Act IV

Scene II

Alfred Tennyson


The boy so late; pray God, he be not lost.
I sent this Margery, and she comes not back;
I sent another, and she comes not back.
I go myself—so many alleys, crossings,
Paths, avenues—nay, if I lost him, now
The folds have fallen from the mystery,
And left all naked, I were lost indeed.

Geoffrey, the pain thou hast put me to!
[Seeing ELEANOR.
                                                            Ha, you!
How came you hither?

                              Your own child brought me hither!

You said you couldn’t trust Margery, and I watched her and followed her into the woods, and I lost her and went on and on till I found the light and the lady, and she says she can make you sleep o’ nights.

How dared you? Know you not this bower is secret,
Of and belonging to the King of England,
More sacred than his forests for the chase?
Nay, nay, Heaven help you; get you hence in haste
Lest worse befall you.

                              Child, I am mine own self
Of and belonging to the King. The King
Hath divers ofs and ons, ofs and belongings,
Almost as many as your true Mussulman—
Belongings, paramours, whom it pleases him
To call his wives; but so it chances, child,
That I am his main paramour, his sultana.
But since the fondest pair of doves will jar,
Ev’n in a cage of gold, we had words of late,
And thereupon he call’d my children bastards.
Do you believe that you are married to him?

I should believe it.

                              You must not believe it,
Because I have a wholesome medicine here
Puts that belief asleep. Your answer, beauty!
Do you believe that you are married to him?

Geoffrey, my boy, I saw the ball you lost in the fork of the great willow over the brook. Go. See that you do not fall in. Go.

And leave you alone with the good fairy. She calls you beauty, but I don’t like her looks. Well, you bid me go, and I’ll have my ball anyhow. Shall I find you asleep when I come back?


[Exit Geoffrey.

He is easily found again. Do you believe it?
I pray you then to take my sleeping-draught;
But if you should not care to take it—see!

[Draws a dagger.
What! have I scared the red rose from your face
Into your heart. But this will find it there,
And dig it from the root for ever.

                                                Help! help!

They say that walls have ears; but these, it seems,
Have none! and I have none—to pity thee.

I do beseech you—my child is so young,
So backward too; I cannot leave him yet.
I am not so happy I could not die myself,
But the child is so young. You have children—his;
And mine is the King’s child; so, if you love him—
Nay, if you love him, there is great wrong done
Somehow; but if you do not—there are those
Who say you do not love him—let me go
With my young boy, and I will hide my face,
Blacken and gipsyfy it; none shall know me;
The King shall never hear of me again,
But I will beg my bread along the world
With my young boy, and God will be our guide.
I never meant you harm in any way.
See, I can say no more.

Will you not say you are not married to him?

Ay, Madam, I can say it, if you will.

Then is thy pretty boy a bastard?


And thou thyself a proven wanton?

I am none such. I never loved but one.
I have heard of such that range from love to love,
Like the wild beast—if you can call it love.
I have heard of such—yea, even among those
Who sit on thrones—I never saw any such,
Never knew any such, and howsoever
You do misname me, match’d with any such,
I am snow to mud.

                        The more the pity then
That thy true home—the heavens—cry out for thee
Who art too pure for earth.


                                          Give her to me.

The Judas-lover of our passion-play
Hath track’d us hither.

                                    Well, why not? I follow’d
You and the child: he babbled all the way.
Give her to me to make my honeymoon.

Ay, as the bears love honey. Could you keep her
Indungeon’d from one whisper of the wind,
Dark even from a side glance of the moon,
And oublietted in the centre—No!
I follow out my hate and thy revenge.

You bad me take revenge another way—
To bring her to the dust. . . . Come with me, love,
And I will love thee. . . . Madam, let her live.
I have a far-off burrow where the King
Would miss her and for ever.

                                          How sayst thou, sweetheart?
Wilt thou go with him? he will marry thee.

Give me the poison; set me free of him!

