DON JOHN of AUSTRIA.
JOSEF RIBERA, the Spagnoletto.
LORENZO, noble young Italian artist, pupil of Ribera.
DON TOMMASO MANZANO.
LUCA, servant to Ribera.
MARIA-ROSA, daughter to Ribera.
ANNICCA, daughter to Ribera, and wife to Don Tommaso.
FIAMETTA, servant to Maria-Rosa.
Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen, Servants.
SCENE - During the first four acts, in Naples; latter part of the fifth act, in Palermo. Time, about 1655.
The studio of the Spagnoletto. RIBERA at work before his canvas. MARIA seated some distance behind him; a piece of embroidery is in her hands, but she glances up from it incessantly toward her father with impatient movements.
(RIBERA, absorbed in his work, makes no reply; she puts by her embroidery, goes toward him and kisses him gently. He starts, looks up at her, and returns her caress).
Already you forget,
Oh, heedless father! Did you not promise me
To lay aside your brush to-day at noon,
And tell me the great secret?
Ah, 't is true,
I am to blame. But it is morning yet;
My child, wait still a little.
'T is morning yet!
Nay, it was noon one mortal hour ago.
All patience I have sat till you should turn
And beckon me. The rosy angels breathe
Upon the canvas; I might sit till night,
And, if I spake not, you would never glance
From their celestial faces. Dear my father,
Your brow is moist, and yet your hands are ice;
Your very eyes are tired - pray, rest awhile.
The Spagnoletto need no longer toil
As in the streets of Rome for beggars' fare;
Now princes bide his pleasure.
RIBERA (throws aside his brush and palette).
Thou speak'st in season. Let me ne'er forget
Those days of degradation, when I starved
Before the gates of palaces. The germs
Stirred then within me of the perfect fruits
Wherewith my hands have since enriched God's world.
Vengeance I vowed for every moment's sting -
Vengeance on wealth, rank, station, fortune, genius.
See, while I paint, all else escapes my sense,
Save this bright throng of phantasies that press
Upon my brain, each claiming from my hand
Its immortality. But thou, my child,
Remind'st me of mine oath, my sacred pride,
The eternal hatred lodged within my breast.
Philip of Spain shall wait. I will not deign
To add to-day the final touch of life
Unto this masterpiece.
So! that is well.
Put by the envious brush that separates
Father from daughter. Now you are all mine own.
And now - your secret.
Mine? 'T is none of mine;
'T is thine, Maria. John of Austria
Desires our presence at his ball to-night.
Ay, girl, Prince John. I looked to see
A haughty joy dance sparkling in thine eyes
And burn upon thy cheek. But what is this?
Timid and pale, thou droop'st thy head abashed
As a poor flower-girl whom a lord accosts.
Forgive me. Sure, 't is you Don John desires
The prince of artists -
Art! Prate not of art!
Think'st thou I move an artist 'midst his guests?
As such I commune with a loftier race;
Angels and spirits are my ministers.
These do I part aside to grace his halls;
A Spanish gentleman - and so, his peer.
Father, I am not well; my head throbs fast,
Unwonted languor weighs upon my frame.
Anger me not, Maria. 'T is my will,
Thou shalt obey. Hell, what these women be!
No obstacle would daunt them in the quest
Of that which, freely given, they reject.
Hold! Haply just occasion bids thee seem
Unlike thyself. Speak fearlessly child;
Confide to me thy knowledge, thy surmise.
No, father, you were right. I have no cause;
Punish me - nay, forgive, and I obey.
There spake my child; kiss me and be forgiven.
Sometimes I doubt thou playest upon my love
Willfully, knowing me as soft as clay,
Whom the world knows of marble. In such moods,
I see my spirit mirror's first, and then
From thy large eyes thy sainted mother's soul
Can I be like to her?
I only knew her faded, white, and grave,
And so she still floats vaguely through my dreams,
With eyes like your own angels', and a brow
Worthy an aureole.
An earthly crown,
My princess, might more fitly rest on thine.
Annicca hath her colors, blue-black hair,
And pale, brown flesh, and gray, untroubled eyes;
Yet thou more often bring'st her to mind,
For all the tawny gold of thy thick locks,
Thy rare white face, and brilliant Spanish orbs.
Thine is her lisping trick of voice, her laugh,
The blithest music still this side of heaven;
Thine her free, springing gait, though therewithal
A swaying, languid motion all thine own,
Recalls Valencia more than Italy.
Like and unlike thou art to her, as still
My memory loves to hold her, as she first
Beamed like the star of morning on my life.
Hot, faint, and footsore, I had paced since dawn
The sun-baked streets of Naples, seeking work,
Not alms, despite the beggar that I looked.
Now 't was nigh vespers, and my suit had met
With curt refusal, sharp rebuff, and gibes.
Praised be the saints! for every drop of gall
In that day's brimming cup, I have upheld
A poisoned beaker to another's lips.
Many a one hath the Ribera taught
To fare a vagabond through alien streets;
A god unrecognized 'midst churls and clowns,
With kindled soul aflame, and body faint
Or lack of bread. Domenichino knows,
And Gessi, Guido, Annibal Caracci -
Dear father, calm yourself. You had begun
To tell me how you saw my mother first.
True, I forgot it not. Why, I AM calm;
The old man now can well be grave and cold,
Or laugh at his own youth's indignities,
Past a long lifetime back. 'T was vespers' hour,
Or nigh it, when I reached her father's door.
Kind was his greeting, the first cordial words
I heard in Naples; but I took small heed
Of speech or toe, for all my sense was rapt
In wonder at the angel by his side
Who smiled upon me. Large, clear eyes that held
The very soul of sunlight in their depths;
Low, pure, pale brow, with masses of black hair
Flung loosely back, and rippling unconfined
In shadowy magnificence below
The slim gold girdle o'er the snow-soft gown.
Vested and draped about her throat and waist and wrists,
A stately lily ere the dew of morn
Hath passed away - such was thy mother, child.
Would I were like her! But what said she, father?
How did she plead for you?
Ah, cunning child,
I see thy tricks; thou humorest my age,
Knowing how much I love to tell this tale,
Though thou hast heard it half a hundred times.
I find it sweet to hear as you to tell,
Believe me, father.
