Con. Yea, dashed aside—why not?
The truths, my son, are safe in God’s abysses—
While we patch up the doctrines to look like them.
The best are tarnished mirrors—clumsy bridges,
Whereon, as on firm soil, the mob may walk
Across the gulf of doubt, and know no danger.
We, who see heaven, may see the hell which girds it.
Blind trust for them. When I came here from Rome,
Among the Alps, all through one frost-bound dawn,
Waiting with sealed lips the noisy day,
I walked upon a marble mead of snow—
An angel’s spotless plume, laid there for me:
Then from the hillside, in the melting noon,
Looked down the gorge, and lo! no bridge, no snow—
But seas of writhing glacier, gashed and scored
With splintered gulfs, and fathomless crevasses,
Blue lips of hell, which sucked down roaring rivers
The fiends who fled the sun. The path of Saints
Is such; so shall she look from heaven, and see
The road which led her thither. Now we’ll go,
And find some lonely cottage for her lodging;
Her shelter now is but a crumbling ruin
Roofed in with pine boughs—discipline more healthy
For soul, than body: She’s not ripe for death.
Open space in a suburb of Marpurg, near Elizabeth’s
Walter and Count Pama of Hungary entering.
C. Pama. I have prepared my nerves for a shock.
C. Wal. You are wise, for the world’s upside down here. The last gateway brought us out of Christendom into the New Jerusalem, the fifth Monarchy, where the Saints possess the earth. Not a beggar here but has his pockets full of fair ladies’ tokens: not a barefooted friar but rules a princess.
C. Pama. Creeping, I opine, into widows’ houses, and for a pretence making long prayers.
C. Wal. Don’t quote Scripture here, sir, especially in that gross literal way! The new lights here have taught us that Scripture’s saying one thing, is a certain proof that it means another. Except, by the bye, in one text.
C. Pama. What’s that?
C. Wal. ‘Ask, and it shall be given you.’
C. Pama. Ah! So we are to take nothing literally, that they may take literally everything themselves?
C. Wal. Humph! As for your text, see if they do not saddle it on us before the day is out, as glibly as ever you laid it on them. Here comes the lady’s tyrant, of whom I told you.
[Conrad advances from the Hut.]
Con. And what may Count Walter’s valour want here?
[Count Walter turns his back.]
C. Pama. I come, Sir Priest, from Andreas, king
Of Hungary, ambassador unworthy
Unto the Landgravine, his saintly daughter;
And fain would be directed to her presence.