Treasure Island

John Keats

(31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821 / London, England)

Otho The Great - Act III


SCENE I.
The Country.
Enter ALBERT.
Albert. O that the earth were empty, as when Cain
Had no perplexity to hide his head!
Or that the sword of some brave enemy
Had put a sudden stop to my hot breath,
And hurl'd me down the illimitable gulph
Of times past, unremember'd! Better so
Than thus fast-limed in a cursed snare,
The white limbs of a wanton. This the end
Of an aspiring life! My boyhood past
In feud with wolves and bears, when no eye saw
The solitary warfare, fought for love
Of honour 'mid the growling wilderness.
My sturdier youth, maturing to the sword,
Won by the syren-trumpets, and the ring
Of shields upon the pavement, when bright-mail'd
Henry the Fowler pass'd the streets of Prague,
Was't to this end I louted and became
The menial of Mars, and held a spear
Sway'd by command, as corn is by the wind?
Is it for this, I now am lifted up
By Europe's throned Emperor, to see
My honour be my executioner,
My love of fame, my prided honesty
Put to the torture for confessional?
Then the damn'd crime of blurting to the world
A woman's secret! Though a fiend she be,
Too tender of my ignominious life;
But then to wrong the generous Emperor
In such a searching point, were to give up
My soul for foot-ball at Hell's holiday!
I must confess, and cut my throat, to-day?
To-morrow? Ho! some wine!
Enter SIGIFRED.
Sigifred. A fine humour
Albert. Who goes there? Count Sigifred? Ha! Ha!
Sigifred. What, man, do you mistake the hollow sky
For a throng 'd tavern, and these stubbed trees
For old serge hangings, me, your humble friend,
For a poor waiter? Why, man, how you stare!
What gipsies have you been carousing with?
No, no more wine; methinks you've had enough.
Albert. You well may laugh and banter. What a fool
An injury may make of a staid man!
You shall know all anon.
Sigifred. Some tavern brawl?
Albert. 'Twas with some people out of common reach;
Revenge is difficult.
Sigifred. I am your friend;
We meet again to-day, and can confer
Upon it. For the present I'm in haste.
Albert. Whither?
Sigifred. To fetch King Gersa to the feast.
The Emperor on this marriage is so hot,
Pray Heaven it end not in apoplexy!
The very porters, as I pass'd the doors,
Heard his loud laugh, and answer 'd in full choir.
I marvel, Albert, you delay so long
From those bright revelries; go, show yourself,
You may be made a duke.
Albert. Aye, very like:
Pray, what day has his Highness fix'd upon?
Sigifred. For what?
Albert. The marriage. What else can I mean?
Sigifred. To-day! O, I forgot, you could not know;
The news is scarce a minute old with me.
Albert. Married to-day! To-day! You did not say so?
Sigifred. Now, while I speak to you, their comely heads
Are bow'd before the mitre.
Albert. O! Monstrous!
Sigifred. What is this?
Albert. Nothing, Sigifred. Farewell!
We'll meet upon our subject. Farewell, count!
[Exit.
Sigifred. Is this clear-headed Albert? He brain-turned!
‘Tis as portentous as a meteor. [Exit.

