This Tragedy was placed in Garrick’s hands in 17761776, immediately after his quitting the stage. It was not brought out until the year 17791779, after his death; and then at the Haymarket Theatre: the Scene is laid in feudal times, when the Warrior was a Crusader, and Judicial Battle was awarded as a remedy for Wrongs.
The Passion, or state of the mind, with relation to an offending Superior is Hatred, with relation to an offending Inferior is Contempt. Envy is the meaner vice, it is the Passion excited by one (whether offending or not), who ceases to be an Equal. The Daughter of a Family whose Blood has been attainted, sees with envy indeed malicious her eager hope of recovering her Station defeated by the accumulating good fortune of her under whom she has sunk; and he who is defeated in Love, endures the severest goadings of the Passion towards a prosperous competitor, whose claims he cannot perceive to be greater than his own. From these two Sources, this Tragedy has its natural foundation in the Passion of Envy.
to the right honorable Lord Harrowby.
Albina had the Honour of being shown to your Lordship almost in her Infancy. Her faults, or her graces, you are already acquainted with, as she grew up also, in some degree, beneath your Lordship’s eye. She is now arrived at maturity; and if, in her present state, my Lord, you should find her more polished than when she had last the honour of your attention, it is chiefly owing to the hints with which you then favoured me.
Pray, pray, come back! The Author, Sir, declares
That, if you speak—
Hang Authors, and their airs!
I say I will speak, though she fire with rage,
What Rights has She upon our Summer Stage?
With dismal stories, and long acts in Verse,
Solemn, and slow paced, like a midnight hearse?
Hey-dey! from floor to roof, such crouded rows
As though we shivered in December’s snows!
Absurdly odd!—Beneath a burning sky
To croud it here, to pant, and sob, and cry,
Whilst Madmen swagger, and their Madams die!
’Twas my advice to keep these doors close shut
Against that ranting, murder-minded, Slut
Melpomene; I never yet could see
Those charms of her’s—I’m sure she’s none for me!
My Mistress—little Thal, you know I mean
The laughing Goddess of the Comic Scene,
She sent me hither, dubbed me Plenipo—
Dear Parsons! Quick! she cried, this instant go,
Fly to yon Audience, who in Judgment sit,
And plead Our Cause before the Jury Pit.
Tell them this Authorling abjures my reign,
To fill my haughty Sister’s sanguine train;147 L2r 147
A lawless Rebel, from my Banner flown—
I call for Justice—justice from the Town!
—I’ll do’t, said I; and then, in aid of you,
My wrongs I’ll usher to their Worships too;
Me, she forsakes, her little Doiley slights,
He who hath played so many weary nights,
So talked of Algebra, and Greek, and Latin,
That larned Scholards could no word squeeze pat in.
Down with her Tragedy! down, down, ye Wits!
For, me and Thal the fickle Baggage quits;
Spoil her Heroics! her new Buskins doff!
And then— Enter Mrs. Massey. The original Performer of Albina.
You there! oh, oh—then I must off!
Not write in Tragic stile!—pray tell me Why?
Who made you laugh, perchance may make you cry.
When the Light Scenes, our Author’s pencil drew,
Extorted, all she asked, a Smile from you,
Her Mind, encouraged, new-born ardor caught,
A loftier fancy, and sublimer thought;
To her rapt eye the Martial Ages rose,
And, as her Muse impelled, the story flows,
Whilst hideous Envy lurking plans its Crimes,
Midst Gaudes and Tournaments of feudal times.
’Tis true, she calls you from th’ attractive shade
The zephyr’d Meadow, and the leafy Glade;
And, not to cheer with Satire’s poignant hit,
Ironic Humour, and the flash of Wit;
Her Wand she waves, and instant to your eyes
Tempestuous Passions, guilty deeds, arise!L2 148 L2v 148
For these, our Author’s magic Circle’s drawn,
For these she bids you from the fragrant Lawn,
To shrink with Fear, to melt with tender Woe,
And feel the pleasing tear of Pity flow.
Yes, tears she means to prompt, whilst you secure,
Amidst the raging storm the wreck endure,
From hottest tempest safe, within this pale,
Where ventilators catch the cooling gale.
But, should a Tempest in your quarter rise,
’Twould scare us more than thunder in the skies;
You, harmless midst our storms, your place ensures,
Do you then save us harmless, Sirs, from your’s!
The King.Richard I. of England. Mr. Usher.
Westmoreland.Father of Albina. Mr. Digges.
Edward.Her Lover. Mr. Dimond.
Gondibert.Her Brother in Law. Mr. Palmer.
Hengist.An Officer. Mr. Egan.
Egbert.Steward to Gondibert. Mr. Aiken.
Oswald.Steward to Westmoreland. Mr. Gardner.
Gwillim.Albina’s Servant. Mr. R. Palmer.
Albina.Daughter of Westmoreland. Mrs. Massey.
Elfrida.A reduced Dependent on her. Miss Sherry.
Adela.Attendant on Elfrida. Mrs. Poussin.
Ina.Albina’s Attendant. Mrs. Le Fevre.
Act the First.
Scene I.A magnificent Gothic hall. Enter Earl Westmoreland and Hengist.
Report my pledged obedience to the King,
Tell him his gracious Summons I’ll obey,
And meet the Council at th’ appointed hour.
Yet still I hope the flying rumour false!
Too well, my Lord, the tidings are confirmed;
The sacrilegious Saracen hath broke
The Peace he asked; again the Crescents blaze
Throughout the Holy Plains, whilst yellow streamers,
Borne by the fickle air which late embraced
The Christian Standard, to the World proclaim
The impious War.
Time! render back the years
When such a tale as this had fired my soul,
And sent me ’gainst th’ unrighteous camp in haste
Of holy zeal! The Fire’s not yet extinct,
But, cankering Age the sinews of my youth
Hath worn away!
Bewail not Age, so graced;
Which, in its slow advance, to gain a welcome,
Brought Honours Triumphs and a Nation’s Love!
Forbear! Thou com’st a messenger of War,
Away then all the flattering arts of Peace
And deal in words more suited to the Times!
Your pardon, Lord!—Know then, the King in haste
His veteran Nobles orders to attend.
A powerful Army he, to Asia’s plains,
In person leads. Mean time, ten thousand warriors
Depart as his precursors to the field,
Led on by him they love, the gallant Edward,
Who, ere the down of youth forsook his cheek,
Deeds had performed that Laurel’d Age might envy.
His Manhood will fulfil his Youth’s high promise;
He a bright star in early splendor rose,
And will in Glory set. Had Heaven bestowed
On me a Son like him, without Regret
I’d nerveless sink into the seat of Age,
Count his exploits, upon his deeds grow vain,
And, when my country claimed her Leading Warrior,
With boastful brow I’d proudly show my Son!
Though from your House a Son hath been withheld,
A Daughter was bestowed so rich in Graces,
To give attraction to her sterling Sense,
In mind so excellent—
She’s my Delight!
My only pledge of chaste connubial love;
Her Mother’s beauty, and her mother’s Worth,
Survive the grave, they live, in my Albina!
With earnestness, Lord Edward doth demand
An audience of your Grace.
Conduct him hither. Ex. Hengist and Servant.
He comes to boast a Soldier’s happiness. Enter Lord Edward.
Welcome, young Hero! I partake the transports
Which this high honour, this unsought Command,
Must give a heart that pants like your’s for Fame!
How’s this! Have I misread your heart?
Now whilst our fiery youth are all in arms,
And martial ardors dart from every eye,
Edward, as if oppressed by blushing shame,
Averts his Head!
He ought to blush, you’ll feel!
The Soldier, chosen by his King to lead
His warlike bands and carry Britain’s sword
To holy Zion’s gate, he, whose rapt breast
No flame but glory should confess,
Now stands before you with a fainting heart,
To tell a tale—of Love.
The Time’s unapt;
Yet, for the tale, why should a Soldier blush?
He who, most ardent in the sanguine field,
Contemning danger braves the whizzing storm,
Best merits conquest o’er the female heart,
He best deserves the Happiness of Love.
This, from a Hero’s mouth, my sighs doth warrant;
Edward no longer then shall fear to own
The Sway of silken tresses and of Eyes.153 L5r 153
But, Westmoreland, with equal Patience hear,
That she who raised the flame within my breast,
She who doth, pitiless, refuse my vows,
Is matchless Raimond, is—thy beauteous Daughter!
(Aside.—I thank thee, Heaven!)—Is this a sudden Passion,
Amidst the whims of youthful Fancy grown,
And, by some casual glance excited?
A faithful Love, which sprang in earliest days,
Nor know I when th’ attachment first began.
Deep in my heart she’d fix’d her beauteous form,
When, by my Father sent, I England left
For distant lands.
Did you disclose your passion to my child?
If the unartful language of mine eyes
Betrayed my hope, she knew I was her slave;
But, youthful bashfulness sealed up my lips.
And, when I left, reluctant, Albion’s shores,
Not one soft glance my longing eye could catch
To sooth the raging Passion in my breast.
But, Gallia’s shores a ready cure bestowed.
In vain the beauties of the Gallic Court
Spread forth their nets, in vain Italia’s dames
High deck’d their charms; impatient I returned
To urge my suit at your Albina’s feet—
Ah! day of grief!—she now was Raimond’s wife!—154 L5v 154
Despair and Fury seized my tortured mind,
His hated name I loathed, and—
Earl Raimond was my Son! the chosen Husband,
To whom I gave Albina!
Which, at this distant period, shake my frame,
And guess, from them, what Edward hath endured!
—Earl Raimond’s arms, and mine, against the Saracen
Our Monarch did command; and, then I proved
That I was worthy of Albina’s hand.
Fame long hath vaunted of your valiant acts.
Of Fame, of Valour, ’tis not that I boast,
’Tis not the prowess of my arm in war,
’Tis of a deed, a Ray from Rome inspired,
And you will praise.
My warmest hopes you wake!
’Twas on a day when Truce had been proclaimed
I passed beyond the lines, t’ observe the foe.
By flitting gleams of burnish’d mail drawn on
Within the ambush of a tufted thicket
Three Saracens, who waged unequal war
Against one english warrior, I espied,
My courser swiftly bore me to the spot.
Though Raimond ’twas! o’erpow’r’d and prone on earth,
Yet, with my shelt’ring sword I cleft the arm,
Which, aiming at his heart, full soon had pierced.
By Hope inspired he rose—and we were victors!
Talk not of Roman, ’twas a Briton’s act!
And suited well a Christian Warrior—
Go to Albina, plead your passion, firmly,155 L6r 155
She must, she shall, reward thy Truth and Honour!
Tell her, her Father doth approve thy suit,
And speeds thee, with his Wishes, to her heart.
For this, great Westmoreland, I thank thee; but,
Her vainly I’ve assail’d with fervent vows.
Cold Sorrow still the beauteous dame detains
In frozen mood, and all Love’s arrows chills.
In woman’s Feints not yet have you been versed.
You, who can brave Bellona when she shakes
The spear of war, I warrant are dismayed
At Beauty’s frown, and tremble if she sweep
Her train in scorn! But, you must learn to bear
With numerous fancies, Vanity must view
In every shifting form, yet still be pleased,
Still patiently admire—or, never hope
A woman’s phantasy to win.
Albina never claimed; yet, if ’twere so,
Whole years I’d pass, a vassal to her wish,
And would be any thing her mind should will.
