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63

GIACOMO.

But you, Orsino,
Have the petition: wherefore not present it?

ORSINO.
I have presented it, and backed it with
My earnest prayers, and urgent interest;
It was returned unanswered. I doubt not
But that the strange and execrable deeds
Alleged in it-in truth they might well baffle
Any belief–have turned the Pope's displeasure
Upon the accusers from the criminal:
So I should guess from what Camillo said.

GIACOMO.
My friend, that palace-walking devil Gold
Has whispered silence to his Holiness:
And we are left, as scorpions ringed with fire.
What should we do but strike ourselves to death?
For he who is our murderous persecutor
Is shielded by a father's holy name,
Or I would (stops abruptly)

ORSINO.

What? Fear not to speak your thought. Words are but holy as the deeds they cover: A priest who has forsworn the God he serves ; A judge who makes Truth weep at his decree; A friend who should weave counsel, as I now, But as the mantle of some selfish guile; A father who is all a tyrant seems, Were the profaner for his sacred name.

GIACOMO. Ask me not what I think; the unwilling brain Feigns often what it would not; and we trust Imagination with such phantasies As the tongue dares not fashion into words, Which have no words, their horror makes them dim To the mind's eye.—My heart denies itself To think what you demand.

ORSINO.

But a friend's bosom Is as the inmost cave of our own mind

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Where we sit shut from the wide gaze of day,
And from the all-communicating air.
You look what I suspected-

GIACOMO.

Spare me now!
I am as one lost in a midnight wood,
Who dares not ask some harmless passenger
The path across the wilderness, lest he,
As my thoughts are, should be a murderer.
I know you are my friend, and all I dare
Speak to my soul that will I trust with thee.
But now my heart is heavy, and would take
Lone counsel from a night of sleepless care.
Pardon me, that I say farewell-farewell!
I would that to my own suspected self
I could address a word so full of peace

ORSINO.
Farewell :- Be your thoughts better or more bold.

(Exit GIACOMO.)
I had disposed the Cardinal Camillo
To feed his hope with cold encouragement:
It fortunately serves my close designs
That 'tis a trick of this same family
To analyse their own and other minds.
Such self-anatomy shall teach the will
Dangerous secrets: for it tempts our powers,
Knowing what must be thought, and may be done,
Into the depth of darkest purposes :
So Cenci fell into the pit; even I,
Since Beatrice unveiled me to myself,
And made me shrink from what I cannot shun,
Shew a poor figure to my own esteem,
To which I grow half reconciled. I'll do
As little mischief as I can; that thought
Shall fee the accuser conscience.
(After a pause)

Now what harm 190
If Cenci should be murdered ?-Yet, if murdered,
Wherefore by me? And what if I could take
The profit, yet omit the sin and peril
In such an action? Of all earthly things

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I fear a man whose blows outspeed his words;
And such is Cenci: and while Cenci lives
His daughter's dowry were a secret grave
If a priest wins her.—Oh, fair Beatrice !
Would that I loved thee not, or loving thee
Could but despise danger and gold and all
That frowns between my wish and its effect,
Or smiles beyond it! There is no escape ...
Her bright form kneels beside me at the altar,
And follows me to the resort of men,
And fills my slumber with tumultuous dreams,
So when I wake my blood seems liquid fire;
And if I strike my damp and dizzy head
My hot palm scorches it: her very name,
But spoken by a stranger, makes my heart
Sicken and pant; and thus unprofitably
I clasp the phantom of unfelt delights
Till weak imagination half possesses
The self-created shadow. Yet much longer
Will I not nurse this life of feverous hours :
From the unravelled hopes of Giacomo
I must work out my own dear purposes.
I see, as from a tower, the end of all:
Her father dead; her brother bound to me
By a dark secret, surer than the grave;
Her mother scared and unexpostulating
From the dread manner of her wish achieved:
And she !—Once more take courage my faint heart;
What dares a friendless maiden matched with thee?
I have such foresight as assures success:
Some unbeheld divinity doth ever,
When dread events are near, stir up men's minds
To black suggestions; and he prospers best,
Not who becomes the instrument of ill,
But who can flatter the dark spirit, that makes
Its empire and its prey of other hearts
Till it become his slave ... as I will do. (Exit.)

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1611

END OF THE SECOND ACT.

ACT III.

SCENE I.

AN APARTMENT IN THE CENCI PALACE. LUCRETIA, TO HER ENTER

BEATRICE.

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BEATRICE (She enters staggering, and speaks wildly.) Reach me that handkerchief !—My brain is hurt; My eyes are full of blood; just wipe them for me... I see but indistinctly...

LUCRETIA.

My sweet child,
You have no wound ; 'tis only a cold dew
That starts from your dear brow. . . Alas ! Alas!
What has befallen?

BEATRICE.

How comes this hair undone ?
Its wandering strings must be what blind me so,
And yet I tied it fast.—0, horrible !
The pavement sinks under my feet! The walls
Spin round ! I see a woman weeping there,
And standing calm and motionless, whilst I
Slide giddily as the world reels. ... My God!
The beautiful blue heaven is flecked with blood!
The sunshine on the floor is black! The air
Is changed to vapours such as the dead breathe
In charnel pits! Pah ! I am choked! There creeps
A clinging, black, contaminating mist
About me... 'tis substantial, heavy, thick,
I cannot pluck it from me, for it glues
My fingers and my limbs to one another,
And eats into my sinews, and dissolves
My flesh to a pollution, poisoning
The subtle, pure, and inmost spirit of life!
My God! I never knew what the mad felt
Before; for I am mad beyond all doubt!

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(more wildly) No, I am dead! These putrefying limbs
Shut round and sepulchre the panting soul
Which would burst forth into the wandering air ! (a pause)
What hideous thought was that I had even now?
'Tis gone; and yet its burthen remains here
O'er these dull eyes. .. upon this weary heart !
O, world ! O, life! O, day! O, misery!

LUCRETIA.
What ails thee, my poor child ? She answers not:
Her spirit apprehends the sense of pain,
But not its cause; suffering has dried away
The source from which it sprung.
BEATRICE (franticly).

Like Parricide...
Misery has killed its father: yet its father
Never like mine. ..0, God! What thing am I?

LUCRETIA.
My dearest child, what has your father done ?

BEATRICE (doubtfully).
Who art thou, questioner? I have no father.
(aside) She is the madhouse nurse who tends on me,
It is a piteous office.
(To Lucretia, in a slow, subdued voice) Do you know
I thought I was that wretched Beatrice
Men speak of, whom her father sometimes hales
From hall to hall by the entangled hair;
At others, pens up naked in damp cells
Where scaly reptiles crawl, and starves her there,
Till she will eat strange flesh. This woful story
So did I overact in my sick dreams,
That I imagined... no, it cannot be!
Horrible things have been in this wild world,
Prodigious mixtures, and confusions strange
Of good and ill; and worse have been conceived
Than ever there was found a heart to do.
But never fancy imaged such a deed

(pauses, suddenly recollecting herself)
Who art thou ? Swear to me, ere I die
With fearful expectation, that indeed
Thou art not what thou seemest... Mother!

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