SCENE II. An Apartment in the Castle.
Enter, as from the Marriage, OTHO, LUDOLPH, AURANTHE, CONRAD,
Nobles, Knights, Ladies, &c. Music.
Otho. Now, Ludolph! Now, Auranthe! Daughter fair!
What can I find to grace your nuptial day
More than my love, and these wide realms in fee?
Ludolph. I have too much.
Auranthe. And I, my liege, by far.
Ludolph. Auranthe! I have! O, my bride, my love!
Not all the gaze upon us can restrain
My eyes, too long poor exiles from thy face,
From adoration, and my foolish tongue
From uttering soft responses to the love
I see in thy mute beauty beaming forth!
Fair creature, bless me with a single word!
All mine!
Auranthe. Spare, spare me, my Lord! I swoon else.
Ludolph. Soft beauty! by to-morrow I should die,
Wert thou not mine. [They talk apart,
First Lady. How deep she has bewitch'd him!
First Knight. Ask you for her recipe for love philtres.
Second Lady. They hold the Emperor in admiration,
Otho. If ever king was happy, that am I!
What are the cities 'yond the Alps to me,
The provinces about the Danube's mouth,
The promise of fair soil beyond the Rhone;
Or routing out of Hyperborean hordes,
To those fair children, stars of a new age?
Unless perchance I might rejoice to win
This little ball of earth, and chuck it them
To play with!
Auranthe. Nay, my Lord, I do not know.
Ludolph. Let me not famish.
Otho (to Conrad). Good Franconia,
You heard what oath I sware, as the sun rose,
That unless Heaven would send me back my son,
My Arab, no soft music should enrich
The cool wine, kiss'd off with a soldier's smack;
Now all my empire, barter 'd for one feast,
Seems poverty.
Conrad. Upon the neighbour-plain
The heralds have prepar'd a royal lists;
Your knights, found war-proof in the bloody field,
Speed to the game.
Otho. Well, Ludolph, what say you?
Ludolph. My lord!
Otho. A tourney?
Conrad. Or, if't please you best
Ludolph. I want no morel
First Lady. He soars!
Second Lady. Past all reason.
Ludolph. Though heaven's choir
Should in a vast circumference descend
And sing for my delight, I'd stop my ears!
Though bright Apollo's car stood burning here,
And he put out an arm to bid me mount,
His touch an immortality, not I!
This earth, this palace, this room, Auranthe!
Otho. This is a little painful; just too much.
Conrad, if he flames longer in this wise,
I shall believe in wizard-woven loves
And old romances; but I'll break the spell.
Ludolph!
Conrad. He will be calm, anon.
Ludolph. You call'd?
Yes, yes, yes, I offend. You must forgive me;
Not being quite recover'd from the stun
Of your large bounties. A tourney, is it not?
{A senet heard faintly.
Conrad. The trumpets reach us.
Ethelbert (without). On your peril, sirs,
Detain us!
First Voice (without). Let not the abbot pass.
Second Voice (without). No,
On your lives!
First Voice (without). Holy Father, you must not.
Ethelbert (without). Otho!
Otho. Who calls on Otho?
Ethelhert (without). Ethelbert!
Otho. Let him come in.
Enter ETHELBERT leading in ERMINIA.
Thou cursed abbot, why
Hast brought pollution to our holy rites?
Hast thou no fear of hangman, or the faggot?
Ludolph. What portent what strange prodigy is this?
Conrad. Away!
Ethelbert. You, Duke?
Ermmia. Albert has surely fail'd me!
Look at the Emperor's brow upon me bent!
Ethelbert. A sad delay!
Conrad. Away, thou guilty thing!
Ethelbert. You again, Duke? Justice, most mighty Otho!
You go to your sister there and plot again,
A quick plot, swift as thought to save your heads;
For lo! the toils are spread around your den,
The word is all agape to see dragg'd forth
Two ugly monsters.
Ludolph. What means he, my lord?
Conrad. I cannot guess.
Ethelbert. Best ask your lady sister,
Whether the riddle puzzles her beyond
The power of utterance.
Conrad. Foul barbarian, cease;
The Princess faints!
Ludolph. Stab him! , sweetest wife!
[Attendants bear off AURANTHE,
Erminia. Alas!
Ethelbert. Your wife?
Ludolph. Aye, Satan! does that yerk ye?
Ethelbert. Wife! so soon!
Ludolph. Aye, wife! Oh, impudence!
Thou bitter mischief! Venomous mad priest!
How dar'st thou lift those beetle brows at me?
Me the prince Ludolph, in this presence here,
Upon my marriage-day, and scandalize
