("Vous, sire, écoutez-moi.")
[LE ROI S'AMUSE, Act I.]
M. ST. VALLIER (an aged nobleman, from whom King Francis I. decoyed his daughter, the famous beauty, Diana of Poitiers).
A king should listen when his subjects speak:
'Tis true your mandate led me to the block,
Where pardon came upon me, like a dream;
I blessed you then, unconscious as I was
That a king's mercy, sharper far than death,
To save a father doomed his child to shame;
Yes, without pity for the noble race
Of Poitiers, spotless for a thousand years,
You, Francis of Valois, without one spark
Of love or pity, honor or remorse,
Did on that night (thy couch her virtue's tomb),
With cold embraces, foully bring to scorn
My helpless daughter, Dian of Poitiers.
To save her father's life a knight she sought,
Like Bayard, fearless and without reproach.
She found a heartless king, who sold the boon,
Making cold bargain for his child's dishonor.
Oh! monstrous traffic! foully hast thou done!
My blood was thine, and justly, tho' it springs
Amongst the best and noblest names of France;
But to pretend to spare these poor gray locks,
And yet to trample on a weeping woman,
Was basely done; the father was thine own,
But not the daughter! - thou hast overpassed
The right of monarchs! - yet 'tis mercy deemed.
And I perchance am called ungrateful still.
Oh, hadst thou come within my dungeon walls,
I would have sued upon my knees for death,
But mercy for my child, my name, my race,
Which, once polluted, is my race no more.
Rather than insult, death to them and me.
I come not now to ask her back from thee;
Nay, let her love thee with insensate love;
I take back naught that bears the brand of shame.
Keep her! Yet, still, amidst thy festivals,
Until some father's, brother's, husband's hand
('Twill come to pass!) shall rid us of thy yoke,
My pallid face shall ever haunt thee there,
To tell thee, Francis, it was foully done!...
TRIBOULET (the Court Jester), sneering. The poor man raves.
ST. VILLIER. Accursed be ye both!
Oh Sire! 'tis wrong upon the dying lion
To loose thy dog! (Turns to Triboulet)
And thou, whoe'er thou art,
That with a fiendish sneer and viper's tongue
Makest my tears a pastime and a sport,
My curse upon thee! - Sire, thy brow doth bear
The gems of France! - on mine, old age doth sit;
Thine decked with jewels, mine with these gray hairs;
We both are Kings, yet bear a different crown;
And should some impious hand upon thy head
Heap wrongs and insult, with thine own strong arm
Thou canst avenge them! God avenges mine!
FREDK. L. SLOUS.