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Rosamund, queen of the Lombards, a tragedy   By: (1837-1909)

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ROSAMUND, QUEEN OF THE LOMBARDS A TRAGEDY

by Algernon Charles Swinburne

PERSONS REPRESENTED

ALBOVINE, King of the Lombards. ALMACHILDES, a young Lombard warrior. NARSETES, an old leader and counsellor.

ROSAMUND, Queen of the Lombards HILDEGARD, a noble Lombard maiden. SCENE, VERONA Time, June 573

ACT I

A hall in the Palace: a curtain drawn midway across it.

Enter ALBOVINE and NARSETES.

ALBOVINE.

This is no matter of the wars: in war Thy king, old friend, is less than king of thine, And comrade less than follower. Hast thou loved Ever loved woman, not as chance may love, But as thou hast loved thy sword or friend or me? Thou hast shewn me love more stout of heart than death. Death quailed before thee when thou gav'st me life, Borne down in battle.

NARSETES.

Woman? As I love Flowers in their season. A rose is but a rose.

ALBOVINE.

Dost thou know rose from thistle or bindweed? Man, Speak as our north wind speaks, if harsh and hard Truth.

NARSETES.

White I know from red, and dark from bright, And milk from blood in hawthorn flowers: but not Woman from woman.

ALBOVINE.

How should God our Lord, Except his eye see further than his world? For women ever make themselves anew, Meseems, to match and mock the maker. Friend, If ever I were friend of thine in fight, Speak, and I bid thee not speak truth: I know Thy tongue knows nought but truth or silence.

NARSETES.

Is it A king's or friend's part, king, to bid his friend Speak what he knows not? Speak then thou, that I May find thy will and answer it.

ALBOVINE.

I am fain And loth to tell thee how it wrings my heart That now this hard eyed heavy southern sun Hath wrought its will upon us all a year And yet I know not if my wife be mine.

NARSETES.

Thy meanest man at arms had known ere dawn Blinked on his bridal birthday.

ALBOVINE.

Did I bid thee Mock, and forget me for thy friend I say not, King? Is thy heart so light and lean a thing, So loose in faith and faint in love? I bade thee Stand to me, help me, hold my hand in thine And give my heart back answer. This it is, Old friend and fool, that gnaws my life in twain The worm that writhes and feeds about my heart The devil and God are crying in either ear One murderous word for ever, night and day, Dark day and deadly night and deadly day, Can she love thee who slewest her father? I Love her.

NARSETES.

Thy wife should love thee as thy sire's Loved him. Thou art worth a woman heart for heart.

ALBOVINE.

My sire's wife loved him? Hers he had not slain. Would God I might but die and burn in hell And know my love had loved me!

NARSETES.

Is thy name Babe? Sweet are babes as flowers that wed the sun, But man may be not born a babe again, And less than man may woman. Rosamund Stands radiant now in royal pride of place As wife of thine and queen of Lombards not Cunimund's daughter. Hadst thou slain her sire Shamefully, shame were thine to have sought her hand And shame were hers to love thee: but he died Manfully, by thy mightier hand than his Manfully mastered. War, born blind as fire, Fed not as fire upon her: many a maid As royal dies disrobed of all but shame And even to death burnt up for shame's sake: she Lives, by thy grace, imperial.

ALBOVINE.

He or I, Her lord or sire, which hath most part in her, This hour shall try between us.

Enter ROSAMUND.

ROSAMUND.

Royal lord, Thy wedded handmaid craves of thee a grace.

ALBOVINE.

My sovereign bids her bondman what she will.

ROSAMUND.

I bid thee mock me not: I may ask thee Aught, and be heard of any save my lord.

ALBOVINE.

Go, friend. [Exit NARSETES.] Speak now. Say first what ails thee?

ROSAMUND.

Me?

ALBOVINE.

Thy voice was honey hearted music, sweet As wine and glad as clarions: not in battle Might man have more of joy than I to hear it And feel delight dance in my heart and laugh Too loud for hearing save its own... Continue reading book >>




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