16+ Best John Keats Poems You Should Have Read By Now

John Keats was an English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his works having been in publication for only four years before his death from tuberculosis at the age of 25.

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Sonnet Xi. On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Sonnet To Spenser

Spenser! a jealous honourer of thine,
A forester deep in thy midmost trees,
Did last eve ask my promise to refine
Some English that might strive thine ear to please.
But Elfin Poet ’tis impossible
For an inhabitant of wintry earth
To rise like Phoebus with a golden quill
Fire-wing’d and make a morning in his mirth.
It is impossible to escape from toil
O’ the sudden and receive thy spiriting:
The flower must drink the nature of the soil
Before it can put forth its blossoming:
Be with me in the summer days, and I
Will for thine honour and his pleasure try

To Charles Cowden Clarke

Oft have you seen a swan superbly frowning,
And with proud breast his own white shadow crowning;
He slants his neck beneath the waters bright
So silently, it seems a beam of light
Come from the galaxy: anon he sports,–
With outspread wings the Naiad Zephyr courts,
Or ruffles all the surface of the lake
In striving from its crystal face to take
Some diamond water drops, and them to treasure
In milky nest, and sip them off at leisure.
But not a moment can he there insure them,
Nor to such downy rest can he allure them;
For down they rush as though they would be free,
And drop like hours into eternity.
Just like that bird am I in loss of time,
Whene’er I venture on the stream of rhyme;
With shatter’d boat, oar snapt, and canvass rent,
I slowly sail, scarce knowing my intent;
Still scooping up the water with my fingers,
In which a trembling diamond never lingers.

By this, friend Charles, you may full plainly see
Why I have never penn’d a line to thee:
Because my thoughts were never free, and clear,
And little fit to please a classic ear;
Because my wine was of too poor a savour
For one whose palate gladdens in the flavour
Of sparkling Helicon:–small good it were
To take him to a desert rude, and bare,
Who had on Baiae’s shore reclin’d at ease,
While Tasso’s page was floating in a breeze
That gave soft music from Armida’s bowers,
Mingled with fragrance from her rarest flowers:
Small good to one who had by Mulla’s stream
Fondled the maidens with the breasts of cream;
Who had beheld Belphoebe in a brook,
And lovely Una in a leafy nook,
And Archimago leaning o’er his book:
Who had of all that’s sweet tasted, and seen,
From silv’ry ripple, up to beauty’s queen;
From the sequester’d haunts of gay Titania,
To the blue dwelling of divine Urania:
One, who, of late, had ta’en sweet forest walks
With him who elegantly chats, and talks–
The wrong’d Libertas,–who has told you stories
Of laurel chaplets, and Apollo’s glories;
Of troops chivalrous prancing through a city,
And tearful ladies made for love, and pity:
With many else which I have never known.
Thus have I thought; and days on days have flown
Slowly, or rapidly–unwilling still
For you to try my dull, unlearned quill.
Nor should I now, but that I’ve known you long;
That you first taught me all the sweets of song:
The grand, the sweet, the terse, the free, the fine;
What swell’d with pathos, and what right divine:
Spenserian vowels that elope with ease,
And float along like birds o’er summer seas;
Miltonian storms, and more, Miltonian tenderness;
Michael in arms, and more, meek Eve’s fair slenderness.
Who read for me the sonnet swelling loudly
Up to its climax and then dying proudly?
Who found for me the grandeur of the ode,
Growing, like Atlas, stronger from its load?
Who let me taste that more than cordial dram,
The sharp, the rapier-pointed epigram?
Shew’d me that epic was of all the king,
Round, vast, and spanning all like Saturn’s ring?
You too upheld the veil from Clio’s beauty,
And pointed out the patriot’s stern duty;
The might of Alfred, and the shaft of Tell;
The hand of Brutus, that so grandly fell
Upon a tyrant’s head. Ah! had I never seen,
Or known your kindness, what might I have been?
What my enjoyments in my youthful years,
Bereft of all that now my life endears?
And can I e’er these benefits forget?
And can I e’er repay the friendly debt?
No, doubly no;–yet should these rhymings please,
I shall roll on the grass with two-fold ease:
For I have long time been my fancy feeding
With hopes that you would one day think the reading
Of my rough verses not an hour mis[s]pent;
Should it e’er be so, what a rich content!
Some weeks have pass’d since last I saw the spires
In lucent Thames reflected:—warm desires
To see the sun o’er peep the eastern dimness,
And morning shadows streaking into slimness
Across the lawny fields, and pebbly water;
To mark the time as they grow broad, and shorter;
To feel the air that plays about the hills,
And sips its freshness from the little rills;
To see high, golden corn wave in the light
When Cynthia smiles upon a summer’s night,
And peers among the cloudlet’s jet and white,
As though she were reclining in a bed
Of bean blossoms, in heaven freshly shed.
No sooner had I stepp’d into these pleasures
Than I began to think of rhymes and measures:
The air that floated by me seem’d to say
‘Write! thou wilt never have a better day.’
And so I did. When many lines I’d written,
Though with their grace I was not oversmitten,
Yet, as my hand was warm, I thought I’d better
Trust to my feelings, and write you a letter.
Such an attempt required an inspiration
Of a peculiar sort,–a consummation;–
Which, had I felt, these scribblings might have been
Verses from which the soul would never wean:
But many days have past since last my heart
Was warm’d luxuriously by divine Mozart;
By Arne delighted, or by Handel madden’d;
Or by the song of Erin pierc’d and sadden’d:
What time you were before the music sitting,
And the rich notes to each sensation fitting.
Since I have walk’d with you through shady lanes
That freshly terminate in open plains,
And revel’d in a chat that ceased not
When at night-fall among your books we got:
No, nor when supper came, nor after that,–
Nor when reluctantly I took my hat;
No, nor till cordially you shook my hand
Mid-way between our homes:–your accents bland
Still sounded in my ears, when I no more
Could hear your footsteps touch the grav’ly floor.
Sometimes I lost them, and then found again;
You chang’d the footpath for the grassy plain.
In those still moments I have wish’d you joys
That well you know to honour:–‘Life’s very toys
‘With him,’ said I, ‘will take a pleasant charm;
‘It cannot be that ought will work him harm.’
These thoughts now come o’er me with all their might:–
Again I shake your hand,–friend Charles, good night.

Spenserian Stanzas On Charles Armitage Brown

I.
He is to weet a melancholy carle:
Thin in the waist, with bushy head of hair,
As hath the seeded thistle when in parle
It holds the Zephyr, ere it sendeth fair
Its light balloons into the summer air;
Therto his beard had not begun to bloom,
No brush had touch’d his chin or razor sheer;
No care had touch’d his cheek with mortal doom,
But new he was, and bright, as scarf from Persian loom.

II.
Ne cared he for wine, or half-and-half;
Ne cared he for fish or flesh, or fowl;
And sauces held he worthless as the chaff;
He ‘sdeigned the swine-head at the wassail-bowl;
Ne with lewd ribbalds sat he cheek by jowl;
Ne with sly Lemans in the scorner’s chair;
But after water-brooks this Pilgrim’s soul
Panted, and all his food was woodland air;
Though he would oft-times feast on gilliflowers rare.

III.
The slang of cities in no wise he knew,
Tipping the wink to him was heathen Greek;
He sipp’d no ‘olden Tom,’ or ‘ruin blue,’
Or Nantz, or cherry-brandy, drank full meek
By many a damsel brave, and rouge of cheek;
Nor did he know each aged watchman’s beat,
Nor in obscured purlieus would he seek
For curled Jewesses, with ankles neat,
Who as they walk abroad, make tinkling with their feet.

Sonnet Xvi. To Kosciusko

Good Kosciusko, thy great name alone
Is a full harvest whence to reap high feeling;
It comes upon us like the glorious pealing
Of the wide spheres — an everlasting tone.
And now it tells me, that in worlds unknown,
The names of heroes, burst from clouds concealing,
And changed to harmonies, for ever stealing
Through cloudless blue, and round each silver throne.
It tells me too, that on a happy day,
When some good spirit walks upon the earth,
Thy name with Alfred’s, and the great of yore
Gently commingling, gives tremendous birth
To a loud hymn, that sounds far, far away
To where the great God lives for evermore.

