John Keats (31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821 / London, England)
Otho The Great - Act V
A part of the Forest.
Enter CONRAD and AURANTHE.
Auranthe. Go no further; not a step more; thou art
A master-plague in the midst of miseries.
Go I fear thee. I tremble every limb,
Who never shook before. There's moody death
In thy resolved looks Yes, I could kneel
To pray thee far away. Conrad, go, go
There! yonder underneath the boughs I see
Conrad. Aye, and the man.
Auranthe. Yes, he is there.
Go, go, no blood, no blood; go, gentle Conrad!
Auranthe. Farewell, for this Heaven pardon you.
Conrad. If he survive one hour, then may I die
In unimagined tortures or breathe through
A long life in the foulest sink of the world!
He dies 'tis well she do not advertise
The caitiff of the cold steel at his back.
Enter LUDOLPH and PAGE.
Ludolph. Miss'd the way, boy, say not that on your peril!
Page. Indeed, indeed I cannot trace them further.
Ludolph. Must I stop here? Here solitary die?
Stifled beneath the thick oppressive shade
Of these dull boughs, this oven of dark thickets,
Silent, without revenge? pshaw! bitter end,
A bitter death, a suffocating death,
A gnawing silent deadly, quiet death!
Escaped? fled? vanish'd? melted into air?
She's gone! I cannot clutch her! no revenge!
A muffled death, ensnar'd in horrid silence!
Suck'd to my grave amid a dreamy calm!
O, where is that illustrious noise of war,
To smother up this sound of labouring breath,
This rustle of the trees!
[AURANTHE shrieks at a distance.
Page. My Lord, a noise!
This way hark!
Ludolph. Yes, yes! A hope! A music!
A glorious clamour! How I live again! [Exeunt.
SCENE II. Another part of the Forest,
Enter ALBERT (wounded).
Albert. O for enough life to support me on
To Otho's feet
Ludolph. Thrice villainous, stay there
Tell me where that detested woman is
Or this is through thee!
Albert. My good Prince, with me
The sword has done its worst; not without worst
Done to another Conrad has it home
I see you know it all
Ludolph. Where is his sister?
AURANTHE rushes in.
Ludolph. Ha! There! there! He is the paramour I
There hug him dying! O, thou innocence,
Shrine him and comfort him at his last gasp,
Kiss down his eyelids! Was he not thy love?
Wilt thou forsake him at his latest hour?
Keep fearful and aloof from his last gaze,
His most uneasy moments, when cold death
Stands with the door ajar to let him in?
Albert. O that that door with hollow slam would close
Upon me sudden, for I cannot meet,
In all the unknown chambers of the dead,
Ludolph. Auranthe! what can he mean?
What horrors? Is it not a joyous time?
Am I not married to a paragon
'Of personal beauty and untainted soul'?
A blushing fair-eyed Purity! A Sylph,
Whose snowy timid hand has never sin'd
Beyond a flower pluck'd, white as itself?
Albert, you do insult my Bride your Mistress
To talk of horrors on our wedding night.
Albert. Alas! poor Prince, I would you knew my heart.
'Tis not so guilty
Ludolph. Hear you he pleads not guilty
You are not? or if so what matters it?
You have escap'd me, free as the dusk air
Hid in the forest safe from my revenge;
I cannot catch you--You should laugh at me,
Poor cheated Ludolph, make the forest hiss
With jeers at me You tremble; faint at once,
You will come to again. O Cockatrice,
I have you. Whither wander those fair eyes
To entice the Devil to your help, that he
May change you to a Spider, so to crawl
Into some cranny to escape my wrath?
Albert. Sometimes the counsel of a dying man
Doth operate quietly when his breath is gone
Disjoin those hands part--part, do not destroy
Each other forget her our miseries
Are equal shar'd, and mercy is
Ludolph. A boon
When one can compass it. Auranthe, try
Your oratory your breath is not so hitch'd
Aye, stare for help
[ALBERT groans and dies.
There goes a spotted soul
Howling in vain along the hollow night
Hear him he calls you Sweet Auranthe, come!
Auranthe. Kill me.
Ludolph. No! What? upon our Marriage-night!
The earth would shudder at so foul a deed
A fair Bride, a sweet Bride, an innocent Bride!
No, we must revel it, as 'tis in use
In times of delicate brilliant ceremony:
Come, let me lead you to our halls again
Nay, linger not make no resistance sweet
Will you Ah wretch, thou canst not, for I have
The strength of twenty lions 'gainst a lamb
Now one adieu for Albert come away.
SCENE III. An inner Court of the Castle.
