How may man divine
Thy meaning? Blunt am I, thou knowest, of wit;
And scarce yet man—men tell me.
Ask not it.
I meant not thou shouldst understand—I spake
As one that sighs, to ease her heart of ache,
And would not clothe in words her cause for sighs—
Her naked cause of sorrow.
Wert thou wise,
Mother, thy tongue had chosen of two things one—
Silence, or speech.
Speech had I chosen, my son,
I had wronged thee—yea, perchance I have wronged thine ears
Too far, to say so much.
Nay, these are tears
That gather toward thine eyelids now. Thou hast broken
Silence—if now thy speech die down unspoken,
Thou dost me wrong indeed—but more than mine
The wrong thou dost thyself is.
Were not thy sire wronged likewise of me?
Yet—I may choose yet—nothing will I say
Choose, and have thy choice; it galls not me.
Son, son! thy speech is bitterer than the sea.
Yet, were the gulfs of hell not bitterer, thine
Might match thy son’s, who hast called my sire—Locrine—
Thy lord, and lord of all this land—the king
Whose name is bright and sweet as earth in spring,
Whose love is mixed with Britain’s very life
As heaven with earth at sunrise—thou, his wife,
Hast called him—and the poison of the word
Set not thy tongue on fire—I lived and heard—
If then thy speech rang true,
Why, now it rings not false.
Thou art treacherous too—
His heart, thy father’s very heart is thine—
O, well beseems it, meet it is, Locrine,
That liar and traitor and changeling he should be
Who, though I bare him, was begot by thee.
How have I lied, mother? Was this the lie,
That thou didst call my father coward, and I
Nay—I did but liken him with one
Not all unlike him; thou, my child, his son,
Art more unlike thy father.
Was not then,
Of all our fathers, all recorded men,
The man whose name, thou sayest, is like his name—
Paris—a sign in all men’s mouths of shame?
Nay, save when heaven would cross him in the fight,
He bare him, say the minstrels, as a knight—
Yea, like thy father.
Shame then were it none
Though men should liken me to him?
I had rather see thee—see thy brave bright head,
Strong limbs, clear eyes—drop here before me dead.
If he were true man, wherefore?
False was he;
No coward indeed, but faithless, trothless—we
Hold therefore, as thou sayest, his princely name
Unprincely—dead in honour—quick in shame.
And his to mine thou likenest?
Thine? to thine?
God rather strike thy life as dark as mine
Than tarnish thus thine honour! For to me
Shameful it seems—I know not if it be—
For men to lie, and smile, and swear, and lie,
And bear the gods of heaven false witness. I
Can hold not this but shameful.
Thou dost well.
I had liefer cast my soul alive to hell
Than play a false man false. But were he true
And I the traitor—then what heaven should do
I wot not, but myself, being once awake
Out of that treasonous trance, were fain to slake
With all my blood the fire of shame wherein
My soul should burn me living in my sin.
Thy soul? Yea, there—how knowest thou, boy, so well?—
The fire is lit that feeds the fires of hell.
Mine is aflame this long time now—but thine—
O, how shall God forgive thee this, Locrine,
That thou, for shame of these thy treasons done,
Hast rent the soul in sunder of thy son?
My heart is whole yet, though thy speech be fire
Whose flame lays hold upon it. Hath my sire
Nay, child, I lied—I did but rave—
I jested—was my face, then, sad and grave,
When most I jested with thee? Child, my brain
Is wearied, and my heart worn down with pain:
I thought awhile, for very sorrow’s sake,
To play with sorrow—try thy spirit, and take
Comfort—God knows I know not what I said,
My father, whom I loved, being newly dead.
I pray thee that thou jest with me no more
Dost thou now believe me?
A brave man when I bore thee.
No more of laud or leasing. Hath my sire
Never. But wilt thou trust me now?
As trustful am I, mother of mine, as thou.
The gods be good to thee! How farest thou?
Heaven hath no power to hurt me more: and hell
No fire to fear. The world I dwelt in died
With my dead father. King, thy world is wide
Wherein thy soul rejoicingly puts trust:
But mine is strait, and built by death of dust.
Thy sire, mine uncle, stood the sole man, then,
That held thy life up happy? Guendolen,
Hast thou nor child nor husband—or are we
Worth no remembrance more at all of thee?
Thy speech is sweet; thine eyes are flowers that shine:
If ever siren bare a son, Locrine,
To reign in some