Gow’s Watch : Act V. scene 3

A poem by Rudyard Kipling

After the Battle. The PRINCESS by the Standard on the Ravelin.

Enter Gow, with the Crown of the Kingdom.

GOW. Here’s earnest of the Queen’s submission.
This by her last herald, and in haste.

PRINCESS. ’Twas ours already. Where is the woman?

GOW. ’Fled with her horse. They broke at dawn.
Noon has not struck, and you’re Queen questionless.

PRINCESS. By you, through you. How shall I honour you?

GOW. Me? But for what?

PRINCESS. For all, all, all,
Since the realm sunk beneath us! Hear him! For what?’
Your body ’twixt my bosom and her knife,
Your lips on the cup she proffered for my death;
Your one cloak over me, that night in the snows
We held the Pass at Bargi. Every hour
New strengths, to this most unbelievable last.
‘Honour him?’ I will honour, will honour you, . . .
’Tis at your choice.

GOW. Child, mine was long ago.

(Enter FERDINAND, as from horse.)

But here’s one worthy honour. Welcome, Fox!

FERDINAND. And to you, Watchdog. This day clenches all.
We’ve made it and seen it.

GOW. Is the city held?

FERDINAND. Loyally. Oh, they’re drunk with loyalty yonder.
A virtuous mood. Your bombards helped ’em to it . . .
But here’s my word for you. The Lady Frances.

PRINCESS. I left her sick in the city. No harm, I pray.

FERDINAND. Nothing that she called harm. In truth, so little
That (to Gow) I am bidden tell you, she’ll be here
Almost as soon as I.

GOW. She says it?

This. (Gives him letter.) Yester eve. ’Twas given me by the priest,
He with her in her hour.

GOW. So? (Reads) So it is.
She will be here. (To Ferdinand) And all is safe in the city?

FERDINAND. As thy long sword and my lean wits can make it.
You’ve naught to stay for. Is it the road again?

GOW. Ay. This time, not alone . . . She will be here.

PRINCESS. I am here. You have not looked at me awhile.

GOW. The rest is with you, Ferdinand . . .
Then free.

PRINCESS. And at my service more than ever. I claim,
(Our wars have taught me), being your Queen, now, claim
You wholly mine.

GOW. Then free . . . She will be here! A little while.

PRINCESS (to FERDINAND). He looks beyond, not at me.

FERDINAND. Weariness.
We are not so young as once was. ’Two days’ fight,
A worthy servitor, to be allowed
Some freedom.

PRINCESS. I have offered him all he would.

FERDINAND. He takes what he has taken.

(The Spirit of the LADY FRANCES appears to Gow.)

GOW. Frances

PRINCESS. Distraught!

FERDINAND. An old head-blow, maybe. He has dealt in them.

GOW (to the Spirit). What can the Grave against us, O my Heart,
Comfort and light and reason in all things
Visible and invisible, my one God?
Thou that wast I these barren unyoked years
Of triflings now at end! Frances!

PRINCESS. She’s old.

FERDINAND. True. By most reckonings old.
They must keep other count.

PRINCESS. He kisses his hand to the air!

FERDINAND. His ring, rather, he kisses. Yes, for sure, the ring.

GOW. Dear and most dear. And now, those very arms. (Dies.)

PRINCESS. Oh, look! He faints. Haste, you! Unhelm him! Help!

FERDINAND. Needless. No help
Avails against that poison. He is sped.

PRINCESS. By his own hand? This hour? When I had offered.

FERDINAND. He had made other choice, an old, old choice,
Ne’er swerved from, and now patently sealed in death.

PRINCESS. He called on, the Lady Frances was it? Wherefore?

FERDINAND. Because she was his life. Forgive, my friend, (covers Gow’s face)
God’s uttermost beyond me in all faith,
Service and passion, if I unveil at last
The secret. (To the Princess) Thought, dreamed you, it was for you
He poured himself, for you resoldered the Crown?
Struck here, held there, amended, broke, built up
His multiplied imaginings for you?

PRINCESS. I thought, I thought he.

FERDINAND. Looked beyond. Her wish
Was the sole Law he knew. She did not choose
Your House should perish. Therefore he bade it stand.
Enough for him when she had breathed a word
’Twas his to make it iron, stone, or fire,
Driving our flesh and blood before his ways
As the wind straws. Her one face unregarded
Waiting you with your mantle or your glove,
That is the God whom he is gone to worship.
(Trumpets without. Enter the Prince’s Heralds.)
And here’s the work of Kingship begun again.
These from the Prince of Bargi, to whose sword
You owe such help as may, he thinks, be paid . . .
He’s equal in blood, in fortune more than peer,
Young, most well favoured, with a heart to love,
And two States in the balance. Do you meet him?

PRINCESS. God and my Misery! I have seen Love at last.
What shall content me after?

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