'T was to pleasure her,
Signor Cortese gave me all I lacked
To prove my unfamed skill. A savage pride,
Matched oddly with my rags, the haughtiness
Wherewith I claimed rather than begged my tools,
And my quaint aspect, oft she told me since,
Won at a glance her faith. Before I left,
She guessed my need, and served me meat and wine
With her own flower-white hands. The parting grace
I craved was granted, that my work might be
The portrait of herself. Thou knowest the rest.
Why did she leave us, father? Oh, how oft
I yearn to see her face, to hear her voice,
Hushed in an endless silence! Strange that she,
Whose rich love beggared our return, should bear
Such separation! Though engirdled now
By heavenly hosts of saints and seraphim,
I cannot fancy it. What! shall her child,
Whose lightest sigh reechoed in her heart,
Have need of her and cry to her in vain?
Now, for God's sake, Maria, speak not thus;
Let me not see such tears upon thy cheek.
Not unto us it has been given to guess
The peace of disembodied souls like hers.
The vanishing glimpses that my fancies catch
Through heaven's half-opened gates, exalt even me,
Poor sinner that I am. And what are these,
The painted shadows that make all my life
A glory, to the splendor of that light?
For thee, my child, has not my doting love
Sufficed, at least in part, to fill the breach
Of that tremendous void? What dost thou lack?
What help, what counsel, what most dear caress?
What dost thou covet? What least whim remains
Ungratified, because not yet expressed?
None, none, dear father! Pardon me! Thy love,
Generous and wise as tender, shames my power
To merit or repay. Fie o my lips!
Look if they be not blistered. Let them smooth
With contrite kisses the last frown away.
We must be young to-night - no wrinkles then!
Genius must show immortal as she is.
Thou wilt unman me with thy pretty ways.
I had forgot the ball. Yea, I grow old;
This scanty morning's work has wearied me.
Once I had thought it play to dream all day
Before my canvas and then dance till dawn,
And now must I give o'er and rest at noon.
Enter LUCA, ushering in LORENZO, who carries a portfolio.
[LORENZO ceremoniously salutes RIBERA and MARIA. Exit LUCA.]
Master, I bring my sketch.
[Opens his portfolio and hands a sketch to RIBERA.]
Humph! the design is not so ill-conceived;
I note some progress; but your drawing's bad -
Yes, bad, sir. Mark you how this leg hangs limp,
As though devoid of life; these hands seem clenched,
Not loosely clasped, as you intended them.
[He takes his pencil and makes a few strokes.
Thus should it stand - a single line will mend.
And here, what's this? Why, 't is a sloven's work.
You dance too many nights away, young gallant.
You shirk close labor as do all your mates.
You think to win with service frivolous,
Snatched 'twixt your cups, or set between two kisses,
The favor of the mistress of the world.
Your pardon, master, but you do me wrong.
Mayhap I lack the gift. Alas, I fear it!
But not the patience, not the energy
Of earnest, indefatigable toil,
That help to make the artist.
'S death! He dares
Belie me, and deny the testimony
Of his own handiwork, whose every line
Betrays a sluggard soul, an indolent will,
A brain that's bred to idleness. So be it!
Master Lorenzo tells the Spagnoletto
His own defects and qualities! 'T were best
He find another teacher competent
To guide so apt, so diligent a scholar.
Dear father, what hath given thee offence?
Cast but another glance upon the sketch;
Surely it hath some grace, some charm, some promise.
Daughter, stand by! I know these insolent slips
Of young nobility; they lack the stuff
That makes us artists. What! to answer me!
When next I drop a hint as to his colors,
The lengthening or the shortening of a stroke,
He'll bandy words with me about his error,
To prove himself the master.
If my defect
Be an hereditary grain i' the blood,
Even as you say, I must abide by it;
But if patrician habits more than birth
Beget such faults, then may I dare to hope.
Not mine, I knew, I felt, to clear new paths,
To win new kingdoms; yet were I content
With such achievement as a strenuous will,
A firm endeavor, unfaltering love,
And an unwearying spirit might attain.
Cast me not lightly back. Banish me not
From this, my home of hope, of inspiration!
What, my ungentle father! Will you hear,
And leave this worthy signor's suit unanswered?
Well, he may bide. Sir, I will speak with you
Anon upon this work. I judged in haste.
Yea, it hath merit. I am weary now;
To-morrow I shall be in fitter mood
To give you certain hints.
[LORENZO bows his thanks and advances to address MARIA. RIBERA silences and dismisses him with a wave of the hand. Exit LORENZO.]
Should I o'ersleep
Mine hour, Maria, thou must awaken me;
But come what may, I will be fresh to-night,
To triumph in thy triumph.
Could I have told,
Then when he bade me? Nay, what is to tell?
He had flouted me for prizing at such height
Homage so slight from John of Austria, even.
A glance exchanged, a smile, a fallen flower
Dropped from my hair, and pressed against his lips.
The Prince! my father gloats upon that name.
Were he no more than gentleman, I think
I should be glad. I cannot tell to-day
If I be sad or gay. Now could I weep
Warm, longing tears; anon, a fire of joy
Leaps in my heart and dances through my veins.
Why should I nurse such idle thoughts? Tonight
We are to meet again. Will he remember? -
Nay, how should he forget? His heart is young;
His eyes do mirror loyalty. Oh, day!
Quicken thy dull, slow round of tedious hours!
God make me beautiful this happy night!
My father's sleeping saint rebukes my thought.
Strange he has left his work, against his wont,
Revealed before completed. I will draw
[She stands irresolute before the picture with her hand on the curtain.]
Beautiful, oh, beautiful!
The far, bright, opened heavens - the dark earth,
Where the tranced pilgrim lies, with eyelids sealed,
His calm face flushed with comfortable sleep,
His weary limbs relaxed, his heavy head
Pillowed upon the stone. Oh, blessed dream
That visits his rapt sense, of airy forms,
Mounting, descending on the shining ladder,
With messages of peace. I will be true
Unto my lineage divine, and breathe
The passion of just pride that overfills
HIS soul inspired.
While she stands before the canvas, reenter, unperceived by her, LORENZO.
Oh, celestial vision!
What brush may reproduce those magic tints,
Those lines ethereal? -
MARIA (turns suddenly).
Is it not marvellous,
Signor Lorenzo? I would draw the curtain,
But, gazing, I forgot.
You are the first,
After the master and myself, to look
Upon this wonder.
LORENZO (with enthusiasm, looking for he first time at the picture).
