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Lies a rich strath, once in the Ponthieu bounds ;
Our master claims it for his crown again,
William. 'Tis his. What more?
Certain arrears of rents
Kept back by Robert, your great ancestor-
William, Take them, and multiply by ten what else
Your master claims ,-but give me Harold here
In safety-honour-as befits the man
Who is my friend.
Lanfranc. Pause, I beseech, Sir
William. No—I'll not pause. I tell you, Policy
Leaps sometimes safest when it plants its foot
In what fools think profusion.
If you look
Your Grace will see the smile that moved your scorn
Sitting again upon these lips.--My Lords,
His grace will give you answer more at large
When half the hour glass sands have sunk to the end.
Ereunt Envoys. William. Why, priest-knave—or whatever name you own
Lanfranc. Both-either. By this humble garb I'm warned To endure contempt. William.
And yet your eye-balls glow
With pride might fit a warhorse, when the spears
Are levelled and the cry is in his ear.
Lanfranc. Give them no counties--no arrears of rent-
I sent a message by a barefoot brother
To Guido of Ponthieu to claim his prisoner.
William. Well ?
Lanfranc. There's a bolt that makes no noise, yet slays
Held by a feeble hand, of deadlier weight
Than mounted myriads ;-'tis the curse of Heaven,
Neath that black shadow pride dissolves in rain.
Ponthieu is on his knee.-Harold is here.
Erit. William. That priestly voice
that smile--that tranquil eye, They quell me like a moonlight among graves ; Like the great gulfs of the tremendous sea Which thrill not to the tempest blow that shakes The upper waves to fury, and sends down Ships in their bravery,--knight and burnished arms, A nation's strength ;-yet in their sụnless depths Move not, but heavy cling around the globe And chain it to their will. -A dangerous friend This Rome, which grows our master in the end.
Welcome at last! the heartier for delay.
Harold. Double all thanks I ever paid before,
And take thern from my heart !
What ! you ’ve not pined
In Guido’s fetters? There's a freeborn air
About those English limbs, as if no chain
Could bind them.
Harold. And it shall not ! Chains from him
A skipping foreigner! If he had dared
To talk of chains,-you see these sinewy five,
They would have clutched him, till his Frenchman's tongue
Had howled for mercy-aie mesericorde !
William (smiles). It trips not as your tongue were native soil,
But halts and boggles like a horse half swamp'd
In a Dutch marsh. Speak Saxon, noble Harold !
Harold. I do, and thank you, William ; tho', by 'r lady,
My thanks are elsewhere due. Two shaveling priests
Broke prison bars, that might have stood unmoved
By Normandy in arms ;-a word or two
They said in Guido's ear ; when, quick ! begone !
I found myself with reverence helped to horse,
Girt with a sword, encased in silken robe,
A purse at girdle, and the two bald friars
Crossing them, as I swore some English oaths
At Guido's baseness,-looking if I might spy
A cudgel to requite his highness' care,
And lacking that, doubling my fist in rage
To smite the villain's ear. But ever they prayed
And claimed me as a waif and stray of the church ;
A sort of foundling taken to by the Pope
And so I bore me like a Christian lamb
And slew not Guido,—till it please the Saints
To bring me to close reach of him again.
William. They were my holy chaplain's messengers.
Harold. I like not chaplains with more power than mine, I'd strip them of it all. William.
He is in vows
of poverty, and meekness, and submission.
Harold. Hang him,-I like not vows, that whet us more
To gain what we abjure. "T has often chanced,
When labouring with sharp aches from too much wine,
I've vowed to abstain ; no sooner slips the vow
Out of my lips, than—as its words were fire,
And made a sandy desert of my throat,
Parch'd with hot winds—pothing can quell my thirst
But five times more than if I had made no vow.
I know it well.
William. I trust, then, cousin, no vow
Of love to me shall make you turn to hate.
Harold. Tush ! 't is of priests I spoke ; for you this heart Beats as of old with love and reverence.
William. And mine to you. Ah! they were happy times
When we went hawking over all that plain
Its name escapes me—where the Druid stones
Weigh in such mass upon the flight of Time
That he seems moveless since a thousand years.
Harold. Salisbury,—'t is a ground to try a hawk.
T might task an eagle's wing.
And you remember
How chafed the gallant steed that bore my child,
My little Adela ; and how she pressed
Ever for safety to your side? Your voice
Soothing both horse and rider ?
William. She hath oft spoke your name since the report
Of Guido's wrong arrived. You'd scarcely think
How fiercely she could clasp her little hand,
And beat the pavement with her passionate foot,
And fling hot threatenings from her fiery lips,
On the false traitor who retained her friend.
Harold. Heaven send its blessings on her childish hcad !
I see her fairy form before me still,
A lighter never trampled into rings
The green tops o' the grass.
You wrong her, Harold,
Two years have worn the fairy circles out
And put full woman's weight upon her limbs
And yet not changed her heart. E'en now she waits
Our coming in her bower.—Come, sce her, Harold. [Exeunt.