Specimen Of An Induction To A Poem

Lo! I must tell a tale of chivalry;
For large white plumes are dancing in mine eye.
Not like the formal crest of latter days:
But bending in a thousand graceful ways;
So graceful, that it seems no mortal hand,
Or e’en the touch of Archimago’s wand,
Could charm them into such an attitude.
We must think rather, that in playful mood,
Some mountain breeze had turned its chief delight,
To show this wonder of its gentle might.
Lo! I must tell a tale of chivalry;
For while I muse, the lance points slantingly
Athwart the morning air: some lady sweet,
Who cannot feel for cold her tender feet,
From the worn top of some old battlement
Hails it with tears, her stout defender sent:
And from her own pure self no joy dissembling,
Wraps round her ample robe with happy trembling.
Sometimes, when the good Knight his rest would take,
It is reflected, clearly, in a lake,
With the young ashen boughs, ’gainst which it rests,
And th’ half seen mossiness of linnets’ nests.

Ah! shall I ever tell its cruelty,
When the fire flashes from a warrior’s eye,
And his tremendous hand is grasping it,
And his dark brow for very wrath is knit?
Or when his spirit, with more calm intent,
Leaps to the honors of a tournament,
And makes the gazers round about the ring
Stare at the grandeur of the ballancing?
No, no! this is far off:—then how shall I
Revive the dying tones of minstrelsy,
Which linger yet about lone gothic arches,
In dark green ivy, and among wild larches?
How sing the splendour of the revelries,
When but[t]s of wine are drunk off to the lees?
And that bright lance, against the fretted wall,
Beneath the shade of stately banneral,
Is slung with shining cuirass, sword, and shield?
Where ye may see a spur in bloody field.
Light-footed damsels move with gentle paces
Round the wide hall, and show their happy faces;
Or stand in courtly talk by fives and sevens:
Like those fair stars that twinkle in the heavens.
Yet must I tell a tale of chivalry:
Or wherefore comes that knight so proudly by?
Wherefore more proudly does the gentle knight,
Rein in the swelling of his ample might?

Spenser! thy brows are arched, open, kind,
And come like a clear sun-rise to my mind;
And always does my heart with pleasure dance,
When I think on thy noble countenance:
Where never yet was ought more earthly seen
Than the pure freshness of thy laurels green.
Therefore, great bard, I not so fearfully
Call on thy gentle spirit to hover nigh
My daring steps: or if thy tender care,
Thus startled unaware,
Be jealous that the foot of other wight
Should madly follow that bright path of light
Trac’d by thy lov’d Libertas; he will speak,
And tell thee that my prayer is very meek;
That I will follow with due reverence,
And start with awe at mine own strange pretence.
Him thou wilt hear; so I will rest in hope
To see wide plains, fair trees and lawny slope:
The morn, the eve, the light, the shade, the flowers;
Clear streams, smooth lakes, and overlooking towers

To George Felton Mathew

Sweet are the pleasures that to verse belong,
And doubly sweet a brotherhood in song;
Nor can remembrance, Mathew! bring to view
A fate more pleasing, a delight more true
Than that in which the brother Poets joy’d,
Who with combined powers, their wit employ’d
To raise a trophy to the drama’s muses.
The thought of this great partnership diffuses
Over the genius loving heart, a feeling
Of all that’s high, and great, and good, and healing.

Too partial friend! fain would I follow thee
Past each horizon of fine poesy;
Fain would I echo back each pleasant note
As o’er Sicilian seas, clear anthems float
‘Mong the light skimming gondolas far parted,
Just when the sun his farewell beam has darted:
But ’tis impossible, far different cares
Beckon me sternly from soft ‘Lydian airs,’
And hold my faculties so long in thrall,
That I am oft in doubt whether at all
I shall again see Phoebus in the morning:
Or flush’d Aurora in the roseate dawning!
Or a white Naiad in a rippling stream;
Or a rapt seraph in a moonlight beam;
Or again witness what with thee I’ve seen,
The dew by fairy feet swept from the green,
After a night of some quaint jubilee
Which every elf and fay had come to see:
When bright processions took their airy march
Beneath the curved moon’s triumphal arch.

But might I now each passing moment give
To the coy muse, with me she would not live
In this dark city, nor would condescend
‘Mid contradictions her delights to lend.
Should e’er the fine-eyed maid to me be kind,
Ah! surely it must be whene’er I find
Some flowery spot, sequester’d, wild, romantic,
That often must have seen a poet frantic;
Where oaks, that erst the Druid knew, are growing,
And flowers, the glory of one day, are blowing;
Where the dark-leav’d laburnum’s drooping clusters
Reflect athwart the stream their yellow lustres,
And intertwined the cassia’s arms unite,
With its own drooping buds, but very white.
Where on one side are covert branches hung,
‘Mong which the nightingales have always sung
In leafy quiet; where to pry, aloof,
Atween the pillars of the sylvan roof,
Would be to find where violet beds were nestling,
And where the bee with cowslip bells was wrestling.
There must be too a ruin dark, and gloomy,
To say ‘joy not too much in all that’s bloomy.’

Yet this is vain–O Mathew lend thy aid
To find a place where I may greet the maid–
Where we may soft humanity put on,
And sit, and rhyme and think on Chatterton;
And that warm-hearted Shakspeare sent to meet him
Four laurell’d spirits, heaven-ward to intreat him.
With reverence would we speak of all the sages
Who have left streaks of light athwart their ages:
And thou shouldst moralize on Milton’s blindness,
And mourn the fearful dearth of human kindness
To those who strove with the bright golden wing
Of genius, to flap away each sting
Thrown by the pitiless world. We next could tell
Of those who in the cause of freedom fell;
Of our own Alfred, of Helvetian Tell;
Of him whose name to ev’ry heart’s a solace,
High-minded and unbending William Wallace.
While to the rugged north our musing turns
We well might drop a tear for him, and Burns.

Felton! without incitements such as these,
How vain for me the niggard Muse to tease;
For thee, she will thy every dwelling grace,
And make ‘a sunshine in a shady place:’
For thou wast once a flowret blooming wild,
Close to the source, bright, pure, and undefil’d,
Whence gush the streams of song: in happy hour
Came chaste Diana from her shady bower,
Just as the sun was from the east uprising;
And, as for him some gift she was devising,
Beheld thee, pluck’d thee, cast thee in the stream
To meet her glorious brother’s greeting beam.
I marvel much that thou hast never told
How, from a flower, into a fish of gold
Apollo chang’d thee; how thou next didst seem
A black-eyed swan upon the widening stream;
And when thou first didst in that mirror trace
The placid features of a human face:
That thou hast never told thy travels strange,
And all the wonders of the mazy range
O’er pebbly crystal, and o’er golden sands;
Kissing thy daily food from Naiad’s pearly hands.

The Eve Of Saint Mark. A Fragment

Upon a Sabbath-day it fell;
Twice holy was the Sabbath-bell
That call’d the folk to evening prayer;
The city streets were clean and fair
From wholesome drench of April rains;
And, on the western window panes,
The chilly sunset faintly told
Of unmatur’d green vallies cold,
Of the green thorny bloomless hedge,
Of rivers new with spring-tide sedge,
Of primroses by shelter’d rills,
And daisies on the aguish hills.
Twice holy was the Sabbath-bell:
The silent streets were crowded well
With staid and pious companies,
Warm from their fire-side orat’ries,
And moving with demurest air
To even-song and vesper prayer.
Each arched porch and entry low
Was fill’d with patient folk and slow,
With whispers hush, and shuffling feet,
While play’d the organ loud and sweet.

The bells had ceas’d, the prayers begun,
And Bertha had not yet half done
A curious volume, patch’d and torn,
That all day long, from earliest morn,
Had taken captive her two eyes
Among its golden broideries;
Perplex’d her with a thousand things,–
The stars of Heaven, and angels’ wings,
Martyrs in a fiery blaze,
Azure saints in silver rays,
Moses’ breastplate, and the seven
Candlesticks John saw in Heaven,
The winged Lion of Saint Mark,
And the Covenantal Ark
With its many mysteries,
Cherubim and golden mice.

Bertha was a maiden fair,
Dwelling in the old Minster-square;
From her fire-side she could see
Sidelong its rich antiquity,
Far as the Bishop’s garden-wall;
Where sycamores and elm-trees tall,
Full-leav’d, the forest had outstript,
By no sharp north-wind ever nipt,
So shelter’d by the mighty pile.
Bertha arose, and read awhile
With forehead ‘gainst the window-pane.
Again she try’d, and then again,
Until the dusk eve left her dark
Upon the legend of St. Mark.
From plaited lawn-frill, fine and thin,
She lifted up her soft warm chin,
With aching neck and swimming eyes,
And daz’d with saintly imageries.

All was gloom, and silent all,
Save now and then the still foot-fall
Of one returning homewards late
Past the echoing minster-gate.
The clamorous daws, that all the day
Above tree-tops and towers play,
Pair by pair had gone to rest,
Each in its ancient belfry-nest,
Where asleep they fall betimes
To music of the drowsy chimes.

