Con. If this were God’s world, Madam,
and not the devil’s,
It might be done.
Eliz. God’s world, man! Why, God
The faith asserts it God’s.
As every christened rogue’s a child of God,
Or those old hags, Christ’s brides—Think of your horn-book—
The world, the flesh, and the devil—a goodly leash!
And yet God made all three. I know the fiend;
And you should know the world: be sure, be sure.
The flesh is not a stork among the cranes.
Our nature, even in Eden gross and vile,
And by miraculous grace alone upheld,
Is now itself, and foul, and damned, must die
Ere we can live; let halting worldlings, madam,
Maunder against earth’s ties, yet clutch them still.
Eliz. And yet God gave them to me—
Con. In the world;
Your babes are yours according to the flesh;
How can you hate the flesh, and love its fruit?
Eliz. The Scripture bids me love them.
Con. Truly so,
While you are forced to keep them; when God’s mercy
Doth from the flesh and world deliverance offer,
Letting you bestow them elsewhere, then your love
May cease with its own usefulness, and the spirit
Range in free battle lists; I’ll not waste reasons—
We’ll leave you, Madam, to the Spirit’s voice.
[Conrad and Gerard withdraw.]
Eliz. [alone]. Give up his children! Why,
I’d not give up
A lock of hair, a glove his hand had hallowed:
And they are his gift; his pledge; his flesh and blood
Tossed off for my ambition! Ah! my husband!
His ghost’s sad eyes upbraid me! Spare me, spare me!
I’d love thee still, if I dared; but I fear God.
And shall I never more see loving eyes
Look into mine, until my dying day?
That’s this world’s bondage: Christ would have me free,
And ’twere a pious deed to cut myself
The last, last strand, and fly: but whither? whither?
What if I cast away the bird i’ the hand
And found none in the bush? ’Tis possible—
What right have I to arrogate Christ’s bride-bed?
Crushed, widowed, sold to traitors? I, o’er whom
His billows and His storms are sweeping? God’s not angry:
No, not so much as we with buzzing fly;
Or in the moment of His wrath’s awakening
We should be—nothing. No—there’s worse than that—
What if He but sat still, and let be be?
And these deep sorrows, which my vain conceit
Calls chastenings—meant for me—my ailments’ cure—
Were lessons for some angels far away,
And I the corpus vile for the experiment?
The grinding of the sharp and pitiless wheels
Of some high Providence, which had its mainspring
Ages ago, and ages hence its end?
That were too horrible!—
To have torn up all the roses from my garden,
And planted thorns instead; to have forged my griefs,
And hugged the griefs I dared not forge; made earth