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Adlai Stevenson

The strange alchemy of time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party of this country — the party dedicated to conserving all that is best, and building solidly and safely on these foundations. The Republicans, by contrast, are behaving like the radical party — the party of the reckless and the embittered, bent on dismantling institutions which have been built solidly into our social fabric.

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The Cenci : A Tragedy In Five Acts

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

Count Francesco Cenci.
Giacomo, his Son.
Bernardo, his Son.
Cardinal Camillo.
Orsino, a Prelate.
Savella, the Pope's Legate.
Olimpio, Assassin.
Marzio, Assassin.
Andrea, Servant to Cenci.
Nobles, Judges, Guards, Servants.
Lucretia, Wife of Cenci, and Step-mother of his children.
Beatrice, his Daughter.

The Scene lies principally in Rome, but changes during the Fourth Act to Petrella, a castle among the Apulian Apennines.
Time. During the Pontificate of Clement VIII.


ACT I

Scene I.
-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace.
Enter Count Cenci, and Cardinal Camillo.


Camillo.
That matter of the murder is hushed up
If you consent to yield his Holiness
Your fief that lies beyond the Pincian gate.-
It needed all my interest in the conclave
To bend him to this point: he said that you
Bought perilous impunity with your gold;
That crimes like yours if once or twice compounded
Enriched the Church, and respited from hell
An erring soul which might repent and live:-
But that the glory and the interest
Of the high throne he fills, little consist
With making it a daily mart of guilt
As manifold and hideous as the deeds
Which you scarce hide from men's revolted eyes.


Cenci.
The third of my possessions-let it go!
Ay, I once heard the nephew of the Pope
Had sent his architect to view the ground,
Meaning to build a villa on my vines
The next time I compounded with his uncle:
I little thought he should outwit me so!
Henceforth no witness-not the lamp-shall see
That which the vassal threatened to divulge
Whose throat is choked with dust for his reward.
The deed he saw could not have rated higher
Than his most worthless life:-it angers me!
Respited me from Hell!-So may the Devil
Respite their souls from Heaven. No doubt Pope Clement,
And his most charitable nephews, pray
That the Apostle Peter and the Saints
Will grant for their sake that I long enjoy
Strength, wealth, and pride, and lust, and length of days
Wherein to act the deeds which are the stewards
Of their revenue.-But much yet remains
To which they show no title.


Camillo.
Oh, Count Cenci!
So much that thou mightst honourably live
And reconcile thyself with thine own heart
And with thy God, and with the offended world.
How hideously look deeds of lust and blood
Through those snow white and venerable hairs!-
Your children should be sitting round you now,
But that you fear to read upon their looks
The shame and misery you have written there.
Where is your wife? Where is your gentle daughter?
Methinks her sweet looks, which make all things else
Beauteous and glad, might kill the fiend within you.
Why is she barred from all society
But her own strange and uncomplaining wrongs?
Talk with me, Count,-you know I mean you well
I stood beside your dark and fiery youth
Watching its bold and bad career, as men
Watch meteors, but it vanished not-I marked
Your desperate and remorseless manhood; now
Do I behold you in dishonoured age
Charged with a thousand unrepented crimes.
Yet I have ever hoped you would amend,
And in that hope have saved your life three times.


Cenci.
For which Aldobrandino owes you now
My fief beyond the Pincian.-Cardinal,
One thing, I pray you, recollect henceforth,
And so we shall converse with less restraint.
A man you knew spoke of my wife and daughter-
He was accustomed to frequent my house;
So the next day his wife and daughter came
And asked if I had seen him; and I smiled:
I think they never saw him any more.


Camillo.
Thou execrable man, beware!-


Cenci.
Of thee?
Nay this is idle:-We should know each other.
As to my character for what men call crime
Seeing I please my senses as I list,
And vindicate that right with force or guile,
It is a public matter, and I care not
If I discuss it with you. I may speak
Alike to you and my own conscious heart-
For you give out that you have half reformed me,
Therefore strong vanity will keep you silent
If fear should not; both will, I do not doubt.
All men delight in sensual luxury,
All men enjoy revenge; and most exult
Over the tortures they can never feel-
Flattering their secret peace with others' pain.
But I delight in nothing else. I love
The sight of agony, and the sense of joy,
When this shall be another's, and that mine.
And I have no remorse and little fear,
Which are, I think, the checks of other men.
This mood has grown upon me, until now
Any design my captious fancy makes
The picture of its wish, and it forms none
But such as men like you would start to know,
Is as my natural food and rest debarred
Until it be accomplished.


Camillo.
Art thou not
Most miserable?


Cenci.
Why, miserable?-
No.-I am what your theologians call
Hardened;-which they must be in impudence,
So to revile a man's peculiar taste.
True, I was happier than I am, while yet
Manhood remained to act the thing I thought;
While lust was sweeter than revenge; and now
Invention palls:-Ay, we must all grow old-
And but that there yet remains a deed to act
Whose horror might make sharp an appetite
Duller than mine-I'd do-I know not what.
When I was young I thought of nothing else
But pleasure; and I fed on honey sweets:
Men, by St. Thomas! cannot live like bees,
And I grew tired:-yet, till I killed a foe,
And heard his groans, and heard his children's groans,
Knew I not what delight was else on earth,
Which now delights me little. I the rather
Look on such pangs as terror ill conceals,
The dry fixed eyeball; the pale quivering lip,
Which tell me that the spirit weeps within
Tears bitterer than the bloody sweat of Christ.
I rarely kill the body, which preserves,
Like a strong prison, the soul within my power,
Wherein I feed it with the breath of fear
For hourly pain.


Camillo.
Hell's most abandoned fiend
Did never, in the drunkenness of guilt,
Speak to his heart as now you speak to me;
I thank my God that I believe you not.


Enter Andrea.


Andrea.
My Lord, a gentleman from Salamanca
Would speak with you.


Cenci.
Bid him attend me in
The grand saloon.


[Exit Andrea.


Camillo.
Farewell; and I will pray
Almighty God that thy false, impious words
Tempt not his spirit to abandon thee.


[Exit Camillo.


Cenci.
The third of my possessions! I must use
Close husbandry, or gold, the old man's sword,
Falls from my withered hand. But yesterday
There came an order from the Pope to make
Fourfold provision for my cursèd sons;
Whom I had sent from Rome to Salamanca,
Hoping some accident might cut them off;
And meaning if I could to starve them there.
I pray thee, God, send some quick death upon them!
Bernardo and my wife could not be worse
If dead and damned:-then, as to Beatrice- [Looking around him suspiciously.

I think they cannot hear me at that door;
What if they should? And yet I need not speak
Though the heart triumphs with itself in words.
O, thou most silent air, that shalt not hear
What now I think! Thou, pavement, which I tread
Towards her chamber,-let your echoes talk
Of my imperious step scorning surprise,
But not of my intent!-Andrea!


[Enter Andrea.


Andrea.
My lord?


Cenci.
Bid Beatrice attend me in her chamber
This evening:-no, at midnight and alone.


[Exeunt.


Scene II.
-A Garden of the Cenci Palace. EnterBeatrice and Orsino, as in conversation.


Beatrice.
Pervert not truth,
Orsino. You remember where we held
That conversation;-nay, we see the spot
Even from this cypress;-two long years are past
Since, on an April midnight, underneath
The moonlight ruins of mount Palatine,
I did confess to you my secret mind.


Orsino.
You said you loved me then.


Beatrice.
You are a Priest,
Speak to me not of love.


Orsino.
I may obtain
The dispensation of the Pope to marry.
Because I am a Priest do you believe
Your image, as the hunter some struck deer,
Follows me not whether I wake or sleep?


Beatrice.
As I have said, speak to me not of love;
Had you a dispensation I have not;
Nor will I leave this home of misery
Whilst my poor Bernard, and that gentle lady
To whom I owe life, and these virtuous thoughts,
Must suffer what I still have strength to share.
Alas, Orsino! All the love that once
I felt for you, is turned to bitter pain.
Ours was a youthful contract, which you first
Broke, by assuming vows no Pope will loose.
And thus I love you still, but holily,
Even as a sister or a spirit might;
And so I swear a cold fidelity.
And it is well perhaps we shall not marry.
You have a sly, equivocating vein
That suits me not.-Ah, wretched that I am!
Where shall I turn? Even now you look on me
As you were not my friend, and as if you
Discovered that I thought so, with false smiles
Making my true suspicion seem your wrong.
Ah, no! forgive me; sorrow makes me seem
Sterner than else my nature might have been;
I have a weight of melancholy thoughts,
And they forbode,-but what can they forbode
Worse than I now endure?


Orsino.
All will be well.
Is the petition yet prepared? You know
My zeal for all you wish, sweet Beatrice;
Doubt not but I will use my utmost skill
So that the Pope attend to your complaint.


Beatrice.
Your zeal for all I wish;-Ah me, you are cold!
Your utmost skill . . . speak but one word . . . (aside)
Alas!
Weak and deserted creature that I am,
Here I stand bickering with my only friend! [To Orsino.

This night my father gives a sumptuous feast,
Orsino; he has heard some happy news
From Salamanca, from my brothers there,
And with this outward show of love he mocks
His inward hate. 'Tis bold hypocrisy,
For he would gladlier celebrate their deaths,
Which I have heard him pray for on his knees:
Great God! that such a father should be mine!
But there is mighty preparation made,
And all our kin, the Cenci, will be there,
And all the chief nobility of Rome.
And he has bidden me and my pale Mother
Attire ourselves in festival array.
Poor lady! She expects some happy change
In his dark spirit from this act; I none.
At supper I will give you the petition:
Till when-farewell.


Orsino.
Farewell.
(Exit Beatrice.)
I know the Pope
Will ne'er absolve me from my priestly vow
But by absolving me from the revenue
Of many a wealthy see; and, Beatrice,
I think to win thee at an easier rate.
Nor shall he read her eloquent petition:
He might bestow her on some poor relation
Of his sixth cousin, as he did her sister,
And I should be debarred from all access.
Then as to what she suffers from her father,
In all this there is much exaggeration:-
Old men are testy and will have their way;
A man may stab his enemy, or his vassal,
And live a free life as to wine or women,
And with a peevish temper may return
To a dull home, and rate his wife and children;
Daughters and wives call this foul tyranny.
I shall be well content if on my conscience
There rest no heavier sin than what they suffer
From the devices of my love-a net
From which she shall escape not. Yet I fear
Her subtle mind, her awe-inspiring gaze,
Whose beams anatomize me nerve by nerve
And lay me bare, and make me blush to see
My hidden thoughts.-Ah, no! A friendless girl
Who clings to me, as to her only hope:-
I were a fool, not less than if a panther
Were panic-stricken by the antelope's eye,
If she escape me.


[Exit.


Scene III.
-A Magnificent Hall in the Cenci Palace. A Banquet. Enter Cenci, Lucretia, Beatrice, Orsino, Camillo, Nobles.


Cenci.
Welcome, my friends and kinsmen; welcome ye,
Princes and Cardinals, pillars of the church,
Whose presence honours our festivity.
I have too long lived like an anchorite,
And in my absence from your merry meetings
An evil word is gone abroad of me;
But I do hope that you, my noble friends,
When you have shared the entertainment here,
And heard the pious cause for which 'tis given,
And we have pledged a health or two together,
Will think me flesh and blood as well as you;
Sinful indeed, for Adam made all so,
But tender-hearted, meek and pitiful.


