Page images
[blocks in formation]

Glost. I guess the man at whom your words | Till life fled from us like an idle dream,

would point:


Cat. The same.

Glost. He bears me great good-will.

Cat. 'Tis true, to you, as to the lord protector, And Gloster's duke, he bows with lowly service: But were he bid to cry, God save king Richard, Then tell me in what terms he would reply? Believe me, I have proved the man, and found him:

I know he bears a most religious reverence
To his dead master Edward's royal memory,
And whither that may lead him is most plain.
Yet more--One of that stubborn sort he is,
Who, if they once grow fond of an opinion,
They call it honour, honesty, and faith,
And sooner part with life than let it go.

Glost. And yet this tough impracticable
Is governed by a dainty-fingered girl.


Such flaws are found in the most worthy natures;

A laughing, toying, wheedling, whimpering she
Shall make him amble on a gossip's message,
And take the distaff with a hand as patient
As e'er did Hercules.

Rat. The fair Alicia,

Of noble birth and exquisite of feature,
Has held him long a vassal to her beauty.
Cat. I fear, he fails in his allegiance there;
Or my intelligence is false, or else

The dame has been too lavish of her feast,
And fed him till he loathes.

Glost. No more, he comes.


Hast. Health, and the happiness of many days, Attend upon your grace.

Glost. My good lord chamberlain, We're much beholden to your gentle friendship. Hast. My lord, I come an humble suitor to


Glost. In right good time. Speak out your pleasure freely.

Hast. I am to move your highness in behalf Of Shore's unhappy wife.

Glost. Say you, of Shore?

Hast. Once a bright star, that held her place on high:

The first and fairest of our English dames,
While royal Edward held the sovereign rule.
Now sunk in grief, and pining with despair,
Her waning form no longer shall incite
Envy in woman, or desire in man.
She never sees the sun, but through her tears,
And wakes to sigh the live-long night away.
Glost. Marry! the times are badly changed
with her,

A shew of mummery without a meaning.
My brother, rest and pardon to his soul!
Is gone to his account; for this his minion,
The revel rout is done-But you were speaking
Concerning her- have been told, that you
Are frequent in your visitation to her.
Hast. No farther, my good lord, than friendly

And tender-hearted charity allow.

Glost. Go to; I did not mean to chide you

for it.

[blocks in formation]

And though some counsellors of forward zeal,
Some of most ceremonious sauctity,

And bearded wisdom, often have provoked
The hand of justice to fall heavy on her;
Yet still, in kind compassion of her weakness,
And tender memory of Edward's love,

I have withheld the merciless stern law
From doing outrage on her helpless beauty.
Hust. Good Heaven, who renders mercy back
for mercy,

With open-handed bounty shall repay you:
This gentle deed shall fairly be set foremost,
To screen the wild escapes of lawless passion,
And the long train of frailties flesh is heir to.

Glost. Thus far, the voice of pity pleaded only: Our farther and more full extent of grace Is given to your request. Let her attend, And to ourself deliver up her griefs. She shall be heard with patience, and each wrong At full redressed. But I have other news, Which much import us both; for still my fortunes Go hand in hand with yours: our common foes, The queen's relations, our new-fangled gentry, Have fallen their haughty crests-That for your privacy. [Exeunt.

SCENE II.-An apartment in June Shore's house.


Bel. How she has lived, you have heard my tale already;

The rest your own attendance in her family, Where I have found the means this day to place you,

And nearer observation, best will tell you.

From Edward's days to these. Then all was jol-See, lity,

Feasting and mirth, light wantonness and laugh


Piping and playing, minstrelsy and masquing;

with what sad and sober cheer she comes.

Sure, or I read her visage much amiss,
Or grief besets her hard. Save you, fair lady!

The blessings of the cheerful morn be on you,
And greet your beauty with its opening sweets!
J. Sh. My gentle neighbour, your good wishes

Pursue my hapless fortunes! Ah, good Belmour!
How few, like thee, inquire the wretched out,
And court the offices of soft humanity!
Like thee reserve their raiment for the naked,
Reach out their bread to feed the crying orphan,
Or mix their pitying tears with those that weep!
Thy praise deserves a better tongue than mine,
To speak and bless thy name. Is this the gentle-


Whose friendly service you commended to me? Bel. Madam, it is.


