Scene I

Alfred Tennyson

The Bower.


All that you say is just. I cannot answer it
Till better times, when I shall put away—

What will you put away?

                                    That which you ask me
Till better times. Let it content you now
There is no woman that I love so well.

No woman but should be content with that—

And one fair child to fondle!

                                          O yes, the child
We waited for so long—heaven’s gift at last—
And how you doated on him then! To-day
I almost fear’d your kiss was colder—yes—
But then the child is such a child. What chance
That he should ever spread into the man
Here in our silence? I have done my best.
I am not learn’d.

                        I am the King, his father,
And I will look to it. Is our secret ours?
Have you had any alarm? no stranger?

The warder of the bower hath given himself
Of late to wine. I sometimes think he sleeps
When he should watch; and yet what fear? the people
Believe the wood enchanted. No one comes,
Nor foe nor friend; his fond excess of wine
Springs from the loneliness of my poor bower,
Which weighs even on me.

                                    Yet these tree-towers,
Their long bird-echoing minster-aisles,—the voice
Of the perpetual brook, these golden slopes
Of Solomon-shaming flowers—that was your saying,
All pleased you so at first.

                                          Not now so much.
My Anjou bower was scarce as beautiful.
But you were oftener there. I have none but you.
The brook’s voice is not yours, and no flower, not
The sun himself, should he be changed to one,
Could shine away the darkness of that gap
Left by the lack of love.

                                    The lack of love!

Of one we love. Nay, I would not be bold,
Yet hoped ere this you might——

[Looks earnestly at him.

                                          Anything further?

Only my best bower-maiden died of late,
And that old priest whom John of Salisbury trusted
Hath sent another.


                                    I but ask’d her
One question, and she primm’d her mouth and put
Her hands together—thus—and said, God help her,
That she was sworn to silence.

                                          What did you ask her?

Some daily something—nothing.

                                          Secret, then?

I do not love her. Must you go, my liege,
So suddenly?

                  I came to England suddenly,
And on a great occasion sure to wake
As great a wrath in Becket——

                                          Always Becket!
He always comes between us.

                                    —And to meet it
I needs must leave as suddenly. It is raining,
Put on your hood and see me to the bounds.


    MARGERY (singing behind scene).
              Babble in bower
                  Under the rose!
              Bee mustn’t buzz,
                  Whoop—but he knows.

              Kiss me, little one,
                  Nobody near!
              Grasshopper, grasshopper,
                  Whoop—you can hear.

              Kiss in the bower,
                  Tit on the tree!
              Bird mustn’t tell,
                  Whoop—he can see.


I ha’ been but a week here and I ha’ seen what I ha’ seen, for to be sure it’s no more than a week since our old Father Philip that has confessed our mother for twenty years, and she was hard put to it, and to speak truth, nigh at the end of our last crust, and that mouldy, and she cried out on him to put me forth in the world and to make me a woman of the world, and to win my own bread, whereupon he asked our mother if I could keep a quiet tongue i’ my head, and not speak till I was spoke to, and I answered for myself that I never spoke more than was needed, and he told me he would advance me to the service of a great lady, and took me ever so far away, and gave me a great pat o’ the cheek for a pretty wench, and said it was a pity to blindfold such eyes as mine, and such to be sure they be, but he blinded ’em for all that, and so brought me no-hows as I may say, and the more shame to him after his promise, into a garden and not into the world, and bad me whatever I saw not to speak one word, an’ it ’ud be well for me in the end, for there were great ones who would look after me, and to be sure I ha’ seen great ones to-day—and then not to speak one word, for that’s the rule o’ the garden, tho’ to be sure if I had been Eve i’ the garden I shouldn’t ha’ minded the apple, for what’s an apple, you know, save to a child, and I’m no child, but more a woman o’ the world than my lady here, and I ha’ seen what I ha’ seen—tho’ to be sure if I hadn’t minded it we should all on us ha’ had to go, bless the Saints, wi’ bare backs, but the backs ’ud ha’ countenanced one another, and belike it ’ud ha’ been always summer, and anyhow I am as well-shaped as my lady here, and I ha’ seen what I ha’ seen, and what’s the good of my talking to myself, for here comes my lady (enter ROSAMUND), and, my lady, tho’ I shouldn’t speak one word, I wish you joy o’ the King’s brother.

What is it you mean?

I mean your goodman, your husband, my lady, for I saw your ladyship a-parting wi’ him even now i’ the coppice, when I was a-getting o’ bluebells for your ladyship’s nose to smell on—and I ha’ seen the King once at Oxford, and he’s as like the King as fingernail to fingernail, and I thought at first it was the King, only you know the King’s married, for King Louis——


Years and years, my lady, for her husband, King Louis——


—And I thought if it were the King’s brother he had a better bride than the King, for the people do say that his is bad beyond all reckoning, and——

The people lie.

Very like, my lady, but most on ’em know an honest woman and a lady when they see her, and besides they say, she makes songs, and that’s against her, for I never knew an honest woman that could make songs, tho’ to be sure our mother ’ill sing me old songs by the hour, but then, God help her, she had ’em from her mother, and her mother from her mother back and back for ever so long, but none on ’em ever made songs, and they were all honest.

Go, you shall tell me of her some other time.

There’s none so much to tell on her, my lady, only she kept the seventh commandment better than some I know on, or I couldn’t look your ladyship i’ the face, and she brew’d the best ale in all Glo’ster, that is to say in her time when she had the ‘Crown.’

The crown! who?


I mean her whom you call—fancy—my husband’s brother’s wife.

Oh, Queen Eleanor. Yes, my lady; and tho’ I be sworn not to speak a word, I can tell you all about her, if——

No word now. I am faint and sleepy. Leave me. Nay—go.
What! will you anger me.

[Exit Margery.
He charged me not to question any of those
About me. Have I? no! she question’d me.
Did she not slander him? Should she stay here?
May she not tempt me, being at my side,
To question her? Nay, can I send her hence
Without his kingly leave! I am in the dark.
I have lived, poor bird, from cage to cage, and known
Nothing but him—happy to know no more,
So that he loved me—and he loves me—yes,
And bound me by his love to secrecy
Till his own time.
                        Eleanor, Eleanor, have I
Not heard ill things of her in France? Oh, she’s
The Queen of France. I see it—some confusion,
Some strange mistake. I did not hear aright,
Myself confused with parting from the King.

    MARGERY (behind scene).
              Bee mustn’t buzz,
                  Whoop—but he knows.

Yet her—what her? he hinted of some her—
When he was here before—
Something that would displease me. Hath he stray’d
From love’s clear path into the common bush,
And, being scratch’d, returns to his true rose,
Who hath not thorn enough to prick him for it,
Ev’n with a word?

    MARGERY (behind scene).
              Bird mustn’t tell,
                  Whoop—he can see.

I would not hear him. Nay—there’s more—he frown’d
‘No mate for her, if it should come to that’—
To that—to what?

    MARGERY (behind scene).
              Whoop—but he knows,
                  Whoop—but he knows.

O God! some dreadful truth is breaking on me—
Some dreadful thing is coming on me.


What are you crying for, when the sun shines?

Hath not thy father left us to ourselves?

Ay, but he’s taken the rain with him. I hear
Margery: I’ll go play with her.

[Exit Geoffrey.

              Rainbow, stay,
              Gleam upon gloom,
              Bright as my dream,
              Rainbow, stay!
              But it passes away,
              Gloom upon gleam,
              Dark as my doom—
              O rainbow stay.

Becket - Contents    |     Act III - Scene II

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