Eliz. How? Oh, my fortune rises to full
I met a friend just now, who told me truths
Wholesome and stern, of my deceitful heart—
Would God I had known them earlier!—and enforced
Her lesson so, as I shall ne’er forget it
In body or in mind.
Isen. What means all this?
Eliz. You know the stepping-stones across the
There as I passed, a certain aged crone,
Whom I had fed, and nursed, year after year,
Met me mid-stream—thrust past me stoutly on—
And rolled me headlong in the freezing mire.
There as I lay and weltered,—’Take that, Madam,
For all your selfish hypocritic pride
Which thought it such a vast humility
To wash us poor folk’s feet, and use our bodies
For staves to build withal your Jacob’s-ladder.
What! you would mount to heaven upon our backs?
The ass has thrown his rider.’ She crept on—
I washed my garments in the brook hard by—
And came here, all the wiser.
Guta. Miscreant hag!
Isen. Alas, you’ll freeze.
Guta. Who could have dreamt the witch
Could harbour such a spite?
Eliz. Nay, who could dream
She would have guessed my heart so well? Dull boors
See deeper than we think, and hide within
Those leathern hulls unfathomable truths,
Which we amid thought’s glittering mazes lose.
They grind among the iron facts of life,
And have no time for self-deception.
Put on my cloak—stand here, behind the wall.
Oh! is it come to this? She’ll die of cold.
Guta. Ungrateful fiend!
Eliz. Let be—we must not think on’t.
The scoff was true—I thank her—I thank God—
This too I needed. I had built myself
A Babel-tower, whose top should reach to heaven,
Of poor men’s praise and prayers, and subtle pride
At mine own alms. ’Tis crumbled into dust!
Oh! I have leant upon an arm of flesh—
And here’s its strength! I’ll walk by faith—by faith
And rest my weary heart on Christ alone—
On him, the all-sufficient!
Shame on me! dreaming thus about myself,
While you stand shivering here. [To her little Son.]
Art cold, young knight?
Knights must not cry—Go slide, and warm thyself.
Where shall we lodge to-night?
Isen. There’s no place open,
But that foul tavern, where we lay last night.
Elizabeth’s Son [clinging to her]. O mother, mother! go not to that house— Among those fierce lank men, who laughed, and scowled, And showed their knives, and sang strange ugly songs Of you and us. O mother! let us be!
Eliz. Hark! look! His father’s voice!—his
Opening so slow and sad, then sinking down
In luscious rest again!
Isen. Bethink you, child—
Eliz. Oh yes—I’ll think—we’ll
to our tavern friends;
If they be brutes, ’twas my sin left them so.