SCENES FROM "POLITIAN" (1835)
                          by
                  Edgar Allan Poe
DRAMATIS PERSONAE POLITIAN, Earl of Leicester. A MONK. DI BROGLIO, a Roman Duke. LALAGE COUNT CASTIGLIONE, his son. ALESSANDRA, betrothed to BALDAZZAR, Duke of Surrey, Castiglione. Friend to Politian. JACINTA, maid to Lalage. The Scene lies in Rome I. ROME- A Hall in a Palace ALESSANDRA and CASTIGLIONE. ALESSANDRA Thou art sad, Castiglione. CASTIGLIONE Sad!- not I. Oh, I'm the happiest, happiest man in Rome! A few days more, thou knowest, my Alessandra, Will make thee mine. Oh, I am very happy! ALESSANDRA. Methinks thou hast a singular way of showing Thy happiness!- what ails thee, cousin of mine? Why didst thou sigh so deeply? CASTIGLIONE I was not conscious of it. It is a fashion, A silly- a most silly fashion I have When I am very happy. Did I sigh? (Sighing) ALESSANDRA Thou didst. Thou art not well. Thou hast indulged Too much of late, and I am vexed to see it. Late hours and wine, Castiglione,- these Will ruin thee! thou art already altered- Thy looks are haggard- nothing so wears away The constitution as late hours and wine. CASTIGLIONE (musing) Nothing, fair cousin, nothing- not even deep sorrow- Wears it away like evil hours and wine. I will amend. ALESSANDRA Do it! I would have thee drop Thy riotous company, too- fellows low born- Ill suit the like with old Di Broglio's heir And Alessandra's husband. CASTIGLIONE I will drop them. ALESSANDRA Thou wilt- thou must. Attend thou also more To thy dress and equippage- they are over plain For thy lofty rank and fashion- much depends Upon appearances. CASTIGLIONE I'll see to it. ALESSANDRA Then see to it!- pay more attention, sir, To a becoming carriage- much thou wantest In dignity. CASTIGLIONE Much, much, oh! much I want In proper dignity. ALESSANDRA (haughtily) Thou mockest me, sir. CASTIGLIONE (abstractedly) Sweet, gentle Lalage! ALESSANDRA Heard I aright? speak to him- he speaks of Lalage! Sir Count! (places her hand on his shoulder) what art thou dreaming? (aside) He's not well! What ails thee, sir? CASTIGLIONE (starting) Cousin! fair cousin!- madam! I crave thy pardon- indeed I am not well- Your hand from off my shoulder, if you please. This air is most oppressive!- Madam- the Duke! (Enter DI BROGLIO) DI BROGLIO My son, I've news for thee!- hey?- what's the matter? (observing Alessandra) I' the pouts? Kiss her, Castiglione! kiss her, You dog! and make it up, I say, this minute! I've news for you both. Politian is expected Hourly in Rome- Politian, Earl of Leicester! We'll have him at the wedding. 'Tis his first visit To the imperial city. ALESSANDRA What! Politian Of Britain, Earl of Leicester? DI BROGLIO The same, my love. We'll have him at the wedding. A man quite young In years, but grey in fame. I have not seen him, But Rumour speaks of him as of a prodigy Preeminent in arts and arms, and wealth, As of one who entered madly into life, Drinking the cup of pleasure to the dregs. And high descent. We'll have him at the wedding. ALESSANDRA I have heard much of this Politian. Gay, volatile and giddy- is he not? And little given to thinking. DI BROGLIO Far from it, love. No branch, they say, of all philosophy So deep abstruse he has not mastered it. Learned as few are learned. ALESSANDRA 'Tis very strange! I have known men have seen Politian And sought his company. They speak of him As of one who entered madly into life, Drinking the cup of pleasure to the dregs. CASTIGLIONE Ridiculous! Now I have seen Politian And know him well- nor learned nor he. He is a dreamer, and a man shut out From common passions. DI BROGLIO Children, we disagree. Let us go forth and taste the fragrant air Of the garden. Did I dream, or did I hear Politian was a melancholy man? (Exeunt) II ROME- A Lady's apartment, with a window open and looking into a garden. LALAGE, in deep mourning, reading at a table on which lie some books and a hand mirror. In the background JACINTA (a servant maid) leans carelessly upon a chair. LALAGE. Jacinta, is it thou? JACINTA (pertly) Yes, ma'am, I'm here. LALAGE. I did not know, Jacinta, you were in waiting. Sit down!