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I found the old man's body in the moonlight
Hanging beneath the window of his chamber,
Among the branches of a pine: he could not
Have fallen there, for all his limbs lay heaped
And effortless; 'tis true there was no blood ...
Favour me, Sir; it much imports your house
That all should be made clear; to tell the ladies
That I request their presence. (Exit BERNARDO.)
Enter Guards bringing in MARZIO.
We have one.
My Lord, we found this ruffian and another
Lurking among the rocks; there is no doubt
But that they are the murderers of Count Cenci :
Each had a bag of coin; this fellow wore
A gold-inwoven robe, which shining bright
Under the dark rocks to the glimmering moon
Betrayed them to our notice: the other fell
What does he confess?
He keeps firm silence; but these lines found on him
Their language is at least sincere. (reads,
TO THE LADY BEATRICE.
“That the atonement of what my nature
“ Sickens to conjecture may soon arrive,
“I send thee, at thy brother's desire, those
· Who will speak and do more than I dare
· Write... Thy devoted servant, Orsino.”
Enter LUCRETIA, BEATRICE, and BERNARDO. Knowest thou this writing, Lady ?
LUCRETIA. (Her conduct throughout the scene is marked by extreme
Where was it found ? What is it? It should be
Orsino's hand! It speaks of that strange horror
Which never yet found utterance, but which made
Between that hapless child and her dead father
A gulph of obscure hatred.
Is it so? Is it true, Lady, that thy father did Such outrages as to awaken in thee Unfilial hate?
Not hate 'twas more than hate:
This is most true, yet wherefore question me?
There is a deed demanding question done;
Thou hast a secret which will answer not.
What sayest ? My Lord, your words are bold and rash.
I do arrest all present in the name
Of the Pope's Holiness. You must to Rome.
0, not to Rome! Indeed we are not guilty.
Guilty! Who dares talk of guilt ? My Lord,
I am more innocent of parricide
Than is a child born fatherless ... Dear Mother,
Your gentleness and patience are no shield
For this keen-judging world, this two-edged lie,
Which seems, but is not. What! will human laws,
Rather will ye who are their ministers,
Bar all access to retribution first,
And then, when heaven doth interpose to do
What ye neglect, arming familiar things
To the redress of an unwonted crime,
Make ye the victims who demanded it
Culprits? 'Tis ye are culprits! That poor wretch
Who stands so pale, and trembling, and amazed,
If it be true he murdered Cenci, was
A sword in the right hand of justest God.
Wherefore should I have wielded it ? Unless
The crimes which mortal tongue dare never name
God therefore scruples to avenge.
You own That you desired his death?
It would have been
A crime no less than his, if for one moment
That fierce desire had faded in
heart. 'Tis true I did believe, and hope, and pray, Aye, I even knew ... for God is wise and just, That some strange sudden death hung over him. 'Tis true that this did happen, and most true There was no other rest for me on earth, No other hope in Heaven ... now what of this ?
SAVELLA. Strange thoughts beget strange deeds; and here are both: I judge thee not.
And yet, if you arrest me,
You are the judge and executioner
Of that which is the life of life: the breath
Of accusation kills an innocent name,
And leaves for lame acquittal the poor life
Which is a mask without it. 'Tis most false
That I am guilty of foul parricide;
Although I must rejoice, for justest cause,
That other hands have sent my father's soul
To ask the mercy he denied to me.
Now leave us free: stain not a noble house
With vague surmises of rejected crime;
Add to our sufferings and your own neglect
No heavier sum: let them have been enough :
Leave us the wreck we have.
I dare not, Lady.
I pray that you prepare yourselves for Rome :
There the Pope's further pleasure will be known.
O, not to Rome! O, take us not to Rome!
Why not to Rome, dear mother? There as here
Our innocence is as an armed heel
To trample accusation. God is there
As here, and with his shadow ever clothes
The innocent, the injured and the weak;
And such are we. Cheer up, dear Lady, lean
On me; collect your wandering thoughts. My Lord,
As soon as you have taken some refreshment,
And had all such examinations made
Upon the spot, as may be necessary
To the full understanding of this matter,
We shall be ready. Mother; will you come ?
Hal they will bind us to the rack, and wrest
Self-accusation from our agony !
Will Giacomo be there? Orsino ? Marzio ?
All present; all confronted; all demanding
Each from the other's countenance the thing
Which is in every heart! O, misery !
(She faints, and is borne out.)
SAVELLA. She faints: an ill appearance this.
She knows not yet the uses of the world.
She fears that power is as a beast which grasps
And loosens not: a snake whose look transmutes
All things to guilt which is its nutriment.
She cannot know how well the supine slaves
Of blind authority read the truth of things
When written on a brow of guilelessness :
She sees not yet triumphant Innocence
Stand at the judgment-seat of mortal man,
A judge and an accuser of the wrong
Which drags it there. Prepare yourself
, my Lord; Our suite will join yours in the court below. (Exeunt.)
AN APARTMENT IN ORSINO's Palace, ENTER ORSINO AND GIACOMO.
Do evil deeds thus quickly come to end ?
0, that the vain remorse which must chastise
Crimes done, had but as loud a voice to warn
As its keen sting is mortal to avenge!
O, that the hour when present had cast off
The mantle of its mystery, and shewn
The ghastly form with which it now returns
When its scared game is roused, cheering the hounds
Of conscience to their prey! Alas! Alas!
It was a wicked thought, a piteous deed,
To kill an old and hoary-headed father.
It has turned out unluckily, in truth.
To violate the sacred doors of sleep;
To cheat kind nature of the placid death
Which she prepares for overwearied age;
To drag from Heaven an unrepentant soul
Which might have quenched in reconciling prayers
A life of burning crimes ...
You cannot say I urged you to the deed.