—But now, to those sweet homages which Love
Delights to pay, a fated limit’s fixed;
The third day hence, I quit for Palestine.
The period’s short! It scarcely time accords
To break a piece of gold; or carve her name,
Entwined with your’s upon the Willow’s bark!
Ah! my good Lord, thus lightly treat not pain!
For, if I leave her Raimond’s Widow still,
’Twill exile me till death; if Edward’s Bride—
With prompt delight I will return in Triumph,
Lay my proud Laurels at Albina’s feet,
And seek no further glory than her Love.
Well, to my Daughter I will urge your suit;156 L6v 156
This do I owe the love your father bore me,
And to the fame your Virtues have attained.
Here meet me, in an hour, and hope Success.
This, noble Westmoreland, I dared to hope.
—Whilst joy and gratitude, like fires confined,
Struggle within my heart for utterance,
My tongue, uncustom’d to descant on these,
Denies due words;—yet, trust me Sir—
For purposes more fit; Words Ladies win,
But Soldiers only can be gained by Deeds.
Scene II.A garden, belonging to Albina. Enter Elfrida, followed by Adela.
Why shines the Sun thus gaily all around!
The feather’d habitants of Air, whose tones
Mellifluous enchant the ear, almost
Seem with their cheery notes my woes t’ insult.
What, then throughout the range on nature’s beings
Am I the most unblest?—They, almost conscious,
Chant songs of cheerfulness for good possessed,
No good I know, no Gratitude I feel,
An Outcast and undone!
Your sorrows, Madam,
With passing time encrease!
To griefs like mine,
Time brings no lenient balm. Each dawning day
Is a fresh record of my abject state.
Born, Adela, to lofty Name and Rank,157 L7r 157
Bright pomp attending on my younger years,
And blessings springing round me as I moved—
Oh! thou shouldst wonder that my swelling soul
Can stoop, a moment, to this vile dependence—
It cannot stoop! chance hath depress’d my state,
Still unsubdued is my aspiring Mind!
You think too deeply; sorrows, keen as your’s,
Chequer the common course of human life.
’Tis from our Feelings sorrows have their Force—
What then are mine? State, Fortune, Rank, with all
The joys they bring, torn from my eager hold,
Torn from my hold, still present to my thoughts;
Their shadows haunt me as I bend my frame,
And, in humility, receive my bread!
Alas! you think unjustly of Albina;
Still amiable and good, she sooths your griefs,
And, with unceasing kindness—
And was I then for kindly Pity born?
Thou, who art left the sole remaining wreck
Of my lost grandeur, knew’st me once her Equal.
Her Goodness tortures me; Earl Sibald’s Heiress
Should grant, and not receive; she should protect,
Not seek protection.
Though dependent now,
Yet still, such blessings do attend your state—
Thou, Adela! to meek Dependence born,
Enjoy’st its scanty Comforts; me they torture.
The height, from which I fell, I must reclimb!
Not with the Linnet doth the Eagle build,
Or stoop to batten with the lowly Wren.
Why struggle thus with Fate? The noble Countess158 L7v 158
Your Welfare studies, and deserves your Love.
Had I ne’er fall’n, and did I not depend,
I might perhaps esteem, perhaps e’en love her;
But now!—My whole Fate learn, then think thee well
What thoughts she gives me! Know that ’tis through Edward,
Through Edward only, I can hope to gain
The glorious steep whence tyrant Fate hath cast me.
But this Albina, she whom I must love!
His sordid vows, in nets of gold, hath caught.
And, had you, through Lord Edward, hopes!
Why, ’twas his Father that brought woe on your’s,
Through him Earl Sibald was of Treason tainted,
He hurled the ruin that o’erwhelms your house,
Caused all the ills you mourn.
Have I forgot?
No.—His stern Loyalty made me an Orphan!
But, Edward shall repair my bitter wrongs.
My Lineage is as great as thine, proud Countess!
My Form as well befits a Lover’s vow;
The only Boon Elfrida can accept
Is, to partake his Greatness and his Name,
That would be boon indeed, all less is Insult!
But doth then Edward――will this fate be your’s?
The Countess stands ’twixt me and every hope!
Had Fortune smiled less lavishly on her,
Edward’s whole heart had been resigned to me,
And I restored to all my early honours.
And why not still? for she, reserved and cold,159 L8r 159
With unselecting eye each lover sees,
And Edward sinks, unmarked, amidst the croud.
Raimond! still Edward scorn; and Edward! learn,
That all my native Hate is but suspended,
My mind’s in equipoise, alike prepared
To deem thee Lover, or to deem thee foe!
The Countess, and her Father, quick approach.
Ah! then retire, unseen. Exit Adela.
My low estate
May make me deemed obtruder in their way—
This sheltering Bower conceals me from their view.
Oh, my good Lord, urge not your daughter thus!
Ne’er be it said of noble Raimond’s Widow
That she grew sick of weeds in one short year,
And lightly changed them for the Bridal Vest.
More time than that has passed, in pensive hours,
Since your late Lord’s lamented Obsequies:
He was, by me, selected for your husband,
Whom you, in Duty, took.
In Duty mourn.
Nay, had Albina’s heart forgot the Virtues
Which made her Lord so worthy of its love,
Yet still, she dares not slight the laws of Custom,
Nor theme for slander give licentious tongues.
Enough to custom, and to grief, thou’st given.
Because, some months, you bore the name of Wife,
Wilt waste thy blooming youth in widowhood?
I have not sworn to hear no second love.
To Raimond’s mem’ry grant another year,
And then――In truth, my Lord, you prompt my tongue
Beyond Discretion’s bounds!
Come, come, Albina;
Though, to a Lover, you might wear this guise
Of coy reserve, yet, to a Father’s eye,
Your Mind should now appear as legible
As in the days of prattling Infancy.
Raimond deserved the render of your tears,
And you have paid full tribute to his Worth.
—Consider, now, the brave the youthful Edward,
The prize for whom contending Beauties strive!
His name and wealth amongst the first are ranked,
And high he stands in royal Richard’s favour.
I know his merits, have perceived his Love;
Nay, I will own, my dying Lord from Palestine
Did, in his parting message give me charge,
That, if again the holy marriage bonds
I e’er should wear, that I should chuse, beyond
All others chuse, his Friend the noble Edward—
But, did not bid me, o’er his turfless grave,
Blithe Hymeneals sing!
Then his Dirge chaunt
In junction with Lord Edward’s, who may soon
Cease also to exist; more he of Love
Than War the victim.
Perchance of War.
In three days he returns to Palestine,
Our Royal Master hath on him bestowed
The levies for the Holy plains; from which161 M1r 161
He’ll ne’er return, if you’re not left his Wife!
Can this be true? Or, mean you, Sir, to try
Whether within my heart there be concealed
More love for Edward than Reserve would own?
So thick a Veil chaste Coyness did not weave
As to conceal your Love. To Holy Land
He surely goes;—in triumph to return,
Or stay till death—Albina must decree!
Then, coy reserve and woman’s wiles farewell!
My fears force off the veil I still would wear—
Oh, shield my burning blushes, whilst I own
Edward is dear unto Albina’s heart
As fame or conquest to the banner’d Hero.
—When on Lord Raimond you bestowed my hand,
E’en then, the Image of the blooming Edward
Made Duty to my heart an arduous task!
But, Virtue aided my devoted mind,
And Raimond’s worth, and manly tenderness,
Had, I believed, converted all my love—
Till freedom taught that virtue had but hid,
Not razed, the deep impression had been made.
Well may my heart be proud of such a Daughter!
How pure the transport, exquisite the joy,
By favouring Heaven for Parents’ minds reserved,
When, from the fiery combat of the Passions,
Their children rest untainted in the strife!
—By Honour guarded, and by Virtue crown’d,
To thee I give, a Child’s supremest gain,
Most glorious meed, a grateful Father’s thanks!
My Lord, you surely do o’errate the Merit,
Where to have failed were gross and deadly shame!
The best reward, Albina, thee awaits;
Thy Edward loves thee, loves with fervent truth.Vol. I M 162 M1v 162
Yield then thy hand to him who rules thy heart,
Let me to-morrow greet Lord Edward—Son!
Oh, grant a longer space—a few short days,
To chase the sadness from my widowed brow;
Lest I insult the blissful marriage feast
With pensive looks ill suited to the day.
Within three days must Edward England quit,
For hostile camps, and scenes of savage war!
Necessity demands the hurried Rite.
Tomorrow bless—the man thy country honours!
A Father, yes, your Father asks the boon.
The deed my Father asked, my lips, or heart,
Have never yet denied; tomorrow then,
Since you my Lord command, tomorrow’s sun
Beholds Lord Raimond’s Widow—Edward’s Bride.
May all that’s good then reach you with its beams!
May passing moments dissipate regrets,
Ye which approach, come teeming with delight,
To chear the Dawn that crowns her truth and virtue.
Oh, be distinguished in Time’s ebbing course,
Replete with blessing, full of virtuous joy,
The favour’d morn that makes Albina happy!
May vengeance mark it! Torture! are my views,
Like air-formed visions fled? The darling Hope,
Enriching distant prospect, is no more,
And I awake to horror. Mad’ning thought—
Albina triumphs and Elfrida’s scorned!
In lieu of all of yesterday’s gay dream
I’m but to view, a haughty rival’s bliss,
At grov’ling distance see her towering fate163 M2r 163
And then, in Envy, pine away my life!
In tears, Elfrida! Whence such mark of woe
Whilst Joy and Happiness beam forth on me?
Let Cause exist, I too will boast of Joy.
Hear then a cause! You know, with ardent passion
The noble Edward long hath sought my Love;
Now know that, though concealed, the tender flame
Within my bosom glowed; and that, tomorrow,
The holy Rite will sanctify our love.
You, justly may rejoice—but, on Elfrida
When will fortune shine, that she may yield
Her heart to Joy and beam her face with smiles?
What bliss e’er shone on me, that reached not you?
Come, chase away this unavailing gloom!
Albina is your Friend, and, in her love,
Thou may’st find shelter from the World’s chill frown.
This air of Patronage I feel my bane
More poignant than Contempt. Aside.
I thank you much!
Well do I know myself your Bounty’s creature,
Your table feeds me, and your coffers clothe;
I, who boast Ancestry as great as your’s,
Remain dependent on your charity!
And blame you me for this, unjust Elfrida?
Your ruin’d fortunes often have I mourn’d,
And soothed your sorrows with a Sister’s kindness—
You seem to lack your usual Courtesy!
Nay, pardon then!—Untemper’d like my Sex,
I have no sympathy with Lover’s thoughts;
Their hopes, their fears, their soft solicitudes,M2 164 M2v 164
Find here no Unison. The fire which heats
My breast is fiercer flame—is bright Ambition!
Ambition was not destined for our Sex;
Leave it to bolder Man, whose mind capacious
Is aptly fitted to so proud a guest!
A sweeter inmate Nature gave to us,
As a fond parent to her last born child
For Woman she her choicest gift reserved,
And portion’d her with generous Love.
May’st thou be ever stranger to my heart!
Whoe’er doth nourish thee a Traitor feeds,
Will rob her of repose, her virtue snare.
Thou, merciless, obscur’st the virgin’s fame,
As misty vapours veil Aurora’s rise
O’erclouding all her chearful Morn of life!
The Fate pronounced on disobedient Woman
By Love’s conveyed, inflicted, and fulfilled.
