A DRAMATIC FRAGMENT
by John Keats
ACT I. -
SCENE I. Field of Battle. -
Alarum. Enter King StephenKnightsand Soldiers. -
STEPHEN. If shame can on a soldier's vein-swoll'n front
Spread deeper crimson than the battle's toil
Blush in your casing helmets! for seesee!
Yonder my chivalrymy pride of war
Wrench'd with an iron hand from firm array
Are routed loose about the plashy meads
Of honour forfeit. O that my known voice
Could reach your dastard earsand fright you more!
Flycowardsfly! Glocester is at your backs!
Throw your slack bridles o'er the flurried manes
Ply well the rowel with faint trembling heels
Scampering to death at last!
FIRST KNIGHT. The enemy
Bears his flaunt standard close upon their rear.
SECOND KNIGHT. Sure of a bloody preyseeing the fens
Will swamp them girth-deep.
STEPHEN. Over head and ears
No matter! 'Tis a gallant enemy;
How like a comet he goes streaming on.
But we must plague him in the flank- heyfriends.
We are well breathed- follow! -
Enter Earl Baldwin and Soldiersas defeated. -
STEPHEN. De Redvers!
What is the monstrous bugbear that can fright
BALDWIN. No scare-crowbut the fortunate star
Of boisterous Chesterwhose fell truncheon now
Points level to the goal of victory.
This way he comesand if you would maintain
Your person unaffronted by vile odds
Take horsemy Lord.
STEPHEN. And which way spur for life?
Now I thank Heaven I am in the toils
That soldiers may bear witness how my arm
Can burst the meshes. Not the eagle more
Loves to beat up against a tyrannous blast
Than I to meet the torrent of my foes.
This is a brag- be't so- but if I fall
Carve it upon my 'scutcheon'd sepulchre.
Onfellow soldiers! Earl of Redversback!
Not twenty Earls of Chester shall brow-beat
SCENE II. Another part of the Field. -
Trumpets sounding a Victory. Enter Glocester
Knightsand Forces. -
GLOCESTER. Now may we lift our bruised vizors up
And take the flattering freshness of the air
While the wide din of battle dies away
Into times pastyet to be echoed sure
In the silent pages of our chroniclers.
FIRST KNIGHT. Will Stephen's death be mark'd theremy good
Or that we gave him lodging in yon towers?
GLOCESTER. Fain would I know the great usurper's fate. -
Enter two Captains severally. -
FIRST CAPTAIN. My Lord!
SECOND CAPTAIN. Most noble Earl!
FIRST CAPTAIN. The King-
SECOND CAPTAIN. The Empress greets-
GLOCESTER. What of the King?
FIRST CAPTAIN. He sole and lone maintains
A hopeless bustle mid our swarming arms
And with a nimble savageness attacks
Escapesmakes fiercer onsetthen anew
Eludes deathgiving death to most that dare
Trespass within the circuit of his sword!
He must by this have fallen. Baldwin is taken;
And for the Duke of Bretagnelike a stag
He fliesfor the Welsh beagles to hunt down.
God save the Empress!
GLOCESTER. Now our dreaded Queen:
What message from her Highness?
SECOND CAPTAIN. Royal Maud
From the throng'd towers of Lincoln hath look'd down
Like Pallas from the walls of Ilion
And seen her enemies havock'd at her feet.
She greets most noble Glocester from her heart
Intreating himhis captainsand brave knights
To grace a banquet. The high city gates
Are envious which shall see your triumph pass;
The streets are full of music. -
Enter Second Knight. -
GLOCESTER. Whence come you?
SECOND KNIGHT. From Stephenmy good Prince- Stephen!
GLOCESTER. Why do you make such echoing of his name?
SECOND KNIGHT. Because I thinkmy lordhe is no man
But a fierce demon'nointed safe from wounds
And misbaptized with a Christian name.
GLOCESTER. A mighty soldier!- Does he still hold out?
SECOND KNIGHT. He shames our victory. His valour still
Keeps elbow-room amid our eager swords
And holds our bladed falchions all aloof-
His gleaming battle-axe being slaughter-sick
Smote on the morion of a Flemish knight
Broke short in his hand; upon the which he flung
The heft away with such a vengeful force
It paunch'd the Earl of Chester's horsewho then
Spleen-hearted came in full career at him.
GLOCESTER. Did no one take him at a vantage then?
SECOND KNIGHT. Three then with tiger leap upon him flew
Whomwith his sword swift-drawn and nimbly held
He stung away againand stood to breathe
Smiling. Anon upon him rush'd once more
A throng of foesand in this renew'd strife
My sword met his and snapp'd off at the hilts.
GLOCESTER. Comelead me to this Mars- and let us move
In silencenot insulting his sad doom
With clamorous trumpets. To the Empress bear
My salutation as befits the time.
[Exeunt Glocester and Forces.
SCENE III. The Field of Battle. Enter Stephen unarmed. -
STEPHEN. Another sword! And what if I could seize
One from Bellona's gleaming armoury
Or choose the fairest of her sheaved spears!
