Harold: A Drama


Scene II

Alfred Tennyson

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

Crown’d, crown’d and lost, crown’d King—and lost to me!

Two young lovers in winter weather,
    None to guide them,
Walk’d at night on the misty heather;
Night, as black as a raven’s feather;
Both were lost and found together,
    None beside them.

That is the burthen of it—lost and found
Together in the cruel river Swale
A hundred years ago; and there’s another,

Lost, lost, the light of day,

To which the lover answers lovingly

    ‘I am beside thee.’
Lost, lost, we have lost the way.
    ‘Love, I will guide thee.’
Whither, O whither? into the river,
Where we two may be lost together,
And lost for ever? ‘Oh! never, oh! never,
Tho’ we be lost and be found together.’

Some think they loved within the pale forbidden
By Holy Church: but who shall say? the truth
Was lost in that fierce North, where they were lost,
Where all good things are lost, where Tostig lost
The good hearts of his people. It is Harold!

Harold the King!

                Call me not King, but Harold.

Nay, thou art King!

                        Thine, thine, or King or churl!
My girl, thou hast been weeping: turn not thou
Thy face away, but rather let me be
King of the moment to thee, and command
That kiss my due when subject, which will make
My kingship kinglier to me than to reign
King of the world without it.

                        Ask me not,
Lest I should yield it, and the second curse
Descend upon thine head, and thou be only
King of the moment over England.

Tho’ somewhat less a king to my true self
Than ere they crown’d me one, for I have lost
Somewhat of upright stature thro’ mine oath,
Yet thee I would not lose, and sell not thou
Our living passion for a dead man’s dream;
Stigand believed he knew not what he spake.
Oh God! I cannot help it, but at times
They seem to me too narrow, all the faiths
Of this grown world of ours, whose baby eye
Saw them sufficient. Fool and wise, I fear
This curse, and scorn it. But a little light!—
And on it falls the shadow of the priest;
Heaven yield us more! for better, Woden, all
Our cancell’d warrior-gods, our grim Walhalla,
Eternal war, than that the Saints at peace
The Holiest of our Holiest one should be
This William’s fellow-tricksters;—better die
Than credit this, for death is death, or else
Lifts us beyond the lie. Kiss me—thou art not
A holy sister yet, my girl, to fear
There might be more than brother in my kiss,
And more than sister in thine own.

                                I dare not.

Scared by the church—‘Love for a whole life long’
When was that sung?

                Here to the nightingales.

Their anthems of no church, how sweet they are!
Nor kingly priest, nor priestly king to cross
Their billings ere they nest.

                        They are but of spring,
They fly the winter change—not so with us—
No wings to come and go.

                But wing’d souls flying
Beyond all change and in the eternal distance
To settle on the Truth.

                They are not so true,
They change their mates.

                Do they? I did not know it.

They say thou art to wed the Lady Aldwyth.

They say, they say.

                        If this be politic,
And well for thee and England—and for her—
Care not for me who love thee.

    GURTH (calling).
                Harold, Harold!

The voice of Gurth!    (Enter GURTH.)    Good even, my good brother!

Good even, gentle Edith.

                        Good even, Gurth.

Ill news hath come! Our hapless brother, Tostig—
He, and the giant King of Norway, Harold
Hardrada—Scotland, Ireland, Iceland, Orkney,
Are landed North of Humber, and in a field
So packt with carnage that the dykes and brooks
Were bridged and damm’d with dead, have overthrown
Morcar and Edwin.

                Well then, we must fight.
How blows the wind?

                Against St. Valery
And William.

        Well then, we will to the North.

Ay, but worse news: this William sent to Rome,
Swearing thou swarest falsely by his Saints:
The Pope and that Archdeacon Hildebrand
His master, heard him, and have sent him back
A holy gonfanon, and a blessed hair
Of Peter, and all France, all Burgundy,
Poitou, all Christendom is raised against thee;
He hath cursed thee, and all those who fight for thee,
And given thy realm of England to the bastard.

Ha! ha!

Oh! laugh not! . . . Strange and ghastly in the gloom
And shadowing of this double thunder-cloud
That lours on England—laughter!

No, not strange!
This was old human laughter in old Rome
Before a Pope was born, when that which reign’d
Call’d itself God.—A kindly rendering
Of ‘Render unto Caesar.’ . . . The Good Shepherd!
Take this, and render that.

                        They have taken York.

The Lord was God and came as man—the Pope
Is man and comes as God.—York taken?

Tostig hath taken York!

                To York then. Edith,
Hadst thou been braver, I had better braved
All—but I love thee and thou me—and that
Remains beyond all chances and all churches,
And that thou knowest.

                Ay, but take back thy ring.
It burns my hand—a curse to thee and me.
I dare not wear it.

[Proffers HAROLD the ring, which he takes.

                But I dare. God with thee!

[Exeunt HAROLD and GURTH.

The King hath cursed him, if he marry me;
The Pope hath cursed him, marry me or no!
God help me! I know nothing—can but pray
For Harold—pray, pray, pray—no help but prayer,
A breath that fleets beyond this iron world,
And touches Him that made it.

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

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