All was silent, all was gloom
Abroad and in the homely room:
Down she sat, poor cheated soul!
And struck a lamp from the dismal coal;
Lean’d forward with bright drooping hair
And slant book full against the glare.
Her shadow, in uneasy guise,
hover’d about, a giant size,
On ceiling-beam and old oak chair,
The parrot’s cage, and panel square;
And the warm angled winter screen,
On which were many monsters seen,
Call’d doves of Siam, Lima mice,
And legless birds of Paradise,
Macaw, and tender Avadavat,
And silken-furr’d Angora cat.
Untir’d she read, her shadow still
Glower’d about as it would fill
The room with wildest forms and shades,
As though some ghostly queen of spades
Had come to mock behind her back,
And dance, and ruffle her garments black.
Untir’d she read the legend page
Of holy Mark, from youth to age,
On land, on sea, in pagan chains,
Rejoicing for his many pains.
Sometimes the learned Eremite
With golden star, or dagger bright,
Referr’d to pious poesies
Written in smallest crow-quill size
Beneath the text; and thus the rhyme
Was parcell’d out from time to time:
—- ‘Als writith he of swevenis,
Men han beforne they wake in bliss,
Whanne that hir friendes thinke him bound
In crimped shroude farre under grounde;
And how a litling child mote be
A saint er its nativitie,
Gif that the modre (God her blesse!)
Kepen in solitarinesse,
And kissen devoute the holy croce.
Of Goddes love, and Sathan’s force,–
He writith; and thinges many mo
Of swiche thinges I may not show.
Bot I must tellen verilie
Somdel of Sainte Cicilie,
And chieftie what he auctorethe
Of Sainte Markis life and dethe:’

At length her constant eyelids come
Upon the fervent martyrdom;
Then lastly to his holy shrine,
Exalt amid the tapers’ shine
At Venice,–