J. Sh. A venerable aspect.
Age sits with decent grace upon his visage,
And worthily becomes his silver locks;
He wears the marks of many years well spent,
Of virtue, truth well tried, and wise experience;
A friend like this would suit my sorrows well.
Fortune, I fear me, sir, has meant you ill, [To Dum.
Who pays your merit with that scanty pittance,
Which my poor hand and humble roof can give.
But to supply these golden vantages,
Which elsewhere you might find, expect to meet
A just regard and value for your worth,
The welcome of a friend, and the free partner

Of all that little good the world allows me.
Dum. You over-rate me much; and all my


Must be my future truth; let them speak for me, And make up my deserving.

J. Sh. Are you of England?

Dum. No, gracious lady, Flanders claims my birth;

At Antwerp has my constant biding been, Where sometimes I have known more plenteous days

Than these which now my failing age affords.
J. Sh. Alas! at Antwerp!-Oh, forgive my

They fall for my offences and must fall
Long, long ere they shall wash my stains away.
You knew perhaps-Oh grief! oh shame! my

Dum. I knew him well-but stay this flood of anguish!

The senseless grave feels not your pious sorrows:
Three years and more are past, since I was bid,
With many of our common friends, to wait him
To his last peaceful mansion. I attended,
Sprinkled his clay-cold corse with holy drops,
According to our church's rev'rend rite,
And saw him laid in hallow'd ground, to rest.
J. Sh. Oh, that my soul had known no joy but

That I had lived within his guiltless arms,
And, dying, slept in innocence beside him!
But now his dust abhors the fellowship,
And scorns to mix with mine.

[blocks in formation]

Our reasons to rebel, and power to reign,
What could we more than to behold a monarch,
Lovely, renowned, a conqueror, and young,
Bound in our chains, and sighing at our feet?
J. Sh. 'Tis true, the royal Edward was a won-

The goodly pride of all our English youth;
He was the very joy of all that saw him;
Formed to delight, to love, and to persuade.
Impassive spirits and angelic natures
Might have been charmed, like yielding human

Stooped from their heaven, and listened to his talking.

But what had I to do with kings and courts?
My humble lot had cast me far beneath him;
And that he was the first of all mankind,
The bravest, and most lovely, was my curse.

Alic. Sure, something more than fortune joined your loves:

Nor could his greatness, and his gracious form, Be elsewhere matched so well, as to the sweet


And beauty of my friend.

J. Sh. Name him no more!
He was the bane and ruin of my peace.

This anguish and these tears, these are the lega


His fatal love has left me. Thou wilt see me,
Believe me, my Alicia, thou wilt see me,
E'er yet a few short days pass o'er my head,
Abandoned to the very utmost wretchedness.

The hand of power has seized almost the whole Of what was left for needy life's support; Shortly thou wilt behold me poor, and kneeling Before thy charitable door for bread.

Alic. Joy of my life, my dearest Shore, forbear
To wound my heart with thy foreboding sorrows;
Raise thy sad soul to better hopes than these;
Lift up thy eyes, and let them shine once more,
Bright as the morning sun above the mist,
Exert thy charms, seek out the stern protector,
And soothe his savage temper with thy beauty:
Spite of his deadly, unrelenting nature,
He shall be moved to pity, and redress thee.
J. Sh. My form, alas! has long forgot to please;
The scene of beauty and delight is changed;
No roses bloom upon my fading cheek,
Nor laughing graces wanton in my eyes;
But haggard grief, lean-looking sallow care,
And pining discontent, a rueful train,
Dwell on my brow, all hideous and forlorn.
One only shadow of a hope is left me;
The noble-minded Hastings, of his goodness,
Has kindly undertaken to be my advocate,
And move my humble suit to angry Gloster.
Alic. Does Hastings undertake to plead your

But wherefore should he not? Hastings has eyes;
The gentle lord has a right tender heart,
Melting and easy, yielding to impression,
And catching the soft flame from each new

But yours shall charm him long.