Enter SIGIFRED, GONFRED, and THEODORE meeting.
Theodore. Was ever such a night?
Sigifred. What horrors more?
Things unbeliev'd one hour, so strange they are,
The next hour stamps with credit.
Theodore. Your last news ?
Gonfred. After the Page's story of the death
Of Albert and Duke Conrad?
Sigifred. And the return
Of Ludolph with the Princess.
Gonfred. No more save
Prince Gersa's freeing Abbot Ethelbert,
And the sweet lady, fair Erminia,
Theodore. Where are they now? hast yet heard?
Gonfred. With the sad Emperor they are closeted ;
I saw the three pass slowly up the stairs,
The lady weeping, the old Abbot cowl'd.
Sigifred. What next?
Thedore. I ache to think on't.
Gonfred. ‘Tis with fate.
Theodore. One while these proud towers are hush'd as death.
Gonfred. The next our poor Prince fills the arched rooms
With ghastly ravings.
Sigifred. I do fear his brain.
Gonfred. I will see more. Bear you so stout a heart?
[Exeunt into the Castle.
SCENE IV. A Cabinet, opening towards a Terrace.
OTHO, ERMINIA, ETHELBERT, and a Physician, discovered.
Otho. O, my poor Boy! my Son! my Son! My Ludolph!
Have ye no comfort for me, ye Physicians
Of the weak Body and Soul?
Ethelbert. ‘Tis not the Medicine
Either of heaven or earth can cure unless
Fit time be chosen to administer
Otho. A kind forbearance, holy Abbot come
Erminia, here sit by me, gentle Girl;
Give me thy hand hast thou forgiven me?
Erminia. Would I were with the saints to pray for you!
Otho. Why will ye keep me from my darling child?
Physician. Forgive me, but he must not see thy face
Otho. Is then a father's countenance a Gorgon?
Hath it not comfort in it? Would it not
Console my poor Boy, cheer him, heal his spirits?
Let me embrace him, let me speak to him
I will who hinders me? Who's Emperor?
Physician. You may not, Sire 'twould overwhelm him quite,
He is so full of grief and passionate wrath,
Too heavy a sigh would kill him or do worse.
He must be sav'd by fine contrivances
And most especially we must keep clear
Out of his sight a Father whom he loves
His heart is full, it can contain no more,
And do its ruddy office.
Ethelbert. Sage advice;
We must endeavour how to ease and slacken
The tight-wound energies of his despair,
Not make them tenser
Otho. Enough! I hear, I hear.
Yet you were about to advise more I listen.
Ethelbert. This learned doctor will agree with me,
That not in the smallest point should he be thwarted
Or gainsaid by one word his very motions,
Nods, becks and hints, should be obey'd with care,
Even on the moment: so his troubled mind
May cure itself
Physician. There is no other means.
Otho. Open the door: let's hear if all is quiet
Physician. Beseech you, Sire, forbear.
Erminia. Do, do.
Otho. I command!
Open it straight hush! quiet my lost Boy!
My miserable Child!
Ludolph (indistinctly without). Fill, fill my goblet,
Here's a health!
Erminia. O, close the door!
Otho. Let, let me hear his voice; this cannot last
And fain would I catch up his dying words
Though my own knell they be this cannot last
O let me catch his voice for lo! I hear
This silence whisper me that he is dead!
It is so. Gersa?
Physician. Say, how fares the prince?
Gersa. More calm his features are less wild and flushed
Once he complain'd of weariness
'Tis good 'tis good let him but fall asleep,
That saves him.
Otho. Gersa, watch him like a child
Ward him from harm and bring me better news
Physician. Humour him to the height. I fear to go;
For should he catch a glimpse of my dull garb,
It might affright him fill him with suspicion
That we believe him sick, which must not be
Gersa. I will invent what soothing means I can.
Physician. This should cheer up your Highness weariness
Is a good symptom, and most favourable
It gives me pleasant hopes. Please you walk forth
Onto the Terrace; the refreshing air
Will blow one half of your sad doubts away.
SCENE V. A Banqueting Hall, brilliantly illuminated, and set forth
with all costly magnificence, with Supper-tables, laden with services
of Gold and Silver. A door in the back scene, guarded by two Soldiers.
Lords, Ladies, Knights, Gentlemen, &c., whispering sadly,
and ranging themselves; part entering and part discovered.
First Knight. Grievously are we tantaliz'd, one and all
Sway'd here and there, commanded to and fro
As though we were the shadows of a dream
And link'd to a sleeping fancy. What do we here?
