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I loved thee ever! Yes! the passion now
Thrills on the woman's tongue-the girl's had told theo,
Had I been bold as fond; for even then
I saw thy worth, but did not see thy station,
Till others, not so well affected towards thee,
Revealed it to me by their cold regards.
I could not help my nature.-From that time
Two passions strove in my divided soul
For mastery-scorn of thy station, love
For thee-each feeding on the other's hate,
And growing stronger; till I thought their strife
Would shake my frame to dissolution. She sits.) Yes!
Oh, Huon! when my brow sat cloudy oft
that looked askant at thee,
Thou little thought what friend there was within,
Would make that brow clear as a summer sky,
That eye bright-glowing as a summer's sun,
To kindle thee-as they, their world, with life,
And health, and wealth, and gladness !.
Huon. Say'st thou this
To me ? or do I dream I hear thee say it ?
Or is the past a dream ? I did not yield,
At thy command, to marry Catherine?
Thou didst not see me 'wed her. Fancy forged
The ring I thought I put upon her finger?
Thou wast not by at all? From first to last,
Hadst not a hand in it ? or, if thou hadst,
Why then untimely this unfold to me?
For 1 do koow thee to be pride of all
Proud honour's children! Art thou offspring prime
Of cruelty as well ? Oh, Heaven! to think
She loved me, and could give me to another!
Nor yet to her alone--another!
Coun. Ha !_Well ?
Huon. One who ne'er set eyes on me, until
An outcast, by her deed of hate who loved me !
To one, a stranger, saw me seeking fortune,
gave the hand to me could help me to her!
Lavished her favours on me!-lit me up
With honours, till, beside the bright themselves,
I lost no brightness !
Coun. (Quickly.) To the Empress ?
Huon. Yes! Thou lovest me ?-Oh, fate! there was a time, 'Twere more than bliss, if more could be, to know it ; But now, 'tis misery ! Coun. 'Tis misery!
[Both rise. Art thou in such a strait, indeed, as that To give my love for thee so harsh a name? What shall I call it, then? Gain me a name Will stand for something worse than misery Will paint the case of a high, noble maid, Who stooped to love a sert--nay, stopped not there, But told her passion to him !
Huon. I am no more a serf.
Coun. Thou art ennobled; Yet thou art still the same!-thou hast won honours, Rewards of deeds, in spite of thy base blood Achieved by thee !
Huon. Nay, madam, spare my blood; And pardon me, its owner, if I
say, It is not base.
Coun. It is! What should it be
But base ? A serf did give it thee, a serf
Gave him his blood. Trace back the current, sir
Far as you can, and you
will find it base, Nothing but base.
Huon. Madam, men's natures are
Their blood :—they have no other, high or low.
If base the current hitherto of mine,
It ceased with me. Born in thy father's house
A serf, I left it one, to seek my fortune,
Make it or mar it, for promotion having
No other patron than my own right arm,
And my own heart and head to guide and nerve it ;
And, with their help, I see that house again,
An independent, self-exalted man,
many a son, who left a noble home,
With blood untainted for a thousand years,
Returns to it no better than he left it.
Is my blood base ?
Coun. No, Huon-mine was base
To let me call it so! Alas! alas !
And hast no better welcome for my
love Than that sad word thou spok’st ?
Huon. What word so fit?
What is it, to a man condemned to die,
To tell him of a treasure left to him ?
Coun. Condemned to die !
Resemblest thou a man condemned to die }
Huon. Why didst thou drive me from thes. by that act?
Coun. That act was nothing: 'twas thy flight,
And that which followed it. Thou art entangled
And thank thy flight.. Oh, Huon! were thy love
In daring enterprise the tithe of mine,
'Twould attempt something to enlarge thee from
The cause thou art prisoner to!
Huon. It cannot cease,
Except with life.
Coun. The Empress loves thee, Huon!
Coun. But she does
Thou art her favourite! She
Hath chained thee to her throne.
Coun. But she has !
Thou hast made merchandise,
Most shameful merchandise, of thy allegiance !
Broken oaths as tiny shells, which at a touch
Do fall to powder!
Huon. Broken oaths ?
Coun. Yes, oaths !
Thy life was all one oath of love to me,
Sworn to me daily, hourly, by thine eyes,
Which, when they saw me, lightened up as though
An angel's presence did enchant their sense,
That I have seen their very colour change!
Talk of the adjuration of the tongue !
Compare love's name, a sound which
May pipe—a breath—with love itself!
Thou’rt not forsworn, because thou took'st no oath ?
What were thy accents, then-thy accents, Huon?
Oh! they did turn thy lightest words to oaths,
Vouching the burden of a love-fraught soul!
Telling a tale which my young nature caught
With interest so deep, was conned by heart
Before I knew the latal argument !
Huon, I charge thee quit the service of the Empress !
Huon. 'Twere against all honour.
Coun. No Give
her service! Huon. 'Twere ingratitude. Coun. Ingratitude !--for what?
Huon. She has advanced me
Past my deserts.
Coun. No! I deny it! No!
Not equal to them! No! Thy golden deeds
She has repaid with tinsel !
Enter ULRICK, R
Ulrick. Please you, sir,
The Empress summons you.
Coun. You are not going?
Huon. My presence is commandea.
Coun. Are you going?
Ulrick. My lord!
Huon. I come.
Coun. You are going, then ?
Huon. I must go.
Coun. You must ? Then go! Go, and farewell for
ever! (The Countess sinks into a chair. Exeunt
Huon and Ulrick, R.
Scene I.— The Hall of the Castle.-The EMPRESS, UL.
RICK, COURTIERS, KNIGHTS, HERALDS, &c., prepared to proceed to the Tournament. Empress. [To Ulrick. Why wait we for the Countess?
What delays her ?
This day is dedicate to her; for her
We are convened; and comes she last of all ?
Ulrick. Madam, she craves your favor for this pause.
Relieve 'tis not remissness, but mischance,
Retards her. Doubtless, she will come, anon.
Empress. Anon, my lord! Anon is not our time For friends to greet us, when they summon us. Enter three Attendants, the first bearing a coronet on a
cushion, the second a pile of parchments, the third followed by Vassals, carrying money-coffers;
then the Countess, plainly attired, followed by her Women, in costly dresses. She stops before the Empress. Empress. Why, lady! what is this?
Coun. My liege, receive
This emblem of that pomp which I resign,
Because 'tis arljunct to conditions such
As render it a burden to me, past
The faculty of sufferance to bear.
Coun. So please you, madam, give me leave :-
As joint executor with this worthy lord,
Into your hands I also yield all right
And title to this fair chateau, besides
The lands and forests, its appendages,
As well as vassals, natives of the soil.
Empress. But, lady
Coun. Madam, suffer me to conclude
These are the coffers which my father left;
And as he left them, rendered to your highness;
And with them all resigned, save such endowment
As shall entitle me to that retreat,
Holy and calm, wherein I mean to pass,
I'll say, the remnant of my days, i' th’ hope,
Though few are passed, still fewer are to come :
Which option, as you know, my father's will
Has left to me.
Empress. Then will you not abide
The cast of fate in the tournament ? nor take
The husband she may send—nor yet select
Coun. I cannot, madam.
Coun. I am
Empress. By whom?
Coun. By you !