Imatges de pàgina


He replies to her with kind words, and bids her joy of her tranquillity. For himself, that night he must be gone. And with the word comes her initiation, the first hint of sorrow. She will not have him go; she is · but a child,' not yet used to her 'grave place and duty':

• Can we not play together a brief while ?

Stay then a little.' But before he can answer Giovanni enters, and in every word spoken there is again the double meaning-hidden from him who speaks, menacing to the hearer :

• Stand either side of me-you whom I love.
I'd have you two as dear now to each other
As both of you to me. We are, Francesca,
A something more than brothers—fiercest friends;
Concordia was our mother named, and ours
Is but one heart, one honour, and one death.
Any that came between us I would kill.
Franc. Sir, I will love him : is he not my

brother?' So she replies in her ignorance ; but you are to conceive that an actor will make it apparent how far from ignorant is Paolo of the peril about him. And when Francesca is summoned by her tirewoman, Paolo speaks at once to Giovanni, *I'll say farewell to-night.' •

But his brother remonstrates. Surely there is some mystery, and none yet has been between them! Eagerly he plies his questions till a thought comes :

* Ah, some lady you bebeld
There at Ravenna in Francesca's train!
Was it not so ?

Paolo. Urge me no more to words.
Giov. What woman draws you thus away from me ?
Paolo. No woman, brother, draws me from this house.

Giov. You like not then my marriage !--but, indeed,
No marriage can dissolve the bond between us.
Here you are free as ever in the house-
Once more, what is the reason of your going ?

Paolo. Brother, 'tis nothing that has chanced, but rather
That which may chance, if here I am detained.

Giov. Darker, and yet more dark. Now speak it out.' Then the fierce temper which Giovanni has already avowed the violence that showed its teeth when he held the girl's hands-breaks out, and to save a quarrel Paolo yields. And so the toils close about the victims on the one that sees, and on the two that are blind. But now there enters on the scene the one actor who is not merely the sport of fate—who forces the issue--the bitter barren woman' VOL. CXCI. NO. CCCXCI.





Lucrezia. She coines to Giovanni seemingly to bid hiin joy, really to rouse his fear, in a speech that tells of first love with a woman's memory of her own dreams :

O beware
This child yet scarce awake upon the worid !
Dread her first ecstasy if one should come
That should appear to her balf-open eyes
Wonderful as a prince from fairyland,

Or venturing through forests toward her face.' Instantly the wild beast in him rises to defend its prey; and under show of calming she spurs him, goads him with the phrase, “ Youth goes towards youth,' and hints of his mounded back and sullen gait,' till the man turns and cries out upon her bitterness. And in the intimacy of that fierce word-play the brooding thought of her life suddenly forms itself into speech--the first great speech of the play. • Bitterness-am I bitter ? '—she flings the word in his face.

• How else ? my husband dead and childless left,
My thwarted woman thoughts have inward turned,
And that vain milk like acid in me eats.

... Does great God
Expect I shall clasp air and kiss the wind
For ever ? And the budding cometh on,
The burgeoning, the cruel flowering :
At night the quickening splash of rain, at dawn
The muffled call of birds, how like to babes !
And I amid these sights and sounds must starve-
I, with so much to give, perish of thrift,
Omitted by his casual dew.

Well, well,
You are spared much : children can wring the heart.

Lucr. Spared! to be spared what I was born to have !
I am a woman, and this


Demands its natural pangs, its rightful throes,

And I implore with vehemence these pains.' If that is not great poetry, what is? And the speech goes on; the woman's soul reveals itself, not seeking to conceal her hatred, the peril and the menace that are in her :

' It is such souls as mine that go to swell
The childless cavern cry of the barren sea

Or make that human ending to night wind.' There at last is set before us the actor with a motive, the spring of fate's engine. But for Mr. Phillips clings to the outline of the story as related in the Italian book, which

[ocr errors]


tells of an astrologer's prediction—there is other food to Giovanni's passion of jealousy. The blind old woman who has been his foster-mother demands to see him, and she too feels the strange commotion, the troubled atmosphere of the house :

Ah, but a juice too pure hath now been poured

In a dark ancient wine, and the cup seethes.' As he holds her she shivers as Francesca had shivered. She fears for him, for the man once mailed and impenetrable who has now taken into his life this strange soft thing,' and grows at once vulnerable. While she broods upon her fear the dark eyes begin to see, and she sees two sitting in an arbour-his wife and another. But as he tears the words from her stammering lips she checks; 'the face was •dim ;' only this she can tell him-in words dark as night to him, plain to the listener :

"He shall be
Not far to seek : yet perilous to find.
Unwillingly he comes a-wooing; she
Unwillingly is wooed : yet shall they woo-

His kiss was on her lips ere she was born.'
As he still questions a sound breaks in on them. What

" is that sound?' she asks, and he answers, ‘My marriage • trumpets.'

