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So men sit shivering on the dewy bank, What every nerve of you now trembles And try the chill stream with their feet; once in . . .


How the delighted spirit pants for joy! Lucretia (advancing timidly towards Few dare to stand between their grave him). O husband! Pray forgive poor Beatrice.

and me.

She meant not any ill.


Nor you perhaps?
Nor that young imp, whom you have
taught by rote
Parricide with his


Nor those two most unnatural sons, who

Enmity up against me with the Pope?
Whom in one night merciful God cut
Innocent lambs! They thought not any

You were not here conspiring? You
said nothing

Of how I might be dungeoned as a madman;

Or be condemned to death for some

You judged that men were bolder than they are;

Lucretia. Look not so dreadfully!
By my salvation


knew not aught that Beatrice designed;

Nor do I think she designed any thing Nor Until she heard you talk of her dead brothers.


How just it were to hire assassins, or
Put sudden poison in my evening drink?
Or smother me when overcome by wine?
Seeing we had no other judge but God,
And he had sentenced me, and there

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That savage rock, the Castle of Petrella: And you would be the witnesses?-This 'Tis safely walled, and moated round


Its dungeons underground, and its thick


Never told tales; though they have heard and seen

What might make dumb things speak.—
Why do you linger?

Make speediest preparation for the
journey! [Exit LUCRETIA.
The all-beholding sun yet shines; I hear
A busy stir of men about the streets;
I see the bright sky through the window

were none

But you to be the executioners

Of his decree enregistered in heaven?
Oh, no! You said not this?



So help me God, I never thought the things you charge me with! Cenci. If you dare speak that wicked It is a garish, broad, and peering day; lie again Loud, light, suspicious, full of eyes and I'll kill you. What! It was not by


your counsel

And every little corner, nook, and hole That Beatrice disturbed the feast last Is penetrated with the insolent light. Come darkness! Yet, what is the day to me?


You did not hope to stir some enemies
Against me, and escape, and laugh to And wherefore should I wish for night,


who do

A deed which shall confound both night
and day?
'Tis she shall grope through a bewilder-
ing mist

Of horror: if there be a sun in heaven
She shall not dare to look upon its beams;
Nor feel its warmth. Let her then wish

GIACOMO, in conversation.

for night;

The act I think shall soon extinguish all
For me: I bear a darker deadlier gloom Do you not think the Pope would inter-
Than the earth's shade, or interlunar air,
Or constellations quenched in murkiest

In which I walk secure and unbeheld
Towards my purpose. - Would that it
were done!

Camillo. There is an obsolete and doubtful law

By which you might obtain a bare provision

Of food and clothing

Giacomo. Nothing more? Alas! Bare must be the provision which strict law

Awards, and agèd, sullen avarice pays.
Why did my father not apprentice me
To some mechanic trade? I should

Have a dear wife, a lady of high birth,
Whose dowry in ill hour I lent my father
Without a bond or witness to the deed:
And children, who inherit her fine

The fairest creatures in this breathing

And she and they reproach me not.

If you,
Cardinal Camillo, were reduced at once
From thrice-driven beds of down, and
delicate food,

An hundred servants, and six palaces,
To that which nature doth indeed re-
quire ?-


And stretch authority beyond the law? Camillo. Though your peculiar case is hard, I know

The Pope will not divert the course of law.
After that impious feast the other night
I spoke with him, and urged him then
to check

Your father's cruel hand; he frowned
and said,
"Children are disobedient, and they

Their fathers' hearts to madness and

Requiting years of care with contumely.
I pity the Count Cenci from my heart;
His outraged love perhaps awakened

And thus he is exasperated to ill.

In the great war between the old and young

I, who have white hairs and a tottering body,

have then


Been trained in no highborn necessities Will keep at least blameless neutrality."
Which I could meet not by my daily toil.
The eldest son of a rich nobleman
Is heir to all his incapacities;

He has wide wants, and narrow powers.

You, my good Lord Orsino, heard those words.

