Selections from _The Bride's Tragedy_ by Thomas Lovell Beddoes

Thomas Lovell Beddoes, The Bride's Tragedy, I.1, IV.3, V.4 (final scene)

from ACT I, SCENE I.A garden.

Now Eve has strewn the sun's wide billowy couch
With rose-red feathers moulted from her wing,
Still scanty-sprinkled clouds, like lagging sheep,
Some golden-fleeced, some streaked with delicate pink,
Are creeping up the welkin, and behind
The wind, their boisterous shepherd, whistling drives them,
From the drear wilderness of night to drink
Antipodean noon
. . . .


Hesp. . . . There is on earth
one face alone, one heart, that Hesperus needs;
'Twere better all the rest were not. Olivia,
I'll tell thee how we'll 'scape these prying eyes;
We'll build a wall between us and the world,
And in some summer wilderness of flowers,
As though but two hearts beat beneath the sun,
Consume our days of love.


The place of Execution.

HESPERUS, guarded, HUBERT, ORLANDO, Citizens, &c.

Hesp. Now in the scornful silence of your features
I see my hated self; my friends, I was
The pestilence you think of--but to-night
Angelic ministers have been with me,
And by the holy communings of conscience
Wrought a most blessed change; my soul has wept
And lain among the thorns of penitence;
I ask, (and you will not refuse the boon
To one who cannot crave again) forgiveness
For all that in the noontide of my crimes,
Against you, even in thought, I have committed.

Orl. And we rejoice to grant it; and if prayers,
In meek sincerity outpoured, avail,
You have them from our hearts.

Hesp. Thy sister's soul spake in those words Orlando;
A wretch's blessing for them. I'm as one
In some lone watch-tower on the deep, awakened
From soothing visions of the home he loves;
Trembling he hears the wrathful billows whoop
And feels the little chamber of his life
Torn from its vale of clouds, and, as it falls,
In his midway to fate, beholds the gleam
Of blazing ships, some swallowed by the waves,
Some, pregnant with mock thunder, tossed abroad,
With mangled carcases, among the winds;
And the black sepulchre of ocean, choaked
With multitudinous dead; then shrinks from pangs
Unknown but destined. All I know of death
Is, that 'twill come. I have seen many die
Upon the battle field, and watched their lips
At the final breath, pausing in doubt to hear
If they were gone. I have marked oftentimes
Their pale eyes fading in the last blue twilight--
But none could speak the burning agony,
None told his feelings. I ne'er dreamed I died,
Else might I guess the torture that attends it.
But men unhurt have lost their several senses,
Grown deaf, and blind, and dumb without a pang
And surely these are members of the soul,
And, when they fail, man tastes a partial death:
Besides our minds share not corporeal sleep
But go among the past and future, or perhaps
Inspire another in some waking world,
And there's another death.
I will not fear; why do ye linger, guards?
I've flung my doubts away, my blood grows wild.

Hub. The hour appointed is not yet arrived,
Some moments we must wait: I pray you, patience.

Enter LORD ERNEST in the dress of a peasant, followed by CLAUDIO.

Clau. My lord, where dost thou hurry?

L. Ern.       To Despair;
Away! I know thee not. Henceforth I'll live
Those bitter days that Providence decrees me,
In toil and poverty. Oh, son, loved son,
I come to give thee my last tear and blessing;
thou wilt not cures the old, sad wretch again?

Hesp. (Falling upon the ground and covering himself with the loose earth.)
Oh trample me to dust.

L. Ern. (Lying down beside him.)
          My own dear child;
Ay, we will lie thus sweetly in the grave,
(The wind will not awake us, not the rain,)
Thou and thy mother and myself; but I
Alas! I have some tearful years to come,
Without a son to weep along with me.

Hesp. Father! Dear father!
And wilt thou pray for me? Oh, no! Thou canst not,
Thou must forget or hate me.

L. Ern.          Sirs, have pity;
Let him not use me thus. Hesperus, Hesperus,
Thou'rt going to thy mother; tell her, son,
My heart will soon be broken; so prepare
To have me with you. Bless thee, boy, good night. [Exit.

Hesp. My father, heaven will curse thee if I bless;
But I shall die the better for this meeting. [Kneeling.
Oh, Floribel! Fair martyr of my fury,
Oh, thou blessed saint! Look down and see thy vengeance,
And, if thy injured nature still can pity,
Whisper some comfort to my soul. Tis done;
I feel an airy kiss upon my cheek;
It is her breath; she hears me; she descends;
He spirit is around me. Now I'll die.


Len. Where's Hesperus? Not gone? Speak to me loud,
I hear not for the beating of my heart.
We're not both dead? Say thou hast scaped the headsman,
Nor felt the severing steel fall through thy neck.

Hesp. I stay one moment for the signal here,
The next I am no more.

Len.         the we have conquered.
Friend, leave us: I would speak a private word
Unto thy prisoner. Look upon these flowers;
They grew upon the grave of Floribel,
And, when I pulled them, through their tendrils blew
A sweet soft music, like and angel's voice.
Ah! there's her eye's dear blue; the blushing down
Of her ripe cheek in yonder rose; and there
In that pale bud, the blossom of her brow,
her pitiful round tear; here are all colours
That bloomed the fairest in her heavenly face;
Is't not her breath?

Hesp. (smelling them.) It falls upon my soul
Like an unearthly sense.

Len.         And so it should,
For it is Death thou'st quaffed:
I steeped the plants in a magician's potion,
More deadly than the scum of Pluto's pool,
Or the infernal brewage that goes round
From lip to lip at wizards' mysteries;
One drop of it, poured in a city conduit,
Would ravage wider than a year of plague;
it brings death swifter than the lightning shaft.

Hesp. Tis true: I feel it gnawing at my heart,
And my veins boil as though with molten lead.
How shall I thank thee for this last, best gift?

Len. What is it rushes burning though my mouth?
Oh! My heart's melted.--Let me sit awhile.

Hub. hear ye the chime? Prisoner, we must be gone;
Already should the sentence be performed.

Hesp. On! I am past you power.
(To Lenora.) How farest thou now?

Len. Oh! Come with me, and view
These banks of stars, the rainbow-girt pavilions,
These rivulets of music--hark, hark, hark!
And here are winged maidens floating round,
With smiles and welcomes; this bright beaming seraph
I should remember; is it not--my daughter? [Dies.

Hesp. I see not those; but the whole earth's in motion;
I cannot stem the billows; now they roll:
And what's this deluge? Ah! Infernal flames! [Falls.

Hub. Guards, lift him up.

Hesp. The bloody hunters and their dogs! Avaunt!--
Tread down these serpent's heads. Come hither, Murder;
Why dost thou growl at me? Ungrateful hound!
Not know thy master? Tear him off! Help! Mercy!
Down with your fiery fangs!--I'm not dead yet. [Dies.