who
Asked your meddling thus with me?
* * * * *
ESTRELLA. -- THE SAME.
ESTRELLA. Welcome may your Highness be,
Welcomed oft to this thy throne,
Which long longing for its own
Finds at length its joy in thee;
Where, in spite of bygone fears,
May your reign be great and bright,
And your life in its long flight
Count by ages, not by years.
SIGISMUND (to CLARIN). Tell me, thou, say, who can be
This supreme of loveliness --
Goddess in a woman's dress --
At whose feet divine we see
Heaven its choicest gifts doth lay?--
This sweet maid? Her name declare.
CLARIN. 'Tis your star-named* cousin fair.
[footnote] *'Estrella', which means star in Spanish.
SIGISMUND. Nay, the sun, 'twere best to say.--
Though thy sweet felicitation
Adds new splendour to my throne,
'Tis for seeing thee alone
That I merit gratulation;
Therefore I a prize have drawn
That I scarce deserved to win,
And am doubly blessed therein:--
Star, that in the rosy dawn
Dimmest with transcendent ray
Orbs that brightest gem the blue,
What is left the sun to do,
When thou risest with the day?--
Give me then thy hand to kiss,
In whose cup of snowy whiteness
Drinks the day delicious brightness.
ESTRELLA. What a courtly speech is this?
ASTOLFO [aside]. If he takes her hand I feel
I am lost.
SECOND SERVANT [aside]. Astolfo's grief
I perceive, and bring relief:--
Think, my lord, excuse my zeal,
That perhaps this is too free,
Since Astolfo . . . .
SIGISMUND. Did I say
Woe to him that stops my way?--
SECOND SERVANT. What I said was just.
SIGISMUND. To me
This is tiresome and absurd.
Nought is just, or good or ill,
In my sight that balks my will.
SECOND SERVANT. Why, my lord, yourself I heard
Say in any righteous thing
It was proper to obey.
SIGISMUND. You must, too, have heard me say
Him I would from window throw
Who should tease me or defy?
SECOND SERVANT. Men like me perhaps might show
That could not be done, sir.
Then, by Heaven, at least, I'll try!
[He seizes him in his arms and rushes to the side. All follow, and return immediately.]
ASTOLFO. What is this I see? Oh, woe!
ESTRELLA. Oh, prevent him! Follow me!
SIGISMUND. [returning]. From the window into the sea
He has fallen; I told him so.
ASTOLFO. These strange bursts of savage malice
You should regulate, if you can;
Wild beasts are to civilised man
As rude mountains to a palace.
SIGISMUND. Take a bit of advice for that:
Pause ere such bold words are said,
Lest you may not have a head
Upon which to hang your hat.
* * * * *
BASILIUS, SIGISMUND, and CLARIN.
BASILIUS. What's all this?
SIGISMUND. A trifling thing:
One who teased and thwarted me
I have just thrown into the sea.
CLARIN [to SIGISMUND]. Know, my lord, it is the King.
BASILIUS. Ere the first day's sun hath set,
Has thy coming cost a life?
SIGISMUND Why he dared me to the strife,
And I only won the bet.
BASILIUS. Prince, my grief, indeed is great,
Coming here when I had thought
That admonished thou wert taught
To o'ercome the stars and fate,
Still to see such rage abide
In the heart I hoped was free,
That thy first sad act should be
A most fearful homicide.
How could I, by love conducted,
Trust me to thine arms' embracing,
When their haughty interlacing,
Has already been instructed
How to kill? For who could see,
Say, some dagger bare and bloody,
By some wretch's heart made ruddy,
But would fear it? Who is he,
Who may happen to behold
On the ground the gory stain
Where another man was slain
But must shudder? The most bold
Yields at once to Nature's laws;
Thus I, seeing in your arms
The dread weapon that alarms,
And the stain, must fain withdraw;
And though in embraces dear
I would press you to my heart,
I without them must depart,
For, alas! your arms I fear.
SIGISMUND. Well, without them I must stay,
As I've staid for many a year,
For a father so severe,
Who could treat me in this way,
Whose unfeeling heart could tear me
From his side even when a child,
Who, a denizen of the wild,
As a monster there could rear me,
Any by many an artful plan
Sought my death, it cannot grieve me
Much his arms will not receive me
Who has scarcely left me man.
BASILIUS. Would to God it had not been
Act of mine that name conferred,
Then thy voice I ne'er had heard,
Then thy boldness ne'er had seen.
SIGISMUND. Did you manhood's right retain,
I would then have nought to say,
But to give and take away
Gives me reason to complain;
For although to give with grace
Is the noblest act 'mongst men,
To take back the gift again
Is the basest of the base.
BASILIUS. This then is thy grateful mood
For my changing thy sad lot
To a prince's!
SIGISMUND. And for what
Should I show my gratitude!
Tyrant of my will o'erthrown,
If thou hoary art and gray,
Dying, what do'st give me? Say,
Do'st thou give wh