Ah, what an answer this
For envious minds that would restrict his power
To writhing limbs and shrivelled flesh! Repose,
Beauty, and large simplicity are here.
Yes, that is art! Before such work I stand
And feel myself a dwarf.
There, you are wrong.
My father even, who knows his proper worth,
Before his best achievements I have seen
In like dejection; 't is the curse of genius.
Oft have I heard the master grace your name
With flattering addition.
'T is your goodness,
And not the echo of his praise, that speaks.
My work was worthless - 't was your generous voice
Alone secured the master's second glance.
Nay, signor, frankly, he esteems your talent.
Because you are of well-assured means
And gentle birth, he will be rude to you.
Not without base is the deep grudge he owes
To riches and prosperity.
Why do I bear such harsh, injurious terms
As he affronts me with? Why must I seem
In mine own eyes a craven? Spiritless,
Dishonorably patient? 'T is not his fame,
His power, his gift, his venerable years
That bind me here his willing slave. Maria,
'T is thou, 't is thou alone! 'T is that I love thee,
And exile hence is death!
[A pause. He kneels at her feet. She looks at him kindly but makes no reply.]
At thy dear feet
I lay my life with its most loyal service,
The subject of thy pleasure.
You are too humble.
Too humble! Do you seek mine utter ruin,
With words whose very tone is a caress?
I say all. I love you! - you have known it.
Why should I tell you? Yet, to-day you seem
Other than you have been. A milder light
Beams from your eyes - a gentler grace is throned
Upon your brow - your words fall soft as dew
To melt my fixed resolve.
You find me, signor,
In an unguarded mood. I would be true
To you; and to myself; yet, know no answer.
Anon, I will be calm; pray you withdraw.
Till when? Remember what mad hopes and fears
Meantime will riot in my brain.
LORENZO (kisses her hand).
A faithful heart,
A name untainted, a fair home - yea, these
Are what I need. Oh, lily soul in heaven,
Who wast on earth my mother, guide thy child!
While MARIA sits rapt in thought, enter from behind her, ANNICCA, who bends over her and kisses her brow.
What, sister! lost in dreams by daylight? Fie!
Who is the monarch of thy thoughts?
My thoughts are bounden to no master yet;
They fly from earth to heaven in a breath.
Now are they all of earth. Hast heard the tidings?
Yea - of the Prince's ball? We go together.
Braid in thy hair our mother's pearls, and wear
The amulet ingemmed with eastern stones;
'T will bring good fortune.
Tell me, ere we go,
What manner of man is John of Austria?
Scarce man at all - a madcap, charming boy;
Well-favored - you have seen him - exquisite
In courtly compliment, of simple manners;
You may not hear a merrier laugh than his
From any boatman on the bay; well-versed
In all such arts as most become his station;
Light in the dance as winged-foot Mercury,
Eloquent on the zither, and a master
Of rapier and -
A puppet could be made
To answer in all points your praise of him.
Hath he no substance as of a man?
What may that be to us?
He is our Prince.
The promise of his youth is to outstrip
The hero of Lepanto; bright and bold
As fire, he is the very soul, the star
Of Spanish chivalry; his last achievement
Seems still the flower of his accomplishments.
Musician, soldier, courtier, yea, and artist.
"He had been a painter, were he not a prince,"
Says Messer Zurbaran. The Calderona,
His actress-mother, hath bequeathed to him
Her spirit with her beauty, and the power
To win and hold men's hearts.
I knew it, sister!
His eye hath a command in it; his brow
Seems garlanded with laurel.
What is this?
You kindle with his praise, your whole heart glows
In light and color on your face, your words
Take wing and fly as bold as reckless birds.
What! can so rash a thought, a dream so wild,
So hopeless an ambition, tempt your soul?
Pray you, what thought, what dream, and what ambition?
I knew not I had uttered any such.
Nor have you in your speech; your eyes now veiled,
Where the light leaped to hear me voice his fame,
Your blushes and your pallor have betrayed
That which should lie uncounted fathom deep -
The secret of a woman's foolish heart.
And there it lies, my sibyl sister, still!
Your plummet hath not reached it. Yes, 't is love
Flaunts his triumphant colors in my cheek,
And quickens my lame speech - but not for him,
Not for the Prince - so may I vaunt his worth
With a free soul.
Favored of earth and heaven, true and loving,
Hath cast his heart at my imperial feet;
And if to-morrow find me as to-day,
I will e'en stoop and raise it to mine own.
Not he, indeed!
Did not I say favored of earth and heaven?
That should mean other gifts than bags of gold,
Or a straight-featured mask. Nor will it be
Any you name, though you should name him right.
Must it not lie - how many fathom deep -
The secret of a woman's foolish heart?
Kiss me, Maria. You are still a child.
You cannot vex me, wilful as you be.
Your choice, I fear not, doubtless 't will prove wise,
Despite your wild wit, for your heart is pure,
And you will pause with sure deliberate judgment
Before you leave our father.
Does love steal
So gently o'er our soul? What if he come
A cloud, a fire, a whirlwind, to o'erbear
The feeble barriers wherewith we oppose him,
And blind our eyes and wrest from us our reason?
Fear not, Annicca, for in no such guise
He visits my calm breast; but yet you speak
Somewhat too sagely. Did such cautious wisdom
Guide your own fancy?
Jest no more, Maria.
Since I became a wife, is much made clear,
Which a brief year ago was dark and vague.
Tommaso loves me - we are happier
Then I had dreamed; yet matching now with then,
I see his love is not that large, rich passion
Our father bore us.
You regret your home?
No, no! I have no wish and no regret.
I speak for you. His is a sovereign soul,
And all his passions loom in huger shape
Than lesser men's. He brooks no rivalry
With his own offspring, and toward me his love
Hath ebbed, I mark, to a more even flow,
While deeper, stronger, sets the powerful current
Toward you alone. Consider this, Maria,
Nor wantonly discrown that sacred head
Of your young love to wreathe some curled boy's brow.
Think you his wish were that I should not wed?
Nay, that I say not, for his pride aspires
To see you nobly mated.
MARIA (after a pause).
Him will I wed
Whose name is ancient, fair, and honorable,
As the Ribera's is illustrious -
Him who no less than I will venerate
That white, divine old head. In art his pupil,
In love his son; tender as I to watch,
And to delay the slow extinguishing
Of that great light.