Oh, ’tis all false! Thou dost ill judge the source
From which each Blessing springs.—Oh rather say
The heart, untouched by love, is like a lute
Which, yet untuned, hath Discords only given,
For, that no Master hath its powers called forth.
When tender feelings, of a female heart
Your bosom shall not pain, Elfrida find me.
First will I find—th’ impetuous Gondibert!
—What Revolutions have been worked by Love?
And shall less Sway be held by proud Ambition?—
Ambition! thou whose flame can only live
In minds from those gross elements refined
Of which the Herd of human kind are made—
The passion slaves but fools shall yield to thee!
I’ll strait to Gondibert, whose long check’d rage
Shall, like a torrent from its mound, break forth
O’erwhelming all restraint. His furious transports,
With voice of Friendship, guilefully, I’ll stir,
And guide them to my purpose at my Will!
Act the Second.
Scene I.A Gothic colonnade. Enter Gondibert, followed by Egbert
My Lord, your sorrows break my aged heart!
I do entreat you, yield your ear to Reason!
When in schools you studied,
I’ve heard you much of Reason vaunt, Philosophy
And Virtue;—now, when all their aid you need,
You spurn them, with a blind contempt, away!
They have no force, no power, beyond the Schools
Wherein they’re taught. Dost think the fools who preach ’em
E’er felt, like me, the energies of Passion,
The mental torture of a hopeless Love?
That it is hopeless is a cause—
Egbert thy Lecture cease! thy chilly blood,
Creeping with torpid calmness through thy veins,
Ill suits thee for a counsellor to me.166 M3v 166
Give me, one yet feels fire! one, whose high mind,
Superior to the Shackles of his youth,
Makes Virtue and Philosophy subserve,
Not stoops to be their Slave!
That word is torture!
It is a viper’s sting, an incantation
That conjures up remorseless fiends to rack me.
Oh! that she were not Sister!—Egbert, Egbert!
I could turn girl, and weep for what I’ve lost.
A single day before my brother’s marriage
I from the war returned, when first she met
My fascinated eye ’twas at the altar!
In truth, my Lord, your Fortitude was tried.
Oh! were the Sun, refulgent through the day,
Its beams to dart amidst the shades of night,
Not more amaze would seize the mind of man
Than seized on me when I beheld Albina,
As there, in snowy robes bedeck’d, she seemed
Incarnate Chastity.—One week had saved me!
I know the earnest pleadings I’d have urged
Would soon have taught the timid beauteous maid
That Raimond were for Gondibert well changed.
Your Sorrow, then, you virtuously o’ercame;
Why should it now, with strength revived, break out?
Wherefore revive?—Does she not wed again!
I could have passed my life without a bliss
Beyond the rights which custom gives a Brother;
To see her every day, to fix my eyes
Whole hours, with timid love, upon her face,167 M4r 167
To feast my ears with the bewitching notes
Of her sweet voice—this still were Happiness!
’Twould be a snare, that might entangle both
In irremediable woe!
For I do swear such mastery of love
Had I obtained, to such Refinement brought it,
With greater purity ne’er Angels loved,
No wish unhallowed lived within my breast;
But, when her heart she gives up to another—
Oh, yield not thus, my Lord, to passions wild;
The mental fever will disturb your Reason
With images that no where do exist
But in your Fancy’s colouring.
As my ill star, doth ever cross my fortune.
His headlong valour in the field my Name
Obscured, and, in the tournament at Orleans,
In th’ eye of France, he bore from me the crown:
And, now, he robs me of the scanty bliss,
Possessing which, in truth I envied not
His Trophies or his Fame.
Then be revenged!
Strive to regain the Fame of which you’re robbed;
Court Glory, greet her in the fields of Death,
She’s the fit mistress for your Years and Rank.
Shame! to waste youthful hours in languid sighs,
In which your trophied Ancestors obtained
Their deathless names, by feats of valorous might
Atchieved for England!
No! she shall not wed:
All Arts I’ll try, and if they fail, this arm—
This arm shall steep their marriage torch in blood.
How the fair mind on man bestowed from Heaven,
All perfect source, fell Passion doth destroy!
Why, Gondibert would once have shrunk from Vice
As the chaste plant doth shrink from mortal touch.
His Virtue, strength’ning with Age, I’ve seen
Firm him amidst untoward Fortune’s shocks;
But now, unhallowed Love his mind doth sap,
And vice hopes triumph o’er a noble Ruin.
’Tis I must save him! If one spark of Virtue
Yet ember in his mind, oh! grant me Heaven
Afresh to wake it to immortal flame!
Scene II.An apartment. Edward and Albina, sitting.
Blest the Commission which thou seem’st to dread;
But for the King’s command, I might have sigh’d
More irksome Years, without a gleam of hope,
Nor known the transport—that I’m dear to thee!
That rapt’rous thought will give thy Edward’s arm
Resistless force, is presage sure of Victory.
Ah! Love, that ruled your breast, whilst Doubts and Fears
Kept waked its flame, yields place to Glory now:
Your Eye, by strong Imagination fired,
Impatient glances for the burnish’d field,
The clang of arms arouses every sense,
The shouts of Triumph vibrate in your ear,
Whilst you’re again the Hero and forget
Love and Albina.
Then may Cowardice169 M5r 169
Unnerve this arm, when, with our valiant hosts,
I meet in war the mockers of our faith!
As soon shall I, amidst attesting Nations,
Be known to yield, and, trembling, plead for Mercy,
As, for one moment, to forget Albina—
’Twas but o’er thee, mine eye delighted roved,
They were Love’s glances that you thus accuse!
Will you, of me, in battle’s Conflict think,
And will you, when impulsive Glory prompts
To some advent’rous charge, remember then
That ’tis Albina’s life which you expose?
Mere War and Conquest! what are ye to this?
Yes, I do swear to you, sweet Arbitress,
That if rash enterprize e’er court my daring
Thy bright enchanting image shall withhold me.
My life, no common one to thee united,
Marked out for bliss extreme, and every joy,
As thine I will preserve.
This Picture take.
As the shrill trumpet awful signal gives,
Ere in the dreadful Ardor of the fight
Reflection’s lost, attach it to your breast;
And, glancing as you fix it, think its Smiles
To Terror turned, the cheerful eye bedimmed
With anxious tears, its lips reproaching you
With deeming lightly of the life, to her
Engaged whose form it bears.
How utter thanks
For this rich gift? It is a talisman,
Which shall protect me singled out by Death,
And parry each Assault.
Claims audience of your private ear.
He hath a Brother’s right,
And, for his Brother’s sake, he doth regard me.
Indulge us now, my Lord, with privacy;
This day o’er past—oh, may the sound delight!
My embassies of thee must audience ask.
Farewell my beauteous and beloved Albina!
How dear, how precious, doth the time become,
Teeming with happiness like mine! To leave
A Moment now, seems a lost Day in love. Exit.
Enter Gondibert. Th’ obtruder pardon, Madam, who, unbidden,
Breaks on your happy hours.
This stern excuse,
And that impassion’d air, seem meant for chiding;
Such looks sit strangely on a Brother’s brow,
Are most unkind!
Smiles, and unruffled looks,
Become those favoured youths who at the feet
Of placid Beauty may――oh! Raimond, Pardon!
Fain would I speak to thee with utmost calm,
But, tides of passion bear me from my aim!
Of what would’st speak?
Of whom? Lord Edward?
Yes, Edward! he――your Paramour!
Is this, this rude, reproof from Gondibert!
From whom then should it, Madam, but his Brother
Whose Memory you hold so light? These Sables
Ill suit the vivid spirit of your eye;
Your air, as ill, the sober guise of widowhood.
My Lord, a Brother’s privilege you stretch
Beyond due reach. Doth Gondibert presume—
Does he Albina dare accuse in words
That would befit the loosest of her sex!
The probe of truth gives Pain, but, bear it still.
The public voice condemns so prompt a marriage,
And maidens blush, that she, who lately shone
The bright the envied sample of her sex,
Now sudden, like a flighty fawn, o’ersprings
The prison fence she painfully endured.
Tears would disgrace me now! Bethink you, Sir,
’Tis Raimond’s widow whom you thus insult!
’Tis his, your Brother’s, honour that you wound
With these base taunts.—I do believe you’re false;
The public voice dares not arraign my conduct—
Or, if it did!—the Brother of Lord Raimond
Their slander ought to punish, not avow.
Oh! he would trample on the slanderer
Of Raimond’s faithful Widow, with his blood
With life itself defend her name, her honour.
—To imputations cast on Edward’s Wife!
He can unmoved, and unrevenged, give ear.
The Wife of Edward needs no other arm;
He will protect me—He’s my guard and champion.
Then arm him! and, in me behold the Guard,
The Champion of dead Raimond’s tarnish’d Name,
Dishonoured by this Love.
Where’s the proud Dame that would not deem her Glory
Lord Edward’s love? Is there a fame more bright
In Richard’s court? His noble Birth were vulgar
View’d with his nobler qualities. His Mind
All skill enriches and bright Virtue guards.
Perish his Fame—his Virtues! He’s my Hate.
Let him shun me, who harbours hate for Edward!
Farewell, my Lord! Henceforward he, alone,
Can meet a welcome here, who pays just tribute
To Edward’s worth.
Oh, stay—Albina, stay!
Ah, gone!—By fierce impetuous passion slaved,
What have I done? I’ve urged her on to Hatred,
In the sole moment that my fate allowed
To win her from the purpose that undoes me.
Fool! fool! were such the Arts I had devised?
Fury and Threats are ye the wiles of Love?
My Fate I’ve fixed, Albina will be his!
Hold, hold, my tortured Brain—one Hope’s still left;
Means still remain shall Marriage bar, or me
Shall snatch from woe.—I’ll Edward challenge,
He falls, or I; and which—to me is equal!
(Aside.—My hopes demand that Edward’s life be saved!) Seizes his Wrist
Thou dupe of fury, victim of blind rage!
Why challenge Edward to the Lists?
My Vengeance, and my Love, demand the trial;
Both must be satisfied, or me destroyed.
Obey their impulse, be revenged—and happy!
But still, Life risk not on a Rival’s sword.
What now?—Ah! meanly steal a Coward’s triumph,
My sword’s fair claim resign for ambush’d vict’ry—
Creep an Assassin on his guardless hours!
Still, wilfully, my Lord, you wrest my words.
No plot against his Life I form—then hear me;
On what Pretences canst thou challenge Edward?
Wilt thou proclaim thy Love for Raimond?—No.
At the report of such unsanction’d flame
The public ear revolts. Yet still, methinks,
He should not win Albina.
Should! say shall not!
With what an insolent Content he left her;
He passed me, but too full of bliss was he,
To see an object less than his Albina.
Sudden it struck me—Now, with how much ease,
This haughty joy might be exchanged for woe!
The heart, now swelling with triumphant Love,
A little word that taints it with Suspicion,
Like serpents’ venom, soon would change its state!
Suspicion, well awaked, doth n’er find sleep!
Suspicion of Albina!
Infuse its poison—’twill be balm to Thee!
Impossible!—the clearest Lilly grown,
Where ne’er obtrusive eye has ever roam’d,174 M7v 174
Boasts less unsullied pureness than her mind.
Though, to the World, she spotless may appear
As mountain snow, yet—could no dubious tint
By a suspicious husband be discerned!
Lord Raimond may have trusted Gondibert,
With fears which he kept chary from the world;
Or, may not you in some unguarded moment,
Admitted by a Brother’s rights, have caught
Her pure ear list’ning to the secret suit
Of some young Paramour?
