NOW FIRST COLLECTED
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HISTORICAL, CRITICAL, AND EXPLANATORY,
A LIFE OF THE AUTHOR,
WALTER SCOTT, ESQ.
PRINTED FOR WILLIAM MILLER, ALBEMARLE STREET,
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The Duke of Guise, a Tragedy Epistle Dedicatory to the Earl of Rochester The Vindication of the Duke of Guise
Albion and Albanius, an Opera Preface
Don Sebastian, a Tragedy Epistle Dedicatory to the Earl of Leicester Preface
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DUKE OF GUISE.
Outos de philotimoi physeis en tais politeiais to agan me phylaxamenai, toi agathou meizon to kakon echousi. PLUTARCH. IN AGESILAO.
THE DUKE OF GUISE.
In the latter part of Charles the Second's reign, the stage, as well as every other engine which could affect the popular mind, was eagerly employed in the service of the contending factions. Settle and Shadwell had, in tragedy and comedy, contributed their mite to the support of the popular cause. In the stormy session of parliament, in 1680, the famous bill was moved, for the exclusion of the Duke of York, as a papist, from the succession, and accompanied by others of a nature equally peremptory and determined. The most remarkable was a bill to order an association for the safety of his majesty's person, for defence of the protestant religion, for the preservation of the protestant liege subjects against invasion and opposition, and for preventing any papist from succeeding to the throne of England. To recommend these rigid measures, and to keep up that zealous hatred and terror of the catholic religion, which the plot had inspired, Settle wrote his forgotten tragedy of "Pope Joan," in which he revives the old fable of a female pope, and loads her with all the crimes of which a priest, or a woman, could possibly be guilty. Shadwell's comedy of the "Lancashire Witches" was levelled more immediately at the papists, but interspersed with most gross and scurrilous reflections upon the English divines of the high church party. Otway, Lee, and Dryden were the formidable antagonists, whom the court opposed to the whig poets. Thus arrayed and confronted, the stage absolutely foamed with politics; the prologues and epilogues, in particular formed channels, through which the tenets of the opposite parties were frequently assailed, and the persons of their leaders and their poets exposed to scandal and derision.
In the middle of these political broils, Dryden was called upon, as he informs us, by Lee, to return the assistance which that poet had afforded in composing "OEdipus." The history of the Duke of Guise had formerly occupied his attention, as an acceptable subject to the court after the Restoration. A League, formed under pretence of religion, and in defence of the king's authority, against his person, presented facilities of application to the late civil wars, to which, we may be sure, our poet was by no means insensible. But however apt these allusions might have been in 1665, the events which had taken place in 1681-2 admitted of a closer parallel, and excited a deeper interest. The unbounded power which Shaftesbury had acquired in the city of London, and its state of factious fermentation, had been equalled by nothing but the sway exercised by the leaders of the League in the metropolis of France. The intrigues by which the Council of Sixteen placed and displaced, flattered or libelled, those popular officers of Paris, whom the French call echevins, admitted of a direct and immediate comparison with the contest between the court and the whigs, for the election of the sheriffs of London; contests which attained so great violence, that, at one time, there was little reason to hope they would have terminated without bloodshed. The tumultuous day of the barricades, when Henry the second, after having in vain called in the assistance of his guards, was obliged to abandon his capital to the Duke of Guise and his faction, and assemble the states of his kingdom at Blois, was not entirely without a parallel in the annals of 1681. The violence of the parliament at London had led to its dissolution; and, in order to insure the tractability of their successors, they were assembled, by the king, at Oxford, where a concurrence of circumstances rendered the royal authority more paramount than in any other city of the kingdom. To this parliament the members came in an array, which more resembled the parliament of the White Bands, in the reign of Edward the second, than any that had since taken place. Yet, though armed, and attended by their retainers and the more ardent of their favourers, the leaders of opposition expressed their apprehensions of danger from the royal party. The sixteen whig peers, in their memorable petition against this removal, complained, that the parliament would at Oxford be exposed to the bloody machinations of the papists and their adherents, "of whom too many had crept into his majesty's guards." The aid of ballads and libellous prints was called in, to represent this alteration of the usual place of meeting as a manoeuvre to throw the parliament, its members, and its votes, at the feet of an arbitrary monarch. It is probable that this meeting, which rather resembled a Polish diet than a British parliament, would not have separated without some signal, and perhaps bloody catastrophe, if the political art of Halifax, who was at the head of the small moderate party, called Trimmers, joined to the reluctance of either faction to commence hostilities against an enemy as fully prepared as themselves, had not averted so eminent a crisis. In all particulars, excepting the actual assassination, the parliament of Oxford resembled the assembly of the States General at Blois. The general character of the Duke of Monmouth certainly had not many points of similarity to that of the Duke of Guise; but in one particular incident his conduct had been formed on that model, and it is an incident which makes a considerable figure in the tragedy. In September 1679, after the king's illness, Monmouth was disgraced, and obliged to leave the kingdom. He retired to Holland, where he resided until the intrigues of Shaftesbury assured him the support of a party so strongly popular, that he might return, in open defiance of the court. In the November following, he conceived his presence necessary to animate his partizans; and, without the king's permission for his return, he embarked at the Brill, and landed at London on the 27th, at midnight, where the tumultuous rejoicings of the popular party more than compensated for the obscurity of his departure. This bold step was, in all its circumstances, very similar to the return of the Duke of Guise from his government to Paris, against the express command of Henry the second, together with his reception by the populace, whom he came prepared to head in insurrection. Above all, the bill of exclusion bore a striking resemblance to the proceedings of the League against the King of Navarre, presumptive heir of the throne, whom, on account of his attachment to the protestant faith, they threatened to deprive of the succession.
The historical passages, corresponding in many particulars with such striking accuracy, offered an excellent groundwork for a political play, and the "Duke of Guise" was composed accordingly; Dryden making use of the scenes which he had formerly written on the subject, and Lee contributing the remainder, which he eked out by some scenes and speeches adopted from the "Massacre of Paris," then, lying by him in manuscript. The court, however, considered the representation of the piece as at least of dubious propriety. The parallel was capable of being so extended as to exhibit no very flattering picture of the king's politics; and, on the other hand, it is possible, that the fate of the Duke of Guise, as identified with Monmouth, might shock the feelings of Charles, and the justice of the audience.
Accordingly, we learn from the "Vindication," that the representation of the piece was prohibited; that it lay in the hands of the lord chamberlain (Henry Lord Arlington) from before mid-summer, 1682, till two months after that term; and that orders were not finally given for its being acted until the month of December in the same year. The king's tenderness for the Duke of Monmouth had by this time so far given way, that he had ordered his arrest at Stafford; and, from the dark preparations on both sides, it was obvious, that no measures were any longer to be kept betwixt them. All the motives of delicacy and prudence, which had prevented the representation of this obnoxious party performance, were now therefore annihilated or overlooked.
Our author's part of the "Duke of Guise" is important, though not of great extent, as his scenes contain some of the most striking political sketches. The debate of the Council of Sixteen, with which the play opens, was his composition; the whole of the fourth act, which makes him responsible for the alleged parallel betwixt Guise and Monmouth, and the ridicule cast upon the sheriffs and citizens of the popular party, with the first part of the fifth, which implicates him in vindicating the assassination of Guise. The character and sentiments of the king, in these scenes, are drawn very closely after Davila, as the reader will easily see, from the Italian original subjoined in the notes. That picturesque historian had indeed anticipated almost all that even a poet could do, in conveying a portraiture, equally minute and striking, of the stormy period which he had undertaken to describe; and, had his powers of description been inferior, it is probable, that Dryden, hampered as he was, by restraints of prudence and delicacy, would not have chosen to go far beyond the authority to which he referred the lord chamberlain. The language of the play, at least in these scenes, seldom rises above that of the higher tone of historical oratory; and the descriptions are almost literally taken from Davila, and thrown into beautiful verse. In the character of Marmoutiere, there seems to be an allusion to the duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth, whose influence was always, and sometimes successfully, used to detach her husband from the desperate schemes of Shaftesbury and Armstrong. The introduction of the necromancer, Malicorn, seems to refer to some artifices, by which the party of Monmouth endeavoured to call to their assistance the sanction of supernatural powers. The particular story of Malicorn is said to be taken from a narrative in Rosset's Histoires Tragiques, a work which the present editor has never seen. In the conference between Malicorn and Melanax, Dryden has made much use of his astrological knowledge; and its mystical terms give a solemnity to the spirit's predictions, which was probably deepened by the poet's secret belief in this visionary study. As he borrowed liberally from Davila in the other parts of the play, he has not here disdained to use the assistance of Pulci, from whose romantic poem he has translated one or two striking passages, as the reader will find upon consulting the notes. The last scene betwixt the necromancer and the fiend is horribly fine: the description of the approach of the Evil One, and the effect which his presence produces upon the attendants, the domestic animals, and the wizard himself, is an instance, amongst many, of the powerful interest which may be produced by a judicious appeal to the early prejudices of superstition. I may be pardoned, however, when I add, that such scenes are, in general, unfit for the stage, where the actual appearance of a demon is apt to excite emotions rather ludicrous than terrific. Accordingly, that of Dryden failed in the representation. The circumstance, upon which the destruction of the wizard turns, is rather puerile; but there are many similar fables in the annals of popular superstition.
