Sylvan. Woman again!—How, knowing you, I failed So long to know the truth, I cannot think.
Francis. And what’s the truth?
Woman and love of her
Is as a dragging ivy on the growth
Of that strong tree, man’s nature!
Yes. But now
Tell us a simpler sort of truth. Was she—–
Sylvan. She? Who?
Katrina, of course: who else, when one
Speaks of a she to you?
And what about her?
Valentine. Was she too cruel to you, or too kind?
Sylvan. Ah, there’s no hope for men like you; you’re sunk Above your consciences in smothering ponds Of sweet imagination,—drowned in woman!
Francis. Ay? Clarence and the Malmesey over again; ’Twas a delightful death.
But you forget.
Sylvan, we’ve come as your disciples here.
Sylvan. Yes, to a land where not the least desire Need prey upon your mettle. There are hours A god might gladly take in these basking dunes,— Nothing but summer and piping larks, and air All a warm breath of honey, and a grass All flowers—sweet thyme and golden heart’s-ease here! And under scent and song of flowers and birds, Far inland out of the golden bays the air Is charged with briny savour, and whispered news Gentle as whitening oats the breezes stroke. What good is all this health to you? You bring Your own thoughts with you; and they are vinegar, Endlessly rusting what should be clear steel.
I do begin to doubt our enterprise,
The grand Escape from Woman. It lookt brave
And nobly hazardous afar off, to cease
All wenching, whether in deed or word or thought.
And yet I fear pride egged us. We had done
Better to be more humble, and bring here
A girl apiece.
Yes, Sylvan; you must think
The cloister were a thing more comfortable
With your Katrina in it?
And do you think, supposing I would love,
I’ld bank in such a crazy safe as that
Katrina? One of those soft shy-spoken maids,
Who are only maids through fear? Whose life is all
A simpering pretence of modesty?
If it was love I wanted, ’twould not be
A dish of sweet stewed pears, laced with brandy.
But I can do without a woman’s kisses.
Valentine. Can you?—You know full well, in the truth of your heart, That there’s no man in all the world of men Whose will woman’s beauty cannot divide Easily as a sword cuts jetting water.
Sylvan. Have you not heard, that even jetting water May have such spouting force, that it becomes A rod of glittering white iron, and swords Will beat rebounding on its speed in vain?— Of such a force I mean to have my will.