There spake his darling child!
What is't o'clock? If he should sleep too late -
He bade me rouse him -
Haste to seek him, then.
'T is hard on sunset, and he looks for thee
With his first waking motion. Till to-night.
A hall in RIBERA'S house. Enter LUCA and FIAMETTA.
But did you see her?
Nay, I saw her sister, Donna Annicca.
Tush, man! never name her beside my lady Maria-Rosa. You have lost the richest feast in the world for hungry eyes. Her gown of cloth o' silver clad her, as it were, with light; there twinkled about her waist a girdle stiff with stones - you would have said they breathed. Mine own hands wreathed the dropping pearls in her hair, and pearls again were clasped around her throat. But no, I might tell thee every ornament - her jeweled fan, her comb of pearls, her floating veil of gauze, and still the best of all would escape us.
Thou speakest more like her page than her handmaiden.
Thou knowest not woman truly, for all thy wit. I speak most like a woman when I weigh the worth of beauty and rich apparel. Heigh-ho! I have felt the need of this. Thou, good Luca, who might have been my father, canst understand me? HE was poor as thou. Why shouldst thou be his lackey, his slave? My hand were as dainty as hers, if it could but be spared its daily labor.
Yes, poor child, I understand thee, and yet thou art wrong. He is more slave to pride than I am to him. I know him well, Fiametta, after so many years of service, and to-day I pity him more than I fear him. Why, girl, my task is sport beside his toil! If my limbs be weary, I sleep; but I have seen him sit before his canvas with straining eyes and the big beads standing on his brow. When at last he gave o'er, and I have smoothed his pillow, and served and soothed him, what sleep could he snatch? His brain is haunted with evil visions, whereof some be merely of his own imaginings, and others the phantoms of folk who are living or have lived, and who rouse his jealousy or mayhap his remorse, God only knows! If that be genius - to be alive to pain at every pore, to be possessed of a devil that robs you of your sleep and grants no space between the hours of grinding toil - I thank the saints I am a simple man!
I grant thee thou mayst be right concerning him; he hath indeed a strange, sour mien. I shudder when he turns suddenly, as his wont is, and bends his evil eyes on me. The holy father tells me such warnings come from God. No matter how slight the service he asks of me, my flesh creeps and my limbs refuse to move, till I have whispered an Ave. But what of Lady Maria-Rosa? Both heaven and earth smile upon her. To-night she wears a poor girl's dowry, a separate fortune, on her head, her neck, her hands, yes, on her little jeweled feet. One tiny shoe of hers would make me free to wed my lad.
If he have but eyes, I warrant thee he finds jewels enough in thy bright face. Tell me his name.
Nay, that is my secret.
He must be a poor-souled lad if he will wait till thou hast earned a dowry.
A poor-souled lad! my good Vicenzo - ah! but no matter; thou knowest him, Luca, my Lord Lorenzo's page. There! - is he poor, or mean, or plain, or dull? He claims no dowry, he - but I have my pride, as well as the great ones.
May the saints preserve thee from such as theirs! I am heartily glad of thy good fortune. I am not sure whether thou or Lady Marie-Rosa be the most favored. Well, the end proves all.
Enter on one side ANNICCA and DON TOMMASO, attired for the ball; on the other side, RIBERA.
What do ye here, my children? Haste away!
Maria waits you for the ball; folk say
'T will be the bravest show e'er seen in Naples.
I warrant you the Spagnoletto brings
The richest jewels - what say'st thou, my son?
I who have robbed you of one gem, need scarce
Re-word, sir, how I prize it.
Why, 't is true.
Robbed me, thou sayst? So hast thou. She was mine -
The balanced beauty of her flesh and spirit,
That was my garland, and I was her all,
Till thou, a stranger, stole her heart's allegiance,
Suborned - Forgive me, I am old, a father,
Whose doting passions blind. I am not jealous,
Believe me, sir. When we Riberas give,
We give without retraction or reserve,
Were it our life-blood. I rejoice with thee
That she is thine; nor am I quite bereft,
I have some treasure still. I do repent
So heartily of my discourteous speech,
That I will crave your leave before I kiss
Your wife's soft palm.
ANNICCA (kissing him repeatedly).
Why, father, what is this?
Can Don Tommaso's wife so soon forget
She is the Spagnoletto's child?
I can bear praise, thou knowest, from all save thee
And my Maria. My grave son, I fear,
Will mock these transports. Pray go in with me.
No one of us but has this night a triumph.
Let us make ready.
Ball in the Palace of DON JOHN. Dance. DON JOHN and MARIA together. DON TOMMASO, ANNICCA. LORDS and LADIES, dancing or promenading.
Were it not better to withdraw awhile,
After our dance, unto the torch-lit gardens?
The air is fresh and sweet without.
I like this heavy air, rich with warm odors,
The broad, clear light, the many-colored throng.
I might have breathed on mine own balcony
The evening breeze.
Still at cross purposes.
When will you cease to flout me?
When I prize
A lover's sigh more dear than mine own pleasure.
See, the Signora Julia passed again.
She is far too pale for so much white, I find.
Donna Aurora - ah, how beautiful!
That spreading ruff, sprinkled with seeds of gold,
Becomes her well. Would you believe it, sir,
Folk say her face is twin to mine - what think you?
For me, the huge earth holds but one such face.
You know it well.
The hall is overfilled;
Go we without.
[They pass on.]
Thrice he hath danced with her.
She is not one of us - her face is strange;
Colored and carven to meet most men's desire -
Is't not, my lord? Certes, it loses naught
For lack of ornament. Pray, ask her name,
If but for my sake.
I have already asked.
She is the daughter to the Spagnoletto,
Ah, I might have guessed.
The form and face are matched with the apparel,
As in a picture. 'T was the master's hand,
I warrant you, arranged with such quaint art,
Such seeming-careless care, the dead, white pearls
Within her odd, bright hair.
[They pass on.]
Now hope, now fear
Reigned lord of my wild dreams. One name still sang
Like the repeated strain of some caged bird,
Its sweet, persistent music through my brain.
One vanishing face upon the empty air
Shone forth and faded night and day. And you,
Did you not find me hasty, over-bold?
Nay, tell me all your thought.
You know, my lord,
I am no courtier, and belike my thought
Might prove too rustic for a royal ear.
Speak on, speak on!
Though you should rail, your voice would still outsing
Rebeck and mandoline.
