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Go while you may.
Vengeance will reach him yet.
Friar. And now he summons to his couch of pain
Your ministering prayer.
I come to him.
Chamber in St. Gervas Monastery. William dying.
William. Where is my sou—my William ?
Gone in baste
To cross to England and to seize the Crown.
William. The Crown ! and I alive ? Call Henry hither.
Attendant. He's gone, sire, with the coin your Highness gave.
William. And left me thus ! Bear witness, noble Knights,-
Come nearer, I would see you while I speak,
Why come you not, and stand before my sight?
Attendant. Sire, all have left you : all but only I.
William. I could have borne it all—but my two sons !
If they had left my side in battle thus,
The Headsman had unspurred them with his axe !
And now I face this Enemy alone !
This Death, whose icy hand is on my throat,
And none comes to the rescue.-Arms ! Sir Knave,
My cuirass of bright steel ; my shining greaves
My sword, my gauntlets. Let me meet the foe
As fits my name, not idly, like a monk
Dreaming his dream of life till death awakes him.
Quick !-or I perish.—See you how he stands
With eyeless socket fixed upon my face,
And a proud smile upon his bony lips ?
Yield me to ransom ? Ha! my arm is chilled, -
I cannot fight, but I've no craven cry,
I yield not
Wolfstan (who has entered noiselessly).
Soh! The fantom fades,
I breathe again. Who speaks ?
The holy priest
Rich with deep prayer from Gervas inper shrine.
William. Why came you not ere this? Your solemn presence
Might have dispelled these shadows, like the sun.
Wolfstan. They are not shadows.
There's a tone i the voice
That racks me. There is English on your tongue.
Wolfstan. And in my heart.
I will not have your prayers !
They will not reach to heaven, clogged with the hate
That weighs them down.
How know you that I hate ?
Wiúiam. All hate me -all; the ruddy cheeked young
child That lisps its broken words, the grey haired man That staggers in his speech from weary age,
All join in hate to me. The very maids
Who love all else by the compelling force
Of sixteen summers mellowing all their thoughts
Curse me,—and call me tyrant.
Say they falsely
Who name you thus ? Look in ward ere you speak.
William. There is a bitter taunting in your words, –
Have you no comfort for a tortured man,
Whose soul is sick to death, and needs your help ;
Not that you sting him with those maddening eyes !
Wolfstan. What ! you'd have soothing words to clear your path
To heaven, as heralds to your kingly state ?
Think, king! now reft of crown! Think, bloody man,
Of what a naked grovelling thing you are !
And ask no pardon till you've purchased peace.
William. I have enriched our holy mother church, With wealth so vast that gold fills every shrine.
Wolfstan. Blasphemous gold, that fills the shrine with curses.
William. There's not a plain in all our English realm
But shall be studded with majestic towers,
To watch upon its peace.
Chantries shall rise
In every dell ; I've poured my guarded wealth
In a rich flood, at shrine of every saint
Whoe'er drew English breath.
They'll spurn the wealth
Wrung from their country's blood. Have you no thought
Of sins no gold can cover ? Life fleets fast
From you—from me—this meeting is our last,
Answer me quickly.
A film is on my eye,
I cannot see you, yet I hear your voice
And shake beneath it. Have we met ere now?
William. Where ?
Where a red flame rose up to heaven
From a lone cottage in a forest dell,
And lust and murder held their revelry.
William. I would that Forest ne'er had stretched its bounds, Nor trenched upon the homes of living men.
Wolfstan. Have you forgot that pleasant eve in June,
When your array burst in with jubilant cries
On the small circle, cleared from bush and tree,
Where stood a cottage near a babbling brook ?
William. There were so many--and I fired them all.
Wolfstan. But this the blackest of your deeds of shame.
When rose from his stone bench beside the door
A grey haired man, and held his withered hands
pray for pity, and with faltering voice
Claimed for his own the land where he was born,
Where all his fathers lived, from Alfred's days,-
With a brief nod you cut his pleadings short,
And a fierce Norman murderer earned your thanks,
By pityless stabs in that old grandsire's breast.
Then from the cottage rushed a maiden forth,
As if the bursting flames had leapt to shape,
And clothed an angel in their blinding glow,
So bright, so dazzling in her beautiful fear,
That there was pause among the murderous crew,
Till with a cry she saw her grandsire slain,
And fell, a white insensate form of snow,
Prone on his breast, till all the oozing blood
Dabbled her stainless robes and sunbright hair.
Then-William, --Conqueror,-tyrant,-fiend of hell !
What then ?-You still have memory of that time ?
William. Pardon-oh! pardon-let me die in silence.
Wolfstan. No—the last sound that fills your failing ear
Shall be my voice. Your hapless victim died,
By heaven's great gift, unconscious of her wrong,
Spotless in soul, and by her corpse I knelt,
Lifting my hands in the great eye of heaven,
And swore to be revenged. Day after day
In my lone cell I've thought upon that oath,
And nearer, nearer my revenge approached.
I heard it coming in the silent hours ;
I felt its breath upon me as I lay
In lonely vigils. And my sister's voice,
Her's—that lone girl's-was mingled with its words.
We are alone, oh! King
Have mercy, father !
Wolfstan. No! 'Tis for this I've waited ; here we stand
In preseuce, as we stood, a stripling I,
You a great king, gorged with success and blood ;
You spurned me, you denied the pity I claimed.
Once more we are together.---a foul thing,
Hated, deserted, lonely, powerless, you—
I, the relentless angel of your doom !