Where are my enemies? Hereclose at hand
Here come the testy brood. O for a sword!
I'm faint- a biting sword! A noble sword!
A hedge-stake- or a ponderous stone to hurl
With brawny vengeancelike the labourer Cain.
Come on! Farewell my kingdomand all hail
Thou superbplumb'dand helmeted renown
All hail- I would not truck this brilliant day
To rule in Pylos with a Nestor's beard-
Come on! -
Enter De Kaims and Knights&c. -
DE KAIMS. Is't madnessor a hunger after death
That makes thee thus unarm'd throw taunts at us?
YieldStephenor my sword's point dip in
The gloomy current of a traitor's heart.
STEPHEN. Do itDe KaimsI will not budge an inch.
DE KAIMS. Yesof thy madness thou shalt take the meed.
STEPHEN. Darest thou?
DE KAIMS. How dareagainst a man disarm'd?
STEPHEN. What weapons has the lion but himself?
Come not near meDe Kaimsfor by the price
Of all the glory I have won this day
Being a kingI will not yield alive
To any but the second man of the realm
Robert of Glocester.
DE KAIMS. Thou shalt vail to me.
STEPHEN. Shall Iwhen I have sworn against itsir?
Thou think'st it brave to take a breathing king
Thaton a court-day bow'd to haughty Maud
The awed presence-chamber may be bold
To whisperthere's the man who took alive
Stephen- me- prisoner. CertesDe Kaims
The ambition is a noble one.
DE KAIMS. 'Tis true
AndStephenI must compass it.
Do not tempt me to throttle you on the gorge
Or with my gauntlet crush your hollow breast
Just when your knighthood is grown ripe and full
A SOLDIER. Is an honest yeoman's spear
Of no use at a need? Take that.
DE KAIMS. Whatyou are vulnerable! my prisoner!
STEPHEN. No not yet. I disclaim itand demand
Death as a sovereign right unto a king
Who 'sdains to yield to any but his peer
If not in titleyet in noble deeds
The Earl of Glocester. Stab to the hiltsDe Kaims
For I will never by mean hands be led
From this so famous field. Do ye hear! Be quick! -
Enter the Earl of Chester and Knights.
SCENE IV. A Presence Chamber. Queen Maud in a Chair of State
the Earls of Glocester and ChesterLordsAttendants. -
MAUD. Glocesterno more: I will behold that Boulogne:
Set him before me. Not for the poor sake
Of regal pomp and a vain-glorious hour
As thou with wary speechyet near enough
GLOCESTER. Faithful counsel have I given;
If waryfor your Highness' benefit.
MAUD. The Heavens forbid that I should not think so
For by thy valour have I won this realm
Which by thy wisdom I will ever keep.
To sage advisers let me ever bend
A meek attentive earso that they treat
Of the wide kingdom's rule and government
Not trenching on our actions personal.
Advis'dnot school'dI would be; and henceforth
Spoken to in clearplainand open terms
Not side-ways sermon'd at.
GLOCESTER. Thenin plain terms
Once more for the fallen king-
MAUD. Your pardonBrother
I would no more of that; foras I said
'Tis not for worldly pomp I wish to see
The rebelbut as dooming judge to give
A sentence something worthy of his guilt.
GLOCESTER. If't must be soI'll bring him to your presence.
[Exit Glocester. -
MAUD. A meaner summoner might do as well-
My Lord of Chesteris't true what I hear
Of Stephen of Boulogneour prisoner
That heas a fit penance for his crimes
Eats wholesomesweetand palatable food
Off Glocester's golden dishes- drinks pure wine
CHESTER. More than thatmy gracious Queen
Has anger'd me. The noble Earlmethinks
Full soldier as he isand without peer
In counseldreams too much among his books.
It may read wellbut sure 'tis out of date
To play the Alexander with Darius.
MAUD. Truth! I think so. By Heavens it shall not last!
CHESTER. It would amaze your Highness now to mark
How Glocester overstrains his courtesy
To that crime-loving rebelthat Boulogne-
MAUD. That ingrate!
CHESTER. For whose vast ingratitude
To our late sovereign lordyour noble sire
The generous Earl condoles in his mishaps
And with a sort of lackeying friendliness
Talks off the mighty frowning from his brow
Woos him to hold a duet in a smile
Orif it please himplay an hour at chess-
MAUD. A perjured slave!
CHESTER. And for his perjury
Glocester has fit rewards- nayI believe
He sets his bustling household's wits at work
For flatteries to ease this Stephen's hours
And make a heaven of his purgatory;
Adorning bondage with the pleasant gloss
Of feasts and musicand all idle shows
Of indoor pageantry; while syren whispers
Predestin'd for his ear'scape as half-check'd
From lips the courtliest and the rubiest
Of all the realmadmiring of his deeds.
MAUD. A frost upon his summer!
CHESTER. A queen's nod
Can make his June December. Here he comes. - -