Is it not strange?
I knew you not, albeit I might have guessed,
If only from the simple garb of black,
And golden collar, 'midst the motley hues
Of our gay nobles. I know not what besides,
But this first won me. Be not angered, sir;
But, as I looked, I never ranked you higher
Than simple gentleman. I asked your name;
Then, when you Highness stooped to pick my flower,
My lord, that moment was my thought a traitor,
For it had fain discrowned you.
May God's angels
Reward such treason. Say me those words again.
Let the rich blush born of that dear confession
Again dye cheek and brow, and fade and melt
Forever, even as then.
We are watched, my lord.
This is no place, no hour, for words like these.
When, where then, may we meet?
[They pass on.]
The Palace Gardens. Interrupted sounds of music and revelry come though the open windows of the ball-room, seen in the background. RIBERA, pacing the stage, occasionally pausing to look in upon the dancers.
This is revenge. Is she not beautiful,
Ye gods? The beggar's child matched with a prince!
Throb not so high, my heart, 'neath envious eyes
Fixed on thy triumph! Now am I well repaid
For my slow, martyred years. Was I not wrung
by keener tortures than my savage brush,
Though dipped in my heart's blood, might reproduce!
No twisted muscle, no contorted limb,
No agony of flesh, have I yet drawn,
That owed not its suggestion to some pang
Of my pride crucified, my spirit racked,
My entrails gnawed by the blind worm of hate,
Engendered of oppression. That is past,
But not forgotten; though to-night I please
To yield to gentler influence, to own
The strength of beauty and the power of joy,
And welcome gracious phantasies that throng
And hover over me in airy shapes.
The spirits of earth and heaven contend to-night
For mastery within me; ne'er before
Have I been more the Spagnoletto, fired
With noble wrath, with the consuming fever
And fierce delight of vengeance.
From this point
I see her clearly - the auroral face
A-light with smiles, the imperial head upraised;
Her languid hand sways the broad, silken fan,
Whose wing-like movement stirs above her brow
The fine, bright curls, as though warm airs of heaven
Around her breathed. He leads her 'midst the throng.
So, they have gone; but I will follow them,
And watch them from afar.
Enter from the opposite side DON JOHN and MARIA.
I dread to ask
What quivers on my lips. My heart is free,
My heart is free, my lord.
It never beat less calmly at the sound
Of any voice till now. I laugh to think
This very morn I fancied it had met
Fear naught - a simple boy,
A pupil of my father's.
I was mad
To dream it could be otherwise. Forgive me;
I, a mere stranger in they life, am jealous
Of all thy present and thy past.
Listen, my lord;
You shall hear all. What hour, think you, he chose
To urge his cause? The same wherein I learned
Your Highness had commanded for to-night
Our presence. My winged thoughts were flying back
To Count Lodovico's; again I saw you,
My white rose at your lips, your grave eyes fixed
Most frankly, yet most reverently, on mine.
Again my heart sank as I heard the name,
The Prince of Austria; and while I mused,
He spake of love. Oh, I am much to blame!
My mood was soft; - although I promised naught,
I listened, yea, I listened. Good, my lord,
Do you not pity him?
Thanks, and thanks again,
For thy confession! Now no spot remains
On the unblemished mirror of my faith.
Since that dear night, I with one only thought
Have gained the sum of knowledge and opinions
Touching thine honored father, with such scraps
As the gross public voice could dole to me
Concerning thine own far-removed, white life.
Thou art, I learn, immured in close seclusion;
Thy father, be it with all reverence said,
Hedges with jealous barriers his treasure;
Whilst thou, most duteous, tenderest of daughters,
Breath'st but for him.
Dear father! Were it so,
'T were simple justice. Ah, if you knew him -
A proud, large, tameless heart. This is the cloister
Where he immures me - Naples' gayest revels;
The only bar wherewith he hedges me
Is his unbounded trust, that leaves me free.
Let us go in; the late night air is chill.
Yet one more dance?
You may command, my lord.
I lost them in the press. Ah, there they dance
Again together. I would lay my hands
In blessing on that darling, haughty head.
Like the Ribera's child, she bears her honors
As lightly as a flower. Yet there glows
Unwonted lustre in her starry eyes,
And richer beauty blushes on her cheek.
Enough. Now must I strive to fix that form
That haunts my brain - the blind, old Count Camillo,
The Prince's oracle. 'Midst the thick throng
My fancy singled him; white beard, white hair,
Sealed eyes, and brow lit by an inward light.
So will I paint mine Isaac blessing Esau,
While Jacob kneels before him - blind, betrayed
By his own flesh!
As RIBERA stands aside, lost in thought, enter DON JOHN and MARIA.
See the impatient day
Wakes in the east.
One moment here, signora,
Breathe we the charm of this enchanted night.
Look where behind yon vines the slow moon sets,
Hidden from us, while every leaf hangs black,
Each tender stalk distinct, each curling edge
Against the silver sky.
MARIA (perceiving RIBERA).
What, father! here?
Maria! - Ah, my Prince, I crave your pardon.
When thus I muse, 't is but my mind that lives;
Each outward sense is dead. I saw you not,
I heard nor voice nor footstep. Yonder lines
That streak the brightening sky east warn us away.
For all your grace to us, the Spagnoletto
Proffers his thanks to John of Austria.
My daughter, art thou ready?
I am bound,
Illustrious signor, rather unto you
And the signora, past all hope of payment.
When may I come to tender my poor homage
To the Sicilian master?
My lord will jest.
Our house is too much honored when he deigns
O'erstep the threshold. Let your royal pleasure
Alone decide the hour.
Or I should say to-day, for dawn is nigh.
And still we trespass. Be it as you will;
We are your servants.
So, my lord, good-night.
[Exeunt MARIA and RIBERA.]
DON JOHN (alone).
Gods, what a haughty devil rules that man!
As though two equal princes interchanged
Imperial courtesies! The Spagnoletto
Thanks John of Austria! Louis of France
Might so salute may father. By heaven, I know not
What patience or what reverence withheld
My enchafed spirit in bounds of courtesy.
Nay, it was she, mine angel, whose mere aspect
Is balm and blessing. How her love-lit eyes
Burned through my soul! How her soft hand's slight pressure
Tingled along my veins! Oh, she is worthy
A heart' religion! How shall I wear the hours
Ere I may seek her? Lo, I stand and dream,
While my late guests await me. Patience, patience!