- Let not my presence trouble you- Sit down!- for I am humble, most humble. JACINTA (aside) 'Tis time. (JACINTA seats herself in a side-long manner upon the chair, resting her elbows upon the back, and regarding her mistress with a contemptuous look. LALAGE continues to read.) LALAGE "It in another climate, so he said, "Bore a bright golden flower, but not this soil!" (pauses- turns over some leaves, and resumes) "No lingering winters there, nor snow, nor shower- "But Ocean ever to refresh mankind "Breathes the shrill spirit of the western wind." O, beautiful!- most beautiful- how like To what my fevered soul doth dream of Heaven! O happy land (pauses) She died!- the maiden died! A still more happy maiden who couldst die! Jacinta! (JACINTA returns no answer, and LALAGE presently resumes) Again!- a similar tale Told of a beauteous dame beyond the sea! Thus speaketh one Ferdinand in the words of the play- "She died full young"- one Bossola answers him- "I think not so- her infelicity "Seemed to have years too many"- Ah luckless lady! Jacinta! (still no answer) Here 's a far sterner story, But like- oh, very like in its despair- Of that Egyptian queen, winning so easily A thousand hearts- losing at length her own. She died. Thus endeth the history- and her maids Lean over and weep- two gentle maids With gentle names- Eiros and Charmion! Rainbow and Dove!- Jacinta! JACINTA (pettishly) Madam, what is it? LALAGE Wilt thou, my good Jacinta, be so kind As go down in the library and bring me The Holy Evangelists? JACINTA Pshaw! (Exit) LALAGE If there be balm For the wounded spirit in Gilead it is there! Dew in the night-time of my bitter trouble Will there be found- "dew sweeter far than that Which hangs like chains of pearl on Hermon hill." (Re-enter JACINTA, and throws a volume on the table) There, ma'am, 's the book. Indeed she is very troublesome. (Aside) LALAGE (astonished) What didst thou say, Jacinta? Have I done aught To grieve thee or to vex thee?- I am sorry. For thou hast served me long and ever been Trustworthy and respectful. (resumes her reading) JACINTA (aside) I can't believe She has any more jewels- no- no- she gave me all. LALAGE What didst thou say, Jacinta? Now I bethink me Thou hast not spoken lately of thy wedding. How fares good Ugo?- and when is it to be? Can I do aught?- is there no farther aid Thou needest, Jacinta? JACINTA Is there no farther aid! That's meant for me (aside). I'm sure, madam, you need not Be always throwing those jewels in my teeth. LALAGE Jewels! Jacinta,- now indeed, Jacinta, I thought not of the jewels. JACINTA Oh! perhaps not! But then I might have sworn it. After all, There 's Ugo says the ring is only paste, For he 's sure the Count Castiglione never Would have given a real diamond to such as you; And at the best I'm certain, madam, you cannot Have use for jewels now. But I might have sworn it. (Exit) (LALAGE bursts into tears and leans her head upon the table- after a short pause raises it) LALAGE Poor Lalage!- and is it come to this? Thy servant maid!- but courage!- 'tis but a viper Whom thou hast cherished to sting thee to the soul! (Taking up the mirror) Ha! here at least 's a friend- too much a friend In earlier day- a friend will not deceive thee. Fair mirror and true! now tell me (for thou canst) A tale- a pretty tale- and heed thou not Though it be rife with woe. It answers me. It speaks of sunken eyes, and wasted cheeks, And Beauty long deceased- remembers me Of Joy departed- Hope, the Seraph Hope, Inurned and entombed:- now, in a tone Low, sad, and solemn, but most audible, Whispers of early grave untimely yawning For ruined maid. Fair mirror and true- thou liest not! Thou hast no end to gain- no heart to break- Castiglione lied who said he loved- Thou true- he false!- false!- false! (While she speaks, a monk enters her apartment, and approaches unobserved) MONK Refuge thou hast, Sweet daughter, in Heaven. Think of eternal things! Give up thy soul to penitence, and pray! LALAGE (arising hurriedly) I cannot pray!