SCENE II. A fortnight has passed amid the amusements of the Court of Rouen. Adela has been compelled by her Father and Lanfranc to extort a promise from her lover Harold, under threat, if she refuses, of being sent to a Convent.
Lanfranc. 'Tis needful, lady—that suffices.
I will not play the traitress to brave Harold,
And wile from the fond heart what the strong will
Would guard for ever. If he loves my father, -
Nay, if he loves I mean not what I say-
But if he loves his friend, and in the truth
Of his full kindness promises to aid
A stranger to ascend his native throne,
Think it but words of courtesy,—the payment
Of present gratitude,-ne'er to be prest
Into the actual deed.
Leave the result
To meto Heaven-and to our Lord the Pope.
Adela. What makes the Pope with Harold ? Is his voice
So powerful it can reach the walls of Rome?
Lanfranc. Rome's walls receive the lightest whispered word
That e'er left dying lips in farthest Isle,
Or loneliest desert. Harold's voice she hears;
And your's dear lady, as with eloquent lip,
You ask him to make promise of his aid
To our great duke.
And leave the path himself
That leads to greatness ?
But to happiness
The path is left more free. The first of subjects
Haply may lead a life of sweeter joy
With her he loves beside him, than if raised
To a cold barren throne,—and her he loves
Doomed to a Convent's holy solitude.
Adela. Is that her doom ?
Who will not serve the church
In Prince's court, shall serve her in Nun's cell.
Adela. I see there is no mercy in that eye.
Take me to Harold.
Enter Harold. Harold.
Harold. That man moves ever like a silent cloud,
And casts a shivering shadow ;-but he's gone,
And there is sunshine where sweet Adela smiles.
Adela. How know you that she smiles?
I feel it, lady,
Even when I look not on your face, the glow
Reaches my heart;—as in June's balmy days
We know 'tis summer, tho' the flowers are hidden,
And live but by their fragrance.
Ah! kind Harold,
Ilow sweet are words of praise from honest lips !
Harold. I meant them not for praise. Praise is but foam
From shallow streams,—the deeps hold still the pearl.
Adela. And yet my father doubts what truth there lies
Within that noble heart !
Doubt it who likes,
So Adela doubts it not. You doubt not, lady,
How you have filled this niche, like a fair saint
That never leaves the shrine.—We may be rude,
We of hot Saxon blood, and not so quick
In valorous speech and trim built compliment,
As scholarly Normans,—but when once we have said
We love--that short, stout manly word--we love,
Why, till our death we do it.
Come in to choke it.
Which be they?
Harold. Not so ; we can aspire and love unchanged,
'18 eagles seek the sun, yet gaze on earth.
Adela. Soar not too high, dear Harold, or poor earth
Grows to a speck—a point—then disappears.
Say you'll forswear all greatness—but your own-
Say when this Edward gains his heavenly crown,
You'll scorn the earthly bauble he has worn.
Harold. Who calls the circlet woven by England's might
By name so vile ?
Adela. My father-
Let him scorn it
Since 'tis a bauble. "Tis to me a crown,
The sacredest of the earth.
Farewell, then, Harold !
It may be death to say such words as these.
Adela. Aye, to both.
What words of mine have power
To bring such ill to Adela ?
Grows as your's grows—and fades with yours.
Hangs then on William's liking?—As I thought !
'Twas safer in the dungeons of Panthieu.
Adela. You hesitate--Oh! Harold, give your hand
That you will aid my father in his aims.
Will you not, Harold ?—he is Adela's father-
Your's too-dear Harold ;-say you'll give your aid !
Harold. Why, what are oaths when given in guise like this,
With a sharp sword within an inch of my throat ?
Adela. No, not a sword,-a loving—trusting heart.
Harold. Ah! eyes like these shall never plead in vain.
Adela. Swear, then-
Harold. What boots it swearing ?
Will you swear ?
Harold. Aye--that I love
That you slay me rather !
Harold. That were false oathing.
Lift your hand, dear Harold
Harold (lifts his hand) There
Adela. You will swear to aid my father's claims
To England's throne,--say but the words “ I swear."
Harold. And it will please you, gentle Adela -
And smooth the furrowed brow of that grave priest,
And win Duke William ?
Then I swear.
Folding doors open, and display an Altar covered as if for Mass. Choristers--
Priests, de. Lanfranc in front.
Lanfranc. Heaven and the saints have heard you! If you change
Or break the compact firmness of this vow,
Earth, heaven and hell shall join to blast your name.
A curse shall weigh upon your sword,—your arm
Shrivel beneath it, in the day of battle.
Angels shall turn their eyes from off your face,
And love desert you like a tainted thing.
Such fate he his that breaks a sacred vow,
Vowed where all Holy Martyrs bend the ear. -
--Earl Harold ! such the vow they witness here.