Fair Rosamond appears in Lord Tennyson’s Beckett. Rosamond is at the core of what Dan Brown’s fiction eludes to. Denis de Rougemont transformed the world, made real history, and shed light on the Holy Grail.
Leonardo Da Vinci’s genius is alive in my family.
More than 70 years ago, Denis de Rougemont, the late Swiss scholar, wrote a fascinating book called Love in the Western World. In it he theorizes that Tantra, which ignited in India some time before 800 C.E. from much older roots, traveled west via the Muslim world under the umbrella of divine passion, or fana (the passing away of the self). Fana was the theme of mystical Arab love poetry and song. It infected the Spanish Moors within a few centuries. When it crossed the Pyrenees into what is now southern France – in the refrains of wandering minstrels – it encountered a version of Gnosticism, which had migrated westward from Bulgaria, or beyond.
Denis de Rougemont, an eminent Chrétien de Troyes scholar, points out that half of humanity’s misery can be summed up in the word “adultery.” Perhaps a case could be made for the fact that this word caused Chrétien de Troyes quite a bit of grief as well, particularly when trying to resolve such a blatant violation of doctrine with his patroness’ more “enlightened” views on courtly love. Though there is no true way of knowing, what is certain is that Lancelot, a work that Chrétien chose never to finish, is possibly the most peculiar of his romances. Textually, many inconsistencies can be found upon comparing this work to his others, but what is most important is trying to understand what all these oddities imply about Chrétien. One of the biggest differences is that Lancelot doesn’t get a name until halfway through the story. He has lost his honor due to the adultery he has committed prior to the commencement of the story. All of Chrétien’s other knights start off with a name, lose it when they lose their honor, and then regain it when they regain their honor. It is possible to link this change in format with Chrétien’s own discomfort with the subject matter. Three particular instances in Lancelot reveal this tension: the not-so-evil dwarf, the land of Gorre and the slutty damsel. Much has been written on these three elements of the story as separate instances, yet the linking of the three lends itself to more interesting implications.
Denis de Rougemont’s L’Amour et L’Occident discusses the origins of courtly love: “Selon la these officiellement admise, l’amour courtois est né d’une réaction à l’anarchie brutale des moeurs féodales.”De Rougemont goes on to say that because the institution of marriage in the 12th century was based on political and economic factors and that it was too easily dissolved based on bogus reasons, true love in marriage was impossible. He argues that these abuses created a reaction in favor of true love or “fidelité” existing outside of marriage. This new reaction would therefore have to negate the validity of the love between the main characters in Chrétien’s other known works as being legitimate: “Il en vient même à declarer que l’amour et le marriage ne sont pas compatibles: c’est le fameux jugement d’une cour d’amour tenue chez la comtesse de Champagne.”Chrétien picks up this whole “syndrome” of courtly love and tries to mitigate it with orthodoxy, which is an impossible task in Lancelot. Condren has already pointed out that from the prologue, it is clear that this material was fed directly to Chrétien. Perhaps Chrétien never finished writing this story because he simply couldn’t find a proper ending that would ultimately reconcile the opposing impulses of staying true to a religious standard of decency and playing to the popular doctrine of courtly love that Marie urged him to write about. We will never know the answer to this mystery, however, if there is one truth that one can take away from Lancelot is that it is all the more beautiful and intriguing of a story because of this tension between love and church.
John William Waterhouse (baptised 6 April 1849; died 10 February 1917) was an English painter known for working in the Pre-Raphaelite style. He worked several decades after the breakup of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, which had seen its heyday in the mid-nineteenth century, leading him to have gained the moniker of “the modern Pre-Raphaelite”. Borrowing stylistic influences not only from the earlier Pre-Raphaelites but also from his contemporaries, the Impressionists, his artworks were known for their depictions of women from both ancient Greek mythology and Arthurian legend.
