SCENE I.VITTORIA COLONNA, seated in an arm-chair; JULIA GONZAGA, standing near her.IT grieves me that I find you still so weak
VITTORIA. No, not suffering; only dying.
|Death is the chillness that precedes the dawn;|
|We shudder for a moment, then awake|
|In the broad sunshine of the other life.|| 5|
|I am a shadow, merely, and these hands,|
|These cheeks, these eyes, these tresses that my husband|
|Once thought so beautiful, and I was proud of|
|Because he thought them so, are faded quite,|
|All beauty gone from them.|
JULIA. Ah, no, not that.
|Paler you are, but not less beautiful.|
VITTORIA, folding her hands.O gentle spirit, unto the third circle
|Of heaven among the blessed souls ascended,|
|Who living for the faith and dying for it,|
|Have gone to their reward, I do not mourn|| 15|
|For thee as being dead, but for myself|
|That I am still alive. A little longer|
|Have patience with me, and if I am wanting|
|To thy well-being as thou art to mine,|
|Have patience; I will come to thee ere long.|| 20|
JULIA.Do not give way to these foreboding thoughts.
VITTORIA.Hand me the mirror. I would fain behold
|What change comes oer our features when we die.|
|Thank you. And now sit down beside me here.|
|How glad I am that you have come to-day,|| 25|
|Above all other days, and at the hour|
|When most I need you.|
JULIA. Do you ever need me?
VITTORIA.Always, and most of all to-day and now.
|Do you remember, Julia, when we walked,|
|One afternoon, upon the castle terrace|| 30|
|At Ischia, on the day before you left me?|
JULIA.Well I remember; but it seems to me
|Something unreal that has never been,|
|Something that I have read of in a book,|
|Or heard of some one else.|
VITTORIA. Ten years and more
|Have passed since then; and many things have happened|
|In those ten years, and many friends have died:|
|Marco Flaminio, whom we all admired|
|And loved as our Catullus; dear Valdesso,|
|The noble champion of free thought and speech;|| 40|
|And Cardinal Ippolito, your friend.|
JULIA.Oh, do not speak of him! His sudden death
|Oercomes me now, as it oercame me then.|
|Let me forget it; for my memory|
|Serves me too often as an unkind friend,|| 45|
|And I remember things I would forget,|
|While I forget the things I would remember.|
VITTORIA.Forgive me; I will speak of him no more.
|The good Fra Bernardino has departed,|
|Has fled from Italy, and crossed the Alps,|| 50|
|Fearing Caraffas wrath, because he taught|
|That He who made us all without our help|
|Could also save us without aid of ours.|
|Renée of France, the Duchess of Ferrara,|
|That Lily of the Loire, is bowed by winds|| 55|
|That blow from Rome; Olympia Morata|
|Banished from court because of this new doctrine.|
|Therefore be cautious. Keep your secret thought|
|Locked in your breast.|
JULIA. I will be very prudent.
|But speak no more, I pray; it wearies you.|| 60|
VITTORIA.Yes, I am very weary. Read to me.
JULIA.Most willingly. What shall I read?
|Triumph of Death. The book lies on the table,|
|Beside the casket there. Read where you find|
|The leaf turned down. T was there I left off reading.|| 65|
JULIA reads.Not as a flame that by some force is spent,
| But one that of itself consumeth quite,|
| Departed hence in peace the soul content,|
|In fashion of a soft and lucent light|
| Whose nutriment by slow gradation goes,|| 70|
| Keeping until the end its lustre bright.|
|Not pale, but whiter than the sheet of snows|
| That without wind on some fair hill-top lies,|
| Her weary body seemed to find repose.|
|Like a sweet slumber in her lovely eyes,|| 75|
| When now the spirit was no longer there,|
| Was what is dying called by the unwise.|
|Een Death itself in her fair face seemed fair.|
|Is it of Laura that he here is speaking?|
|She doth not answer, yet is not asleep;|| 80|
|Her eyes are full of light and fixed on something|
|Above her in the air. I can see naught|
|Except the painted angels on the ceiling.|
|Vittoria! speak! What is it? Answer me!|
|She only smiles, and stretches out her hands.|
[The mirror falls and breaks.
VITTORIA.Call my confessor!
|Not disobedient to the heavenly vision!|
|Pescara! my Pescara! [Dies.|
JULIA. Holy Virgin!
|Her body sinks together,she is dead!|
[Kneels, and hides her face in Vittorias lap.
|SCENE II.JULIA GONZAGA, MICHAEL ANGELO.|
JULIA.Hush! make no noise.
MICHAEL ANGELO. How is she?
JULIA. Never better.
MICHAEL ANGELO.Then she is dead!
JULIA. Alas! yes, she is dead!
|Even death itself in her fair face seems fair.|
MICHAEL ANGELO.How wonderful! The light upon her face
|Shines from the windows of another world.|
|Saints only have such faces. Holy Angels!|| 95|
|Bear her like sainted Catherine to her rest!|
[Kisses Vittorias hand.