Otho The Great – Act Ii

SCENE I.
An Ante-chamber in the Castle.
Enter LUDOLPH and SIGIFRED.
Ludolph. No more advices, no more cautioning:
I leave it all to fate to any thing!
I cannot square my conduct to time, place,
Or circumstances; to me ’tis all a mist!
Sigifred. I say no more.
Ludolph. It seems I am to wait
Here in the ante-room; that may be a trifle.
You see now how I dance attendance here,
Without that tyrant temper, you so blame,
Snapping the rein. You have medicin’d me
With good advices; and I here remain,
In this most honourable ante-room,
Your patient scholar.
Sigifred. Do not wrong me, Prince.
By Heavens, I’d rather kiss Duke Conrad’s slipper,
When in the morning he doth yawn with pride,
Than see you humbled but a half-degree!
Truth is, the Emperor would fain dismiss
The nobles ere he sees you.
Enter GONFRED from the Council-room.
Ludolph. Well, sir! What?
Gonfred. Great honour to the Prince! The Emperor,
Hearing that his brave son had re-appeared,
Instant dismiss ‘d the Council from his sight,
As Jove fans off the clouds. Even now they pass.
[Exit.
Enter the Nobles from the Council-room. They cross the stage,
bowing unth respect to LUDOLPH, he frowning on them.
CONRAD follows. Exeunt Nobles.
Ludolph. Not the discoloured poisons of a fen,
Which he who breathes feels warning of his death,
Could taste so nauseous to the bodily sense,
As these prodigious sycophants disgust
The soul’s fine palate.
Conrad. Princely Ludolph, hail!
Welcome, thou younger sceptre to the realm!
Strength to thy virgin crownet’s golden buds,
That they, against the winter of thy sire,
May burst, and swell, and flourish round thy brows,
Maturing to a weighty diadem!
Yet be that hour far off; and may he live,
Who waits for thee, as the chapp’d earth for rain.
Set my life’s star! I have lived long enough,
Since under my glad roof, propitiously,
Father and son each other re-possess.
Ludolph. Fine wording, Duke! but words could never yet
Forestall the fates; have you not learnt that yet?
Let me look well: your features are the same;
Your gait the same; your hair of the same shade;
As one I knew some passed weeks ago,
Who sung far different notes into mine ears.
I have mine own particular comments on ‘t;
You have your own, perhaps.
Conrad. My gracious Prince,
All men may err. In truth I was deceived
In your great father’s nature, as you were.
Had I known that of him I have since known,
And what you soon will learn, I would have turned
My sword to my own throat, rather than held
Its threatening edge against a good King’s quiet:
Or with one word fever’d you, gentle Prince,
Who seem’d to me, as rugged times then went,
Indeed too much oppress’d. May I be bold
To tell the Emperor you will haste to him?
Ludolph. Your Dukedom’s privilege will grant so much.
[Exit CONRAD
He’s very close to Otho, a tight leech!
Your hand I go. Ha! here the thunder comes
Sullen against the wind! If in two angry brows
My safety lies, then Sigifred, I’m safe.
Enter OTHO and CONRAD.
Otho. Will you make Titan play the lackey-page &
To chattering pigmies? I would have you know
That such neglect of our high Majesty
Annuls all feel of kindred. What is son,
Or friend, or brother, or all ties of blood,
When the whole kingdom, centred in ourself,
Is rudely slighted ? Who am I to wait ?
By Peter’s chair! I have upon my tongue
A word to fright the proudest spirit here!
Death! and slow tortures to the hardy fool,
Who dares take such large charter from our smiles!
Conrad, we would be private. Sigifred!
Off! And none pass this way on pain of death!
[Exeunt CONRAD and SIGIFRED,
Ludolph. This was but half expected, my good sire,
Yet I am griev’d at it, to the full height,
As though my hopes of favour had been whole.
Otho. How you indulge yourself! What can you hope for?
Ludolph. Nothing, my liege ; I have to hope for nothing.
I come to greet you as a loving son,
And then depart, if I may be so free,
Seeing that blood of yours in my warm veins
Has not yet mitigated into milk.
Otho. What would you, sir?
Ludolph. A lenient banishment;
So please you let me unmolested pass
This Conrad’s gates, to the wide air again.
I want no more. A rebel wants no more.
Otho. And shall I let a rebel loose again
To muster kites and eagles ‘gainst my head?
No, obstinate boy, you shall be kept cag’d up,
Serv’d with harsh food, with scum for Sunday-drink.
Ludolph. Indeed!
Otho. And chains too heavy for your life:
I’ll choose a gaoler, whose swart monstrous face
Shall be a hell to look upon, and she
Ludolph. Ha!
Otho. Shall be your fair Auranthe.
Ludolph. Amaze! Amaze!
Otho. To-day you marry her.
Ludolph. This is a sharp jest!
Otho. No. None at all. When have I said a lie?
Ludolph. If I sleep not, I am a waking wretch.
Otho. Not a word more. Let me embrace my child.
Ludolph. I dare not. ‘Twould pollute so good a father!
heavy crime! that your son’s blinded eyes
Could not see all his parent’s love aright,
As now I see it. Be not kind to me
Punish me not with favour.
Otho. Are you sure,
Ludolph, you have no saving plea in store?
Ludolph. My father, none!
Otho. Then you astonish me.
Ludolph. No, I have no plea. Disobedience,
Rebellion, obstinacy, blasphemy,
Are all my counsellors. If they can make
My crooked deeds show good and plausible,
Then grant me loving pardon, but not else,
Good Gods! not else, in any way, my liege!
Otho. You are a most perplexing, noble boy.
Ludolph. You not less a perplexing noble father.
Otho. Well, you shall have free passport through the gates.
Farewell!
Ludolph. Farewell! and by these tears believe,
And still remember, I repent in pain
All my misdeeds!
Otho. Ludolph, I will! I will!
But, Ludolph, ere you go, I would enquire
If you, in all your wandering, ever met
A certain Arab haunting in these parts.
Ludolph. No, my good lord, I cannot say I did.
Otho. Make not your father blind before his time;
Nor let these arms paternal hunger more
For an embrace, to dull the appetite
Of my great love for thee, my supreme child!
Come close, and let me breathe into thine ear.
knew you through disguise. You are the Arab!
You can’t deny it. [Embracing him.
Ludolph. Happiest of days!
Otho. We’ll make it so.
Ludolph. ‘Stead of one fatted calf
Ten hecatombs shall bellow out their last,
Smote ‘twixt the horns by the death-stunning mace
Of Mars, and all the soldiery shall feast
Nobly as Nimrod’s masons, when the towers
Of Nineveh new kiss’d the parted clouds!
Otho. Large as a God speak out, where all is thine.
Ludolph. Aye, father, but the fire in my sad breast
Is quench ‘d with inward tears! I must rejoice
For you, whose wings so shadow over me
In tender victory, but for myself
I still must mourn. The fair Auranthe mine!
Too great a boon! I prythee let me ask I
What more than I know of could so have changed
Your purpose touching her?
Otho. At a word, this:
In no deed did you give me more offense
Than your rejection of Erminia.
To my appalling, I saw too good proof
Of your keen-eyed suspicion, she is naught!
Ludolph. You are convinced?
Otho. Aye, spite of her sweet looks.
O, that my brother’s daughter should so fall!
Her fame has pass’d into the grosser lips
Of soldiers in their cups.
Lndolph. ‘Tis very sad.
Otho. No more of her. Auranthe Ludolph, come!
This marriage be the bond of endless peace! [Exeunt.
SCENE II. The Entrance of GERSA’S Tent in the Hungarian Camp.
Enter ERMINIA.
Erminia. Where! where! where shall I find a messenger?
A trusty soul? A good man in the camp?
Shall I go myself? Monstrous wickedness!
O cursed Conrad devilish Auranthe!
Here is proof palpable as the bright sun!
O for a voice to reach the Emperor’s ears!
[Shouts in the Camp.
Enter an HUNGARIAN CAPTAIN.
Captain. Fair prisoner, hear you those joyous shouts?
The king aye, now our king, but still your slave,
Young Gersa, from a short captivity
Has just return’d. He bids me say, bright Dame,
That even the homage of his ranged chiefs
Cures not his keen impatience to behold
Such beauty once again. What ails you, lady?
Erminia. Say, is not that a German, yonder? There!
Captain. Methinks by his stout bearing he should be
Yes ’tis one Albert; a brave German knight,
And much in the emperor’s favour.
Erminia. I would fain
Enquire of friends and kinsfolk; how they fared
In these rough times. Brave soldier, as you pass
To royal Gersa with my humble thanks,
Will you send yonder knight to me?
Captain. I will. [Exit.
Ermina. Yes, he was ever known to be a man
Frank, open, generous; Albert I may trust.
proof! proof! proof! Albert’s an honest man;
Not Ethelbert the monk, if he were here,
Would I hold more trustworthy. Now!
Enter ALBERT.
Albert. Good Gods!
Lady Erminia! are you prisoner
In this beleaguer ‘d camp? Or are you here
Of your own will? You pleas’d to send for me.
By Venus, ’tis a pity I knew not
Your plight before, and, by her Son, I swear
To do you every service you can ask.
What would the fairest?
Erminia. Albert, will you swear?
Albert. I have. Well?
Erminia. Albert, you have fame to lose.
If men, in court and camp, lie not outright,
You should be, from a thousand, chosen forth
To do an honest deed. Shall I confide?
Albert. Aye, anything to me, fair creature. Do;
Dictate my task. Sweet woman,
Erminia. Truce with that.
You understand me not; and, in your speech,
see how far the slander is abroad.
Without proof could you think me innocent?
Albert. Lady, I should rejoice to know you so.
Erminia. If you have any pity for a maid,
Suffering a daily death from evil tongues;
Any compassion for that Emperor’s niece,
Who, for your bright sword and clear honesty,
Lifted you from the crowd of common men
Into the lap of honour; save me, knight!
Albert. How? Make it clear; if it be possible,
I, by the banner of Saint Maurice, swear
To right you.
Erminia. Possible! Easy. O my heart!
This letter’s not so soil’d but you may read it;
Possible! There that letter! Read read it,
[Gives him a letter.
Albert (reading). ‘To the Duke Conrad. Forget the threat you
made at parting, and I will forget to send the Emperor letters and
papers of your’s I have become possessed of. His life is no trifle to
me; his death you shall find none to yourself.’ (Speaks to himself
‘Tis me my life that’s pleaded for! (Reads.) ‘He, for his
own sake, will be dumb as the grave. Erminia has my shame fix’d
upon her, sure as a wen. We are safe.
AURANTHE.’A she-devil! A dragon! I her imp!
Fire of Hell! Auranthe lewd demon!
Where got you this? Where? When?
Erminia. I found it in the tent, among some spoils
Which, being noble, fell to Gersa’s lot.
Come in, and see. [They go in and return.
Albert. Villainy! Villainy!
Conrad’s sword, his corslet, and his helm,
And his letter. Caitiff, he shall feel
Erminia. I see you are thunderstruck. Haste, haste away!
Albert. O I am tortured by this villainy.
Erminia. You needs must be. Carry it swift to Otho;
Tell him, moreover, I am prisoner
Here in this camp, where all the sisterhood,
Forc’d from their quiet cells, are parcell’d out
For slaves among these Huns. Away! Away!
Albert. I am gone.
Erminia. Swift be your steed! Within this hour
The Emperor will see it.
Albert. Ere I sleep:
That I can swear. [Hurries out.
Gersa (without). Brave captains! thanks. Enough
Of loyal homage now!
Enter GERSA.
Erminia. Hail, royal Hun!
Gersa. What means this, fair one? Why in such alarm?
Who was it hurried by me so distract?
It seem’d you were in deep discourse together;
Your doctrine has not been so harsh to him
As to my poor deserts. Come, come, be plain.
I am no jealous fool to kill you both,
Or, for such trifles, rob the adorned world
Of such a beauteous vestal.
Erminia. I grieve, my Lord,
To hear you condescend to ribald phrase.
Gersa. This is too much! Hearken, my lady pure!
Erminia. Silence! and hear the magic of a name
Erminia! I am she, the Emperor’s niece!
Prais’d be the Heavens, I now dare own myself!
Gersa. Erminia! Indeed! I’ve heard of her.
Prythee, fair lady, what chance brought you here?
Erminia. Ask your own soldiers.
Gersa. And you dare own your name.
For loveliness you may and for the rest
My vein is not censorious.
Erminia. Alas! poor me!
‘Tis false indeed.
Gersa. Indeed you are too fair:
the swan, soft leaning on her fledgy breast,
When to the stream she launches, looks not back
With such a tender grace ; nor are her wings
So white as your soul is, if that but be
Twin-picture to your face. Erminia!
To-day, for the first day, I am a king,
Yet would I give my unworn crown away
To know you spotless.
Erminia. Trust me one day more,
Generously, without more certain guarantee,
Than this poor face you deign to praise so much;
After that, say and do whate’er you please.
If I have any knowledge of you, sir,
I think, nay I am sure, you will grieve much
To hear my story. O be gentle to me,
For I am sick and faint with many wrongs,
Tir’d out, and weary-worn with contumelies.
Gersa. Poor lady!
Enter ETHELBERT.
Erminia. Gentle Prince, ’tis false indeed.
Good morrow, holy father! I have had
Your prayers, though I look’d for you in vain.
Ethelbert. Blessings upon you, daughter! Sure you look
Too cheerful for these foul pernicious days.
Young man, you heard this virgin say ’twas false,
‘Tis false, I say. What! can you not employ
Your temper elsewhere, ‘mong these burly tents,
But you must taunt this dove, for she hath lost
The Eagle Otho to beat off assault?
Fie! fie! But I will be her guard myself;
In the Emperor’s name. I here demand of you
Herself, and all her sisterhood. She false!
Gersa. Peace! peace, old man! I cannot think she is.
Ethelbert. Whom I have known from her first infancy,
Baptized her in the bosom of the Church,
Watch’d her, as anxious husbandmen the grain,
From the first shoot till the unripe mid-May,
Then to the tender ear of her June days,
Which, lifting sweet abroad its timid green,
Is blighted by the touch of calumny;
You cannot credit such a monstrous tale.
Gersa. I cannot. Take her. Fair Erminia,
I follow you to Friedburg, is’t not so?
Erminia. Aye, so we purpose.
Ethelbert. Daughter, do you so?
How’s this? I marvel! Yet you look not mad.
Erminia. I have good news to tell you, Ethelbert.
Gersa. Ho! ho, there! Guards!
Your blessing, father! Sweet Erminia,
Believe me, I am well nigh sure
Erminia . Farewell!
Short time will show. [Enter Chiefs.
Yes, father Ethelbert,
I have news precious as we pass along.
Ethelbert. Dear daughter, you shall guide me.
Erminia. To no ill.
Gersa. Command an escort to the Friedburg lines.
[Exeunt Chiefs.
Pray let me lead. Fair lady, forget not
Gersa, how he believ’d you innocent.
I follow you to Friedburg with all speed. [Exeunt.