Your tried Honour
Would stamp the tale with Signet of its truth,
Would force Conviction on his heart, and chase
Each Prejudice that passion could retain
To plead in Beauty’s cause.
’Tis conflict dread!
How fierce the passion, dreadful the despair,
That sinks my haughty soul to arts so mean?
Deceit! till now a stranger to my heart,
Welcome with all thy wiles! distil thy poison
To canker Edward’s peace.――Oh, still impossible!
A Look, a Tone, of her’s, would quick confute
The wiliest tale that malice could suggest.
Let him be tainted with a tinge of Jealousy—
Each Tone, each Look, will be an added Proof!
Should he be wrought to such unjust belief,
Not he alone, but all around, would scorn her,
The slander-culling Maid, the Wife, the Hypocrite,
Whilst the loose Wantons hail, with impious joy,
A Sister in Albina! ’Twere distracting!
That Form, beheld by the admiring world
With chaste Respect, shall it, with loose Contempt175 M8r 175
Be gazed on? Shall th’ angelic mind of her
My soul adores e’er feel the sting, the taunt,
That scorn must be thy hope, thy Comfort!
Think on the feelings of that grateful hour,
When Raimond, drooping, sunk, oppressed by shame
The world will lavish on her guiltless head,
By Edward left—abandoned by her Father,
The eye of Nature, Virtue, Friendship, shut,
In thee alone finds Love, Respect, and Justice!
Beholds thee sooth her woes, and share her anguish,
Discover fresh delights, new joys invoke
For their sweet antidotes to poisonous Grief—
Accomplish this! content with bounteous fate.
Oh, ’twere sufficient luxury of bliss!
I’d steal her sorrows, rob her of her griefs,
And give her, in exchange, soft peace and love.
But, oh! it could not be; me she’d regard
With a cold Sister’s brow.
’Tis said, that Love
Hath eagle sight, and glances can define,
And the soft Language of a blush explain;
But, eyes and blushes spoke in vain to you,
Or you read most perversely!
Ah! what say’st?
I charge thee, lead not to such dangerous hope—
Yet, tell me—
Tell thee! Strange, that Gondibert,
He who can penetrate the veil of policy,
Detect the Sophist’s art, and trace the chain
Whose hidden links controul the Will of man,
That he should need be told, what not to know
Argues gross blindness, or fixed will to err.
Blindness to what? Elfrida, speak—Explain!
Recal then to your mind the marriage months
Of her first Lord.—Did never then complaint,
No word ambiguous, e’er escape his lips,
Reflecting on the Coldness of Albina?
Her coldness—ah!—What then?
Nay, answer me!
Can you remember?
Yes! I’ve ne’er forgot,
That, as he feasted once my greedy ear
With praises of his Bride, he sudden stopt,
And, with a sigh, a sigh which seemed t’ escape
From his heart’s centre, said—Yet! Gondibert,
All good and beauteous as she is—but yet
Her icy heart with true love’s uninspired.
Albina’s heart was to her husband cold,
Aye!—for a happier youth alone ’twould flame.
A happy youth, unconscious of his sway,
The Countess loved—blind Gondibert was he!
Then, I’m self-ruin’d—oh! it cannot be;
Albina loved not me—or, if she did,
Tell me, perfidious woman! torturous! tell
Why didst the Secret until now conceal—
Why now reveal it?
To confirm your purpose;
Me hath compassion to your griefs impell’d
Now to reveal a confidence reposed—
No, not reposed; the tale I owe to Chance.
Elfrida! thou awak’st my utmost Soul,
Its faculties its powers in one are merged,177 N1r 177
No sense have I but ear.
Oppressed with Cares,
As once upon a couch I had reclined,
To gain a short repose, Albina enter’d.
Tender her look, deep thought was in her eye,
Which, pensively, upon the vacant air
She fixed, then turned it eager on the wall
Where you, a Mars, the living canvas shews,
And, for a while, with ardent gaze, survey’d it.
Then breath’d—Had I the pencil held, that Helmet
Had been Love’s Chaplet; and the uncouth armour
Upon that Form, bright Hymen’s flowery robe—
I started, she espied me, and with shame
O’ercome, and sinking on her knee with fear,
Conjured me, by the love I bore her fame,
By all the sacred Honour of our sex,
Ne’er to divulge, ne’er whisper e’en to air,
The fatal secret, which, through chance, was mine.
It is enough—she loved! Albina loved—
The truth revealed quick flashes on my heart,
And all its regions greet the rapturous guest!
Thousand sweet tokens now afresh start up,
Breaking like sudden sun-beams on my mind.
Blind fool! to feast on Fancy—dream of happiness—
Whilst one, more daring, gains Reality,
Trust me, my Lord, can you but thwart the marriage,
To her First Love she will again return
With heighten’d ardour, and with chidings meet
Thy tardy vows, that gave another leave
To ask the heart she’d fain have given thee.
Oh, ’tis a bribe would tempt my soul to earth
Back from the gates of Paradise. Thou PhantomVol. I N 178 N1v 178
Honour! hide thy stern head;—Conscience! go sleep,
’Till love successful give thee Leave to prate,
Then will I hear thee, will, in Friar’s cowl,
My mad sin wail, monastic rigours think
Too slight, too poor, a penance for my joy.
T’ escape suspicion’s prying eyes we’ll part:
When favouring shades of night shall wrap all men
In doubtful semblance, meet me in the garden;
There Edward you shall see, and give his mind
The dread conviction which I mean t’inspire.
Commands, like Mystic Oracles, you give,
Concealing Fate in dark mysterious words;
To thee, sweet Priestess, I resign myself,
Nor dare, beyond what you reveal, enquire.
—Swift flit the hours! until again we meet.
So!—then to make despairing Love courageous
Is no less easy than t’alarm the Jealous.
—How self-degraded seems now Lordly Man!
A being formed, in nature’s Vanity,
To shew how great, how exquisite, her skill,
With Mind so powerful that the Universe
In its vast scheme its reach eludes not,
Lets thus one passion Powers so great absorb,
And yields them all mere slaves to Phantasy!
Act the Third.
Scene I.The garden. Elfrida, seated.
Lord Gondibert, methinks, is slow! The sun
His last beams darts from the illumined West
Pale twilight ushers pensive Evening on
And he not yet arrived!—Oh! did he feel
The keener jealousies Ambition gives,
He would outstrip a Bridgegroom in his haste,
And grudge each moment, as an added Day
Would intervene ’twixt him and happiness. Rising.
—A step advances! surely then ’tis he.
Oh, Fortune! aid me in th’ approaching conflict!
My fate is busy, and, in cunning guise,
Now weaves the tissue of my future life.
Whate’er th’ events, I have a mind shall meet them!
Fearless I launch my bark, at once to sink,
Or ride triumphant through the coming storm.
Me pardon, Lady, if I dare disturb,
With step unwish’d, your evening meditation,
I surely may, without offence to Heaven,N2 180 N2v 180
E’en draw down pious thought to Earth awhile
To watch o’er Virtue.
Egbert! prithee brief.
My tale, alas! is fraught with shame and sorrow;
Sorrow that I must yield up him to shame,
Whom to behold to height of Glory raised
All that remains to me of health and life
I’d freely yield. I pray you now conduct me
Strait to Lord Edward and his pledged Albina.
Lord Edward, and the Countess—ah! say wherefore?
A story to divulge that in their ears
Alone should be reposed.
Methinks your errand
An air suspicious wears; its purport surely
To me you may entrust.
I well know, Lady,
You long have been the Countess’s tried friend,
And that, from you, no Secret in her breast
She locks. This, then, to you shall be disclosed,
Though of much weight, and must be chary kept.
Prithee then quick—
Lord Gondibert ill bears
To see the widow of his noble Brother
So soon forget his death, and light again
The nuptial torch; he discord means t’excite
Betwixt Lord Edward and his promised bride,
And tales, with this design, hath framed that—
Start not, nor view severely, gentle Lady,
This first, this only, error of his life!
When Time shall dissipate the mist of Passion
He’ll then rejoice we saved him from an act
Which all his future days would taint with horror.
Trusts you, then, Gondibert with this design!
Not with the Circumstance he means to urge:
I drew his purpose from disparted converse.
He hopes to disunite the noble pair
Ere morning dawns.
Is this your errand then?
This is my errand; to secure their hearts
From fierce distracting pangs, when things are heard
That else might break their troth.
’Tis well, old man!
I now go hence your message to convey,
Await you here the orders I may bring!
Heaven! pardon that I break my faith to him,
Whom I am bound to serve;—I serve him now!
I drag him from the very act of guilt,
Which all his future days, in deep remorse
And deeds of virtue spent, could ne’er call back
How deep soe’er ’twere mourn’d.
Seize that old traitor!182 N3v 182
And instant in the deepest dungeon plunge him;
The Countess wills it.
Horror! this for me?
For thee; who falsely dost defame thy patron,
Attaint the honour of Lord Gondibert!
Away! nor listen to his prayers.
Be not thus cruel to my hoary years!
Egbert would Gondibert ne’er hurt—
For thou, with rude and most unseemly speech,
Didst comments make upon the deeds of him
Whose errors should by thee be hidden, screen’d
From every mortal eye.—Why stand ye loit’ring?
’Tis from your Mistress the command I bring;
With you the peril, if obedience fail!
Oh! hear me! hear me, for the sake of him—
When fools like you will prate, ye must be caged,
Lest ye should babble to the gaping world
Of things ye know not to appreciate.
—To chuse that dotard for a confidant!
Better have told the story at the mart,
Or to the mummers who infest our Halls,
To be by them personified on Eves
And Holidays.—Of this imprisonment
Must not know Gondibert! If he survive
These days of trouble, he may gain release;
Meantime, Discretion he’ll be fitly taught.
Scene II.Another part of the garden. Enter Egbert and Gwillim.
Oh, wonder not! that I so slowly move
Towards so sad a home! If I might plead—
Master, fear nought! Thou shalt have sleep to night
More sweet than her’s, not in a loathsome dungeon,
But, in repose upon thy soothing couch.
Thank thee! how kind is this, and christianly,
I fear’d you too were leagued for my destruction.
Didst thou then think I had forgot the hour
In which you soothed, in my yet infant eyes,
The falling tear, assuaged my grief-swoln heart,
And placed me in Earl Raimond’s family,
Where thus to cherish’d Manhood I have grown?
Thou, then, wert my preserver—I’m now thine!
In truth, surprise and terror so dismayed me,
I knew you not; now that I do, I bless you.
Such orders by the Countess ne’er were given;
But proud Elfrida’s power makes all unsafe
Who thwart her. In that Grotto thou may’st bide
Till Ev’ning grows more dark; then, use this key,
It leads you to the grove. Farewell, good Egbert!
Farewell, my Friend! tomorow, better thanks
I will present thee. Heaven! ’twas not thy will,
That I should perish for an act of Duty.
Forgive, that thus my Confidence did fail,
And, for a moment, leave me to despair!
The bright design exceeds my utmost hope!
Some sympathetic Spirit, once mere man
Subject to Passion’s sway, the scheme inspired,
In largess’d pity to my tort’rous pains
Bestowed the vision on thy quick’ning brain!
—Thou who thy welfare thus for me dost hazard
How can I gift thee for thy generous aid?
To your great Brother I incurred the debt
That I have now existence. ’Tis but just
That I, for you, risk welfare he bestowed.
