[Born in Monmouth, Ill., 1847. Died, 1920. Pendragon. A Tragedy in Five Acts. First performed at McVickers Theatre, Chicago, 5 December, 1881, with Lawrence Barrett as King Arthur. Reproduced, February, 1882, at the Fifth Avenue Theatre, New York.]
ACT III. SCENE: The Queens Closet.
[Stage discovered, dark and waiting. Lightning, thunder. The door C. is thrown violently open, and enter GUINEVERE, breathless from her flight. A blaze of lightning, through window, halts and dazzles her.]
GUINEVERE. [Falling to her knees.] Shield and preserve me! Have I here a shelter?
|Am I outcast? Doth Nature too condemn me,|
|Adding her voice to this yet wilder storm,|
|Here, here, within? [Rising.] Alack! and what is this|
|That I have wrought? But, sure, he dare not follow,|| 5|
|Or if he should!What do I fear? What then?|
|Ay, if he should! Is it so much I ask?|
|Only to know, for the last time O friend!|
|Is it so much? Or, measured but by thine,|
|O faultless King, is then my guilt so great|| 10|
|That thou shouldst rise from every darkened corner|
|To haunt me thus? Art thou so faultless, truly?|
|That which I am hast thou not served to make me?|
|Hast thou not glory to thy mistress?Nay|
|To wedded wife! For what am I to thee?|| 15|
|When hast thou looked upon me save with eyes that pass|
|Through and beyond, to her, my hated rival?|
|As well were I the beggar of the lanes!|
|Wilt thou have all?both this world, and the next?|
|Be served and feared, and yet drag after thee|| 20|
|Love, as a captive, but to dally with,|
|When grown aweary of the greater sport|
|Of crowns and sceptres? Nay, but if thou wilt,|
|Dwell with thy phantoms! Lights, there! Vivien!|
|I will not see him. [At door C.] Vivien!How now?|| 25|
|Not yet returned! But have I then so far|
|Out-speeded her? Or hath some evil hap|
|That scarce could be.So! so!Whats this I think on?|
|But yester-eve with Modred did she walk,|
|In the long corridornor seemed at ease,|| 30|
|But when I faced them|
[A reverberating clang without.] Hark! The thunder? No
|The great portcullis falling in its grooves!|
|And all without the sound of trumpet blown!|
|And nowthe tramp Hark! Aythe tramp of horse!|
[The clatter of a cavalcade without, R.]Within the gatesNor one alone, but many,
|And at full speed! O, am I then the dupe,|
|The very plaything of mine enemies?|
|A plot! a plot! Yet if he be not crazed,|
|Hath he not heard? Hath he, too, not been warned?|
[Springing to door R. F., she throws the bar across it, and turns toward door C. At the same instant, enter, door C., LAUNCELOT.]Ah,Launcelot! What dost thou here? Fly! Fly!
| LAUN. My Queen|
GUIN. O, fly!
LAUN. But am I not expected? [Advancing.]
| GUIN. Approach me not!|
LAUN. Or dost thou now repent?
|Nay, but too late.|
GUIN. Thou art entrapped.
| GUIN. Quick! while thou canst!|
[The secret door L. F. opens. Enter VIVIEN.] VIV. Then let me be thy guide,
|Or else too late most truly shalt thou find it,|| 45|
GUIN. [To VIVIEN.] O, traitress!
VIV. Even so!
|But not to thee I answer. [To LAUNCELOT.] Good my lord,|
|Sir Launcelot of the Lake, tis like my words|
|May seem to thee not over-maidenly;|
|But I have such a little time for choice,|| 50|
|And needs must say my sayand thou must hear.|
|Sir, I have loved theethough without return,|
|As well I knowand thou hast chosen, Sir,|
|To seem to know it not. And now I come,|
|To prove to thee what womans love may do,|| 55|
|Even when scorned; for know there is but one|
|Can save thee from these toils, and that is I.|
| GUIN. O, vile!|
LAUN. [At her side.] Peace! peace!