- My soul is at war with God! The frightful sounds of merriment below Disturb my senses- go! I cannot pray- The sweet airs from the garden worry me! Thy presence grieves me- go!- thy priestly raiment Fills me with dread- thy ebony crucifix With horror and awe! MONK Think of thy precious soul! LALAGE Think of my early days!- think of my father And mother in Heaven think of our quiet home, And the rivulet that ran before the door! Think of my little sisters!- think of them! And think of me!- think of my trusting love And confidence- his vows- my ruin- think- think Of my unspeakable misery!- begone! Yet stay! yet stay!- what was it thou saidst of prayer And penitence? Didst thou not speak of faith And vows before the throne? MONK I did. LALAGE 'Tis well. There is a vow were fitting should be made- A sacred vow, imperative, and urgent, A solemn vow! MONK Daughter, this zeal is well. LALAGE Father, this zeal is anything but well! Hast thou a crucifix fit for this thing? A crucifix whereon to register This sacred vow? (He hands her his own) Not that- Oh! no!- no!- no! (Shuddering) Not that! Not that!- I tell thee, holy man, Thy raiments and thy ebony cross affright me! Stand back! I have a crucifix myself,- I have a crucifix Methinks 'twere fitting The deed- the vow- the symbol of the deed- And the deed's register should tally, father! (Draws a cross-handled dagger, and raises it on high) Behold the cross wherewith a vow like mine Is written in Heaven! MONK Thy words are madness, daughter, And speak a purpose unholy- thy lips are livid- Thine eyes are wild- tempt not the wrath divine! Pause ere too late!- oh, be not- be not rash! Swear not the oath- oh, swear it not! LALAGE 'Tis sworn! III. An apartment in a Palace. POLITIAN and BALDAZZAR BALDAZZAR -Arouse thee now, Politian! Thou must not- nay indeed, indeed, shalt not Give away unto these humors. Be thyself! Shake off the idle fancies that beset thee, And live, for now thou diest! POLITIAN Not so, Baldazzar Surely I live. BALDAZZAR Politian, it doth grieve me To see thee thus. POLITIAN Baldazzar, it doth grieve me To give thee cause for grief, my honored friend. Command me, sir! what wouldst thou have me do? At thy behest I will shake off that nature Which from my, forefathers I did inherit, Which with my mother's milk I did imbibe, And be no more Politician, but some other. Command me, sir! BALDAZZAR To the field, then- to the field- To the senate or the field. POLITIAN. Alas! Alas! There is an imp would follow me even there! There is an imp hath followed me even there! There is- what voice was that? BALDAZZAR I heard it not. I heard not any voice except thine own, And the echo of thine own. POLITIAN Then I but dreamed. BALDAZZAR Give not thy soul to dreams: the camp- the court, Befit thee- Fame awaits thee- Glory calls- And her, the trumpet-tongued, thou wilt not hear In hearkening to imaginary sounds And phantom voices. POLITIAN It is a phantom voice! Didst thou not hear it then? BALDAZZAR I heard it not. POLITIAN Thou heardst it not!- Baldazaar, speak no more To me, Politian, of thy camps and courts. Oh I am sick, sick, even unto death, Of the hollow and high-sounding vanities Of the populous Earth! Bear with me yet awhile! We have been boys together- schoolfellows- And now are friends- yet shall not be so long- For in the eternal city thou shalt do me A kind and gentle office, and a Power A Power august, benignant and supreme- Shall then absolve thee of all further duties Unto thy friend. BALDAZZAR Thou speakest a fearful riddle I will not understand. POLITIAN Yet now as Fate Approaches, and the Hours are breathing low, The sands of Time are changed to golden grains, And dazzle me, Baldazzar. Alas! alas! I cannot die, having within my heart So keen a relish for the beautiful As hath been kindled within it. Methinks the air Is balmier now than it was wont to be,- Rich melodies are floating in the winds- A rarer loveliness bedecks the earth- And with a holier lustre the quiet moon Sitteth in Heaven.- Hist! hist! thou canst not say Thou hearest not now, Baldazzar? BALDAZZAR Indeed I hear not. POLITIAN Not hear it!- listen now!- listen!