Page images
PDF
EPUB

There send me. I will be your faithful warder ;
There will I prune the trees, cover the citrons
With boards and tiles in autumn, and preserve them
'Neath matted reeds. Fair flowers shall dress the

beds,
No weed shall grow in avenue or alley ;
And mine be also charge over the palace,
To
open

windows at the proper times,
To guard the pictures against damp and mould,
To
sweep

the stuccoed walls with a light broom,
To keep the marble pavement white and pure.
No stone, no tile, shall be displaced, nor grass
Find leave to grow

in
any

cleft or chink. Prin. I know not how to act. I find no comfort

For thee or us. O, would but some good angel
Show me some wholesome herb, some healing beverage,
That would have power to pacify thy senses,

,
And make us happy in thy cure : all words
Are idle, for the truest touch thee not;

And I must leave thee; but my heart stays with thee.
Tasso. My God! she pities me, she does indeed ;

And could I then mistake that noble heart,
Maintain my mean suspicions in her presence ?
But now I know her and myself again.
Speak on those words of tenderness and soothing;

Give me thy counsel ; say, what shall I do?
Prin. We ask but little from thee; yet that little

Has ever been too much : that thou wouldst trust us,
And to thyself be true! Couldst thou do this
Thou wouldst be happy, and we be happy in thee.
We must be gloomy when we see thee so;
Impatient when so oft we see thee need

[ocr errors]

The help we cannot give ; when thou refusest

To seize the hand stretched out to thee in love.
Tasso. Thou art the same who came to meet me first!

Angel of pity and of love, forgive
That my eye, clouded by the mists of earth,
Mistook thee for a moment.

Now I know thee,
And open all my soul to adoration,
My heart to tenderness beyond all words.
Ah, what a feeling! what a strange confusion !
Is't madness which draws me thus towards thee ?
Or is't an elevated sense of truth,
In its most lovely, earth-born form? I know not.
It is the feeling which alone can make me
Most blest if I may venture to indulge it,
Most miserable if I must repress it.
And I have striven with this passion — striven
With my profoundest self — have torn in pieces

The heart which beat with such devotion for thee.
Prin. If thou wouldst have me listen longer, Tasso,

Avoid expressions which I must not hear.
Tasso. And can the goblet's rim restrain the wine

Which foams above it ? Every word of thine
Kindles my soul with fires unfelt before ;
With each word beam thine eyes more clear and soft ;
My soul dilates, each sorrow flies, I'm free, -
Free as a god, - and this I own to thee.
The power that fills me now thy lips poured on me,
And I am wholly thine. Of all my being
No atom call I mine, apart from thee.
Ah, I am blinded with excess of light!
My senses waver with excess of bliss !
I must approach. My heart throbs wildly towards thee;

[ocr errors]

I am all thine -- receive me to thyself! (Clasping her

in his arms.) Prin. (Breaking from him.) Away! (Hastens out.) Leon. (Who has been some time approaching.) What, what

has happened, Tasso ? [Follows the PRINCESS. Tasso. (Attempting to follow.) My God! Alph. (Who has been approaching with Antonio.) He

raves ! Beware that he escape not. [Goes out.

SCENE V.

Tasso. ANTONIO.

Anto. Had thy suspicions groundwork? Wert thou ever

Girt round by foes ? Were their chief now beside thee,
How would he triumph! Poor unfortunate!
I scarcely know what 'twas I saw.

A thing
So monstrous, so entirely unexpected,
Must make the mind stand still a while in fault

Of something to compare this deed withal. Tasso. Perform thine office, for I understand it. (After a long pause.) Thou art well worthy of the

prince's confidence.
My staff is broken ; thou art free to torture me;
Pull in thy hook ; make thy prey feel its sharpness ;
Thou art a precious work-tool for a tyrant,
Whether as jailer or as torturer ;
Each part thou playest as if born for it.
(Towards the scenes.) Go, tyrant! now, dissimulation

over,
Thy slave in chains, 'tis thy fit hour for triumph.
I know what griefs thou hast prepared for me ;

-

[ocr errors]

Yet go ; thy presence rouses my

abhorrence,
Unfeeling despot, go — and be detested!
(After a pause.) Yes; now I am an outcast mendicant,
Upon the very spot where I was crowned
A victim for the altar. They lured from me
My poem — all my wealth — with their smooth words.
My all is in their hands which could secure me
Another home, or shelter me from hunger.
Thus 'tis that they would have me rest, and thou
Art the deviser of this fell conspiracy.
My poem now will never be perfected;
My fame can never be further diffused ;
My enemies may freely spy my faults,
And I be first despised, and then forgotten.
Therefore, should I accustom me to idleness,
Beware lest I o'ertask my mind. What friendship!
What tender care ! I long have felt this plot
Spinning and weaving round me; now 'tis finished,
And braves the light of day in all its ugliness.
And thou, too, siren, who with honeyed words
Enticed me to my ruin, now I know thee.
But why so late? Thus we deceive ourselves,
And venerate the wicked, as they us.
Men know each other not, except, perhaps,
The galley slaves to one bench chained together,
When none can gain by loss of a companion,
And all as villains are received at once.
But we must courtly flatter other men,
Hoping they will return our compliments.
How she, who was to me a shrinéd saint,
Has dropped her mask! I see her as she is :
Coquettish, full of little arts - Armida,

[ocr errors]

Deprived of all her charms. Yes, thou art she;
The tale I framed was a presentiment.
And then her crafty little emissary!
How mean, how paltry looks she now before me !
This is the snare to which her soft steps guided.
I kr.ow you all. That is some satisfaction ;
And though these moments rob me of all else,

I should not murmur, since they bring me truth.
Anto. Tasso, I listen with astonishment,

Well as I know how lightly thy rash spirit
Flies from the one extreme back to the other.
Bethink thyself! Repress this frantic passion.
Thou dost blaspheme; thou usest such expressions
As, though thy friends may pardon them, from feeling
How wretched is thy state of mind, thou never,

When calmer, wilt forgive unto thyself.
Tasso. Tune not thy tongue to gentleness; talk not

Thus reasonably to a wretch who now
Can find no comfort save in self-oblivion.
I feel myself crushed to my inmost marrow;
And must I live to feel it?

Now despair
Seizes upon me with relentless grasp,
And ’mid the fiery tortures which consume me,
These blasphemies are as low groans of pain.
I must away : if thou look'st kindly on me :

Go, show it now, and hasten my departure.
Anto. In such distracted state I cannot leave thee;

I will be patient, whatsoe'er thou sayest.
Tasso. I am thy prisoner, then. Well, be it so ;

I will not make resistance - am content.
Here will I sit, and memory will torture me,
Recalling all that I have wilful lost :

:

« PreviousContinue »