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Being rather the rude disciples of beer,
Than of anything more refined and dear!
(Fills the other flagon and departs.]
The Scriptorium. FRIAR Pacificus transcribing and illuminating.
Friar Pacificus. It is growing dark! Yet one line more, And then my work for to day is o'er. I come again to the name of the Lord ! Ere I that awful name record, That is spoken so lightly among men, Let me pause awhile, and wash my pen; Pure from blemish and blot must it be When it writes that word of mystery !
Thus have I laboured on and on,
Nearly through the Gospel of John.
Can it be that from the lips
Of this same gentle Evangelist,
That Christ himself perhaps has kissed,
Came the dread Apocalypse !
It has a very awful look,
As it stands there at the end of the book,
Like the sun in an eclipse.
Ah me! when I think of that vision divine,
Think of writing it, line by line,
I stand in awe of the terrible curse,
Like the trump of doom, in the closing verse.
God forgive me! If ever I
Take anght from the book of that Prophecy,
Lest my part too should be taken away
From the Book of Life on the Judgment Day.
This is well written, though I say it!
I should not be afraid to display it,
In open day, on the selfsame shelf
With the writings of St. Thecla herself,
Or of Theodosius, who of old
Wrote the Gospels in letters of gold !
That goodly folio standing yonder,
Without a single blot or blunder,
Would not bear away the palm from mine,
If we should compare them line for line.
There, now, is an initial letter!
Saint Ulric himself never made a better;
Finished down to the leaf and the snail,
Down to the eyes on the peacock's tail!
And now, as I turn the volume over,
And see what lies between cover and cover,
What treasures of heart these pages hold,
All ablaze with crimson and gold,
God forgive me! I seem to feel
A certain satisfaction steal
Into my heart, and into my brain,
As if my talent had not lain
Wrapped in a napkin, and all in vain.
Yes, I might almost say to the Lord,
Here is a copy of thy Word,
Written out with much toil and pain;
Take it, O Lord, and let it be
As something I have done for thee!
[He looks from the window.]
How sweet the air is! How fair the scene !
I wish I had as lovely a green
To paint my landscapes and my leaves !
How the swallows twitter under the eaves !
There, now, there is one in her nest;
I can just catch a glimpse of her head and breast,
And will sketch her thus in her quiet nook,
For the margin of my Gospel book.
[He makes a sketch.]
I can see no more. Through the valley yonder
A shower is passing; I hear the thunder
Mutter its curses in the air,
The Devil's own and only prayer!
The dusty road is brown with rain,
And, speeding on with might and main,
Hitherward rides a gallant train.
They do not parley, they cannot wait,
But hurry in at the convent-gate.
What a fair lady! and beside her
What a handsome, graceful, noble rider!
Now she gives him her hand to alight;
They will beg shelter for the night.
I will go down to the corridor,
And try to see that face once more;
It will do for the face of some beautiful Saint,
Or for one of the Maries I shall paint.
The Cloisters. The ABBOT ERNESTUS pacing too and fro
Abbot. Slowly, slowly up the wall Sipals the sunshine, steals the shade;
Evening damps begin to fall,
Evening shadows are displayed.
Round me, o'er me, everywhere,
All the sky is grand with clouds,
And athwart the evening air
Wheel the swallows home in crowds.
Shafts of sunshine from the west
Paint the dusky windows red;
Darker shadows, deeper rest,
Underneath and overhead.
Darker, darker, and more wan,
In my breast the shadows fall;
Upward steals the life of man,
As the sunshine from the wall.
From the wall into the sky,
From the roof along the spire;
Ah, the souls of those that die
Are but sunbeams lifted higher.
Enter PRINCE HENRY. Prince Henry. Christ is arisen! Abbot.
Amen! he is arisen!
His peace be with you!
Prince Henry. Here it reigns for ever.
The peace of God, that passeth understanding,
Reigns in these cloisters and these corridors.
Are you Ernestus, Abbot of the convent?
Abbot. I am.
Prince Henry. And I Prince Henry of Hoheneck,
Who crave your hospitality to-night.
Abbot. You are thrice welcome to our humble walls.
