RACHEL. What noise?
ESTHER. The drawbridge has been
And now our refuge is a prison too.—
RACHEL. A token that the King has left these
So hastes he forth.—Will he return again?
I fear me no—I fear the very worst!
(Sinking on ESTHER’s breast.)
And yet I loved him truly, loved him well!
A large room with a throne in the foreground to the right. Next to the throne, and running in a straight row to the left, several chairs upon which eight or ten Castilian grandees are sitting. Close to the throne, MANRIQUE DE LARA, who has arisen.
MANRIQUE. In sadness we are now assembled
But few of us, whom close proximity
Allowed to gather in so short a time.
There will be more to join us presently.
Stern, universal need, delaying not,
Commands us count ourselves as competent.
Before all others, in our earnest group,
Is missing he to whom belongs the right
To call this parliament and here preside;
We then are half illegal at the start.
And so, my noble lords, I took the care
To ask her royal majesty, the Queen,
Although our business much concerns herself,
Here to convene with us and take her place,
That we may know we are not masterless,
Nor feel ’tis usurpation brought us here.
The subject of our council at this time
I hope—I fear—is known to all too well.
The King, our mighty sov’reign—not alone
In rank, estate, and dignity he’s high,
But, too, in natural gifts, that when we gaze
Behind us in the past’s wide-open book,
We scarce again can find his equal there—
Except that strength, the lever of all good,
When wandered from her wonted path of good,
Wills e’er to do her will with equal strength—
The King, I say, withdraws himself from court,
Lured by a woman’s too lascivious charm,
A thing in no wise seeming us to judge—
The QUEEN, accompanied by DONA CLARA and several ladies, enters from the right, and seats herself on the throne, after she has indicated to the grandees who have arisen that they are to resume their seats.
MANRIQUE. Have I permission, Majesty?