Lee's part of this play is, in general, very well written, and contains less rant than he usually puts in the mouths of his characters.
The factions have been long at rest which were so deeply agitated by the first representation of this performance; yet some pains has been taken to trace those points of resemblance, which gave so much offence to one party, and triumph to the other. Many must doubtless have escaped our notice; but enough remains to shew the singular felicity with which Dryden, in the present instance, as in that of "Absalom and Achitophel," could adapt the narrative of ancient or foreign transactions to the political events of his own time, and "moralize two meanings in one word." Altogether abstracted from this consideration, the "Duke of Guise," as a historical play, possesses merit amply sufficient to rescue it from the oblivion into which it has fallen.
The play was first acted 4th December, 1682, and encountered a stormy and dubious, if not an unfavourable, reception. But as, the strength of the court party increased, the piece was enabled to maintain its ground with more general approbation. It was performed by the united companies, and printed in 1683.
Footnotes: 1. I cannot resist transcribing that ballad, which cost poor College, the protestant joiner, so extremely dear. It is extracted from Mr Luttrell's collection, who has marked it thus. "A most scandalous libel against the government, for which, with other things, College was justly executed." The justice of the execution may, I think, be questioned, unless, like Cinna the poet, the luckless ballad-monger was hanged for his bad verses. There is prefixed a cut, representing the king with a double face, carrying the house of commons in a shew-box at his back. In another copartment, he sticks fast in the mud with his burden. In another, Topham, the serjeant of the house of commons, with the other officers of parliament, liberate the members, and cram the bishops into the shew-box.
A RAREE SHOW.
To the tune of—"I am a senseless thing."
Come hither, Topham, come, with a hey, with a hey; Bring a pipe and a drum, with a ho; Where'er about I go, Attend my raree show, With a hey, trany, nony, nony, no.
That monstrous foul beast, with a hey, with a hey, Has houses twain in's chest, with a ho; O Cowper, Hughes, and Snow, Stop thief with raree show, With a hey, &c.
For if he should escape, with a hey, with a hey, With Halifaxe's trap, with a ho, He'll carry good Dom. Com. Unto the pope of Rome, With a hey, &c.
Be quiet, ye dull tools, with a hey, with a hey, As other free-born fools, with a ho, Do not all gaping stand To see my slight of hand. With a hey, &c.
'Tis not to Rome that I, with a hey, with a hey, Lug about my trumpery, with a ho, But Oxford, York, Carlisle, And round about the isle, With a hey, &c.
But if they would come out, with a hey, with a hey, Let them first make a vote, with a ho. To yield up all they have, And Tower lords to save, With a hey, &c.
Now that is very hard, with a hey, with a hey, Thou art worse than cut-nose guard, with a ho. And Clifford, Danby, Hide, Halifax does all outride, With a hey, &c.
Holy Ghost, in bag of cloak, with a hey, with a hey, Quaking King in royal oak, with a ho. And Rosamond in bower, All badges are of power. With a hey, &c.
And popularity, with a hey, with a hey, Adds power to majesty, with a ho; But Dom. Com. in little ease, Will all the world displease, With a hey, &c.
Let 'um hate me, so they fear, with a hey, with a hey, Curst fox has the best cheer, with a ho; Two states, in blind house pent, Make brave strong government. With a hey, &c.
But child of heathen Hobbes, with a hey, with a hey, Remember old Dry Bobs, with a ho, For fleecing England's flocks. Long fed with bits and knocks, With a hey, &c.
What's past is not to come, with a hey, with a hey, Now safe is David's bum, with a ho; Then hey for Oxford ho, Strong government, raree show, With a hey, &c.
Raree show is resouled, with a hey, with a hey, This is worse than desouled, with a ho; May the mighty weight at's back Make's lecherous loins to crack, With a hey, &c.
Methinks he seems to stagger, with a hey, with a hey, Who but now did so swagger, with a ho; God's fish he's stuck in the mire, And all the fat's in the fire, With a hey, &c.
Help Cooper, Hughs, and Snow, with a hey, with a hey, To pull down raree show, with a ho: So, so, the gyant's down, Let's masters out of pound, With a hey, &c.
And now you've freed the nation, with a hey, with a hey, Cram in the convocation, with a ho, With pensioners all and some. Into this chest of Rome, With a hey, &c.
And thrust in six-and-twenty, with a hey, with a hey. With not guilties good plenty, with a ho, And hoot them hence away To Cologn or Breda, With a hey, &c.
Haloo, the hunt's begun, with a hey, with a hey, Like father like son, with a ho; Raree show in French lap Is gone to take a nap, And succession has the clap, With a hey, trany, nony, nony, no.
2. "The news of his landing being reported by the watch, it soon spread abroad through the whole city; insomuch, that before day-light they rang the bells at St Giles in the Fields, placing several flambeaus on the top of the steeple, and divers great bonefires were made, two of which were very large, one in the Palace-yard at Westminster, and the other in Thames-street, near the custom-house, which was kindled in the morning, and maintained burning all day till evening, and then the universal joy of the people was expressed in most of the streets throughout London and Westminster by bone-fires, fireworks, and ringing of bells, accompanied with loud acclamations of joy, to the great grief of the papists." An Account of the heroick Life and magnanimous Actions of the most illustrious Protestant Prince, James, Duke of Monmouth. London, 1683. p. 95.
3. "A relation was published in the name of one Elizabeth Freeman, afterwards called the mayor of Hatfield, setting forth, that, on the 24th of January, the apparition of a woman, all in white [the Duke of Monmouth's mother was here to be understood], with a white veil over her face, accosted her with these words; 'Sweetheart, the 15th of May is appointed for the blood-royal to be poisoned. Be not afraid, for I am sent to tell thee.' That on the 27th the same appearance stood before her again, and she having then acquired courage enough to lay it under the usual adjuration, in the name, &c. it assumed a more glorious shape, and said in a harsher tone of voice, 'Tell King Charles from me, and bid him not remove his parliament (i.e. from London to Oxford), and stand to his council;' adding, 'Do as I bid you.' That on the 26th, it appeared to her a third time, but said only, 'Do your message;' and that on the next night, when she saw it for the last time, it said nothing at all. Those, who depend upon the people for support, must try all manner of practices upon them, and such fooleries as these sometimes operate more forcibly than experiments of a more rational kind. Care was besides taken to have this relation attested by Sir Joseph Jordan, a justice of peace, and the rector of Hatfield, Dr Lee, who was one of the king's chaplains. Nay, the message was actually sent to his majesty, and the whole forgery very officially circulated over the kingdom." RALPH'S History Vol. I. p. 562.
4. In truth, the devil and the conjuror did not always play upon the square, but often took the most unfair advantages of each other. There is more than one instance of bad faith in the history of that renowned enchanter, Peter Fabel. On one occasion, he prevailed upon the devil, when he came to carry him off, to repose himself in an enchanted chair, from which he refused to liberate him, until he had granted him an additional lease of seven years. When this term was also expired, he had the eloquence and art to prevail on the fiend to allow him a farther respite, till a wax taper, then nearly expiring, was burned out. This boon being granted, he instantly put out the light, and deposited the taper in the church at Edmonton. Hence, in Weiver's "Funeral Monuments," he is thus mentioned: "Here (at Edmonton) lieth interred, under a seemly tombe without inscription, the body of Peter Fabell, as the report goes, upon whom this fable was fathered, that he, by his wittie devices, beguiled the devill." p 514. See also the Book of his Merry Prankes. Another instance occurs, in the famous history of Friar Bacon, (London 1666) where that renowned conjurer is recorded to have saved a man, that had given himself to the devil on condition of his debts being paid. "The case was referred to the friar. 'Deceiver of mankind, said he (speaking to the devil), it was thy bargain never to meddle with him so long as he was indebted to any; now how canst thou demand of him any thing, when he is indebted for all he hath to thee? When he payeth thee thy money, then take him as thy due; till then thou hast nothing to do with him; and so I charge thee to be gone.' At this the devil vanished with great horrour; but Fryar Bacon comforted the gentleman, and sent him home with a quiet conscience, bidding him never to pay the devil's money back, as he tendred his own safety, which he promised for to observe." From these instances, Melanax might have quoted precedent for insisting on the literal execution of his stipulation with Malicorn, since, to give the devil his due, the strict legal interpretation appears always to have been applied to bargains of that nature.
THE RIGHT HONOURABLE
EARL OF ROCHESTER, &c.
