[Born in Philadelphia, Penn., 1810. Died there, 1858. Aylmere, or, The Bondman of Kent. A Tragedy. Written for Edwin Forrest, and first produced by him at the Park Theatre, New York, 24 May, 1841.Aylmere
and Other Poems. 1852.]
SCENE: The Guildhall in London. AYLMERE seated at a table. Enter MOWBRAY, WORTHY, and others, with BUCKINGHAM and ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY.
BUCK. In the Kings name, Lord Mortimer, we come,
|To ask why thus you fright his peaceful realm|
|With wild rebellion?|
AYL. Why!You mock us, lords!
|Are ye so deaf that Englands shrieks ye hear not?|
|So blind, ye see not her wan brow sweat blood?|| 5|
| BUCK. My lord, if you seek power in this, remember,|
|The greatness which is born in anarchy,|
|And thrown aloft in tumult, cannot last.|
|It mounts, like rocks hurled skywards by volcanoes,|
|Flashes a guilty moment, and falls back|| 10|
|In the red earthquakes bosom.|
AYL. Sagely said!
|Go back unto the court, and preach it, where|
|Fraud laughs at faith, and force at right, and where|
|Success is sainted if it come from hell!|
|I leave your royal toys to idiot kings;|| 15|
|And seek the rightthe right!|
BUCK. Disband your force;
|We promise mercy.|
AYL. Now fore Heaven, youre kind,
|Youve scourged, and chained, and mocked us; made Gods earth|
|A dungeon, and a living grave; and now,|
|When we are free,our swords in our right hands,|| 20|
|Our tyrants shivering at our feetye prate|
|Of promised mercy. Hark ye! if you yield not,|
|The wolf shall howl in your spoiled palaces!|
|Better were England made a wild, than be|
|The home of bondmen!|
BUCK. What do you demand?
|We would have peace, if not too dearly bought.|
| AYL. Were deaf. Say lives! Till he be rendered up,|
|We know no word like peace!|
BUCK. He is in ward,
|And, to appease the commons, shall be tried.|
| AYL. Pah! He is tried and sentenced by a nation!|| 30|
|Give him, orwe will take him!We can do it;|
|And, gentle sirs, ye know it!|
BUCK. Be it so;
|[To attendant.] Bring from the tower Lord Say!|
ARCHBISHOP. [aside.] Can we not save him?
| BUCK. [aside.] Tis now too late.|
AYL. [aside.] It is no dreamno dream!
|The hour has come!|
BUCK. We yield thee Say:what further?
| AYL. That the king grant this charter to his people. [Unrolling and exhibiting the scroll.]|
| BUCK. What doth it covenant?|
AYL. Freedom for the bond!
| BUCK. For all?|
AYL. For all; all who breathe Englands air,
|Henceforward shall be free!|
[BUCKINGHAM and ARCHBISHOP confer.] BUCK. This too, we grant.
| AYL. Now can I die in peace!It frees, moreover,|| 40|
|The people from all tyrannous exactions,|
|Taxes, and aids, to feed a rotten court.|
| BUCK. All this,conditioned you withdraw your host.|
| AYL. A pen, a pen!I will, my lordI will.|
|Your name, my Lord Archbishop.|
[ARCHBISHOP signs.] Yours, my lord.
| BUCK. Art now content?|
AYL. Not till the realms broad seal
|Make the chart sacred.|
AYL. [impatiently.] The sealthe seal!
| BUCK. As you will. [To officer.] Bear this to the tower, and bid|
|My secretary stamp this charter with|
|The great seal of the realm.|
AYL. And, Mowbray, thou
|With him and haste! That hope! that hope!And when|
|Tis done, shout the glad tidings to our host;|
|And bid their hearts and voices tell the heavens,|
|That they are slaves no more! [Exit MOWBRAY.]|
Enter officer with SAY. Ha! ha! ha! ha!
|Now do I almost love thee, for this hour!|| 55|
|Why bridegroom neer met bride with such a joy|
|As I meet thee!|
STRAW. [rushing forward.] Ill strike him down!
AYL. Hold, knave!
|I cannot spare a hair of that proud head|
|A drop of that foul heart. All, all is mine!|
| SAY. Thou fierce and savage man!|
AYL. Fierce! I am gentle;
|Gentle and joyous. Fierce! You see I laugh!|
|[Sternly.] Thou hadst a bondman oncehis name was Cade,|
|A white-haired man?|
SAY. I had.