[ELEANOR offers the vial.
No, no! I will not have it.

                                          Then this other,
The wiser choice, because my sleeping-draught
May bloat thy beauty out of shape, and make
Thy body loathsome even to thy child;
While this but leaves thee with a broken heart,
A doll-face blanch’d and bloodless, over which
If pretty Geoffrey do not break his own,
It must be broken for him.

                                    O I see now
Your purpose is to fright me—a troubadour
You play with words. You had never used so many,
Not if you meant it, I am sure. The child. . . . 
No. . . . mercy! No!      (Kneels.)

                        Play! . . . that bosom never
Heaved under the King’s hand with such true passion
As at this loveless knife that stirs the riot,
Which it will quench in blood! Slave, if he love thee,
Thy life is worth the wrestle for it: arise,
And dash thyself against me that I may slay thee!
The worm! shall I let her go? But ha! what’s here?
By very God, the cross I gave the King!
His village darling in some lewd caress
Has wheedled it off the King’s neck to her own.
By thy leave, beauty. Ay, the same! I warrant
Thou hast sworn on this my cross a hundred times
Never to leave him—and that merits death,
False oath on holy cross—for thou must leave him
To-day, but not quite yet. My good Fitzurse,
The running down the chase is kindlier sport
Ev’n than the death. Who knows but that thy lover
May plead so pitifully, that I may spare thee?
Come hither, man; stand there. (To ROSAMUND)
                                          Take thy one chance;
Catch at the last straw. Kneel to thy lord Fitzurse;
Crouch even because thou hatest him; fawn upon him
For thy life and thy son’s.

    ROSAMUND (rising).
                                          I am a Clifford,
My son a Clifford and Plantagenet.
I am to die then, tho’ there stand beside thee
One who might grapple with thy dagger, if he
Had aught of man, or thou of woman; or I
Would bow to such a baseness as would make me
Most worthy of it: both of us will die,
And I will fly with my sweet boy to heaven,
And shriek to all the saints among the stars:
‘Eleanor of Aquitaine, Eleanor of England!
Murder’d by that adulteress Eleanor,
Whose doings are a horror to the east,
A hissing in the west!’ Have we not heard
Raymond of Poitou, thine own uncle—nay,
Geoffrey Plantagenet, thine own husband’s father—
Nay, ev’n the accursed heathen Saladdeen——
I challenge thee to meet me before God.
Answer me there.

    ELEANOR (raising the dagger).
                        This in thy bosom, fool,
And after in thy bastard’s!

Enter BECKET from behind. Catches hold of her arm.


[The dagger falls; they stare at one another. After a pause.

My lord, we know you proud of your fine hand,
But having now admired it long enough,
We find that it is mightier than it seems—
At least mine own is frailer: you are laming it.

And lamed and maim’d to dislocation, better
Than raised to take a life which Henry bad me
Guard from the stroke that dooms thee after death
To wail in deathless flame.

                                          Nor you, nor I
Have now to learn, my lord, that our good Henry
Says many a thing in sudden heats, which he
Gainsays by next sunrising—often ready
To tear himself for having said as much.
My lord, Fitzurse——

                              He too! what dost thou here?
Dares the bear slouch into the lion’s den?
One downward plunge of his paw would rend away
Eyesight and manhood, life itself, from thee.
Go, lest I blast thee with anathema,
And make thee a world’s horror.

                                                My lord, I shall
Remember this.

                  I do remember thee;
Lest I remember thee to the lion, go.

[Exit Fitzurse.
Take up your dagger; put it in the sheath.

Might not your courtesy stoop to hand it me?
But crowns must bow when mitres sit so high.
Well—well—too costly to be left or lost.