The authors of this poem present it humbly to your lordship's patronage, if you shall think it worthy of that honour. It has already been a confessor, and was almost made a martyr for the royal cause: but having stood two trials from its enemies,—one before it was acted, another in the representation,—and having been in both acquitted, it is now to stand the public censure in the reading: where since, of necessity, it must have the same enemies, we hope it may also find the same friends; and therein we are secure, not only of the greater number, but of the more honest and loyal party. We only expected bare justice in the permission to have it acted; and that we had, after a severe and long examination, from an upright and knowing judge, who, having heard both sides, and examined the merits of the cause, in a strict perusal of the play, gave sentence for us, that it was neither a libel, nor a parallel of particular persons. In the representation itself, it was persecuted with so notorious malice by one side, that it procured us the partiality of the other; so that the favour more than recompensed the prejudice. And it is happier to have been saved (if so we were) by the indulgence of our good and faithful fellow-subjects, than by our own deserts; because, thereby the weakness of the faction is discovered, which, in us, at that time attacked the government, and stood combined, like the members of the rebellious League, against the lawful sovereign authority. To what topic will they have recourse, when they are manifestly beaten from their chief post, which has always been popularity, and majority of voices? They will tell us,—that the voices of a people are not to be gathered in a play-house; and yet, even there, the enemies, as well as friends, have free admission: but, while our argument was serviceable to their interests, they could boast, that the theatres were true protestant; and came insulting to the plays, when their own triumphs were represented. But let them now assure themselves, that they can make the major part of no assembly, except it be of a meeting-house. Their tide of popularity is spent; and the natural current of obedience is, in spite of them, at last prevalent. In which, my lord, after the merciful providence of God, the unshaken resolution, and prudent carriage of the king, and the inviolable duty, and manifest innocence of his royal highness,—the prudent management of the ministers is also most conspicuous. I am not particular in this commendation, because I am unwilling to raise envy to your lordship, who are too just, not to desire that praise should be communicated to others, which was the common endeavour and co-operation of all. It is enough, my lord, that your own part was neither obscure in it, nor unhazardous. And if ever this excellent government, so well established by the wisdom of our forefathers, and so much shaken by the folly of this age, shall recover its ancient splendour, posterity cannot be so ungrateful as to forget those, who, in the worst of times, have stood undaunted by their king and country, and, for the safeguard of both, have exposed themselves to the malice of false patriots, and the madness of an headstrong rabble. But since this glorious work is yet unfinished, and though we have reason to hope well of the success, yet the event depends on the unsearchable providence of Almighty God, it is no time to raise trophies, while the victory is in dispute; but every man, by your example, to contribute what is in his power to maintain so just a cause, on which depends the future settlement and prosperity of three nations. The pilot's prayer to Neptune was not amiss in the middle of the storm: "Thou mayest do with me, O Neptune, what thou pleasest, but I will be sure to hold fast the rudder." We are to trust firmly in the Deity, but so as not to forget, that he commonly works by second causes, and admits of our endeavours with his concurrence. For our own parts, we are sensible, as we ought, how little we can contribute with our weak assistance. The most we can boast of, is, that we are not so inconsiderable as to want enemies, whom we have raised to ourselves on no other account than that we are not of their number; and, since that is their quarrel, they shall have daily occasion to hate us more. It is not, my lord, that any man delights to see himself pasquined and affronted by their inveterate scribblers; but, on the other side, it ought to be our glory, that themselves believe not of us what they write. Reasonable men are well satisfied for whose sakes the venom of their party is shed on us; because they see, that at the same time our adversaries spare not those to whom they owe allegiance and veneration. Their despair has pushed them to break those bonds; and it is observable, that the lower they are driven, the more violently they write; as Lucifer and his companions were only proud when angels, but grew malicious when devils. Let them rail, since it is the only solace of their miseries, and the only revenge which, we hope, they now can take. The greatest and the best of men are above their reach; and, for our meanness, though they assault us like footpads in the dark, their blows have done us little harm: we yet live to justify ourselves in open day, to vindicate our loyalty to the government, and to assure your lordship, with all submission and sincerity, that we are
YOUR LORDSHIP'S Most obedient, faithful servants, JOHN DRYDEN. NAT. LEE.
Footnotes: 1. Lawrence Hyde, created Earl of Rochester in 1682, was the second son of the famous Lord Clarendon, and affords a rare instance of the son of a disgraced minister recovering that favour at court, which had been withdrawn from his father. He was now at the head of the Commissioners for the Treasury, and a patron of our poet; as appears from the terms of Dryden's letter, soliciting his interest in very affecting terms, and from the subsequent dedication of "Cleomenes," where he acknowledges his lordship's goodness during the reign of two masters; and that, even from a bare treasury, his success was contrary to that of Mr Cowley; Gideon's fleece having been moistened, when all the ground was dry around it. The Earl of Rochester was the more proper patron for the "Duke of Guise," as he was a violent opponent of the bill of exclusion. He was Lord High Treasurer in the reign of James II., and died in 1711.
2. Henry Bennet, Earl of Arlington, then Lord Chamberlain.
3. Dryden seems here to allude to the triumphant strain in which Shadwell mentions the reception of "The Lancashire Witches:" "I could not imagine," he says, "till I heard that great opposition was designed against the play a month before it was acted, by a party who, being ashamed to say it was for the sake of the Irish priest, pretended that I had written a satire on the Church of England; and several profest Papists railed at it violently before they had seen it, alleging that for a reason, such dear friends they are to our Church: and, notwithstanding all was put out that could any way be wrested to an offence against the Church, yet they came with the greatest malice in the world to hiss it; and many, that called themselves Protestants, joined with them in that noble enterprise.
"But, for all this, they came resolved to hiss it, right or wrong, and had gotten mercenary fellows, who were such fools they did not know when to hiss; and this was evident to all the audience. It was wonderful to see men of great quality, and gentlemen, in so mean a combination; but, to my great satisfaction, they came off as meanly as I could wish. I had so numerous an assembly of the best sort of men, who stood so generously in my defence for the three first days, that they quashed all the vain attempts of my enemies; the inconsiderable party of hissers yielded, and the play lived in spite of them.
"Had it been never so bad, I had valued the honour of having so many and such friends as eminently appeared for me, above that of excelling the most admirable Jonson, if it were possible to be done by me."
This flourish of exultation contains many things which were doubtless offensive to Dryden's jealousy of dramatic fame, as well as to his political principles. Nor was he probably insensible to the affected praise bestowed on Jonson, whose merit, it was fashionable to say, he had attempted to depreciate.
4. The greater, and, perhaps, the most formidable, part of those who now opposed the court, were the remnants of the old fanatics, whose religious principles were shocked by the dissolute manners of Charles and his courtiers. These, of course, added little to the force of the party in the theatres, which they never frequented. Shadwell seems to acknowledge this disadvantage in the epilogue to "The Lancashire Witches:"
Our Popes and friars on one side offend, And yet, alas! the city's not our friend: The city neither like us nor our wit, They say their wives learn ogling in the pit; They're from the boxes taught to make advances, To answer stolen sighs and naughty glances. We virtuous ladies some new ways must seek, For all conspire our playing trade to break.
But although the citizens declined to frequent even the plays written on their own side of the question, Armstrong, and the personal followers of Monmouth, were of a gayer complexion, and doubtless, as they were not inferior to the courtiers in the licence assumed by the age, formed the principal part of the audience at the protestant plays. The discovery of the Rye-house Plot broke the strength of this part of the confederacy, and the odium attending that enterprise rendered their opposition to the court in public assemblies both fruitless and dangerous.
WRITTEN BY MR DRYDEN.
SPOKEN BY MR SMITH.
Our play's a parallel: the Holy League Begot our Covenant: Guisards got the whig: Whate'er our hot-brained sheriffs did advance, Was, like our fashions, first produced in France; And, when worn out, well scourged, and banished there, Sent over, like their godly beggars, here. Could the same trick, twice played, our nation gull? It looks as if the devil were grown dull; Or served us up, in scorn, his broken meat, And thought we were not worth a better cheat. The fulsome Covenant, one would think in reason, Had given us all our bellies full of treason; And yet, the name but changed, our nasty nation Chews its own excrements, the Association. 'Tis true, we have not learned their poisoning way, For that's a mode but newly come in play; Resides, your drug's uncertain to prevail, But your true protestant can never fail With that compendious instrument, a flail. Go on, and bite, even though the hook lies bare; Twice in one age expel the lawful heir; Once more decide religion by the sword, And purchase for us a new tyrant lord. Pray for your king, but yet your purses spare; Make him not two-pence richer by your prayer. To show you love him much, chastise him more, And make him very great, and very poor. Push him to wars, but still no peace advance; Let him lose England, to recover France. Cry freedom up, with popular noisy votes, And get enough to cut each other's throats. Lop all the rights that fence your monarch's throne; For fear of too much power, pray leave him none. A noise was made of arbitrary sway; But, in revenge, you whigs have found a way An arbitrary duty now to pay. Let his own servants turn to save their stake, Glean from his plenty, and his wants forsake; But let some Judas near his person stay, To swallow the last sop, and then betray. Make London independent of the crown; A realm apart; the kingdom of the town. Let ignoramus juries find no traitors, And ignoramus poets scribble satires. And, that your meaning none may fail to scan, Do what in coffee-houses you began,— Pull down the master, and set up the man.
Footnotes: 1. The association proposed in parliament was, by the royalists, said to be, a revival of the Solemn League and Covenant. But the draught of an association, found in Lord Shaftesbury's cabinet, and produced on his trial, in which that memorable engagement seems to be pretty closely copied, was probably what our poet alludes to.