But where is now this Edward, who hath thrust,
’Twixt me and my felicity, his claim?
—Though thou on pedestal of fame art perch’d
And boast’st thy fate in such a glorious stand,
Edward, beware! or I will have thee down
Though crush’d with thee in fall.—Say where he is?
With Raimond, cheering now, perchance, his fancy
With the bright prospect of tomorrow’s fate.
Ne’er shall that morrow come, or, if it doth,
The coursing sun, that cheers them at the Altar,185 N5r 185
Shall finish his diurnal round in blood.
Try bloodless means; give Circumstance and Proof.
Aye, stunning proof; such as would shake a faith
Germ’d in the heart ere first its pulses beat.
No Tale related, though with deepest skill,
Garnish’d with circumstance and every turn
Of art, could mar or for a moment throw
The slightest doubt on noble Raimond’s fame.
But, Demonstration’s self shall force thee Edward
To convict deem her sex’s paragon,
And yield her to thy raptur’d Rival’s wish.
Still, tale and circumstance will have their weight,
And make his mind absorbent of the proof,
Or else, as well dart arrows ’gainst a rock,
To shiver or rebound. I go to watch
Till he retires; I’ll then direct him hither.
Be sure you mark each motion of his Heart,
Probe without mercy every mental wound,
And torture him till, through his agony,
He’ll hate to think of her.
But, stirr’d up rage
May prompt him on the instant to accuse!
To counteract such transports be my care.
This lab’ring brain, my Lord, hath not so framed
The set design, for blund’ring Chance to mar.
Can I depend upon your Servants’ skill,
Their Faith, and Fortitude?
All, all, secure.
Enough, all’s well. The Dress, prepared, you’ll find.186 N5v 186
Her Antichamber, at the Signal, enter;
Noise must ne’er reach her in the Inner Room.
—The rest, some Demon to our wishes guide!
Dreadful the race!—but, Raimond is the prize!
Not Man, unguarded Nature, be accused,
Who to temptation yields our minds for prey,
Hath hung us round with Senses exquisite
And traitor Passions planted in the heart
Through which the Senses make resistless war
On poor, betrayed, defenceless, Virtue!
—The night grows dark! the Moon conceal her Orb,
Omitting with her lucid beams to gild
This act of fraud. Through thick umbrageous trees,
In hollow murmurs whistling Eurus speaks,
Around the wheeling bat her circles draws,
And dismal fancy, in yon shadowy ailes
Might conjure up an hundred startling forms!
How deep is fixed our dawning years’ impression;
The tales of Conscience-stirring sprites, that awed
Weak Infancy, now rush upon my mind,
And, spite of haughty Reason, make it shrink!
Who is’t approaches?—
What means this summons, at so late an hour?
I seek you here sent by the fair Elfrida
To hear related Secrets of much pith,
To be confided to my private ear.
Could I intrust them, Edward, to your ear,
So that the poison of the words I utter187 N6r 187
Descend not to your Heart—I’d, boldly, speak.
Surely a tale, thus guarded and hemm’d in
With words so circumspect, hath serious import—
Intruded Business suits not hours like these!
My soul now banquets on felicity,
And, all its faculties absorbed in bliss,
’Tis raised to such exalted height it scorns
So low a thought as Care.—Farewell, my friend,
You’ll be our guest tomorrow, welcome guest,
Upon the happiest morn old Time e’er gave. Going.
I charge thee, stay!—thou arrogant of bliss
My tale may bar the hymeneal feast.
Say’st thou!—Nought can, e’en for a single hour,
Suspend the bliss of calling Raimond mine!
Amazement furrows deep thy brow; but, Edward,
Albina never can be thine!—Ah! would
The Countess meant not change of state! I swear
My ever cautious tongue ne’er then had told—
But, Edward, thou’rt on sudden ruin’s edge!
’Tis that excites my voice to warn thee.
Thy words have formed strange Chaos in my soul;
There something lurks beneath their doubtful phrase
I dread to hear, yet, ask thee to unfold.
Then, summon Fortitude!
My Brother’s Widow is of mould so tender,
It freely lists a Lover’s melting plea,188 N6v 188
Nor owns an attribute so harsh as cruelty.
Her virtuous Tenderness!—Is’t unknown to me?
E’en now she promised half relunctant love,
In tone of gentle Pity sweet as note
Of Philomel whose music in the ear
Of twilight list’ner makes departing beams
Of glaring day full grateful to his eye.
Why then, to me, mysteriously descant
Upon her tenderness?
Oh! more than thee
Her tenderness with healing Pity views;
And to a secret Lover—
Truce, in a Soldier, to such female rage.
Truce, reas’ning coward, to thy blasphemy!
Coward!—thou canst not, shall not, think me thus!
Then guard thee! or I’ll grave it in thy heart!
Ah! come then on, plunge in thy weapon deep;
Be sure take heed thou dost not miss the spot
Where ill judged friendship, in that heart, doth Edward
Transform to Gondibert’s assassin.
Shrink not! appease your anger with my blood,
Then, to Albina, boast of having slain
The man who had unveil’d her to your eyes.189 N7r 189
She’ll fawn upon thee, cozen thee, and gull,
With the fond vow that have, in other ears,
Shed their sweet poison.
Should my Father’s spirit
From heaven descend t’abet thee in the tale,
E’en then I’d deem it false.
Nay then, I crave,
Think it rank falsehood, phantom of my brain.
The tale’s beyond your Nerve, I pray, no more,
Calm night to you, my Lord.
Why what impels this frame of mine to tremble!
I will have all! though every word you speak
Steal like a chilly poison through my veins—
She, who aspires to be thy Bride,
Means but to shield the guilty favour shown
A low-born favorite.
Now, thou dost lie!
By Heaven such purity was never formed
Of frail material. Her gentle passions
Are like soft zephyrs of a vernal morn
That wake the Beauties of the blushing rose,
Her every thought’s inspired by Chastity.
What dreadful broil breaks through the sombre night?
Intrusion!—In the morn we’ll meet.
Though it delay the hour the Priest expects thee,
Yet at the Altar, when thou eager meet’st
Thy chiding Bride, thou may’st atonement make,
And with the marriage ring present your sword
Stained with the blood of him whose truths unwelcome
To rob her of her Husband vainly strove.
Didst know, Elfrida, when you sent me hither,
The purport of that villain’s tale?
Affright me from the truth!—restore your sword.
Fain, fain would I escape the dreadful task;
My Duty to the Countess binds my tongue—
Spare me you must, my Lord.
I charge thee, speak!
By all the friendship which I bear to thee,
I charge thee, spare me not—all tell—tell all!
Then I confess me privy to the counsel,
That Gondibert, to you, designed to offer;
Honour demands you well to be aware!
Dost thou say this, Elfrida? thou who know’st
Each cherish’d secret of her heart!
And what I’ve said with Proof sustain.
That you will only share Albina’s love!
Those minds imbued by vice with deepest stains191 N8r 191
Are often masked in Forms almost divine,
Deck’d forth in words and looks, that Virtue’s self
Might challenge for her own—such is Albina.
If this is true, my bane then art thou Truth!
Falshood is kind, Deceit! shield me again
With thick impervious folds. Thou busy one!
Why rouze me from a lethargy of bliss?—
Yet, I’ll have Truth; if thou hast proof, present it,
If not, than Lightning swifter fly――oh, no!
But say thou’rt false, I’ll press thee to my heart!
Dare you abide the proof! Know that a Youth
In love successful now hath long possessed
Albina’s secret hours—
Oh! what self-felon
Could take advantage of relying love,
On one base hazard venture such a treasure
To be now bankrupt both of bliss and honour!
To love with Honour niggard Fate denied;
In mien Adonis, he’s of Birth so low,
Her Father, nay e’en She, would spurn at Marriage.
—No time is there for pause and management,
Abrupt the Proof must burst upon your mind.
Didst thou but dare look on, then, e’en this night
Unto her chamber thou might’st see him hie.
My brain ’twould madden!—Now! thou bear’st me down.
If but the Thought o’ercome—avoid all Proof!
Traitress! Some hell-sprung fiend doth prompt thee on—
My Duty proferr’d, conscience-quit I go.
Nay, I will with thee, that I may confute
This daring proof that innocence is guilt! Exeunt.
Enter Egbert, from the Grotto. And, is this Woman I have seen? Is’t Woman!
Whom Nature hath with gentlest feelings gifted,
With Nerves of finest tone, to feel each woe
And lead it to the Heart! Oh, I’m abash’d
That I stand kindred in creation’s scale
With such a being!――Haply was I witness
To league so base. Now, in the toils, Elfrida,
Which thou did’st spread for me, thyself art fallen!
Through our own acts thus Heaven punishes,
And makes our crimes the Sources of our Woe.
Scene III.A suite of apartments. The Door of Albina’s apartment is seen, through the folding doors of an Antichamber. Enter Edward and Elfrida.
Conceal yourself near this. The hour’s arrived
In which the Countess usually retires;
Now, summon up your Sex’s Fortitude!
—To me your Honor’s giv’n in sacred pledge
Whate’er occurs you’ll silently observe,
By interference ne’er betray my Aid!
Now Heaven!—But fear mars prayer—my sinking Heart
Scarce yields me life to breathe—and dizzy forms
In shape imperfect swim before my eyes.
—She comes! Behold her Slander! waste no shaft,
Her Chastity is evident as Truth,
It glows it animates each speaking line
Of features eloquent of virtuous thought.
Shall I attend you, Countess, to your chamber?
No, my Elfrida, for you need Repose,
Your pensive mind hath suffered much since Morn
From the sad image of misfortunes past.
Forget all now, and be by sweet Sleep soothed.
There’s the pure temple that conceals my love.
If she were naught, Nature, in league with Vice,
Hath each Charm Raimond’s made, and Virtue left
Without Attraction.――Silence reigns around.
Now, on this spot will I with patience count
The lagging moments of the night, to triumph
In the sure failure of the promised proof.
Ah—hark! My ear on guard naught now escapes,
The clicking death-watch, or the passing air,Vol. I O 194 O1v 194
Hath now a sound that chills.
Death to the Villain!
Cease! cease, my Lord—or me you will destroy!
Destruction on thee, so it reach but him!
Oh! drag him from the spot. Here, help, assist!
Your sacred honour’s pledged to me for Silence—
My Lord, ’tis ruin to me this!
His efforts failed, my Form escaped his eye,
Our victim struggles in our toils in vain!
Act the Fourth.
Scene I.An apartment in Westmoreland’s palace. Enter Oswald, Steward to Westmoreland, and Servants.
Haste to Paul’s Cross; and, be you sure, at Seven,
The Fountain spouts with Wine—spouts in full stream,
As copious as the noble donor’s bounty.
Observe, when weak or aged folk you see
Pressed by the boisterous multitude, assist them,
And let not sturdy ones take double shares.
I will be mindful of your rule.
You, Elwyn, for the populace select
An Ox well fed. For a remembering token
Of this most happy day let not the poor
Dine on poor food.
I’ll chuse the best.
Have the old pensioners received their raiment?
Marry they have, and with o’erflowing hearts.
’Tis thus our noble Master doth rejoice!
Whate’er brings joy or happiness to him,
Is pledge of joy to all within his reach.
Were his Lands bounded only by the Seas
That girt our isle, he hath a Heart as wide.
—See, he approaches! with a face as gladsome
As though he had redeemed from rav’nous Time
His own blest nuptial morn.
