Imatges de pàgina

one another, the former being reserved simply for the full development and illustration of the latter. Imagination is as the immortal God which should assume flesh for the redemption of mortal passion. It is thus that the most remote and the most familiar imagery may alike be fit for dramatic purposes when employed in the illustration of strong feeling, which raises what is low, and levels to the apprehension that which is lofty, casting over all the shadow of its own greatness. In other respects I have written more carelessly; that is, without an over-fastidious and learned choice of words. In this respect I entirely agree with those modern critics who assert that in order to move men to true sympathy we must use the familiar language of men. And that our great ancestors the ancient English poets are the writers, a study of whom might incite us to do that for our own age which they have done for theirs. But it must be the real language of men in general, and not that of any particular class to whose society the writer happens to belong. So much for what I have attempted; I need not be assured that success is a very different matter; particularly for one whose attention has but newly been awakened to the study of dramatic literature.

I endeavoured whilst at Rome to observe such monuments of this story as might be accessible to a stranger. The portrait of Beatrice at the Colonna Palace is admirable as a work of art: it was taken by Guido during her confinement in prison. But it is most interesting as a just representation of one of the loveliest specimens of the workmanship of Nature. There is a fixed and pale composure upon the features: she seems sad and stricken down in spirit, yet the despair thus expressed is lightened by the patience of gentleness. Her head is bound with folds of white drapery from which the yellow strings of her golden hair escape and fall about her neck. The moulding of her face is exquisitely delicate; the eyebrows are distinct and arched; the lips have that permanent meaning of imagination and sensibility which suffering has not repressed, and which it seems as if death scarcely could extinguish. Her forehead is large and clear; her eyes, which we are told were remarkable for their vivacity, are swollen with weeping and lustreless, but beautifully tender and serene. In the whole mien there is a simplicity and dignity which united with her exquisite loveliness and deep sorrow are inexpressibly pathetic. Beatrice Cenci appears to have been one of those rare persons in whom energy and gentleness dwell together without destroying one another: her nature was simple and profound. The crimes and miseries in which she was an actor and a sufferer are as the mask and the mantle in which circumstances clothed her for her impersonation on the scene of the world.

The Cenci Palace is of great extent; and though in part modernized, there yet remains a vast and gloomy pile of feudal architecture in the same state as during the dreadful scenes which are the subject of this tragedy. The Palace is situated in an obscure corner of Rome, near the quarter of the Jews, and from the upper windows you see the immense ruins of Mount Palatine half hidden under their profuse overgrowth of trees. There is a court in one part of the Palace (perhaps that in which Cenci built the Chapel to St. Thomas), supported by granite columns and adorned with antique friezes of fine workmanship, and built up according to the ancient Italian fashion, with balcony over balcony of open-work. One of the gates of the Palace, formed of immense stones, and leading through a passage, dark and lofty, and opening into gloomy subterranean chambers, struck me particularly.

Of the Castle of Petrella, I could obtain no further information than that which is to be found in the manuscript.


SAVELLA, the Pope's Legate.



his Sons.



ORSINO, a Prelate.

OLIMPIO, Assassins.

ANDREA, Servant to CENCI.
Nobles, Judges, Guards, Servants.

LUCRETIA, Wife of CENCI, and Stepmother of his Children.
BEATRICE, his Daughter.

The Scene lies principally in Rome, but changes during the Fourth Act to Petrella, a castle among the Apulian Apennines.

TIME-During the Pontificate of CLEMENT VIII.


SCENE I-An Apartment in the Cenci Palace.

Cam. That matter of the murder is hushed up
If you consent to yield his Holiness

Your fief that lies beyond the Pincian gate.

It needed all my interest in the conclave

To bend him to this point: he said that you
Bought perilous impunity with your gold;

That crimes like yours if once or twice compounded
Enriched the Church, and respited from hell
An erring soul which might repent and live;

But the glory and the interest

Of the high throne he fills, little consist
With making it a daily mart of guilt

As manifold and hideous as the deeds

Which you scarce hide from men's revolted eyes.
Cen. The third of my possessions-let it go!
Ay, I once heard the nephew of the Pope
Had sent his architect to view the ground,
Meaning to build a villa on my vines

The next time I compounded with his uncle:
I little thought he should outwit me so!
Henceforth no witness-not the lamp-shall see
That which the vassal threatened to divulge,
Whose throat is choked with dust for his reward.
The deed he saw could not have rated higher
Than his most worthless life:-it angers me!
Respited me from Hell !-So may the Devil

Respite their souls from Heaven. No doubt Pope Clement,
And his most charitable nephews, pray

That the Apostle Peter and the saints

Will grant for their sake that I long enjoy

Strength, wealth, and pride, and lust, and length of days

Wherein to act the deeds which are the stewards

Of their revenue.-But much yet remains
To which they show no title.


Oh, Count Cenci !

So much that thou mightst honourably live
And reconcile thyself with thine own heart
And with thy God, and with the offended world.
How hideously look deeds of lust and blood
Through those snow-white and venerable hairs!
Your children should be sitting round you now,
But that you fear to read upon their looks
The shame and misery you have written there.
Where is your wife? Where is your gentle daughter?
Methinks her sweet looks, which make all things else
Beauteous and glad, might kill the fiend within you.
Why is she barred from all society

But her own strange and uncomplaining wrongs?
Talk with me, Count,-you know I mean you well.
I stood beside your dark and fiery youth
Watching its bold and bad career, as men
Watch meteors, but it vanished not: I marked
Your desperate and remorseless manhood; now
Do I behold you, in dishonoured age,
Charged with a thousand unrepented crimes.
Yet I have ever hoped you would amend,
And in that hope have saved your life three times.
Cen. For which Aldobrandino owes you now
My fief beyond the Pincian. Cardinal,
One thing, I pray you, recollect henceforth,
And so we shall converse with less restraint.
A man you knew spoke of my wife and daughter:
He was accustomed to frequent my house;
So the next day his wife and daughter came
And asked if I had seen him; and I smiled:
I think they never saw him any more.
Cam. Thou execrable man, beware!-
Cen. Of thee?