2. The protestant flail was a kind of bludgeon, so jointed as to fold together, and lie concealed in the pocket. They are supposed to have been invented to arm the insurgents about this period. In the trial of Braddon and Spoke for a misdemeanor, the recorder offered to prove, that Braddon had bragged, that "he was the only inventor of the protestant flails; an instrument you have heard of, gentlemen, and for what use designed." This circumstance was not omitted by Jefferies, in his characteristic address to the prisoner. "But oh what a happiness it was for this sort of people, that they had got Mr Braddon, an honest man and a man of courage, says Mr Speke, a man a propos! and pray, says he to his friend, give him the best advice you can, for he is a man very fit for the purpose; and pray secure him under a sham name, for I'll undertake there are such designs upon pious Mr Braddon, such connivances to do him mischief, that, if he had not had his protestant flail about him, somebody or other would have knocked him on the head; and he is such a wonderful man, that all the king's courts must needs conspire to do Mr Braddon a mischief. A very pretty sort of man, upon my word, and he must be used accordingly." State Trials, Vol. III. p. 897. In one of the scarce medals struck by James II. Justice is represented weighing mural crowns, which preponderate against a naked sword, a serpent, and a protestant flail: on each side of the figure are a head and trunk, representing those of Argyle and Monmouth. An accurate description of this weapon occurs in the following passage from Roger North: "There was much recommendation of silk armour, and the prudence of being provided with it against the time protestants were to be massacred. And accordingly there were abundance of these silken backs, breasts, and pots (i.e. head-pieces), made and sold, that were pretended to be pistol proof; in which any man dressed up was as safe as in a house, for it was impossible any one could go to strike him for laughing. So ridiculous was the figure, as they say, of hogs in armour; an image of derision, insensible but to the view, as I have had it. This was armour of defence; but our sparks were not altogether so tame as to carry their provisions no farther, for truly they intended to be assailants upon fair occasion, and had for that end recommended also to them a certain pocket weapon, which, for its design and efficacy, had the honour to be called a protestant flail. It was for street and crowd-work; and the engine lying perdue in a coat pocket, might readily sally out to execution, and by clearing a great hall, a piazza, or so, carry an election by a choice way of polling, called knocking down. The handle resembled a farrier's blood-stick, and the fall was joined to the end by a strong nervous ligature, that in its swing fell just short of the hand, and was made of lignum vitae, or rather, as the poet termed it, mortis." Examen. p. 572. The following is the first stanza of "The Protestant Flail; an excellent new song, to the tune of, Lacy's Maggot, or the Hobby Horse." It is thus labelled by Luttrell: "A bonny thing, 14 June, 1632."
Listen a while, and I'll tell you a tale Of a new device of a protestant flail; With a thump, thump, thump a thump. Thump a thump, thump. This flail it was made of the finest wood, All lined with lead, and notable good For splitting of bones, and shedding the blood Of all that withstood, With a thump, &c.
3. Shaftesbury, College, and others, were liberated by grand juries, who refused to find bills against them, bringing in what are technically called verdicts of ignoramus. It was here that the whig sheriffs were of most consequence to their party; for by their means the juries were picked from the very centre of the faction; and although they included many men of eminence, both for rank and talents, yet they were generally such as had made up their minds to cast the bill long before they came into court. This gave great offence to the royalists. North says, "There lay the barrier of the faction; and that stately word (ignoramus) became the appellative of the whole corrupt practice, and the infamous title of all the persons concerned in it." In Luttrell's Collection I find, "Ignoramus, an excellent new song, to the tune of Lay by your Pleading, Law lies a Bleeding." 15 Dec. 1681.
At the Old Bailey, Where rogues flock daily, A greater rogue far than Coleman, White, or Stayley, Was late indicted. Witnesses cited, But then he was set free, so the king was righted. 'Gainst princes offences Proved in all senses, But 'gainst a whig there is no truth in evidences; They sham us, and flam us, And ram us, and damn us. And then, in spite of law, come off with ignoramus, &c.
This song, according to the invariable practice of the scribblers on both sides, was answered by a new Ignoramus.
The King of France. Duke of GUISE. Duke of MAYENNE. GRILLON, Colonel of the Guard. ALPHONSO CORSO, a Colonel. BELLEURE, a Courtier. ABBOT DEL BENE, } Royalists. M. MONFERT, } The Cardinal of GUISE. } Archbishop of LYONS. } POLIN, } AUMALE, } Of Guise's BUSSY, } Faction. The Curate of St EUSTACE, } MALICORN, a Necromancer, } MELANAX, a Spirit, } Two Sheriffs, Citizens and Rabble, &c.
Queen Mother. MARMOUTIERE, Niece to GRILLON.
THE DUKE OF GUISE.
SCENE I.—The Council of Sixteen seated; an empty Chair prepared for the Duke of Guise.
BUSSY and POLIN, two of the Sixteen.
Buss. Lights there! more lights! What, burn the tapers dim, When glorious Guise, the Moses, Gideon, David, The saviour of the nation, makes approach?
Pol. And therefore are we met; the whole sixteen, That sway the crowd of Paris, guide their votes, Manage their purses, persons, fortunes, lives, To mount the Guise, where merit calls him, high, And give him a whole heaven for room to shine.
Enter Curate of St EUSTACE.
Buss. The curate of St Eustace comes at last: But, father, why so late?
Cur. I have been taking godly pains to satisfy some scruples raised amongst weak brothers of our party, that were staggering in the cause.
Pol. What could they find to object?
Cur. They thought, to arm against the king was treason.
Buss. I hope you set them right?
Cur. Yes; and for answer, I produced this book. A Calvinist minister of Orleans Writ this, to justify the admiral For taking arms against the king deceased; Wherein he proves, that irreligious kings May justly be deposed, and put to death.
Buss. To borrow arguments from heretic books, Methinks, was not so prudent.
Cur. Yes; from the devil, if it would help our cause. The author was indeed a heretic; The matter of the book is good and pious.
Pol. But one prime article of our Holy League Is to preserve the king, his power, and person.
Cur. That must be said, you know, for decency; A pretty blind to make the shoot secure.
Buss. But did the primitive Christians e'er rebel, When under heathen lords? I hope they did.
Cur. No sure, they did not; for they had not power; The conscience of a people is their power.
Pol. Well; the next article in our solemn covenant Has cleared the point again.
Buss. What is't? I should be glad to find the king No safer than needs must.
Pol. That, in case of opposition from any person whatsoever—
Cur. That's well, that well; then the king is not excepted, if he oppose us.—
Pol. We are obliged to join as one, to punish All, who attempt to hinder or disturb us.
Buss. 'Tis a plain case; the king's included in the punishment, in case he rebel against the people.
Pol. But how can he rebel?
Cur. I'll make it out: Rebellion is an insurrection against the government; but they that have the power are actually the government; therefore, if the people have the power, the rebellion is in the king.
Buss. A most convincing argument for faction.
Cur. For arming, if you please, but not for faction: For still the faction is the fewest number: So what they call the lawful government, Is now the faction; for the most are ours.
Pol. Since we are proved to be above the king, I would gladly understand whom we are to obey, or, whether we are to be all kings together?
Cur. Are you a member of the League, and ask that question? There's an article, that, I may say, is as necessary as any in the creed; namely, that we, the said associates, are sworn to yield ready obedience, and faithful service, to that head which shall be deputed.
Buss. 'Tis most manifest, that, by virtue of our oath, we are all subjects to the Duke of Guise. The king's an officer that has betrayed his trust; and therefore we have turned him out of service.
Omn. Agreed, agreed.
Enter the Duke of GUISE, Cardinal of GUISE, AUMALE: Torches before them. The Duke takes the Chair.
Buss. Your highness enters in a lucky hour; The unanimous vote you heard, confirms your choice. As head of Paris and the Holy League.
Card. I say amen to that.
Pol. You are our champion, buckler of our faith.
Card. The king, like Saul, is heaven's repented choice; You his anointed one, on better thought.
Gui. I'm what you please to call me; any thing, Lieutenant-general, chief, or constable, Good decent names, that only mean—your slave.
Buss. You chased the Germans hence, exiled Navarre, And rescued France from heretics and strangers.
Aum. What he, and all of us have done, is known. What's our reward? Our offices are lost, Turned out, like laboured oxen after harvest, To the bare commons of the withered field.
Buss. Our charters will go next; because we sheriffs Permit no justice to be done on those The court calls rebels, but we call them saints.
Gui. Yes; we are all involved, as heads, or parties; Dipt in the noisy crime of state, called treason; And traitors we must be, to king, or country.
Buss. Why then my choice is made.
Pol. And mine.
Omn. And all.
Card. Heaven is itself head of the Holy League; And all the saints are cov'nanters and Guisards.
Gui. What say you, curate?
Cur. I hope well, my lord.
Card. That is, he hopes you mean to make him abbot, And he deserves your care of his preferment; For all his prayers are curses on the government, And all his sermons libels on the king; In short, a pious, hearty, factious priest.
Gui. All that are here, my friends, shall share my fortunes: There's spoil, preferments, wealth enough in France; 'Tis but deserve, and have. The Spanish king Consigns me fifty thousand crowns a-week To raise, and to foment a civil war. 'Tis true, a pension, from a foreign prince, Sounds treason in the letter of the law, But good intentions justify the deed.
Cur. Heaven's good; the cause is good; the money's good; No matter whence it comes.
Buss. Our city-bands are twenty thousand strong, Well-disciplined, well-armed, well-seasoned traitors, Thick-rinded heads, that leave no room for kernel; Shop-consciences, of proof against an oath, Preached up, and ready tined for a rebellion.