Morning twilight in RIBERA'S Garden. During this scene the day gradually breaks, and at the close the full light of morning illuminates the stage. LORENZO.
From thy poppied sleep awake;
From they golden dreams arise;
Earth and seas new colors take,
Love-light dawns in rosy skies,
Weird night's fantastic shadows are outworn;
Why tarriest thou, oh, sister to the morn?
Hearken, love! the matin choir
Of birds salutes thee, and with these
Blends the voice of my desire.
Unto no richer promises
Of deeper, dearer, holier love than mine,
Canst thou awaken from they dreams divine.
Lo, thine eastern windows flame,
Brightening with the brightened sky;
Rise, and with thy beauty shame
Morning's regal pageantry,
To thrill and bless as the reviving sun,
For my heart gropes in doubt, though night be gone.
Why should I fear? Her soul is pledged to mine,
Albeit she still withheld the binding word.
How long hath been the night! but morn breathes hope.
"I fain were true to you and to myself" -
Did she say thus? or is my fevered brain
The fool of its desires? The world swam;
The blood rang beating in mine ears and roared
Like rushing waters; yet, as through a dream,
I saw her dimly. Surely on her lids
Shone the clear tears. As there's a God in heaven,
She spake those words! My lips retain the touch
Of those soft, snow-cold hands, neither refused
Nor proffered. Such things ARE, nor can they be
Forgotten or foreknown. Yes, she is mine.
But soft! Her casement opes. Oh, joy, 't is she!
Pale, in a cloud of white she stands and drinks
The morning sunlight.
MARIA (above at the window).
Ah, how sweet this air
Kisses my sleepless lids and burning temples.
I am not weary, though I found no rest.
My spirit leaps within me; a new glory
Blesses the dear, familiar scene - ripe orchard,
The same - yet oh, how different! Even I thought
Soft music trembled on the listening air,
As though a harp were touched, blent with low song.
Sure, that was phantasy. I will descend,
Visit my flowers, and see whereon the dew
Hangs heaviest, and what fairest bud hath bloomed
Since yester-eve. Why should I court repose
And dull forgetfulness, while the large earth
Wakes no lesser joy than mine?
[Exit from above.]
How may my breast contain thee, with thy burden
Of too much happiness?
Enter MARIA below; LORENZO springs forward to greet her; she shrinks back in a sort of terror.
Good-day, sweet mistress.
May the blithe spirit of this auspicious morn
Become the genius of thy days to come,
Whereof be none less beautiful than this.
Why art thou silent? Does not love inspire
Joyous expression, be it but a sigh,
A song, a smile, a broken word, a cry?
Thou hast not granted me the promised pledge
For which I hunger still. I would confirm
With dear avowals, frequent seals of love,
That which, though sure, I yet can scarce believe.
Somewhat too sure, I think, my lord Lorenzo.
I scarce deemed possible that one so shy
But yester-morn should hold so high a mien,
Claiming what ne'er was given.
You are a trifle bold to speak my name
Familiarly as no man, save my father
Or my own brother, dares.
Ah, now I see
Your jest. You will not seem so lightly won
Without a wooing? You will feign disdain,
Only to make more sweet your rich concession?
Too late - I heard it all. "A new light shines
On the familiar scene." What may that be,
Save the strange splendor of the dawn of love?
Nay, darling, cease to jest, lest my poor heart,
Hanging 'twixt hell and heaven, in earnest break.
Here is no jest, sir, but a fatal error,
Crying for swift correction. You surprise me
With rude impatience, ere I have found time
To con a gentle answer. Pardon me
If any phrase or word or glance of mine
Hath bred or nourished in your heart a hope
That you might win my love. It cannot be.
A word, a glance! Why, the whole frozen statue
Warmed into life. Surely it was not you.
You must have bribed some angel with false prayers
To wear your semblance - nay, no angel served,
But devilish witchcraft -
Sir, enough, enough!
I hoped to find here peace and solitude.
These lacking, I retire. Farewell.
[Going toward the house.]
I will not rob you of your own. Farewell to you.
Where have you flown, bright dreams? Has that rude hand
Sufficed to dash to naught your frail creations?
Sad thoughts and humors black now fill my soul.
So his rough foot hath bruised the dewy grass,
And left it sere. Why should his harsh words touch me?
The truth of yesterday is false to-day.
How could I know, dear God! How might I guess
The bitter sweetness, the delicious pain!
A new heart fills my breast, as soft and weak
And melting as a tear, unto its lord;
But kindled with quick courage to endure,
If I need front for him, a world of foes.
If this be love, ah, what a hell is theirs
Who suffer without hope! Even I, who hold
So many dear assurances, who hear
Still ringing in mine ears such sacred vows,
Am haunted with an unaccustomed doubt,
Not wonted to go hand-in-hand with joy.
A gloomy omen greets me with the morn;
I, who recoil from pain, must strike and wound.
What may this mean? Help me, ye saints of heaven
And holy mother, for my strength is naught!
She falls on her knees and bursts into tears. Reenter LORENZO.
Thank heaven, I came. How have I wrung her soul!
A noble love, forsooth! A blind, brute passion,
That being denied, is swift transformed to hate
No whit more cruel. (To Maria.) Lady!
MARIA (rising hastily).
Again what would you with me?
No such suit
As late I proffered, but your gracious pardon.
Rise, sir, forgiven. I, too, have been to blame,
Although less deeply than you deemed. Forbear
To bind your life. I feel myself unworthy
Of that high station where your thoughts enthrone me.
Yet I dare call myself your friend.
[Offering him her hand, which LORENZO presses to his lips.]
Be blessed, and farewell.
Enter RIBERA, calling.
Why, father, I am here (kissing him). Good-day. What will you?
Darling, no more than what I always will.
Before I enter mine own world removed,
I fain would greet the dearest work of God.
I missed you when I rose. I sought you first
In your own chamber, where the lattice, oped,
Let in the morning splendor and smells
Of the moist garden, with the sound of voices.
I looked, I found you here - but not alone.
What man was that went from you?
My lord Lorenzo. You remember, father,
How yester-morn I pleaded for his work;
Thus he, through gratitude and - love, hath watched
All night within our garden, while I danced;
And when I came to nurse my flowers - he spake.
Am I not still beside you, father?
I will not leave you.