The Mysterious Cathars
The result was the wildly popular, doomed, and surprisingly influential Cathar movement – which ultimately gave rise to chivalry, or courtly love. The Cathars were passionate purists who regarded themselves as the true Christians. They believed in the “Good God,” and claimed that their principles predated those of the Catholics (who believed in the “other” God, who had imprisoned mankind in matter). Cathars did not kill, were vegetarian, and chaste. The Divine Feminine (the Lady, or Sophia, Queen of Heaven) was a key figure in their cosmology, and women could be clerics in their order. Unlike the Catholics they did not favor physical procreation, choosing instead to place their focus on their spiritual lives beyond the material world. One of the Cathars’ basic beliefs was that ‘true love’ was not the ordinary human love between husband and wife but rather the worship of a feminine savior (the Lady), a mediator between God and man, who waited in the sky to welcome the pure with a holy kiss and lead them into the Realm of Light. By contrast with this pure love, ordinary human sexuality and marriage were bestial and unspiritual. Cathars believed that the love of man and woman should be an earthly allegory of their spiritual love for the Queen of Heaven. It was the Catholics who branded these Christians with the epithet “Cathar,” claiming that the Cathars kissed cats’ arses as part of their supposed devil worship. Ironically, the word “cathar” means “pure” in Greek, and that is how the Cathars are remembered. Their very purity ultimately drove the Church to tighten up on many lax practices, like priests’ openly keeping mistresses – a common practice in those times. The impassioned purity of the Cathars also indirectly inspired the Reformation and the Quaker movement. Widespread admiration for the Cathars – amid the rampant corruption of the Church – swelled Cathar ranks. Their growing influence throughout French Provence triggered a hideous crusade by the Catholics. Between 1000 and 1200 C.E the Church burned alive or otherwise brutally murdered 500,000 suspected Cathars – including whole towns, right down to the infants. Guillaume Belibaste, the last Cathar recorded to have burned at the stake in 1321, a victim of the Inquisition, is said to have prophesied that “at the end of seven hundred years the laurel would turn green again.” Does that mean the the principles of Catharism, or “the true Christianity,” would once again come to the world’s attention?
The Rise of Courtly Love
Persecution sent the movement underground and into decline, but the troubadours of Provence spread elements of it throughout Europe under the guise of cortezia, the courtly love tradition. As a troubadour sang impassioned songs to his Lady pledging willing submission, those in the know would have recognized them as hymns venerating the Divine Feminine revered by the Cathars. Not surprisingly, Madonna worship rapidly increased during this period. Just as in India where Tantra was waxing, higher love was in the air in Europe. Courtly love had echoes of tantric practice (more below). The mystical Jewish Kabbalah has also been traced to 12th century Provence. Also around the same time, a venerated Sufi scholar, who wrote about the spiritual power in the union of male and female, Ibn al-`Arabi, was born in Spain in 1165.
Contemplation of the Reality without formal support is not possible. . . . Since, therefore, some form of support is necessary, the best and most perfect kind is the contemplation of God in woman. The greatest union is that between man and woman. Ibn al-`Arabi ‘Bezels of Wisdom’
The European version, courtly love, covered a wide array of practices. As it freed itself from its Cathar and distant Tantric roots, it transformed from an underground religious movement into a code of manners for the upper classes known as chivalry. Once a radical change in mores, the code of chivalry now lingers in such mundane routines as men holding doors for women or rising when a woman enters the room. De Rougemont and other scholars also trace the Western desire for an all-consuming passionate romance to chivalry. In a future article we will look at the darker elements of passion – sacrifice and suffering – which colored courtly love. Chivalry had elements of sacred sex, whether from Cathar practices (via the earliest Gnostics) or from echoes of Tantra (via the Moors). Knights would pledge themselves to ladies with whom they would (in theory at least) never have procreative sex. Often they chose unavailable lovers, i.e., married women. By sublimating their unrequited passions, knights gained the energy for various spiritual and physical quests. They were rewarded with favors, which seem to have ranged from smiles, tokens, and kisses to sleeping together in the nude and even intercourse without ejaculation. The code of chivalry greatly prized this refined love. One of the maxims of chivalry was E d’amor mou castitaz (from love comes chastity).