Otho The Great

SCENE I.
The Country.
Enter ALBERT.
Albert. O that the earth were empty, as when Cain
Had no perplexity to hide his head!
Or that the sword of some brave enemy
Had put a sudden stop to my hot breath,
And hurl’d me down the illimitable gulph
Of times past, unremember’d! Better so
Than thus fast-limed in a cursed snare,
The white limbs of a wanton. This the end
Of an aspiring life! My boyhood past
In feud with wolves and bears, when no eye saw
The solitary warfare, fought for love
Of honour ‘mid the growling wilderness.
My sturdier youth, maturing to the sword,
Won by the syren-trumpets, and the ring
Of shields upon the pavement, when bright-mail’d
Henry the Fowler pass’d the streets of Prague,
Was’t to this end I louted and became
The menial of Mars, and held a spear
Sway’d by command, as corn is by the wind?
Is it for this, I now am lifted up
By Europe’s throned Emperor, to see
My honour be my executioner,
My love of fame, my prided honesty
Put to the torture for confessional?
Then the damn’d crime of blurting to the world
A woman’s secret! Though a fiend she be,
Too tender of my ignominious life;
But then to wrong the generous Emperor
In such a searching point, were to give up
My soul for foot-ball at Hell’s holiday!
I must confess, and cut my throat, to-day?
To-morrow? Ho! some wine!
Enter SIGIFRED.
Sigifred. A fine humour
Albert. Who goes there? Count Sigifred? Ha! Ha!
Sigifred. What, man, do you mistake the hollow sky
For a throng ‘d tavern, and these stubbed trees
For old serge hangings, me, your humble friend,
For a poor waiter? Why, man, how you stare!
What gipsies have you been carousing with?
No, no more wine; methinks you’ve had enough.
Albert. You well may laugh and banter. What a fool
An injury may make of a staid man!
You shall know all anon.
Sigifred. Some tavern brawl?
Albert. ‘Twas with some people out of common reach;
Revenge is difficult.
Sigifred. I am your friend;
We meet again to-day, and can confer
Upon it. For the present I’m in haste.
Albert. Whither?
Sigifred. To fetch King Gersa to the feast.
The Emperor on this marriage is so hot,
Pray Heaven it end not in apoplexy!
The very porters, as I pass’d the doors,
Heard his loud laugh, and answer ‘d in full choir.
I marvel, Albert, you delay so long
From those bright revelries; go, show yourself,
You may be made a duke.
Albert. Aye, very like:
Pray, what day has his Highness fix’d upon?
Sigifred. For what?
Albert. The marriage. What else can I mean?
Sigifred. To-day! O, I forgot, you could not know;
The news is scarce a minute old with me.
Albert. Married to-day! To-day! You did not say so?
Sigifred. Now, while I speak to you, their comely heads
Are bow’d before the mitre.
Albert. O! Monstrous!
Sigifred. What is this?
Albert. Nothing, Sigifred. Farewell!
We’ll meet upon our subject. Farewell, count!
[Exit.
Sigifred. Is this clear-headed Albert? He brain-turned!
‘Tis as portentous as a meteor. [Exit.

SCENE II. An Apartment in the Castle.
Enter, as from the Marriage, OTHO, LUDOLPH, AURANTHE, CONRAD,
Nobles, Knights, Ladies, &c. Music.
Otho. Now, Ludolph! Now, Auranthe! Daughter fair!
What can I find to grace your nuptial day
More than my love, and these wide realms in fee?
Ludolph. I have too much.
Auranthe. And I, my liege, by far.
Ludolph. Auranthe! I have! O, my bride, my love!
Not all the gaze upon us can restrain
My eyes, too long poor exiles from thy face,
From adoration, and my foolish tongue
From uttering soft responses to the love
I see in thy mute beauty beaming forth!
Fair creature, bless me with a single word!
All mine!
Auranthe. Spare, spare me, my Lord! I swoon else.
Ludolph. Soft beauty! by to-morrow I should die,
Wert thou not mine. [They talk apart,
First Lady. How deep she has bewitch’d him!
First Knight. Ask you for her recipe for love philtres.
Second Lady. They hold the Emperor in admiration,
Otho. If ever king was happy, that am I!
What are the cities ‘yond the Alps to me,
The provinces about the Danube’s mouth,
The promise of fair soil beyond the Rhone;
Or routing out of Hyperborean hordes,
To those fair children, stars of a new age?
Unless perchance I might rejoice to win
This little ball of earth, and chuck it them
To play with!
Auranthe. Nay, my Lord, I do not know.
Ludolph. Let me not famish.
Otho (to Conrad). Good Franconia,
You heard what oath I sware, as the sun rose,
That unless Heaven would send me back my son,
My Arab, no soft music should enrich
The cool wine, kiss’d off with a soldier’s smack;
Now all my empire, barter ‘d for one feast,
Seems poverty.
Conrad. Upon the neighbour-plain
The heralds have prepar’d a royal lists;
Your knights, found war-proof in the bloody field,
Speed to the game.
Otho. Well, Ludolph, what say you?
Ludolph. My lord!
Otho. A tourney?
Conrad. Or, if’t please you best
Ludolph. I want no morel
First Lady. He soars!
Second Lady. Past all reason.
Ludolph. Though heaven’s choir
Should in a vast circumference descend
And sing for my delight, I’d stop my ears!
Though bright Apollo’s car stood burning here,
And he put out an arm to bid me mount,
His touch an immortality, not I!
This earth, this palace, this room, Auranthe!
Otho. This is a little painful; just too much.
Conrad, if he flames longer in this wise,
I shall believe in wizard-woven loves
And old romances; but I’ll break the spell.
Ludolph!
Conrad. He will be calm, anon.
Ludolph. You call’d?
Yes, yes, yes, I offend. You must forgive me;
Not being quite recover’d from the stun
Of your large bounties. A tourney, is it not?
{A senet heard faintly.
Conrad. The trumpets reach us.
Ethelbert (without). On your peril, sirs,
Detain us!
First Voice (without). Let not the abbot pass.
Second Voice (without). No,
On your lives!
First Voice (without). Holy Father, you must not.
Ethelbert (without). Otho!
Otho. Who calls on Otho?
Ethelhert (without). Ethelbert!
Otho. Let him come in.
Enter ETHELBERT leading in ERMINIA.
Thou cursed abbot, why
Hast brought pollution to our holy rites?
Hast thou no fear of hangman, or the faggot?
Ludolph. What portent what strange prodigy is this?
Conrad. Away!
Ethelbert. You, Duke?
Ermmia. Albert has surely fail’d me!
Look at the Emperor’s brow upon me bent!
Ethelbert. A sad delay!
Conrad. Away, thou guilty thing!
Ethelbert. You again, Duke? Justice, most mighty Otho!
You go to your sister there and plot again,
A quick plot, swift as thought to save your heads;
For lo! the toils are spread around your den,
The word is all agape to see dragg’d forth
Two ugly monsters.
Ludolph. What means he, my lord?
Conrad. I cannot guess.
Ethelbert. Best ask your lady sister,
Whether the riddle puzzles her beyond
The power of utterance.
Conrad. Foul barbarian, cease;
The Princess faints!
Ludolph. Stab him! , sweetest wife!
[Attendants bear off AURANTHE,
Erminia. Alas!
Ethelbert. Your wife?
Ludolph. Aye, Satan! does that yerk ye?
Ethelbert. Wife! so soon!
Ludolph. Aye, wife! Oh, impudence!
Thou bitter mischief! Venomous mad priest!
How dar’st thou lift those beetle brows at me?
Me the prince Ludolph, in this presence here,
Upon my marriage-day, and scandalize
My joys with such opprobrious surprise? SO
Wife! Why dost linger on that syllable,
As if it were some demon’s name pronounc’d
To summon harmful lightning, and make roar
The sleepy thunder? Hast no sense of fear?
No ounce of man in thy mortality?
Tremble! for, at my nod, the sharpen’d axe
Will make thy bold tongue quiver to the roots,
Those grey lids wink, and thou not know it more!
Ethelbert. O, poor deceived Prince! I pity thee!
Great Otho! I claim justice
Ludolph. Thou shalt hav ‘t!
Thine arms from forth a pulpit of hot fire
Shall sprawl distracted! O that that dull cowl
Were some most sensitive portion of thy life,
That I might give it to my hounds to tear!
Thy girdle some fine zealous-pained nerve
To girth my saddle! And those devil’s beads
Each one a life, that I might, every day,
Crush one with Vulcan’s hammer!
Otho. Peace, my son;
You far outstrip my spleen in this affair.
Let us be calm, and hear the abbot’s plea
For this intrusion.
Ludolph. I am silent, sire.
Otho. Conrad, see all depart not wanted here.
[Exeunt Knights, Ladies, &c.
Ludolph, be calm. Ethelbert, peace awhile.
This mystery demands an audience
Of a just judge, and that will Otho be.
Ludolph. Why has he time to breathe another word?
Otho. Ludolph, old Ethelbert, be sure, comes not
To beard us for no cause ; he’s not the man
To cry himself up an ambassador
Without credentials.
Ludolph. I’ll chain up myself.
Otho. Old Abbot, stand here forth. Lady Erminia,
Sit. And now, Abbot! what have you to say?
Our ear is open. First we here denounce
Hard penalties against thee, if ‘t be found
The cause for which you have disturb ‘d us here,
Making our bright hours muddy, be a thing
Of little moment.
Ethelbert. See this innocent!
Otho! thou father of the people call’d,
Is her life nothing? Her fair honour nothing?
Her tears from matins until even-song
Nothing? Her burst heart nothing? Emperor!
Is this your gentle niece the simplest flower
Of the world’s herbal this fair lilly blanch ‘d
Still with the dews of piety, this meek lady
Here sitting like an angel newly-shent,
Who veils its snowy wings and grows all pale,
Is she nothing?
Otho. What more to the purpose, abbot?
Ludolph. Whither is he winding?
Conrad. No clue yet!
Ethelbert. You have heard, my Liege, and so, no
doubt, all here,
Foul, poisonous, malignant whisperings;
Nay open speech, rude mockery grown common,
Against the spotless nature and clear fame
Of the princess Erminia, your niece.
I have intruded here thus suddenly,
Because I hold those base weeds, with tight hand,
Which now disfigure her fair growing stem,
Waiting but for your sign to pull them up
By the dark roots, and leave her palpable,
To all men’s sight, a Lady, innocent.
The ignominy of that whisper’d tale
About a midnight gallant, seen to climb
A window to her chamber neighboured near,
I will from her turn off, and put the load
On the right shoulders; on that wretch’s head,
Who, by close stratagems, did save herself,
Chiefly by shifting to this lady’s room
A rope-ladder for false witness.
Ludolph. Most atrocious!
Otho. Ethelbert, proceed.
Ethelbert. With sad lips I shall:
For in the healing of one wound, I fear
To make a greater. His young highness here
To-day was married.
Ludolph. Good.
Ethelbert. Would it were good!
Yet why do I delay to spread abroad
The names of those two vipers, from whose jaws
A deadly breath went forth to taint and blast
This guileless lady?
Otho. Abbot, speak their names.
Ethelbert. A minute first. It cannot be but may
I ask, great judge, if you to-day have put
A letter by unread?
Otho. Does ‘tend in this?
Conrad. Out with their names!
Ethelbert. Bold sinner, say you so?
Ludolph. Out, tedious monk!
Otho. Confess, or by the wheel
Ethelbert. My evidence cannot be far away;
And, though it never come, be on my head
The crime of passing an attaint upon
The slanderers of this virgin.
Ludolph. Speak aloud!
Ethelbert. Auranthe, and her brother there.
Conrad. Amaze!
Ludolph. Throw them from the windows!
Otho. Do what you will!
Ludolph. What shall I do with them?
Something of quick dispatch, for should she hear,
My soft Auranthe, her sweet mercy would
Prevail against my fury. Damned priest!