Come, come; no Mirth
No Bustling with ye? Are the cooks all busy?
Is the Hall trimm’d and ready for the guests?
Throughout the Household, all is as you wish.
Then all shall feel content this happy morn;
And the dejected eye of yielding sorrow
Be raised with sparkling gratitude to Heaven.
But, where’s thy joy? Thou art as old and grave
As if this only were a common morn,
Is’t not Albina’s wedding-day? Cast off
Thy Age, and be a boy! Not sportive youth
Shall go beyond old Westmoreland to-day
In all the rounds of gay festivity.
My Heart doth take its part, my honor’d Lord,
In all the happiness that beams around you.
—Behold the Sov’reign of the feast, Lord Edward!
Hail to my Son! Hail to this chosen morn
This morn of bliss! These are a Bridegroom’s hours197 O3r 197
Thou seem’st impatient of the lingering dial.
Sorrow, like Joy, impatient of the hours
Still presses onward to a change of time!
Who talks of Sorrow on a Bridal Morn?
Your tones, methinks, th’ occasion ill become!
They suit too well the tenor of my mind!
Alas! thou view’st me here no happy Bridegroom
With ardor waiting and impatient joy
To hail his blushing Bride! But, a sad wretch
Who hates the day for breaking on his woe!
My Joy hath been too powerful for my Age!
Thy words do strike mine ear; but Reason, scared,
Withholds her faculty, their Import sees not.
Oh, look not thus! My tale will rive thy heart.
Dread the very worst!
That, when the worst doth come, you may support
Quickly speak—my child is well?
Then what dread blow hath Heaven in store?
Through her alone I can affliction know—
If she be well, what ill can light on me?
Oh, speak! what labours in thy breast?
A deadly poison!—I no longer can—
Speak—speak! What’s ambush’d in thy words?
Oh Memory—dread record!—Ah! to forget!
Crimes from the conscience easier ’twere to clear;
The wrath of Heaven’s by penitence appeased,
But what, retentive brain, could raze from thee
Such ills when once they’re register’d? Albina!
To expiate thy Guilt my heart should yield
Its vital stream.
Guilt! Join her name with Guilt!
How I’ll revenge me that thou thus hast dared!
Thy honest rage I bend to with Respect,
And, whilst my heart by equal griefs is torn,
It pities thee unhappy Westmoreland!
My faith in her withstood mere Language—but
These eyes beheld him haste unto her chamber!
Whom sayst thou—thou beheld’st?
I knew him not
In night concealed. But—
Cease thy impious tongue!
Thou to its venom shalt be Antidote.
Though thou hast been deceived, and though to guile thee
Each Scheme that wickedness could frame were practised,199 O4r 199
On thee alone my Chastisement shall fall.
Thou shouldst have questioned ev’ry testimony,
Doubted each sense, and, though they all combined,
Contemn’d them all—ere thou had’st dared to cast
On Chastity the stain that, once infixed,
Mere Innocence cant cleanse. My child, though widowed
Has still Protection—and her Champion I—
I, dare thee to the Field!
I dare refuse
Thy vent’rous challenge, weak, though good, old Earl.
What! prove Albina in the face of day
Disgraced!—e’en her on whose pure chastity
Within a few short hours I would have staked
My every Hope!
Aye, cozen female rage!
But know ye, Edward, me?—I’m Westmoreland!
In our long Line of Noble Ancestry
Not one base act hath blurr’d the haughty Name,
Or tainting slander dared to breathe on it.
Unsullied I received the glorious heritance,
And will bequeath it, spotless, to the world—
Thy blood shall flow to cleanse away the stain!
Would’st thou oppose thy waning life to mine?
Thou dost forget, old Lord, that winters oft
Have left their hoary fleeces on thy head
Since thou wert meet to match with one who boasts
Th’ unslacken’d nerves of youth.
Thy vaunted nerve
I do despise. Heaven grants the strength of Youth
Shall yield to that of Virtue in the field.
This wither’d arm, in my Albina’s cause,200 O4v 200
Shall soon uncrown thee of the Laurel wreathe
That rests disgraced upon thy faithless brow.
Disgraced indeed, when spotted with thy blood!
Thy proferr’d gauntlet therefore I refuse.
Is it my Death you seek? I will, this day,
To welcome death, for Palestine depart.
Contemptuous Boy! I’ll force thee do me right.
I’ll instant to our Sovereign, and demand
The Law of Honour ere thou dost embark!
Is this my Bridal Morn? Ye tender ties
Where are ye fled? The Sun of Happiness
That blazed but yesterday will rise no more.
Be Life extinguished too! Good Westmoreland,
From contest with thy honour’d arm I shrink,
But not to live. To Holy Land I’ll speed
To bear me as a Soldier.—Oh, Albina!
The sword that must be buried in my heart
’Tis thou wilt give the victory to; the frame,
The Saracen may wound, ’tis thou unnerv’st!
My poor child, home—ah! thou must home again,
Put off thy bridal vest, resume thy weeds,
For thou art widow’d still.
What means my Father!
Oh! why didst yield to thy weak Father’s suit?
He pleaded for a villain.
A Villain, Sir!201 O5r 201
What mean these dreadful sounds? who villain— Edward!
E’en he; thou too wilt think him so!
The brightest Honour doth exalt his mind.
In him, ’tis not a scope of moral Words,
Or Schoolmen’s Speeches—but, instinctive Soul,
That starts from baseness, as Annihilation.
Alas! my Child, I judge him from—himself.
How shall I tell thee?
Thou art rejected!
Yes, he rejects thee—nay he hath accused—
Westmoreland hath lived to hear his child accused—
Support me, Heaven!—accused? speak, say, of What?
The shame will burn thy modest cheek—he dares—
Deny thee chaste!
Thee, in whose bosom Chastity is thron’d,
Thou, the bright Model of a female mind,
By Edward art accused of Licence vile—
Ah! Fate most dreadful!
Let Pride sustain thee!
O’er thy base slanderer Justice shall have sway.
Last night I recollect when, summon’d from me,
He’d passed beyond the reach of tender sounds,
He stopt, his eyes then glancing up to Heaven,
He raised his hands with emphasis of Action
Its Blessings on Albina to invoke.
Had he conceived a Doubt—
He has no Doubt—
He dares not doubt the Honour of my child!
But the rich Prize, which, whilst at Distance placed
Almost beyond the stretches of his Hope,
Seemed worthy his Ambition to attain,
Now, view’d at hand, palls on his sickly taste,
The blessing, then aspired to, he contemns.
Is’t then for this I rose at early Dawn
To bless perfidious Edward? Is’t for this
I gave consent, ere Custom might allow,
Again to be a Bride?—unequal’d Ingrate!
Take heart, my Girl! thy Father swears thy Fame
Shall not be wronged.
By him I’d given my heart to
Forsaken, scorn’d, left like a loathed disease!
Oh, to some Convent’s dreary cell I’ll fly,
And there forever hide my shame, and grief!
First shall be sacrificed a thousand Edwards;
Thy Virtue shall be proved, and my Albina
Live through a race of blissful years in Honour,
E’en now I hasten to the King, to claim
The Sacred Rights of Knighthood.
I’ve challenged Edward to the Lists,
There to yield proof that my Albina’s virtue
Spotless is, unquestion’d as her Beauty.
What hear I now!—my Father yield his breast
To Edward’s sword! Edward! whose skill in arms
Leaves him unrival’d in the Lists of fame!
Ah! save me from the Horror of the thought!
Dismiss all Fears! Thy Father’s arm hath humbled
Men mightier than he. This breast hath marks,
Marks honorable, graved by swords of Heroes—
And shall a Boy with contumely use me!
Horror! Distraction! Oh, kneeling if my soul’s peace
Be dear to thee, avoid the dreadful combat.
My mighty Wrongs I will, with Patience, bear,
But Father! Sir! with Griefs my Mind o’erpower not!
Oh! risk not lives so dear—Whoe’er doth vanquish
Makes me the wretched Victim of his arm.
Dost Edward’s Life, beyond thine Honour, prize!
Oh, frown not thus! I’ll tear him from my heart;
Detest him as I would the haunts of vice,
If thou’lt not make thy child a Parricide!
Thy Innocence insures thy father’s Life!
Armed thus by thee, I’d dauntless meet a Legion.
Canst thou expect a Miracle to save you!204 O6v 204
As Man thou’lt perish.—Oh! and should indeed
A miracle be wrought to prove the Truth,
Then Edward dies!
Ah! could’st thou wish thy Slanderer
Thy Fame’s assassin to survive his Crime
I would disclaim thee. Shall a Westmoreland!
She, who doth carry in her veins the blood
Of royal races, whose high Ancestors
Gave Honour to the Sceptres that they bore,
Shall she, when thus accused, be unsustained
As though she sprang but from ignoble Hinds!
My sainted Mother, from thy blest abode
Give thy Protection to thy wretched Child!
Sustain me, help me, in this trying hour,
My tottering Mind lest Horror overturn
And leave me wildered in a Maze of Phrenzy!
This yielding Sorrow, Daughter, ill becomes thee,
It ill becomes thy Wrongs, thy Birth, thy Virtue;
Recal thy Fortitude, think who thou art,
And prove thee worthy of the Space thou fill’st!
Oh Father! Heaven! whither turn for succour?
His heart a Father steels, and Heaven forsakes me!
All things are wild!—is this not Nature’s wreck?—
These new contending struggles are full strong!
With images so fierce they seize my Brain
They’ll burst the narrow mansion that confines them,
Drive Reason from her throne, and fix her Slave
To every wildest fiercest Phantasy!
’Twixt Honour, Nature, how shall I decide?
Obeying one, I may destroy my Child,
And, yielding to the other’s powerful claims,
I render her to Shame. Must I do this?
Thy Father yield thee to Dishonour? No!205 O7r 205
First, I’ll clear off the venom’d taint of Slander,
Revive the wonted Lustre of thy Fame,
Then, if thou fall’st, sink with thee to the Grave!
Scene II.An apartment in Gondibert’s palace.
Oh! ’tis with Heart appall’d I meet the Day-beams.
—Thou racking Conscience! how thou torturest
The breast where thou hast mildly reigned till now!
A dreadful night is passed, wherein, if chance
A slumber for a moment closed my eyes,
Sad images of woe inspired such sorrow
That better ’twere to wake to real grief.
—And whence these new-sprung torments? What! have I
With chill eye glanced upon a bosom friend
Beneath Oppression’s fierce o’erwhelming crush?
Deprived the weeping Orphan of his bread?
Or steep’d my hand in Murder? None of these!
I’ve been a Child, and lied to keep a toy
Of which another would have surely robbed me.
I’m weaker e’en than Woman, not a Girl
Who would not laugh at such nice o’erstrain’d feeling
For crimes ’mongst Lovers put in practice daily—
Down, down, Disturber!—Ah! my Fate’s bright Genius! Enter Elfrida.
Ne’er lurked Misfortune ’neath an air so sweet.
There spoke thy coz’ning Sex, whose Guile and Flattery
Give witch’ry to their tongues.
Talk not of Man,
But Sovereign Woman; Tidings of Albina!
Array’d in bridal pomp, and light in step,
Joy beaming from her eye, whilst Happiness
Exulted in her brow, she left her palace—
But, mournful Widow, soon returned!
Edward, deluded by our last night’s guile,
Resigns his willing bride! remands her back,
To lonely Widowhood, or the soft cares
Of some more happy Lover!
