Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
Lord and Lady Russell (1876)
King Charles the Second and the French Ambassador
By Isabella Harwood (“Ross Neil”) (1840–1888)
 
(From Act I, Scene I)

  De Barillon.  Sir, ’tis my charge to tell you from my king
How much his very heart is grieved to see
The unworthy dealings of this parliament,
On whose obedient loyal thankfulness
Your princely nature counted.
  King.                    Then his grief
        5
May keep mine company, for I grieve too,
But grieving ne’er was cure for any ill.
  De Bar.  He would grieve more were there no cure for this,
Since in his judgment those who seek to hurt
Your royal brother’s birthright make themselves        10
The foes not only of your majesty,
But of all kings, and of the holy church,
Whose eldest son he is; so doth he deem
Himself near touched by their rebelliousness.
  King.  And I am touched yet nearer, being touched        15
In mine own brother, for, believe me, sir,
My brother’s rights are held by me as dear
As by the king of France, and you have seen
How for his service I have put away
Two parliaments already. But it seems        20
All I can do boots not.
  De Bar.                    No, not unless
The third be sent to seek the other twain.
  King.  If ’tis the counsel of the king of France
That I should reign and fill my coffers full
And never ask a parliament to help,        25
’Tis for the king of France to show me how.
  De Bar.  So will he, sir, and doth—as you shall see
Will you but scan this paper.        [Giving a paper.
  King.                    Ay? Hum, hum—
Two million livres; the second year and third
Five hundred thousand crowns. I see indeed        30
He knows the way, but goes not far enough;
Let him but follow further this same road,
And it will lead him right.
  De Bar.                    Sir, he hath gone
So far that more he cannot.
  King.                    Hath he thought
What ’tis that he would have me do? to break        35
A parliament that hath not lived a week,
A parliament that if ’tis broken now
Must be my last, for, plain enough to see,
I could not look another in the face.
So that indeed he bids me shut the door        40
For ever on my people, and for ever
Give up all hope of hearing that sweet music
Our blended loves should make. Nay, if I smile
It is because you teach me.
  De Bar.                    And I smiled
Thinking that some good deeds reward themselves.        45
  King.  But parliaments can deal reward enough
Unto good deeds that please them—as perchance
A war with France, how say you? So, come now,
I will be plain as though I thought aloud——
Why is your king so niggard? If he will,        50
Now is the time that England may be brought
Within his vassalage for evermore;
And will he let so fair a chance slip by
Because he grudges something of the price?
  De Bar.  He fears no slipping by, because he thinks        55
He hath bid the highest price.
  King.                The highest price!
Then, by my life, the bargain will not hold.
  De Bar.  Your majesty is harder with my king
Than he with you.
  King.                So are you pleased to say.
  De Bar.  So is it, sire. If he were half so hard,        60
Would he not stand, as ’tis his right to stand,
On the fulfilment of that private treaty——
  King.  There, there, ’twill do.
  De Bar.                I say that private treaty
Whereby the king of England bound himself
To make avowal of his secret faith        65
In sight of all the world——
  King.                    For Heaven’s love
Be not so loud.
  De Bar.        And cast away for ever
The name of Protestant. Nay, sir, fear not;
They shall not hear; I know how perilous
Unto your honour, and your power, and you,        70
The lightest breath might be that waked a scent
For jealousy to follow.
  King.                Why indeed
Such breath might peradventure puff me forth
Again upon my travels—and of travels
I am quite weary, besides that then no more        75
My brother France could fit me to his use.
  De Bar.  Full well he knows, nor ever with a thought
Hath blamed you that you have not put in act
A bond wherein your wish outran your power;
You could not if you would; his eyes and mine        80
Bear for you daily witness, having seen
How you have found it needful to deny
Unto your people that such bond e’er was,
And how the disbelief of some of them
Hath wrought well-nigh your ruin. Never doubt;        85
Upon this secret of your majesty’s
We keep as careful watch as ’twere our own,
Knowing how precious ’tis, not trusted e’en
To your most trusted friends.
  King.                So precious ’tis
That now you mean to make it count with me        90
For full a million crowns—ay is’t not so?
  De Bar.  Sir, what I said I have but said to show
Our friendship hath deserved that yours should come
A little way to meet it.
  King.            And in truth
You have reasoned closely, leaving ne’er a mesh        95
For me to ’scape by. I am caught and caged;
And even therefore shall the bargain stand
As you would have it stand; my brother France
Shall keep the promise he hath made me here,
And I forthwith will break this parliament,        100
The last of all its race.
  De Bar.            ’Tis well resolved,
And all your friends must give your majesty
Joy of so wise a purpose.
 
 
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