Becket and other plays
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Part 2 out of 6
[LEICESTER _looks at him doubtingly_.
Am I a prisoner?
By St. Lazarus, no!
I am confounded by thee. Go in peace.
In peace now--but after. Take that for earnest.
[_Flings a bone at him from the rushes_.
DE BRITO, FITZURSE, DE TRACY, _and others (flinging wisps of rushes)_.
Ay, go in peace, caitiff, caitiff! And that too, perjured prelate--and
that, turncoat shaveling! There, there, there! traitor, traitor,
Mannerless wolves! [_Turning and facing them_.
Enough, my lord, enough!
Barons of England and of Normandy,
When what ye shake at doth but seem to fly,
True test of coward, ye follow with a yell.
But I that threw the mightiest knight of France,
Sir Engelram de Trie,--
Enough, my lord.
More than enough. I play the fool again.
The King commands you, upon pain of death,
That none should wrong or injure your Archbishop.
Deal gently with the young man Absalom.
[_Great doors of the Hall at the back open, and
discover a crowd. They shout_:
Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!
SCENE IV.--_Refectory of the Monastery at Northampton.
A Banquet on the Tables_.
_Enter_ BECKET. BECKET'S RETAINERS.
Do thou speak first.
Nay, thou! Nay, thou! Hast not thou drawn the short straw?
My lord Archbishop, wilt thou permit us--
To speak without stammering and like a free man?
My lord, permit us then to leave thy service.
To-night, my lord.
My lord, we leave thee not without tears.
Tears? Why not stay with me then?
My lord, we cannot yield thee an answer altogether to thy
I warrant you, or your own either. Shall I find
you one? The King hath frowned upon me.
That is not altogether our answer, my lord.
No; yet all but all. Go, go! Ye have eaten of my dish and drunken of
my cup for a dozen years.
And so we have. We mean thee no wrong. Wilt thou not say, 'God bless
you,' ere we go?
God bless you all! God redden your pale blood! But mine is human-red;
and when ye shall hear it is poured out upon earth, and see it
mounting to Heaven, my God bless you, that seems sweet to you now,
will blast and blind you like a curse.
We hope not, my lord. Our humblest thanks for
your blessing. Farewell!
Farewell, friends! farewell, swallows! I wrong the bird; she leaves
only the nest she built, they leave the builder. Why? Am I to be
[_Knocking at the door_.
Here is a missive left at the gate by one from the castle.
Cornwall's hand or Leicester's: they write marvellously alike.
'Fly at once to France, to King Louis of France: there be those about
our King who would have thy blood.' Was not my lord of Leicester
bidden to our supper?
Ay, my lord, and divers other earls and barons. But the hour is past,
and our brother, Master Cook, he makes moan that all be a-getting
And I make my moan along with him. Cold after warm, winter after
summer, and the golden leaves, these earls and barons, that clung to
me, frosted off me by the first cold frown of the King. Cold, but look
how the table steams, like a heathen altar; nay, like the altar at
Jerusalem. Shall God's good gifts be wasted? None of them here! Call
in the poor from the streets, and let them feast.
That is the parable of our blessed Lord.
And why should not the parable of our blessed Lord be acted again?
Call in the poor! The Church is ever at variance with the kings, and
ever at one with the poor. I marked a group of lazars in the
marketplace--half-rag, half-sore--beggars, poor rogues (Heaven bless
'em) who never saw nor dreamed of such a banquet. I will amaze them.
Call them in, I say. They shall henceforward be my earls and barons--
our lords and masters in Christ Jesus.
If the King hold his purpose, I am myself a beggar. Forty thousand
marks! forty thousand devils--and these craven bishops!
_A_ POOR MAN _(entering) with his dog_.
My lord Archbishop, may I come in with my poor friend, my dog? The
King's verdurer caught him a-hunting in the forest, and cut off his
paws. The dog followed his calling, my lord. I ha' carried him ever so
many miles in my arms, and he licks my face and moans and cries out
against the King.
Better thy dog than thee. The King's courts would use thee worse than
thy dog--they are too bloody. Were the Church king, it would be
otherwise. Poor beast! poor beast! set him down. I will bind up his
wounds with my napkin. Give him a bone, give him a bone! Who misuses a
dog would misuse a child--they cannot speak for themselves. Past help!
his paws are past help. God help him!
_Enter the_ BEGGARS _(and seat themselves at the Tables)_.
BECKET _and_ HERBERT _wait upon them_.
Swine, sheep, ox--here's a French supper. When thieves fall out,
Is the Archbishop a thief who gives thee thy supper?
Well, then, how does it go? When honest men fall out, thieves--no, it
can't be that.
Who stole the widow's one sitting hen o' Sunday, when she was at mass?
Come, come! thou hadst thy share on her. Sitting hen! Our Lord
Becket's our great sitting-hen cock, and we shouldn't ha' been sitting
here if the barons and bishops hadn't been a-sitting on the
Ay, the princes sat in judgment against me, and the Lord hath prepared
your table--_Sederunt principes, ederunt pauperes_.
Becket, beware of the knife!
Nobody, my lord. What's that, my lord?
Buck; deer, as you call it.
King's meat! By the Lord, won't we pray for your lordship!
And, my children, your prayers will do more for me in the day of peril
that dawns darkly and drearily over the house of God--yea, and in the
day of judgment also, than the swords of the craven sycophants would
have done had they remained true to me whose bread they have partaken.
I must leave you to your banquet. Feed, feast, and be merry. Herbert,
for the sake of the Church itself, if not for my own, I must fly to
France to-night. Come with me.
[_Exit with_ HERBERT.
Here--all of you--my lord's health (_they drink_). Well--if that isn't
Then there isn't a goodly wench to serve him with it: they were
fighting for her to-day in the street.
The black sheep baaed to the miller's ewe-lamb,
The miller's away for to-night.
Black sheep, quoth she, too black a sin for me.
And what said the black sheep, my masters?
We can make a black sin white.
'Ewe lamb, ewe lamb, I am here by the dam.'
But the miller came home that night,
And so dusted his back with the meal in his sack,
That he made the black sheep white.