Ah, mine angel-child!
I cannot choose but dread it, though I wait
Expectant of the hour when you fulfil
Your woman's destiny. You have full freedom;
Yet I rejoice at this reprieve, and thank thee
For thy brave truthfulness. Be ever thus,
Withholding naught from him whose heart reflects
Only thine image. Thou art still my pride,
Even as last night when all eyes gazed thy way,
Thy bearing equal in disdainful grace
To his who courted thee - thy sovereign's son.
Yea, so? And yet it was not pride I felt,
Nor consciousness of self, nor vain delight
In the world's envy; - something more than these,
Far deeper, sweeter - What have I said? My brain
Is dull with sleep. 'T is only now I feel
The weariness of so much pleasure.
Go we within. Yes, I am late to work;
We squander precious moments. Thou, go rest,
And waken with fresh roses in they cheeks,
To greet our royal guest.
The studio of the Spagnoletto. RIBERA before his canvas. LUCA in attendance.
RIBERA (laying aside his brush).
So! I am weary. Luca, what 's o'clock?
My lord, an hour past noon.
So late already!
Well, one more morning of such delicate toil
Will make it ready for Madrid, and worthy
Not merely Philip's eyes, but theirs whose glance
Outvalues a king's gaze, my noble friend
Velasquez, and the monkish Zurbaran.
Hath the signora risen?
Fiametta passed a brief while since, and left
My lady sleeping.
Good! she hath found rest;
Poor child, she sadly lacked it. She had known
'Twixt dawn and dawn no respite from emotion;
Her chill hand fluttered like a bird in mine;
Her soft brow burned my lips. Could that boy read
The tokens of an overwearied spirit,
Strained past endurance, he had spared her still,
At any cost of silence. What is such love
To mine, that would outrival Roman heroes -
Watch mine arm crisp and shrivel in quick flame,
Or set a lynx to gnaw my heart away,
To save her from a needle-prick of pain,
Ay, or to please her? At their worth she rates
Her wooers - light as all-embracing air
Or universal sunshine. Luca, go
And tell Fiametta - rather, bid the lass
He comes to pay me homage,
As would his royal father, if he pleased
To visit Naples; yet she too shall see him.
She is part of all I think, of all I am;
She is myself, no less than yon bright dream
Fixed in immortal beauty on the canvas.
My lord, you called me?
When thy mistress wakes,
Array her richly, that she be prepared
To come before the Prince.
Sir, she hath risen,
And only waits me with your lordship's leave,
To cross the street unto St. Francis' church.
With such slight escort? Nay, this troubles me.
Only the Strada's width? The saints forbid
That I should thwart her holy exercise!
Myself will go. I cannot. Bid her muffle,
Like our Valencian ladies, her silk mantle
About her face and head.
[At a sign from RIBERA, exit FIAMETTA.]
Yes, God will bless her.
What should I fear? I will make sure her beauty
Is duly masked.
[He goes toward the casement.]
Ay, there she goes - the mantle,
Draped round the stately head, discloses naught
Save the live jewel of the eye. Unless one guessed
From the majestic grace and proud proportions,
She might so pass through the high thoroughfares.
Ah, one thick curl escapes from its black prison.
Alone in Naples, wreathed with rays of gold,
Her crown of light betrays her. So, she's safe!
A noble gentleman of Spain awaits
The master's leave to enter.
Show him in.
[Exit LUCA. RIBERA draws the curtain before his picture of "Jacob's Dream."]
A gentleman of Spain! Perchance the Prince
Sends couriers to herald his approach,
Or craves a longer grace.
Enter LUCA, ushering in DON JOHN unattended, completely enveloped in a Spanish mantle, which he throws off, his face almost hidden by a cavalier's hat. He uncovers his head on entering. RIBERA, repressing a movement of surprise, hastens to greet him and kisses his hand.
Welcome, my lord!
I am shamed to think my sovereign's son should wait,
Through a churl's ignorance, without my doors.
Dear master, blame him not. I came attended
By one page only. Here I blush to claim
Such honor as depends on outward pomp.
No royalty is here, save the crowned monarch
Of our Sicilian artists. Be it mine
To press with reverent lips my master's hand.
Your Highness is too gracious; if you glance
Round mine ill-furnished studio, my works
Shall best proclaim me and my poor deserts.
Luca, uplift you hangings.
DON JOHN (seating himself).
Sir, you may sit.
RIBERA (aside, seating himself slowly).
Curse his swollen arrogance! Doth he imagine
I waited leave of him?
(Luca uncovers the picture).
You have bettered here your best. Why, sir, he breathes!
Will not those locked lids ope? - that nerveless hand
Regain the iron strength of sinew mated
With such heroic frame? You have conspired
With Nature to produce a man. Behold,
I chatter foolish speech; for such a marvel
The fittest praise is silence.
[He rises and stands before the picture.]
RIBERA (after a pause).
I am glad
Your highness deigns approve. Lose no more time,
Lest the poor details should repay you not.
Unto your royal home 't will follow you,
Companion, though unworthy, to the treasures
Of the Queen's gallery.
'T is another jewel
Set in my father's crown, and, in his name,
I thank you for it.
[RIBERA bows silently. DON JOHN glances around the studio.]
There hangs a quaint, strong head,
Though merely sketched. What a marked, cunning leer
Grins on the wide mouth! what a bestial glance!
'T is but a slight hint for my larger work,
"Bacchus made drunk by Satyrs."
Where is that?
I ne'er have seen the painting.
'T is not in oils,
But etched in aqua-fortis. Luca, fetch down
Yonder portfolio. I can show your Highness
The graven copy.
[LUCA brings forward a large portfolio. RIBERA looks hastily over the engravings and draws one out which he shows to DON JOHN.]
Ah, most admirable!
I know not who is best portrayed - the god,
Plump, reeling, wreathed with vine, in whom abides
Something Olympian still, or the coarse Satyrs,
Thoroughly brutish. Here I scarcely miss,
So masterly the grouping, so distinct
The bacchanalian spirit, your rich brush,
So vigorous in color. Do you find
The pleasure in this treatment equals that
Of the oil painting?
All is in my mood;
We have so many petty talents, clever
To mimic Nature's surface. I name not
The servile copyists of the greater masters,
Or of th' archangels, Raphael and Michael;
But such as paint our cheap and daily marvels.
