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Conrad. God save illustrious Otho!
Otho. Aye, Conrad, it will pluck out all gray hairs;
It is the best physician for the spleen;
The courtliest inviter to a feast;
The subtlest excuser of small faults;
And a nice judge in the age and smack of wine.
[Enter from the Castle, AURANTHE, followed by Pages, holding up her robes, and a train of Women. She kneels.
Hail my sweet hostess! I do thank the stars,
Or my good soldiers, or their ladies' eyes,
That, after such a merry battle fought,
I can, all safe in body and in soul,
Kiss your fair hand and lady fortune's too.
My ring! now, on my life, it doth rejoice
These lips to feel 't on this soft ivory!
Keep it, my brightest daughter; it may prove
The little prologue to a line of kings.
I strove against thee and my hot-blood son,
Dull blockhead that I was to be so blind,
But now my sight is clear; forgive me, lady.
Auranthe. My lord, I was a vassal to your frown,
And now your favor makes me but more humble
In wintry winds the simple snow is safe,
But fadeth at the greeting of the sun :
Unto thine anger I might well have spoken,
Taking on me a woman's privilege,
But this so sudden kindness makes me dumb.
Otho. What need of this? Enough, if you will be
A potent tutoress to my wayward boy.
And teach him, what it seems his nurse could not,
To say, for once, I thank you! Sigifred!
Albert. He has not yet returned, my gracious liege.
Otho. What then! No tidings of my friendly Arab?
Conrad. None, mighty Otho.
[To one of his Knights who goes out. Send forth instantly
An hundred horsemen from my honored gates,
To scour the plains and search the cottages.
Cry a reward, to him who shall first bring
News of that vanished Arabian,
A full-heaped helmet of the purest gold.
Otho. More thanks, good Conrad; for, except my son's,
There is no face I rather would behold
Than that same quick-eyed pagan's. By the saints,
This coming night of banquets must not light
Her dazzling torches; nor the music breathe
Smooth, without clashing cymbal, tones of peace
And in-door melodies; nor the ruddy wine
Ebb spouting to the lees; if I pledge not,
my first cup, that Arab!
I wonder not this stranger's victor-deeds
So hang upon your spirit. Twice in the fight
It was my chance to meet his olive brow,
Triumphant in the enemy's shatter'd rhomb;
And, to say truth, in any Christian arm
I never saw such prowess.
Did you ever?
O, 'tis a noble boy!-tut!-what do I say?
I mean a triple Saladin, whose eyes,
When in the glorious scuffle they met mine,
Seem'd to say "Sleep, old man, in safety sleep;
I am the victory!"
Pity he's not here.
Otho. And my son too, pity he is not here.
Lady Auranthe, I would not make you blush,
But can you give a guess where Ludolph is?
Know you not of him?
Indeed, my liege, no secret—
Otho. Nay, nay, without more words, dost know of him?
Auranthe. I would I were so over-fortunate,
Both for his sake and mine, and to make glad
A father's ears with tidings of his son.
Otho. I see 'tis like to be a tedious day.
Were Theodore and Gonfrid and the rest
Sent forth with my commands?
Aye, my lord.
Otho. And no news! No news! 'Faith! 'tis very strange He thus avoids us. Lady, is't not strange?
Will he be truant to you too? It is a shame.
Conrad. Wilt please your highness enter, and accept
The unworthy welcome of your servant's house?
Leaving your cares to one whose diligence
May in few hours make pleasures of them all.
Otho. Not so tedious, Conrad. No, no, no,-
I must see Ludolph or the-What's that shout?
Voices without. Huzza! huzza! Long live the Emperor !
Other voices. Fall back! Away there!
Say what noise is that?
[ALBERT advancing from the back of the Stage, whither he had hastened on hearing the cheers of the soldiery.
Albert. It is young Gersa, the Hungarian prince,
Pick'd like a red stag from the fallow herd
Of prisoners. Poor prince, forlorn he steps,
Slow, and demure, and proud in his despair.
If I may judge by his so tragic bearing,
His eye not downcast, and his folded arm,
He doth this moment wish himself asleep
Among his fallen captains on yon plains.
Enter GERSA, in chains, and guarded.
Otho. Well said, Sir Albert.
Not a word of greeting,
No welcome to a princely visitor,
Most mighty Otho ? Will not my great host
Vouchsafe a syllable, before he bids
His gentlemen conduct me with all care
To some securest lodging-cold perhaps !
Otho. What mood is this? Hath fortune touch'd thy brain ?
Gersa. O kings and princes of this fev'rous world,
What abject things, what mockeries must ye be,
What nerveless minions of safe palaces!
When here, a monarch, whose proud foot is used
To fallen princes' necks, as to his stirrup,
Must needs exclaim that I am mad forsooth,
Because I cannot flatter with bent knees
Gersa, I think you wrong me:
I think I have a better fame abroad.
Gersa. I pr'ythee mock me not with gentle speech, But, as a favor, bid me from thy presence;
Let me no longer be the wondering food
Of all these eyes; pr'ythee command me hence!
Otho. Do not mistake me, Gersa. That you may not,
Come, fair Auranthe, try if your soft hands
Can manage those hard rivets to set free
So brave a prince and soldier.
Auranthe (sets him free).
Gersa. I am wound up in deep astonishment!
Thank you, fair lady. Otho! emperor !
You rob me of myself; my dignity
Is now your infant; I am a weak child.
Otho. Give me your hand, and let this kindly grasp Live in our memories.
In mine it will.
I blush to think of my unchasten'd tongue;
But I was haunted by the monstrous ghost
Of all our slain battalions. Sire, reflect,
And pardon you will grant, that, at this hour,
The bruised remnants of our stricken camp
Are huddling undistinguished, my dear friends,
With common thousands, into shallow graves.
Otho. Enough, most noble Gersa. You are free
To cheer the brave remainder of your host
By your own healing presence, and that too,
Not as their leader merely, but their king;
For, as I hear, the wily enemy,
Who eas'd the crownet from your infant brows,
Bloody Taraxa, is among the dead.
Gersa. Then I retire, so generous Otho please,
Bearing with me a weight of benefits
Too heavy to be borne.
It is not so;
Still understand me, King of Hungary,
Nor judge my open purposes awry.
Though I did hold you high in my esteem
self's sake, I do not personate
The stage-play emperor to entrap applause,
To set the silly sort o' the world agape,
And make the politic smile; no, I have heard
How in the Council you condemn'd this war,
Urging the perfidy of broken faith,-
For that I am your friend.
If ever, sire, You are my enemy, I dare here swear 'Twill not be Gersa's fault. Otho, farewell!
Otho. Will you return, Prince, to our banqueting?
Gersa. As to my father's board I will return.
Otho. Conrad, with all due ceremony, give
The prince a regal escort to his camp;
Albert, go thou and bear him company.
All happiness attend you!
Otho. Return with what good speed you may; for soon We must consult upon our terms of peace.
[Exeunt GERSA and ALBERT with others.
And thus a marble column do I build
To prop my empire's dome. Conrad, in thee
I have another steadfast one, to uphold
The portals of my state; and, for my own
Pre-eminence and safety, I will strive
To keep thy strength upon its pedestal.
For, without thee, this day I might have been
A show-monster about the streets of Prague,
In ch ins, as just now stood that noble prince :
And then to me no mercy had been shown,
For when the conquer'd lion is once dungeoned,
Who lets him forth again? or dares to give
An old lion sugar-cakes of mild reprieve?