Be we not of the family? be we not a-supping with the head of the
family? be we not in my lord's own refractory? Out from among us; thou
art our black sheep.
_Enter the four_ KNIGHTS.
Sheep, said he? And sheep without the shepherd, too. Where is my lord
Archbishop? Thou the lustiest and lousiest of this Cain's brotherhood,
With Cain's answer, my lord. Am I his keeper? Thou shouldst call him
Cain, not me.
So I do, for he would murder his brother the State.
3RD BEGGAR (_rising and advancing_).
No my lord; but because the Lord hath set his mark upon him that no
man should murder him.
Where is he? where is he?
With Cain belike, in the land of Nod, or in the land of France for
aught I know.
France! Ha! De Morville, Tracy, Brito--fled is he? Cross swords all of
you! swear to follow him! Remember the Queen!
[_The four_ KNIGHTS _cross their swords_.
They mock us; he is here.
[_All the_ BEGGARS _rise and advance upon them_.
Come, you filthy knaves, let us pass.
Nay, my lord, let _us_ pass. We be a-going home
after our supper in all humbleness, my lord; for the
Archbishop loves humbleness, my lord; and though
we be fifty to four, we daren't fight you with our
crutches, my lord. There now, if thou hast not laid
hands upon me! and my fellows know that I am all
one scale like a fish. I pray God I haven't given thee
my leprosy, my lord.
[FITZURSE _shrinks from him and another presses upon_ DE BRITO.
And I was bit by a mad dog o' Friday, an' I be half dog already by
this token, that tho' I can drink wine I cannot bide water, my lord;
and I want to bite, I want to bite, and they do say the very breath
Insolent clown. Shall I smite him with the edge of the sword?
No, nor with the flat of it either. Smite the shepherd and the sheep
are scattered. Smite the sheep and the shepherd will excommunicate
Yet my fingers itch to beat him into nothing.
So do mine, my lord. I was born with it, and sulphur won't bring it
out o' me. But for all that the Archbishop washed my feet o' Tuesday.
He likes it, my lord.
And see here, my lord, this rag fro' the gangrene i' my leg. It's
humbling--it smells o' human natur'. Wilt thou smell it, my lord? for
the Archbishop likes the smell on it, my lord; for I be his lord and
master i' Christ, my lord.
Faugh! we shall all be poisoned. Let us go.
[_They draw back,_ BEGGARS _following_.
My lord, I ha' three sisters a-dying at home o' the sweating sickness.
They be dead while I be a-supping.
And I ha' nine darters i' the spital that be dead ten times o'er i'
one day wi' the putrid fever; and I bring the taint on it along wi'
me, for the Archbishop likes it, my lord.
[_Pressing upon the_ KNIGHTS _till they disappear thro' the door_.
Crutches, and itches, and leprosies, and ulcers, and gangrenes, and
running sores, praise ye the Lord, for to-night ye have saved our
I'll go back again. I hain't half done yet.
HERBERT OF BOSHAM (_entering_).
My friends, the Archbishop bids you good-night. He hath retired to
rest, and being in great jeopardy of his life, he hath made his bed
between the altars, from whence he sends me to bid you this night pray
for him who hath fed you in the wilderness.
So we will--so we will, I warrant thee. Becket shall be king, and the
Holy Father shall be king, and the world shall live by the King's
venison and the bread o' the Lord, and there shall be no more poor for
ever. Hurrah! Vive le Roy! That's the English of it.
SCENE I.--ROSAMUND'S _Bower. A Garden of Flowers. In the midst a bank
of wild-flowers with a bench before it_.
_Voices heard singing among the trees_.
1. Is it the wind of the dawn that I hear in the pine overhead?
2. No; but the voice of the deep as it hollows the cliffs of the land.
1. Is there a voice coming up with the voice of the deep from the
One coming up with a song in the flush of the glimmering red?
2. Love that is born of the deep coming up with the sun from the sea.
1. Love that can shape or can shatter a life till the life shall have
2. Nay, let us welcome him, Love that can lift up a life from the
1. Keep him away from the lone little isle. Let us be, let us be.
2. Nay, let him make it his own, let him reign in it--he, it is he,
Love that is born of the deep coming up with the sun from the sea.
_Enter_ HENRY _and_ ROSAMUND.
Be friends with him again--I do beseech thee.
With Becket? I have but one hour with thee--
Sceptre and crozier clashing, and the mitre
Grappling the crown--and when I flee from this
For a gasp of freer air, a breathing-while
To rest upon thy bosom and forget him--
Why thou, my bird, thou pipest Becket, Becket--
Yea, thou my golden dream of Love's own bower,
Must be the nightmare breaking on my peace
O my life's life, not to smile
Is all but death to me. My sun, no cloud!
Let there not be one frown in this one hour.
Out of the many thine, let this be mine!
Look rather thou all-royal as when first
I met thee.
Where was that?
Forgets me too.
Nay, I remember it well.
There on the moors.
And in a narrow path.
A plover flew before thee. Then I saw
Thy high black steed among the flaming furze,
Like sudden night in the main glare of day.
And from that height something was said to me
I knew not what.
I ask'd the way.
I think so.
So I lost mine.
Thou wast too shamed to answer.
Too scared--so young!
The rosebud of my rose!--
Well, well, no more of _him_--I have sent his folk,
His kin, all his belongings, overseas;
Age, orphans, and babe-breasting mothers--all
By hundreds to him--there to beg, starve, die--
So that the fool King Louis feed them not.
The man shall feel that I can strike him yet.
Babes, orphans, mothers! is that royal, Sire?
And I have been as royal with the Church.
He shelter'd in the Abbey of Pontigny.
There wore his time studying the canon law
To work it against me. But since he cursed
My friends at Veselay, I have let them know,
That if they keep him longer as their guest,
I scatter all their cowls to all the hells.
And is that altogether royal?
A faithful traitress to thy royal fame.
Fame! what care I for fame? Spite, ignorance, envy,
Yea, honesty too, paint her what way they will.
Fame of to-day is infamy to-morrow;
Infamy of to-day is fame to-morrow;
And round and round again. What matters? Royal--I
mean to leave the royalty of my crown
Unlessen'd to mine heirs.