So the first act closes with a last touch of the tragic irony. One may cavil, perhaps, at the scene of second sight; yet the episode is in the story, and enough belief in the possibility of such vision lingers or revives to justify its introduction on the stage; and the old blind nurse might be a figure scarcely less effective in her way than even Cassandra.

In the second act the net closes, and the victims know themselves meshed. Paolo urges his going, yet Giovanni has a new reason why he should stay. He has been warned of peril to Francesca, and since he himself must shortly be absent on affairs--for the trouble grows fast in Pesaro--who shall defend Francesca like Paolo from this peril, this dread of 'one stealing in to woo her'? But the more Giovanni urges, the more strongly Paolo recoils. Then the elder brother, summoned away himself, bids Francesca plead for him, and she in her innocent ignorance tortures the man with pretty entreaties, till he breaks out upon her with words 'sweet, but dark.' Vaguely she knows her power over him; innocently she tries it; till at last he tears bimself

; away, and she is left to her thoughts, the mystery of her


own magic. As she questions in the glass with her own face

Slight face and yet the cause of woe to men'-her maid comes in, and with a brief exchange of words— but all this scene is the most exquisite poetry—the truth is flashed on her: Nita.

He is, my lady,
Your husband's brother,

O, I had not thought, I had not thought-I have sinned and I am stained.' And so she has her answer. Now sorrow comes : she is awake, a woman now, blossoming into the fulness of her beauty, and her dark husband returning can scarcely take his fingers out of her bright hair. Yet she leaves him, and on the instant he is a prey again to his fears, and to Lucrezia, who sowed them, he imparts the crop. She, quick on the scent, pauses, hovers for a moment over blind Angela's words, then swoops upon their meaning. But it is gradually and by slow steps that she leads him to narrowing the circle till the name is on his lips, yet he shrinks from uttering it till she drives him :

• Giovanni, who shall set a shore to love ?
When hath it ever swerved from death, or when
Hath it not burned away all barriers,
Even dearest ties of mother and of son,
Even of brothers ?

Giov. (seizing her arm). Is it Paolo ?' Then the strong man, shaken with his pity and rage, falls into a fit, but awakens with the cry:

Henceforward let no woman bear two sons.' And he, too, is now a worker with_fate, not a passive victim. Yet one obstacle remains. Paolo is gone--gone with his troop of horse; but at a wayside inn the troop is halted, just clear of Rimini, and here there passes a scene in prose of a curious ringing quality with a drinking song that could hardly be bettered for its purpose here; the spirit of recklessness is in it. The soldiers are bidding their girls good-bye; they have come thus far together, but, with laughter and not without tragic tears, they part. The men march out, and their officers enter; with them Paolo, whose eyes can look only down the straight road to Rimini. His comrades rally him on his sadness; he is apt to quarrel, but they leave him, and he stays to fight the

[ocr errors]

losing battle against his heart. For a moment the drums passing stir him, and he makes to follow the soldiers, yet cannot. One way alone remains, 'a straight path to the dark.'

• And they that find me dead shall lay me down,

Beautiful as a sleeper at her feet.' Thus the escaping quarry is herded back into the trap, and the net is drawn.

So far, setting aside Lucrezia's speech--and even that is germane to the matter--not a word has been spoken that does not advance the action, except the drinking scene of the soldiers, deliberately thrown in to relieve for a moment the increasing gloom. And the third act opens with another passage where for a moment life is at play, though in a sinister shadow. In the apothecary's shop at nightfall girls are buying and a girl is selling love philtres and drugs against love. But darkness comes quick, the doors close, and the apothecary Pulci comes in to send his daughter from her play with the cosmetics that she is applying to her pretty face. Then comes a knock, and a man enters masked-not Paolo, but Giovanni. He, too, has come for a drug--some dreamy potion that can enthral a woman's wandering heart.' As they debate upon Pulci's offers another knock comes; Giovanni hides himself. The door is gently unbarred, and from the night Paolo enters. He flings his purse on the counter, demanding in exchange

• Some drug
That can fetch down on us the eternal sleep

Anticipating the slow mind of God.' And, under cover of desire to know the purpose for which the poison is needed, the old man draws from him his confession—the frank speech of one unknown, having no more concern with life, to one who neither knows nor cares. And Giovanni, half shrouded in the darkness, hears, and is silent while the desperate lover goes again into the dark, and the poison merchant follows him, fearing lest he should kill himself at the very door. So Giovanni is alone, torn between his love, his pity, and his dreadful relief. In this hasty analysis of the action one cannot indicate the poetry. But for an actor who could act surely there should be a wonderful occasion in this scene of silence ; for even when Giovanni steps into the light, and exchauges phrases with the old man, he is really silent, crushing down a cry in his throat.

« AnteriorContinua »