Harold: A Drama

Act IV

Scene I

Alfred Tennyson

In Northumbria.

ARCHBISHOP ALDRED, MORCAR, EDWIN, and FORCES. Enter HAROLD. The standard of the golden Dragon of Wessex preceding him.

What! are thy people sullen from defeat?
Our Wessex dragon flies beyond the Humber,
No voice to greet it.

                Let not our great king
Believe us sullen—only shamed to the quick
Before the king—as having been so bruised
By Harold, king of Norway; but our help
Is Harold, king of England. Pardon us, thou!
Our silence is our reverence for the king!

Earl of the Mercians! if the truth be gall,
Cram me not thou with honey, when our good hive
Needs every sting to save it.

                        Aldwyth! Aldwyth!

Why cry thy people on thy sister’s name?

She hath won upon our people thro’ her beauty,
And pleasantness among them.

Aldwyth, Aldwyth!

They shout as they would have her for a queen.

She hath followed with our host, and suffer’d all.

What would ye, men?

Our old Northumbrian crown,
And kings of our own choosing.

                        Your old crown
Were little help without our Saxon carles
Against Hardrada.

                Little! we are Danes,
Who conquer’d what we walk on, our own field.

They have been plotting here!        [Aside.

                                He calls us little!

The kingdoms of this world began with little,
A hill, a fort, a city—that reach’d a hand
Down to the field beneath it, ‘Be thou mine,
Then to the next, ‘Thou also!’ If the field
Cried out ‘I am mine own;’ another hill
Or fort, or city, took it, and the first
Fell, and the next became an Empire.

Thou art but a West Saxon: we are Danes!

My mother is a Dane, and I am English;
There is a pleasant fable in old books,
Ye take a stick, and break it; bind a score
All in one faggot, snap it over knee,
Ye cannot.

        Hear King Harold! he says true!

Would ye be Norsemen?


                                Or Norman?


Snap not the faggot-band then.

                                That is true!

Ay, but thou art not kingly, only grandson
To Wulfnoth, a poor cow-herd.

                        This old Wulfnoth
Would take me on his knees and tell me tales
Of Alfred and of Athelstan the Great
Who drove you Danes; and yet he held that Dane,
Jute, Angle, Saxon, were or should be all
One England, for this cow-herd, like my father,
Who shook the Norman scoundrels off the throne,
Had in him kingly thoughts—a king of men,
Not made but born, like the great king of all,
A light among the oxen.

                                That is true!

Ay, and I love him now, for mine own father
Was great, and cobbled.

                Thou art Tostig’s brother,
Who wastes the land.

                This brother comes to save
Your land from waste; I saved it once before,
For when your people banish’d Tostig hence,
And Edward would have sent a host against you,
Then I, who loved my brother, bad the king
Who doted on him, sanction your decree
Of Tostig’s banishment, and choice of Morcar,
To help the realm from scattering.

                        King! thy brother,
If one may dare to speak the truth, was wrong’d.
Wild was he, born so: but the plots against him
Had madden’d tamer men.

                        Thou art one of those
Who brake into Lord Tostig’s treasure-house
And slew two hundred of his following,
And now, when Tostig hath come back with power,
Are frighted back to Tostig.

                        Ugh! Plots and feuds!
This is my ninetieth birthday. Can ye not
Be brethren? Godwin still at feud with Alfgar,
And Alfgar hates King Harold. Plots and feuds!
This is my ninetieth birthday!

                        Old man, Harold
Hates nothing; not his fault, if our two houses
Be less than brothers.

                        Aldwyth, Harold, Aldwyth!

Again! Morcar! Edwin! What do they mean?

So the good king would deign to lend an ear
Not overscornful, we might chance—perchance—
To guess their meaning.

                        Thine own meaning, Harold,
To make all England one, to close all feuds,
Mixing our bloods, that thence a king may rise
Half-Godwin and half-Alfgar, one to rule
All England beyond question, beyond quarrel.

Who sow’d this fancy here among the people?

Who knows what sows itself among the people?
A goodly flower at times.

                        The Queen of Wales?
Why, Morcar, it is all but duty in her
To hate me; I have heard she hates me.

For I can swear to that, but cannot swear
That these will follow thee against the Norsemen,
If thou deny them this.

                        Morcar and Edwin,
When will you cease to plot against my house?

The king can scarcely dream that we, who know
His prowess in the mountains of the West,
Should care to plot against him in the North.

Who dares arraign us, king, of such a plot?

Ye heard one witness even now.

                                The craven!
There is a faction risen again for Tostig,
Since Tostig came with Norway—fright not love.

Morcar and Edwin, will ye, if I yield,
Follow against the Norseman?

                        Surely, surely!

Morcar and Edwin, will ye upon oath,
Help us against the Norman?

                        With good will;
Yea, take the Sacrament upon it, king.

Where is thy sister?

                        Somewhere hard at hand.
Call and she comes.

[One goes out, then enter ALDWYTH.

                I doubt not but thou knowest
Why thou art summon’d.

                Why?—I stay with these,
Lest thy fierce Tostig spy me out alone,
And flay me all alive.

                Canst thou love one
Who did discrown thine husband, unqueen thee?
Didst thou not love thine husband?

                        Oh! my lord,
The nimble, wild, red, wiry, savage king—
That was, my lord, a match of policy.

                                Was it?
I knew him brave: he loved his land: he fain
Had made her great: his finger on her harp
(I heard him more than once) had in it Wales,
Her floods, her woods, her hills: had I been his,
I had been all Welsh.

                Oh, ay—all Welsh—and yet
I saw thee drive him up his hills—and women
Cling to the conquer’d, if they love, the more;
If not, they cannot hate the conqueror.
We never—oh! good Morcar, speak for us,
His conqueror conquer’d Aldwyth.

                        Goodly news!

Doubt it not thou! Since Griffith’s head was sent
To Edward, she hath said it.

                        I had rather
She would have loved her husband. Aldwyth, Aldwyth,
Canst thou love me, thou knowing where I love?

I can, my lord, for mine own sake, for thine,
For England, for thy poor white dove, who flutters
Between thee and the porch, but then would find
Her nest within the cloister, and be still.

Canst thou love one, who cannot love again?

Full hope have I that love will answer love.

Then in the name of the great God, so be it!
Come, Aldred, join our hands before the hosts,
That all may see.

[ALDRED joins the hands of HAROLD and ALDWYTH and blesses them.

                Harold, Harold and Aldwyth!

Set forth our golden Dragon, let him flap
The wings that beat down Wales!
Advance our Standard of the Warrior,
Dark among gems and gold; and thou, brave banner,
Blaze like a night of fatal stars on those
Who read their doom and die.
Where lie the Norsemen? on the Derwent? ay
At Stamford-bridge.
Morcar, collect thy men; Edwin, my friend—
Thou lingerest.—Gurth,—
Last night King Edward came to me in dreams—
The rosy face and long down-silvering beard—
He told me I should conquer:—
I am no woman to put faith in dreams.
                (To his army.)
Last night King Edward came to me in dreams,
And told me we should conquer.

                        Forward! Forward!
Harold and Holy Cross!

                The day is won!

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

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