Still--thy fame too:
I say that should be royal.
And I say,
I care not for thy saying.
And I say,
I care not for _thy_ saying. A greater King
Than thou art, Love, who cares not for the word,
Makes 'care not'--care. There have I spoken true?
Care dwell with me for ever, when I cease
To care for thee as ever!
No need! no need!...
There is a bench. Come, wilt thou sit?... My bank
Of wild-flowers [_he sits_]. At thy feet!
[She sits at his feet.
I had them clear
A royal pleasaunce for thee, in the wood,
Not leave these countryfolk at court.
I brought them
In from the wood, and set them here. I love them
More than the garden flowers, that seem at most
Sweet guests, or foreign cousins, not half speaking
The language of the land. I love _them_ too,
Yes. But, my liege, I am sure, of all the roses--
Shame fall on those who gave it a dog's name--
This wild one (_picking a briar-rose_)--nay, I shall not prick myself--
Is sweetest. Do but smell!
Thou rose of the world!
Thou rose of all the roses!
I am not worthy of her--this beast-body
That God has plunged my soul in--I, that taking
The Fiend's advantage of a throne, so long
Have wander'd among women,--a foul stream
Thro' fever-breeding levels,--at her side,
Among these happy dales, run clearer, drop
The mud I carried, like yon brook, and glass
The faithful face of heaven--
[Looking at her, and unconsciously aloud,
I know it.
Not hers. We have but one bond, her hate of Becket.
ROSAMUND (half hearing).
Nay! nay! what art thou muttering? _I_ hate Becket?
A sane and natural loathing for a soul
Purer, and truer and nobler than herself;
And mine a bitterer illegitimate hate,
A bastard hate born of a former love.
My fault to name him! O let the hand of one
To whom thy voice is all her music, stay it
But for a breath.
[_Puts her hand before his lips_.
Speak only of thy love.
Why there--like some loud beggar at thy gate--
The happy boldness of this hand hath won it
Love's alms, thy kiss (_looking at her hand_)--Sacred!
I'll kiss it too. [_Kissing it_.
There! wherefore dost thou so peruse it? Nay,
There may be crosses in my line of life.
Not half _her_ hand--no hand to mate with _her_,
If it should come to that.
With her? with whom?
Life on the hand is naked gipsy-stuff;
Life on the face, the brows-clear innocence!
Vein'd marble--not a furrow yet--and hers
Crost and recrost, a venomous spider's web--
ROSAMUND (_springing up_).
Out of the cloud, my Sun--out of the eclipse
Narrowing my golden hour!
I would be true--would tell thee all--and something
I had to say--I love thee none the less--
Which will so vex thee.
Something against _me_?
No, no, against myself.
I will not hear it.
Come, come, mine hour! I bargain for mine hour.
I'll call thee little Geoffrey.
How the boy grows!
Ay, and his brows are thine;
The mouth is only Clifford, my dear father.
My liege, what hast thou brought me?
What say'st thou to the Chancellorship of England?
O yes, my liege.
'O yes, my liege!' He speaks
As if it were a cake of gingerbread.
Dost thou know, my boy, what it is to be Chancellor of England?
Something good, or thou wouldst not give it me.
It is, my boy, to side with the King when Chancellor, and then to be
made Archbishop and go against the King who made him, and turn the
world upside down.
I won't have it then. Nay, but give it me, and I promise thee not to
turn the world upside down.
HENRY (_giving him a ball_).
Here is a ball, my boy, thy world, to turn anyway and play with as
thou wilt--which is more than I can do with mine. Go try it, play.
A pretty lusty boy.
So like to thee;
Like to be liker.
Not in my chin, I hope!
That threatens double.
Thou art manlike perfect.
Ay, ay, no doubt; and were I humpt behind,
Thou'dst say as much--the goodly way of women
Who love, for which I love them. May God grant
No ill befall or him or thee when I
Is _he_ thy enemy?
He? who? ay!
Thine enemy knows the secret of my bower.
And I could tear him asunder with wild horses
Before he would betray it. Nay--no fear!
More like is he to excommunicate me.
And I would creep, crawl over knife-edge flint
Barefoot, a hundred leagues, to stay his hand
Before he flash'd the bolt.
And when he flash'd it
Shrink from me, like a daughter of the Church.
Ay, but he will not.
Ay! but if he did?
O then! O then! I almost fear to say
That my poor heretic heart would excommunicate
His excommunication, clinging to thee
Closer than ever.
HENRY (_raising_ ROSAMUND _and kissing her_).
My brave-hearted Rose!
Hath he ever been to see thee?
Here? not he.
And it is so lonely here--no confessor.
Thou shall confess all thy sweet sins to me.
Besides, we came away in such a heat,
I brought not ev'n my crucifix.
[_Giving her the Crucifix which_ ELEANOR _gave him_.
O beautiful! May I have it as mine, till mine
Be mine again?
HENRY (_throwing it round her neck_).
Thine--as I am--till death!
Death? no! I'll have it with me in my shroud,
And wake with it, and show it to all the Saints.
Nay--I must go; but when thou layest thy lip
To this, remembering One who died for thee,
Remember also one who lives for thee
Out there in France; for I must hence to brave
The Pope, King Louis, and this turbulent priest.
O by thy love for me, all mine for thee,
Fling not thy soul into the flames of hell:
I kneel to thee--be friends with him again.
Look, look! if little Geoffrey have not tost
His ball into the brook! makes after it too
To find it. Why, the child will drown himself.
SCENE II.--_Montmirail. 'The Meeting of the Kings.'_
JOHN OF OXFORD _and_ HENRY. _Crowd in the distance_.
JOHN OF OXFORD.
You have not crown'd young Henry yet, my liege?
Crown'd! by God's eyes, we will not have him crown'd.
I spoke of late to the boy, he answer'd me,
As if he wore the crown already--No,
We will not have him crown'd.
'Tis true what Becket told me, that the mother
Would make him play his kingship against mine.
JOHN OF OXFORD.
Not have him crown'd?
Not now--not yet! and Becket
Becket should crown him were he crown'd at all:
But, since we would be lord of our own manor,
This Canterbury, like a wounded deer,
Has fled our presence and our feeding-grounds.