A Knight in Modern Amour
My friend RJ, a modern-day adherent of chivalry, describes its principles and benefits as follows:
Donnoi was the courtly love designation for an acknowledged relationship between a man and woman. Donnoi involved a marriage-like ceremony with the gift of a ring (to the man). In the poetry and romances inspired by this relationship we see the idea of love as a requisite to bonding. This is the beginning of woman’s liberation in the western world – at least of her heart and body, though not directly of her economic and political status. The relationship had certain rules, similar to the vows exchanged during a wedding ceremony. The knight pledged certain things to the lady. He was expected to woo, or pursue, her, which is the source of our modern courtship behavior. It evolved into such courtesies and gallantries as opening doors, writing poetry, observing formal manners, and asking for a lady’s hand on bended knee. Women were treated with honor, not as property. The knight pledged always to be passionate. She controlled his “virtue,” that is, whether or not ejaculatory release was permitted. He underwent ritual testing to see if he had the discipline of restraint necessary to love. The woman was not required absolutely to forego her own pleasure, but she could veto the advances of the man at any stage of their dalliance. Women sought a man of passion, but with self-control and the ability to be unselfish. (Remember when men used to say that they respected a woman who said ‘no’?) Under the rules of courtly love, the woman “gentled” the man and used his passion to create their bond. As an aside, I suspect that bonding is a natural male biological response to delayed gratification. Women have used it for ages when in the presence of “husband material.” If the knight passed his tests and the lady accepted him as her lover, he pledged obedience to her rule in the realm of love. Such obedience today sounds like the man was in a submissive role. He was, but do not confuse this submission with dominatrix fetishism. By submitting, the man was acknowledging the error that man should be in control of the woman, including her sexuality. Chivalry freed the woman to assert herself in the realm of love, assuring her satisfaction. She set the pace and the mood, directing or redirecting the man’s attention as he deferred to her. Unfortunately, the romance of courtly love failed to translate into the common marriage. It found expression mostly in love triangles that created unrequited love. [dopamine cravings?] However at least one author, Chretien deTroys, played with the idea of incorporating the courtly ideals within the matrimonial bond, influencing the thought of others that would follow. Beyond her authority as queen in love’s realm, the lady did not rule over her knight’s conduct. True, she might help perfect him by challenging him to hone his fighting skills in tournaments, or humble his ego by asking him to lose a match, or dress in rags, if he was proud or haughty. Knights also had safeguards. He expected to be treated with dignity. If he felt she was abusing her power he had the right of defi, the right and obligation to defy her under chivalry. Sometimes such disagreements came before a “court of love,” where women sat as judges and debated the ethics of behaviors. Also a knight’s obedience was offered subject to mezura. Mezura meant both temperance and moderation. He was not expected to be passive in love, waiting on her every word. (A man’s perennial hope is that “no” means “later.”) After his trials, or tests, the knight could expect a bit more mercy from his lady in regard to his testosterone driven, biological urges. Yet perfect chastity was the spiritual ideal. The relationship was fundamentally Tantric in sexual expression. Tantra is now sometimes confused with some practice of sexual athleticism, but originally it was a means of spiritual connection and sustained intimacy. Interestingly, men seem to have provided the original courtly love inspiration – which women refined later in the courts of love. Men were seeking their own liberation – probably for spiritual reasons, influenced by the monks and the heretical cults steeped in older Gnostic traditions (Cathars). Spiritual quests fill the literature of courtly love, the search for the Holy Grail being one theme. For me, the era of courtly love was a grand, noble politico-religious, sacred and erotic mystery play. I think it has relevance for men and women today as they seek to form new relationship paradigms. Some troubadours insisted that donnoi was the way of love consistent with nature. As I look at ancient history, socio-biology, and “alternative” relationships, I see courtly love as embodying most clearly and fully an archetype that will not die and is seeking rebirth.
THE BOWER OF “FAIR ROSAMOND”
THE story of “Fair Rosamond” and her mazy Bower, though it cannot lay claim to that standard of authenticity which is generally required of historical data, has for so long occupied an honoured position in the realm of popular romance that, in a book professing to treat of mazes from a broad point of view, we cannot dismiss it quite as briefly as we might perhaps do in a book on English history.
“Fair Rosamond” has been stated, without very much foundation, to have been the daughter of Walter de Clifford, and is in consequence frequently referred to as Rosamond Clifford.
The story runs that King Henry the Second (A.D. 1133 to 1189) adopted her as his mistress, and that, in order to conceal his illicit amours from his Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine, he conducted them within the innermost recesses of a most complicated maze which he caused to be made in his park at Woodstock. Rumours of her spouse’s defections having reached the ears of Queen Eleanor, that indignant lady contrived to penetrate the labyrinth, confronted her terrified and tearful rival, and forced her to choose between the dagger and the bowl of poison; she drained the latter and became forthwith defunct.