Gonfred. I am no Seer you know we must obey
The prince from A to Z though it should be
To set the place in flames. I pray hast heard
Where the most wicked Princess is?
First Knight. There, Sir,
In the next room have you remark'd those two
Stout soldiers posted at the door?
Gonfred. For what?
First Lady. How ghast a train!
Second Lady. Sure this should be some splendid burial.
First Lady. What fearful whispering! See, see, Gersa there.
Gersa. Put on your brightest looks; smile if you can;
Behave as all were happy; keep your eyes
From the least watch upon him ;
if he speaks
To any one, answer collectedly,
Without surprise, his questions, howe'er strange.
Do this to the utmost, though, alas! with me
The remedy grows hopeless! Here he comes,
Observe what I have said, show no surprise.
Enter LUDOLPH, followed by SIGIFRED and Page.
Ludolph. A splendid company! rare beauties here!
I should have Orphean lips, and Plato's fancy,
Amphion's utterance, toned with his lyre,
Or the deep key of Jove's sonorous mouth,
To give fit salutation. Methought I heard,
As I came in, some whispers, what of that?
'Tis natural men should whisper; at the kiss
Of Psyche given by Love, there was a buzz
Among the gods! and silence is as natural.
These draperies are fine, and, being a mortal,
I should desire no better; yet, in truth,
There must be some superiour costliness,
Some wider-domed high magnificence!
I would have, as a mortal I may not,
Hanging of heaven's clouds, purple and gold,
Slung from the spheres; gauzes of silver mist,
Loop'd up with cords of twisted wreathed light,
And tassell'd round with weeping meteors!
These pendent lamps and chandeliers are bright
As earthly fires from dull dross can be cleansed;
Yet could my eyes drink up intenser beams
Undazzled, this is darkness, when I close
These lids, I see far fiercer brilliances,
Skies full of splendid moons, and shooting stars,
And spouting exhalations, diamond fires,
And panting fountains quivering with deep glows!
Yes this is dark is it not dark?
Sigifred. My Lord,
'Tis late; the lights of festival are ever
Quench'd in the morn.
Ludolph. 'Tis not to-morrow then?
Sigifred. ‘Tis early dawn.
Gersa. Indeed full time we slept;
Say you so, Prince?
Ludolph. I say I quarreled with you ; We did not tilt each other, that's a blessing,
Good gods! no innocent blood upon my head!
Sigifred. Retire, Gersa!
Ludolph. There should be three more here:
For two of them, they stay away perhaps,
Being gloomy-minded, haters of fair revels,
They know their own thoughts best.
As for the third,
Deep blue eyes semi-shaded in white lids,
Finished with lashes fine for more soft shade,
Completed by her twin-arch'd ebon brows
White temples of exactest elegance,
Of even mould felicitous and smooth
Cheeks fashioned tenderly on either side,
So perfect, so divine that our poor eyes
Are dazzled with the sweet proportioning,
And wonder that 'tis so, the magic chance!
Her nostrils, small, fragrant, faery-delicate;
Her lips -I swear no human bones e'er wore
So taking a disguise you shall behold her!
We'll have her presently; aye, you shall see her,
And wonder at her, friends, she is so fair
She is the world's chief Jewel, and by heaven
She's mine by right of marriage she is mine!
Patience, good people, in fit time I send
A Summoner she will obey my call,
Being a wife most mild and dutiful.
First I would hear what music is prepared
To herald and receive her let me hear!
Sigifred. Bid the musicians soothe him tenderly.
[A soft strain of Music.
Ludolph. Ye have none better no I am content;
'Tis a rich sobbing melody, with reliefs
Full and majestic; it is well enough,
And will be sweeter, when ye see her pace
Sweeping into this presence, glisten'd o'er
With emptied caskets, and her train upheld
By ladies, habited in robes of lawn,
Sprinkled with golden crescents; (others bright
In silks, with spangles shower'd,) and bow'd to
By Duchesses and pearled Margravines
Sad, that the fairest creature of the earth
I pray you mind me not 'tis sad, I say,
That the extremest beauty of the world
Should so entrench herself away from me,
Behind a barrier of engender 'd guilt!
Second Lady. Ah! what a moan!
First Knight. Most piteous indeed!
Ludolph. She shall be brought before this company,
And then then
First Lady. He muses.
Gersa. O, Fortune, where will this end?
Sigifred. I guess his purpose! Indeed he must not have
That pestilence brought in, that cannot be,
There we must stop him.
Gersa. I am lost! Hush, hushl
He is about to rave again.
Ludolph. A barrier of guilt! I was the fool.