Nay, this is idle: we should know each other.
As to my character for what men call crime,
Seeing I please my senses as I list,

And vindicate that right with force or guile,
It is a public matter, and I care not
If I discuss it with you. I may speak
Alike to you and my own conscious heart;

For you give out that you have half reformed me,
Therefore strong vanity will keep you silent
If fear should not; both will, I do not doubt.

All men delight in sensual luxury,

All men enjoy revenge; and most exult
Over the tortures they can never feel;

Flattering their secret peace with others' pain.

But I delight in nothing else. I love
The sight of agony, and the sense of joy,
When this shall be another's and that mine.

And I have no remorse and little fear,

Which are, I think, the checks of other men.
This mood has grown upon me, until now
Any design my captious fancy makes
The picture of its wish, and it forms none

But such as men like you would start to know,
Is as my natural food and rest debarred

Until it be accomplished.


Most miserable?


Art thou not

Why miserable?—

No. I am what you theologians call

Hardened; which they must be in impudence,

So to revile a man's peculiar taste.

True, I was happier than I am, while yet
Manhood remained to act the thing I thought;
While lust was sweeter than revenge; and now
Invention palls: ay, we must all grow old:
And but that there remains a deed to act
Whose horror might make sharp an appetite
Duller than mine-I'd do,-I know not what.
When I was young I thought of nothing else
But pleasure; and I fed on honey sweets:
Men, by St. Thomas! cannot live like bees,
And I grew tired: yet, till I killed a foe,

And heard his groans, and heard his children's groans,
Knew I not what delight was else on earth,
Which now delights me little. I the rather
Look on such pangs as terror ill conceals:
The dry, fixed eyeball; the pale, quivering lip,
Which tell me that the spirit weeps within
Tears bitterer than the bloody sweat of Christ.
I rarely kill the body, which preserves,
Like a strong prison, the soul within my power,

Wherein I feed it with the breath of fear

For hourly pain.


Hell's most abandoned fiend

Did never, in the drunkenness of guilt,

Speak to his heart as now you speak to me;

I thank my God that I believe you not.


Andr. My lord, a gentleman from Salamanca

Would speak with you.

Cen. Bid him attend me in the grand saloon. [Exit ANDREA.

Cam. Farewell; and I will pray

Almighty God that thy false, impious words,
Tempt not his spirit to abandon thee.


Cen. The third of my possessions! I must use
Close husbandry, or gold, the old man's sword,
Falls from my withered hand. But yesterday
There came an order from the Pope to make
Fourfold provision for my cursed sons;
Whom I had sent from Rome to Salamanca,
Hoping some accident might cut them off;
And meaning if I could to starve them there.
I pray thee, God, send some quick death upon them!
Bernardo and my wife could not be worse
If dead and damned: then, as to Beatrice-

[Looking around him suspiciously.

I think they cannot hear me at that door;
What if they should? And yet I need not speak,

Though the heart triumphs with itself in words,

O, thou most silent air, that shalt not hear

What now I think! Thou, pavement, which I tread
Towards her chamber,-let your echoes talk
Of my imperious step, scorning surprise,
But not of my intent! Andrea!

Andr. My lord!


Cen. Bid Beatrice attend me in her chamber This evening:-no, at midnight, and alone.

SCENE II.-A Garden of the Cenci Palace.


Enter BEATRICE and ORSINO, as in conversation.

Beatr. Pervert not truth,


You remember where we held

That conversation;-nay, we see the spot

Even from this cypress;-two long years are past
Since, on an April midnight, underneath

The moonlight ruins of Mount Palatine,
I did confess to you my secret mind.
Ors. You said you loved me then.
Beatr. You are a priest,

Speak to me not of love.

Ors. I may obtain

The dispensation of the Pope to marry.

Because I am a priest do you believe

Your image, as the hunter some struck deer,

Follows me not whether I wake or sleep?

Beatr. As I have said, speak to me not of love;

Had you a dispensation, I have not;

Nor will I leave this home of misery

Whilst my poor Bernard, and that gentle lady
To whom I owe life and these virtuous thoughts,
Must suffer what I still have strength to share.
Alas, Orsino! All the love that once

I felt for you, is turned to bitter pain.

Ours was a youthful contract, which you first
Broke, by assuming vows no Pope will loose.
And thus I love you still, but holily,

Even as a sister or a spirit might;

And so I swear a cold fidelity.

And it is well perhaps we shall not marry.

You have a sly, equivocating vein

That suits me not. Ah, wretched that I am!
Where shall I turn? Even now you look on me
As you were not my friend, and as if you
Discovered that I thought so, with false smiles
Making my true suspicion seem your wrong.
Ah! No, forgive me; sorrow makes me seem
Sterner than else my nature might have been;
I have a weight of melancholy thoughts,
And they forbode,-but what can they forbode
Worse than I now endure?

Ors. All will be well.

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