Fiction > Harvard Classics > Percy Bysshe Shelley > The Cenci
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822).  The Cenci.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Act IV
Scene III
An Apartment in the Castle.
  Lucretia.  They are about it now.
  Beatrice.                Nay, it is done.
  Lucretia.  I have not heard him groan.        5
  Beatrice.                He will not groan.
  Lucretia.  What sound is that?
  Beatrice.                List ’tis the tread of feet
About his bed.
  Lucretia.                My God!        10
If he be now a cold stiff corpse…
  Beatrice.                O, fear not
What may be done, but what is left undone:
The act seals all.
                Is it accomplished?
  Marzio.                What?
  Olimpio.  Did you not call?
  Beatrice.                When?
  Olimpio.                Now.        20
  Beatrice.                I ask if all is over?
  Olimpio.  We dare not kill an old and sleeping man;
His thin gray hair, his stern and reverent brow,
His veined hands crossed on his heaving breast,
And the calm innocent sleep in which he lay,        25
Quelled me. Indeed, indeed, I cannot do it.
  Marzio.  But I was bolder; for I chid Olimpio,
And bade him bear his wrongs to his own grave
And leave me the reward. And now my knife
Touched the loose wrinkled throat, when the old man        30
Stirred in his sleep, and said, “God! hear, O, hear,
A father’s curse! What, art though not our father?”
And then he laughed. I knew it was the ghost
Of my dead father speaking through his lips,
And could not kill him.        35
  Beatrice.                Miserable slaves!
Where, if ye dare not kill a sleeping man,
Found ye the boldness to return to me
With such a deed undone? Base palterers!
Cowards and traitors! Why, the very conscience        40
Which ye would sell for gold and for revenge
Is an equivocation: it sleeps over
A thousand daily acts disgracing men;
And when a deed where mercy insults Heaven…
Why do I talk?  [Snatching a dagger from one of them and raising it.        45
                Hadst thou a tongue to say,
She murdered her own father, I must do it!
But never dream ye shall outlive him long!
  Olimpio.  Stop, for God’s sake!
  Marzio.                I will go back and kill him.        50
  Olimpio.  Give me the weapon, we must do thy will.
  Beatrice.  Take it. Depart! Return!  [Exeunt OLIMPIO and MARZIO.
                How pale thou art!
We do but that which ’twere a deadly crime
To leave undone.        55
  Lucretia.                Would it were done!
  Beatrice.                Even whilst
That doubt is passing through your mind, the world
Is conscious of a change. Darkness and Hell
Have swallowed up the vapour they sent forth        60
To blacken the sweet light of life, My breath
Comes, methinks, lighter, and the jellied blood
Runs freely thro’ my veins. Hark!
                He is…        65
  Olimpio.                Dead!
  Marzio.  We strangled him that there might be no blood;
And then we threw his heavy corpse i’ the garden
Under the balcony; ’twill seem it fell.
  Beatrice  (giving them a bag of coin). Here, take this gold and hasten to your homes.        70
And, Marzio, because thou wast only awed
By that which made me tremble, wear thou this!  [Clothes him in a rich mantle.
It was the mantle which my grandfather
Wore in his high prosperity, and men
Envied his state: so may they envy thine.        75
Thou wert a weapon in the hand of God
To a just use. Live long and thrive! And, mark,
If thou hast crimes, repent: this deed is none.  [A horn is sounded.
  Lucretia.  Hark, ’tis the castle horn; my God! it sounds
Like the last trump.        80
  Beatrice.                Some tedious guest is coming.
  Lucretia.  The drawbridge is let down; there is a tramp
Of horses in the court; fly, hide yourselves!  [Exeunt OLIMPIO and MARZIO.
  Beatrice.  Let us retire to counterfeit deep rest;
I scarcely need to counterfeit it now:        85
The spirit which doth reign within these limbs
Seems strangely undisturbed. I could even sleep
Fearless and calm: all ill is surely past.  [Exeunt.


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