JOHN OF OXFORD.
Cannot a smooth tongue lick him whole again
To serve your will?
He hates my will, not me.
JOHN OF OXFORD.
There's York, my liege.
But England scarce would hold
Young Henry king, if only crown'd by York,
And that would stilt up York to twice himself.
There is a movement yonder in the crowd--
See if our pious--what shall I call him, John?--
Husband-in-law, our smooth-shorn suzerain,
Be yet within the field.
JOHN OF OXFORD.
I will. [_Exit_.
Mince and go back! his politic Holiness
Hath all but climb'd the Roman perch again,
And we shall hear him presently with clapt wing
Crow over Barbarossa--at last tongue-free
To blast my realms with excommunication
And interdict. I must patch up a peace--
A piece in this long-tugged at, threadbare-worn
Quarrel of Crown and Church--to rend again.
His Holiness cannot steer straight thro' shoals,
Nor I. The citizen's heir hath conquer'd me
For the moment. So we make our peace with him.
Brother of France, what shall be done with Becket?
The holy Thomas! Brother, you have traffick'd
Between the Emperor and the Pope, between
The Pope and Antipope--a perilous game
For men to play with God.
Ay, ay, good brother,
They call you the Monk-King.
Who calls me? she
That was my wife, now yours? You have her Duchy,
The point you aim'd at, and pray God she prove
True wife to you. You have had the better of us
In secular matters.
Come, confess, good brother,
You did your best or worst to keep her Duchy.
Only the golden Leopard printed in it
Such hold-fast claws that you perforce again
Shrank into France. Tut, tut! did we convene
This conference but to babble of our wives?
They are plagues enough in-door.
We fought in the East,
And felt the sun of Antioch scald our mail,
And push'd our lances into Saracen hearts.
We never hounded on the State at home
To spoil the Church.
How should you see this rightly?
Well, well, no more! I am proud of my 'Monk-King,'
Whoever named me; and, brother, Holy Church
May rock, but will not wreck, nor our Archbishop
Stagger on the slope decks for any rough sea
Blown by the breath of kings. We do forgive you
For aught you wrought against us.
[HENRY _holds up his hand_.
Nay, I pray you,
Do not defend yourself. You will do much
To rake out all old dying heats, if you,
At my requesting, will but look into
The wrongs you did him, and restore his kin,
Reseat him on his throne of Canterbury,
Be, both, the friends you were.
The friends we were!
Co-mates we were, and had our sport together,
Co-kings we were, and made the laws together.
The world had never seen the like before.
You are too cold to know the fashion of it.
Well, well, we will be gentle with him, gracious--
_Enter_ BECKET, _after him,_ JOHN OF OXFORD, ROGER
OF YORK, GILBERT FOLIOT, DE BROC, FITZURSE, _etc_.
Only that the rift he made
May close between us, here I am wholly king,
The word should come from him.
Then, my dear liege,
I here deliver all this controversy
Into your royal hands.
Ah, Thomas, Thomas,
Thou art thyself again, Thomas again.
Saving God's honour!
Out upon thee, man!
Saving the Devil's honour, his yes and no.
Knights, bishops, earls, this London spawn--by Mahound,
I had sooner have been born a Mussulman--
Less clashing with their priests--
I am half-way down the slope--will no man stay me?
I dash myself to pieces--I stay myself--
Puff--it is gone. You, Master Becket, you
That owe to me your power over me--
Brother of France, you have taken, cherish'd him
Who thief-like fled from his own church by night,
No man pursuing. I would have had him back.
Take heed he do not turn and rend you too:
For whatsoever may displease him--that
Is clean against God's honour--a shift, a trick
Whereby to challenge, face me out of all
My regal rights. Yet, yet--that none may dream
I go against God's honour--ay, or himself
In any reason, choose
A hundred of the wisest heads from England,
A hundred, too, from Normandy and Anjou:
Let these decide on what was customary
In olden days, and all the Church of France
Decide on their decision, I am content
More, what the mightiest and the holiest
Of all his predecessors may have done
Ev'n to the least and meanest of my own,
Let him do the same to me--I am content.
Ay, ay! the King humbles himself enough.
(_Aside_) Words! he will wriggle out of them like an eel
When the time serves. (_Aloud_.) My lieges and my lords,
The thanks of Holy Church are due to those
That went before us for their work, which we
Inheriting reap an easier harvest. Yet--
My lord, will you be greater than the Saints,
More than St. Peter? whom--what is it you doubt?
Behold your peace at hand.
I say that those
Who went before us did not wholly clear
The deadly growths of earth, which Hell's own heat
So dwelt on that they rose and darken'd Heaven.
Yet they did much. Would God they had torn up all
By the hard root, which shoots again; our trial
Had so been less; but, seeing they were men
Defective or excessive, must we follow
All that they overdid or underdid?
Nay, if they were defective as St. Peter
Denying Christ, who yet defied the tyrant,
We hold by his defiance, not his defect.
O good son Louis, do not counsel me,
No, to suppress God's honour for the sake
Of any king that breathes. No, God forbid!
No! God forbid! and turn me Mussulman!
No God but one, and Mahound is his prophet.
But for your Christian, look you, you shall have
None other God but me--me, Thomas, son
Of Gilbert Becket, London merchant. Out!
I hear no more. [_Exit_.
Our brother's anger puts him,
Poor man, beside himself--not wise. My lord,
We have claspt your cause, believing that our brother
Had wrong'd you; but this day he proffer'd peace.
You will have war; and tho' we grant the Church
King over this world's kings, yet, my good lord,
We that are kings are something in this world,
And so we pray you, draw yourself from under
The wings of France. We shelter you no more.
JOHN OF OXFORD.
I am glad that France hath scouted him at last:
I told the Pope what manner of man he was.
ROGER OF YORK.
Yea, since he flouts the will of either realm,
Let either cast him away like a dead dog!
Yea, let a stranger spoil his heritage,
And let another take his bishoprick!
Our castle, my lord, belongs to Canterbury.
I pray you come and take it. [_Exit_.
When you will.