[Picks up the dagger.
I had it from an Arab soldan, who,
When I was there in Antioch, marvell’d at
Our unfamiliar beauties of the west;
But wonder’d more at my much constancy
To the monk-king, Louis, our former burthen,
From whom, as being too kin, you know, my lord,
God’s grace and Holy Church deliver’d us.
I think, time given, I could have talk’d him out of
His ten wives into one. Look at the hilt.
What excellent workmanship. In our poor west
We cannot do it so well.

                                    We can do worse.
Madam, I saw your dagger at her throat;
I heard your savage cry.

                                    Well acted, was it?
A comedy meant to seem a tragedy—
A feint, a farce. My honest lord, you are known
Thro’ all the courts of Christendom as one
That mars a cause with over-violence.
You have wrong’d Fitzurse. I speak not of myself.
We thought to scare this minion of the King
Back from her churchless commerce with the King
To the fond arms of her first love, Fitzurse,
Who swore to marry her. You have spoilt the farce.
My savage cry? Why, she—she—when I strove
To work against her license for her good,
Bark’d out at me such monstrous charges, that
The King himself, for love of his own sons,
If hearing, would have spurn’d her; whereupon
I menaced her with this, as when we threaten
A yelper with a stick. Nay, I deny not
That I was somewhat anger’d. Do you hear me?
Believe or no, I care not. You have lost
The ear of the King. I have it. . . . My lord Paramount,
Our great High-priest, will not your Holiness
Vouchsafe a gracious answer to your Queen?

Rosamund hath not answer’d you one word;
Madam, I will not answer you one word.
Daughter, the world hath trick’d thee. Leave it, daughter;
Come thou with me to Godstow nunnery,
And live what may be left thee of a life
Saved as by miracle alone with Him
Who gave it.

Re-enter GEOFFREY.

Mother, you told me a great fib: it wasn’t in the willow.

Follow us, my son, and we will find it for thee—
Or something manlier.

[Exeunt Becket, Rosamund, and Geoffrey.

The world hath trick’d her—that’s the King; if so,
There was the farce, the feint—not mine. And yet
I am all but sure my dagger was a feint
Till the worm turn’d—not life shot up in blood,
But death drawn in;—(looking at the vial) this was no feint then? no.
But can I swear to that, had she but given
Plain answer to plain query? nay, methinks
Had she but bow’d herself to meet the wave
Of humiliation, worshipt whom she loathed,
I should have let her be, scorn’d her too much
To harm her. Henry—Becket tells him this—
To take my life might lose him Aquitaine.
Too politic for that. Imprison me?
No, for it came to nothing—only a feint.
Did she not tell me I was playing on her?
I’ll swear to mine own self it was a feint.
Why should I swear, Eleanor, who am, or was,
A sovereign power? The King plucks out their eyes
Who anger him, and shall not I, the Queen,
Tear out her heart—kill, kill with knife or venom
One of his slanderous harlots? ‘None of such?’
I love her none the more. Tut, the chance gone,
She lives—but not for him; one point is gain’d.
O I, that thro’ the Pope divorced King Louis,
Scorning his monkery,—I that wedded Henry,
Honouring his manhood—will he not mock at me
The jealous fool balk’d of her will—with him?
But he and he must never meet again.
Reginald Fitzurse!

Re-enter FITZURSE.

                        Here, Madam, at your pleasure.

My pleasure is to have a man about me.
Why did you slink away so like a cur?

Madam, I am as much man as the King.
Madam, I fear Church-censures like your King.

He grovels to the Church when he’s black-blooded,
But kinglike fought the proud archbishop,—kinglike
Defied the Pope, and, like his kingly sires,
The Normans, striving still to break or bind
The spiritual giant with our island laws
And customs, made me for the moment proud
Ev’n of that stale Church-bond which link’d me with him
To bear him kingly sons. I am not so sure
But that I love him still. Thou as much man!
No more of that; we will to France and be
Beforehand with the King, and brew from out
This Godstow-Becket intermeddling such
A strong hate-philtre as may madden him—madden
Against his priest beyond all hellebore.

Becket - Contents    |     Act V - Scene I

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