Con. ’Twas but a dream.
Eliz. ’Twas more! ’twas more!
From youth I have lived in two alternate worlds,
And night is live like day. This was no goblin!
’Twas a true vision, and my mother’s soul
Is freed by my poor prayers from penal files,
And waits for me in bliss.
Con. Well—be it so then.
Thou seest herein what prize obedience merits.
Now to press forwards: I require your presence
Within the square, at noon, to witness there
The fiery doom—most just and righteous doom—
Of two convicted and malignant heretics,
Who at the stake shall expiate their crime,
And pacify God’s wrath against this land.
Eliz. No! no! I will not go!
Con. What’s here? Thou wilt not?
I’ll drive thee there with blows.
Eliz. Then I will bear them,
Even as I bore the last, with thankful thoughts
Upon those stripes my Lord endured for me.
Oh, spare them, sir! poor blindfold sons of men!
No saint but daily errs,—and must they burn,
Ah, God! for an opinion?
Con. Fool! opinions?
Who cares for their opinions? ’Tis rebellion
Against the system which upholds the world
For which they die: so, lest the infection spread,
We must cut off the members, whose disease
We’d pardon, could they keep it to themselves.
Well, I’ll not urge it,—Thou hast
But for thy petulant words do thou this penance:
I do forbid thee here, to give henceforth
Food, coin, or clothes, to any living soul.
Thy thriftless waste doth scandalise the elect,
And maim thine usefulness: thou dost elude
My wise restrictions still: ’Tis great, to live
Poor, among riches; when thy wealth is spent,
Want is not merit, but necessity.
Eliz. Oh, let me give!
That only pleasure have I left on earth!
Con. And for that very cause thou must forego
And so be perfect. She who lives in pleasure
Is dead, while yet she lives; grace brings no merit
When ’tis the express of our own self-will.
To shrink from what we practise; do God’s work
In spite of loathings; that’s the path of saints.
I have said. [Exit with the women.]
Eliz. Well! I am freezing fast—I
have grown of late
Too weak to nurse my sick; and now this outlet,
This one last thawing spring of fellow-feeling,
Is choked with ice—Come, Lord, and set me free.
Think me not hasty! measure not mine age,
O Lord, by these my four-and-twenty winters.
I have lived three lives—three lives.
For fourteen years I was an idiot girl:
Then I was born again; and for five years,
I lived! I lived! and then I died once more;—
One day when many knights came marching by,
And stole away—we’ll talk no more of that.
And so these four years since, I have been dead,
And all my life is hid with Christ in God.
Nunc igitur dimittas, Domine, servam tuam.