You do us honour; and we shall requite it,
I fear, but poorly, entertaining you
With Paschal eggs, and our poor convent wine,
The remnants of our Easter holidays.
Prince Henry. How fares it with the holy monks of Hirschau?
Are all things well with them?
All things are well.
Prince Henry. A noble convent! I have known it long
By the report of travellers. I now see
Their commendations lag behind the truth.
You lie here in the valley of the Nagold
As in a nest: and the still river, gliding
Along its bed, is like an admonition
How all things pass. Your lands are rich and ample,
And your revenues large. God's benediction
Rests on your convent.
By our charities
We strive to merit it. Our Lord and Master,
When he departed, left us, in his will,
As our best legacy on earth, the poor !
These we have always with us; had we not,
Our hearts would grow as hard as are these stones.
Prince Henry. If I remember right, the Counts of Calva
Founded your convent.
Even as yon say.
Prince Henry. And, if I err not, it is very old.
Abbot. Within these cloisters lie already buried
Twelve holy Abbots. Underneath the flags
On which we stand, the Abbot William lies,
Of blessed memory.
Prince Henry. And whose tomb is that
Which bears the brass escutcheon ?
Conrad, a Count of Calva, he who stood
Godfather to our bells.
Prince Henry. Your monks are learned
And holy men, I trust.
There are among them
Learned and holy men. Yet in this age
We need another Hildebrand, to shake
And purify us like a mighty wind.
The world is wicked, and sometimes I wonder
God does not lose his patience with it wholly,
And shatter it like glass! Even here, at times,
Within these walls, where all should be at peace,
I have my trials. Time has laid his hand
Upon my heart, gently, not smiting it,
But as a harper lays his open palm
Upon his harp, to deaden its vibrations.
Ashes are on my head, and on my lips
Sackcloth, and in my breast a heaviness
And weariness of life, that makes me ready
To say to the dead Abbots under us,
“ Make room for me!” Only I see the dusk
Of evening twilight coming, and have not
Completed half my task; and so at times
The thought of my shortcomings in this life
Falls like a shadow on the life to come.
Prince Henry. We must all die, and not the old alone; The young have no exemption from that doom.
Abbot. Ah, yes! the young may die, but the old must! That is the difference.
Prince Henry.. I have heard much laud
Of your transcribers. Your Scriptorium
Is famous among all, your manuscripts
Praised for their beauty and their excellence.
Abbot. That is indeed our boast. If you desire it,
You shall beheld these treasures. And meanwhile
Shall the Refectorarius bestow
Your horses and attendants for the night.
(They go in. The Vesper-bell rings.)
The Chapel. Vespers; after which the monks retire, a chorister leading an old monk who
Prince Henry. They are all gone, save one who lingers,
Absorbed in deep and silent prayer.
As if his heart could find no rest,
At times he beats his heaving breast
With clenched and convulsive fingers,
Then lifts them trembling in the air.
A chorister, with golden hair,
Guides hitherward his heavy pace.
Can it be so! Or does my sight
Deceive me in the uncertain light?
Ah no! I recognise that face,
Though Time has touched it in his flight,
And changed the auburn hair to white.
It is Count Hugo of the Rhine,
The deadliest foe of all our race,
And hateful unto me and mine!
The Blind Monk. Who is it that doth stand so near,
His whispered words I almost hear?
Prince Henry. I am Prince Henry of Hoheneck,
And you, Count Hugo of the Rhine!
I know you, and I see the scar,
The brand upon your forehead, shine
And redden like a baleful star!
The Blind Monk. Count Hugo once, but now the wreck
Of what I was. O Hoheneck!
The passionate will, the pride, the wrath
That bore me headlong on my path,
Stumbled and staggered into fear,
And failed me in my mad career,
As a tired steed some evil-doer,
Alone upon a desolate moor,
Bewildered, lost, deserted, blind,
And hearing loud and close behind
The o'ertaking steps of his pursuer.
Then suddenly from the dark there came
A voice that called me by my name,
And said to me, “Kneel down and pray!”
And so my terror passed away,
Passed utterly away for ever.
Contrition, penitence, remorse,
Came on me with o'erwhelming force;
A hope, a longing, an endeavour,