Gui. Why then the noble plot is fit for birth; And labouring France cries out for midwife hands. We missed surprising of the king at Blois, When last the states were held: 'twas oversight; Beware we make not such another blot.
Card. This holy time of Lent we have him sure; He goes unguarded, mixed with whipping friars. In that procession, he's more fit for heaven: What hinders us to seize the royal penitent, And close him in a cloister?
Cur. Or dispatch him; I love to make all sure.
Gui. No; guard him safe; Thin diet will do well; 'twill starve him into reason, 'Till he exclude his brother of Navarre, And graft succession on a worthier choice. To favour this, five hundred men in arms Shall stand prepared, to enter at your call, And speed the work; St Martin's gate was named; But the sheriff Conty, who commands that ward, Refused me passage there.
Buss. I know that Conty; A snivelling, conscientious, loyal rogue; He'll peach, and ruin all.
Card. Give out he's arbitrary, a Navarist, A heretic; discredit him betimes, And make his witness void.
Cur. I'll swear him guilty. I swallow oaths as easy as snap-dragon, Mock-fire that never burns.
Gui. Then, Bussy, be it your care to admit my troops, At Port St Honore: [Rises.] Night wears apace, And day-light must not peep on dark designs. I will myself to court, pay formal duty, Take leave, and to my government retire; Impatient to be soon recalled, to see The king imprisoned, and the nation free. [Exeunt.
Enter MALICORN solus.
Mal. Each dismal minute, when I call to mind The promise, that I made the Prince of Hell, In one-and-twenty years to be his slave, Of which near twelve are gone, my soul runs back, The wards of reason roll into their spring. O horrid thought! but one-and-twenty years, And twelve near past, then to be steeped in fire, Dashed against rocks, or snatched from molten lead, Reeking, and dropping, piece-meal borne by winds, And quenched ten thousand fathom in the deep!— But hark! he comes: see there! my blood stands still, [Knocking at the Door. My spirits start on end for Guise's fate.
A Devil rises.
Mal. What counsel does the fate of Guise require?
Dev. Remember, with his prince there's no delay. But, the sword drawn, to fling the sheath away; Let not the fear of hell his spirit grieve, The tomb is still, whatever fools believe: Laugh at the tales which withered sages bring, Proverbs and morals; let the waxen king, That rules the hive, be born without a sting; Let Guise by blood resolve to mount to power. And he is great as Mecca's emperor. He comes; bid him not stand on altar-vows, But then strike deepest, when he lowest bows; Tell him, fate's awed when an usurper springs, And joins to crowd out just indulgent kings. [Vanishes.
Enter the Duke of GUISE, and Duke of MAYENNE.
May. All offices and dignities he gives To your profest and most inveterate foes; But if he were inclined, as we could wish him, There is a lady-regent at his ear, That never pardons.
Gui. Poison on her name! Take my hand on't, that cormorant dowager Will never rest, till she has all our heads In her lap. I was at Bayonne with her, When she, the king, and grisly d'Alva met. Methinks, I see her listening now before me, Marking the very motion of his beard, His opening nostrils, and his dropping lids. I hear him croak too to the gaping council,— Fish for the great fish, take no care for frogs, Cut off the poppy-heads, sir;—madam, charm The winds but fast, the billows will be still.
May. But, sir, how comes it you should be thus warm, Still pushing counsels when among your friends; Yet, at the court, cautious, and cold as age, Your voice, your eyes, your mien so different, You seem to me two men?
Gui. The reason's plain. Hot with my friends, because, the question given, I start the judgment right, where others drag. This is the effect of equal elements, And atoms justly poised; nor should you wonder More at the strength of body than of mind; 'Tis equally the same to see me plunge Headlong into the Seine, all over armed, And plow against the torrent to my point, As 'twas to hear my judgment on the Germans, This to another man would be a brag; Or at the court among my enemies, To be, as I am here, quite off my guard, Would make me such another thing as Grillon, A blunt, hot, honest, downright, valiant fool.
May. Yet this you must allow a failure in you,— You love his niece; and to a politician All passion's bane, but love directly death.
Gui. False, false, my Mayenne; thou'rt but half Guise again. Were she not such a wond'rous composition, A soul, so flushed as mine is with ambition, Sagacious and so nice, must have disdained her: But she was made when nature was in humour, As if a Grillon got her on the queen, Where all the honest atoms fought their way, Took a full tincture of the mother's wit, But left the dregs of wickedness behind.
May. Have you not told her what we have in hand?
Gui. My utmost aim has been to hide it from her, But there I'm short; by the long chain of causes She has scanned it, just as if she were my soul; And though I flew about with circumstances. Denials, oaths, improbabilities; Yet, through the histories of our lives, she looked, She saw, she overcame.
May. Why then, we're all undone.
Gui. Again you err. Chaste as she is, she would as soon give up Her honour, as betray me to the king: I tell thee, she's the character of heaven; Such an habitual over-womanly goodness, She dazzles, walks mere angel upon earth. But see, she comes; call the cardinal Guise, While Malicorn attends for some dispatches, Before I take my farewell of the court. [Exit MAY.
Mar. Ah Guise, you are undone!
Gui. How, madam?
Mar. Lost, Beyond the possibility of hope: Despair, and die.
Gui. You menace deeply, madam: And should this come from any mouth but yours, My smile should answer how the ruin touched me.
Mar. Why do you leave the court?
Gui. The court leaves me.
Mar. Were there no more, but weariness of state, Or could you, like great Scipio, retire, Call Rome ungrateful, and sit down with that; Such inward gallantry would gain you more Than all the sullied conquests you can boast: But oh, you want that Roman mastery; You have too much of the tumultuous times, And I must mourn the fate of your ambition.
Gui. Because the king disdains my services, Must I not let him know I dare be gone? What, when I feel his council on my neck, Shall I not cast them backward if I can, And at his feet make known their villainy?
Mar. No, Guise, not at his feet, but on his head; For there you strike.
Gui. Madam, you wrong me now: For still, whate'er shall come in fortune's whirl, His person must be safe.
Mar. I cannot think it. However, your last words confess too much. Confess! what need I urge that evidence, When every hour I see you court the crowd, When with the shouts of the rebellious rabble, I see you borne on shoulders to cabals; Where, with the traitorous Council of Sixteen, You sit, and plot the royal Henry's death; Cloud the majestic name with fumes of wine, Infamous scrolls, and treasonable verse; While, on the other side, the name of Guise, By the whole kennel of the slaves, is rung. Pamphleteers, ballad-mongers sing your ruin. While all the vermin of the vile Parisians Toss up their greasy caps where'er you pass, And hurl your dirty glories in your face.
Gui. Can I help this?
Mar. By heaven, I'd earth myself, Rather than live to act such black ambition: But, sir, you seek it with your smiles and bows. This side and that side congeing to the crowd. You have your writers too, that cant your battles, That stile you, the new David, second Moses, Prop of the church, deliverer of the people. Thus from the city, as from the heart, they spread Through all the provinces, alarm the countries, Where they run forth in heaps, bellowing your wonders; Then cry,—The king, the king's a Hugonot, And, spite of us, will have Navarre succeed, Spite of the laws, and spite of our religion: But we will pull them down, down with them, down. [Kneels.
Gui. Ha, madam! Why this posture?
Mar. Hear me, sir; For, if 'tis possible, my lord, I'll move you. Look back, return, implore the royal mercy, Ere 'tis too late; I beg you by these tears, These sighs, and by the ambitious love you bear me; By all the wounds of your poor groaning country, That bleeds to death. O seek the best of kings, Kneel, fling your stubborn body at his feet: Your pardon shall be signed, your country saved, Virgins and matrons all shall sing your fame, And every babe shall bless the Guise's name.
Gui. O rise, thou image of the deity! You shall prevail, I will do any thing: You've broke the very gall of my ambition, And all my powers now float in peace again. Be satisfied that I will see the king, Kneel to him, ere I journey to Champaigne, And beg a kind farewell.
Mar. No, no, my lord; I see through that; you but withdraw a while, To muster all the forces that you can, And then rejoin the Council of Sixteen. You must not go.
Gui. All the heads of the League Expect me, and I have engaged my honour.
Mar. Would all those heads were off, so yours were saved! Once more, O Guise, the weeping Marmoutiere Entreats you, do not go.
Gui. Is't possible That Guise should say, in this he must refuse you!
Mar. Go then, my lord. I late received a letter From one at court, who tells me, the king loves me: Read it,—there is no more than what you hear. I've jewels offered too,—perhaps may take them; And if you go from Paris, I'll to court.
Gui. But, madam, I have often heard you say, You loved not courts.
Mar. Perhaps I've changed my mind: Nothing as yet could draw me, but a king; And such a king,—so good, so just, so great, That, at his birth, the heavenly council paused, And then, at last, cried out,—This is a man.
Gui. Come, 'tis but counterfeit; you dare not go.
Mar. Go to your government, and try.
Gui. I will.
Mar. Then I'll to court, nay—to the king.
Gui. By heaven, I swear you cannot, shall not,—dare not see him.
Mar. By heaven, I can, I dare, nay—and I will; And nothing but your stay shall hinder me; For now, methinks, I long for't.