- the faintest sound And yet the sweetest that ear ever heard! A lady's voice!- and sorrow in the tone! Baldazzar, it oppresses me like a spell! Again!- again!- how solemnly it falls Into my heart of hearts! that eloquent voice Surely I never heard- yet it were well Had I but heard it with its thrilling tones In earlier days! BALDAZZAR I myself hear it now. Be still!- the voice, if I mistake not greatly, Proceeds from yonder lattice- which you may see Very plainly through the window- it belongs, Does it not? unto this palace of the Duke? The singer is undoubtedly beneath The roof of his Excellency- and perhaps Is even that Alessandra of whom he spoke As the betrothed of Castiglione, His son and heir. POLITIAN Be still!- it comes again! VOICE (very faintly) "And is thy heart so strong As for to leave me thus Who hath loved thee so long In wealth and woe among? And is thy heart so strong As for to leave me thus? Say nay- say nay!" BALDAZZAR The song is English, and I oft have heard it In merry England- never so plaintively- Hist! hist! it comes again! VOICE (more loudly) "Is it so strong As for to leave me thus Who hath loved thee so long In wealth and woe among? And is thy heart so strong As for to leave me thus? Say nay- say nay!" BALDAZZAR 'Tis hushed and all is still! POLITIAN All is not still! BALDAZZAR Let us go down. POLITIAN Go down, Baldazzar, go! BALDAZZAR The hour is growing late- the Duke awaits use- Thy presence is expected in the hall Below. What ails thee, Earl Politian? VOICE (distinctly) "Who hath loved thee so long In wealth and woe among, And is thy heart so strong? Say nay- say nay!" BALDAZZAR Let us descend- 'tis time. Politian, give These fancies to the wind. Remember, pray, Your bearing lately savored much of rudeness Unto the Duke. Arouse thee! and remember POLITIAN Remember? I do. lead on! I do remember. (Going) Let us descend. Believe me I would give, Freely would give the broad lands of my earldom To look upon the face hidden by yon lattice- "To gaze upon that veiled face, and hear Once more that silent tongue." BALDAZZAR Let me beg you, sir, Descend with me- the Duke may be offended. Let us go down, I pray you. VOICE (loudly) Say nay!- say nay! POLITIAN (aside) 'Tis strange!- 'tis very strange- methought the voice Chimed in with my desires, and bade me stay! (Approaching the window) Sweet voice! I heed thee, and will surely stay. Now be this Fancy, by Heaven or be it Fate, Still will I not descend. Baldazzar make Apology unto the Duke for me; I go not down to-night. BALDAZZAR Your lordship's pleasure Shall be attended to. Good-night, Politian. POLITIAN Good-night, my friend, good-night. IV. The gardens of a Palace- Moonlight LALAGE, and POLITIAN LALAGE And dost thou speak of love To me, Politian?- dost thou speak of love To Lalage?- ah, woe- ah, woe is me! This mockery is most cruel- most cruel indeed! POLITIAN Weep not! oh, sob not thus!- thy bitter tears Will madden me. Oh, mourn not, Lalage- Be comforted! I know- I know it all, And still I speak of love. Look at me, brightest And beautiful Lalage!- turn here thine eyes! Thou askest me if I could speak of love, Knowing what I know, and seeing what I have seen. Thou askest me that- and thus I answer thee- Thus on my bended knee I answer thee. (Kneeling) Sweet Lalage, I love thee- love thee- love thee; Thro' good and ill- thro' weal and woe I love thee. Not mother, with her first-born on her knee, Thrills with intenser love than I for thee. Not on God's altar, in any time or clime, Burned there a holier fire than burneth now Within my spirit for thee. And do I love? (Arising) Even for thy woes I love thee- even for thy woes- Thy beauty and thy woes. LALAGE Alas, proud Earl, Thou dost forget thyself, remembering me! How, in thy father's halls, among the maidens Pure and reproachless of thy princely line, Could the dishonored Lalage abide? Thy wife, and with a tainted memory- MY seared and blighted name, how would it tally With the ancestral honors of thy house, And with thy glory? POLITIAN Speak not to me of glory! I hate- I loathe the name; I do abhor The unsatisfactory and ideal thing. Art thou not Lalage and I Politian? Do I not love- art thou not beautiful- What need we more? Ha! glory!