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As if we two were partners of one Thought;-
As if our souls were two half-darken'd rooms
In one lone house, and on the noiseless floor
Played with grim joy the Hellchild, Hate—
Asselyn. I feel it !
And many a year have thrill'd beneath its feet.
How is't you know my thought !
Wolfstan. Man's covering
Grows crystal when the heart it holds is fire.
I fix my spirit on your's, and draw it forth
Like dew drops from the grass.
Asselyn. Help me, oh father, For I am choked with meaning, and my lips Close, as if barr'd in iron 1
Wolfstan. —This is one
Whose soul is as my own.—The man you hate
Wolfstan. He shall die :
Asselyn. (eagerly.) How soon
Wolfstan. I know not ; but a Vision night by night
Comes to my pallet, pointing to a tomb
Where oozing slowly from the broken grave-stone
Comes blood, and trickles, dark, among the weeds.
Asselyn. I would not he should thus escape my voice,
Or hide him from my eye ; once, face to face
We stood, and I would see him once again :
Have I not starved since then, from year to year
And felt the hunger like a tightning grasp
Fold on my heart 1 He wrong'd me of my lands,
My house, my name; and left me the sole wealth
Of Hatred for my covering, food and rest.
Oh! father, let me lift your shrunken hand
High up, and hear you curse him ere he dies :
Wolfstan. Nor for your wrongs I curse him; not for mine:
Not for the land's he tramples into ruin:
Nor for my native England's fettered grief—
Yet I will curse him.
Friar. Father, hear my speech. Fever hath struck Duke William to the ground And death sits at his bed.
Wolfstan (smiles). He speaks old words That have been in my ears these many days.
Asselyn. How He we spoke of
Friar. And hither came His Highness that he breathe the sacred air Of Holy Gervas till he breathe no more.
Asselyn. May I not dash into his ghastly room And hear him groan his last !
Wolfstan. No—to your home,
Go while you may. Wengeance will reach him yet. [Erit Asselyn.
Friar. And now he summons to his couch of pain
Your ministering prayer.
Wolfstan. I come to him.
Chamber in St. Gervas Monastery. William dying.
William. Where is my son—my William
Attendant. Gone in haste
To cross to England and to seize the Crown.
William. The Crown and I alive 1 Call Henry hither.
Attendant. He's gone, sire, with the coin your Highness gave.
William. And left me thus ! Bear witness, noble Knights,
Come nearer, I would see you while I speak,
Why come you not, and stand before my sight?
Attendant. Sire, all have left you : all but only I.
William. I could have borne it all—but my two sons !
If they had left my side in battle thus,
The Headsman had unspurred them with his axe .
And now I face this Enemy alone
This Death, whose icy hand is on my throat,
And none comes to the rescue.—Arms Sir Knave,
My cuirass of bright steel ; my shining greaves
My sword, my gauntlets. Let me meet the foe
As fits my name, not idly, like a monk
Dreaming his dream of life till death awakes him.
Quick —or I perish.-See you how he stands
With eyeless socket fixed upon my face,
And a proud smile upon his bony lips ?
Yield me to ransom 1 Ha! my arm is chilled,
I cannot fight, but I've no craven cry,
I yield not—
Wolfstan (who has entered noiselessly). William—
William. Soh The fantom fades,
I breathe again. Who speaks :
Attendant. The holy priest
Rich with deep prayer from Gervas inner shrine.
William. Why came you not ere this 1 Your solemn presence Might have dispelled these shadows, like the sun.
Wolfstan. They are not shadows.
William. There's a tone i' the voice That racks me. There is English on your tongue.
Wolfstan. And in my heart.
William. I will not have your prayers : They will not reach to heaven, clogged with the hate That weighs them down.
Wolfstan. How know you that I hate
William. All hate me—all ; the ruddy cheeked young child
That lisps its broken words, the grey haired man
That staggers in his speech from weary age,
All join in hate to me. The very maids Who love all else by the compelling force Of sixteen summers mellowing all their thoughts Curse me, and call me tyrant. Wolfstan. Say they falsely Who name you thus 7 Look inward ere you speak. William. There is a bitter taunting in your words,Have you no comfort for a tortured man, Whose soul is sick to death, and needs your help; Not that you sting him with those maddening eyes | Wolfstan. What you'd have soothing words to clear your path To heaven, as heralds to your kingly state 1 Think, king now reft of crown Think, bloody man, Of what a naked grovelling thing you are And ask no pardon till you’ve purchased peace. William. I have enriched our holy mother church, With wealth so vast that gold fills every shrine. Wolfstan. Blasphemous gold, that fills the shrine with curses. William. There's not a plain in all our English realm But shall be studded with majestic towers, To watch upon its peace. Chantries shall rise In every dell ; I've poured my guarded wealth In a rich flood, at shrine of every saint Whoe'er drew English breath. Wolfstan. They'll spurn the wealth Wrung from their country's blood. Have you no thought Of sins no gold can cover ? Life fleets fast From you—from me—this meeting is our last, Answer me quickly. William. A film is on my eye, I cannot see you, yet I hear your voice And shake beneath it. Have we met ere now Wolfstan. Yes! William. Where 7 Wolfstan. Where a red flame rose up to heaven From a lone cottage in a forest dell, And lust and murder held their revelry. William. I would that Forest ne'er had stretched its bounds, Nor trenched upon the homes of living men. Wolfstan. Have you forgot that pleasant eve in June, When your array burst in with jubilant cries On the small circle, cleared from bush and tree, Where stood a cottage near a babbling brook 7 William. There were so many—and I fired them all. . Wolfstan. But this the blackest of your deeds of shame. When rose from his stone bench beside the door A grey haired man, and held his withered hands To pray for pity, and with faltering voice Claimed for his own the land where he was born, Where all his fathers lived, from Alfred's days, With a brief nod you cut his pleadings short, And a fierce Norman murderer earned your thanks,
By pityless stabs in that old grandsire's breast.
Then from the cottage rushed a maiden forth,
As if the bursting flames had leapt to shape,
And clothed an angel in their blinding glow,
So bright, so dazzling in her beautiful fear,
That there was pause among the murderous crew,
Till with a cry she saw her grandsire slain,
And fell, a white insensate form of snow,
Prone on his breast, till all the oozing blood
Dabbled her stainless robes and sunbright hair.
Then—William,_Conqueror, tyrant, fiend of hell!
What then 7–You still have memory of that time !
William. Pardon—oh pardon—let me die in silence.
Wolfstan. No-the last sound that fills your failing ear
Shall be my voice. Your hapless victim died,
By heaven's great gift, unconscious of her wrong,
Spotless in soul, and by her corpse I knelt,
Lifting my hands in the great eye of heaven,
And swore to be revenged. Day after day
In my lone cell I’ve thought upon that oath,
And nearer, nearer my revenge approached.
I heard it coming in the silent hours;
I felt its breath upon me as I lay
In lonely vigils. And my sister's voice,
Her's—that lone girl's—was mingled with its words.
We are alone, oh King—
William. Have mercy, father
Wolfstan. No 1 'Tis for this I’ve waited ; here we stand
In presence, as we stood, a stripling I,
You a great king, gorged with success and blood;
You spurned me, you denied the pity I claimed.
Once more we are together, a foul thing,
Hated, deserted, lonely, powerless, you—
I, the relentless angel of your doom
Unpitied, unforgiven, unconfessed,
Hopeless, despairing you descend to dust;
And I, that in this hand can lift the blessing
Of Holy Church, and shrive you of your sins,
That in this palm carry the peace of heaven—
William. Oh! pardon—priest, or leave me. Let that peace
Fall on my head
Wolfstan. I clutch my fingers thus,
And keep that blessing in my sinewy grasp.
See my shut fingers doom you to despair.
William. Is there no hope 1 give but one little sign,
My eyes are failing, spread your pardoning fingers,
I shudder at your close shut hand.- [Dies.
Burial Ground at Caen. A Coffin lying beside an open Grave.
Enter Friar Eustace and four Peasants.
Friar. Death sheds no holiness around this man,
Toil-wearied boors who met us on the way
Cross'd them, in terror of his evil name;
But not a bonnet rose in reverence
To him that was a king.
1st. Peasant. Father, we hope
You've not been sparing of the holy water
Upon these coffin boards.
2nd. Peasant. I fear to touch them,
They say the dead man was a murderer.
Friar. He was the mightiest Conqueror earth e'er saw,
And ruled the greatest kingdoms of the world.
Peasant. Howbeit he was a murderer I've heard tell
And little good his conquests do him now.
Friar. The Holy Abbot promised to be here
At noon—to bless the grave. Draw near, my friends,
And lift the bier.
Asselyn. Woe woe to all forbear !
Peasant. "Tis Asselyn Fitzarthur crazed and poor,
Speak to him, father.
Asselyn. Look where curls the smoke
Down in the dell,—see how in snaky folds
It coils around the hamlet, pushing forth
A lapping tongue of flame from roof and window. -
Peasant. "Tis truth he speaks, there's fire o'er all the town.
[An alarum bell is rung.
Asselyn. Aye, ring the alarum, 'tis a jubilee day,
And flames are but the ministers of heaven,
To purify the air from so much woe,
As this foul murderer brings, burst forth, ye fires,
Upsent from the abyss, to write his name
In scorching ruin on the blackened sky!
Come vultures, sit upon his breast and croon
Your songs of rapine ! Leave the bloated corpse
To waste into the elements, nor stain
Earth's bosom with its noisome pestilence.
Fly! for your dwellings burn,-roof, wall, and floor,
You cannot quench them, not if all the blood
Shed by this Conqueror, gushed in one full tide
Mid the hot embers. [Ereunt Peasants.
May I lift the lid
And gaze upon the dead?
Friar. No—back a space,—
[The reflection of the flame is seen. The bell tolls continually.
Here comes the Abbot—scarce his holy words
Can reach us mid the clamours of that bell.
Abbot. Quick brother Eustace, into sacred earth
Lay the deserted body of the king.
Death has assoiled him of the darkening crimes,
That barred the Church's blessing while he breathed.
Asselyn. Stop! I command you. Here I plant my foot
On soil that was my own, it held my cradle,