Act II

Scene I

Alfred Tennyson

ROSAMUND’S Bower. A Garden of Flowers. In the midst a bank of wild-flowers with a bench before it.

Voices heard singing among the trees.


1. Is it the wind of the dawn that I hear in the pine overhead?

2. No; but the voice of the deep as it hollows the cliffs of the land.

1. Is there a voice coming up with the voice of the deep from the strand,
One coming up with a song in the flush of the glimmering red?

2. Love that is born of the deep coming up with the sun from the sea.

1. Love that can shape or can shatter a life till the life shall have fled?

2. Nay, let us welcome him, Love that can lift up a life from the dead.

1. Keep him away from the lone little isle. Let us be, let us be.

2. Nay, let him make it his own, let him reign in it—he, it is he,
Love that is born of the deep coming up with the sun from the sea.


Be friends with him again—I do beseech thee.

With Becket? I have but one hour with thee—
Sceptre and crozier clashing, and the mitre
Grappling the crown—and when I flee from this
For a gasp of freer air, a breathing-while
To rest upon thy bosom and forget him—
Why thou, my bird, thou pipest Becket, Becket—
Yea, thou my golden dream of Love’s own bower,
Must be the nightmare breaking on my peace
With ‘Becket.’

                  O my life’s life, not to smile
Is all but death to me. My sun, no cloud!
Let there not be one frown in this one hour.
Out of the many thine, let this be mine!
Look rather thou all-royal as when first
I met thee.

                  Where was that?

                                          Forgetting that
Forgets me too.

                        Nay, I remember it well.
There on the moors.

                              And in a narrow path.
A plover flew before thee. Then I saw
Thy high black steed among the flaming furze,
Like sudden night in the main glare of day.
And from that height something was said to me
I knew not what.

                        I ask’d the way.

                                                I think so.
So I lost mine.

                        Thou wast too shamed to answer.

Too scared—so young!

                              The rosebud of my rose!—
Well, well, no more of him—I have sent his folk,
His kin, all his belongings, overseas;
Age, orphans, and babe-breasting mothers—all
By hundreds to him—there to beg, starve, die—
So that the fool King Louis feed them not.
The man shall feel that I can strike him yet.

Babes, orphans, mothers! is that royal, Sire?

And I have been as royal with the Church.
He shelter’d in the Abbey of Pontigny.
There wore his time studying the canon law
To work it against me. But since he cursed
My friends at Veselay, I have let them know,
That if they keep him longer as their guest,
I scatter all their cowls to all the hells.

And is that altogether royal?


A faithful traitress to thy royal fame.

Fame! what care I for fame? Spite, ignorance, envy,
Yea, honesty too, paint her what way they will.
Fame of to-day is infamy to-morrow;
Infamy of to-day is fame to-morrow;
And round and round again. What matters? Royal—I
mean to leave the royalty of my crown
Unlessen’d to mine heirs.

                                    Still—thy fame too:
I say that should be royal.

                                          And I say,
I care not for thy saying.

                                    And I say,
I care not for thy saying. A greater King
Than thou art, Love, who cares not for the word,
Makes ‘care not’—care. There have I spoken true?

Care dwell with me for ever, when I cease
To care for thee as ever!

                                    No need! no need! . . . 
There is a bench. Come, wilt thou sit? . . . My bank
Of wild-flowers [he sits]. At thy feet!

[She sits at his feet.

                                                            I had them clear
A royal pleasaunce for thee, in the wood,
Not leave these countryfolk at court.

                                                      I brought them
In from the wood, and set them here. I love them
More than the garden flowers, that seem at most
Sweet guests, or foreign cousins, not half speaking
The language of the land. I love them too,
Yes. But, my liege, I am sure, of all the roses—
Shame fall on those who gave it a dog’s name—
This wild one (picking a briar-rose)—nay, I shall not prick myself—
Is sweetest. Do but smell!

                                    Thou rose of the world!
Thou rose of all the roses!

I am not worthy of her—this beast-body
That God has plunged my soul in—I, that taking
The Fiend’s advantage of a throne, so long
Have wander’d among women,—a foul stream
Thro’ fever-breeding levels,—at her side,
Among these happy dales, run clearer, drop
The mud I carried, like yon brook, and glass
The faithful face of heaven—
[Looking at her, and unconsciously aloud,
                                          —thine! thine!

                                          I know it.

    HENRY (muttering).
Not hers. We have but one bond, her hate of Becket.