VIV. I speak all truth, or none.
|Before, behind, they lie in wait for thee|
|Twelve oath-bound men, of Arthurs trustiest,|| 60|
|And thou with nothing but thy naked sword.|
|And still, because I will not have it so|
|Because I rather choose to lay on thee|
|The burden of a debt thou canst not pay,|
|Nor yet forget, one door is left unguarded.|| 65|
|This have I done for thee.Ask me not how|
|Thou knowst the why. [Points to door through which she has come.]|
There, at the turrets foot,
|Thoult find my palfrey saddled. Mount, and ride,|
|I care not whitherOnly take this with thee,|
|That unto Vivien thou owst thy life,|| 70|
|And unto her thy shame. And so, my lord,|
|Thanks, or no thanks, I am thy creditor,|
|Till death shall make us quits.|
LAUN. Go! Christ forgive thee!
[Exit VIVIEN, door C., her gaze fixed triumphantly upon the QUEEN. The latter reels. LAUNCELOT supports her.] GUIN. [Covering her face.] O, hath she gone?
LAUN. O, Guinevere! My Queen!
| GUIN. Queen? Queen no more! Let me not look upon her!|| 75|
|But hath she gone?|
LAUN. Nay, rouse thee. [Extricates himself from her grasp, hurries up stage,
|throws bar across door C.]|
GUIN. O, my friend,
|What wilt thou do? What, now, are bolts or bars?|
|But fly! She loves thee. Trust her, Launcelot.|
|O, save thyself!|
LAUN. [Returning to her side, his hand upon her lips.] Wilt thou be silent? Hist!
|Mark now my wordsnor answer, but obey,|
|Without a question. True it is, I think,|
|That she doth love me. Therefore will I trust her;|
|And therefore, through this door which she hath opened,|
|Tis thou shalt fly.|
LAUN. Thou! Dost understand?
|Then hear me well, and let each syllable|
|Of what I speak be graven on thy brain.|
|Tis but three little leagues, by beaten ways,|
|Which well thou knowest, to a sanctuary,|
|But once beneath the shadow of whose towers,|| 90|
|Not all the violence of maddened men|
|Or kings can harm thee. Hast thou not, ere now,|
|Oer thrice that distance ridden to the death|
|Of fox or stag? So ride to-night, for life,|
|And never doubt well smile at this hereafter.|| 95|
GUIN. To Almesbury?
LAUN. Ay! Courage!
|There trust the abbess only with thy secret,|
|And bide until I come.|
GUIN. Until thou comest?
| LAUN. Have I not said? Delay, and thou art lost.|
|Here will I tarry but a little space,|| 100|
|To turn aside the currents of pursuit.|
| GUIN. A little space?Ah, tell me not, my friend|
LAUN. Unarmed? With this? [Hand to sword.] Unarmed?
| GUIN. Beset with odds thou knowest not!|
LAUN. What then?
|Hast thou forgot the fords of Celidon?|| 105|
|Or pass of the White Horse? And dost thou think|
|In such a cause, free-armed, and unencumbered|
|But O, what wait we for? One only kiss,|
|To seal my strength.|
GUIN. Ah, no, no, no! I dare not.
|I dare not.|
LAUN. Dare not?
GUIN. Ah, my God! the darkness!
|The long, long, dreary way!|
LAUN. What! thou, afeard?
| GUIN. And thus to part with theeO, cease, my friend.|
|Though thou art Launcelot, art thou not mortal?|
|In vain! in vain! Why wilt thou trouble me?|
|Here let me die. [Sinks to floor.]|
LAUN. And do I hear aright?
|Is this that Guinevere whom once I loved?|
| GUIN. O, pity me!|
LAUN. That once proud peerless Queen,
|Who with her eyes first taught me scorn of peril?|
| GUIN. O, pity me!|
LAUN. I do. I pity thee.
|And thus I prove it. Since thou durst not choose|| 120|
|To win this certain safety for us both,|
|Why then, bide here; and here, too, will I bide,|
|And here be hewn in pieces at thy feet.|
|I swear it. Hark! They come!|
GUIN. [Springing to her feet.] EnoughFarewell!
|Take, then, thy kiss! [They embrace.]|
LAUN. Dear love!
GUIN. The last!