Cursed be John of Oxford, Roger of York,
And Gilbert Foliot! cursed those De Brocs
That hold our Saltwood Castle from our see!
Cursed Fitzurse, and all the rest of them
That sow this hate between my lord and me!
_Voices from the Crowd_.
Blessed be the Lord Archbishop, who hath withstood two Kings to their
faces for the honour of God.
Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, praise!
I thank you, sons; when kings but hold by crowns,
The crowd that hungers for a crown in Heaven
Is my true king.
Thy true King bad thee be
A fisher of men; thou hast them in thy net.
I am too like the King here; both of us
Too headlong for our office. Better have been
A fisherman at Bosham, my good Herbert,
Thy birthplace--the sea-creek--the petty rill
That falls into it--the green field--the gray church--
The simple lobster-basket, and the mesh--
The more or less of daily labour done--
The pretty gaping bills in the home-nest
Piping for bread--the daily want supplied--
The daily pleasure to supply it.
You had not borne it, no, not for a day.
Well, maybe, no.
But bear with Walter Map,
For here he comes to comment on the time.
_Enter_ WALTER MAP.
Pity, my lord, that you have quenched the warmth of France toward you,
tho' His Holiness, after much smouldering and smoking, be kindled
again upon your quarter.
Ay, if he do not end in smoke again.
My lord, the fire, when first kindled, said to the smoke, 'Go up, my
son, straight to Heaven.' And the smoke said, 'I go;' but anon the
North-east took and turned him South-west, then the South-west turned
him North-east, and so of the other winds; but it was in him to go up
straight if the time had been quieter. Your lordship affects the
unwavering perpendicular; but His Holiness, pushed one way by the
Empire and another by England, if he move at all, Heaven stay him, is
fain to diagonalise.
Diagonalise! thou art a word-monger!
Our Thomas never will diagonalise.
Thou art a jester and a verse-maker.
Is the world any the worse for my verses if the Latin rhymes be rolled
out from a full mouth? or any harm done to the people if my jest be in
defence of the Truth?
Ay, if the jest be so done that the people
Delight to wallow in the grossness of it,
Till Truth herself be shamed of her defender.
_Non defensoribus istis_, Walter Map.
Is that my case? so if the city be sick, and I cannot call the kennel
sweet, your lordship would suspend me from verse-writing, as you
suspended yourself after subwriting to the customs.
I pray God pardon mine infirmity.
Nay, my lord, take heart; for tho' you suspended yourself, the Pope
let you down again; and tho' you suspend Foliot or another, the Pope
will not leave them in suspense, for the Pope himself is always in
suspense, like Mahound's coffin hung between heaven and earth--always
in suspense, like the scales, till the weight of Germany or the gold
of England brings one of them down to the dust--always in suspense,
like the tail of the horologe--to and fro--tick-tack--we make the
time, we keep the time, ay, and we serve the time; for I have heard
say that if you boxed the Pope's ears with a purse, you might stagger
him, but he would pocket the purse. No saying of mine--Jocelyn of
Salisbury. But the King hath bought half the College of Red-hats. He
warmed to you to-day, and you have chilled him again. Yet you both
love God. Agree with him quickly again, even for the sake of the
Church. My one grain of good counsel which you will not swallow. I
hate a split between old friendships as I hate the dirty gap in the
face of a Cistercian monk, that will swallow anything. Farewell.
Map scoffs at Rome. I all but hold with Map.
Save for myself no Rome were left in England,
All had been his. Why should this Rome, this Rome,
Still choose Barabbas rather than the Christ,
Absolve the left-hand thief and damn the right?
Take fees of tyranny, wink at sacrilege,
Which even Peter had not dared? condemn
The blameless exile?--
Thee, thou holy Thomas!
I would that thou hadst been the Holy Father.
I would have done my most to keep Rome holy,
I would have made Rome know she still is Rome--
Who stands aghast at her eternal self
And shakes at mortal kings--her vacillation,
Avarice, craft--O God, how many an innocent
Has left his bones upon the way to Rome
Unwept, uncared for. Yea--on mine own self
The King had had no power except for Rome.
'Tis not the King who is guilty of mine exile,
But Rome, Rome, Rome!
My lord, I see this Louis
Returning, ah! to drive thee from his realm.
He said as much before. Thou art no prophet,
Nor yet a prophet's son.
Whatever he say,
Deny not thou God's honour for a king.
The King looks troubled.
_Re-enter_ KING LOUIS.
My dear lord Archbishop,
I learn but now that those poor Poitevins,
That in thy cause were stirr'd against King Henry,
Have been, despite his kingly promise given
To our own self of pardon, evilly used
And put to pain. I have lost all trust in him.
The Church alone hath eyes--and now I see
That I was blind--suffer the phrase--surrendering
God's honour to the pleasure of a man.
Forgive me and absolve me, holy father. [_Kneels_.
Son, I absolve thee in the name of God.
Return to Sens, where we will care for you.
The wine and wealth of all our France are yours;
Rest in our realm, and be at peace with all.
_Voices from the Crowd_.
Long live the good King Louis! God bless the great Archbishop!
_Re-enter_ HENRY _and_ JOHN OF OXFORD.
HENRY (_looking after_ KING LOUIS _and_ BECKET).
Ay, there they go--both backs are turn'd to me--
Why then I strike into my former path
For England, crown young Henry there, and make
Our waning Eleanor all but love me!
Thou hast served me heretofore with Rome--and well.
They call thee John the Swearer.
JOHN OF OXFORD.
For this reason,
That, being ever duteous to the King,
I evermore have sworn upon his side,
And ever mean to do it.
HENRY (_claps him on the shoulder_).
To Rome again! the storm begins again.
Spare not thy tongue! be lavish with our coins,
Threaten our junction with the Emperor--flatter
And fright the Pope--bribe all the Cardinals--leave
Lateran and Vatican in one dust of gold--
Swear and unswear, state and misstate thy best!
I go to have young Henry crown'd by York.
SCENE I.--_The Bower_. HENRY _and_ ROSAMUND.
All that you say is just. I cannot answer it
Till better times, when I shall put away--
What will you put away?
