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I stood beside your dark and fiery youth
Watching its bold and bad career, as men
Watch meteors, but it vanished not-I marked
Your desperate and remorseless manhood; now
Do I behold you in dishonoured age
Charged with a thousand unrepented crimes.
Yet I have ever hoped you would amend,
And in that hope have saved your life three times.
For which Aldobrandino owes you now
My fief beyond the Pincian.-Cardinal,
One thing, I pray you, recollect henceforth,
And so we shall converse with less restraint.
A man you knew spoke of my wife and daughter-
He was accustomed to frequent my house ;
So the next day his wife and daughter came
And asked if I had seen him ; and I smiled :
I think they never saw him any more.
Thou execrable man, beware !
Nay this is idle :-We should know each other.
As to my character for what men call crime
Seeing I please my senses as I list,
And vindicate that right with force or guile,
It is a public matter, and I care not
If I discuss it with you. I may speak
Alike to you and my own conscious heart-
For you give out that you have half reformed me,
Therefore strong vanity will keep you silent
If fear should not; both will, I do not doubt.
All men delight in sensual luxury,
All men enjoy revenge; and most exult
Over the tortures they can never feel-
Flattering their secret peace with others' pain.
But I delight in nothing else. I love
The sight of agony, and the sense of joy,
When this shall be another's, and that mine.
And I have no remorse and little fear,
Which are, I think, the checks of other men.
This mood has grown upon me, until now
Any design my captious fancy makes
The picture of its wish, and it forms none
But such as men like you would start to know,
Is as my natural food and rest debarred
Until it be accomplished.
Art thou not Most miserable ?
Why, miserable ? No.-I am what your theologians call Hardened ;-which they must be in impudence, So to revile a man's peculiar taste. True, I was happier than I am, while yet Manhood remained to act the thing I thought; While lust was sweeter than revenge; and now Invention palls : Aye, we must all grow oldAnd but that there yet remains a deed to act Whose horror might make sharp an appetite Duller than mine-I'd do,~I know not what. When I was young I thought of nothing else But pleasure; and I fed on honey sweets: Men, by St. Thomas! cannot live like bees, And I grew tired :—yet, till I killed a foe, And heard his groans, and heard his children's groans, Knew I not what delight was else on earth, Which now delights me little. I the rather Look on such pangs as terror ill conceals, The dry fixed eyeball; the pale quivering lip, Which tell me that the spirit weeps within Tears bitterer than the bloody sweat of Christ. I rarely kill the body, which preserves, Like a strong prison, the soul within my power, Wherein I feed it with the breath of fear For hourly pain.
Hell's most abandoned fiend Did never, in the drunkenness of guilt,
Speak to his heart as now you speak to me;
I thank my God that I believe you not.
My Lord, a gentleman from Salamanca
Would speak with you.
Bid him attend me in the grand saloon. (Exit ANDREA.)
Farewell; and I will pray
Almighty God that thy false, impious words
Tempt not his spirit to abandon thee. (Exit CAMILLO.)
The third of my possessions! I must use
Close husbandry, or gold, the old man's sword,
Falls from my withered hand. But yesterday
There came an order from the Pope to make
Fourfold provision for my cursed sons;
Whom I had sent from Rome to Salamanca,
Hoping some accident might cut them off;
And meaning if I could to starve them there.
I pray thee, God, send some quick death upon them! 135
Bernardo and my wife could not be worse
If dead and damned :—then, as to Beatrice-
(looking around him suspiciously)
I think they cannot hear me at that door;
What if they should ? And yet I need not speak
Though the heart triumphs with itself in words.
O, thou most silent air, that shalt not hear
What now I think! Thou, pavement, which I tread
Towards her chamber,- let your echoes talk
Of my imperious step scorning surprise,
But not of my intent - Andrea !
Bid Beatrice attend me in her chamber
This evening :-no, at midnight and alone. (Exeunt.)
A GARDEN OF THE CENCI PALACE. ENTER BEATRICE AND ORSINO,
Pervert not truth,
Orsino. You remember where we held
That conversation ;-nay, we see the spot
Even from this cypress ;-two long years are past
Since, on an April midnight, underneath
The moonlight ruins of mount Palatine,
I did confess to you my secret mind.
You said you loved me then.
You are a Priest, Speak to me not of love.
The dispensation of the Pope to marry.
Because I am a Priest do you believe
Your image, as the hunter some struck deer,
Follows me not whether I wake or sleep?
As I have said, speak to me not of love;
Had you a dispensation I have not;
Nor will I leave this home of misery
Whilst my poor Bernard, and that gentle lady
To whom I owe life, and these virtuous thoughts,
Must suffer what I still have strength to share.
Alas, Orsino! All the love that once
I felt for you, is turned to bitter pain.
Our's was a youthful contract, which you first
Broke, by assuming vows no Pope will loose.
And thus I love you still, but holily,
Even as a sister or a spirit might;
And so I swear a cold fidelity.
And it is well perhaps we shall not marry.
You have a sly, equivocating vein
That suits me not. —Ah, wretched that I am !
Where shall I turn ? Even now you look on me
As you were not my friend, and as if you
Discovered that I thought so, with false smiles
Making my true suspicion seem your wrong.
Ah! No, forgive me; sorrow makes me seem
Sterner than else my nature might have been;
I have a weight of melancholy thoughts,
And they forbode,- but what can they forbode
Worse than I now endure ?
All will be well.
Is the petition yet prepared ? You know
My zeal for all you wish, sweet Beatrice;
Doubt not but I will use my utmost skill
So that the Pope attend to your complaint.
Your zeal for all I wish ;-Ah me, you are cold !
Your utmost skill ... speak but one word ... (aside) Alas!
Weak and deserted creature that I am,
Here I stand bickering with my only friend ! (TO ORSINO)
This night my father gives a sumptuous feast,
Orsino; he has heard some happy news
From Salamanca, from my brothers there,
And with this outward shew of love he mocks
His inward hate. 'Tis bold hypocrisy,
For he would gladlier celebrate their deaths,
Which I have heard him pray for on his knees :
Great God! that such a father should be mine!
But there is mighty preparation made,
And all our kin, the Cenci, will be there,
And all the chief nobility of Rome.
And he has bidden me and my pale Mother
Attire ourselves in festival array.
Poor lady! She expects some happy change
In his dark spirit from this act; I none.
At supper I will give you the petition :