LAUN. Not so!
| GUIN. The kiss of death; and O, condemn me not|
|That I have given it thee.|
LAUN. What words are these?
|Thus do I answer themMay Heaven defend thee!|
| GUIN. And thee! and thee! O, God protect thee, Love!|
|Was it for this?|
LAUN. Yet though we die to-night,
|This have we known.|
GUIN. And canst thou, Love, forget?
| LAUN. And wilt thou, Love, remember? Haste!|
GUIN. Yet stay!
| LAUN. But for thy sake!|
GUIN. One little moment more!
|O, Launcelot, and wilt thou let me go?|
|And was it but for this? No more than this?|| 135|
| LAUN. O, haste! No more!|
GUIN. No more, forever, then!
| LAUN. I tell thee nay.|
| LAUN. [Urging the QUEEN through the secret door L. F., closes it behind her, and throws his back against it.] And forever!|
ACT IV. SCENE: A paved court-yard surrounded by massive and gloomy walls and towers. In wall C., at back, gates swinging inward, and revealing when open a passage, at the further extremity of which a grated portcullis is arranged to fall. In tower, R., oblique, great doors, approached by steps. Chime of bells, and chant heard within, at curtain.
[GUINEVERE discovered, descending steps R., clad in the robe of a nun, with a breviary in her hand.]
Ave, Regina clorum!
Ave, Domina angelorum!
|Over and under tolls the convent bell,|
|Like a gray shuttle through the woof of sound|
|Under and over, and the flying web|
|Tangles and ties itself about my heart|
|Tangles and lifts me heavenward, and snaps;|| 145|
|And through the silence, down from gloom to gloom,|
|I fall to utmost hell. O sisterhood|
|Of Almesbury, your prayers were made for saints,|
|Not sinners. What a fool of fools am I,|
|To breathe my supplications in a tongue|| 150|
|I know not, to a Heaven that knows not me!|
|Queen among angels! Ay, by so much more|
|Hath she forgot the little frets of earth|
|And all its voices. O conceit most vain!|
|That my poor plaint, of all the woful many,|| 155|
|Least heeded here, shall so on high prevail,|
|Above the clamor of the universe!|
|Why, een the daws about the turret-tops|
|Outshriek me; and doth not all nature go|
|Wrangling from dawn till even with one cry:|| 160|
|Help! Save!And who shall answer? Who shall lay|
|The all-forgiving hand upon my head?|
|Shall ye, my sisters? Deftly though ye lift|
|Your skirts above the drabble of the ways,|
|Do I not know the plague-spots in your hearts?|| 165|
|The small self-righteousness, the lust, the greed,|
|And spite of your small station? Had ye worn|
|My purple, and my limbs been clad upon|
|With your dull hodden graywho knows?Or thou,|
|DubricHigh Saint of Britainwith thy flock|| 170|
|Of aping acolytes, wilt thou assure|
|My souls salvationthou, that art not sure|
|Whether thine own soul yet shall pass the gates|
|Dismiss my great temptation, with a waft|
|Of thy sleek hand, and bid me sin no more?|| 175|
| O, thou, the Highest, Ruler over all,|
|To whom alike the cowld and crownèd dead|
|Must answer on that day, desert us not,|
|Whateer thy gracious purposes may be,|
|Unto each others pity! That were woe|| 180|
|More to be dreaded than the doom of fire.|
|Behold how all these myriad pygmy tribes,|
|That swell the mingled hum from holt and glebe,|
|Do mock thy greatness! Whether we be clad|
|In serge or samite, each doth vaunt himself|| 185|
|The vilest of Gods creaturessave his neighbor|
|Sins while tis summerpranks about the fields,|
|And ere the winter of his life doth learn|
|His proper Miserere, which he chirps|
|Like a belated cricket i the sedge,|| 190|
|And dreams that straightway from the gates of bliss,|
|Above the desert spaces of the wind,|
|The whirlwind, and the thunder, and the storm|
|Of prayers and curses blown about the world,|
|All Heaven stoops to listen.Nay, but this|| 195|
|Is heresy. Come, scoffer, to thy task! [Reads.]|
Ex qua mundo
Lux est orta!
Gaude, Virgo gloriosa!