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BEATRICE CENCI

Photogravure from a painting by Guido Reni,

Realms where the air we breathe is love,

Which in the winds and on the waves doth move,
Harmonizing this earth with what we feel above.

13273

LAST HOUR OF BEATRICE

From The Cenci'

Enter Lucretia, Beatrice, and Giacomo, guarded

EATRICE

I hardly dare to fear

BE That thou bring'st other news than a just pardon.

Camillo - May God in heaven be less inexorable

To the Pope's prayers than he has been to mine.
Here is the sentence and the warrant.

Beatrice [wildly]

My God! Can it be possible I have

To die so suddenly? So young to go
Under the obscure, cold, rotting, wormy ground!
To be nailed down into a narrow place;

To see no more sweet sunshine; hear no more
Blithe voice of living thing; muse not again
Upon familiar thoughts, sad, yet thus lost —
How fearful! to be nothing! Or to be

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What? Oh, where am I? Let me not go mad!

Sweet Heaven, forgive weak thoughts! If there should be
No God, no heaven, no earth in the void world;

The wide, gray, lampless, deep, unpeopled world!
If all things then should be- my father's spirit,
His eye, his voice, his touch surrounding me;
The atmosphere and breath of my dead life!
If sometimes, as a shape more like himself,
Even the form which tortured me on earth,
Masked in gray hairs and wrinkles, he should come
And wind me in his hellish arms, and fix

His eyes on mine, and drag me down, down, down!
For was he not alone omnipotent

On earth, and ever present? Even though dead,
Does not his spirit live in all that breathe,
And work for me and mine still the same ruin,
Scorn, pain, despair? Who ever yet returned
To teach the laws of death's untrodden realm ?
Unjust perhaps as those which drive us now,
Oh, whither, whither?

13274

Lucretia

Beatrice

Trust in God's sweet love,
The tender promises of Christ: ere night,
Think, we shall be in Paradise.

'Tis past!

Whatever comes, my heart shall sink no more.
And yet, I know not why, your words strike chill:
How tedious, false, and cold, seem all things. I
Have met with much injustice in this world;
No difference has been made by God or man,
Or any power molding my wretched lot,
'Twixt good or evil, as regarded me.

I am cut off from the only world I know,

From light, and life, and love, in youth's sweet prime.

You do well telling me to trust in God, —

I hope I do trust in him. In whom else

Can any trust? And yet my heart is cold.

[During the latter speeches Giacomo has retired conversing with Camillo, who now goes out; Giacomo advances.]

Giacomo - Know you not, mother-sister, know you not?
Bernardo even now is gone to implore
The Pope to grant our pardon.

Lucretia

Beatrice

Child, perhaps
It will be granted. We may all then live
To make these woes a tale for distant years:
Oh, what a thought! It gushes to my heart
Like the warm blood.

Yet both will soon be cold.
Oh, trample out that thought! Worse than despair,
Worse than the bitterness of death, is hope:

It is the only ill which can find place
Upon the giddy, sharp, and narrow hour

Tottering beneath us. Plead with the swift frost

That it should spare the eldest flower of spring;

Plead with awakening earthquake, o'er whose couch
Even now a city stands, strong, fair, and free;

Now stench and blackness yawn, like death. Oh, plead
With Famine, or wind-walking Pestilence,

Blind lightning, or the deaf sea, not with man!

Cruel, cold, formal man: righteous in words,

In deeds a Cain. No, mother, we must die:
Since such is the reward of innocent lives;
Such the alleviation of worst wrongs.

And whilst our murderers live, and hard, cold men,

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