She was the cheater! Who's the cheater now,
And who the fool? The entrapp'd, the caged fool,
The bird-limy raven? She shall croak to death
Secure! Methinks I have her in my fist,
To crush her with my heel! Wait, wait! I marvel
My father keeps away: good friend, ah! Sigifred!
Do bring him to me and Erminia
I fain would see before I sleep and Ethelbert,
That he may bless me, as I know he will
Though I have curs'd him.
Sigifred. Rather suffer me
To lead you to them
Ludolph. No, excuse me, no
The day is not quite done go bring them hither.
Certes, a father's smile should, like sunlight,,
Slant on my sheafed harvest of ripe bliss
Besides, I thirst to pledge my lovely Bride
In a deep goblet: let me see what wine?
The strong Iberian juice, or mellow Greek?
Or pale Calabrian? Or the Tuscan grape?
Or of old Ætna's pulpy wine presses,
Black stain'd with the fat vintage, as it were
The purple slaughter-house, where Bacchus' self
Prick'd his own swollen veins? Where is my Page?
Page. Here, here!
Ludolph. Be ready to obey me; anon thou shalt
Bear a soft message for me for the hour
Draws near when I must make a winding up
Of bridal Mysteries a fine-spun vengeance!
Carve it on my Tomb, that when I rest beneath
Men shall confess This Prince was gulled and cheated,
But from the ashes of disgrace he rose
More than a fiery Phoenix and did burn
His ignominy up in purging fires
Did I not send, Sir, but a moment past,
For my Father?
Gersa. You did.
Ludolph. Perhaps 'twould be
Much better he came not.
Gersa. He enters now!
Enter OTHO, ERMINIA, ETHELBERT, SIGIFRED, and Physician.
Ludolph. O thou good Man, against whose sacred head
I was a mad conspirator, chiefly too
For the sake of my fair newly wedded wife,
Now to be punish'd, do not look so sad!
Those charitable eyes will thaw my heart,
Those tears will wash away a just resolve,
A verdict ten times sworn! Awake awake
Put on a judge's brow, and use a tongue
Made iron-stern by habit! Thou shalt see
A deed to be applauded, 'scribed in gold!
Join a loud voice to mine, and so denounce
What I alone will execute!
Otho. Dear son,
What is it? By your father's love, I sue
That it be nothing merciless!
Ludolph. To that demon?
Not so! No! She is in temple-stall
Being garnish'd for the sacrifice, and I,
The Priest of Justice, will immolate her
Upon the altar of wrath! She stings me through!-
Even as the worm doth feed upon the nut,
So she, a scorpion, preys upon my brain!
I feel her gnawing here! Let her but vanish,
Then, father, I will lead your legions forth,
Compact in steeled squares, and speared files,
And bid our trumpets speak a fell rebuke
To nations drows'd in peace!
Otho. To-morrow, Son,
Be your word law forget to-day
Ludolph. I will
When I have finish 'd it now! now! I'm pight,
Tight-footed for the deed!
Erminia. Alas! Alas!
Ludolph. What Angel’s voice is that? Erminia!
Ah! gentlest creature, whose sweet innocence
Was almost murder'd; I am penitent,
Wilt thou forgive me? And thou, holy Man,
Good Ethelbert, shall I die in peace with you?
Erminia. Die, my lord!
Ludolph. I feel it possible.
Physician. I fear me he is past my skill.
Otho. Not so!
Ludolph. I see it, I see it I have been wandering
Half-mad not right here I forget my purpose.
Bestir, bestir, Auranthe! ha! ha! ha!
Youngster! Page! go bid them drag her to me!
Obey! This shall finish it! [Draws a dagger.
Otho. O my Son! my Son!
Sigifred. This must not be stop there!
Ludolph. Am I obey'd?
A little talk with her no harm haste ! haste !
Set her before me never fear I can strike.
Several Voices. My Lord! My Lord!
Gersa. Good Prince!
Ludolph. Why do ye trouble me? out-out-out away!
There she is! take that! and that! no, no-
That's not well done Where is she?
The doors open. Enter Page. Several women are seen grouped
about AURANTHE in the inner room.
Page. Alas! My Lord, my Lord! they cannot move her!
Her arms are stiff, her fingers clench'd and cold
Ludolph. She's dead!
[Staggers and jails into their arms.
Ethelbert. Take away the dagger.
Gersa. Softly; so!
Otho. Thank God for that!
Sigifred. I fear it could not harm him.
Gersa. No! brief be his anguish!
Ludolph. She's gone I am content Nobles, good night!
We are all weary faint set ope the doors
I will to bed! To-morrow [Dies.
THE CURTAIN FALLS.
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