Page images
[blocks in formation]

Heavens! They didAnd on the churchyard grass I saw it lie, Ghastly and horrible, beneath the moon, That paled her light, seeing a thing so grim. King. Then what ensued ?

Queen. I tremble to disclose

the midst of traitors, one of whom tried to force her to drink a bowl of by the king kissing her cheek. A few poison, when happily she was roused natural enough reflections are made and the first act is terminated by the by both their Majesties on the omen, lord chamberlain knocking for admission to assist his majesty to dress, while six mute ladies come in with a robe de chambre, which they throw her dressing-room. round the Queen, and lead her off into

The second act opens in the street, with a conversation between the friar who had bought the poison from the gypsey woman, and the King's principal secretary of state for the home department:

Sec. My Lord Archbishop is an ho

nest man:

Much do I owe him; for by his good fa


I was promoted to the trusts I hold. Friar. I do not call his honesty in question,

But knowing what I know, if you will promise

To let me have the vacant see, I'll prove This same proud prelate a most plotting traitor.

Sec. Go to, go to, thou grow'st calumnious.

Friar. I had a bottle once of deadly


Sec. Why had you that? O thou most

danined villain,

Say, wherefore kept you poison in that bottle;

King. I pray you, tell-dearest Splen- For whom, assassin, didst thou buy the

dora, tell.

Queen. It is a tale will harrow up your


[blocks in formation]

Or parson capon-fed.

King. Tremendous Powers! Queen. Then stooping down, a beauteous gowle Smelt the wide nostril, and on looking up, The moonlight brightening on her fore head, smiled. King. O who will beauty ever love

again? Queen. Soon without knives the canni

bals began To relish their foul meal-I saw a mother Give to her child, that fondled at her side, An ear to mumble with its boneless gums." Her majesty then continues to relate, that another change came over the spirit of her dream, and the gowles having vanished, she found herself in


Friar. Will you not listen? Sec. No: begone and leave me, I sin in holding converse with thy kind; And in my office do I much offend In suffering such a man to roam at largeThe cruel'st beast that in the forest dens, The tawny lion, and the grumbling bear, Are far less dangerous than such as thou; They keep no murd'rous phials in their pockets,

Nor secrete steel to do their guilty deeds."

This scene is conceived with great art; for the friar, as the reader sees, is just on the point of telling the secretary of state that he had given the poison to the Archbishop, and if the secretary would only have listened to him, the plot, in all human probability, would have been discovered. But the secretary, by his rashness, prevents himself from hearing the suspicious circumstance of the Archbishop having secretly provided a bottle of poison, and quits the scene, vehement

[blocks in formation]

Of something dreadful in the womb of tim Hatching between you and that wicke prelate.

[Exit the Friar; the Count follows him

few paces with his sword drawn, bi suddenly checks himself, and returnin sheathes it.]

Count. Back to thy home, my brig

and trusty blade; I'll not commission thee for aught so mea Thy prey is royalty-a jibing priest Would but impair the lustre of the steel Yet he suspects, and may to others tell His shrewd conjectures, and a search dete

"Count. But tell me, monk, where lies Our schemed intent to make the coronati

the guilt of it.

To die is to be not-and what is slain Is therefore nothing. How then, tell me, father,

Can that which nothing is, be guilt, that is A thing most heinous both in earth and


Friar. There's atheism in such subtlety. I pray thee, son, to change these desperate thoughts;

They smack of sin, and may draw down forever

That winged thing that is more truly thee, Than is the clothes of flesh and bone thou wear'st,

Loading its pinions, that would else expand,

And eagle like, soar onward to the skies.

Administer to bold ambition's purpose.'

The Count then retires, and tl scene changes to a hall in the palac where the Queen, in her robes of stat is addressed by the old gypsey.

"Gyp. Stop, lady fair, with jewel


[blocks in formation]

I have no time to list my fortune's spaei
This is the coronation-day, and I,
That am the queen of this resplendent la
Have a great part in that solemnity.

Gyp. Pause and ponder, noble dame. Swords have points, and lamps have flam

Bottles cork'd we may defy,
But doctors' drugs are jeopardy.
Queen. This is most mystical-what doth
she mean?

Gyp. I heard a tale, I may not tell,
I saw à sight, I saw it well;
In priestly garb the vision sped,
And then a body without head;
A traitor died, a hangman stood,
He held it up red stream'd the blood;
The people shouted one and all,
As people should when traitors fall;
But O, thou Queen of high degree,
What 'vails the gladsome shout to thee.
Queen. This is mere rave-I understand
it not-

[ocr errors]

Away, poor wretch, I'll send for thee again!" The gypsey is accordingly dismissed with "the small change" which her majesty had bestowed; for "it is a law of our nature," in such circumstances, to deride admonition, and the author evinces his profound knowledge of man, in thus representing the Queen, reckless alike of her prophetic dream, and the gypsey's prediction, still going undismayed to the coronation.