AYL. And for some toy,
|That harmless man was flayed. And thou stoodst by,|
|And saw the red whip pierce his quivering flesh,|| 65|
|Until it fell, piecemeal, into the blood|
|That gathered at his feet! You murdered him!|
| SAY. The villain was my bond.|
AYL. Your bond! His child,
|A pale boy, struck you down, and spurned youspurned you,|
|And he, too, was your bond!|
SAY. The carle escaped.
| AYL. Ay, but forgot you not, though years and troubles|
|Passed darkly oer him! But thy victims widow|
|Ha! doth her name appall thee? Thine the arm|
|Coward! that smote her! Thou it was that gave|
|Her wasted form to the fierce flames! thou! thou!|| 75|
|Thoughtst thou not of her boy? The poor Jack Cade|
|Is now the avenger! Mortimer no more|
|Behold meCade the bondman!|
SAY. Thou! Heaven shield me!
| AYL. Even I! Ha! ha! The grace of noble birth!|
|Poor Cade, the bondman, worshipped as a prince!|| 80|
|Poor Cade, the bondman, giving laws to princes!|
|But no! Cade is no bondman! Englands sun|
|Sees not a slave; and her glad breeze floats by,|
|And bears no groans save those of her oppressors.|
|Now for thy doom. The scourge that slew my father|| 85|
|Shall, from thy shrinking flesh, lap up the blood|
|That gushes at its greeting, till thy frame|
|Is ragged from the lash. Then to the stake!|
|My fathers torture and my mothers death!|
| SAY. [aside.] No, never by the torture will I die|| 90|
|Nor die alone! I have a weapon still.|
|[Tauntingly.] How fareth Mariamne?|
AYL. Wretch! But he
|Shall move me not.|
SAY. Clifford was a rough wooer.
| AYL. And wooed his death.|
SAY. The murderess sank a maniac;
|And dainty warders had she in the castle.|| 95|
|Her mingled shrieks and laughter liked me not.|
|I sent her to the dungeon.|
AYL. To the dungeon!
| SAY. And, as she raved, we bound her.|
AYL. Bound! Just Heaven!
| SAY. To the damp wall, unlit and cold, we bound her.|
|On you she called, in mingled shrieks and prayers.|| 100|
|To calm her, we withheld both food and drink,|
|Till nature sank within her.|
AYL. God of heaven!
| SAY. Tis said the scourge will tame the wildest maniac,|
AYL. And what?
SAY. I bade the steward bring
|The hangmans whip.|
AYL. The whip! Ill hear no more!
|Die, dog, and rot!|
[AYLMERE stabs SAY. They grapple. SAY strikes AYLMERE with his dagger. Attendants interpose. SAY falls.] LACY. [to AYLMERE.] You bleed!
SAY. He bleeds? Why then I triumph still!
|My steel was venomed and its point is fate.|
[SAY is withdrawn.] AYL. Take down to hell my curse, thou blackest fiend
|That eer its gates let forth! Oh, Mariamne!|
Enter MARIAMNE. MAR. Have I been dreaming? or have I been mad?
|The smoke that palled my brain|
|Flies from lifes deadening embers now away,|
|And leaves me but the ashes. Ha! my Aylmere!|
[She totters to his arms.] AYL. Thou knowest me? Dost thou not? Now blessings on thee!
| MAR. Nearer, my Aylmere, nearer! I do lose thee!|| 115|
|Is not this death? Our boy, they tore me from him:|
|Buried they him?|
AYL. Alas, I know not. [She faints.] Faint not!
|Tis Itis Aylmere holds thee, Mariamne!|
| MAR. I see thee not, nor hear thee.Bless thee! Bless thee!|
[Dies.] AYL. Look up, love! Wife! My Mariamne! Cold!
|Dead! dead! [Weeps.]|
[He risessinks againis caught and supported.] Why should I weep? Go I not with her?
|Is Atlas burthen on me? Say struck home!|
|The charteris it come?|
LACY. Not yet.
AYL. All slain!
|Say hath slain all! I come, my Mariamne!|
[He sinks upon her body. A distant shout. Another and nearer. AYLMERE partly rises.] AYL. That shout?
LACY. Mowbray proclaims the charter.
AYL. Doth he?
[A cry without, The charter! the charter! MOWBRAY rushes in, bearing the charter, unrolled, and exhibiting the seal.] MOW. The charter! seal and all!
[AYLMERE starts up with a wild burst of exultation, rushes to him, catches the charter, kisses it, and clasps it to his bosom.] AYL. Free! free!
|The bondman is avenged, and England free!|
[Totters towards MARIAMNE and sinks.]