Samuel Taylor Coleridge

(1772-1834 / Devon / England)

The Night-Scene : A Dramatic Fragment.


Sandoval. You loved the daughter of Don Manrique?
Earl Henry. Loved?
Sandoval. Did you not say you wooed her?
Earl Henry. Once I loved
Her whom I dared not woo!
Sandoval. And wooed, perchance,
One whom you loved not!
Earl Henry. Oh! I were most base,
Not loving Oropeza. True, I wooed her,
Hoping to heal a deeper wound; but she
Met my advances with impassioned pride,
That kindled love with love. And when her sire,
Who in his dream of hope already grasped
The golden circlet in his hand, rejected
My suit with insult, and in memory
Of ancient feuds poured curses on my head,
Her blessings overtook and baffled them!
But thou art stern, and with unkindly countenance
Art inly reasoning whilst thou listenest to me.
Sandoval. Anxiously, Henry! reasoning anxiously.
But Oropeza --
Earl Henry.
Blessings gather round her!
Within this wood there winds a secret passage,
Beneath the walls, which opens out at length
Into the gloomiest covert of the garden. --
The night ere my departure to the army,
She, nothing trembling, led me through that gloom,
And to that covert by a silent stream,
Which, with one star reflected near its marge,
Was the sole object visible around me.
No leaflet stirred; the air was almost sultry;
So deep, so dark, so close, the umbrage o'er us!
No leaflet stirred; -- yet pleasure hung upon
The gloom and stillness of the balmy night-air.
A little further on an arbour stood,
Fragrant with flowering trees -- I well remember
What an uncertain glimmer in the darkness
Their snow-white blossoms made -- thither she led me,
To that sweet bower! Then Oropeza trembled --
I heard her heart beat -- if 'twere not my own.
Sandoval. A rude and scaring note, my friend!
Earl Henry. Oh! no!
I have small memory of aught but pleasure.
The inquietudes of fear, like lesser streams
Still flowing, still were lost in those of love:
So love grew mightier from the fear, and Nature,
Fleeing from pain, sheltered herself in joy.
The stars above our heads were dim and steady,
Like eyes suffused with rapture. -- Life was in us:
We were all life, each atom of our frames
A living soul -- I vowed to die for her:
With the faint voice of one who, having spoken,
Relapses into blessedness, I vowed it:
That solemn vow, a whisper scarcely heard,
A murmur breathed against a lady's ear.
Oh! there is joy above the name of pleasure,
Deep self-possession, an intense repose.
Sandoval [with a sarcastic smile]. No other than as eastern sages paint,
The God, who floats upon a lotos leaf,
Dreams for a thousand ages; then awaking,
Creates a world, and smiling at the bubble,
Relapses into bliss.
Earl Henry. Ah! was that bliss
Feared as an alien, and too vast for man?
For suddenly, impatient of its silence,
Did Oropeza, starting, grasp my forehead.
I caught her arms; the veins were swelling on them.
Through the dark bower she sent a hollow voice; --
`Oh! what if all betray me? what if thou?'
I swore, and with an inward thought that seemed
The purpose and the substance of my being,
I swore to her, that were she red with guilt,
I would exchange my unblenched state with hers. --
Friend! by that winding passage, to that bower
I now will go -- all objects there will teach me
Unwavering love, and singleness of heart.
Go, Sandoval! I am prepared to meet her --
Say nothing of me -- I myself will seek her --
Nay, leave me, friend! I cannot bear the torment
And keen inquiry of that scanning eye. --

[Earl Henry retires into the wood.]

Sandoval [alone]. O Henry! always striv'st thou to be great
By thine own act -- yet art thou never great
But by the inspiration of great passion.
The whirl-blast comes, the desert-sands rise up
And shape themselves: from earth to heaven they stand,
As though they were the pillars of a temple,
Built by Omnipotence in its own honour!
But the blast pauses, and their shaping spirit
Is fled: the mighty columns were but sand,
And lazy snakes trail o'er the level ruins!

Submitted: Wednesday, March 31, 2010

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