Mar. I'll give you yet a little time to think; But, if I hear you go to take your leave, I'll meet you there; before the throne I'll stand,— Nay you shall see me kneel and kiss his hand. [Exit.
Gui. Furies and hell! She does but try me,—Ha! This is the mother-queen, and Espernon, Abbot Delbene, Alphonso Corso too, All packed to plot, and turn me into madness. [Reading the Letter.
Enter Cardinal GUISE, Duke Of MAYENNE, MALICORN, &c.
Ha! can it be! "Madam, the king loves you."— [Reads. But vengeance I will have; to pieces, thus, To pieces with them all. [Tears the Letter.
Card. Speak lower.
Gui. No; By all the torments of this galling passion, I'll hollow the revenge I vow, so loud, My father's ghost shall hear me up to heaven.
Card. Contain yourself; this outrage will undo us.
Gui. All things are ripe, and love new points their ruin. Ha! my good lords, what if the murdering council Were in our power, should they escape our justice? I see, by each man's laying of his hand Upon his sword, you swear the like revenge. For me, I wish that mine may both rot off—
Card. No more.
May. The Council of Sixteen attend you.
Gui. I go—that vermin may devour my limbs; That I may die, like the late puling Francis, Under the barber's hands, imposthumes choak me,— If while alive, I cease to chew their ruin; Alphonso Corso, Grillon, priest, together: To hang them in effigy,—nay, to tread, Drag, stamp, and grind them, after they are dead. [Exeunt.
ACT II. SCENE I.
Enter Queen-Mother, Abbot DELBENE, and POLIN.
Qu. M. Pray, mark the form of the conspiracy: Guise gives it out, he journeys to Champaigne, But lurks indeed at Lagny, hard by Paris, Where every hour he hears and gives instructions. Mean time the Council of Sixteen assure him, They have twenty thousand citizens in arms. Is it not so, Polin?
Pol. True, on my life; And, if the king doubts the discovery, Send me to the Bastile till all be proved.
Qu. M. Call colonel Grillon; the king would speak with him.
Ab. Was ever age like this? [Exit POLIN.
Qu. M. Polin is honest; Beside, the whole proceeding is so like The hair-brained rout, I guessed as much before. Know then, it is resolved to seize the king, When next he goes in penitential weeds Among the friars, without his usual guards; Then, under shew of popular sedition, For safety, shut him in a monastery, And sacrifice his favourites to their rage.
Ab. When is this council to be held again?
Qu. M. Immediately upon the duke's departure.
Ab. Why sends not then the king sufficient guards, To seize the fiends, and hew them into pieces?
Qu. M. 'Tis in appearance easy, but the effect Most hazardous; for straight, upon the alarm, The city would be sure to be in arms; Therefore, to undertake, and not to compass, Were to come off with ruin and dishonour. You know the Italian proverb—Bisogna copriersi,— He, that will venture on a hornet's nest, Should arm his head, and buckler well his breast.
Ab. But wherefore seems the king so unresolved?
Qu. M. I brought Polin, and made the demonstration; Told him—necessity cried out, to take A resolution to preserve his life, And look on Guise as a reclaimless rebel: But, through the natural sweetness of his temper, And dangerous mercy, coldly he replied,— Madam I will consider what you say.
Ab. Yet after all, could we but fix him—
Qu. M. Right,— The business were more firm for this delay; For noblest natures, though they suffer long, When once provoked, they turn the face to danger. But see, he comes, Alphonso Corso with him; Let us withdraw, and when 'tis fit rejoin him. [Exeunt.
Enter King, and ALPHONSO CORSO.
King. Alphonso Corso.
King. I think thou lovest me.
Alph. More than my life.
King. That's much; yet I believe thee. My mother has the judgment of the world, And all things move by that; but, my Alphonso, She has a cruel wit.
Alph. The provocation, sir.
King. I know it well; But,—if thou'dst have my heart within thy hand,— All conjurations blot the name of kings. What honours, interest, were the world to buy him, Shall make a brave man smile, and do a murder? Therefore I hate the memory of Brutus, I mean the latter, so cried up in story. Caesar did ill, but did it in the sun, And foremost in the field; but sneaking Brutus, Whom none but cowards and white-livered knaves Would dare commend, lagging behind his fellows, His dagger in his bosom, stabbed his father. This is a blot, which Tully's eloquence Could ne'er wipe off, though the mistaken man Makes bold to call those traitors,—men divine.
Alph. Tully was wise, but wanted constancy.
Enter Queen Mother, and Abbot DELBENE.
Qu. M. Good-even, sir; 'tis just the time you ordered To wait on your decrees.
King. Oh, madam!
Qu. M. Sir?
King. Oh mother,—but I cannot make it way;— Chaos and shades,—'tis huddled up in night.
Qu. M. Speak then, for speech is morning to the mind; It spreads the beauteous images abroad, Which else lie furled and clouded in the soul.
King. You would embark me in a sea of blood.
Qu. M. You see the plot directly on your person; But give it o'er, I did but state the case. Take Guise into your heart, and drive your friends; Let knaves in shops prescribe you how to sway, And, when they read your acts with their vile breath, Proclaim aloud, they like not this or that; Then in a drove come lowing to the Louvre, And cry,—they'll have it mended, that they will, Or you shall be no king.
King. 'Tis true, the people Ne'er know a mean, when once they get the power; But O, if the design we lay should fail, Better the traitors never should be touched, If execution cries not out—'Tis done.
Qu. M. No, sir, you cannot fear the sure design: But I have lived too long, since my own blood Dares not confide in her that gave him being.
King. Stay, madam, stay; come back, forgive my fears, Where all our thoughts should creep like deepest streams: Know, then, I hate aspiring Guise to death; Whored Margarita,—plots upon my life,— And shall I not revenge?
Qu. M. Why, this is Harry; Harry at Moncontour, when in his bloom He saw the admiral Coligny's back.
King. O this whale Guise, with all the Lorrain fry! Might I but view him, after his plots and plunges, Struck on those cowring shallows that await him,— This were a Florence master-piece indeed.
Qu. M. He comes to take his leave.
King. Then for Champaigne; But lies in wait till Paris is in arms. Call Grillon in. All that I beg you now, Is to be hushed upon the consultation, As urns, that never blab.
Qu. M. Doubt not your friends; Love them, and then you need not fear your foes.
King. Welcome, my honest man, my old tried friend. Why dost thou fly me, Grillon, and retire?
Gril. Rather let me demand your majesty, Why fly you from yourself? I've heard you say, You'd arm against the League; why do you not? The thoughts of such as you, are starts divine; And when you mould with second cast the spirit, The air, the life, the golden vapour's gone.
King. Soft, my old friend; Guise plots upon my life; Polin shall tell thee more. Hast thou not heard The insufferable affronts he daily offers,— War without treasure on the Huguenots; While I am forced against my bent of soul, Against all laws, all custom, right, succession, To cast Navarre from the Imperial line?
Gril. Why do you, sir? Death, let me tell the traitor—
King. Peace, Guise is going to his government; You are his foe of old; go to him, Grillon; Visit him as from me, to be employed In this great war against the Huguenots; And, pr'ythee, tell him roundly of his faults, No farther, honest Grillon.
Gril. Shall I fight him?
King. I charge thee, not.
Gril. If he provokes me, strike him; You'll grant me that?
King. Not so, my honest soldier; Yet speak to him.
Gril. I will, by heaven, to the purpose; And, if he force a beating, who can help it? [Exit.
King. Follow, Alphonso; when the storm is up, Call me to part them.
Qu. M. Grillon, to ask him pardon, Will let Guise know we are not in the dark.
King. You hit the judgment; yet, O yet, there's more; Something upon my heart, after these counsels, So soft, and so unworthy to be named!—
Qu. M. They say, that Grillon's niece is come to court, And means to kiss your hand. [Exit.
King. Could I but hope it! O my dear father, pardon me in this, And then enjoin me all that man can suffer; But sure the powers above will take our tears For such a fault—love is so like themselves. [Exeunt.
SCENE II.—The Louvre.
Enter GUISE, attended with his Family; MARMOUTIERE meeting him new drest, attended, &c.
Gui. Furies! she keeps her word, and I am lost; Yet let not my ambition shew it to her; For, after all, she does it but to try me, And foil my vowed design.—Madam, I see You're come to court; the robes you wear become you; Your air, your mien, your charms, your every grace, Will kill at least your thousand in a day.
Mar. What, a whole day, and kill but one poor thousand! An hour you mean, and in that hour ten thousand. Yes, I would make with every glance a murder.— Mend me this curl.
Gui. Woman! [Aside.
Mar. You see, my lord, I have my followers, like you. I swear, The court's a heavenly place; but—O, my heart! I know not why that sigh should come uncalled; Perhaps, 'twas for your going; yet I swear, I never was so moved, O Guise, as now, Just as you entered, when from yonder window I saw the king.
Gui. Woman, all over woman! [Aside. The world confesses, madam, Henry's form Is noble and majestic.
Mar. O you grudge The extorted praise, and speak him but by halves.
Gui. Priest, Corso, devils! how she carries it!
Mar. I see, my lord, you're come to take your leave; And were it not to give the court suspicion, I would oblige you, sir, before you go, To lead me to the king.