J. Sh. Away, you flatterer!

Nor charge his generous meaning with a weak


Which his great soul and virtue must disdain.
Too much of love thy hapless friend has proved,
Too many giddy foolish hours are gone,
And in fantastic measures danced away:
May the remaining few know only friendship!
So thou, my dearest, truest, best Alicia,
Vouchsafe to lodge me in thy gentle heart,
A partner there; I will give up mankind,
Forget the transports of increasing passion,
And all the pangs we feel for its decay.
Alic. Live! live and reign for ever in my bo-
Safe and unrivalled there possess thy own,
And you, the brightest of the stars above,
Ye saints, that once were women here below,
Be witness of the truth, the holy friendship,
Which here to this my other self I vow!

If I not hold her nearer to my soul,
Than every other joy the world can give;
Let poverty, deformity, and shame,
Distraction and despair seize me on earth!
Let not my
faithless ghost have peace hereafter,
Nor taste the bliss of your celestial fellowship!
J. Sh. Yes, thou art true, and only thou art
Therefore these jewels, once the lavish bounty
Of royal Edward's love, I trust to thee;

[Giving a casket.
Receive this, all that I can call my own,
And let it rest unknown, and safe with thee:
That if the state's injustice should oppress me,
Strip me of all, and turn me out a wanderer,
My wretchedness may find relief from thee,
And shelter from the storm.

[blocks in formation]

for me,

What yet he never did for wretches like me?
Mark by what partial justice we are judged:
Such is the fate unhappy women find,
And such the curse entailed upon our kind,
That man, the lawless libertine, may rove,
Free and unquestioned through the wilds of love;
While woman, sense and nature's easy fool,
If poor weak woman swerve from virtue's rule,
If, strongly charmed, she leave the thorny way,
And in the softer paths of pleasure stray,
Ruin ensues, reproach and endless shame,
And one false step entirely damns her fame :
In vain with tears her loss she may deplore,
In vain look back on what she was before;
She sets, like stars that fall, to rise no more.


SCENE I-Continues


Enter ALICIA, speaking to JANE SHORE as entering.

Alic. No farther, gentle friend; good angels guard you,

And spread their glorious wings about your slumbers.

The drowsy night grows on the world, and now
The busy craftsmen and o'er laboured hind
Forget the travail of the day in sleep:
Care only wakes, and moping pensiveness;
With meagre discontented looks they sit,
And watch the wasting of the midnight taper.
Such vigils must I keep, so wakes my soul,
Restless and self-tormented! Oh, false Hastings!
Thou hast destroyed my peace.

[Knocking within.

What noise is that?
What visitor is this, who, with bold freedom,
Breaks in upon the peaceful night and rest,
With such a rude approach?

[blocks in formation]


And cheers the melancholy house of care.

Hast. 'Tis true, I would not over-rate a cour-

Nor let the coldness of delay hang on it,
To nip and blast its favour, like a frost;
But rather chose, at this late hour to come,
That your fair friend may know I have prevail-

The lord protector has received her suit,
And means to shew her grace.

Alic. My friend! my lord.

Hast. Yes, lady, yours: none has a right more ample

To task my power than you.

Alic. I want the words,

To pay you back a compliment so courtly;

[blocks in formation]

Given up to be the sport of villains' tongues,
Of laughing parasites, and lewd buffoons?
And all because my soul has doated on thee
With love, with truth, and tenderness unutterable!

Hust. Are these the proofs of tenderness and


[blocks in formation]


Kept in the view, and crossed at every turn?
In vain I fly, and, like a hunted deer,
Scud o'er the lawns, and hasten to the covert;
E'er I can reach my safety, you o'ertake me
With the swift malice of some keen reproach,
And drive the winged shaft deep in my heart.

Alic. Hither you fly, and here you seek repose; Spite of the poor deceit, your arts are known, Your pious, charitable, midnight visits!

Hast. If you are wise, and prize your peace of mind,

Yet take the friendly counsel of my love;
Believe me true, nor listen to your jealousy,
Let not that devil, which undoes your sex,
That cursed curiosity seduce you,

To hunt for needless secrets, which, neglected,

« PreviousContinue »