    ROSAMUND (half hearing).
Nay! nay! what art thou muttering? I hate Becket?

    HENRY (muttering).
A sane and natural loathing for a soul
Purer, and truer and nobler than herself;
And mine a bitterer illegitimate hate,
A bastard hate born of a former love.

My fault to name him! O let the hand of one
To whom thy voice is all her music, stay it
But for a breath.

[Puts her hand before his lips.
                        Speak only of thy love.
Why there—like some loud beggar at thy gate—
The happy boldness of this hand hath won it
Love’s alms, thy kiss (looking at her hand)—Sacred!
I’ll kiss it too.
[Kissing it.
There! wherefore dost thou so peruse it? Nay,
There may be crosses in my line of life.

Not half her hand—no hand to mate with her,
If it should come to that.

                              With her? with whom?

Life on the hand is naked gipsy-stuff;
Life on the face, the brows-clear innocence!
Vein’d marble—not a furrow yet—and hers

Crost and recrost, a venomous spider’s web——

    ROSAMUND (springing up).
Out of the cloud, my Sun—out of the eclipse
Narrowing my golden hour!

                                    O Rosamund,
I would be true—would tell thee all—and something
I had to say—I love thee none the less—
Which will so vex thee.

                                    Something against me?

No, no, against myself.

                                    I will not hear it.
Come, come, mine hour! I bargain for mine hour.
I’ll call thee little Geoffrey.

                                                Call him!



How the boy grows!

                        Ay, and his brows are thine;
The mouth is only Clifford, my dear father.

My liege, what hast thou brought me?

                                                      Venal imp!
What say’st thou to the Chancellorship of England?

O yes, my liege.

                        ‘O yes, my liege!’ He speaks
As if it were a cake of gingerbread.
Dost thou know, my boy, what it is to be Chancellor of England?

Something good, or thou wouldst not give it me.

It is, my boy, to side with the King when Chancellor, and then to be made Archbishop and go against the King who made him, and turn the world upside down.

I won’t have it then. Nay, but give it me, and I promise thee not to turn the world upside down.

    HENRY (giving him a ball).
Here is a ball, my boy, thy world, to turn anyway and play with as thou wilt—which is more than I can do with mine. Go try it, play.

[Exit Geoffrey.
A pretty lusty boy.

                              So like to thee;
Like to be liker.

                        Not in my chin, I hope!
That threatens double.

                              Thou art manlike perfect.

Ay, ay, no doubt; and were I humpt behind,
Thou’dst say as much—the goodly way of women
Who love, for which I love them. May God grant
No ill befall or him or thee when I
Am gone.

            Is he thy enemy?

                                          He? who? ay!

Thine enemy knows the secret of my bower.

And I could tear him asunder with wild horses
Before he would betray it. Nay—no fear!
More like is he to excommunicate me.

And I would creep, crawl over knife-edge flint
Barefoot, a hundred leagues, to stay his hand
Before he flash’d the bolt.

                                          And when he flash’d it
Shrink from me, like a daughter of the Church.

Ay, but he will not.

                              Ay! but if he did?

O then! O then! I almost fear to say
That my poor heretic heart would excommunicate
His excommunication, clinging to thee
Closer than ever.

    HENRY (raising ROSAMUND and kissing her).
                        My brave-hearted Rose!
Hath he ever been to see thee?

                                          Here? not he.
And it is so lonely here—no confessor.

Thou shall confess all thy sweet sins to me.

Besides, we came away in such a heat,
I brought not ev’n my crucifix.

                                                Take this.

[Giving her the Crucifix which ELEANOR gave him.

O beautiful! May I have it as mine, till mine
Be mine again?

    HENRY (throwing it round her neck).
                  Thine—as I am—till death!

Death? no! I’ll have it with me in my shroud,
And wake with it, and show it to all the Saints.

Nay—I must go; but when thou layest thy lip
To this, remembering One who died for thee,
Remember also one who lives for thee
Out there in France; for I must hence to brave
The Pope, King Louis, and this turbulent priest.

    ROSAMUND (kneeling).
O by thy love for me, all mine for thee,
Fling not thy soul into the flames of hell:
I kneel to thee—be friends with him again.

Look, look! if little Geoffrey have not tost
His ball into the brook! makes after it too
To find it. Why, the child will drown himself.

Geoffrey! Geoffrey!


Becket - Contents    |     Act II - Scene II

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