Guta. ’Tis but for a night or two:
three days will bring
The Abbess hither.
Isen. And then to Bamberg straight
For knights and men-at-arms! Your uncle’s wrath—
Guta [aside]. Hush! hush! you’ll fret her, if you talk of vengeance.
Isen. Come to our shelter.
Children. Oh stay here, stay here!
Behind these walls.
Eliz. Ay—stay a while in peace.
The storms are still.
Beneath her eider robe the patient earth
Watches in silence for the sun: we’ll sit
And gaze up with her at the changeless heaven,
Until this tyranny be overpast.
Come. [aside] Lost! Lost! Lost!
[They enter a neighbouring ruin.]
A Chamber in the Bishop’s Palace at Bamberg. Elizabeth and Guta.
Guta. You have determined?
Eliz. Yes—to go with him.
I have kept my oath too long to break it now.
I will to Marpurg, and there waste away
In meditation and in pious deeds,
Till God shall set me free.
Guta. How if your uncle
Will have you marry? Day and night, they say,
He talks of nothing else.
Eliz. Never, girl, never!
Save me from that at least, O God!
Guta. He spoke
Of giving us, your maidens, to his knights
In carnal wedlock: but I fear him not:
For God’s own word is pledged to keep me pure—
I am a maid.
Eliz. And I, alas! am none!
O Guta! dost thou mock my widowed love?
I was a wife—’tis true: I was not worthy—
But there was meaning in that first wild fancy;
’Twas but the innocent springing of the sap—
The witless yearning of an homeless heart—
Do I not know that God has pardoned me?
But now—to rouse and turn of mine own will,
In cool and full foreknowledge, this worn soul
Again to that, which, when God thrust it on me,
Bred but one shame of ever-gnawing doubt,
Were—No, my burning cheeks! We’ll say no more.
Ah! loved and lost! Though God’s chaste grace should fail me,
My weak idolatry of thee would give
Strength that should keep me true: with mine own hands
I’d mar this tear-worn face, till petulant man
Should loathe its scarred and shapeless ugliness.
Guta. But your poor children? What becomes of them?
Eliz. Oh! she who was not worthy of a husband
Does not deserve his children. What are they, darlings,
But snares to keep me from my heavenly spouse
By picturing the spouse I must forget?
Well—’tis blank horror. Yet if grief’s good for me,
Let me down into grief’s blackest pit,
And follow out God’s cure by mine own deed.
Guta. What will your kinsfolk think?