First Guest.
In truth, my Lord, you seem too light of heart,
Too sprightly and companionable a man,
To act the deeds that rumour pins on you. (To his Companion.)

I never saw such blithe and open cheer
In any eye!


Second Guest.
Some most desired event,
In which we all demand a common joy,
Has brought us hither; let us hear it, Count.


Cenci.
It is indeed a most desired event.
If, when a parent from a parent's heart
Lifts from this earth to the great Father of all
A prayer, both when he lays him down to sleep,
And when he rises up from dreaming it;
One supplication, one desire, one hope,
That he would grant a wish for his two sons,
Even all that he demands in their regard-
And suddenly beyond his dearest hope
It is accomplished, he should then rejoice,
And call his friends and kinsmen to a feast,
And task their love to grace his merriment,-
Then honour me thus far-for I am he.


Beatrice
(to Lucretia).
Great God! How horrible! Some dreadful ill
Must have befallen my brothers.


Lucretia.
Fear not, Child,
He speaks too frankly.


Beatrice.
Ah! My blood runs cold.
I fear that wicked laughter round his eye,
Which wrinkles up the skin even to the hair.


Cenci.
Here are the letters brought from Salamanca;
Beatrice, read them to your mother. God!
I thank thee! In one night didst thou perform,
By ways inscrutable, the thing I sought.
My disobedient and rebellious sons
Are dead!-Why, dead!-What means this change of cheer?
You hear me not, I tell you they are dead;
And they will need no food or raiment more:
The tapers that did light them the dark way
Are their last cost. The Pope, I think, will not
Expect I should maintain them in their coffins.
Rejoice with me-my heart is wondrous glad.


[Lucretia sinks, half fainting; Beatrice supports her.


Beatrice.
It is not true!-Dear lady, pray look up.
Had it been true, there is a God in Heaven,
He would not live to boast of such a boon.
Unnatural man, thou knowest that it is false.


Cenci.
Ay, as the word of God; whom here I call
To witness that I speak the sober truth;-
And whose most favouring Providence was shown
Even in the manner of their deaths. For Rocco
Was kneeling at the mass, with sixteen others,
When the church fell and crushed him to a mummy,
The rest escaped unhurt. Cristofano
Was stabbed in error by a jealous man,
Whilst she he loved was sleeping with his rival;
All in the self-same hour of the same night;
Which shows that Heaven has special care of me.
I beg those friends who love me, that they mark
The day a feast upon their calendars.
It was the twenty-seventh of December:
Ay, read the letters if you doubt my oath.


[The Assembly appears confused; several of the guests rise.


First Guest.
Oh, horrible! I will depart-


Second Guest.
And I.-


Third Guest.
No, stay!
I do believe it is some jest; though faith!
'Tis mocking us somewhat too solemnly.
I think his son has married the Infanta,
Or found a mine of gold in El Dorado;
'Tis but to season some such news; stay, stay!
I see 'tis only raillery by his smile.


Cenci
(filling a bowl of wine, and lifting it up).
Oh, thou bright wine whose purple splendour leaps
And bubbles gaily in this golden bowl
Under the lamplight, as my spirits do,
To hear the death of my accursèd sons!
Could I believe thou wert their mingled blood,
Then would I taste thee like a sacrament,
And pledge with thee the mighty Devil in Hell,
Who, if a father's curses, as men say,
Climb with swift wings after their children's souls,
And drag them from the very throne of Heaven,
Now triumphs in my triumph!-But thou art
Superfluous; I have drunken deep of joy,
And I will taste no other wine to-night.
Here, Andrea! Bear the bowl around.


A Guest
(rising).
Thou wretch!
Will none among this noble company
Check the abandoned villain?


Camillo.
For God's sake
Let me dismiss the guests! You are insane,
Some ill will come of this.


Second Guest.
Seize, silence him!


First Guest.
I will!


Third Guest.
And I!


Cenci
(addressing those who rise with a threatening gesture).
Who moves? Who speaks?


(turning to the Company)


'tis nothing
Enjoy yourselves.-Beware! For my revenge
Is as the sealed commission of a king
That kills, and none dare name the murderer.


[The Banquet is broken up; several of the Guests are departing.


Beatrice.
I do entreat you, go not, noble guests;
What, although tyranny and impious hate
Stand sheltered by a father's hoary hair?
What, if 'tis he who clothed us in these limbs
Who tortures them, and triumphs? What, if we,
The desolate and the dead, were his own flesh,
His children and his wife, whom he is bound
To love and shelter? Shall we therefore find
No refuge in this merciless wide world?
O think what deep wrongs must have blotted out
First love, then reverence in a child's prone mind,
Till it thus vanquish shame and fear! O think!
I have borne much, and kissed the sacred hand
Which crushed us to the earth, and thought its stroke
Was perhaps some paternal chastisement!
Have excused much, doubted; and when no doubt
Remained, have sought by patience, love, and tears
To soften him, and when this could not be
I have knelt down through the long sleepless nights
And lifted up to God, the Father of all,
Passionate prayers: and when these were not heard
I have still borne,-until I meet you here,
Princes and kinsmen, at this hideous feast
Given at my brothers' deaths. Two yet remain,
His wife remains and I, whom if ye save not,
Ye may soon share such merriment again
As fathers make over their children's graves.
O Prince Colonna, thou art our near kinsman,
Cardinal, thou art the Pope's chamberlain,
Camillo, thou art chief justiciary,
Take us away!


Cenci.
(He has been conversing with Camillo during the first part of Beatrice's speech; he hears the conclusion, and now advances.)
I hope my good friends here
Will think of their own daughters-or perhaps
Of their own throats-before they lend an ear
To this wild girl.


Beatrice
(not noticing the words of Cenci).
Dare no one look on me?
None answer? Can one tyrant overbear
The sense of many best and wisest men?
Or is it that I sue not in some form
Of scrupulous law, that ye deny my suit?
O God! That I were buried with my brothers!
And that the flowers of this departed spring
Were fading on my grave! And that my father
Were celebrating now one feast for all!


Camillo.
A bitter wish for one so young and gentle;
Can we do nothing?


Colonna.
Nothing that I see.
Count Cenci were a dangerous enemy:
Yet I would second any one.


A Cardinal.
And I.


Cenci.
Retire to your chamber, insolent girl!


Beatrice.
Retire thou, impious man! Ay, hide thyself
Where never eye can look upon thee more!
Wouldst thou have honour and obedience
Who art a torturer? Father, never dream
Though thou mayst overbear this company,
But ill must come of ill.-Frown not on me!
Haste, hide thyself, lest with avenging looks
My brothers' ghosts should hunt thee from thy seat!
Cover thy face from every living eye,
And start if thou but hear a human step:
Seek out some dark and silent corner, there,
Bow thy white head before offended God,
And we will kneel around, and fervently
Pray that he pity both ourselves and thee.


Cenci.


My friends, I do lament this insane girl
Has spoilt the mirth of our festivity.
Good night, farewell; I will not make you longer
Spectators of our dull domestic quarrels.
Another time.-


[Exeunt all but Cenci and Beatrice.


My brain is swimming round;
Give me a bowl of wine!


[To Beatrice.


Thou painted viper!
Beast that thou art! Fair and yet terrible!
I know a charm shall make thee meek and tame,
Now get thee from my sight!


[Exit Beatrice.


Here, Andrea,
Fill up this goblet with Greek wine. I said
I would not drink this evening; but I must;
For, strange to say, I feel my spirits fail
With thinking what I have decreed to do.- [Drinking the wine.

Be thou the resolution of quick youth
Within my veins, and manhood's purpose stern,
And age's firm, cold, subtle villainy;
As if thou wert indeed my children's blood
Which I did thirst to drink! The charm works well;
It must be done; it shall be done, I swear!


[Exit.


END OF THE FIRST ACT.

ACT II
Scene I.
-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace. Enter Lucretia and Bernardo.


Lucretia.
Weep not, my gentle boy; he struck but me
Who have borne deeper wrongs. In truth, if he
Had killed me, he had done a kinder deed.
O God, Almighty, do Thou look upon us,
We have no other friend but only Thee!
Yet weep not; though I love you as my own,
I am not your true mother.


Bernardo.
O more, more,
Than ever mother was to any child,
That have you been to me! Had he not been
My father, do you think that I should weep!


Lucretia.
Alas! Poor boy, what else couldst thou have done?


Enter Beatrice.


Beatrice
(in a hurried voice).
Did he pass this way? Have you seen him, brother?
Ah, no! that is his step upon the stairs;
'Tis nearer now; his hand is on the door;
Mother, if I to thee have ever been
A duteous child, now save me! Thou, great God,
Whose image upon earth a father is,
Dost Thou indeed abandon me? He comes;
The door is opening now; I see his face;
He frowns on others, but he smiles on me,
Even as he did after the feast last night. Enter a Servant.

Almighty God, how merciful Thou art!
'Tis but Orsino's servant.-Well, what news?


Servant.
My master bids me say, the Holy Father
Has sent back your petition thus unopened. [Giving a paper.

And he demands at what hour 'twere secure
To visit you again?


Lucretia.
At the Ave Mary.[Exit Servant.

So, daughter, our last hope has failed; Ah me!
How pale you look; you tremble, and you stand
Wrapped in some fixed and fearful meditation,
As if one thought were over strong for you:
Your eyes have a chill glare; O, dearest child!
Are you gone mad? If not, pray speak to me.


Beatrice.
You see I am not mad: I speak to you.


Lucretia.
You talked of something that your father did
After that dreadful feast? Could it be worse
Than when he smiled, and cried, 'My sons are dead!'
And every one looked in his neighbour's face
To see if others were as white as he?
At the first word he spoke I felt the blood
Rush to my heart, and fell into a trance;
And when it passed I sat all weak and wild;
Whilst you alone stood up, and with strong words
Checked his unnatural pride; and I could see
The devil was rebuked that lives in him.
Until this hour thus have you ever stood
Between us and your father's moody wrath
Like a protecting presence: your firm mind
Has been our only refuge and defence:
What can have thus subdued it? What can now
Have given you that cold melancholy look,
Succeeding to your unaccustomed fear?


Beatrice.
What is it that you say? I was just thinking
'Twere better not to struggle any more.
Men, like my father, have been dark and bloody,
Yet never-Oh! Before worse comes of it
'Twere wise to die: it ends in that at last.


Lucretia.
Oh, talk not so, dear child! Tell me at once
What did your father do or say to you?
He stayed not after that accursèd feast
One moment in your chamber.-Speak to me.


Bernardo.
Oh, sister, sister, prithee, speak to us!


Beatrice
(speaking very slowly with a forced calmness).


It was one word, Mother, one little word;
One look, one smile. (Wildly.)
Oh! He has trampled me
Under his feet, and made the blood stream down
My pallid cheeks. And he has given us all
Ditch-water, and the fever-stricken flesh
Of buffaloes, and bade us eat or starve,
And we have eaten.-He has made me look
On my beloved Bernardo, when the rust
Of heavy chains has gangrened his sweet limbs,
And I have never yet despaired-but now!
What could I say?


