Knight. I do defy him! Thou art my only
My saint, my idol, my—ahem!
1st Lady. That well’s run dry.
Look, how she trembles—Now she sinks, all shivering,
Upon the pavement—Why, you’ll see nought there
Flirting behind the pillar—Now she rises—
And choking down that proud heart, turns to the altar—
Her hand upon the coffin.
Eliz. I thank thee, gracious Lord, who hast
Thine handmaid’s mighty longings with the sight
Of my beloved’s bones, and dost vouchsafe
This consolation to the desolate.
I grudge not, Lord, the victim which we gave Thee,
Both he and I, of his most precious life,
To aid Thine holy city: though Thou knowest
His sweetest presence was to this world’s joy
As sunlight to the taper—Oh! hadst Thou spared—
Had Thy great mercy let us, hand in hand,
Have toiled through houseless shame, on beggar’s dole,
I had been blest: Thou hast him, Lord, Thou hast him—
Do with us what Thou wilt! If at the price
Of this one silly hair, in spite of Thee,
I could reclothe these wan bones with his manhood,
And clasp to my shrunk heart my hero’s self—
I would not give it!
I will weep no more—
Lead on, most holy; on the sepulchre
Which stands beside the choir, lay down your burden.
[To the people.]
Now, gentle hosts, within the close hard by,
Will we our court, as queen of sorrows, hold—
The green graves underneath us, and above
The all-seeing vault, which is the eye of God,
Judge of the widow and the fatherless.
There will I plead my children’s wrongs, and there,
If, as I think, there boil within your veins
The deep sure currents of your race’s manhood,
Ye’ll nail the orphans’ badge upon your shields,
And own their cause for God’s. We name our champions—
Rudolf, the Cupbearer, Leutolf of Erlstetten,
Hartwig of Erba, and our loved Count Walter,
Our knights and vassals, sojourners among you.
[Exit Elizabeth, etc.; the crowd following.]
Night. The church of a convent. Elizabeth, Conrad, Gerard, Monks, an Abbess, Nuns, etc., in the distance.
Conrad. What’s this new weakness?
At your own request
We come to hear your self-imposed vows—
And now you shrink: where are the high-flown fancies
Which but last week, beside your husband’s bier,
You vapoured forth? Will you become a jest?
You might have counted this tower’s cost, before
You blazoned thus your plans abroad.
Eliz. Oh! spare me!
Con. Spare? Spare yourself; and spare
big easy words,
Which prove your knowledge greater than your grace.
Eliz. Is there no middle path? No way
My love for them, and God, at once unstained?