Gui. Death and the devil!
Mar. But since that cannot be, I'll take my leave Of you, my lord; heaven grant your journey safe! Farewell, once more. [Offers her hand.] Not stir! does this become you,— Does your ambition swell into your eyes?— Jealousy by this light; nay then, proud Guise, I tell you, you're not worthy of the grace; But I will carry't, sir, to those that are, And leave you to the curse of bosom-war. [Exit.
May. Is this the heavenly—
Gui. Devil, devil, as they are all. 'Tis true, at first she caught the heavenly form, But now ambition sets her on her head, By hell, I see the cloven mark upon her. Ha! Grillon here! some new court-trick upon me.
Gril. Sir, I have business for your ear.
Gui. Retire. [Exeunt his Followers.
Gril. The king, my lord, commanded me to wait you, And bid you welcome to the court.
Gui. The king Still loads me with new honours; but none greater Than this, the last.
Gril. There is one greater yet, Your high commission 'gainst the Huguenots; I and my family shall shortly wait you, And 'twill be glorious work.
Gui. If you are there, There must be action.
Gril. O, your pardon, sir; I'm but a stripling in the trade of war: But you, whose life is one continued broil, What will not your triumphant arms accomplish! You, that were formed for mastery in war. That, with a start, cried to your brother Mayenne,— "To horse!" and slaughtered forty thousand Germans.
Gui. Let me beseech you, colonel, no more.
Gril. But, sir, since I must make at least a figure In this great business, let me understand What 'tis you mean, and why you force the king Upon so dangerous an expedition.
Gui. Sir, I intend the greatness of the king; The greatness of all France, whom it imports To make their arms their business, aim, and glory; And where so proper as upon those rebels, That covered all the state with blood and death?
Gril. Stored arsenals and armouries, fields of horse, Ordnance, munition, and the nerve of war, Sound infantry, not harassed and diseased, To meet the fierce Navarre, should first be thought on.
Gui. I find, my lord, the argument grows warm, Therefore, thus much, and I have done: I go To join the Holy League in this great war, In which no place of office, or command, Not of the greatest, shall be bought or sold; Whereas too often honours are conferred On soldiers, and no soldiers: This man knighted, Because he charged a troop before his dinner, And sculked behind a hedge i'the afternoon: I will have strict examination made Betwixt the meritorious and the base.
Gril. You have mouthed it bravely, and there is no doubt Your deeds would answer well your haughty words; Yet let me tell you, sir, there is a man, (Curse on the hearts that hate him!) that would better, Better than you, or all your puffy race, That better would become the great battalion; That when he shines in arms, and suns the field, Moves, speaks, and fights, and is himself a war.
Gui. Your idol, sir; you mean the great Navarre: But yet—
Gril. No yet, my lord of Guise, no yet; By arms, I bar you that; I swear, no yet; For never was his like, nor shall again. Though voted from his right by your cursed League.
Gui. Judge not too rashly of the Holy League, But look at home.
Gril. Ha! darest thou justify Those villains?
Gui. I'll not justify a villain, More than yourself; but if you thus proceed, If every heated breath can puff away, On each surmise, the lives of free-born people, What need that awful general convocation, The assembly of the states?—nay, let me urge,— If thus they vilify the Holy League, What may their heads expect?
Gril. What, if I could, They should be certain of,—whole piles of fire.
Gui. Colonel, 'tis very well I know your mind, Which, without fear, or flattery to your person, I'll tell the king; and then, with his permission, Proclaim it for a warning to our people.
Gril. Come, you're a murderer yourself within, A traitor.
Gui. Thou a —— hot old hair-brained fool.
Gril. You were complotter with the cursed League, The black abettor of our Harry's death.
Gui. 'Tis false.
Gril. 'Tis true, as thou art double-hearted: Thou double traitor, to conspire so basely; And when found out, more basely to deny't.
Gui. O gracious Harry, let me sound thy name, Lest this old rust of war, this knotty trifler, Should raise me to extremes.
Gril. If thou'rt a man, That didst refuse the challenge of Navarre, Come forth.
Gui. Go on; since thou'rt resolved on death, I'll follow thee, and rid thy shaking soul.
Enter King, Queen-Mother, ALPHONSO, Abbot, &c.
But see, the king: I scorn to ruin thee, Therefore go tell him, tell him thy own story.
King. Ha, colonel, is this your friendly visit? Tell me the truth, how happened this disorder? Those ruffled hands, red looks, and port of fury?
Gril. I told him, sir, since you will have it so, He was the author of the rebel-league; Therefore, a traitor and a murderer.
King. Is't possible?
Gui. No matter, sir, no matter; A few hot words, no more, upon my life; The old man roused, and shook himself a little: So, if your majesty will do me honour, I do beseech you, let the business die.
King. Grillon, submit yourself, and ask his pardon.
Gril. Pardon me, I cannot do't.
King. Where are the guards!
Gui. Hold, sir;—come, colonel, I'll ask pardon for you; This soldierly embrace makes up the breach; We will be sorry, sir, for one another.
Gril. My lord, I know not what to answer you; I'm friends,—and I am not,—and so farewell. [Exit.
King. You have your orders; yet before you go, Take this embrace: I court you for my friend, Though Grillon would not.
Gui. I thank you on my knees; And still, while life shall last, will take strict care To justify my loyalty to your person. [Exit.
Qu. M. Excellent loyalty, to lock you up!
King. I see even to the bottom of his soul; And, madam, I must say the Guise has beauties, But they are set in night, and foul design: He was my friend when young, and might be still.
Ab. Marked you his hollow accents at the parting?
Qu. M. Graves in his smiles.
King. Death in his bloodless hands.— O Marmoutiere! now I will haste to meet thee: The face of beauty, on this rising horror, Looks like the midnight moon upon a murder; It gilds the dark design that stays for fate, And drives the shades, that thicken, from the state. [Exuent.
ACT III. SCENE I.
_Enter_ GRILLON _and_ POLIN._
Gril. Have then this pious Council of Sixteen Scented your late discovery of the plot?
Pol. Not as from me; for still I kennel with them. And bark as loud as the most deep-mouthed traitor, Against the king, his government, and laws; Whereon immediately there runs a cry Of,—Seize him on the next procession! seize him. And clap the Chilperick in a monastery! Thus it was fixt, as I before discovered; But when, against his custom, they perceived The king absented, strait the rebels met, And roared,—they were undone.
Gril. O, 'tis like them; 'Tis like their mongrel souls: flesh them with fortune, And they will worry royalty to death; But if some crabbed virtue turn and pinch them, Mark me, they'll run, and yelp, and clap their tails, Like curs, betwixt their legs, and howl for mercy.
Pol. But Malicorn, sagacious on the point, Cried,—Call the sheriffs, and bid them arm their bands; Add yet to this, to raise you above hope, The Guise, my master, will be here to-day.— For on bare guess of what has been revealed, He winged a messenger to give him notice; Yet, spite of all this factor of the fiends Could urge, they slunk their heads, like hinds in storms. But see, they come.
Enter Sheriffs, with the Populace.
Gril. Away, I'll have amongst them; Fly to the king, warn him of Guise's coming, That he may strait despatch his strict commands To stop him. [Exit POLIN.
1 Sher. Nay, this is colonel Grillon, The blunderbuss o'the court; away, away, He carries ammunition in his face.
Gril. Hark you, my friends, if you are not in haste, Because you are the pillars of the city, I would inform you of a general ruin.
2 Sher. Ruin to the city! marry, heaven forbid!
Gril. Amen, I say; for, look you, I'm your friend. 'Tis blown about, you've plotted on the king, To seize him, if not kill him; for, who knows, When once your conscience yields, how far 'twill stretch; Next, quite to dash your firmest hopes in pieces, The duke of Guise is dead.
1 Sher. Dead, colonel!
2 Sher. Undone, undone!
Gril. The world cannot redeem you; For what, sirs, if the king, provoked at last, Should join the Spaniard, and should fire your city; Paris, your head,—but a most venomous one,— Which must be blooded?
1 Sher. Blooded, colonel!
Gril. Ay, blooded, thou most infamous magistrate, Or you will blood the king, and burn the Louvre; But ere that be, fall million miscreant souls, Such earth-born minds as yours; for, mark me, slaves, Did you not, ages past, consign your lives, Liberties, fortunes, to Imperial hands, Made them the guardians of your sickly years? And now you're grown up to a booby's greatness, What, would you wrest the sceptre from his hand? Now, by the majesty of kings I swear, You shall as soon be saved for packing juries.
1 Sher. Why, sir, mayn't citizens be saved?
Gril. Yes, sir, From drowning, to be hanged, burnt, broke o'the wheel.
1 Sher. Colonel, you speak us plain.
Gril. A plague confound you, Why should I not? what is there in such rascals, Should make me hide my thought, or hold my tongue? Now, in the devil's name, what make you here, Daubing the inside of the court, like snails, Sliming our walls, and pricking out your horns? To hear, I warrant, what the king's a doing, And what the cabinet-council; then to the city, To spread your monstrous lies, and sow sedition? Wild fire choke you!
1 Sher. Well, we'll think of this; And so we take our leaves.
Gril. Nay, stay, my masters; For I'm a thinking now just whereabouts Grow the two tallest trees in Arden forest.