- now speak not of it. By all I hold most sacred and most solemn- By all my wishes now- my fears hereafter- By all I scorn on earth and hope in heaven- There is no deed I would more glory in, Than in thy cause to scoff at this same glory And trample it under foot. What matters it- What matters it, my fairest, and my best, That we go down unhonored and forgotten Into the dust- so we descend together. Descend together- and then- and then, perchance- LALAGE Why dost thou pause, Politian? POLITIAN And then, perchance Arise together, Lalage, and roam The starry and quiet dwellings of the blest, And still- LALAGE Why dost thou pause, Politian? POLITIAN And still together- together. LALAGE Now Earl of Leicester! Thou lovest me, and in my heart of hearts I feel thou lovest me truly. POLITIAN Oh, Lalage! (Throwing himself upon his knee) And lovest thou me? LALAGE Hist! hush! within the gloom Of yonder trees methought a figure passed- A spectral figure, solemn, and slow, and noiseless- Like the grim shadow Conscience, solemn and noiseless. (Walks across and returns) I was mistaken- 'twas but a giant bough Stirred by the autumn wind. Politian! POLITIAN My Lalage- my love! why art thou moved? Why dost thou turn so pale? Not Conscience' self, Far less a shadow which thou likenest to it, Should shake the firm spirit thus. But the night wind Is chilly- and these melancholy boughs Throw over all things a gloom. LALAGE Politian! Thou speakest to me of love. Knowest thou the land With which all tongues are busy- a land new found- Miraculously found by one of Genoa- A thousand leagues within the golden west? A fairy land of flowers, and fruit, and sunshine, And crystal lakes, and over-arching forests, And mountains, around whose towering summits the winds Of Heaven untrammelled flow- which air to breathe Is Happiness now, and will be Freedom hereafter In days that are to come? POLITIAN O, wilt thou- wilt thou Fly to that Paradise- my Lalage, wilt thou Fly thither with me? There Care shall be forgotten, And Sorrow shall be no more, and Eros be all. And life shall then be mine, for I will live For thee, and in thine eyes- and thou shalt be No more a mourner- but the radiant Joys Shall wait upon thee, and the angel Hope Attend thee ever; and I will kneel to thee And worship thee, and call thee my beloved, My own, my beautiful, my love, my wife, My all;- oh, wilt thou- wilt thou, Lalage, Fly thither with me? LALAGE A deed is to be done- Castiglione lives! POLITIAN And he shall die! (Exit) LALAGE (after a pause) And- he- shall- die!- alas! Castiglione die? Who spoke the words? Where am I?- what was it he said?- Politian! Thou art not gone- thou are not gone, Politian! I feel thou art not gone- yet dare not look, Lest I behold thee not; thou couldst not go With those words upon thy lips- O, speak to me! And let me hear thy voice- one word- one word, To say thou art not gone,- one little sentence, To say how thou dost scorn- how thou dost hate My womanly weakness. Ha! ha! thou art not gone- O speak to me! I knew thou wouldst not go! I knew thou wouldst not, couldst not, durst not go. Villain, thou art not gone- thou mockest me! And thus I clutch thee- thus!- He is gone, he is gone Gone- gone. Where am I?- 'tis well- 'tis very well! So that the blade be keen- the blow be sure, 'Tis well, 'tis very well- alas! alas! V The suburbs. POLITIAN alone POLITIAN This weakness grows upon me. I am faint, And much I fear me ill- it will not do To die ere I have lived!- Stay, stay thy hand, O Azrael, yet awhile!- Prince of the Powers Of Darkness and the Tomb, O pity me! O pity me! let me not perish now, In the budding of my Paradisal Hope! Give me to live yet- yet a little while: 'Tis I who pray for life- I who so late Demanded but to die!- what sayeth the Count? (Enter BALDAZZAR) BALDAZZAR That knowing no cause of quarrel or of feud Between the Earl Politian and himself. He doth decline your cartel. POLITIAN What didst thou say? What answer was it you brought me, good Baldazzar? With what excessive fragrance the zephyr comes Laden from yonder bowers!