What swift death wilt thou die? As to the lady
I touch her not.
Ethelbert. Illustrious Otho, stay!
An ample store of misery thou hast,
Choak not the granary of thy noble mind
With more bad bitter grain, too difficult
A cud for the repentance of a man
Grey-growing. To thee only I appeal,
Not to thy noble son, whose yeasting youth
Will clear itself, and crystal turn again.
A young man’s heart, by Heaven’s blessing, is
A wide world, where a thousand new-born hopes
Empurple fresh the melancholy blood;
But an old man’s is narrow, tenantless
Of hopes, and stuff’d with many memories,
Which, being pleasant, ease the heavy pulse
Painful, clog up and stagnate. Weigh this matter
Even as a miser balances his coin ;
And, in the name of mercy, give command
That your knight Albert be brought here before you.
He will expound this riddle ; he will show
A noon-day proof of bad Auranthe’s guilt.
Otho. Let Albert straight be summon ‘d.
[Exit one of the Nobles.
Ludolph. Impossible !
I cannot doubt I will not no to doubt
Is to be ashes! wither ‘d up to death!
Otho. My gentle Ludolph, harbour not a fear;
You do yourself much wrong.
Ludolph. O, wretched dolt!
Now, when my foot is almost on thy neck,
Wilt thou infuriate me? Proof! thou fool!
Why wilt thou teaze impossibility
With such a thick-skull’d persevering suit?
Fanatic obstinacy! Prodigy!
Monster of folly! Ghost of a turn’d brain!
You puzzle me, you haunt me, when I dream
Of you my brain will split! Bald sorcerer!
Juggler! May I come near you? On my soul
I know not whether to pity, curse, or laugh.
Enter ALBERT, and the Nobleman.
Here, Albert, this old phantom wants a proof!
Give him his proof! A camel’s load of proofs!
Otho. Albert, I speak to you as to a man
Whose words once utter ‘d pass like current gold;
And therefore fit to calmly put a close
To this brief tempest. Do you stand possess ‘d
Of any proof against the honourableness
Of Lady Auranthe, our new-spoused daughter?
Albert. You chill me with astonishment. How’s this?
My Liege, what proof should I have ‘gainst a fame
Impossible of slur? [Otho rises.
Erminia. O wickedness!
Ethelbert. Deluded monarch, ’tis a cruel lie.
Otho. Peace, rebel-priest!
Conrad. Insult beyond credence!
Erminia. Almost a dream!
Ludolph. We have awaken’d from
A foolish dream that from my brow hath wrung
A wrathful dew. O folly! why did I
So act the lion with this silly gnat?
Let them depart. Lady Erminia!
I ever griev’d for you, as who did not?
But now you have, with such a brazen front,
So most maliciously, so madly striven
To dazzle the soft moon, when tenderest clouds
Should be unloop’d around to curtain her;
I leave you to the desert of the world
Almost with pleasure. Let them be set free
For me! I take no personal revenge
More than against a nightmare, which a man
forgets in the new dawn.
[Exit LUDOLPH.
Otho. Still in extremes! No, they must not be loose.
Ethelbert. Albert, I must suspect thee of a crime
So fiendish
Otho. Fear’st thou not my fury, monk?
Conrad, be they in your sure custody
Till we determine some fit punishment.
It is so mad a deed, I must reflect
And question them in private ; for perhaps,
By patient scrutiny, we may discover
Whether they merit death, or should be placed
In care of the physicians.
[Exeunt OTHO and Nobles, ALBERT following.
Conrad. My guards, ho!
Erminia. Albert, wilt thou follow there?
Wilt thou creep dastardly behind his back,
And slink away from a weak woman’s eye?
Turn, thou court-Janus! thou forget’st thyself;
Here is the Duke, waiting with open arms,
[Enter Guards.
To thank thee; here congratulate each other;
Wring hands; embrace; and swear how lucky ’twas
That I, by happy chance, hit the right man
Of all the world to trust in.
Albert. Trust! to me!
Conrad (aside). He is the sole one in this mystery.
Erminia. Well, I give up, and save my prayers for Heaven!
You, who could do this deed, would ne’er relent,
Though, at my words, the hollow prison-vaults
Would groan for pity.
Conrad. Manacle them both!
Ethelbert. I know it—it must be I see it all!
Albert, thou art the minion!
Erminia. Ah ! too plain
Conrad. Silence! Gag up their mouths! I cannot bear
More of this brawling. That the Emperor
Had plac’d you in some other custody!
Bring them away.
[Exeunt all but ALBERT.
Albert. Though my name perish from the book of honour,
Almost before the recent ink is dry,
And be no more remember’d after death,
Than any drummer’s in the muster-roll;
Yet shall I season high my sudden fall
With triumph o’er that evil-witted duke!
He shall feel what it is to have the hand
Of a man drowning, on his hateful throat.
Enter GERSA and SIGIFRED.
Gersa. What discord is at ferment in this house?
Sigifred. We are without conjecture; not a soul
We met could answer any certainty.
Gersa. Young Ludolph, like a fiery arrow, shot
By us.
Sigifred. The Emperor, with cross’d arms, in thought.
Gersa. In one room music, in another sadness,
Perplexity every where!
Albert. A trifle more!
Follow; your presences will much avail
To tune our jarred spirits. I’ll explain. [Exeunt.

Sonnet. Written Before Re-Read King Lear

O golden-tongued Romance with serene lute!
Fair plumed Syren! Queen of far away!
Leave melodizing on this wintry day,
Shut up thine olden pages, and be mute:
Adieu! for once again the fierce dispute,
Betwixt damnation and impassion’d clay
Must I burn through; once more humbly assay
The bitter-sweet of this Shakespearian fruit.
Chief Poet! and ye clouds of Albion,
Begetters of our deep eternal theme,
When through the old oak forest I am gone,
Let me not wander in a barren dream,
But when I am consumed in the fire,
Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire.