1 Sher. For what, pray, colonel, if we may be so bold?
Gril. Why, to hang you upon the highest branches. 'Fore God, it will be so; and I shall laugh To see you dangling to and fro i'the air, With the honest crows pecking your traitors' limbs.
All. Good colonel!
Gril. Good rats, my precious vermin. You moving dirt, you rank stark muck o'the world, You oven-bats, you things so far from souls, Like dogs, you're out of Providence's reach, And only fit for hanging; but be gone, And think of plunder.—You right elder sheriff, Who carved our Henry's image on a table, At your club-feast, and after stabbed it through,—
1 Sher. Mercy, good colonel.
Gril. Run with your nose to earth; Run, blood-hound, run, and scent out royal murder.— You second rogue, but equal to the first, Plunder, go hang,—nay, take your tackling with you, For these shall hold you fast,—your slaves shall hang you. To the mid region in the sun: Plunder! Begone, vipers, asps, and adders! [Exeunt Sheriffs and People.
Ha! but here comes a fiend, that soars above; A prince o'the air, that sets the mud a moving.
Mal. Colonel, a word.
Gril. I hold no speech with villains.
Mal. But, sir, it may concern your fame and safety.
Gril. No matter; I had rather die traduced, Than live by such a villain's help as thine.
Mal. Hate then the traitor, but yet love the treason.
Gril. Why, are you not a villain?
Mal. 'Tis confessed.
Gril. Then, in the name of all thy brother-devils, What wouldst thou have with me?
Mal. I know you're honest; Therefore it is my business to disturb you.
Gril. 'Fore God, I'll beat thee, if thou urge me farther.
Mal. Why, though you should, yet, if you hear me after, The pleasure I shall take in your vexation, Will heal my bruises.
Gril. Wert thou definite rogue, I'faith, I think, that I should give thee hearing; But such a boundless villainy as thine Admits no patience.
Mal. Your niece is come to court, And yields her honour to our Henry's bed.
Gril. Thou liest, damned villain. [Strikes him.
Mal. So: why this I looked for; But yet I swear by hell, and my revenge, 'Tis true, as you have wronged me.
Gril. Wronged thee, villain! And name revenge! O wert thou Grillon's match, And worthy of my sword, I swear, by this One had been past an oath; but thou'rt a worm, And if I tread thee, darest not turn again.
Mal. 'Tis false; I dare, like you, but cannot act; There is no force in this enervate arm. Blasted I was ere born—curse on my stars!— Got by some dotard in his pithless years, And sent a withered sapling to the world. Yet I have brain, and there is my revenge; Therefore I say again, these eyes have seen Thy blood at court, bright as a summer's morn, When all the heaven is streaked with dappled fires. And flecked with blushes like a rifled maid; Nay, by the gleamy fires that melted from her, Fast sighs and smiles, swol'n lips, and heaving breasts, My soul presages Henry has enjoyed her.
Gril. Again thou liest! and I will crumble thee, Thou bottled spider, into thy primitive earth, Unless thou swear thy very thought's a lie.
Mal. I stand in adamant, and thus defy thee! Nay, draw, and with the edge betwixt my lips, Even while thou rak'st it through my teeth, I'll swear All I have said is true, as thou art honest, Or I a villain.
Gril. Damned infamous wretch! So much below my scorn, I dare not kill thee; And yet so much my hate, that I must fear thee. For should it be as thou hast said, not all The trophies of my laurelled honesty Should bar me from forsaking this bad world, And never draw my sword for Henry more.
Mal. Ha! 'tis well, and now I am revenged. I was in hopes thou wouldst have uttered treason, And forfeited thy head, to pay me fully.
Gril. Hast thou compacted for a lease of years With hell, that thus thou ventured to provoke me?
Mal. Perhaps I have: (How right the blockhead hits!) Yet more to rack thy heart, and break thy brain, Thy niece has been before the Guise's mistress.
Gril. Hell-hound, avaunt!
Mal. Forgive my honest meaning. [Exit.
Gril. 'Tis hatched beneath, a plot upon mine honour; And thus he lays his baits to catch my soul:— Ha! but the presence opens; who comes here? By heaven, my niece! led by Alphonso Corso! Ha, Malicorn! is't possible? truth from thee! 'Tis plain! and I, in justifying woman, Have done the devil wrong.
Enter ALPHONSO CORSO, leading in MARMOUTIERE.
Alph. Madam, the king (Please you to sit) will instantly attend you. [Exit.
Gril. Death, hell, and furies! ha! she comes to seek him!— O prostitute!—and, on her prodigal flesh, She has lavished all the diamonds of the Guise, To set her off, and sell her to the king.
Mar. O heavens! did ever virgin yet attempt An enterprise like mine? I, that resolved Never to leave those dear delightful shades, But act the little part that nature gave me, On the green carpets of some guiltless grove, And having finished it, forsake the world; Unless sometimes my heart might entertain Some small remembrance of the taking Guise: But that far, far from any darkening thought, To cloud my honour, or eclipse my virtue.
Gril. Thou liest! and if thou hadst not glanced aside, And spied me coming, I had had it all.
Mar. By heaven! by all that's good—
Gril. Thou hast lost thy honour. Give me this hand, this hand by which I caught thee From the bold ruffian in the massacre, That would have stained thy almost infant honour, With lust, and blood;—dost thou remember it?
Mar. I do, and bless the godlike arm, that saved me.
Gril. 'Tis false! thou hast forgot my generous action; And now thou laugh'st, to think how thou hast cheated, For all his kindness, this old grisled fool.
Mar. Forbid it heaven!
Gril. But oh, that thou hadst died Ten thousand deaths, ere blasted Grillon's glory; Grillon, that saved thee from a barbarous world. Where thou hadst starved, or sold thyself for bread; Took thee into his bosom, fostered thee As his own soul, and laid thee in his heart-strings; And now, for all my cares, to serve me thus! O 'tis too much, ye powers! double confusion On all my wars; and oh,—out, shame upon thee! It wrings the tears from Grillon's iron heart, And melts me to a babe.
Mar. Sir! father! hear me! I come to court, to save the life of Guise.
Gril. And prostitute thy honour to the king.
Mar. I have looked, perhaps, too nicely for my sex, Into the dark affairs of fatal state; And, to advance this dangerous inquisition, I listened to the love of daring Guise.
Gril. By arms, by honesty, I swear thou lovest him!
Mar. By heaven, that gave those arms success, I swear I do not, as you think! but take it all. I have heard the Guise, not with an angel's temper, Something beyond the tenderness of pity, And yet, not love. Now, by the powers that framed me, this is all! Nor should the world have wrought this close confession, But to rebate your jealousy of honour.
Gril. I know not what to say, nor what to think; There's heaven still in thy voice, but that's a sign Virtue's departing; for thy better angel Still makes the woman's tongue his rising ground, Wags there a while, and takes his flight for ever.
Mar. You must not go.
Gril. Though I have reason, plain As day, to judge thee false, I think thee true: By heaven, methinks I see a glory round thee! There's something says, thou wilt not lose thy honour:— Death and the devil! that's my own honesty; My foolish open nature, that would have All like myself;—but off; I'll hence and curse thee!
Mar. O, stay!
Gril. I will not. Mar. Hark! the king's coming. Let me conjure you, for your own soul's quiet, And for the everlasting rest of mine, Stir not, till you have heard my heart's design.
Gril. Angel, or devil, I will.—Nay, at this rate, She'll make me shortly bring him to her bed.— Bawd for him? no, he shall make me run my head Into a cannon, when 'tis firing, first; That's honourable sport. But I'll retire, And if she plays me false, here's that shall mend her. [Touching his Dagger, exit. MARMOUTIERE sits. Song and Dance.
Enter the King.
King. After the breathing of a love-sick heart Upon your hand, once more,—nay twice,—forgive me.
Mar. I discompose you, sir.
King. Thou dost, by heaven; But with such charming pleasure, I love, and tremble, as at angels' view.
Mar. Love me, my lord?
King. Who should be loved, but you? So loved, that even my crown, and self are vile, While you are by. Try me upon despair; My kingdom at the stake, ambition starved, Revenge forgot, and all great appetites That whet uncommon spirits to aspire, So once a day I may have leave— Nay, madam, then you fear me.
Mar. Fear you, sir! what is there dreadful in you? You've all the graces that can crown mankind; Yet wear them so, as if you did not know them; So stainless, fearless, free in all your actions, As if heaven lent you to the world to pattern.
King. Madam, I find you are no petitioner; My people would not treat me in this sort, Though 'twere to gain a part of their design; But to the Guise they deal their faithless praise As fast, as you your flattery to me; Though for what end I cannot guess, except You come, like them, to mock at my misfortunes.
Mar. Forgive you, heaven, that thought! No, mighty monarch, The love of all the good, and wonder of the great; I swear, by heaven, my heart adores, and loves you.
King. O madam, rise.
Mar. Nay, were you, sir, unthroned By this seditious rout that dare despise you, Blast all my days, ye powers! torment my nights; Nay, let the misery invade my sex, That could not for the royal cause, like me, Throw all their luxury before your feet, And follow you, like pilgrims, through the world.