That which you ask me
Till better times. Let it content you now
There is no woman that I love so well.
No woman but should be content with that--
And one fair child to fondle!
O yes, the child
We waited for so long--heaven's gift at last--
And how you doated on him then! To-day
I almost fear'd your kiss was colder--yes--
But then the child _is_ such a child. What chance
That he should ever spread into the man
Here in our silence? I have done my best.
I am not learn'd.
I am the King, his father,
And I will look to it. Is our secret ours?
Have you had any alarm? no stranger?
The warder of the bower hath given himself
Of late to wine. I sometimes think he sleeps
When he should watch; and yet what fear? the people
Believe the wood enchanted. No one comes,
Nor foe nor friend; his fond excess of wine
Springs from the loneliness of my poor bower,
Which weighs even on me.
Yet these tree-towers,
Their long bird-echoing minster-aisles,--the voice
Of the perpetual brook, these golden slopes
Of Solomon-shaming flowers--that was your saying,
All pleased you so at first.
Not now so much.
My Anjou bower was scarce as beautiful.
But you were oftener there. I have none but you.
The brook's voice is not yours, and no flower, not
The sun himself, should he be changed to one,
Could shine away the darkness of that gap
Left by the lack of love.
The lack of love!
Of one we love. Nay, I would not be bold,
Yet hoped ere this you might--
[_Looks earnestly at him_.
Only my best bower-maiden died of late,
And that old priest whom John of Salisbury trusted
Hath sent another.
I but ask'd her
One question, and she primm'd her mouth and put
Her hands together--thus--and said, God help her,
That she was sworn to silence.
What did you ask her?
Some daily something--nothing.
I do not love her. Must you go, my liege,
I came to England suddenly,
And on a great occasion sure to wake
As great a wrath in Becket--
He always comes between us.
--And to meet it
I needs must leave as suddenly. It is raining,
Put on your hood and see me to the bounds.
MARGERY (_singing behind scene_).
Babble in bower
Under the rose!
Bee mustn't buzz,
Whoop--but he knows.
Kiss me, little one,
Whoop--you can hear.
Kiss in the bower,
Tit on the tree!
Bird mustn't tell,
Whoop--he can see.
I ha' been but a week here and I ha' seen what I ha' seen, for to be
sure it's no more than a week since our old Father Philip that has
confessed our mother for twenty years, and she was hard put to it, and
to speak truth, nigh at the end of our last crust, and that mouldy,
and she cried out on him to put me forth in the world and to make me a
woman of the world, and to win my own bread, whereupon he asked our
mother if I could keep a quiet tongue i' my head, and not speak till I
was spoke to, and I answered for myself that I never spoke more than
was needed, and he told me he would advance me to the service of a
great lady, and took me ever so far away, and gave me a great pat o'
the cheek for a pretty wench, and said it was a pity to blindfold such
eyes as mine, and such to be sure they be, but he blinded 'em for all
that, and so brought me no-hows as I may say, and the more shame to
him after his promise, into a garden and not into the world, and bad
me whatever I saw not to speak one word, an' it 'ud be well for me in
the end, for there were great ones who would look after me, and to be
sure I ha' seen great ones to-day--and then not to speak one word, for
that's the rule o' the garden, tho' to be sure if I had been Eve i'
the garden I shouldn't ha' minded the apple, for what's an apple, you
know, save to a child, and I'm no child, but more a woman o the world
than my lady here, and I ha' seen what I ha' seen--tho' to be sure if
I hadn't minded it we should all on us ha' had to go, bless the
Saints, wi' bare backs, but the backs 'ud ha' countenanced one
another, and belike it 'ud ha' been always summer, and anyhow I am as
well-shaped as my lady here, and I ha' seen what I ha' seen, and
what's the good of my talking to myself, for here comes my lady
(_enter_ ROSAMUND), and, my lady, tho' I shouldn't speak one word, I
wish you joy o' the King's brother.
What is it you mean?
I mean your goodman, your husband, my lady, for I saw your ladyship
a-parting wi' him even now i' the coppice, when I was a-getting o'
bluebells for your ladyship's nose to smell on--and I ha' seen the
King once at Oxford, and he's as like the King as fingernail to
fingernail, and I thought at first it was the King, only you know the
King's married, for King Louis--
Years and years, my lady, for her husband, King Louis--
--And I thought if it were the King's brother he had a better bride
than the King, for the people do say that his is bad beyond all
The people lie.
Very like, my lady, but most on 'em know an honest woman and a lady
when they see her, and besides they say, she makes songs, and that's
against her, for I never knew an honest woman that could make songs,
tho' to be sure our mother 'ill sing me old songs by the hour, but
then, God help her, she had 'em from her mother, and her mother from
her mother back and back for ever so long, but none on 'em ever made
songs, and they were all honest.
Go, you shall tell me of her some other time.
There's none so much to tell on her, my lady, only she kept the
seventh commandment better than some I know on, or I couldn't look
your ladyship i' the face, and she brew'd the best ale in all
Glo'ster, that is to say in her time when she had the 'Crown.'
The crown! who?
I mean her whom you call--fancy--my husband's brother's wife.
Oh, Queen Eleanor. Yes, my lady; and tho' I be sworn not to speak a
word, I can tell you all about her, if----
No word now. I am faint and sleepy. Leave me.
Nay--go. What! will you anger me.
He charged me not to question any of those
About me. Have I? no! she question'd _me_.
Did she not slander _him_? Should she stay here?
May she not tempt me, being at my side,
To question _her_? Nay, can I send her hence
Without his kingly leave! I am in the dark.
I have lived, poor bird, from cage to cage, and known
Nothing but him--happy to know no more,
So that he loved me--and he loves me--yes,
And bound me by his love to secrecy
Till his own time.
Eleanor, Eleanor, have I
Not heard ill things of her in France? Oh, she's
The Queen of France. I see it--some confusion,
Some strange mistake. I did not hear aright,
Myself confused with parting from the King.
MARGERY (_behind scene_).
Bee mustn't buzz,
Whoop--but he knows.