Sometimes I fear lest they degrade our art
To a nice craft for plodding artisans -
Mere realism, which they mistake for truth.
My soul rejects such limits. The true artist
Gives Nature's best effects with far less means.
Plain black and white suffice him to express
A finer grace, a stronger energy
Than she attains with all the aid of color.
I argue thus and work with simple tools,
Like the Greek fathers of our art - the sculptors,
Who wrought in white alone their matchless types.
Then dazzled by the living bloom of earth,
Glowing with color, I return to that,
My earliest worship, and compose such work
As you see there.
[Pointing to the picture.]
Would it be overmuch,
In my brief stay in Naples, to beg of you
A portrait of myself in aqua-fortis?
'T would rob you, sir, of fewer golden hours
Than the full-colored canvas, and enrich
With a new treasure our royal gallery.
You may command my hours and all that's mine.
DON JOHN (rising).
Thanks, generous master. When may I return
For the first sitting?
I am ready now -
To-day, to-morrow - when your Highness please.
'T would be abuse of goodness to accept
The present moment. I will come to-morrow,
At the same hour, in some more fitting garb.
Your hand, sir, and farewell. Salute for me,
I pray you, the signora. May I not hope
To see and thank her for her grace to me,
In so adorning my poor feast?
The debt is ours.
She may be here to-morrow - she is free,
She only, while I work, to come and go.
Pray, sir, allow her - she is never crossed.
I stoop to beg for her - she is the last
Who bides with me - I crave you pardon, sir;
What should this be to you?
'T is much to me,
Whose privilege has been in this rare hour,
Beneath the master to discern the man,
And thus add friendship unto admiration.
[He presses RIBERA'S hand and is about to pick up his mantle and hat. LUCA springs forward, and, while he is throwing the cloak around the Princes's shoulders, enter hastily MARIA, enveloped in her mantilla, as she went to church.]
Well, father, an I veiled and swathed to suit you,
To cross the Strada?
[She throws off her mantilla and appears all in white. She goes to embrace her father, when she suddenly perceives the Prince, and stands speechless and blushing.]
Child, his Royal Highness
Prince John of Austria.
Already twice my gracious stars have smiled.
I saw you in the street. You wore your mantle,
As the noon sun might wear a veil of cloud,
Covering, but not concealing.
I, sir, twice
Have unaware stood in your royal presence.
You are welcome to my father's home and mine.
I scarce need crave your pardon for my entrance;
Yourself must see how well assured I felt
My father was alone.
And so you hoped
To find him - shall I read your answer thus?
Nay, press her not. Your Highness does her wrong,
So harshly to construe her simpleness.
My daughter and myself are one, and both
Will own an equal pleasure if you bide.
DON JOHN (seating himself).
You chain me with kind words.
My father, sir,
Hath surely told you our delight and marvel
At the enchantments of your feast. For me
The night was brief, rich, beautiful, and strange
As a bright dream.
I will gainsay you not.
A beauteous soul can shed her proper glory
On mean surroundings. I have likewise dreamed,
Nor am I yet awake. This morn hath been
A feast for mind and eye. Yon shepherd-prince,
Whom angels visit in his sleep, shall crown
Your father's brow with a still fresher laurel,
And link in equal fame the Spanish artist
With the Lord's chosen prophet.
That may be,
For in the form of that wayfarer
I drew myself. So have I slept beneath
The naked heavens, pillowed by a stone,
With no more shelter than the wind-stirred branches,
While the thick dews of our Valencian nights
Drenched my rude weeds, and chilled through blood and bone.
Yet to me also were the heavens revealed,
And angels visited my dreams.
That you, dear masters, standing on the crown
Of a long life's continuous ascent,
Should backward glance unto such dark beginnings.
Obscure are all beginnings. Yet I muse
With pleasing pain on those fierce years of struggle.
They were to me my birthright; all the vigor,
The burning passion, the unflinching truth,
My later pencil gained, I gleaned from them.
I prized them. I reclaimed their ragged freedom,
Rather than hold my seat, a liveried slave,
At the rich board of my Lord Cardinal.
A palace was a prison till I reared
Mine own. But now my child's heart I would pierce
Sooner than see it bear the least of ills,
Such as I then endured.
May smile, sir, at your threat; she is in a pleasance,
Where no rude breezes blow, no shadow falls
Darker than that of cool and fragrant leaves.
Yea, were it otherwise - had you not reaped
The fruit of your own works, she had not suffered.
Your children are Spain's children.
Sir, that word
Is the most grateful you have spoken yet.
Why are thou silent, daughter?
What should I say?
The Prince is kind. I scarcely heard your words.
I listened to your voices, and I mused.
DON JOHN (rising).
I overstep your patience.
You will be gone?
What have I said?
You are a child, Maria.
To-morrow I will wait your Highness.
To-morrow noon. Farewell, signora.
[Exit DON JOHN.]
What ails you, daughter? You forget yourself.
Your tongue cleaves to your mouth. You sit and muse,
A statue of white silence. Twice to-day
You have deeply vexed me. Go not thus again
Across the street with that light child, Fiametta.
Faith, you were closely muffled. What was this -
This tell-tale auburn curl that rippled down
Over the black mantilla? Were I harsh,
Suspicious, jealous, fearful, prone to wrath,
Or anything of all that I am not,
I should have deemed it no mere negligence,
But a bold token.
Father you make me quail.
Why do you threat me with such evil eyes?
Would they could read my heart!
Elude me not.
Whom have you met beside the Prince this morn?
Who saw you pass? Whom have you spoken with?
For God's sake, father, what strange thoughts are these?
With none, with none! Beside the Prince, you say?
Why even him I saw not, as you know.
I hastened with veiled eyes cast on the ground,
Swathed in my mantle still, I told my beads,
And in like manner hasted home to you.
Well, it may pass; but henceforth say thy matins
In thine own room. I know what vague cloud
Obscures my sight and weighs upon my brain.
I am very weary. Luca, follow me.
[Exeunt RIBERA and LUCA.]
Poor father! Dimly he perceives some trouble
Within the threatening air. Thank heaven, I calmed him,
Yet I spake truth. What could have roused so soon
His quick suspicion? Did Fiametta see
The wary page slip in my hand the missive,
As we came forth again? Nay, even so,
My father hath not spoken with her since.
Sure he knows naught; 't is but my foolish fear
Makes monsters out of shadows. I may read