Orsino. What words?
Alas, repeat them

not again! There then is no redress for me, at least None but that which I may achieve myself, Since I am driven to the brink.-But, say,

Camillo. Nay, there is reason in My innocent sister and my only brother your plea; 'twere hard. Are dying underneath my father's eye. Giacomo. 'Tis hard for a firm man to The memorable torturers of this land, bear: but I Galeaz Visconti, Borgia, Ezzelin,

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Any belief-have turned the Pope's

Upon the accusers from the criminal:
So I should guess from what Camillo



A priest who has forsworn the God he


A judge who makes Truth weep at his decree;

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


Imagination with such phantasies
As the tongue dares not fashion into

Which have no words, their horror
makes them dim

To the mind's eye. My heart denies


I know you are my friend, and all I dare Giacomo. My friend, that palace- Speak to my soul that will I trust with 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

To think what you demand.

But a friend's bosom
Is as the inmost cave of our own mind
Where we sit shut from the wide gaze
of day,

And from the all-communicating air.
You look what I suspected-
Spare me now!
I am as one lost in a midnight wood,
Who dares not ask some harmless pas-

The path across the wilderness, lest he,
As my thoughts are, should be--a

But now my heart is heavy, and would
Lone counsel from a night of sleepless


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 encourage


It fortunately serves my close designs
That 'tis a trick of this same family

A friend who should weave counsel, To analyse their own and other minds.

as I now,

Such self-anatomy shall teach the will

Dangerous secrets: for it tempts our Till weak imagination half The self-created shadow. longer


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 can-
not shun,

Show a poor figure to my own esteem,
To which I grow half reconciled.



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


As little mischief as I can; that thought
Shall fee the accuser conscience.

By a dark secret, surer than the grave; Her mother scared and unexpostulating From the dread manner of her wish achieved: (After a pause.) Now what harm And she!-Once more take courage my If Cenci should be murdered ?--Yet, if faint heart; murdered,

What dares a friendless maiden matched with thee?

Wherefore by me? And what if I could

The profit, yet omit the sin and peril
In such an action? Of all earthly things
I fear a man whose blows outspeed his

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


And such is Cenci: and while Cenci lives

Not who becomes the instrument of ill,
But who can flatter the dark spirit,
that makes

His daughter's dowry were a secret grave
If a priest wins her.-Oh, fair Beatrice!
Would that I loved thee not, or loving
Could but despise danger and gold and
That frowns between my wish and its
Or smiles beyond it! There is no


But spoken by a stranger, makes my


Sicken and pant; and thus unprofitably
I clasp the phantom of unfelt delights


Yet much

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

Its empire and its prey of other hearts
Till it become his slave . . . as I will


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That starts from your dear brow.

Alas! Alas! What has befallen? Beatrice.

Lucretia. What ails thee, my poor child? She answers not :

Her spirit apprehends the sense of pain, How comes this hair But not its cause; suffering has dried away The source from which it sprung Its wandering strings must be what Beatrice (franticly). Like Parriblind me so, fide...


And yet I tied it fast.-O, 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 It is a piteous office.

with blood! The sunshine on the floor is black! The air

(To LUCRETIA, in a slow, subdued voice.) Do you know I thought I was that wretched Beatrice Is changed to vapours such as the dead Men speak of, whom her father somebreathe times hales

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Misery has killed its father: yet its father Never like mine . . . O, 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,

In charnel pits! Pah! I am choked! From hall to hall by the entangled hair;
There creeps
At others, pens up naked in damp cells
A clinging, black, contaminating mist Where scaly reptiles crawl, and starves
About me. 'tis substantial, heavy,
her there,



'Tis gone; and yet its burthen remains


O'er these dull eyes.


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

My God! I never knew what the mad

Before; for I am mad beyond all doubt!
(More wildly.) No, I am dead! These
putrefying limbs
Shut round and sepulchre the panting As . . . (Pauses, suddenly recollecting

Than ever there was found a heart to do.
But never fancy imaged such a deed

Which would burst forth into the wander-
ing air!
(A pause.)
What hideous thought was that I had
even now?

Till she will eat strange flesh.
woful story

So did I overact in my sick dreams,
That I imagined . . no, it cannot be!
Horrible things have been in this wild
Prodigious mixtures, and confusions


Of good and ill; and worse have been conceived


Who art thou? Swear to me, ere
I die

With fearful expectation, that indeed
Thou art not what thou seémest . .


Lucretia. upon this sweary My sweet child, know you Beatrice. Yet speak it not: O, world! O, life! O, day! O, misery! For then if this be truth, that other too

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