Various trimmings, more or less scandalous in nature,
gathered around the central tale, as, for instance, that Rosamond presented Henry with the son who was afterwards known as William Longsword, Earl of Salisbury, but the main outline as indicated above was handed down intact for many generations.
The poisoning incident is not mentioned in the account given by a chronicler of that time, John Brompton, Abbot of Jervaulx (Yorks). It seems to have been first recorded by a French scribe in the fourteenth century.
Brompton’s version, given under the year 1151 in his “Chronicon,” is as follows:
“Sane idem rex Henricus quanquam multis virtutibus fuerat ornatus, aliquibus tamen viciis involutus personam regiam deturpavit. In libidine namque pronus conjugalem modum excessit. Regina enim sua Elianora jamdudum incarcerata factus est adulter manifestus, palam et impudice puellam retinens Rosamundam. Huic nempe puellae spectatissimae fecerat rex apud Wodestoke mirabilis architecturae cameram operi Daedalino similem, ne forsan a regina facile deprehenderetur. Sed ilia cito obiit, et apud Godestowe juxta Oxoniam in capitulo monialium in tumba decenti est sepulta, ubi talis suprascriptio invenitur:
“Hic facet in tumba Rosa mundi, non Rosa munda;
Non redolet, sed olet, quae redolere solet.”
It would appear from this account that the “bower” was a labyrinth of an architectural kind, perhaps like that mentioned in Chapter XIV as having been built at Ardres by Louis of Bourbourg in the previous century, not, as popularly believed, a maze of evergreens. It will be seen, also, that Henry did not long enjoy his clandestine delights, for Rosamond shortly died and was buried before the high altar of the nunnery church of Godstowe. Her death is believed to have taken place about 1176. It is possible that she had entered the nunnery some time
before that. According to the contemporary annalist Roger de Hoveden her body was removed in 1191 by Bishop Hugh of Lincoln, on moral grounds, and was apparently re-interred in the chapter-house.
The imprisonment of Queen Eleanor, referred to by Brompton, was a consequence of her connivance at the rebellion of her sons in 1173-74.
Ranulph Higden, who lived in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, deals with the Henry and Rosamond story in the seventh book of his “Polychronicon,” and tells us that visitors to Godstowe Abbey used to be shown a wonderful coffer which had belonged to Rosamond. It contained figures of birds, beasts, fishes and boxing men, which, by clockwork or springs, were endowed with apparently spontaneous motion (Cista ejusdem puella vix bipedalis mensura, sed mirabilis architectura ibidem cernitur; in qua conflictus pugilem, gestus animalium, volatus avium, saltus piscium, absque hominis impulsu conspiciuntur).
Most of the subsequent chroniclers seem to have followed Higden in their relation of the story. By Tudor times the romantic and tragic episode had become a favourite theme in popular lore; it was enshrined by the Elizabethan poet Drayton in his “Epistle to Rosamond,” the bower being therein described as an arrangement of subterranean vaults. It achieved its greatest popularity, however, in the ballad form, and was printed, with several other “Strange Histories or Songs and Sonnets of Kinges, Princes, Dukes, Lords, Ladyes, Knights and Gentlemen, etc.,” in a black-letter volume written or edited by Thomas Delone (or Delorney) in 1612. Two editions of the ballad were represented in the collection of Samuel Pepys, under the title of “The Life and Death of Rosamond, King Henry the Second’s Concubine. And how she was Poysoned to Death by Queen Elenor.”
John Aubrey, in his “Remaines,” 1686, tells us that his nurse used to sing the following verses to him:
“Yea, Rosamond, fair Rosamond,
Her name was called so,
To whom dame Elinor our Queene
Was known a deadly foe,
The King therefore for her defence
Against the furious Queene
At Woodstocke builded such a Bower
The like was never seen.
“Most curiously that Bower was built
Of stone and timber strong.
An hundered and fifty dores
Did to this Bower belong,
And they so cunningly contriv’d
With turnings round about
That none but with a clew of thread
Could enter in or out.”