The next scene represents an apartment where the regalia of Sicily is kept. The crown and the other ensigns of royalty are seen on a table, and among them an ivory pigeon, with a golden collar round its neck. The archbishop enters with an officer, the keep er of the regalia, and the following brief, but striking conversation, ensues. “Archb. Are all things now prepared? Off. They are, my lord.

Arch. Clean'd and made ready for their solemn use?

Off. They have been all done newly up, your grace,

For, in the time of old Queen Magdalen, Whose sordid nature history well records, Some of the gems and precious stones were stolen.

Archb. So I have read, and that one day the lord,

Who then with justice held the seals of state,

Did catch her with the crown upon her lap, Digging the jewels with her scissars out, To sell them to a Jew.

But how is this

Where is the golden spoon I must employ
Το pour the sacred oil on royalty?
Off. 'Tis here beside the dove.
Archb. Give me the dove.
Off. 'Tis full, your grace.
Archb. Ye gods, what have I done!
The sacred oil I have spilt on the floor-
But 'tis no matter, still the dove is full.
Yes, though from age to age it hath been

Yea emptied on a hundred royal heads,

[blocks in formation]


[ocr errors]

[Exit the Archbishop; and the Officer is seen wiping up the holy oil as the drop scene falls.]"

The whole of this act is perfect, the action never flags for a moment, but dialogue rich and appropriate, and the proceeds with an awful and appalling rapidity.

The drama is very properly divided ning, the middle, and the end, which into only three acts or parts, the beginthe author tastefully denominates "the "the operation," and preparation," "the consummation;" and the third Palermitans assembled to see the coroand last opens with the peasants and nation procession, and all talking Scotch in the most natural manner.

[ocr errors]

Gaffer Curioso. Hoots, ye stupit muckle stot; what gart you tread on my taes, ye sumph that ye are ?

Cit. Taes! ha'e ye taes? I'm sure a brute like you should ha'e been born baith wi' horns and clutes.

Gaffer Curioso. I'll tell you what it is, gin ye speak in that gait to me, deevil do me gude o' you, but I'll split your harn


1 Fem. Cit. Black and sour, honest folk, for gudesake dinna fight.

2 Fem. Cit. Wheesht, wheesht, it's coming noo!

[The Procession enters with solemn music;

the crowd increases, and the Friar comes in at one side, and the old Gypsey woman at the other.]

Gyp. Wo. That's the friar who bought the venom frae me at the well-I'll watch him-For what, I wonder, did he buy the venom ?

Friar. As the Archbishop passes to the


I'll mark him well-for, in my heart, I fear He meant no virtue, when he me entreated To give the deadly ointment to his care.

Gyp. Wo. The friar's surely no right in the head-He's speaking to himsel—I'll hearken to what he's saying. H

Friar. How he deceived me! no prefer

ment yet

Has recompensed me for the fatal phial.
Gyp. Wo. Fatal phial!-He's talking
about my wee bottle.

Friar. The fell Archbishop, and the
Count Butero,

With others of the baronage, have long
Been justly deem'd much discontented


Gyp. Wo. That's nae lie; for wha's no discontented noo a-days?

Friar. The two have plotted;-strata-
gems and spoil

Were in the gesture of the choleric count,
What time we spoke together, and his look
Told me the prelate was with him con-

To work some dire and woeful overthrow;
Would that I ne'er had parted with that

To the proud metropolitan.

Gyp. Wo. Eh, megsty! he's gi'en the bottle to the Archbishop!

1 Fem. Cit. See ye that poor doited monk? he's been mumbling to himsel, and never looking at the show.

Fem. Cit. And the tinkler wife has been harkening to every word he said.

1 Fem. Cit. But look, oh, there's the Archbishop carrying the holy doo-and see Count Butero with the crown-Ohme! what a grand like thing it is.

Cit. Noo, lads, be ready-the King's minister's coming.-Tune your pipes for a gude hiss to him for the new tax on kail pots and amries.

[As the prime minister passes, the mob all hiss and howl.]

Friar. The prelate look'd at me as he pass'd by,

And there was meaning in his scowling glance.

Gyp. Wo. I'll gie the King warning o' the plot, and may be he'll help me to another ass and creels.

1 Fem. Cit. Ah, me! what a lovely lovely gown the Queen's got on.

Cit. Now, three cheers for the King. [The King and Queen enter under a cloth of state, supported by Bashaws, and the People sing a verse of "God save the King," at the end of which the Gypsey Woman rushes forward.]

Gyp. Halt, King, and list-beware, be

[blocks in formation]

King. Alas, my heart misgives!-An unaccustom'd load

Doth hang on my stuff'd stomach, and

All cheer to enter with my boding fancies-
Would that most ominous wretch were well


Avaunt! thou raving Pythia-hie thee hence!

