Eliz. I am most friendless.
The Landgravine and Agnes—you may see them
Begrudge the food I eat, and call me friend
Of knaves and serving-maids; the burly knights
Freeze me with cold blue eyes: no saucy page
But points and whispers, ’There goes our pet nun;
Would but her saintship leave her gold behind,
We’d give herself her furlough.’ Save me! save me!
All here are ghastly dreams; dead masks of stone,
And you and I, and Guta, only live:
Your eyes alone have souls. I shall go mad!
Oh that they would but leave me all alone
To teach poor girls, and work within my chamber,
With mine own thoughts, and all the gentle angels
Which glance about my dreams at morning-tide!
Then I should be as happy as the birds
Which sing at my bower window. Once I longed
To be beloved,—now would they but forget me!
Most vile I must be, or they could not hate me!
Isen. They are of this world, thou art not,
Therefore they hate thee, as they did thy betters.
Eliz. But, Lewis, nurse?
Isen. He, child? he is thy knight;
Espoused from childhood: thou hast a claim upon him.
One that thou’lt need, alas!—though, I remember—
’Tis fifteen years agone—when in one cradle
We laid two fair babes for a marriage token;
And when your lips met, then you smiled, and twined
Your little limbs together.—Pray the Saints
That token stand!—He calls thee love and sister,
And brings thee gew-gaws from the wars: that’s much!
At least he’s thine if thou love him.
Eliz. If I love him?
What is this love? Why, is he not my brother
And I his sister? Till these weary wars,
The one of us without the other never
Did weep or laugh: what is’t should change us now?
You shake your head and smile.
Isen. Go to; the chafe
Comes not by wearing chains, but feeling them.
Eliz. Alas! here comes a knight across the court;
Oh, hide me, nurse! What’s here? this door is fast.
Isen. Nay, ’tis a friend: he brought
my princess hither,
Walter of Varila; I feared him once—
He used to mock our state, and say, good wine
Should want no bush, and that the cage was gay,
But that the bird must sing before he praised it.
Yet he’s a kind heart, while his bitter tongue
Awes these court popinjays at times to manners.
He will smile sadly too, when he meets my maiden;
And once he said, he was your liegeman sworn,
Since my lost mistress, weeping, to his charge
Trusted the babe she saw no more.—God help us!
Eliz. How did my mother die, nurse?
Isen. She died, my child.
Eliz. But how? Why turn away?
Too long I’ve guessed at some dread mystery
I may not hear: and in my restless dreams,
Night after night, sweeps by a frantic rout
Of grinning fiends, fierce horses, bodiless hands,
Which clutch at one to whom my spirit yearns
As to a mother. There’s some fearful tie
Between me and that spirit-world, which God
Brands with his terrors on my troubled mind.
Speak! tell me, nurse! is she in heaven or hell?