Unpitied, unforgiven, unconfessed,
Hopeless, despairing you descend to dust;
And I, that in this hand can lift the blessing
Of Holy Church, and shrive you of your sins,
That in this palm carry the peace of heaven-
William. Oh! pardon--priest, or leave me. Let that peace
Fall on my head !
I clutch my fingers thus,
And keep that blessing in my sinewy grasp.
See ! my shut fingers doom you to despair.
William. Is there no hope ? give but one little sign,
My eyes are failing, spread your pardoning fingers,
I shudder at your close shut hand.
SCENE THIRD. Burial Ground at Caen. A Coffin lying beside an open Grave.
Enter Friar Eustace and four l'easants. Friar. Death sheds to holiness around this man,
Toil-wearied boors who met us on the way
Cross'd them, in terror of his evil name ;
But not a bonnet rose in reverence
To him that was a king.
Father, we hope
You've not been sparing of the holy water
Upon these coffin boards.
I fear to touch them,
They say the dead man was a murderer.
Friar. He was the mightiest Conqueror earth e'er saw, And ruled the greatest kingdoms of the world.
Peasant. Howbeit he was a murderer I've heard tell
And little good his conquests do him now.
Friar. The Holy Abbot promised to be here
At noon-to bless the grave. Draw near, my friends,
And lift the bier.
Woe! woe to all ! forbear!
Peasant. 'Tis Asselyn Fitzarthur crazed and poor,
Speak to him, father.
Look where curls the smoke
Down in the dell,—see how in snaky folds
It coils around the hamlet, pushing forth
A lapping tongue of flame from roof and window.
Peasant. 'Tis truth he speaks, there's fire o'er all the town.
[An alarum bell is rung.
Asselyn. Aye, ring the alarum, 'tis a jubilee day,
And flames are but the ministers of heaven,
To purify the air from so much woe,
As this foul murderer brings-burst forth, ye fires,
Upsent from the abyss, to write his name
In scorching ruin on the blackened sky!
Come vultures, sit upon his breast and croon
Your songs of rapine! Leave the bloated corpse
To waste into the elements, nor stain
Earth's bosom with its noisome pestilence.
Fly! for your dwellings burn,-roof, wall, and floor,
You cannot quench them, not if all the blood
Shed by this Conqueror, gushed in one full tide
Mid the hot embers.
May I lift the lid
And gaze upon the dead ?
No-back a space,
[The reflection of the frame is seen. The bell tolls continually.
Here comes the Abbot-scarce his holy words
Can reach us mid the clamours of that bell.
Abbot. Quick ! brother Eustace, into sacred earth
Lay the deserted body of the king.
Death has assoiled him of the darkening crimes,
That barred the Church's blessing while he breathed.
Asselyn. Stop! I command you. Here I plant my foot
Op soil that was my own,-it held my cradle,
It held my fathers' graves ; but swollen in pride,
The man you'd bury, dashed me from my home,
Seized my rich fields, and raised this hallowed fane
As if in mockery on my ravaged land.
I claim it-I debar you from the grave,
Till Justice makes it his, and his heaped treasures
Ransom the soil from Asselyn and his line.
Abbot. This is no time for bargain and for sale,
Let dust, I pray, return to dust in peace,
And take this purse in quittance of your claim.
Asselyn. 'Tis but these narrow feet of burial soil
I quit for this poor coin. These fields are mine,
These upland levels—these ancestral trees,
Are Asselyn's again !-Unwept, unhonoured,
Sink! a forgotten thing into the ground,
Where once your step was proudest.-
After long tempest let him rest at last,
And Heaven in mercy look upon his sins.
[They put the coffin hurriedly into the grave and disperse.
42.-CHARACTER OF WILLIAM THE CONQUEROR.
From the Penny Cyclopædia.' The character of the Conqueror has been graphically sketched by the Saxon chronicler from personal knowledge—' For we looked on him,' says the writer, ‘and some while lived in his herd (on his hirede).' The feature that had chiefly impressed itself upon this close observer was what he calls his starkness, by which he seems to mean his unbending strength of will and firmness or tenacity of purpose. Thrce times in the course of his description he remarks this. But while he was stark beyond all measure, and very savage to those who withstood him, the honest chronicler states, on the other hand, that he was mild to good men who loved God, and that he was a very wise man, as well as very rich, and more worthful and strong than any of his ancestors. William indeed was far from being all devil, any more than his father (Robert le Diable), whom he seems to have a good deal resembled, and who was complimented by his contemporaries with the epithet of the Magnificent, as well as with the other expressive surname by which he is commonly remembered. With all his ferocity, William evinced throughout his life a reverence both for the ordinances and the ministers of religion; and, although he would not suffer either his clergy or the pope to erect within his kingdom an ecclesiastical dominion separate from and independent of that of the crown, he showed himself anxious on all occasions to maintain the respectability of the church by promoting able men to the chief places in it, as well as by upholding it in its legal rights and powers. That he was eminently endowed with the qualities, both moral and intellectual, that raise men above their fellows, is abundantly proved by what he did. Few men have projected the influence of their genius across so wide an expanse both of time and space as the founder of the Norman dynasty in England. In moral disposition William was passionate and ruthless; but he does not appear to have been vindictive, nor even, properly speaking, cruel or bloodthirsty, notwithstanding the destructive character of some of his military operations. There was nothing weak, nothing little about this great king. In his latter