[paragraph continues] The whole ballad will be found in the well-known “Reliques of Ancient English Poetry,” collected by Bishop Percy and published by him in 1765.
Of a widely different nature was the version published in 1729 by Samuel Croxall in his “Select Collection of Novels,” Vol. IV. “The Loves of King Henry II and Fair Rosamond.” Here the attitude assumed is one of learned contempt for popular credulity. “What have we in this Story,” says Croxall, “but a Copy of Ariadne’s Clue and the Cretan Labyrinth? . . . Yet are we not to wonder that the monkish Historians should deliver down to us a Tale of such Absurdity, when the same Chronicles tell us that, in that King’s Reign, a Dragon of marvellous Bigness was seen at St. Osyth’s in Essex, which, by its very motion, set many Houses and Buildings on Fire.”
As for the inscription on Rosamond’s tomb, quoted by Brompton, our critic is equally scornful. “The conceit,” he says, “is poor and common and, like the other Poetry of those times, depends on a certain Jingle and Play on the Words. The sense of them has been thus expressed in honest English Metre:”
(Whether the verse is in better taste when expressed in
honest English metre the reader must judge for himself.)
“Rose of the World, not Rose the peerless Flow’r,
Within this Tomb hath taken up her Bow’r.
She scenteth now, and nothing Sweet doth smell
Who earst was wont to savour passing well.”
[paragraph continues] This rendering is perhaps preferable to that of Stowe (“Annals,” 1631), which concludes with:
“Though she were sweete, now foully doth she stinke,
A mirrour good for all men, that on her thinke.”
In any case the epitaph must be accounted a libel in one respect, for Leland, the Antiquary to Henry VIII, records that, on the opening of Rosamond’s tomb, at the dissolution of Godstowe nunnery, the bones were found to be encased in leather, surrounded by lead, and that “a very swete smell came out of it.”
An interesting point mentioned by Croxall is that in his time “a delightful Bower” was still in existence at Woodstock and was shown as the original of the story. Another reliable writer of the same period (Thomas Hearne, 1718) makes a similar observation, but in this case it is made clear that the remains are those of a large building, not, as we might have inferred, those of a hedge maze or arbour. These remains, whatever they may have been, have disappeared long since.
Woodstock Park, according to the historian Rouse of Warwick, was the first park to be made in England. Henry the First had a palace here, but the present great building, the masterpiece of Sir John Vanbrugh, was built for the first Duke of Marlborough and was named after the scene of his famous victory, Blenheim.
The traditional story of Fair Rosamond, in which she is made to figure as a cruelly wronged and guileless damsel of impregnable virtue and the victim of an unreasoning jealousy, formed the basis of many novels,
e.g., “Fair Rosamond,” by T. Miller (“The Parlour Library”), 1847, and as late as 1911 it was cast into the form of a one-act tragedy by Mr. Oliver W. F. Lodge, under the name of “The Labyrinth,” and was first performed by the Pilgrim Players on October 14 in that year. A little-known opera by Addison deals with the same theme; it is entitled “Rosamond” and is inscribed to the Duchess of Marlborough. The most poignant and beautiful version of the tragedy is that given by Swinburne in his “Rosamond” (not, of course, to be confused with his “Rosamund”).
Tennyson, in his “Becket,” makes that prelate rescue Rosamond from the Queen at the crucial moment and take her to Godstowe nunnery, whence she later escapes to intercede—ineffectually—with his murderers in Canterbury Cathedral.
No authentic portrait of Rosamond is known to exist, but in Hampton Court Palace, just outside Cardinal Wolsey’s Room, there hangs a half-length female portrait by an unknown painter (No. 961 ), which is labelled Rosamond Clifford. The lady depicted, however, is attired in a fashion which did not obtain until considerably later than the time of Rosamond; in fact, there seems to be no justification whatever for assuming that the picture represents the fair Rosamond at all, except perhaps in the imagination of the artist.
HENRY and ROSAMUND:
All that you say is just. I cannot answer it till better times, when I shall
What will you put away?
That which you ask me
Till better times. Let it content you now
There is no woman that I love so well.
No woman but should be content with that–
And one fair child to fondle!