- a fairer day, Or one more worthy Italy, methinks No mortal eyes have seen!- what said the Count? BALDAZZAR That he, Castiglione' not being aware Of any feud existing, or any cause Of quarrel between your lordship and himself, Cannot accept the challenge. POLITIAN It is most true- All this is very true. When saw you, sir, When saw you now, Baldazzar, in the frigid Ungenial Britain which we left so lately, A heaven so calm as this- so utterly free From the evil taint of clouds?- and he did say? BALDAZZAR No more, my lord, than I have told you, sir: The Count Castiglione will not fight, Having no cause for quarrel. POLITIAN Now this is true- All very true. Thou art my friend, Baldazzar, And I have not forgotten it- thou'lt do me A piece of service; wilt thou go back and say Unto this man, that I, the Earl of Leicester, Hold him a villain?- thus much, I prythee, say Unto the Count- it is exceeding just He should have cause for quarrel. BALDAZZAR My lord!- my friend!- POLITIAN (aside) 'Tis he!- he comes himself? (aloud) Thou reasonest well. I know what thou wouldst say- not send the message- Well!- I will think of it- I will not send it. Now prythee, leave me- hither doth come a person With whom affairs of a most private nature I would adjust. BALDAZZAR I go- to-morrow we meet, Do we not?- at the Vatican. POLITIAN At the Vatican. (Exit BALDAZZAR) Enter CASTIGLIONE CASTIGLIONE The Earl of Leicester here! POLITIAN I am the Earl of Leicester, and thou seest, Dost thou not? that I am here. CASTIGLIONE My lord, some strange, Some singular mistake- misunderstanding- Hath without doubt arisen: thou hast been urged Thereby, in heat of anger, to address Some words most unaccountable, in writing, To me, Castiglione; the bearer being Baldazzar, Duke of Surrey. I am aware Of nothing which might warrant thee in this thing, Having given thee no offence. Ha!- am I right? 'Twas a mistake?- undoubtedly- we all Do err at times. POLITIAN Draw, villain, and prate no more! CASTIGLIONE Ha!- draw?- and villain? have at thee then at once, Proud Earl! (Draws) POLITIAN (drawing) Thus to the expiatory tomb, Untimely sepulchre, I do devote thee In the name of Lalage! CASTIGLIONE (letting fall his sword and recoiling to the extremity of the stage) Of Lalage! Hold off- thy sacred hand!- avaunt, I say! Avaunt- I will not fight thee- indeed I dare not. POLITIAN Thou wilt not fight with me didst say, Sir Count? Shall I be baffled thus?- now this is well; Didst say thou darest not? Ha! CASTIGLIONE I dare not- dare not- Hold off thy hand- with that beloved name So fresh upon thy lips I will not fight thee- I cannot- dare not. POLITIAN Now by my halidom I do believe thee!- coward, I do believe thee! CASTIGLIONE Ha!- coward!- this may not be! (Clutches his sword and staggers towards POLITIAN, but his purpose is changed before reaching him, and he falls upon his knee at the feet of the Earl) Alas! my lord, It is- it is- most true. In such a cause I am the veriest coward. O pity me! POLITIAN (greatly softened) Alas!- I do- indeed I pity thee. CASTIGLIONE And Lalage- POLITIAN Scoundrel!- arise and die! CASTIGLIONE It needeth not be- thus- thus- O let me die Thus on my bended knee. It were most fitting That in this deep humiliation I perish. For in the fight I will not raise a hand Against thee, Earl of Leicester. Strike thou home- (Baring his bosom) Here is no let or hindrance to thy weapon- Strike home. I will not fight thee. POLITIAN Now, s' Death and Hell! Am I not- am I not sorely- grievously tempted To take thee at thy word? But mark me, sir, Think not to fly me thus. Do thou prepare For public insult in the streets- before The eyes of the citizens. I'll follow thee Like an avenging spirit I'll follow thee Even unto death. Before those whom thou lovest- Before all Rome I'll taunt thee, villain,- I'll taunt thee, Dost hear? with cowardice- thou will not fight me? Thou liest! thou shalt! (Exit) CASTIGLIONE Now this indeed is just! Most righteous, and most just, avenging Heaven!

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