Sonnet Xiv. Addressed To The Same (Haydon)

Great spirits now on earth are sojourning;
He of the cloud, the cataract, the lake,
Who on Helvellyn’s summit, wide awake,
Catches his freshness from Archangel’s wing:
He of the rose, the violet, the spring,
The social smile, the chain for Freedom’s sake:
And lo!–whose stedfastness would never take
A meaner sound than Raphael’s whispering.
And other spirits there are standing apart
Upon the forehead of the age to come;
These, these will give the world another heart,
And other pulses. Hear ye not the hum
Of mighty workings?——-
Listen awhile ye nations, and be dumb.

Sonnet Xiii. Addressed To Haydon

High-mindedness, a jealousy for good,
A loving-kindness for the great man’s fame,
Dwells here and there with people of no name,
In noisome alley, and in pathless wood:
And where we think the truth least understood,
Oft may be found a ‘singleness of aim,’
That ought to frighten into hooded shame
A money-mongering, pitiable brood.
How glorious this affection for the cause
Of steadfast genius, toiling gallantly!
What when a stout unbending champion awes
Envy and malice to their native sty?
Unnumbered souls breathe out a still applause,
Proud to behold him in his country’s eye.

To A Cat

Cat! who has pass’d thy grand climacteric,
How many mice and rats hast in thy days
Destroy’d? How many tit-bits stolen? Gaze
With those bright languid segments green, and
prick
Those velvet ears – but prythee do not stick
Thy latent talons in me – and tell me all thy frays,
Of fish and mice, and rats and tender chick;
Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists, –
For all the wheezy asthma – and for all
Thy tail’s tip is nick’d off – and though the fists
Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,
Still is thy fur as when the lists
In youth thou enter’dst on glass-bottled wall.

Otho The Great – Act Iv

SCENE I.

AURANTHE’S Apartment.
AURANTHE and CONRAD discovered.
Conrad. Well, well, I know what ugly jeopardy
We are cag’d in; you need not pester that
Into my ears. Prythee, let me be spared
A foolish tongue, that I may bethink me
Of remedies with some deliberation.
You cannot doubt but ’tis in Albert’s power
To crush or save us?
Auranthe. No, I cannot doubt.
He has, assure yourself, by some strange means,
My secret ; which I ever hid from him,
Knowing his mawkish honesty.
Conrad. Curs’d slave!
Auranthe. Ay, I could almost curse him now myself.
Wretched impediment! Evil genius!
A glue upon my wings, that cannot spread,
When they should span the provinces! A snake,
A scorpion, sprawling on the first gold step,
Conducting to the throne, high canopied.
Conrad. You would not hear my council, when his life
Might have been trodden out, all sure and hush’d;
Now the dull animal forsooth must be
Intreated, managed! When can you contrive
The interview he demands?
Auranthe. As speedily
It must be done as my brib’d woman can
Unseen conduct him to me; but I fear
Twill be impossible, while the broad day
Comes through the panes with persecuting glare.
Methinks, if ‘t now were night I could intrigue
With darkness, bring the stars to second me,
And settle all this trouble.
Conrad. Nonsense! Child!
See him immediately; why not now?
Auranthe. Do you forget that even the senseless door-posts
Are on the watch and gape through all the house?
How many whispers there are about,
Hungry for evidence to ruin me ;
Men I have spurn ‘d, and women I have taunted?
Besides, the foolish prince sends, minute whiles,
His pages so they tell me to enquire
After my health, entreating, if I please,
To see me.
Conrad. Well, suppose this Albert here;
What is your power with him?
Auranthe. He should be
My echo, my taught parrot! but I fear
He will be cur enough to bark at me ;
Have his own say ; read me some silly creed
‘Bout shame and pity.
Conrad. What will you do then?
Auranthe. What I shall do, I know not: what L would
Cannot be done; for see, this chain her-floor
Will not yield to the pick-axe and the spade,
Here is no quiet depth of hollow ground.
Conrad. Sister, you have grown sensible and wise,
Seconding, ere I speak it, what is now,
I hope, resolv’d between us.
Auranthe. Say, what is ‘t?
Conrad. You need not be his sexton too: a man
May carry that with him shall make him die
Elsewhere, give that to him; pretend the while
You will to-morrow succumb to his wishes,
Be what they may, and send him from the Castle
On some fool’s errand; let his latest groan
Frighten the wolves!
Auranthe. Alas! he must not die!
Conrad. Would you were both hears’d up in stifling lead!
Detested
Auranthe. Conrad, hold! I would not bear
The little thunder of your fretful tongue,
Tho; I alone were taken in these toils,
And you could free me; but remember, sir,
You live alone in my security:
So keep your wits at work, for your own sake,
Not mine, and be more mannerly.
Conrad. Thou wasp!
If my domains were emptied of these folk,
And I had thee to starve
Auranthe. O, marvellous!
But Conrad, now be gone; the Host is look’d for;
Cringe to the Emperor, entertain the Lords,
And, do ye mind, above all things, proclaim
My sickness, with a brother’s sadden’d eye,
Condoling with Prince Ludolph. In fit time
Return to me.
Conrad. I leave you to your thoughts. [Exit.
Auranthe (sola) Down, down, proud temper! down,
Auranthe’s pride!
Why do I anger him when I should kneel?
Conrad! Albert! help! help! What can I do?
wretched woman! lost, wreck’d, swallow’d up,
Accursed, blasted ! O, thou golden Crown,
Orbing along the serene firmament
Of a wide empire, like a glowing moon;
And thou, bright sceptre! lustrous in my eyes,
There as the fabled fair Hesperian tree,
Bearing a fruit more precious! graceful thing.
Delicate, godlike, magic! must I leave
Thee to melt in the visionary air,
Ere, by one grasp, this common hand is made
Imperial? I do not know the time
When I have wept for sorrow; but methinks
I could now sit upon the ground, and shed
Tears, tears of misery. O, the heavy day!
How shall I bear my life till Albert comes?
Ludolph! Erminia! Proofs! O heavy day!
Bring me some mourning weeds, that I may ‘tire
Myself, as fits one wailing her own death:
Cut off these curls, and brand this lilly hand,
And throw these jewels from my loathing sight,
Fetch me a missal, and a string of beads,
A cup of bitter’d water, and a crust,
I will confess, O holy Abbot How!
What is this? Auranthe! thou fool, dolt,
Whimpering idiot! up! up! act and quell!
I am safe! Coward! why am I in fear?
Albert! he cannot stickle, chew the cud
In such a fine extreme, impossible!
Who knocks? [Goes to the Door, listens, and opens it.
Enter ALBERT.
Albert, I have been waiting for you here
With such an aching heart, such swooning throbs
On my poor brain, such cruel cruel sorrow,
That I should claim your pity! Art not well?
Albert. Yes, lady, well.
Auranthe. You look not so, alas!
But pale, as if you brought some heavy news.
Albert. You know full well what makes me look so pale.
Auranthe. No! Do I? Surely I am still to learn
Some horror; all I know, this present, is
I am near hustled to a dangerous gulph,
Which you can save me from, and therefore safe,
So trusting in thy love; that should not make
Thee pale, my Albert.
Albert. It doth make me freeze.
Auranthe. Why should it, love?
Albert. You should not ask me that,
But make your own heart monitor, and save
Me the great pain of telling. You must know.
Auranthe. Something has vexed you, Albert. There are times
When simplest things put on a sombre cast;
A melancholy mood will haunt a man,
Until most easy matters take the shape
Of unachievable tasks; small rivulets
Then seem impassable.
Albert. Do not cheat yourself
With hope that gloss of words, or suppliant action,
Or tears, or ravings, or self-threaten ‘d death,
Can alter my resolve.
Auranthe. You make me tremble;