O yes, the child
We waited for so long–heaven’s gift at last–
And how you doated on him then! To-day
I almost fear’d your kiss was colder–yes–
But then the child is such a child. What chance
That he should ever spread into the man
Here in our silence? I have done my best.
I am not learn’d.
I am the King, his father,
And I will look to it. Is our secret ours?
Have you had any alarm? no stranger?
No. The warder of the bower hath given himself
Of late to wine. I sometimes think he sleeps
When he should watch; and yet what fear? the people
Believe the wood enchanted. No one comes,
Nor foe nor friend; his fond excess of wine
Springs from the loneliness of my poor bower,
Which weighs even on me.
Yet these tree-towers,
Their long bird-echoing minster-aisles,–the voice
Of the perpetual brook, these golden slopes
Of Solomon-shaming flowers–that was your saying,
All pleased you so at first.
Not now so much.
My Anjou bower was scarce as beautiful.
But you were oftener there. I have none but you.
The brook’s voice is not yours, and no flower, not
The sun himself, should he be changed to one,
Could shine away the darkness of that gap
Left by the lack of love.
The lack of love!
Of one we love. Nay, I would not be bold,
Yet hoped ere this you might–
[Looks earnestly at him.
Only my best bower-maiden died of late,
And that old priest whom John of Salisbury trusted
Hath sent another.
I but ask’d her
One question, and she primm’d her mouth and put
Her hands together–thus–and said, God help her,
That she was sworn to silence.
What did you ask her?
Some daily something–nothing.
I do not love her. Must you go, my liege,
I came to England suddenly,
And on a great occasion sure to wake
As great a wrath in Becket–
Always Becket! He always comes between us.
–And to meet it
I needs must leave as suddenly. It is raining,
Put on your hood and see me to the bounds.
MARGERY (singing behind scene).
Babble in bower
Under the rose!
Bee mustn’t buzz,
Whoop–but he knows.
Kiss me, little one,
Whoop–you can hear.
Kiss in the bower,
Tit on the tree!
Bird mustn’t tell,
Whoop–he can see.
I ha’ been but a week here and I ha’ seen what I ha’ seen, for to be
sure it’s no more than a week since our old Father Philip that has
confessed our mother for twenty years, and she was hard put to it, and
to speak truth, nigh at the end of our last crust, and that mouldy,
and she cried out on him to put me forth in the world and to make me a
woman of the world, and to win my own bread, whereupon he asked our
mother if I could keep a quiet tongue i’ my head, and not speak till I
was spoke to, and I answered for myself that I never spoke more than
was needed, and he told me he would advance me to the service of a
great lady, and took me ever so far away, and gave me a great pat o’
the cheek for a pretty wench, and said it was a pity to blindfold such
eyes as mine, and such to be sure they be, but he blinded ’em for all
that, and so brought me no-hows as I may say, and the more shame to
him after his promise, into a garden and not into the world, and bad
me whatever I saw not to speak one word, an’ it ‘ud be well for me in
the end, for there were great ones who would look after me, and to be
sure I ha’ seen great ones to-day–and then not to speak one word, for
that’s the rule o’ the garden, tho’ to be sure if I had been Eve i’
the garden I shouldn’t ha’ minded the apple, for what’s an apple, you
know, save to a child, and I’m no child, but more a woman o the world
than my lady here, and I ha’ seen what I ha’ seen–tho’ to be sure if
I hadn’t minded it we should all on us ha’ had to go, bless the
Saints, wi’ bare backs, but the backs ‘ud ha’ countenanced one
another, and belike it ‘ud ha’ been always summer, and anyhow I am as
well-shaped as my lady here, and I ha’ seen what I ha’ seen, and
what’s the good of my talking to myself, for here comes my lady
(enter ROSAMUND), and, my lady, tho’ I shouldn’t speak one word, I
wish you joy o’ the King’s brother.
What is it you mean?
I mean your goodman, your husband, my lady, for I saw your ladyship
a-parting wi’ him even now i’ the coppice, when I was a-getting o’
bluebells for your ladyship’s nose to smell on–and I ha’ seen the
King once at Oxford, and he’s as like the King as fingernail to
fingernail, and I thought at first it was the King, only you know the
King’s married, for King Louis–
Years and years, my lady, for her husband, King Louis–
–And I thought if it were the King’s brother he had a better bride
than the King, for the people do say that his is bad beyond all
The people lie.