Perhaps to me!
Strait will I hasten to the charming Mourner,
Help her t’upbraid perfidious, changing, Man,
My whole sex brand, her Spleen to gratify,
And, when her hatred to due fury mounts,
Seize on the instant of tumultuous Passion
To lure her back to Love and Gondibert.
Hold, hold, my Lord! such Rashness would undo you—
Beware of proud, vindictive, Westmoreland!
A single glance, to his suspicious eye,
Would be an index to our secret guile.
He hath a faculty to see men’s souls
As though exposed in written character,
And thoughts, e’en ere full formed, can freely read;
Avoid this danger, if you can be wise!
Seek Wisdom in the squalid Monk’s abode
Where students sallow by the wasting lamp;
In me each buoyant Passion is sprung up
To Nature’s highest pitch, my law—their impulse.
Beware! and let me home, my Lord, to watch
Th’ adventures of our house, and give you pledge
When every Danger’s past. Why deem me Friend,
And yet not trust to my solicitude?
Why, then, I yield; farewell my Guardian Spirit.
But, count the moments by the Lover’s dial,
Where hours are Years!
Soon shall you backward count.
Then on Love’s Dial happy Years will seem
To fleeting Minutes shrunk.
For Edward now
And Art; art to conceal my doating thoughts,
And hide them in the guise of soothing Pity.
A few hours only will our shores contain him;
Mean time, that he and his Albina meet not
T’ exchange Reproaches, is my only care,
That point attained, high rapture all the rest!
I come, my Lord, th’ unwilling messenger
Of tiding grievous! Hoary Westmoreland
Hath challenged Edward in the field to prove
His calumny against his Child!
This day they enter on the solemn Trial.
The King himself will judge the dreadful combat,
And all the Court, in wondering sorrow sunk,
E’en now are hast’ning to attend the Issue.
’Tis well, ’tis well, good Egbert! leave me, pray— Passes from him.
Ah! ’tis too much! this is too fierce a blow,
How shall I steer me in so dread a tempest?
Confess my Wiles?—’twere Horror!—Leave me Egbert,
Why stand’st thou thus, with such exploring eye,
As if thou’dst read the workings of my brain!
If right I read, your mind in balance holds
Th’ opponent principles of Good and Ill.
Between these two, the Power that made us gave
Unbiass’d choice:—oh! let me then, whose tongue
Inspired your early Love of Right—
Preach Calmness to the furious Sea! And bid
The Whirlwind, fiercely hurling Forest Oaks,
Restrain its rage!—When they shall thee obey,
Then Gondibert shall be again a Child,
And take his Lessons from the virtuous Egbert.
Oh, that those hours were not so sudden passed!
I can recall when Egbert, now despised,
Was dear to you; when, hanging round my neck,
You’d listen to—
No more! I love thee still,
Still reverence thy Virtues. But, alas!
I feel them as the bounteous dew from Heaven,
That falls in vain on sterile ingrate soil
Which can no render yield for richest gifts.
Thus men will talk, who’d rather shine in Words
Than firmly seek for Truth. But, oh! this once
Let me resume my wonted sway. This hour—
Quick to thy chamber, Egbert, and make prayers;
Such holy men as thou art, have no call
In these rude times. The world is headstrong grown,
And needs a firmer curb than thine to guide it.
Since only one way I can gain your ear,
Know young rash Lord! I’m privy to the plot,
Th’ inhuman plot, by female cunning framed,
In which you have dishonestly concurred.
How I came there is tale for other times
But, I was hidden witness of the scheme
Was framed last night within Albina’s garden!
That thou wert there, thou prying, list’ning, fool
Is warrant for thy Death—Half drawing
Yet hold, escape; whilst I command my rage
Your outraged master fly!
Oh, I fear not
Your anger, Lord; nay I could gladly die,
For, dying, on your mind I might impress
Just Horror for the—
Schoolman! prating cease,
And know a Duty thou hast yet to learn—
To treat Superior’s slidings with Respect.
Nor dare to comment on the Will of those
Who, seen by thee at such a dizzy height,
Should make thee doubtful of thy own discerning,
And keep presumptuous Judgment down.—Begone! Exit Egbert, watchfully.
What chance untoward hath him witness made?
No matter! keener sorrows now surround.
—Oh, Westmoreland! and can I dare the pillowVol. I P 210 P1v 210
Snatch from ’neath thy time-blanch’d head? and send thee,
From Age’s due repose, t’ expose thy breast
To the relentless Spear?—No! perish first.
I’ll go and to the King relate the crime
To which a furious Passion sunk a wretch,
Who saw the only treasure of his Soul
Torn from his grasp, to bless him most he hates! Going.
—What! and thus mark, thus brand, myself a Villain?
This were a suicide that Honour claims not,
That Nature does abhor.—What then remains?—
Oh! guide me Heaven! or—incite me Hell!
I cant recede, yet—to go on is Horror!
—Ah! what a sea of crimes, one step from shore,
Bears me away! Thou whirling eddy Vice,
Touch but the outmost circle of thy ring,
Thy strong resistless Current draws us in;
Torn from the shore, despairing, we look back,
And hurried on, are overwhelm’d and lost!
Act the Fifth.
Scene I.The Lists. On one side are ranged the King and Court, on the other a Multitude with Officers. Westmoreland and Edward appear, in Armour, attended by their Esquires, each under a Banner, on which are emblazoned their Arms and Devices. Their Helmets and Lances borne. Trumpet sounds. A Herald advances.
Hear, noble Guthbert, Earl of Westmoreland!
And noble Edward, you of Somerset!
The King commands that now ye do advance,
And, in the Presence, openly declare
The Cause for which this Combat ye have asked;
Risking, in private feuds, the precious blood
Which for your Country only should be spilt!
My Liege! I answer the demand. Lord Edward
Did yesterday, with humble suit, entreat
That in his favour I would move my Daughter;
Feigning true Passion, and unequall’d Love.P2 212 P2v 212
With warm regard I did accept the charge,
And, not without some difficulty, won her.
This Morn was fixed, by hymeneal Rites
To sanctify the passion they avowed.
This very morn, whilst I, with joy impatient
Prepared to hail him my adopted Son,
He came, with Slander charg’d, base Falsehoods breathing
To stain her Fame, and gloss gross forfeiture
Of Faith he’d pledged. For this, I challenge Edward!
This Charge, by Westmoreland’s good Earl alledged,
We have, with Wonder and Concern, attended.
Midst the chaste Ladies who adorn our Court,
Not one more peerless stands than Countess Raimond;
Not one whose Fame more fitly suits her Birth,
Not one whose Honour more deserves her Fame.
Why then, Lord Edward, hast thou, causeless, stain’d it?
Why thrown away a gem that throned Monarchs
Might well behold thee gain with envious eye?
Be witness for me Heaven!—Dread Sovereign, You!
And you bear witness too—assembled People!
That Raimond’s Chastity I held unquestion’d
As the high myst’ries of our holy faith.
I loved her in most honorable love,
And, to have worn with her the marriage wreath
More glorious deemed it than Imperial Crowns.
I who would, yesterday, against a Legion,
Her honour have maintained, must now—Reverse!
Here, midst the Blushes of the day, stand forth
The forced Accuser of undone Albina!
Some wrong Interpretation seems to lurk,
And to have caused this mischievous dispute.213 P3r 213
We do advise you, Lords, to take more time.
If, in short space, the knot doth not unfold,
We do consent that ye again shall meet,
And prove, at point of sword, whose is the Error.
This sword, my Liege! hath taught the Eastern World
Submission to your rule. Its faithful point
Hath reach’d the hearts of Infidels and Foes.
May its good service yet Dishonour blur
And may this arm hang nerveless to my side
If I depart the Lists ere I have proved it
On the defamer of my spotless Child!
In this nice point, we only with Advice
Would interpose, not fetter with Commands!
If this be your matured resolve, pursue it;
Though deeply we lament that two such Heroes
Should turn their Lances ’gainst each other’s breast.
—To Combat sound!
Ye Knights! who gave or have accepted challenge,
Lords Westmoreland and Edward, your Career
Begin! not doubting but his arm shall vanquish
Who lifts it on the side of sacred Truth.
—God speed the Right!
Haste we to mount. Now Edward! those grey locks
That thou didst taunt shall prove a wreath victorious.
Since thy fierce spirit will with blood alone
Be satisfied, Thee Westmoreland! I meet. Takes his Lance.214 P3v 214
But, righteous Heaven! restrain my erring arm,
That, whilst it guards the life thou bidst me keep,
It may not injure his who thirsts for mine!
Egbert.rushing from the Croud.
Hold, hold! my Lords! stay—ere that ye commit
A deed that leads to Horror and Repentance!
I have a tale that will unfold—
Thou liest! it choaks thee in the utterance!
Whence this irreverence? Disarm Lord Gondibert!
And know, bold Man, that, in the eye of Kings
All hold an equal place. I bear a Sceptre
That serves for each man’s staff, and shall support
Alike the Lord and Peasant. Speak, old Man;
Whate’er thy tale, thou shalt have patient hearing.
Most gracious Liege! to save the precious blood
Of these much injured Lords, with deepest grief
I witness bear, that in a snare they’re thall’d
Most wickedly devis’d for their destruction!
Whom dost accuse of this atrocious crime?
There are, who have with groundless jealousy
Poison’d Lord Edward’s mind, and him misled
To charge with Infamy his spotless Bride.
Prove me but Sland’rer! prove me blest old man!
Dread task!――In truth, the chief in fault is—
Distracting torture fixes in my heart.
’Twas me thou saw’st approach Albina’s chamber!
The tales to which thou list’nedst of her falsehood
Were all Imposture.—Ask ye why ’twas planned?
Because I love her!
Say wherefore, but for casual Name of Brother,
Should I not boast my Love? But for that cause,
Thy thought had dared not to ascend to her.
Most impious passion!
Impious! Even now
I will maintain it! Instant will I arm to Edward.
And meet thee in the Lists. Going.
Stay, I command!
Thou hast no longer Title to the Rights
Allowed to those, who, in the path of Honour,
Have, persevering, shaped their spotless course.
Thy Crimes degrade thee ’neath our Yeomanry,
And we decree that whosoe’er accepts
From thee a Challenge, be unworthy held
To try his Lance in honour’d Chivalry!
Nay, deem not this thy Punishment;
When men, of such exalted rank as thine,
Swerve into Crime and basest Treachery,
Justice, unbiass’d, on your heads shall pour
The vial of her wrath—that ye may stand
As lofty Beacons to the world beneath!
Hear then thy Doom!—We banish thee our Realm:
If, in twelve hours, thou shalt be found within
The precincts of our Court, or, in three days,
Within our Realm, the Penalty is Death—
Presume no Answer!—Hence! Exit Gondibert, Egbert following.
Stay you, old Man!
Thou, to whose love of sacred Truth we owe
This happy Change, by Us art thou retain’d,
Thy King will answer for thy future Fortunes.
Unworthy should I be, could I accept
Of Blessings sprung from my loved Lord’s Destruction.
It is a tort’rous Duty I’ve fulfill’d!
To some remote abode I’ll now retire,
And pass the little remnant of my days
In sorrow for his fault, and Prayer to Heaven
For his Repentance.
Thy retirement be
My care. At present, Egbert, at my Mansion
Attend my coming.