1 Fem. Cit. Eh me! how the spae-wife has terrified the King!

Cit. Down wi' the auld radical jaud, she's no canny.

[The mob seize the Gypsey Woman and carry her off, and then the second verse of "God save the King" is sung, and the Procession passes.”]

"It is a law of our nature" to have oppressive presentiments on those occasions when we have prepared ourselves to enjoy the greatest pleasure; and our author has, in the foregoing scene, handled this with a free and delicate pencil, happily representing Carlo Aurenzebe, in the very high and palmy state of his coronation, afflicted with thick coming fancies. The undaunted confidence of the Queen, and her contempt of the omens, is impressively illustrative of the blindness of mankind to impending misfortunes. We do not recollect that "this law of our nature" has ever been illustrated in poetry or the drama before. The action, too, of the spectators, is singularly felicitous in this scene. Nothing can be more natural, than that in a crowd people should tread on one another's toes; and the various shades of popular feeling are exhibited with great address. The first lord of the treasury is hissed for having levied a new tax; but the universal respect for the character and office of the monarch, is finely displayed in the burst of indignation with which the populace seize the sybil, and drag her to immediate punishment. They do not, however, put her to death, as might be supposed from what takes place, and by which the interest of the plot, now hastening rapidly to an issue, is so much augmented, for she is afterwards seen dripping wet in the grand assemblage of all the dramatis persone at the ca tion implies, been pumped upon. tastrophe, having only, as her condi

rior of the cathedral, and the ceremo The second scene presents the inte

of the coronation going forward ny The archbishop prepares to anoint, and he looks pale and agitated. The friar who had followed him closely, observe his agitation, and also the interest and

anxiety with which Count Butero watches the action.

"Friar. Why should his hand so shake? -that iv'ry dove,

Framed guileless from the Afric beast's huge tooth,

Can have no harm in it. He takes the spoon

What spell of witchery is in that spoon,
Tomake his hand so palsied as with dread?
He pours the oil into its golden mouth;
And now he sets the pigeon on the altar,
And 'gins to drop the unction on the head.
Ye gods, why should his majesty so start,
As if the ointment were the oil of vitriol ?
King. Hold, my Lord Archbishop, I
pray thee hold,

Thou droppest fire upon me. Treason, ho!
I burn, I burn! for some quenching


[blocks in formation]

This holy traitor.-Here I do accuse him Of highest treason, blood, and sacrilege; And Count Butero art and part with him, In the dread action that appals you all.Ladies, look to the Queen.

Secretary. Alas! good priest, Now do I rue how I rejected thee, And scorn'd the warning that thou would'st have given.

Friar. Ah, wise too late!-But where's his Majesty?

Fled in distraction-let us see to him.

[Erit Friar, and the Secretary of State The Ladies carry off the Queen, and the Nobles seize the Archbishop and Count Butero.]

Archb. I'll speak no more, from this accursed hour.

O, Count Butero, partner of my crime,
My lips are seal'd in adamantine silence;
Yon marble statue of departed worth,
Is not more silent on its pedestal,
Than from this time am I.

Count B.
Take me away;
Since I have miss'd the guerdon of my pur.

I am grown reckless of all penalties.
Hew me in pieces, lop my limbs away,
With pincers rive my quivering flesh, and

These visionary orbs from out their sockets;

[blocks in formation]


And like a lighted torch he burning stood, No succour offer'd--all the trembling throng, Transfix'd, look'd on, incapable to aid."

Here properly the drama should have ended, but the author, conscious of his strength, changes the scene, and introduces the Queen again, but in a mad state, followed by her ladies, wringing their hands.

"Queen. I had a lover once- where is he now?

Oft in his vows he spoke of darts and flames; Alas! I heeded not that too fond tale, But I have liv'd to see him burn indeed; Oye cool fountains and ye flowing springs, Where were your waters in that fatal hour? Could I have wept like you, my copious

[blocks in formation]


Ha! thou foreboding owl, thou gypsey hag, Why didst thou warn me of this woeful chance,

And charm me to despise the admonition?”

"The law of our nature," which thus induces her majesty at once to acknowledge the truth of the gypsey's predictions, and to accuse the old woman of having rendered her incredulous, every man who has had any experience of himself must have felt, and cannot but be alive to the simplicity and beauty of Splendora's address to the Doctor's Cassandra. But we must come to a conclusion; the extracts which we have so largely given, will enable the public to appreciate the merits of this extraordinary performance, and we trust and hope the sale will be such as to induce the author to favour the world soon again with some new effort of his impressive talent. Whether "The Fatal Unction" is calculated to succeed in representation, we cannot undertake to determine; but we do not think that

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »