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SCENE V.-A Banqueting Hall, brilliantly illumi
nated, and set forth with all costly magnificence, with Supper-tables laden with Services of Gold and Silver. A door in the back scene, guarded by two Soldiers. Lords, Ladies, Knights, Gentlemen, &c., whispering sadly, and ranging themselves ; part entering and part discovered.
Ist Knight. Grievously are we tantalised, one and
all; Sway'd here and there, commanded to and fro, As though we were the shadows of a sleep, And link'd to a dreaming fancy. What do we hear?
Gonfred. I am no seer; you know we must obey The Prince from A to Z, though it should be To set the place in flames. I pray, hast heard Where the most wicked Princess is ? Ist Knight.
There, sir, In the next room; have you remark'd those two Stout soldiers posted at the door? Gonfred.
[They whisper. Ist Lady. How ghast a train ! 2nd Lady. Sure this should be some splendid burial. Ist Lady. What fearful whispering! See, see,Gersa there!
Enter Gersa. Gersa. Put on your brightest looks; smile if
you can; Behave as all were happy; keep your eyes From the least watch upon him; if he speaks
To any one, answer, collectedly,
Enter LUDOLPH, followed by SIGIFRED and Page.
Ludolph. A splendid company! rare beauties here! I should have Orphean lips, and Plato's fancy, Amphion's utterance, toned with his lyre, Or the deep key of Jove's sonorous mouth, To give fit salutation. Methought I heard, As I came in, some whispers - what of that? 'Tis natural men should whisper; at the kiss Of Psyche given by Love, there was a buzz Among the gods! — and silence is as natural. These draperies are fine, and, being a mortal, I should desire no better; yet, in truth, There must be some superior costliness, Some wider-domed high magnificence! I would have, as a mortal I may not, Hangings of heaven's clouds, purple and gold, Slung from the spheres; gauzes of silver mist, Loop'd up with cords of twisted wreathed light, And tassell'd round with weeping meteors! These pendent lamps and chandeliers are bright As earthly fires from dull dross can be cleansed; Yet could my eyes drink up intenser beams Undazzled ;- this is darkness, when I close These lids, I see far fiercer brilliances, Skies full of splendid moons, and shooting stars, And spouting exhalations, diamond fires,
And panting fountains quivering with deep glows.
'Tis not to-morrow then ? Sigifred. 'Tis early dawn. Gersa.
Indeed full time we slept; Say you so, Prince ? Ludolph.
I say I quarrell'd with you; We did not tilt each other, - that's a blessing, Good gods! no innocent blood upon my head !
Sigifred. Retire, Gersa!
Ludolph. There should be three more here: For two of them, they stay away perhaps, Being gloomy-minded, haters of fair revels,They know their own thoughts best.
As for the third, Deep blue eyes, semi-shaded in white lids, Finish'd with lashes fine for more soft shade, Completed by her twin-arch'd ebon-brows; White temples, of exactest elegance, Of even mould, felicitous and smooth; Cheeks fashion'd tenderly on either side, So perfect, so divine, that our poor eyes Are dazzled with the sweet proportioning, And wonder that 'tis so,—the magic chance! Her nostrils, small, fragrant, fairy-delicate; Her lips- I swear no human bones e'er wore So taking a disguise ;-you shall behold her! We'll have her presently; ay, you shall see her, And wonder at her, friends, she is so fair; She is the world's chief jewel, and, by heaven!
She's mine by right of marriage !-- she is mine!
(A soft strain of Music. Ludolph. Ye have none better? No, I am con
'Tis a rich sobbing melody, with reliefs
Most piteous indeed!
Ist Lady. He muses.
That pestilence brought in, that cannot be,
I am lost! Hush, hush! He is about to rave again.
Ludolph. A barrier of guilt! I was the fool, She was the cheater! Who's the cheater now, And who the fool? The entrapp'd, the caged fool, The bird-limed raven ? She shall croak to death Secure! Methinks I have her in my fist, To crush her with my heel! Wait, wait! I marvel My father keeps away. Good friend - ah! Sigifred? Do bring him to me,- and Erminia, I fain would see before I sleep-and Ethelbert That he may bless me, as I know he will, Though I have cursed him. Sigifred.
Rather suffer me To lead you to them. Ludolph.
No, excuse me,-no! The day is not quite done. Go, bring them hither.
[Exit SIGIFRED. Certes, a father's smile should, like sunlight, Slant on my sheaved harvest of ripe bliss. Besides, I thirst to pledge my lovely bride In a deep goblet : let me see — what wine? The strong Iberian juice, or mellow Greek ? Or pale Calabrian? Or the Tuscan grape ? Or of old Ætna's pulpy wine-presses, Black stain'd with the fat vintage, as it were The purple slaughter-house, where Bacchus' self Prick'd his own swollen veins! Where is my page ?
Page. Here, here!
Ludolph. Be ready to obey me; anon thou shalt Bear a soft message for me; for the hour