Yet her--what her? he hinted of some her--
When he was here before--
Something that would displease me. Hath he stray'd
From love's clear path into the common bush,
And, being scratch'd, returns to his true rose,
Who hath not thorn enough to prick him for it,
Ev'n with a word?
MARGERY (_behind scene_).
Bird mustn't tell,
Whoop--he can see.
I would not hear him. Nay--there's more--he frown'd
'No mate for her, if it should come to that'--
To that--to what?
MARGERY (_behind scene_).
Whoop--but he knows,
Whoop--but he knows.
O God! some dreadful truth is breaking on me--
Some dreadful thing is coming on me.
What are you crying for, when the sun shines?
Hath not thy father left us to ourselves?
Ay, but he's taken the rain with him. I hear
Margery: I'll go play with her. [_Exit_ GEOFFREY.
Gleam upon gloom,
Bright as my dream,
But it passes away,
Gloom upon gleam,
Dark as my doom--
O rainbow stay.
SCENE II.--_Outside the Woods near_ ROSAMUND'S _Bower_.
Up from the salt lips of the land we two
Have track'd the King to this dark inland wood;
And somewhere hereabouts he vanish'd. Here
His turtle builds: his exit is our adit:
Watch! he will out again, and presently,
Seeing he must to Westminster and crown
Young Henry there to-morrow.
We have watch'd
So long in vain, he hath pass'd out again,
And on the other side. [_A great horn winded_.
How ghostly sounds that horn in the black wood!
[_A countryman flying_.
Whither away, man? what are you flying from?
The witch! the witch! she sits naked by a great heap of gold in the
middle of the wood, and when the horn sounds she comes out as a wolf.
Get you hence! a man passed in there to-day: I holla'd to him, but he
didn't hear me: he'll never out again, the witch has got him. I
daren't stay--I daren't stay!
Kind of the witch to give thee warning tho'.
Is not this wood-witch of the rustic's fear
Our woodland Circe that hath witch'd the King?
[_Horn sounded. Another flying_.
Again! stay, fool, and tell me why thou fliest.
Fly thou too. The King keeps his forest head of game here, and when
that horn sounds, a score of wolf-dogs are let loose that will tear
thee piecemeal. Linger not till the third horn. Fly!
This is the likelier tale. We have hit the place.
Now let the King's fine game look to itself. [_Horn_.
And far on in the dark heart of the wood
I hear the yelping of the hounds of hell.
I have my dagger here to still their throats.
Nay, Madam, not to-night--the night is falling.
What can be done to-night?
SCENE III.--_Traitor's Meadow at Freteval. Pavilions and Tents of the
English and French Baronage_. BECKET _and_ HERBERT OF BOSHAM.
A notice from the priest,
To whom our John of Salisbury committed
The secret of the bower, that our wolf-Queen
Is prowling round the fold. I should be back
In England ev'n for this.
These are by-things
In the great cause.
The by-things of the Lord
Are the wrong'd innocences that will cry
From all the hidden by-ways of the world
In the great day against the wronger. I know
Thy meaning. Perish she, I, all, before
The Church should suffer wrong!
Do you see, my lord,
There is the King talking with Walter Map?
He hath the Pope's last letters, and they threaten
The immediate thunder-blast of interdict:
Yet he can scarce be touching upon those,
Or scarce would smile that fashion.
Beware of opening out thy bosom to it,
Lest thou, myself, and all thy flock should catch
An after ague-fit of trembling. Look!
He bows, he bares his head, he is coming hither.
Still with a smile.
_Enter_ KING HENRY _and_ WALTER MAP.
We have had so many hours together, Thomas,
So many happy hours alone together,
That I would speak with you once more alone.
My liege, your will and happiness are mine.
[_Exeunt_ KING _and_ BECKET.
The same smile still.
Do you see that great black cloud that hath come over the sun and cast
us all into shadow?
And feel it too.
And see you yon side-beam that is forced from under it, and sets the
church-tower over there all a-hell-fire as it were?
It is this black, bell-silencing, anti-marrying, burial-hindering
interdict that hath squeezed out this side-smile upon Canterbury,
whereof may come conflagration. Were I Thomas, I wouldn't trust it.
Sudden change is a house on sand; and tho' I count Henry honest
enough, yet when fear creeps in at the front, honesty steals out at
the back, and the King at last is fairly scared by this cloud--this
interdict. I have been more for the King than the Church in this
matter--yea, even for the sake of the Church: for, truly, as the case
stood, you had safelier have slain an archbishop than a she-goat: but
our recoverer and upholder of customs hath in this crowning of young
Henry by York and London so violated the immemorial usage of the
Church, that, like the gravedigger's child I have heard of, trying to
ring the bell, he hath half-hanged himself in the rope of the Church,
or rather pulled all the Church with the Holy Father astride of it
down upon his own head.
Were you there?
In the church rope?--no. I was at the crowning, for I have pleasure in
the pleasure of crowds, and to read the faces of men at a great show.
And how did Roger of York comport himself?
As magnificently and archiepiscopally as our Thomas would have done:
only there was a dare-devil in his eye--I should say a dare-Becket. He
thought less of two kings than of one Roger the king of the occasion.
Foliot is the holier man, perhaps the better. Once or twice there ran
a twitch across his face as who should say what's to follow? but
Salisbury was a calf cowed by Mother Church, and every now and then
glancing about him like a thief at night when he hears a door open in
the house and thinks 'the master.'
And the father-king?
The father's eye was so tender it would have called a goose off the
green, and once he strove to hide his face, like the Greek king when
his daughter was sacrificed, but he thought better of it: it was but
the sacrifice of a kingdom to his son, a smaller matter; but as to the
young crownling himself, he looked so malapert in the eyes, that had I
fathered him I had given him more of the rod than the sceptre. Then
followed the thunder of the captains and the shouting, and so we came
on to the banquet, from whence there puffed out such an incense of
unctuosity into the nostrils of our Gods of Church and State, that
Lucullus or Apicius might have sniffed it in their Hades of
heathenism, so that the smell of their own roast had not come across
Map, tho' you make your butt too big, you overshoot it.
--For as to the fish, they de-miracled the miraculous draught, and
might have sunk a navy--
There again, Goliasing and Goliathising!