[Recovering herself.


Ah, no! 'tis nothing new.
The sufferings we all share have made me wild:
He only struck and cursed me as he passed;
He said, he looked, he did;-nothing at all
Beyond his wont, yet it disordered me.
Alas! I am forgetful of my duty,
I should preserve my senses for your sake.


Lucretia.
Nay, Beatrice; have courage, my sweet girl,
If any one despairs it should be I
Who loved him once, and now must live with him
Till God in pity call for him or me.
For you may, like your sister, find some husband,
And smile, years hence, with children round your knees;
Whilst I, then dead, and all this hideous coil
Shall be remembered only as a dream.


Beatrice.
Talk not to me, dear lady, of a husband.
Did you not nurse me when my mother died?
Did you not shield me and that dearest boy?
And had we any other friend but you
In infancy, with gentle words and looks,
To win our father not to murder us?
And shall I now desert you? May the ghost
Of my dead Mother plead against my soul
If I abandon her who filled the place
She left, with more, even, than a mother's love!


Bernardo.
And I am of my sister's mind. Indeed
I would not leave you in this wretchedness,
Even though the Pope should make me free to live
In some blithe place, like others of my age,
With sports, and delicate food, and the fresh air.
Oh, never think that I will leave you, Mother!


Lucretia.
My dear, dear children!


Enter Cenci, suddenly.


Cenci.


What, Beatrice here!
Come hither!


[She shrinks back, and covers her face.


Nay, hide not your face, 'tis fair;
Look up! Why, yesternight you dared to look
With disobedient insolence upon me,
Bending a stern and an inquiring brow
On what I meant; whilst I then sought to hide
That which I came to tell you-but in vain.


Beatrice
(wildly, staggering towards the door).
O that the earth would gape! Hide me, O God!


Cenci.
Then it was I whose inarticulate words
Fell from my lips, and who with tottering steps
Fled from your presence, as you now from mine.
Stay, I command you-from this day and hour
Never again, I think, with fearless eye,
And brow superior, and unaltered cheek,
And that lip made for tenderness or scorn,
Shalt thou strike dumb the meanest of mankind;
Me least of all. Now get thee to thy chamber!
Thou too, loathed image of thy cursèd mother, [To Bernardo.

Thy milky, meek face makes me sick with hate! [Exeunt Beatrice and Bernardo.
(Aside.)

So much has passed between us as must make
Me bold, her fearful.-'Tis an awful thing
To touch such mischief as I now conceive:
So men sit shivering on the dewy bank,
And try the chill stream with their feet; once in . . .
How the delighted spirit pants for joy!


Lucretia
(advancing timidly towards him).
O husband! Pray forgive poor Beatrice.
She meant not any ill.


Cenci.
Nor you perhaps?
Nor that young imp, whom you have taught by rote
Parricide with his alphabet? Nor Giacomo?
Nor those two most unnatural sons, who stirred
Enmity up against me with the Pope?
Whom in one night merciful God cut off:
Innocent lambs! They thought not any ill.
You were not here conspiring? You said nothing
Of how I might be dungeoned as a madman;
Or be condemned to death for some offence,
And you would be the witnesses?-This failing,
How just it were to hire assassins, or
Put sudden poison in my evening drink?
Or smother me when overcome by wine?
Seeing we had no other judge but God,
And He had sentenced me, and there were none
But you to be the executioners
Of His decree enregistered in Heaven?
Oh, no! You said not this?


Lucretia.
So help me God,
I never thought the things you charge me with!


Cenci.
If you dare speak that wicked lie again
I'll kill you. What! It was not by your counsel
That Beatrice disturbed the feast last night?
You did not hope to stir some enemies
Against me, and escape, and laugh to scorn
What every nerve of you now trembles at?
You judged that men were bolder than they are;
Few dare to stand between their grave and me.


Lucretia.
Look not so dreadfully! By my salvation
I knew not aught that Beatrice designed;
Nor do I think she designed any thing
Until she heard you talk of her dead brothers.


Cenci.
Blaspheming liar! You are damned for this!
But I will take you where you may persuade
The stones you tread on to deliver you:
For men shall there be none but those who dare
All things-not question that which I command.
On Wednesday next I shall set out: you know
That savage rock, the Castle of Petrella:
'Tis safely walled, and moated round about:
Its dungeons underground, and its thick towers
Never told tales; though they have heard and seen
What might make dumb things speak.-Why do you linger?
Make speediest preparation for the journey! [Exit Lucretia.

The all-beholding sun yet shines; I hear
A busy stir of men about the streets;
I see the bright sky through the window panes:
It is a garish, broad, and peering day;
Loud, light, suspicious, full of eyes and ears,
And every little corner, nook, and hole
Is penetrated with the insolent light.
Come darkness! Yet, what is the day to me?
And wherefore should I wish for night, who do
A deed which shall confound both night and day?
'Tis she shall grope through a bewildering mist
Of horror: if there be a sun in heaven
She shall not dare to look upon its beams;
Nor feel its warmth. Let her then wish for night;
The act I think shall soon extinguish all
For me: I bear a darker deadlier gloom
Than the earth's shade, or interlunar air,
Or constellations quenched in murkiest cloud,
In which I walk secure and unbeheld
Towards my purpose.-Would that it were done!


[Exit.


Scene II.
-A Chamber in the Vatican. Enter Camillo and Giacomo, in conversation.


Camillo.
There is an obsolete and doubtful law
By which you might obtain a bare provision
Of food and clothing-


Giacomo.
Nothing more? Alas!
Bare must be the provision which strict law
Awards, and agèd, sullen avarice pays.
Why did my father not apprentice me
To some mechanic trade? I should have then
Been trained in no highborn necessities
Which I could meet not by my daily toil.
The eldest son of a rich nobleman
Is heir to all his incapacities;
He has wide wants, and narrow powers. If you,
Cardinal Camillo, were reduced at once
From thrice-driven beds of down, and delicate food,
An hundred servants, and six palaces,
To that which nature doth indeed require?-


Camillo.
Nay, there is reason in your plea; 'twere hard.


Giacomo.
'Tis hard for a firm man to bear: but I
Have a dear wife, a lady of high birth,
Whose dowry in ill hour I lent my father
Without a bond or witness to the deed:
And children, who inherit her fine senses,
The fairest creatures in this breathing world;
And she and they reproach me not. Cardinal,
Do you not think the Pope would interpose
And stretch authority beyond the law?


Camillo.
Though your peculiar case is hard, I know
The Pope will not divert the course of law.
After that impious feast the other night
I spoke with him, and urged him then to check
Your father's cruel hand; he frowned and said,
'Children are disobedient, and they sting
Their fathers' hearts to madness and despair,
Requiting years of care with contumely.
I pity the Count Cenci from my heart;
His outraged love perhaps awakened hate,
And thus he is exasperated to ill.
In the great war between the old and young
I, who have white hairs and a tottering body,
Will keep at least blameless neutrality.' Enter Orsino.

You, my good Lord Orsino, heard those words.


Orsino.
What words?


Giacomo.
Alas, repeat them not again!
There then is no redress for me, at least
None but that which I may achieve myself,
Since I am driven to the brink.-But, say,
My innocent sister and my only brother
Are dying underneath my father's eye.
The memorable torturers of this land,
Galeaz Visconti, Borgia, Ezzelin,
Never inflicted on the meanest slave
What these endure; shall they have no protection?


Camillo.
Why, if they would petition to the Pope
I see not how he could refuse it-yet
He holds it of most dangerous example
In aught to weaken the paternal power,
Being, as 'twere, the shadow of his own.
I pray you now excuse me. I have business
That will not bear delay.


[Exit Camillo.


Giacomo.
But you, Orsino,
Have the petition: wherefore not present it?


Orsino.
I have presented it, and backed it with
My earnest prayers, and urgent interest;
It was returned unanswered. I doubt not
But that the strange and execrable deeds
Alleged in it-in truth they might well baffle
Any belief-have turned the Pope's displeasure
Upon the accusers from the criminal:
So I should guess from what Camillo said.


Giacomo.
My friend, that palace-walking devil Gold
Has whispered silence to his Holiness:
And we are left, as scorpions ringed with fire.
What should we do but strike ourselves to death?
For he who is our murderous persecutor
Is shielded by a father's holy name,
Or I would-


[Stops abruptly.


Orsino.
What? Fear not to speak your thought.
Words are but holy as the deeds they cover:
A priest who has forsworn the God he serves;
A judge who makes Truth weep at his decree;
A friend who should weave counsel, as I now,
But as the mantle of some selfish guile;
A father who is all a tyrant seems,
Were the profaner for his sacred name.


Giacomo.
Ask me not what I think; the unwilling brain
Feigns often what it would not; and we trust
Imagination with such phantasies
As the tongue dares not fashion into words,
Which have no words, their horror makes them dim
To the mind's eye.-My heart denies itself
To think what you demand.


Orsino.
But a friend's bosom
Is as the inmost cave of our own mind
Where we sit shut from the wide gaze of day,
And from the all-communicating air.
You look what I suspected-


Giacomo.
Spare me now!
I am as one lost in a midnight wood,
Who dares not ask some harmless passenger
The path across the wilderness, lest he,
As my thoughts are, should be-a murderer.
I know you are my friend, and all I dare
Speak to my soul that will I trust with thee.
But now my heart is heavy, and would take
Lone counsel from a night of sleepless care.
Pardon me, that I say farewell-farewell!
I would that to my own suspected self
I could address a word so full of peace.


Orsino.


Farewell!-Be your thoughts better or more bold. [Exit Giacomo.

I had disposed the Cardinal Camillo
To feed his hope with cold encouragement:
It fortunately serves my close designs
That 'tis a trick of this same family
To analyse their own and other minds.
Such self-anatomy shall teach the will
Dangerous secrets: for it tempts our powers,
Knowing what must be thought, and may be done,
Into the depth of darkest purposes:
So Cenci fell into the pit; even I,
Since Beatrice unveiled me to myself,
And made me shrink from what I cannot shun,
Show a poor figure to my own esteem,
To which I grow half reconciled. I'll do
As little mischief as I can; that thought
Shall fee the accuser conscience.


(After a pause.)


Now what harm
If Cenci should be murdered?-Yet, if murdered,
Wherefore by me? And what if I could take
The profit, yet omit the sin and peril
In such an action? Of all earthly things
I fear a man whose blows outspeed his words;
And such is Cenci: and while Cenci lives
His daughter's dowry were a secret grave
If a priest wins her.-Oh, fair Beatrice!
Would that I loved thee not, or loving thee
Could but despise danger and gold and all
That frowns between my wish and its effect,
Or smiles beyond it! There is no escape . . .
Her bright form kneels beside me at the altar,
And follows me to the resort of men,
And fills my slumber with tumultuous dreams,
So when I wake my blood seems liquid fire;
And if I strike my damp and dizzy head
My hot palm scorches it: her very name,
But spoken by a stranger, makes my heart
Sicken and pant; and thus unprofitably
I clasp the phantom of unfelt delights
Till weak imagination half possesses
The self-created shadow. Yet much longer
Will I not nurse this life of feverous hours:
From the unravelled hopes of Giacomo
I must work out my own dear purposes.
I see, as from a tower, the end of all:
Her father dead; her brother bound to me
By a dark secret, surer than the grave;
Her mother scared and unexpostulating
From the dread manner of her wish achieved:
And she!-Once more take courage, my faint heart;
What dares a friendless maiden matched with thee?
I have such foresight as assures success:
Some unbeheld divinity doth ever,
When dread events are near, stir up men's minds
To black suggestions; and he prospers best,
Not who becomes the instrument of ill,
But who can flatter the dark spirit, that makes
Its empire and its prey of other hearts
Till it become his slave . . . as I will do.


