Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895.  1895.
Scenes from “Saul”
Charles Heavysege (1816–69)
SCENE.—A chamber of the palace. DAVID playing on his harp. SAUL enters and listens, and at length DAVID ceases.

  Saul.  Still more, still more: I feel the demon move
Amidst the gloomy branches of my breast,
As moves a bird that buries itself deeper
Within its nest at stirring of the storm.  [DAVID plays again.
Were ever sounds so sweet!—where am I? O,        5
I have been down in hell, but this is heaven!
It grows yet sweeter,—’t is a wondrous air.
Methinks I lately died a hideous death,
And that they buried me accursed and cursing.
But this is not the grave; for, surely, music        10
Comes not to reanimate man ’neath the clods.
Let me not think on ’t! yet a fiend fierce tore me.
Ah, I remember now, too much remember;
But I am better: still methinks I fainted;
Or was the whole a fearful, nightmare dream?        15
Nay, am I yet not dreaming? No; I wake:
And, as from dream or as from being born,
Without the outcry of a mother’s travail;
Or, as if waking from a revery,
I to myself am ushered by strange music,        20
That, in its solemn gentleness, falls on me
Like a superior’s blessing. Give me more
Of this sweet benefit.  [After having listened again.
Who is this stranger? Yes, I know him now.
’T is not a heavenly spirit, though so like one,        25
With curving arms encompassing the harp,
As clasps the landscape the aërial bow:
It is the minstrel youth from Bethlehem;
In form, indeed, surpassing beautiful.
Methinks he doth address himself to sing:        30
I ’ll listen, for I love him as he sits
Rapt, like a statue conjured from the air.
  David.  [Sings, accompanying himself on his harp.]
    O Lord, have mercy on the king;        35
    The evil spirit from him take;
    His soul from its sore suffering
    Deliver, for thy goodness’ sake.
  Saul.  [Aside.]  He for me prays.
    O, heal thine own Anointed’s hurt;        40
    Let evil from his thoughts be driven;
    And breathe upon his troubled heart
    The balmy sense of fault forgiven.
  Saul.  [Aside.]  I would not hide my faults; amen.
    Great God, thou art within this place;        45
    The universe is filled with thee:
    To all thou givest strength and grace;
    O, give the king thy grace to see.
  Saul.  [Aside.]  What have I done deserved the loss of grace?
I cannot say “amen”;—and if I did,        50
My feeble amen would be blown away
Before it had reached heaven. I cannot say it:
There disbelief takes prisoner my tongue!
    As after winter cometh spring,
    Make joy unto his soul return;—        55
    And me, in thy good pleasure, bring
    To tend my flock where I was born.
  Saul.  [Aside.]  So able, yet so humble!  [Aloud.]  David, no;
Thou shalt remain and be mine armorbearer.
What, wouldst thou seek again the idle downs,        60
’Midst senseless sheep, to spend the listless day,
Watching the doings of thy ewes and rams!
Thou shalt go with me to the martial field
And see great deeds thereon.
Myself will teach thee military lessons;        65
To tell the enemy’s numbers; to discover
His vulnerable points; by stratagem
To draw him from his posts of vantage; how
Swift to advance; how to surprise the foe;
And how to leaven others with thy courage;        70
How win from Ammon and the strong Philistine,
And how at last to drink triumphantly,
From goblet of victorious return,
The blood-red wine of war.
Meantime, thy lyric pleasures need not end;        75
For the fair maidens of the court affect
Music and song. Go now and tell the Queen
All the advantage thou hast been to me.  [Exit David.
How potent is the voice of music! stronger
Even than is a king’s command. How oft        80
In vain have I adjured this demon hence!
O Music, thou art a magician! Strange,
Most strange, we did not sooner think of thee,
And charm us with thy gentle sorcery.