Very like, my lady, but most on ’em know an honest woman and a lady
when they see her, and besides they say, she makes songs, and that’s
against her, for I never knew an honest woman that could make songs,
tho’ to be sure our mother ‘ill sing me old songs by the hour, but
then, God help her, she had ’em from her mother, and her mother from
her mother back and back for ever so long, but none on ’em ever made
songs, and they were all honest.
Go, you shall tell me of her some other time.
There’s none so much to tell on her, my lady, only she kept the
seventh commandment better than some I know on, or I couldn’t look
your ladyship i’ the face, and she brew’d the best ale in all
Glo’ster, that is to say in her time when she had the ‘Crown.’
The crown! who?
I mean her whom you call–fancy–my husband’s brother’s wife.
Oh, Queen ELEANOR: Yes, my lady; and tho’ I be sworn not to speak a
word, I can tell you all about her, if—-
No word now. I am faint and sleepy. Leave me.
Nay–go. What! will you anger me.
He charged me not to question any of those
About me. Have I? no! she question’d me.
Did she not slander him? Should she stay here?
May she not tempt me, being at my side,
To question her? Nay, can I send her hence
Without his kingly leave! I am in the dark.
I have lived, poor bird, from cage to cage, and known
Nothing but him–happy to know no more,
So that he loved me–and he loves me–yes,
And bound me by his love to secrecy
Till his own time.
Eleanor, Eleanor, have I
Not heard ill things of her in France? Oh, she’s
The Queen of France. I see it–some confusion,
Some strange mistake. I did not hear aright,
Myself confused with parting from the King.
MARGERY (behind scene).
Bee mustn’t buzz,
Whoop–but he knows.
Yet her–what her? he hinted of some her–
When he was here before–
Something that would displease me. Hath he stray’d
From love’s clear path into the common bush,
And, being scratch’d, returns to his true rose,
Who hath not thorn enough to prick him for it,
Ev’n with a word?
MARGERY (behind scene).
Bird mustn’t tell,
Whoop–he can see.
I would not hear him. Nay–there’s more–he frown’d
‘No mate for her, if it should come to that’–
To that–to what?
MARGERY (behind scene).
Whoop–but he knows,
Whoop–but he knows.
O God! some dreadful truth is breaking on me–
Some dreadful thing is coming on me.
What are you crying for, when the sun shines?
Hath not thy father left us to ourselves?
Ay, but he’s taken the rain with him. I hear
Margery: I’ll go play with her. [Exit GEOFFREY:
Gleam upon gloom,
Bright as my dream,
But it passes away,
Gloom upon gleam,
Dark as my doom–
O rainbow stay.
* * * * * * *
Outside the Woods near ROSAMUND’S Bower.
Up from the salt lips of the land we two
Have track’d the King to this dark inland wood;
And somewhere hereabouts he vanish’d. Here
His turtle builds: his exit is our adit:
Watch! he will out again, and presently,
Seeing he must to Westminster and crown
Young Henry there to-morrow.
We have watch’d
So long in vain, he hath pass’d out again,
And on the other side.
[A great horn winded.
How ghostly sounds that horn in the black wood!
[A countryman flying.
Whither away, man? what are you flying from?
The witch! the witch! she sits naked by a great heap of gold in the
middle of the wood, and when the horn sounds she comes out as a wolf.
Get you hence! a man passed in there to-day: I holla’d to him, but he
didn’t hear me: he’ll never out again, the witch has got him. I
daren’t stay–I daren’t stay!
Kind of the witch to give thee warning tho’.
Is not this wood-witch of the rustic’s fear
Our woodland Circe that hath witch’d the King?
[Horn sounded. Another flying.
Again! stay, fool, and tell me why thou fliest.
Fly thou too. The King keeps his forest head of game here, and when
that horn sounds, a score of wolf-dogs are let loose that will tear
thee piecemeal. Linger not till the third horn. Fly!
This is the likelier tale. We have hit the place.
Now let the King’s fine game look to itself.
And far on in the dark heart of the wood I hear the yelping of the hounds of hell.
I have my dagger here to still their throats.
Nay, Madam, not to-night–the night is falling. What can be done to-night?