[Exit.


END OF THE SECOND ACT.

ACT III
Scene I.
-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace. Lucretia, to her enter Beatrice.


Beatrice.
(She enters staggering, and speaks wildly.)
Reach me that handkerchief!-My brain is hurt;
My eyes are full of blood; just wipe them for me . . .
I see but indistinctly . . .


Lucretia.
My sweet child,
You have no wound; 'tis only a cold dew
That starts from your dear brow . . . Alas! Alas!
What has befallen?


Beatrice.
How comes this hair undone?
Its wandering strings must be what blind me so,
And yet I tied it fast.-O, horrible!
The pavement sinks under my feet! The walls
Spin round! I see a woman weeping there,
And standing calm and motionless, whilst I
Slide giddily as the world reels. . . . My God!
The beautiful blue heaven is flecked with blood!
The sunshine on the floor is black! The air
Is changed to vapours such as the dead breathe
In charnel pits! Pah! I am choked! There creeps
A clinging, black, contaminating mist
About me . . . 'tis substantial, heavy, thick,
I cannot pluck it from me, for it glues
My fingers and my limbs to one another,
And eats into my sinews, and dissolves
My flesh to a pollution, poisoning
The subtle, pure, and inmost spirit of life!
My God! I never knew what the mad felt
Before; for I am mad beyond all doubt!
(More wildly.)
No, I am dead! These putrefying limbs
Shut round and sepulchre the panting soul
Which would burst forth into the wandering air! (A pause.)

What hideous thought was that I had even now?
'Tis gone; and yet its burthen remains here
O'er these dull eyes . . . upon this weary heart!
O, world! O, life! O, day! O, misery!


Lucretia.
What ails thee, my poor child? She answers not:
Her spirit apprehends the sense of pain,
But not its cause; suffering has dried away
The source from which it sprung . . .


Beatrice
(franticly).
Like Parricide . . .
Misery has killed its father: yet its father
Never like mine . . . O, God! What thing am I?


Lucretia.
My dearest child, what has your father done?


Beatrice
(doubtfully).


Who art thou, questioner? I have no father.
(Aside.)
She is the madhouse nurse who tends on me,
It is a piteous office.


[To Lucretia, in a slow, subdued voice.


Do you know
I thought I was that wretched Beatrice
Men speak of, whom her father sometimes hales
From hall to hall by the entangled hair;
At others, pens up naked in damp cells
Where scaly reptiles crawl, and starves her there,
Till she will eat strange flesh. This woful story
So did I overact in my sick dreams,
That I imagined . . . no, it cannot be!
Horrible things have been in this wide world,
Prodigious mixtures, and confusions strange
Of good and ill; and worse have been conceived
Than ever there was found a heart to do.
But never fancy imaged such a deed
As . . .


[Pauses, suddenly recollecting herself.


Who art thou? Swear to me, ere I die
With fearful expectation, that indeed
Thou art not what thou seemest . . . Mother!


Lucretia.
Oh!
My sweet child, know you . . .


Beatrice.
Yet speak it not:
For then if this be truth, that other too
Must be a truth, a firm enduring truth,
Linked with each lasting circumstance of life,
Never to change, never to pass away.
Why so it is. This is the Cenci Palace;
Thou art Lucretia; I am Beatrice.
I have talked some wild words, but will no more.
Mother, come near me: from this point of time,
I am . . .


[Her voice dies away faintly.


Lucretia.
Alas! What has befallen thee, child?
What has thy father done?


Beatrice.
What have I done?
Am I not innocent? Is it my crime
That one with white hair, and imperious brow,
Who tortured me from my forgotten years,
As parents only dare, should call himself
My father, yet should be!-Oh, what am I?
What name, what place, what memory shall be mine?
What retrospects, outliving even despair?


Lucretia.
He is a violent tyrant, surely, child:
We know that death alone can make us free;
His death or ours. But what can he have done
Of deadlier outrage or worse injury?
Thou art unlike thyself; thine eyes shoot forth
A wandering and strange spirit. Speak to me,
Unlock those pallid hands whose fingers twine
With one another.


Beatrice.
'Tis the restless life
Tortured within them. If I try to speak
I shall go mad. Ay, something must be done;
What, yet I know not . . . something which shall make
The thing that I have suffered but a shadow
In the dread lightning which avenges it;
Brief, rapid, irreversible, destroying
The consequence of what it cannot cure.
Some such thing is to be endured or done:
When I know what, I shall be still and calm,
And never anything will move me more.
But now!-O blood, which art my father's blood,
Circling through these contaminated veins,
If thou, poured forth on the polluted earth,
Could wash away the crime, and punishment
By which I suffer . . . no, that cannot be!
Many might doubt there were a God above
Who sees and permits evil, and so die:
That faith no agony shall obscure in me.


Lucretia.
It must indeed have been some bitter wrong;
Yet what, I dare not guess. Oh, my lost child,
Hide not in proud impenetrable grief
Thy sufferings from my fear.


Beatrice.
I hide them not.
What are the words which you would have me speak?
I, who can feign no image in my mind
Of that which has transformed me: I, whose thought
Is like a ghost shrouded and folded up
In its own formless horror: of all words,
That minister to mortal intercourse,
Which wouldst thou hear? For there is none to tell
My misery: if another ever knew
Aught like to it, she died as I will die,
And left it, as I must, without a name.
Death! Death! Our law and our religion call thee
A punishment and a reward . . . Oh, which
Have I deserved?


Lucretia.
The peace of innocence;
Till in your season you be called to heaven.
Whate'er you may have suffered, you have done
No evil. Death must be the punishment
Of crime, or the reward of trampling down
The thorns which God has strewed upon the path
Which leads to immortality.


Beatrice.


Ay; death . . .
The punishment of crime. I pray thee, God,
Let me not be bewildered while I judge.
If I must live day after day, and keep
These limbs, the unworthy temple of Thy spirit,
As a foul den from which what Thou abhorrest
May mock Thee, unavenged . . . it shall not be!
Self-murder . . . no, that might be no escape,
For Thy decree yawns like a Hell between
Our will and it:-O! In this mortal world
There is no vindication and no law
Which can adjudge and execute the doom
Of that through which I suffer.


Enter Orsino.
(She approaches him solemnly.)


Welcome, Friend!
I have to tell you that, since last we met,
I have endured a wrong so great and strange,
That neither life nor death can give me rest.
Ask me not what it is, for there are deeds
Which have no form, sufferings which have no tongue.


Orsino.
And what is he who has thus injured you?


Beatrice.
The man they call my father: a dread name.


Orsino.
It cannot be . . .


Beatrice.
What it can be, or not,
Forbear to think. It is, and it has been;
Advise me how it shall not be again.
I thought to die; but a religious awe
Restrains me, and the dread lest death itself
Might be no refuge from the consciousness
Of what is yet unexpiated. Oh, speak!


Orsino.
Accuse him of the deed, and let the law
Avenge thee.


Beatrice.
Oh, ice-hearted counsellor!
If I could find a word that might make known
The crime of my destroyer; and that done,
My tongue should like a knife tear out the secret
Which cankers my heart's core; ay, lay all bare
So that my unpolluted fame should be
With vilest gossips a stale mouthèd story;
A mock, a byword, an astonishment:-
If this were done, which never shall be done,
Think of the offender's gold, his dreaded hate,
And the strange horror of the accuser's tale,
Baffling belief, and overpowering speech;
Scarce whispered, unimaginable, wrapped
In hideous hints . . . Oh, most assured redress!


Orsino.
You will endure it then?


Beatrice.


Endure?-Ors ino,
It seems your counsel is small profit.


[Turns from him, and speaks half to herself.


Ay,
All must be suddenly resolved and done.
What is this undistinguishable mist
Of thoughts, which rise, like shadow after shadow,
Darkening each other?


Orsino.
Should the offender live?
Triumph in his misdeed? and make, by use,
His crime, whate'er it is, dreadful no doubt,
Thine element; until thou mayst become
Utterly lost; subdued even to the hue
Of that which thou permittest?


Beatrice
(to herself).
Mighty death!
Thou double-visaged shadow? Only judge!
Rightfullest arbiter!


[She retires absorbed in thought.


Lucretia.
If the lightning
Of God has e'er descended to avenge . . .


Orsino.
Blaspheme not! His high Providence commits
Its glory on this earth, and their own wrongs
Into the hands of men; if they neglect
To punish crime . . .


Lucretia.
But if one, like this wretch,
Should mock, with gold, opinion, law, and power?
If there be no appeal to that which makes
The guiltiest tremble? If because our wrongs,
For that they are unnatural, strange, and monstrous,
Exceed all measure of belief? O God!
If, for the very reasons which should make
Redress most swift and sure, our injurer triumphs?
And we, the victims, bear worse punishment
Than that appointed for their torturer?


Orsino.
Think not
But that there is redress where there is wrong,
So we be bold enough to seize it.


Lucretia.
How?
If there were any way to make all sure,
I know not . . . but I think it might be good
To . . .


Orsino.
Why, his late outrage to Beatrice;
For it is such, as I but faintly guess,
As makes remorse dishonour, and leaves her
Only one duty, how she may avenge:
You, but one refuge from ills ill endured;
Me, but one counsel . . .


Lucretia.
For we cannot hope
That aid, or retribution, or resource
Will arise thence, where every other one
Might find them with less need.


[Beatrice advances.


Orsino.
Then . . .


Beatrice.
Peace, Orsino!
And, honoured Lady, while I speak, I pray,
That you put off, as garments overworn,
Forbearance and respect, remorse and fear,
And all the fit restraints of daily life,
Which have been borne from childhood, but which now
Would be a mockery to my holier plea.
As I have said, I have endured a wrong,
Which, though it be expressionless, is such
As asks atonement; both for what is past,
And lest I be reserved, day after day,
To load with crimes an overburthened soul,
And be . . . what ye can dream not. I have prayed
To God, and I have talked with my own heart,
And have unravelled my entangled will,
And have at length determined what is right.
Art thou my friend, Orsino? False or true?
Pledge thy salvation ere I speak.


Orsino.
I swear
To dedicate my cunning, and my strength,
My silence, and whatever else is mine,
To thy commands.


Lucretia.
You think we should devise
His death?


Beatrice.
And execute what is devised,
And suddenly. We must be brief and bold.


Orsino.
And yet most cautious.


Lucretia.
For the jealous laws
Would punish us with death and infamy
For that which it became themselves to do.


Beatrice.
Be cautious as ye may, but prompt. Orsino,
What are the means?