How—how shall I approach thee? Shame, Despair,
Both rend my breast! my eyes nor dare I lift
To thine, from fear I read my Sentence there!
Come, my good Lord! let Us for Edward plead!
For him, whose Virtues, Glory, and Descent,
Demand an advocate not less than royal.
If fair Albina now beheld him thus
With eyes in deep Contrition bent on Earth,
Pity would rob her Anger of its force,
She too would plead, and, with the skill of Love,
Extort a pardon for—her Country’s Hero!
Though high in Spirit, proud, and quickly moved
By aught that glances on our spotless Honour—
I, gracious Sovereign! can as freely pardon.
These public Proofs of my Albina’s virtue
Restore my bosom to its wonted Calm,
And thee, Lord Edward, to thy wonted place;—
Again I thus embrace thee as my Son.
What great, unparallel’d, transporting goodness!
This then is still the Wedding-day!—the Rite
Be instantly performed. That no Regret
May poison such an hour, we do recall
The Order for your Service in the East,
Till We Ourselves shall in the Orient Sea,
Midst our red streamers gleaming round their shores,
Float our imperial Pendant, and with sword,
Blazing destruction like the Guardian Seraph’s,
Drive from blest Sion’s walls the Infidel.
My Prince, my Guardian, and my much loved Master!
With rapture I the leave you grant accept,
And yield my Helmet to the care of Love.
Scene II.An apartment in Gondibert’s palace. Enter Gondibert, followed by Elfrida.
’Tis thus that weak-ones, sinking in the ruin
Their active Folly framed, complain of Fate,
Blame all around. Thy Stars accuse not,
Nor Egbert; on thyself alone thou shouldst
Revenge thine injuries!
My mind, by wild conflicting passions worn,
Now, like a Hart in respite from the hounds,
Would sink in Apathy.
Hear then a tale
Will rouse thee from thy Lethargy!—this hour
Albina will be Edward’s Wife!
Expiring Hopes, half smother’d in my breast,
This Haste insults! and Vengeance, rous’d thus, kills
Reviving Conscience! Pause.
Leave me now, Elfrida,
On dreadful deeds I’d ruminate alone.
On what? Instruct me in thy thoughts; impart!
No. Leave me!
Aside—Ah! I see his mind is full,
And marshals daring deeds. His louring Brow,219 P6r 219
And that fix’d eye, bespeak some master-act—
Mischiefs awake! with ye alone my soul
Feels unison. All now is at the worst,
No Change can injure; therefore, now will I
T’eventful rage and frenzy urge him on!)
Conceive the joy of the victorious Edward!
Conceive his Triumph; Triumph over thee
Height’ning each sweet of his success.
Dost riot in my woes? Are these meet deeds
No! They’re deeds of wild Despair!
Oh, wert thou then so Love-sick as to think
That Pity, pity to thy woes, could prompt me
To sink my soul in Crime!
What lurks ’neath this!
That I, on Restoration set, perceived
No road but through Lord Edward to my hopes,
That thee I, easily, have made my tool,
To mar their hated loves!
As lightning quick,
Fly me fell monster! lest, from vengeance due
I should forget Sex renders thee exempt. Exit Elfrida, with an air of Menace. Pause.
Be firm, my soul! let not unworthy weakness
Destroy the vengeful purpose thou hast framed.
I’m banish’d, robb’d of Country and of Name!
Yet, there remains a Mind defies their vengeance,
Which, though these limbs were braced by chains of steel,
And darkness closed these means of light for ever,
Would rise superior to their bounded power,220 P6v 220
And scorn alike their fetters and their laws.
He still, for whom I’m exiled, forth each vein
Shall heart-blood tribute pay to my Revenge!
Scene III.Albina’s garden. Enter Adela.
My lonely Mistress, vainly, still I seek
Through every gloomy, solitary, walk,
Forced to give tidings will destroy her peace! Enter Elfrida.
The Ceremonial’s past—unhappy Lady!
Lord Edward and the Countess now are one.
I hear thee, Adela, unmoved!—and whence?
Does the scourged wretch no added stripe perceive?
Grow we then callous to repeated woe!
With decent Pride, and with affected Ire,
The Countess long her Lover’s prayers withstood.
At length, her Sire—to save her from the shame
Of yielding to her heart’s most eager wish,
Commandment gave, her Hand to yield to Edward
Whilst he conducted the Holy Rite.
Would Death had been as busy there!
I sought, Lord Edward met me. Bear, said he,
These Lines: Elfrida’s anguish they’ll relieve.
The injuries the Countess hath received can meet no Pardon! From Exposition you may yet be spared. Quit as your voluntary act Albina’s Castle. The Ills his family entailed on your’s Edward will study to relieve. A Stipend, suited to your Rank, shall be assigned—at distance from Albina.221 P7r 221
So sunk Destroying the Letter. that he prescribes my breathing place!
Edward point out the spot where I must eat
The morsel he assigns me? Sibald! Sibald!
Will it not reach thee even in thy tomb
That thy Elfrida must depend for bread
On his fell Son who brought thee to the block!
Be not thus moved, a moment’s pause for thought!
I have no Power to think—but of my Wrongs!
Albina bade me seek her Friend, and chide
An absence so unkind!
Must I return,
Witness compelled of every hope atchieved?
With Resignation meet, whom I’d destroy!
Yes, such the boons Dependence thou bestow’st,
Such the Distinctions that denote thy Slaves! Exeunt. Enter Gondibert.
Ye Bowers, ye Solitudes, your Shelter give,
A Murderer seeks your Shade――Rise, rise, ye Furies!—
A Murderer here—yet Nature unconvulsed!
In such an hour, no Star should shed a ray,
No Planet glisten through the louring sky,
But Spectres wild should dart athwart the gloom,
With hideous shriek arrest th’ affrighted ear
And bar off Guilt—by Madness! Then—but hark!
How melting sounds of swelling music float
The Air!――Now, to the joyous then, to teach,
That Death’s ill-manner’d――Demon Tempter, hold!
A moment’s Pause ere done this deed of Horror!
Murder! am I then turned a cool Assassin!222 P7v 222
—Religion!—Nature—oh, thou common Mother!—
Ah!—tis too late—Repentance comes too late—
My hands seem now already dyed in Blood
And horror quickens to its utmost height.—
As fall’n he gasps, and writhes in agony,
His groan—Death in that sound will seize my Brain.
If not!――How life support when Edward’s dead?
Would then no Rival come? and one at length
Be blest!――Ah! happier thought!—I’ll die myself,
And with me bear Albina to the Grave!
Scene IV.An apartment in Westmoreland’s house. Enter Albina, Ina, and a female Attendant with Lights.
Leave me then now to serious thought awhile,
My due devotions are not yet performed.
Request Elfrida here to wait my coming,
Some heighten’d Anguish, Ina, preys on her
I would assuage! Exeunt Ina and Attendant, leaving the Candles in the most distant part of the Room.
And now, whilst giddy Mirth
Shakes the high Dome, and festive Merriment
Expands each Heart, will I awhile retire,
And Providence with grateful thanks address
Who me hath guarded through surrounding ills!
Mad riot spreads her empire through the house,223 P8r 223
Whilst, unperceived, Death near his destined Bride,
Hath work’d his way!—And thou his Messenger Looking on his Dagger.
Rather than touch her living Alabaster
Wilt thou not shrink!――Then aid me Furies!
Wake your infernal fires within my breast,
Drain from my veins each drop of human blood,
Lest it return, unbidden, to my Heart
To check me in the moment I would act!
Albina, now,—to Edward?—or to Death?
To Death! In death—to me!—’Tis Fate—I seek her!
Is not the triumph of Albina sure
’Till I am summoned her Success to hail!
Still with obtrusive goodness doth she haunt me,
Me who ne’er sought, but hate, compassion. Pity!
Man calls thee gentle: Yes, perchance, ’tis true
That thou may’st balm the wounded mind that’s meek,
Thou dost but heighten Fever in the Proud!
—How gay, how full of bliss, are all around me!
But ah! my breast is an abyss of wretchedness
Which ne’er with beam of joy will be illumed,
And this, O Raimond! do I owe to thee!
Would that my Wishes had the force of Spells――
She comes! and, raging in my frame, confines
The Maledictions I would pour on her—
Ah! Edward’ tis!
Thou wilt not fly me now!
Turn my Heart’s treasure!—to thy Husband turn!
Torture!—Addressed as her who marr’d my Fate—
Would instant Death could seize her!
Why dost thou cruelly avert the eyes
Whose glance is transport to thy Edward’s heart—
Ere yet a glance from her thou canst obtain
First my leave ask! Stabs Elfrida; who shrieks, and expires.
’Tis I who will thy Fate!
I, whom thou’st scorn’d, in Love, in Glory, vanquish’d,
I, now am Conqueror! See, at my beck, flown
Thy vaunted bliss! Where, Braggart, is the joy
That, yesterday, did madden in thy look?
Edward.Seems motionless with Horror; then drawing his Dagger, rushes on Gondibert.
This for Albina!
Gondibert.Arresting Edward’s arm, whose breast is exposed to his Dagger.
Fool! the blow of death
Is mine!—This for Albina—this! Stabs himself, and falls.
She’s my Bride now!
Relentless Fiend! whose Vice,
Unshackled, hath――I’ll linger not t’ upbraid!
Albina!—death-seized Bride! my murder’d Wife!
Together we the dreary Tomb will reach—
Thy Spirit stay!—I follow thee e’en now—
What mean these deathful sounds? Ah, sight of Horror!225 Q1r 225
Support me Edward!
Ah! she lives—she lives!
Albina living!—whom then have I slain?
Oh Heaven!—thy hand was here!
Be quick with Light— Enters followed by Guests, and Servants with numerous Lights.
Ah! Death unsparing of my mansion now!
A moment still is granted to unfold.—
The Madness of despairing Love impelled
To kill Albina!—But—a fitter victim—
My Life doth flow too fast—Forgive!—Forgive!
My guilty Passion even now expires
It rushes forth my heart in crimson streams――
The Crimes it led me to are conscience-fix’d!
Ah! now—’tis now, Remorse! thy torturous fang,
Unsparing, probes my conscience-wounded breast—
Forgive!―― draws himself towards Albina.
I’m summon’d――now―― Expires.
’Tis will’d by Heaven,
That suffers Death to catch thy breath so quick,
No cheering Pardon greet thy Mortal Ear!
Thy Spirit I forgive!—may mercy meet it,
As I adore his hand who me preserved.
Come, let no Sigh, or tone of Woe, profane
The hallowed day on which Heaven saved Albina!
Yet, grieve a moment Crime’s progressive sway!Vol. I Q 226 Q1v 226
Within the bosom of this noble youth
Bright Virtues sprang as from their native source.
His years, through lengthened Time, had sweetly flowed
Down to the faintest beams of life’s last Sun,
But Vice, alluring in the form of Love,
Through guilty want of early scrutiny
Unwatch’d Foundations laid, on which, at length,
Imperious Passion stept upon her Throne!
Then! though the snaring barb within was seen!
The bait of pleasure, madden’d thus, was siezed.
May gentle Candour sink in Shade the crimes
Of him whose life once brightest Virtues deck’d!
Through Passions unrestrained, and fail to watch
The earliest Swerve from Right, against him now
His blighted Virtues stand in dread account!
Whilst we, with lowly Gratitude, discern
That Heaven ordain’d that, midst the schemes of Vice,
Ill should reach none, but those who planned the wrong!