Harold: A Drama

Act I

Scene II

Alfred Tennyson

In the Garden. The King’s house near London. Sunset.

Mad for thy mate, passionate nightingale. . . . 
I love thee for it—ay, but stay a moment;
He can but stay a moment: he is going.
I fain would hear him coming! . . . near me . . . near.
Somewhere—To draw him nearer with a charm
Like thine to thine.

Love is come with a song and a smile,
Welcome Love with a smile and a song:
Love can stay but a little while.
Why cannot he stay? They call him away:
Ye do him wrong, ye do him wrong;
Love will stay for a whole life long.


The nightingales in Havering-at-the-Bower
Sang out their loves so loud, that Edward’s prayers
Were deafen’d and he pray’d them dumb, and thus
I dumb thee too, my wingless nightingale!

[Kissing her.

Thou art my music! Would their wings were mine
To follow thee to Flanders! Must thou go?

Not must, but will. It is but for one moon.

Leaving so many foes in Edward’s hall
To league against thy weal. The Lady Aldwyth
Was here to-day, and when she touch’d on thee,
She stammer’d in her hate; I am sure she hates thee,
Pants for thy blood.

                Well, I have given her cause—
I fear no woman.

                Hate not one who felt
Some pity for thy hater! I am sure
Her morning wanted sunlight, she so praised
The convent and lone life—within the pale—
Beyond the passion. Nay—she held with Edward,
At least methought she held with holy Edward,
That marriage was half sin.

                        A lesson worth
Finger and thumb—thus (snaps his fingers). And my answer to it—
See here—an interwoven H and E!
Take thou this ring; I will demand his ward
From Edward when I come again. Ay, would she?
She to shut up my blossom in the dark!
Thou art my nun, thy cloister in mine arms.

    EDITH (taking the ring).
Yea, but Earl Tostig—

                That’s a truer fear!
For if the North take fire, I should be back;
I shall be, soon enough.

                        Ay, but last night
An evil dream that ever came and went—

A gnat that vext thy pillow! Had I been by,
I would have spoil’d his horn. My girl, what was it?

Oh! that thou wert not going!
For so methought it was our marriage-morn,
And while we stood together, a dead man
Rose from behind the altar, tore away
My marriage ring, and rent my bridal veil;
And then I turn’d, and saw the church all fill’d
With dead men upright from their graves, and all
The dead men made at thee to murder thee,
But thou didst back thyself against a pillar,
And strike among them with thy battle-axe—
There, what a dream!

                Well, well—a dream—no more!

Did not Heaven speak to men in dreams of old?

Ay—well—of old. I tell thee what, my child;
Thou hast misread this merry dream of thine,
Taken the rifted pillars of the wood
For smooth stone columns of the sanctuary,
The shadows of a hundred fat dead deer
For dead men’s ghosts. True, that the battle-axe
Was out of place; it should have been the bow.—
Come, thou shalt dream no more such dreams; I swear it,
By mine own eyes—and these two sapphires—these
Twin rubies, that are amulets against all
The kisses of all kind of womankind
In Flanders, till the sea shall roll me back
To tumble at thy feet.

                        That would but shame me,
Rather than make me vain. The sea may roll
Sand, shingle, shore-weed, not the living rock
Which guards the land.

                        Except it be a soft one,
And undereaten to the fall. Mine amulet . . . 
This last . . . upon thine eyelids, to shut in
A happier dream. Sleep, sleep, and thou shalt see
My grayhounds fleeting like a beam of light,
And hear my peregrine and her bells in heaven;
And other bells on earth, which yet are heaven’s;
Guess what they be.

                He cannot guess who knows.
Farewell, my king.

                Not yet, but then—my queen.

Enter ALDWYTH from the thicket.

The kiss that charms thine eyelids into sleep,
Will hold mine waking. Hate him? I could love him
More, tenfold, than this fearful child can do;
Griffyth I hated: why not hate the foe
Of England? Griffyth when I saw him flee,
Chased deer-like up his mountains, all the blood
That should have only pulsed for Griffyth, beat
For his pursuer. I love him or think I love him.
If he were King of England, I his queen,
I might be sure of it. Nay, I do love him.—
She must be cloister’d somehow, lest the king
Should yield his ward to Harold’s will. What harm?
She hath but blood enough to live, not love.—
When Harold goes and Tostig, shall I play
The craftier Tostig with him? fawn upon him?
Chime in with all? ‘O thou more saint than king!’
And that were true enough. ‘O blessed relics!’
‘O Holy Peter!’ If he found me thus,
Harold might hate me; he is broad and honest,
Breathing an easy gladness . . . not like Aldwyth . . . 
For which I strangely love him. Should not England
Love Aldwyth, if she stay the feuds that part
The sons of Godwin from the sons of Alfgar
By such a marrying? Courage, noble Aldwyth!
Let all thy people bless thee!
                                        Our wild Tostig,
Edward hath made him Earl: he would be king:—
The dog that snapt the shadow, dropt the bone.—
I trust he may do well, this Gamel, whom
I play upon, that he may play the note
Whereat the dog shall howl and run, and Harold
Hear the king’s music, all alone with him,
Pronounced his heir of England.
I see the goal and half the way to it.—
Peace-lover is our Harold for the sake
Of England’s wholeness—so—to shake the North
With earthquake and disruption—some division—
Then fling mine own fair person in the gap
A sacrifice to Harold, a peace-offering,
A scape-goat marriage—all the sins of both
The houses on mine head—then a fair life
And bless the Queen of England.

    MORCAR (coming from the thicket).
                                Art thou assured
By this, that Harold loves but Edith?

Why creep’st thou like a timorous beast of prey
Out of the bush by night?

                        I follow’d thee.

Follow my lead, and I will make thee earl.

What lead then?

                Thou shalt flash it secretly
Among the good Northumbrian folk, that I—
That Harold loves me—yea, and presently
That I and Harold are betroth’d—and last—
Perchance that Harold wrongs me; tho’ I would not
That it should come to that.

                        I will both flash
And thunder for thee.

                I said ‘secretly;’
It is the flash that murders, the poor thunder
Never harm’d head.

                But thunder may bring down
That which the flash hath stricken.

                                Down with Tostig!
That first of all—And when doth Harold go?

To-morrow—first to Bosham, then to Flanders.

Not to come back till Tostig shall have shown
And redden’d with his people’s blood the teeth
That shall be broken by us—yea, and thou
Chair’d in his place. Good-night, and dream thyself
Their chosen Earl.

[Exit Aldwyth.

                Earl first, and after that
Who knows I may not dream myself their king!

Harold: A Drama - Contents     |     Act II - Scene I

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