Not so much at your threats, as at your voice.
Untun’d. and harsh, and barren of all love.
Albert. You suffocate me! Stop this devil’s parley,
And listen to me; know me once for all.
Auranthe. I thought I did. Alas! I am deceiv’d.
Albert. No, you are not deceiv’d. You took me for
A man detesting all inhuman crime;
And therefore kept from me your demon’s plot
Against Erminia. Silent? Be so still;
For ever! Speak no more; but hear my words,
Thy fate. Your safety I have bought to-day
By blazoning a lie, which in the dawn
I expiate with truth.
Auranthe. O cruel traitor!
Albert. For I would not set eyes upon thy shame;
I would not see thee dragg’d to death by the hair,
Penanc’d, and taunted on a scaffolding!
To-night, upon the skirts of the blind wood
That blackens northward of these horrid towers,
I wait for you with horses. Choose your fate.
Farewell.
Auranthe. Albert, you jest; I’m sure you must.
You, an ambitious Soldier! I, a Queen,
One who could say, Here, rule these Provinces!
Take tribute from those cities for thyself!
Empty these armouries, these treasuries,
Muster thy warlike thousands at a nod !
Go! conquer Italy!
Albert. Auranthe, you have made
The whole world chaff to me. Your doom is fix’d.
Auranthe. Out, villain! dastard!
Albert. Look there to the door!
Who is it?
Auranthe. Conrad, traitor!
Albert. Let him in.
Enter CONRAD.
Do not affect amazement, hypocrite,
At seeing me in this chamber.
Conrad. Auranthe?
Albert. Talk not with eyes, but speak your curses out
Against me, who would sooner crush and grind
A brace of toads, than league with them to oppress
An innocent lady, gull an Emperor,
More generous to me than autumn’s sun
To ripening harvests.
Auranthe. No more insult, sir!
Albert. Aye, clutch your scabbard; but, for prudence sake,
Draw not the sword; ‘twould make an uproar, Duke,
You would not hear the end of. At nightfall
Your lady sister, if I guess aright,
Will leave this busy castle. You had best
Take farewell too of worldly vanities.
Conrad. Vassal!
Albert. To-morrow, when the Emperor sends
For loving Conrad, see you fawn on him.
Good even !
Auranthe. You’ll be seen!
Albert. See the coast clear then.
Auranthe (as he goes). Remorseless Albert! Cruel,
cruel wretch!
[She lets him out.
Conrad. So, we must lick the dust?
Auranthe. I follow him.
Conrad. How? Where? The plan of your escape?
Auranthe. He waits
For me with horses by the forest-side,

Northward.
Conrad. Good, good! he dies. You go, say you?
Auranthe. Perforce.
Conrad. Be speedy, darkness! Till that comes,
Fiends keep you company! [Exit.
Auranthe. And you! And you!
And all men! Vanish!
[Retires to an inner Apartment.

SCENE II. An Apartment in the Castle.
Enter LUDOLPH and Page.
Page. Still very sick, my Lord; but now I went
Knowing my duty to so good a Prince;
And there her women in a mournful throng
Stood in the passage whispering: if any
Mov’d ’twas with careful steps and hush’d as death;
They bid me stop.
Ludolph. Good fellow, once again
Make soft enquiry; prythee be not stay’d
By any hindrance, but with gentlest force
Break through her weeping servants, till thou com’st
E’en to her chamber door, and there, fair boy,
If with thy mother’s milk thou hast suck’d in
Any diviner eloquence ; woo her ears
With plaints for me more tender than the voice
Of dying Echo, echoed.
Page. Kindest master!
To know thee sad thus, will unloose my tongue
In mournful syllables. Let but my words reach
Her ears and she shall take them coupled with
Moans from my heart and sighs not counterfeit.
May I speed better! [Exit Page.
Ludolph. Auranthe! My Life!
Long have I lov’d thee, yet till now not lov’d:
Remembering, as I do, hard-hearted times
When I had heard even of thy death perhaps,
And thoughtless, suffered to pass alone
Into Elysium! now I follow thee
A substance or a shadow, wheresoe’er
Thou leadest me, whether thy white feet press,
With pleasant weight, the amorous-aching earth,
Or thro’ the air thou pioneerest me,
A shade! Yet sadly I predestinate!
O unbenignest Love, why wilt thou let
Darkness steal out upon the sleepy world
So wearily; as if night’s chariot wheels
Were clog’d in some thick cloud. O, changeful Love,
Let not her steeds with drowsy-footed pace
Pass the high stars, before sweet embassage
Comes from the pillow ‘d beauty of that fair
Completion of all delicate nature’s wit.
Pout her faint lips anew with rubious health
And with thine infant fingers lift the fringe
Of her sick eyelids ; that those eyes may glow
With wooing light upon me, ere the Morn
Peers with disrelish, grey, barren, and cold.
Enter GERSA and Courtiers.
Otho calls me his Lion should I blush
To be so tam’d, so
Gersa. Do me the courtesy
Gentlemen to pass on.
Courtier. We are your servants.
[Exeunt Courtiers.
Ludolph. It seems then, Sir, you have found out the man
You would confer with; me?
Gersa. If I break not
Too much upon your thoughtful mood, I will
Claim a brief while your patience.
Ludolph. For what cause
Soe’er I shall be honour ‘d.
Gersa. I not less.
Ludolph. What may it be? No trifle can take place
Of such deliberate prologue, serious ‘haviour.
But be it what it may I cannot fail
To listen with no common interest
For though so new your presence is to me,
I have a soldier’s friendship for your fame
Please you explain.
Gersa. As thus for, pardon me,
I cannot in plain terms grossly assault
A noble nature ; and would faintly sketch
What your quick apprehension will fill up
So finely I esteem you.
Ludolph. I attend
Gersa. Your generous Father, most illustrious Otho,
Sits in the Banquet room among his chiefs
His wine is bitter, for you are not there
His eyes are fix’d still on the open doors,
And every passer in he frowns upon
Seeing no Ludolph comes.
Ludolph. I do neglect
Gersa. And for your absence, may I guess the cause?
Ludolph. Stay there! no guess? more princely you must be
Than to make guesses at me. ‘Tis enough,
I’m sorry I can hear no more.
Gersa. And I
As griev’d to force it on you so abrupt;
Yet one day you must know a grief whose sting
Will sharpen more the longer ’tis concealed.
Ludolph. Say it at once, sir, dead, dead, is she dead?
Gersa. Mine is a cruel task : she is not dead
And would for your sake she were innocent
Ludolph. Thou liest! thou amazest me beyond
All scope of thought; convulsest my heart’s blood
To deadly churning Gersa you are young
As I am ; let me observe you face to face ;
Not grey-brow’d like the poisonous Ethelbert,
No rheumed eyes, no furrowing of age,
No wrinkles where all vices nestle in
Like crannied vermin no, but fresh and young
And hopeful featured. Ha! by heaven you weep
Tears, human tears Do you repent you then
Of a curs’d torturer’s office! Why shouldst join
Tell me, the league of Devils? Confess confess
The Lie.
Gersa. Lie!- but begone all ceremonious points
Of honour battailous. I could not turn
My wrath against thee for the orbed world.
Ludolph. Your wrath, weak boy? Tremble at mine unless
Retraction follow close upon the heels
Of that late stounding insult: why has my sword
Not done already a sheer judgment on thee?
Despair, or eat thy words. Why, thou wast nigh
Whimpering away my reason: hark ye, Sir,
It is no secret; that Erminia,
Erminia, Sir, was hidden in your tent;
O bless ‘d asylum! comfortable home!
Begone, I pity thee, thou art a Gull
Erminia’s last new puppet
Gersa. Furious fire!
Thou mak’st me boil as hot as thou canst flame!
And in thy teeth I give thee back the lie!
Thou liest! Thou, Auranthe’s fool, a wittol
Ludolph. Look! look at this bright sword;
There is no part of it to the very hilt
But shall indulge itself about thine heart
Draw but remember thou must cower thy plumes,
As yesterday the Arab made thee stoop
Gersa. Patience! not here, I would not spill thy blood
Here underneath this roof where Otho breathes,
Thy father almost mine
Ludolph. O faltering coward
Re-enter PAGE.
Stay, stay, here is one I have half a word with
Well What ails thee child?
Page. My lord,
Ludolph. Good fellow
Page. They are fled!
Ludolph. They who?
Page. When anxiously
I hasten ‘d back, your grieving messenger,
I found the stairs all dark, the lamps extinct,
And not a foot or whisper to be heard.
I thought her dead, and on the lowest step
Sat listening; when presently came by
Two muffled up, one sighing heavily,
The other cursing low, whose voice I knew
For the Duke Conrad’s. Close I follow’d them
Thro’ the dark ways they chose to the open air;
And, as I follow’d, heard my lady speak.
Ludolph. Thy life answers the truth!
Page. The chamber’s empty!
Ludolph. As I will be of mercy! So, at last,
This nail is in my temples!
Gersa. Be calm in this.
Ludolph. I am.
Gersa. And Albert too has disappeared;
Ere I met you, I sought him everywhere ;
You would not hearken.
Ludolph. Which way went they, boy?
Gersa. I’ll hunt with you.
Ludolph. No, no, no. My senses are
Still whole. I have surviv’d. My arm is strong
My appetite sharp for revenge! I’ll no sharer
In my feast; my injury is all my own,
And so is my revenge, my lawful chattels!
Terrier, ferret them out! Burn burn the witch!
Trace me their footsteps! Away!
[Exeunt.

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