[Old Monk, looking after them.]
The burying place of God!
Why gay and bold, in steel and gold,
O’er the paths where Christ hath trod?
[The Scene closes.]
A chamber in the Wartburg. Elizabeth sitting in widow’s weeds; Guta and Isentrudis by her.
Isen. What? Always thus, my Princess?
Is this wise,
By day with fasts and ceaseless coil of labour;
About the ungracious poor—hands, eyes, feet, brain
O’ertasked alike—’mid sin and filth, which make
Each sense a plague—by night with cruel stripes,
And weary watchings on the freezing stone,
To double all your griefs, and burn life’s candle,
As village gossips say, at either end?
The good book bids the heavy-hearted drink,
And so forget their woe.
Eliz. ’Tis written too
In that same book, nurse, that the days shall come
When the bridegroom shall be taken away—and then—
Then shall they mourn and fast: I needed weaning
From sense and earthly joys; by this way only
May I win God to leave in mine own hands
My luxury’s cure: oh! I may bring him back,
By working out to its full depth the chastening
The need of which his loss proves: I but barter
Less grief for greater—pain for widowhood.
Isen. And death for life—your cheeks
are wan and sharp
As any three-days’ moon—you are shifting always
Uneasily and stiff, now, on your seat,
As from some secret pain.
Eliz. Why watch me thus?
You cannot know—and yet you know too much—
I tell you, nurse, pain’s comfort, when the flesh
Aches with the aching soul in harmony,
And even in woe, we are one: the heart must speak
Its passion’s strangeness in strange symbols out,
Or boil, till it bursts inly.
Guta. Yet, methinks,
You might have made this widowed solitude
A holy rest—a spell of soft gray weather,
Beneath whose fragrant dews all tender thoughts
Might bud and burgeon.
Eliz. That’s a gentle dream;
But nature shows nought like it: every winter,
When the great sun has turned his face away,
The earth goes down into the vale of grief,
And fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables,
Leaving her wedding-garlands to decay—
Then leaps in spring to his returning kisses—
As I may yet!—
Isen. There, now—my foolish child!
You faint: come—come to your chamber—
Eliz. Oh, forgive me!
But hope at times throngs in so rich and full,
It mads the brain like wine: come with me, nurse,
Sit by me, lull me calm with gentle tales
Of noble ladies wandering in the wild wood,
Fed on chance earth-nuts, and wild strawberries,
Or milk of silly sheep, and woodland doe.
Or how fair Magdalen ’mid desert sands
Wore out in prayer her lonely blissful years,
Watched by bright angels, till her modest tresses
Wove to her pearled feet their golden shroud.
Come, open all your lore.