My joys with such opprobrious surprise? SO
Wife! Why dost linger on that syllable,
As if it were some demon's name pronounc'd
To summon harmful lightning, and make roar
The sleepy thunder? Hast no sense of fear?
No ounce of man in thy mortality?
Tremble! for, at my nod, the sharpen'd axe
Will make thy bold tongue quiver to the roots,
Those grey lids wink, and thou not know it more!
Ethelbert. O, poor deceived Prince! I pity thee!
Great Otho! I claim justice
Ludolph. Thou shalt hav 't!
Thine arms from forth a pulpit of hot fire
Shall sprawl distracted! O that that dull cowl
Were some most sensitive portion of thy life,
That I might give it to my hounds to tear!
Thy girdle some fine zealous-pained nerve
To girth my saddle! And those devil's beads
Each one a life, that I might, every day,
Crush one with Vulcan's hammer!
Otho. Peace, my son;
You far outstrip my spleen in this affair.
Let us be calm, and hear the abbot's plea
For this intrusion.
Ludolph. I am silent, sire.
Otho. Conrad, see all depart not wanted here.
[Exeunt Knights, Ladies, &c.
Ludolph, be calm. Ethelbert, peace awhile.
This mystery demands an audience
Of a just judge, and that will Otho be.
Ludolph. Why has he time to breathe another word?
Otho. Ludolph, old Ethelbert, be sure, comes not
To beard us for no cause ; he's not the man
To cry himself up an ambassador
Without credentials.
Ludolph. I’ll chain up myself.
Otho. Old Abbot, stand here forth. Lady Erminia,
Sit. And now, Abbot! what have you to say?
Our ear is open. First we here denounce
Hard penalties against thee, if 't be found
The cause for which you have disturb 'd us here,
Making our bright hours muddy, be a thing
Of little moment.
Ethelbert. See this innocent!
Otho! thou father of the people call'd,
Is her life nothing? Her fair honour nothing?
Her tears from matins until even-song
Nothing? Her burst heart nothing? Emperor!
Is this your gentle niece the simplest flower
Of the world's herbal this fair lilly blanch 'd
Still with the dews of piety, this meek lady
Here sitting like an angel newly-shent,
Who veils its snowy wings and grows all pale,
Is she nothing?
Otho. What more to the purpose, abbot?
Ludolph. Whither is he winding?
Conrad. No clue yet!
Ethelbert. You have heard, my Liege, and so, no
doubt, all here,
Foul, poisonous, malignant whisperings;
Nay open speech, rude mockery grown common,
Against the spotless nature and clear fame
Of the princess Erminia, your niece.
I have intruded here thus suddenly,
Because I hold those base weeds, with tight hand,
Which now disfigure her fair growing stem,
Waiting but for your sign to pull them up
By the dark roots, and leave her palpable,
To all men's sight, a Lady, innocent.
The ignominy of that whisper'd tale
About a midnight gallant, seen to climb
A window to her chamber neighboured near,
I will from her turn off, and put the load
On the right shoulders; on that wretch's head,
Who, by close stratagems, did save herself,
Chiefly by shifting to this lady's room
A rope-ladder for false witness.
Ludolph. Most atrocious!
Otho. Ethelbert, proceed.
Ethelbert. With sad lips I shall:
For in the healing of one wound, I fear
To make a greater. His young highness here
To-day was married.
Ludolph. Good.
Ethelbert. Would it were good!
Yet why do I delay to spread abroad
The names of those two vipers, from whose jaws
A deadly breath went forth to taint and blast
This guileless lady?
Otho. Abbot, speak their names.
Ethelbert. A minute first. It cannot be but may
I ask, great judge, if you to-day have put
A letter by unread?
Otho. Does 'tend in this?
Conrad. Out with their names!
Ethelbert. Bold sinner, say you so?
Ludolph. Out, tedious monk!
Otho. Confess, or by the wheel
Ethelbert. My evidence cannot be far away;
And, though it never come, be on my head
The crime of passing an attaint upon
The slanderers of this virgin.
Ludolph. Speak aloud!
Ethelbert. Auranthe, and her brother there.
Conrad. Amaze!
Ludolph. Throw them from the windows!
Otho. Do what you will!
Ludolph. What shall I do with them?
Something of quick dispatch, for should she hear,
My soft Auranthe, her sweet mercy would
Prevail against my fury. Damned priest!

What swift death wilt thou die? As to the lady
I touch her not.
Ethelbert. Illustrious Otho, stay!
An ample store of misery thou hast,
Choak not the granary of thy noble mind
With more bad bitter grain, too difficult
A cud for the repentance of a man
Grey-growing. To thee only I appeal,
Not to thy noble son, whose yeasting youth
Will clear itself, and crystal turn again.
A young man's heart, by Heaven's blessing, is
A wide world, where a thousand new-born hopes
Empurple fresh the melancholy blood;
But an old man's is narrow, tenantless
Of hopes, and stuff’d with many memories,
Which, being pleasant, ease the heavy pulse
Painful, clog up and stagnate. Weigh this matter
Even as a miser balances his coin ;
And, in the name of mercy, give command
That your knight Albert be brought here before you.
He will expound this riddle ; he will show
A noon-day proof of bad Auranthe's guilt.
Otho. Let Albert straight be summon 'd.
[Exit one of the Nobles.
Ludolph. Impossible !
I cannot doubt I will not no to doubt
Is to be ashes! wither 'd up to death!
Otho. My gentle Ludolph, harbour not a fear;
You do yourself much wrong.
Ludolph. O, wretched dolt!
Now, when my foot is almost on thy neck,
Wilt thou infuriate me? Proof! thou fool!
Why wilt thou teaze impossibility
With such a thick-skull'd persevering suit?
Fanatic obstinacy! Prodigy!
Monster of folly! Ghost of a turn'd brain!
You puzzle me, you haunt me, when I dream
Of you my brain will split! Bald sorcerer!
Juggler! May I come near you? On my soul
I know not whether to pity, curse, or laugh.
Enter ALBERT, and the Nobleman.
Here, Albert, this old phantom wants a proof!
Give him his proof! A camel's load of proofs!
Otho. Albert, I speak to you as to a man
Whose words once utter 'd pass like current gold;
And therefore fit to calmly put a close
To this brief tempest. Do you stand possess 'd
Of any proof against the honourableness
Of Lady Auranthe, our new-spoused daughter?
Albert. You chill me with astonishment. How's this?
My Liege, what proof should I have 'gainst a fame
Impossible of slur? [Otho rises.
Erminia. O wickedness!
Ethelbert. Deluded monarch, 'tis a cruel lie.
Otho. Peace, rebel-priest!
Conrad. Insult beyond credence!
Erminia. Almost a dream!
Ludolph. We have awaken'd from
A foolish dream that from my brow hath wrung
A wrathful dew. O folly! why did I
So act the lion with this silly gnat?
Let them depart. Lady Erminia!
I ever griev'd for you, as who did not?
But now you have, with such a brazen front,
So most maliciously, so madly striven
To dazzle the soft moon, when tenderest clouds
Should be unloop'd around to curtain her;
I leave you to the desert of the world
Almost with pleasure. Let them be set free
For me! I take no personal revenge
More than against a nightmare, which a man
forgets in the new dawn.
[Exit LUDOLPH.
Otho. Still in extremes! No, they must not be loose.
Ethelbert. Albert, I must suspect thee of a crime
So fiendish
Otho. Fear'st thou not my fury, monk?
Conrad, be they in your sure custody
Till we determine some fit punishment.
It is so mad a deed, I must reflect
And question them in private ; for perhaps,
By patient scrutiny, we may discover
Whether they merit death, or should be placed
In care of the physicians.
[Exeunt OTHO and Nobles, ALBERT following.
Conrad. My guards, ho!
Erminia. Albert, wilt thou follow there?
Wilt thou creep dastardly behind his back,
And slink away from a weak woman's eye?
Turn, thou court-Janus! thou forget'st thyself;
Here is the Duke, waiting with open arms,
[Enter Guards.
To thank thee; here congratulate each other;
Wring hands; embrace; and swear how lucky 'twas
That I, by happy chance, hit the right man
Of all the world to trust in.
Albert. Trust! to me!
Conrad (aside). He is the sole one in this mystery.
Erminia. Well, I give up, and save my prayers for Heaven!
You, who could do this deed, would ne'er relent,
Though, at my words, the hollow prison-vaults
Would groan for pity.
Conrad. Manacle them both!
Ethelbert. I know it—it must be I see it all!
Albert, thou art the minion!
Erminia. Ah ! too plain
Conrad. Silence! Gag up their mouths! I cannot bear
More of this brawling. That the Emperor
Had plac'd you in some other custody!
Bring them away.
[Exeunt all but ALBERT.
Albert. Though my name perish from the book of honour,
Almost before the recent ink is dry,
And be no more remember'd after death,
Than any drummer's in the muster-roll;
Yet shall I season high my sudden fall
With triumph o'er that evil-witted duke!
He shall feel what it is to have the hand
Of a man drowning, on his hateful throat.
Enter GERSA and SIGIFRED.
Gersa. What discord is at ferment in this house?
Sigifred. We are without conjecture; not a soul
We met could answer any certainty.
Gersa. Young Ludolph, like a fiery arrow, shot
By us.
Sigifred. The Emperor, with cross'd arms, in thought.
Gersa. In one room music, in another sadness,
Perplexity every where!
Albert. A trifle more!
Follow; your presences will much avail
To tune our jarred spirits. I'll explain. [Exeunt.

Submitted: Monday, March 29, 2010

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