Orsino.
I know two dull, fierce outlaws,
Who think man's spirit as a worm's, and they
Would trample out, for any slight caprice,
The meanest or the noblest life. This mood
Is marketable here in Rome. They sell
What we now want.


Lucretia.
To-morrow before dawn,
Cenci will take us to that lonely rock,
Petrella, in the Apulian Apennines.
If he arrive there . . .


Beatrice.
He must not arrive.


Orsino.
Will it be dark before you reach the tower?


Lucretia.
The sun will scarce be set.


Beatrice.
But I remember
Two miles on this side of the fort, the road
Crosses a deep ravine; 'tis rough and narrow,
And winds with short turns down the precipice;
And in its depth there is a mighty rock,
Which has, from unimaginable years,
Sustained itself with terror and with toil
Over a gulf, and with the agony
With which it clings seems slowly coming down;
Even as a wretched soul hour after hour,
Clings to the mass of life; yet clinging, leans;
And leaning, makes more dark the dread abyss
In which it fears to fall: beneath this crag
Huge as despair, as if in weariness,
The melancholy mountain yawns . . . below,
You hear but see not an impetuous torrent
Raging among the caverns, and a bridge
Crosses the chasm; and high above there grow,
With intersecting trunks, from crag to crag,
Cedars, and yews, and pines; whose tangled hair
Is matted in one solid roof of shade
By the dark ivy's twine. At noonday here
'Tis twilight, and at sunset blackest night.


Orsino.
Before you reach that bridge make some excuse
For spurring on your mules, or loitering
Until . . .


Beatrice.
What sound is that?


Lucretia.
Hark! No, it cannot be a servant's step
It must be Cenci, unexpectedly
Returned . . . Make some excuse for being here.


Beatrice.
(To Orsino, as she goes out.)
That step we hear approach must never pass
The bridge of which we spoke.


[Exeunt Lucretia and Beatrice.


Orsino.
What shall I do?
Cenci must find me here, and I must bear
The imperious inquisition of his looks
As to what brought me hither: let me mask
Mine own in some inane and vacant smile. Enter Giacomo, in a hurried manner.

How! Have you ventured hither? Know you then
That Cenci is from home?


Giacomo.
I sought him here;
And now must wait till he returns.


Orsino.
Great God!
Weigh you the danger of this rashness?


Giacomo.
Ay!
Does my destroyer know his danger? We
Are now no more, as once, parent and child,
But man to man; the oppressor to the oppressed;
The slanderer to the slandered; foe to foe:
He has cast Nature off, which was his shield,
And Nature casts him off, who is her shame;
And I spurn both. Is it a father's throat
Which I will shake, and say, I ask not gold;
I ask not happy years; nor memories
Of tranquil childhood; nor home-sheltered love;
Though all these hast thou torn from me, and more;
But only my fair fame; only one hoard
Of peace, which I thought hidden from thy hate,
Under the penury heaped on me by thee,
Or I will . . . God can understand and pardon,
Why should I speak with man?


Orsino.
Be calm, dear friend.


Giacomo.
Well, I will calmly tell you what he did.
This old Francesco Cenci, as you know,
Borrowed the dowry of my wife from me,
And then denied the loan; and left me so
In poverty, the which I sought to mend
By holding a poor office in the state.
It had been promised to me, and already
I bought new clothing for my raggèd babes,
And my wife smiled; and my heart knew repose.
When Cenci's intercession, as I found,
Conferred this office on a wretch, whom thus
He paid for vilest service. I returned
With this ill news, and we sate sad together
Solacing our despondency with tears
Of such affection and unbroken faith
As temper life's worst bitterness; when he,
As he is wont, came to upbraid and curse,
Mocking our poverty, and telling us
Such was God's scourge for disobedient sons.
And then, that I might strike him dumb with shame,
I spoke of my wife's dowry; but he coined
A brief yet specious tale, how I had wasted
The sum in secret riot; and he saw
My wife was touched, and he went smiling forth.
And when I knew the impression he had made,
And felt my wife insult with silent scorn
My ardent truth, and look averse and cold,
I went forth too: but soon returned again;
Yet not so soon but that my wife had taught
My children her harsh thoughts, and they all cried,
'Give us clothes, father! Give us better food!
What you in one night squander were enough
For months!' I looked, and saw that home was hell.
And to that hell will I return no more
Until mine enemy has rendered up
Atonement, or, as he gave life to me
I will, reversing Nature's law . . .


Orsino.
Trust me,
The compensation which thou seekest here
Will be denied.


Giacomo.
Then . . . Are you not my friend?
Did you not hint at the alternative,
Upon the brink of which you see I stand,
The other day when we conversed together?
My wrongs were then less. That word parricide,
Although I am resolved, haunts me like fear.


Orsino.
It must be fear itself, for the bare word
Is hollow mockery. Mark, how wisest God
Draws to one point the threads of a just doom,
So sanctifying it: what you devise
Is, as it were, accomplished.


Giacomo.
Is he dead?


Orsino.
His grave is ready. Know that since we met
Cenci has done an outrage to his daughter.


Giacomo.
What outrage?


Orsino.
That she speaks not, but you may
Conceive such half conjectures as I do,
From her fixed paleness, and the lofty grief
Of her stern brow bent on the idle air,
And her severe unmodulated voice,
Drowning both tenderness and dread; and last
From this; that whilst her step-mother and I,
Bewildered in our horror, talked together
With obscure hints; both self-misunderstood
And darkly guessing, stumbling, in our talk,
Over the truth, and yet to its revenge,
She interrupted us, and with a look
Which told before she spoke it, he must die: . . .


Giacomo.
It is enough. My doubts are well appeased;
There is a higher reason for the act
Than mine; there is a holier judge than me,
A more unblamed avenger. Beatrice,
Who in the gentleness of thy sweet youth
Hast never trodden on a worm, or bruised
A living flower, but thou hast pitied it
With needless tears! Fair sister, thou in whom
Men wondered how such loveliness and wisdom
Did not destroy each other! Is there made
Ravage of thee? O, heart, I ask no more
Justification! Shall I wait, Orsino,
Till he return, and stab him at the door?


Orsino.
Not so; some accident might interpose
To rescue him from what is now most sure;
And you are unprovided where to fly,
How to excuse or to conceal. Nay, listen:
All is contrived; success is so assured
That . . .


Enter Beatrice.


Beatrice.
'Tis my brother's voice! You know me not?


Giacomo.
My sister, my lost sister!


Beatrice.
Lost indeed!
I see Orsino has talked with you, and
That you conjecture things too horrible
To speak, yet far less than the truth. Now, stay not,
He might return: yet kiss me; I shall know
That then thou hast consented to his death.
Farewell, farewell! Let piety to God,
Brotherly love, justice and clemency,
And all things that make tender hardest hearts
Make thine hard, brother. Answer not . . . farewell.


[Exeunt severally.


Scene II.
-A mean Apartment in Giacomo's House. Giacomo alone.


Giacomo.


'Tis midnight, and Orsino comes not yet. [Thunder, and the sound of a storm.

What! can the everlasting elements
Feel with a worm like man? If so, the shaft
Of mercy-wingèd lightning would not fall
On stones and trees. My wife and children sleep:
They are now living in unmeaning dreams:
But I must wake, still doubting if that deed
Be just which is most necessary. O,
Thou unreplenished lamp! whose narrow fire
Is shaken by the wind, and on whose edge
Devouring darkness hovers! Thou small flame,
Which, as a dying pulse rises and falls,
Still flickerest up and down, how very soon,
Did I not feed thee, wouldst thou fail and be
As thou hadst never been! So wastes and sinks
Even now, perhaps, the life that kindled mine:
But that no power can fill with vital oil
That broken lamp of flesh. Ha! 'tis the blood
Which fed these veins that ebbs till all is cold:
It is the form that moulded mine that sinks
Into the white and yellow spasms of death:
It is the soul by which mine was arrayed
In God's immortal likeness which now stands
Naked before Heaven's judgement seat!


[A bell strikes.


One! Two!
The hours crawl on; and when my hairs are white,
My son will then perhaps be waiting thus,
Tortured between just hate and vain remorse;
Chiding the tardy messenger of news
Lik

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These People Will Do Anything They Are Told

It was once told to me...
A lie is not a lie,
If the receiver of one believes.
This frees the liar to tell more of them.
And with a spreading of falsehoods...
People deceived,
Can be told anything.
And perceive what is said as reality.

And these people will do anything they are told.
Like disrespect one another.
Sold on that which divides.
And with character assassinations...
Defeat themselves with genocide.
And accept this as being brave, patriotic and bold.
As only an upright citizen can be...
Programmed and controlled on a diet of ignorance,
And facts free.

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George Meredith

Ireland

Fire in her ashes Ireland feels
And in her veins a glow of heat.
To her the lost old time, appeals
For resurrection, good to greet:
Not as a shape with spectral eyes,
But humanly maternal, young
In all that quickens pride, and wise
To speak the best her bards have sung.

You read her as a land distraught,
Where bitterest rebel passions seethe.
Look with a core of heart in thought,
For so is known the truth beneath.
She came to you a loathing bride,
And it has been no happy bed.
Believe in her as friend, allied
By bonds as close as those who wed.

Her speech is held for hatred's cry;
Her silence tells of treason hid:
Were it her aim to burst the tie,
She sees what iron laws forbid.
Excess of heart obscures from view
A head as keen as yours to count.
Trust her, that she may prove her true
In links whereof is love the fount.

May she not call herself her own?
That is her cry, and thence her spits
Of fury, thence her graceless tone
At justice given in bits and bits.
The limbs once raw with gnawing chains
Will fret at silken when God's beams
Of Freedom beckon o'er the plains
From mounts that show it more than dreams.

She, generous, craves your generous dole;
That will not rouse the crack of doom.
It ends the blundering past control
Simply to give her elbow-room.
Her offspring feels they are a race,
To be a nation is their claim;
Yet stronger bound in your embrace
Than when the tie was but a name.

A nation she, and formed to charm,
With heart for heart and hands all round.
No longer England's broken arm,
Would England know where strength is found.
And strength to-day is England's need;
To-morrow it may be for both
Salvation: heed the portents, heed
The warnings; free the mind from sloth.

Too long the pair have danced in mud,
With no advance from sun to sun.
Ah, what a bounding course of blood
Has England with an Ireland one!
Behold yon shadow cross the downs,
And off away to yeasty seas.
Lightly will fly old rancour's frowns
When solid with high heart stand these.

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The Only Way To Understand What We Have Been Talking About...

let me write about peace then.

the irony is that peace has no use of words,
like silence,

when you utter it, it is not there anymore.

let me paint peace then, ah, the very sound of the brush disturbs it,
the way we choose the color, creates an argument

let me have a camera and take a picture of peace,
disregard the click and the flash

just imagine it,

early dawn, a fisherman casts his net on a noiseless sea
all the fish have gone to the other side of the island.

the earlier you accept that you have been rightfully abandoned
the easier is it to understand what we have been talking about.

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Allow Reality to Teach

When your way of life...
No longer feels right,
As a way of life you once liked.
And you, your spouse...
Lovers and/or mistresses,
Neighbors, creditors, pets and friends...
Are left,
Pacing the floor of squeezed space...
And nibbling on a shared box of Keeblers'.
Your way of life,
Has been certifiably changed!