  Malzah.  Music, music hath its sway;
  Music’s order I obey:
  I have unwound myself at sound
  From off Saul’s heart, where coiled I lay.
  ’T is true, awhile I ’ve lost the game;
  Let fate and me divide the blame.        90
  And now away, away; but whither,
  Whither, meantime, shall I go?
  Erelong I must returned be hither.
  There ’s Jordan, Danube, and the Po,
  And Western rivers huge, I know:        95
  There ’s Ganges, and the Euphrates,
  Nilus and the stretching seas:
  There ’s many a lake and many a glen
  To rest me, as in heaven, again;
  With Alps, and the Himalayan range:—        100
  And there ’s the Desert for a change.
  Whither shall I go?
            I ’ll sit i’ the sky,
  And laugh at mortals and at care;
  (Not soaring, as before, too high,        105
  And bring upon myself a snare;)
  But out my motley fancies spin
  Like cobwebs on the yellow air;
  Laugh bright with joy, or dusky grin
  In changeful mood of seance there.        110
  The yellow air! the yellow air!
  He ’s great who ’s happy anywhere.
To be the vassals and the slaves of music
Is weakness that afflicts all heaven-born spirits.
But touch whom with the murmur of a lute,        115
Or swell and fill whom from the harmonious lyre,
And man may lead them wheresoe’er he wills,
And stare to see the nude demoniac
Sit clothed and void of frenzy. I ’ll begone,
And take a posy with me from Saul’s garden.  [Exit; and soon re-enters, bearing a huge nosegay, and thereat snuffing.        120
Shall I fling it in the earth’s face, whence I took it!
Albeit I ’ve seen, perhaps, flowers as mean in heaven.
Well, I will think that these are heaven’s. Alack,
This is a poor excuse for asphodel;
And yet it has the true divine aroma.        125
Here ’s ladslove, and the flower which even death
Cannot unscent, the all-transcending rose.
Here ’s gilly-flower, and violets dark as eyes
Of Hebrew maidens. There ’s convolvulus,
That sickens ere noon and dies ere evening.        130
Here ’s monkey’s-cap.—Egad! ’t would cap a monkey
To say what I have gathered; for I spread my arms
And closed them like two scythes. I have crushed many;
I ’ve sadly mangled my lilies. However, here
Is the august camellia, and here ’s marigold,        135
And, as I think, i’ the bottom two vast sunflowers.
There are some bluebells, and a pair of foxgloves
(But not of the kind that Samson’s foxes wore).
That ’s mint; and here is something like a thistle
Wherewith to prick my nose should I grow sleepy.        140
O, I ’ve not half enumerated them!
Here ’s that and that, and many trifling things,
Which, had I time, and were i’ the vein for scandal,
I could compare to other trifling things,
But shall not. Ah, here ’s head-hanging-down narcissus,        145
A true and perfect emblem of myself.
I ’ll count it my own likeness; and so leave it
For delectation of my radiant mistress,
Who, lieu of keeping watch and ward o’er me,
May keep it over my pale effigy.  [Drops the narcissus.        150
I ’ll hang this matchless rose upon my lips,
And whilst I ’m flying will inhale its breath.  [Exit.
SCENE.—The Alps. Time, night, with stars. Enter MALZAH, walking slowly.

  Malzah.  So, so; I feel the signal.
It seems to reach me through the air,
To Saul it prompts me to repair.        155
I wish ’t would cease; it doth not please
Me now to terminate my leisure.
I was alone; and here to groan
At present is my greatest pleasure.
I ’ll come anon; I say begone;        160
What is the wayward King to me?
I say begone; I ’ll come anon.
O, thou art strong; I ’ll follow thee.  [Exit, and enter the angel Zelehtha.
  Zelehtha.  He flees, he flees, across the seas
That eastward lead to Canaan’s land:        165
And Heaven commands me not to cease
To urge, yet guide, his hand.  [Looking upwards.
How every star reminds me of my lover!
When we did part, he on me cast his eyes,
Bright as those orbs. Yet over them suffusion        170
Came like the mists o’er evening, as he charged me
Still to him to return (if so I might
Return afresh to him, my home and goal),
What time the earth returned day’s light to heaven.
So would I now swift soar unto his bosom,        175
But I must not abandon this foul fiend,
Until his work is done. Hence do I follow
Him through the spaces of the universe,
Still tracking him in silence, as I track
Him now across these heaven-piercing heights,        180
O’er which the quiet, congregated stars
Dance, twinkling-footed, and, in gladness, make
Mute immemorial measure, without song.
Yet hearken; the immeasurable yawn
Methinks awakens, and, by me evoked,        185
This grave of silence gives a ghost of sound.
What song is that which wanders hitherward,
Falling as faintly and as dew-like down
Into the urn of my night-opened ear,
As might, like incense, to the nostril come        190
The floating fragrance of a far-off flower?
It is the voice of some desiring seraph,
That lonely sings unto her absent love;
And, in the breathing of her languishment,
Gives more than words unto the dumb abyss.        195
I ’ll also sing, since some ascending angel
May hear it, and repeat it to my cherub.  [Sings.
  I said, farewell,
  And smiled,—for tears yet never fell in heaven;
  But thou didst sigh,        200
  “Farewell,” didst sigh; “return to me at even.”
  But why at even
  Didst thou to thee solicit my return?
  Since distance cannot
  Divide us who in old embraces burn.        205
  Then let’s unsay
  “Farewell,”—which we ought never to have said,
  But, each to each,
  Words, of rejoicing and delight instead.
  Lorn thoughts from thee        210
  Put far, then, since, though now from thee apart,
  I soon shall be
  Again thy love-mate, whereso’er thou art.
Lo, where yon demon, with increasing speed,
Makes his dim way across the night-hung flood,        215
Due to the Hebrew King, with onward heed,
Like to a hound that snuffs the scent of blood.
I ’ll follow him.  [Exit.


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