To drop and die, like dead leaves in the brake,
Or like the meteor stone, though whelmed itself,
Kindle the dry moors into fruitful blaze—
And yet we live too fast!
Be earnest, earnest, earnest; mad, if thou wilt:
Do what thou dost as if the stake were heaven,
And that thy last deed ere the judgment-day.
When all’s done, nothing’s done. There’s rest above—
Below let work be death, if work be love! [Exeunt.]
A Chamber in the Castle. Counts Walter, Hugo,
etc., Abbot, and
Count Hugo. I can’t forget it, as I am a Christian man. To ask for a stoup of beer at breakfast, and be told there was no beer allowed in the house—her Ladyship had given all the malt to the poor.
Abbot. To give away the staff of life, eh?
C. Hugo. The life itself, Sir, the life itself. All that barley, that would have warmed many an honest fellow’s coppers, wasted in filthy cakes.
Abbot. The parent of seraphic ale degraded into plebeian dough! Indeed, Sir, we have no right to lessen wantonly the amount of human enjoyment!
C. Wal. In heaven’s name, what would you have her do, while the people were eating grass?
C. Hugo. Nobody asked them to eat it; nobody asked them to be there to eat it; if they will breed like rabbits, let them feed like rabbits, say I—I never married till I could keep a wife.
Abbot. Ah, Count Walter! How sad to see a man of your sense so led away by his feelings! Had but this dispensation been left to work itself out, and evolve the blessing implicit in all heaven’s chastenings! Had but the stern benevolences of providence remained undisturbed by her ladyship’s carnal tenderness—what a boon had this famine been!
C. Wal. How then, man?
Abbot. How many a poor soul would be lying—Ah, blessed thought!— in Abraham’s bosom; who must now toil on still in this vale of tears!—Pardon this pathetic dew—I cannot but feel as a Churchman.
3d Count. Look at it in this way, Sir. There are too many of us— too many—Where you have one job you have three workmen. Why, I threw three hundred acres into pasture myself this year—it saves money, and risk, and trouble, and tithes.
C. Wal. What would you say to the Princess, who talks of breaking up all her parks to wheat next year?
3d Count. Ask her to take on the thirty families, who were just going to tramp off those three hundred acres into the Rhine-land, if she had not kept them in both senses this winter, and left them on my hands—once beggars, always beggars.
C. Hugo. Well, I’m a practical man, and I say, the sharper the famine, the higher are prices, and the higher I sell, the more I can spend; so the money circulates, Sir, that’s the word—like water— sure to run downwards again; and so it’s as broad as it’s long; and here’s a health—if there was any beer—to the farmers’ friends, ’A bloody war and a wet harvest.’