How that is explained and to who?
Depends on where those denials have been sent!

If those denials are still around,
And can be found sleeping...
In a drug induced coma?
Or alcoholed into a stupor?
They need to be awaken quick.
And removed without excusing this!

When your way of life...
No longer feels right,
As a way of life you once liked?
It's time for reality to pay a much needed visit.
And when it arrives at your doorstep knocking...
Rid yourself of charades, masquerades and 'all' pretentions.

Make sure reality is given time to feel comfortable.
And no interruptions when it speaks...
Loud and clear!

Some lessons need emergencies to be learned.
Allow reality to teach.
Or you will never again get a peaceful night's sleep.

Allow reality to teach.
Sleep on what has been taught.
Eat it to digest.
And make friends with truth.
Knowing for you this is the best...
When you allow reality to teach,
There is nothing like a mind at rest.

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In This Moment

Light is dim
Although in this moment
Light is not a welcome entity-
My mind wants to hide itself
Within the darkness of
This very early summer morning-
In this moment, I foresee no serenity and
I hear voices screaming while
In the fortress of this room
I know I am the only one present.
If only my bed, here where I lay, were a ship, I would journey years backward
To the place I lived in at all times many decades ago-
Now I know that land was non existent, even though
At the time it was my only reality.
In this moment, my only reality is within this room
Where the light is dim and
Outside this window, where the shades are pulled halfway down,
A world surrounds me-a world I cannot call my home.
Here within the place of my thoughts,
There exists a sea cobalt blue in its hue
A sea of tranquility, although it seems as if
All tranquility has just been shattered-
Even though the voices I hear screaming are terrifying and unreal-
The voice of reality is dimmer.
Threatening voices and this bed in which I lie is a boat
Now in the midst of a storm at sea, and although
I can foresee no destiny-here where I lie resting,
All is familiar to me while the real world outside is foreign, and
A threat to my existence.
So here in this moment, I close my eyes to all that I fear and I know that momentarily
I shall drift off to sleep and dream of the past-
Where I lived inside my own world of bliss and harmony-
Here In this very moment where the light of reality is dim,
My eyes are closed and I am sailing upon my magical ship,
Back to the time where fantasy brought me only peace of mind
Unaware of the day I would awaken alive in a planet they call "Earth"
Where my imaginary ship would overturn and I would find myself
Drowning in a sea of madness where there exists no recourse to fear,
In this moment where light has never been dimmer…

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You Should Have Been The One For Me

Bye my lover! ! !
Bye my friend;
You should have been the one for me,
But you left me and married another man.

Bye my lover! ! !
Bye my friend;
Your should have been the one for me,
But your eyes met another man in the land of your muse.

You should have been the one for me,
And you surely know how much i love you!
For i did my best for you,
Even to back up your school's research work;
But you left me and married another man.

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Special

Talk.

For the world wants to hear you.

Open your eyes.

For the world wants to see you.

Now take off that extra layer and show me your true colors.

For I have been waiting to see your true self ever since you came into my presence.

For you are special no matter what people say or what you think.

For you are special because you took the time to grace me with your presence and overcome your obstacles.

To me that is special for life is tough. So continue on being special by battling your obstacles.

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I have been Hungry - after Emily Dickinson - I had been hungry all the years

I have been hungry through the years –
undernourished, incomplete -
awaiting in this vale of tears
for welcome symbiosis sweet.

I have been hungry! - vision clears
when appetite the verb to eat
reformulates as eyes and ears
attune to one heart's precious beat.

I have been hungry, it appears,
too much let slip where lip might meet
stained lip which, vain, in other spheres,
mistook itself for heart replete.

I have been hungry, - atmospheres
apart from others. Games repeat
the search to feel through vain veneers,
protecting self at cost of self-deceit.

I have been hungry, love's arrears
now heartbeat love pursue - retreat
impossible. Although change nears
the piper pays for past conceit.

I have been hungry, - hope now nears
puts trust in touch with touch whose heat
dissolves restraints when heart heart hears.
Twinned echo intimate may greet
an understanding which endears
self to self through paraclete
who hunger heals as fade false fears,
who braids heart, head, to spirit's seat...

I have been hungry, - change of gears -
intimacy, warmth, defeat
sends packing! Lacking naught, WE greet
long looked for happiness complete.

© Jonathan Robin – robi3_0655 parody written 9 December 2001 after Emily Dickinson I Have Been Hungry

I HAD BEEN HUNGRY ALL THE YEARS

I had been hungry, all the Years—
My Noon had Come—to dine—
I trembling drew the Table near—
And touched the Curious Wine—

'Twas this on Tables I had seen—
When turning, hungry, Home
I looked in Windows, for the Wealth
I could not hope—for Mine—

I did not know the ample Bread—
'Twas so unlike the Crumb
The Birds and I, had often shared
In Nature's—Dining Room—

The Plenty hurt me—'twas so new—
Myself felt ill—and odd—
As Berry—of a Mountain Bush—
Transplanted—to a Road—

Nor was I hungry—so I found
That Hunger—was a way
Of Persons outside Windows—
The Entering—takes away—

DICKINSON Emily 1830_1886 dick2_0018_dick2_0000 PXX_DJZ I had been Hungry, all the Years_I had been hungry

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What we call happiness in the strictest sense comes from the (preferably sudden) satisfaction of needs which have been dammed up to a high degree.

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We have it. The smoking gun. The evidence. The potential weapon of mass destruction we have been looking for as our pretext of invading Iraq. There's just one problem - it's in North Korea.

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The Time Has Come...

All of their cable lines,
Have been dependently connected...
To outside sources.
This has been going on for decades.
Generations have benefited from this.
So...
Tell me,
Who are these 'delutionists'...
Proposing such a ridiculous undertaking?

'The children of the potheads.
The ones strickly raised on independent concepts.
And calling themselves 'conservatives'.
The ones wishing structure that is sound...
And foundation based.
And...
Believing their way of life is envied.'

Envied?
By 'who'?

'The very ones supporting their existence.
Their way of life and those standards,
They have come to treasure and value..
That's why they have become upset.
And protesting now.'

Isn't it time they be told the truth?

'Time to do what?
Are you kidding?
By whom?
There are already hundreds of thousands,
Sitting in prisons.
And they were the ones told,
Santa clause did not exiit and had been a myth.'

The road ahead is rocky, indeed.

'Well...
Not necessarily.
You see...
Leaders from around the world,
Will soon be introducing in all school systems...
The teaching of magic tricks and illusions.
And...
So far,
Those protesting the loss of their entitlements...
Have been slowly convinced.
With a showing of an interest.'

That's great news.
Perhaps there will eventually be peace at last.

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The Time Has Come

(lonnie wilson/susan longacre)
The time has come to let you go
My tears will run and theyll keep me afloat
I set you adrift like a burning boat
The time has come to let you go
The time has come to turn you loose
It took my heart this long to face the truth
If I lost you I can lose these blues
The time has come to turn you loose
We had our moment in the sun
But that time has come and now that time is gone
The time has come to set you free
Tonights the night Ill untie all these dreams
Ill send them away so I can find some peace
The time has come to set you free
Im gonna let you go

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When The Time Has Come

Everythings gonna clear up
And the sun will shine
Everybodys gonna cheer up
cause its redemption time
Dont you worry bout a thing
Cause you know things are gonna change
When the time has come
Walls are gonna crumble
And fall into the sea
Oh, all men will be humble
Thats a guarantee
A little rain is gonna fall
But it will only wash away the tears of us all
Dont you worry bout a thing
cause that train is gonna run
You will be on it
From here to kingdom come
When the time has come
Listen to the band
Feels like a change
Wind is gonna rise up
And blow us all away
People gonna wise up
Cause its judgement day
So dont you worry about a thing
Cause you know that train is gonna run
You will be on it
Not just for some
Well all be on it
From here to kingdom come
When the time has come
When the time has come
When the time has come
Oh when the time has come
Everythings gonna clear up
Everybody cheer up
Walls are gonna crumble
All men will be humble
Feeling it getting stronger
Wont be down much longer
We will be free
When the time has come
When the time has come
I beieve the time has come
Feels like a change
When the time....

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Rumi

The time has come for us to become madmen in your chain

The time has come for us to become madmen in your chain, to
burst our bonds and become estranged from all;
To yield up our souls, no more to bear the disgrace of such a
soul, to set fire to our house, and run like fire to the tavern.
Until we ferment, we shall not escape from this vat of the
world- how then shall we become intimate with the lip of that
flagon and bowl?
Listen to the words from a madman: do not suppose that we
become true men until we die.
It is necessary that we should become more inverted than the
tip of a comb in the top of the twisted tress of felicity;
Spread our wings and pinions like a tree in the orchard, if like
a seed we are to be scattered on this road of annihilation.
Though we are of stone, we shall become like wax for you
seal; though we be candles, we shall become a moth in the track
of your light.
Though we are kings, we shall travel straight as rocks for your
sake, that we may become blessed through your queen on this
chessboard.
In the face of the mirror of love we must not breathe a word of
ourselves; we must become intimate with your treasure when
we are changed to waste.
Like the tale of the heart we must be without bread or ending,
that we may become dwellers in the heart of lovers like a tale.
If he acts like the seeker, we shall attain to being sought; if he acts
the key, we shall become all the wards of the lock.
If Mostafa does not make his way and couch in our hearts, it is
meet that we should lament and become like the Wailing
Column.
No, be silent; for one must observe silence towards the watch-
man when we go towards the pavilion by night.

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The Time Has Come...

The vicar went to the valley,
A mountain on either side,
He built a small log cabin
To comfort his future bride,
The wind between the mountains
Brought echoes of far-off plains,
More often than not in the heart of the night,
Someone called his name.

The voice was sometimes muffled,
The voice, it sometimes screamed,
Whole sentences were chanted
Broke in on the vicar's dreams,
The sounds were like a mirage
Half heard from a distant town,
Whenever the wind would begin to rise
He heard the strangest sounds.

A tap-tap-tap in the morning,
A tap-tap-tap at night,
As if someone was typing
Up on the mountain's height,
The rhythm was pervasive
As it typed some ancient log,
He heard the words: 'The quick brown fox
Jumps over the lazy dog.'

He ran from out of the cabin
And scanned the dusty plain,
His trusty dog was lying
Asleep on the track again,
When out from the brittle bushes
Aside of the narrow track,
A quick brown fox with a startled look,
Jumped over his old Ridge-back.

The vicar ran to the cabin
And fell on his knees in prayer,
What are you trying to tell me, lord,
That you're really, really there?
I thought you were, but I wasn't sure,
It'll take some getting used to!
A voice intoned: 'England expects
Each man to do his duty! '

The vicar jumped up off his knees
And praised the lord again,
You've saved my very soul, my lord,
From Hell, and the pits of pain,
I'd thought that God was mine alone,
And not for everyone,
But now I find - and it blows my mind;
'God is an Englishman! '

The wind was slowly rising,
It whined and whooped and roared,
It swooped along the valley,
Came in at the cabin door,
The vicar, sleeping restlessly
Heard everything, hale and hearty:
'The time has come for all good men
To come to the aid of the party.'

The vicar's not been seen of late
He's busy, light and dark,
With hammer, nails, and canvas sails
He's building himself an Ark,
While in a tiny township that
Lies hidden in mountain haze,
A typing teacher has just locked up,
And gone on his holidays.

12 April 2008

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The Price Of A Soul

“I know I’m a down and out, wet and freezing cold,
but what do you want of me, a man who feels so old.
I’m so tired; just leave me alone so I can get some sleep
and with luck God will my soul safely keep.

Tell me what you want! I’ve got nothing to give you,
no money, no jewellery, and my body is worthless too.
Or are you a Good Samaritan here to give me money?
Oh, go away; you can’t do anything for me.”

“What if I could do something for you, like make you well again
and make you feel younger and fitter, and free from all your pain?
Because I’m the kind of guy who has the power to do this for you,
if you promise to do something for me; just the odd thing or two.

Well, I can see that you’re thinking.., what do you say old man?
No one else will make you this offer, there’s only me that can?
If you turn me down you’ll be dead anyway in a very short time.
What’ve you to lose? Give me a reason, why should you decline? ”

And I suppose the only thing you want is my God given soul
the only thing I have that’s complete and whole.
In all the years I’ve had it, it has been of no use to me
and yet you want it in exchange for my misery.”

“Tell me old man how did you know it was your soul that I desire?
Do you think that I’m evil and come from a land of fire?
People have somehow managed to get the wrong impression of me,
if I was an evil creature would I set your pain free?

Now, you might say that I’m getting the better of the deal,
but hey, come on, think about it, let us both get real.
Your time is almost over and I’m offering you a new lease of life,
I’ll give you three years of health and wealth, and a pretty wife.

Come on now old man, before it’s too late, what do you say,
are we going to make a deal before you slip away?
Your aged soul is of little use to you when you have gone,
so let’s live and let live, begin a new life from now on! ”

And if I agree and say yes to the exchange of my soul
what will happen to it when I have paid you my toll?
Will my soul burn for eternity in the far reaches of hell,
or be tormented and tortured for reasons you won’t tell? ”

“I don’t know where you get all these untrue stories from,
nothing like that happens when you’ve departed and gone.
I’m an angel who gathers lost souls, which I keep with others
and you’ll join a family of soul mates, sisters and brothers.

After I’ve helped and collected a couple of thousand or more
you’ll energise me, so I can help other souls at death’s door.
So there you are, there’s nothing sinister and no one gets fired,
and in the end we’re all happy to achieve what we desired.”

Is it true that we have to have a contract signed in blood,
so there’s no going back and that is understood.
And if you do want everything written down that way
I’ll have no choice but to agree to all you say.”

“Ah for progress; these days a teardropp to seal the contract will do
and everything and more that I promised will be granted to you,
but remember in three years from now your soul will become mine,
so make the most of your life and have a really great time.”

Three extraordinary years have passed by as though one day
and the payment of a soul is due without delay.
“Hello my old friend you look full of life, so healthy and well,
your extension of life hasn’t been wasted, this I can tell.”

“I’ve had a truly exceptional time and I want to thank you a lot,
but is there any way we can postpone the contract we’ve got? ”
“What! Every time I do a suffering, dying person a good turn,
they throw it back into my face; when will they ever learn?

Listen closely old man, a deal is a deal and that is a fact,
and when it’s made with me there’s no going back.
Now is the time to give me a sealing teardropp from your eye
and then we can say our last final goodbye.”

“I’m sorry I can’t, it’s impossible because I have dry eyes,
operations on both have been unsuccessfully tried.”
This is wasting time and no good to me! We have a deal
you’ll have to renew it, this time in blood, for real.”

“I don’t want to sign a new deal; things are different in my life,
I have responsibilities now, a child and a new wife.”
All these wonderful things happened to you because of me!
You owe me your soul and that’s how it will be!

Very well, I accept that I cannot have your soul today,
but the moment you die you will definitely pay,
and don’t go away thinking that you have outwitted me
your soul will be mine soon, you are not accident free.”

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Patrick White

I Should Lie In The Sun And Melt Into The Grass

I should lie in the sun and melt into the grass.
I listen to the bikers throttling up like chain-saws.
I sit here urgently trying not to pollute time.
A poem's got one foot on shore and one in the boat.
Let Atlantis rise or sink as it will. I can wait.
Even when it's calm, my heart is an idling storm
and every third thought is a voodoo doll
as it sees itself on the inside
behind the eyelid of a visionary eclipse.
Nothing to worry about. I'm not going to put
the eyes of the telescope out for looking at Lady Godiva.

Look at me tracking myself all over this paper,
mouse and bird letters in the snow at the base of a juniper.
How human it is to forgo yourself for a future that doesn't exist.
God, I wish there were more fireflies in my life than street signs.
Do you see the lack of meaning in how things are understood?
Thought will get you as far as a frog on a lily pad
but once you get there it's easy to see it's the lily that shines
in a whole other realm of language
that everyone understands but no one can speak.
I watch the honeysuckle burn the gate I came through.
I note the blue eye shadow of the damselfly
applying herself like a cosmetic pencil to the heavy petals
of the wild roses tangled in the fallen birch.

What a shock it would be if I were to take off my lifemask
and you were to discover me infinitely closer to you
like a dimension you hadn't detected in your awareness
than the light is to what you see when
you're sitting up in bed alone in the dark at three in the morning.
What a world, hey? What do you make of it?
The marvel and the horror and the mystery
and the way destiny manifestly unrolls like a lottery
for every living thing on a planet that occasionally plays
Russian roulette with the asteroids, and our tiny part in it all,
this mere speck of nothingness that can embody
in its formless spaces within, the superclustering of galaxies?
And the pain and the anger and the sorrow and the fear
and the way things change and disappear
as you look for the forms of your expectations everywhere
and everything's either an approximation or consolation
of what you can see so clearly, it burns the air?

I should lie down in the sun and melt into the grass,
but forgotten among buildings here, I am unbound
and not even the dead are as free as I am right now.
The whole universe is one big solid insight
where inanimate things are just another mode of motion
sitting in the room like Latin, dogpaddling in space and time,
and I'm tucked under your eyelids like a loveletter
you weren't expecting in a language that could read you
like any one of the seventy-two scholars of the Septuagint.
I've been listening to you for lightyears like leaves
listen for the wind and the rain and the moonlight
and what you have felt about being alive
to say hello and sing farewell, has been my feeling,
and when you have wept at the intransigence of angels
and the generosity of their expansive interventions,
I have been humbled by the eyes of my own exaltations.
And my feet swept out from under me
like an undertow of shadows on the moon.

Sister Lunacy, who can stand in the light
of these intensities and immensities for long
this vertigo of stars and skulls, bells and scars
without reeling in the delirium of simply being here
to witness them as if they somehow depended on us
to embody them in our hearts and minds and voids
as if they were no different from us than we were,
all waves of awareness the wind blows up on the ocean.
The imagination transforms everything in to us.
The stars reek of the eyes that have gazed up at them
like pyres and telescopes and censers, it's
in the hair of a comet like the smell of a lover,
it's what makes the meteorites as kissable
as the head of a snake to the lips of a gentle enemy.

Sister Lunacy, my heartfelt muse, my dark-side dakini,
what have you been dancing for all these years?
Have you been pearldiving among the castanets
for a moonrise in the mouth of a seashell
that could sing to you like the ocean you're lost upon?
You're the station every seeker gets to
on a pilgrimage he doesn't know he's taking
where he damns the consequences and blessings alike
and enters into the spiritual life as a rebel of compassion
as he addresses himself to what's arrayed before him
as if there were only one voice between himself and another
like a bridge that flows, like a star
that doesn't drown in your eye like a firefly.
And if there were anything I could ever say I was
it would have to be this just as it is, this
endlessness I keep being poured out into
as if my heart were the only waterclock I could live by
and disembodied space the only medium
that could accommodate my shapeshifting adaptations
like goldfish coming to the surface to feed on the stars.

Sister Lunacy, the moon reaches down to the roots of the river reeds
and the catfish thrive among the wild rice in the shallows,
and eyes in the darkness high overhead, as if
someone shattered a mirror into a billion bits of awareness
see you standing on your barren precipice
and long to know what it is you're thinking.
In order to understand you must become the thing itself.
You must abdicate your own presence to be
remotely at peace with the world, it's a strawdog anyway,
and it burns too fast to be much of a lighthouse.
And o my darkness, there are so many skins you have yet to shed
like the moon trying on a wardrobe of water
laying her gown across the lake like an early frost of sequins.
I shall come to you at first as a premonition
as lightly as a cloud touches the mountain, an aberrant insight,
a synchronistic intuition of our simultaneity,
and in your breath my breath shall be an atmosphere
and in your eye my eye shall lavish the most intimate of stars,
and in your blood my blood shall be the poppy and the rose.

Sister Lunacy, even after the house has burnt to the ground
my passion stands like a blackened doorway in the rain
and though I look at you through a broken window,
the moon is whole, and the sky is not torn or bruised.

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The Sundays of Satin-Legs Smith

Inamoratas, with an approbation,
Bestowed his title. Blessed his inclination.

He wakes, unwinds, elaborately: a cat
Tawny, reluctant, royal. He is fat
And fine this morning. Definite. Reimbursed.

He waits a moment, he designs his reign,
That no performance may be plain or vain.
Then rises in a clear delirium.

He sheds, with his pajamas, shabby days.
And his desertedness, his intricate fear, the
Postponed resentments and the prim precautions.

Now, at his bath, would you deny him lavender
Or take away the power of his pine?
What smelly substitute, heady as wine,
Would you provide? life must be aromatic.
There must be scent, somehow there must be some.
Would you have flowers in his life? suggest
Asters? a Really Good geranium?
A white carnation? would you prescribe a Show
With the cold lilies, formal chrysanthemum
Magnificence, poinsettias, and emphatic
Red of prize roses? might his happiest
Alternative (you muse) be, after all,
A bit of gentle garden in the best
Of taste and straight tradition? Maybe so.
But you forget, or did you ever know,
His heritage of cabbage and pigtails,
Old intimacy with alleys, garbage pails,
Down in the deep (but always beautiful) South
Where roses blush their blithest (it is said)
And sweet magnolias put Chanel to shame.

No! He has not a flower to his name.
Except a feather one, for his lapel.
Apart from that, if he should think of flowers
It is in terms of dandelions or death.
Ah, there is little hope. You might as well—
Unless you care to set the world a-boil
And do a lot of equalizing things,
Remove a little ermine, say, from kings,
Shake hands with paupers and appoint them men,
For instance—certainly you might as well
Leave him his lotion, lavender and oil.

Let us proceed. Let us inspect, together
With his meticulous and serious love,
The innards of this closet. Which is a vault
Whose glory is not diamonds, not pearls,
Not silver plate with just enough dull shine.
But wonder-suits in yellow and in wine,
Sarcastic green and zebra-striped cobalt.
With shoulder padding that is wide
And cocky and determined as his pride;
Ballooning pants that taper off to ends
Scheduled to choke precisely.
Here are hats
Like bright umbrellas; and hysterical ties
Like narrow banners for some gathering war.

People are so in need, in need of help.
People want so much that they do not know.

Below the tinkling trade of little coins
The gold impulse not possible to show
Or spend. Promise piled over and betrayed.

These kneaded limbs receive the kiss of silk.
Then they receive the brave and beautiful
Embrace of some of that equivocal wool.
He looks into his mirror, loves himself—
The neat curve here; the angularity
That is appropriate at just its place;
The technique of a variegated grace.

Here is all his sculpture and his art
And all his architectural design.
Perhaps you would prefer to this a fine
Value of marble, complicated stone.
Would have him think with horror of baroque,
Rococo. You forget and you forget.

He dances down the hotel steps that keep
Remnants of last night’s high life and distress.
As spat-out purchased kisses and spilled beer.
He swallows sunshine with a secret yelp.
Passes to coffee and a roll or two.
Has breakfasted.
Out. Sounds about him smear,
Become a unit. He hears and does not hear
The alarm clock meddling in somebody’s sleep;
Children’s governed Sunday happiness;
The dry tone of a plane; a woman’s oath;
Consumption’s spiritless expectoration;
An indignant robin’s resolute donation
Pinching a track through apathy and din;
Restaurant vendors weeping; and the L
That comes on like a slightly horrible thought.

Pictures, too, as usual, are blurred.
He sees and does not see the broken windows
Hiding their shame with newsprint; little girl
With ribbons decking wornness, little boy
Wearing the trousers with the decentest patch,
To honor Sunday; women on their way
From “service,” temperate holiness arranged
Ably on asking faces; men estranged
From music and from wonder and from joy
But far familiar with the guiding awe
Of foodlessness.
He loiters.
Restaurant vendors
Weep, or out of them rolls a restless glee.
The Lonesome Blues, the Long-lost Blues, I Want A
Big Fat Mama. Down these sore avenues
Comes no Saint-Saëns, no piquant elusive Grieg,
And not Tschaikovsky’s wayward eloquence
And not the shapely tender drift of Brahms.
But could he love them? Since a man must bring
To music what his mother spanked him for
When he was two: bits of forgotten hate,
Devotion: whether or not his mattress hurts:
The little dream his father humored: the thing
His sister did for money: what he ate
For breakfast—and for dinner twenty years
Ago last autumn: all his skipped desserts.

The pasts of his ancestors lean against
Him. Crowd him. Fog out his identity.
Hundreds of hungers mingle with his own,
Hundreds of voices advise so dexterously
He quite considers his reactions his,
Judges he walks most powerfully alone,
That everything is—simply what it is.

But movie-time approaches, time to boo
The hero’s kiss, and boo the heroine
Whose ivory and yellow it is sin
For his eye to eat of. The Mickey Mouse,
However, is for everyone in the house.

Squires his lady to dinner at Joe’s Eats.
His lady alters as to leg and eye,
Thickness and height, such minor points as these,
From Sunday to Sunday. But no matter what
Her name or body positively she’s
In Queen Lace stockings with ambitious heels

That strain to kiss the calves, and vivid shoes
Frontless and backless, Chinese fingernails,
Earrings, three layers of lipstick, intense hat
Dripping with the most voluble of veils.
Her affable extremes are like sweet bombs
About him, whom no middle grace or good
Could gratify. He had no education
In quiet arts of compromise. He would
Not understand your counsels on control, nor
Thank you for your late trouble.
At Joe’s Eats
You get your fish or chicken on meat platters.
With coleslaw, macaroni, candied sweets,
Coffee and apple pie. You go out full.
(The end is—isn’t it?—all that really matters.)

And even and intrepid come
The tender boots of night to home.

Her body is like new brown bread
Under the Woolworth mignonette.
Her body is a honey bowl
Whose waiting honey is deep and hot,
Her body is like summer earth,
Receptive, soft, and absolute ...

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The Mosque Of Cordoba

The succession of day and night
Is the architect of events.
The succession of day and night
Is the fountain-head of life and death.
The succession of day and night
Is a two-tone silken twine,
With which the Divine Essence
Prepares Its apparel of Attributes.

The succession of day and night
Is the reverberation of the symphony of
Creation.
Through its modulations, the Infinite
demonstrates
The parameters of possibilities.

The succession of day and night
Is the touchstone of the universe;
Now sitting in judgement on you,
Now setting a value on me.

But what if you are found wanting.
What if I am found wanting.
Death is your ultimate destiny.
Death is my ultimate destiny.

What else is the reality of your days
and nights,
Besides a surge in the river of time,
Sans day, sans night.

Frail and evanescent, all miracles of
ingenuity,
Transient, all temporal attainments;
Ephemeral, all worldly accomplishments.

Annihilation is the end of all
beginnings.
Annihilation is the end of all ends.
Extinction, the fate of everything;
Hidden or manifest, old or new.

Yet in this very scenario
Indelible is the stamp of permanence
On the deeds of the good and godly.

Deeds of the godly radiate with Love,
The essence of life,
Which death is forbidden to touch.

Fast and free flows the tide of time,
But Love itself is a tide that stems all tides.

In the chronicle of Love there are times
Other than the past, the present and the
future;
Times for which no names have yet
been coined.

Love is the breath of Gabriel.
Love is the heart of Mustafa.
Love is the messenger of God.
Love is the Word of God.

Love is ecstasy lends luster to earthly
forms.
Love is the heady wine,
Love is the grand goblet.

Love is the commander of marching troops.
Love is a wayfarer with many a way-side
abode.

Love is the plectrum that brings
Music to the string of life.
Love is the light of life.
Love is the fire of life.

To Love, you owe your being,
O, Harem of Cordoba,
To Love, that is eternal;
Never waning, never fading.

Just the media these pigments, bricks
and stones;
This harp, these words and sounds, just
the media.
The miracle of art springs from the
lifeblood of the artist!

A droplet of the lifeblood
Transforms a piece of dead rock into a living
heart;
An impressive sound, into a song of
solicitude,
A refrain of rapture or a melody of mirth.

The aura you exude, illumines the
heart.
My plaint kindles the soul.
You draw the hearts to the Presence
Divine,

I inspire them to bloom and blossom.
No less exalted than the Exalted Throne,
Is the throne of the heart, the human breast!
Despite the limit of azure skies,
Ordained for this handful of dust.

Celestial beings, born of light,
Do have the privilege of supplication,
But unknown to them
Are the verve and warmth of
prostration.

An Indian infidel, perchance, am I;
But look at my fervour, my ardour.
‘Blessings and peace upon the Prophet,' sings
my heart.
‘Blessings and peace upon the Prophet,' echo
my lips.

My song is the song of aspiration.
My lute is the serenade of longing.
Every fibre of my being
Resonates with the refrains of Allah hoo!

Your beauty, your majesty,
Personify the graces of the man of faith.
You are beautiful and majestic.
He too is beautiful and majestic.

Your foundations are lasting,
Your columns countless,
Like the profusion of palms
In the plains of Syria.

Your arches, your terraces, shimmer with the
light
That once flashed in the valley of Aiman
Your soaring minaret, all aglow
In the resplendence of Gabriel's glory.

The Muslim is destined to last
As his Azan holds the key to the
mysteries
Of the perennial message of Abraham
and Moses.

His world knows no boundaries,
His horizon, no frontiers.
Tigris, Danube and Nile:
Billows of his oceanic expanse.

Fabulous, have been his times!
Fascinating, the accounts of his
achievements!
He it was, who bade the final adieu
To the outworn order.

A cup-bearer is he,
With the purest wine for the connoisseur;
A cavalier in the path of Love
With a sword of the finest steel.

A combatant, with la ilah
As his coat of mail.
Under the shadow of flashing
scimitars,
'La ilah' is his protection.

Your edifice unravels
The mystery of the faithful;
The fire of his fervent days,
The bliss of his tender nights.

Your grandeur calls to mind
The loftiness of his station,
The sweep of his vision,
His rapture, his ardour, his pride, his
humility.

The might of the man of faith
Is the might of the Almighty:
Dominant, creative, resourceful, consummate.

He is terrestrial with celestial aspect;
A being with the qualities of the
Creator.
His contented self has no demands
On this world or the other.

His desires are modest; his aims exalted;
His manner charming; his ways winsome.

Soft in social exposure,
Tough in the line of pursuit.
But whether in fray or in social
gathering,
Ever chaste at heart, ever clean in
conduct.

In the celestial order of the macrocosm,
His immutable faith is the centre of the Divine
Compass.
All else: illusion, sorcery, fallacy.

He is the journey's end for reason,
He is the raison d 'etre of Love.
An inspiration in the cosmic
communion.

O, Mecca of art lovers,
You are the majesty of the true tenet.
You have elevated Andalusia
To the eminence of the holy Harem.

Your equal in beauty,
If any under the skies,
Is the heart of the Muslim
And no one else.

Ah, those men of truth,
Those proud cavaliers of Arabia;
Endowed with a sublime character,
Imbued with candour and conviction.

Their reign gave the world an
unfamiliar concept;
That the authority of the brave and
spirited
Lay in modesty and simplicity,
Rather than pomp and regality.

Their sagacity guided the East and the West.
In the dark ages of Europe,
It was the light of their vision
That lit up the tracks.

A tribute to their blood it is,
That the Andalusians, even today,
Are effable and warm-hearted,
Ingenuous and bright of countenance.

Even today in this land,
Eyes like those of gazelles are a common
sight.
And darts shooting out of those eyes,
Even today, are on target.

Its breeze, even today,
Is laden with the fragrance of Yemen.
Its music, even today,
Carries strains of melodies from Hijaz.

Stars look upon your precincts as a piece of
heaven.
But for centuries, alas!
Your porticoes have not resonated
With the call of the muezzin.

What distant valley, what way-side abode
Is holding back
That valiant caravan of rampant Love.

Germany witnessed the upheaval of religious
reforms
That left no trace of the old perspective.

Infallibility of the church sage began to
ring false.
Reason, once more, unfurled its sails.

France too went through its revolution
That changed the entire orientation of
Western life.

Followers of Rome,
Feeling antiquated worshipping the
ancientry,
Also rejuvenated themselves
With the relish of novelty.

The same storm is raging today
In the soul of the Muslim.
A Divine secret it is,
Not for the lips to utter.

Let us see what surfaces
From the depths of the deep.
Let us see what colour
The blue sky changes into.

Clouds in the yonder valley
Are drenched in roseate twilight.
The parting sun has left behind
Mounds and mounds of rubies, the best from
Badakhshan.

Simple and doleful is the song
Of the peasant's daughter:
Tender feelings adrift in the tide of
youth.

O, the ever-flowing waters of Guadalquivir1,
Someone on your banks
Is seeing a vision of some other period of
time.

Tomorrow is still in the womb of
intention,
But its dawn is flashing before my
mind's eye.

Were I to lift the veil
From the profile of my reflections,
The West would be dazzled by its brilliance.

Life without change is death.
The tumult and turmoil of revolution
Keep the soul of a nation alive.

Keen, as a sword in the hands of Destiny
Is the nation
That evaluates its actions at each step.

Incomplete are all creations
Without the lifeblood of the creator.
Soulless is the melody
Without the lifeblood of the maestro.

[Translated by Saleem A. Gilani]

Not: This poem was written in in Spain, especially Cordoba

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