--And as for the flesh at table, a whole Peter's sheet, with all
manner of game, and four-footed things, and fowls--
And all manner of creeping things too?
--Well, there were Abbots--but they did not bring their women; and so
we were dull enough at first, but in the end we flourished out into a
merriment; for the old King would act servitor and hand a dish to his
son; whereupon my Lord of York--his fine-cut face bowing and beaming
with all that courtesy which hath less loyalty in it than the backward
scrape of the clown's heel--'great honour,' says he, 'from the King's
self to the King's son.' Did you hear the young King's quip?
No, what was it?
Glancing at the days when his father was only Earl of Anjou, he
answered:--'Should not an earl's son wait on a king's son?' And when
the cold corners of the King's mouth began to thaw, there was a great
motion of laughter among us, part real, part childlike, to be freed
from the dulness--part royal, for King and kingling both laughed, and
so we could not but laugh, as by a royal necessity--part childlike
again--when we felt we had laughed too long and could not stay
ourselves--many midriff-shaken even to tears, as springs gush out
after earthquakes--but from those, as I said before, there may come a
conflagration--tho', to keep the figure moist and make it hold water,
I should say rather, the lacrymation of a lamentation; but look if
Thomas have not flung himself at the King's feet. They have made it up
again--for the moment.
Thanks to the blessed Magdalen, whose day it is.
_Re-enter_ HENRY _and_ BECKET. (_During their conference
the_ BARONS _and_ BISHOPS _of_ FRANCE _and_ ENGLAND _come
in at back of stage_.)
Ay, King! for in thy kingdom, as thou knowest,
The spouse of the Great King, thy King, hath fallen--
The daughter of Zion lies beside the way--
The priests of Baal tread her underfoot--
The golden ornaments are stolen from her--
Have I not promised to restore her, Thomas,
And send thee back again to Canterbury?
Send back again those exiles of my kin
Who wander famine-wasted thro' the world.
Have I not promised, man, to send them back?
Yet one thing more. Thou hast broken thro' the pales
Of privilege, crowning thy young son by York,
London and Salisbury--not Canterbury.
York crown'd the Conqueror--not Canterbury.
There was no Canterbury in William's time.
But Hereford, you know, crown'd the first Henry.
But Anselm crown'd this Henry o'er again.
And thou shalt crown my Henry o'er again.
And is it then with thy good-will that I
Proceed against thine evil councillors,
And hurl the dread ban of the Church on those
Who made the second mitre play the first,
And acted me?
Well, well, then--have thy way!
It may be they were evil councillors.
What more, my lord Archbishop? What more, Thomas?
I make thee full amends. Say all thy say,
But blaze not out before the Frenchmen here.
More? Nothing, so thy promise be thy deed.
HENRY (_holding out his hand_).
Give me thy hand. My Lords of France and England,
My friend of Canterbury and myself
Are now once more at perfect amity.
Unkingly should I be, and most unknightly,
Not striving still, however much in vain,
To rival him in Christian charity.
All praise to Heaven, and sweet St. Magdalen!
And so farewell until we meet in England.
I fear, my liege, we may not meet in England.
How, do you make me a traitor?
That be far from thee.
Come, stay with us, then,
Before you part for England.
I am bound
For that one hour to stay with good King Louis,
Who helpt me when none else.
He said thy life
Was not one hour's worth in England save
King Henry gave thee first the kiss of peace.
He said so? Louis, did he? look you, Herbert.
When I was in mine anger with King Louis,
I sware I would not give the kiss of peace,
Not on French ground, nor any ground but English,
Where his cathedral stands. Mine old friend, Thomas,
I would there were that perfect trust between us,
That health of heart, once ours, ere Pope or King
Had come between us! Even now--who knows?--
I might deliver all things to thy hand--
If ... but I say no more ... farewell, my lord.
Farewell, my liege!
[_Exit_ HENRY, _then the_ BARONS _and_ BISHOPS.
There again! when the full fruit of the royal promise might have dropt
into thy mouth hadst thou but opened it to thank him.
He fenced his royal promise with an _if_.
And is the King's _if_ too high a stile for your lordship to overstep
and come at all things in the next field?
Ay, if this _if_ be like the Devil's '_if_
Thou wilt fall down and worship me.'
I could fall down and worship thee, my Thomas,
For thou hast trodden this wine-press alone.
Nay, of the people there are many with me.
I am not altogether with you, my lord, tho' I am none of those that
would raise a storm between you, lest ye should draw together like two
ships in a calm. You wrong the King: he meant what he said to-day. Who
shall vouch for his to-morrows? One word further. Doth not the
_fewness_ of anything make the fulness of it in estimation? Is not
virtue prized mainly for its rarity and great baseness loathed as an
exception: for were all, my lord, as noble as yourself, who would look
up to you? and were all as base as--who shall I say--Fitzurse and his
following--who would look down upon them? My lord, you have put so
many of the King's household out of communion, that they begin to
smile at it.
At their peril, at their peril--
--For tho' the drop may hollow out the dead stone,
doth not the living skin thicken against perpetual whippings?
This is the second grain of good counsel I
ever proffered thee, and so cannot suffer by the rule of
frequency. Have I sown it in salt? I trust not, for
before God I promise you the King hath many more
wolves than he can tame in his woods of England, and
if it suit their purpose to howl for the King, and you
still move against him, you may have no less than to
die for it; but God and his free wind grant your lordship
a happy home-return and the King's kiss of peace
in Kent. Farewell! I must follow the King.
Ay, and I warrant the customs. Did the King
Speak of the customs?
No!--To die for it--
I live to die for it, I die to live for it.
The State will die, the Church can never die.
The King's not like to die for that which dies;
But I must die for that which never dies.
It will be so--my visions in the Lord:
It must be so, my friend! the wolves of England
Must murder her one shepherd, that the sheep
May feed in peace. False figure, Map would say.
Earth's falses are heaven's truths. And when my voice
Is martyr'd mute, and this man disappears,
That perfect trust may come again between us,
And there, there, there, not here I shall rejoice
To find my stray sheep back within the fold.
The crowd are scattering, let us move away!
And thence to England.
Back to Full Books