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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Confession of Louis XI.
By Casimir Delavigne (1793–1843)
 
          [On the point of dying, Louis XI. clings desperately to life, and summons before him a holy monk, Francis de Paula, whom he implores to work a miracle in his favor and prolong his life.]


Dramatis personæ:—King Louis XI., and Saint Francis de Paula, founder of the order of the Franciscan friars.

LOUIS—We are alone now.
  1
  Francis—What do you wish of me?  2
  Louis  [who has knelt down]—At your knees see me trembling with hope and fear.  3
  Francis—What can I do for you?  4
  Louis—Everything, Father; you can do everything: you can call the dead to life again.  5
  Francis—I!  6
  Louis—To the dead you say, “Leave your graves!” and they leave them.  7
  Francis—Who? I?  8
  Louis—You bid our ailments to be cured.  9
  Francis—I, my son?  10
  Louis—And they are cured. When you command the skies clear, the wind suddenly blows or likewise abates; the falling thunderbolt at your command moves back to the clouds. Oh, I implore you, who in the air can keep up the beneficent dew or let it pour its welcome freshness on the withering plant, impart fresh vigor to my old limbs. See me; I am dying; revive my drooping energy; stretch ye out your arms to me, touch ye those livid features of mine, and the spell of your hands will cause my wrinkles to vanish.  11
  Francis—What do you ask of me? You surprise me, my son. Am I equal to God? From your lips I first learn that I go abroad rendering oracles, and with my hands working miracles.  12
  Louis—At least ten years, father! grant me ten more years to live, and upon you I shall lavish honors and presents…. I shall found shrines to your name, in gold and jasper shall have your relics set; but!—twenty years more life are too little a reward for so much wealth and incense. I beseech you, work a whole miracle! Do not cut so short the thread of my life. A whole miracle! give me new life and prolong my days!  13
  Francis—To do God’s work is not in his creature’s power. What! when everything dies, you alone should last! King, such is not God’s will. I his feeble creature cannot alter for you the course of nature. All that which grows must vanish, all that which is born must perish, man himself and his works, the tree and its fruit alike. All that produces does so only for a time; ’tis the law here below, for eternity death alone shall fructify.  14
  Louis—You wear out my patience. Do your duty, monk! Work in my favor your marvelous power; for if you refuse, I shall compel you. Do you forget that I am a king? The holy oil anointed my forehead. Oh, pardon me! but it is your duty to do more for kings, for crowned heads, than for those obscure and unfortunate wretches whom, but for your prayers, God in heaven would never have remembered.  15
  Francis—Kings and their subjects are equal in the eyes of the Lord; he owes you his aid as to the rest of his children; be more just to yourself, and claim for your soul that help for which you beg.  16
  Louis  [eagerly]—No, not so much at a time: let us now mind the body; I shall think of the soul by-and-by.  17
  Francis—It is your remorse, O King, ’tis that smarting wound inflicted by your crimes, which slowly drags your body to final ruin.  18
  Louis—The priests absolved me.  19
  Francis—Vain hope! The weight of your present alarms is made up of thirty years of iniquitous life. Confess your shame, disclose your sins, and let sincere repentance wash away your defiled soul.  20
  Louis—Should I get cured?  21
  Francis—Perhaps.  22
  Louis—Say yes, promise that I shall. I am going to confess all.  23
  Francis—To me?  24
  Louis—Such is my will. Listen.  25
  Francis  [seating himself whilst the King stands up with clasped hands]—Speak then, sinner, who summon me to perform this holy ministry.  26
  Louis  [after having recited mentally the Confiteor]—I cannot and dare not refuse.  27
  Francis—What are your sins?  28
  Louis—Through fear of the Dauphin, the late King died of starvation.  29
  Francis—A son shortened his own father’s old age!  30
  Louis—I was that Dauphin.  31
  Francis—You were!  32
  Louis—My father’s weakness was ruining France. A favorite ruled. France must have perished had not the King done so. State interests are higher than—  33
  Francis—Confess thy sins, thou wicked son; do not excuse thy wrong-doings.  34
  Louis—I had a brother.  35
  Francis—What of him?  36
  Louis—Who died … poisoned.  37
  Francis—Were you instrumental in his death?  38
  Louis—They suspected me.  39
  Francis—God Almighty!  40
  Louis—If those who said so fell in my power!…  41
  Francis—Is it true?  42
  Louis—His ghost rising from the grave can alone with impunity accuse me of his death.  43
  Francis—So you were guilty of it?  44
  Louis—The traitor deserved it!  45
  Francis  [rising]—You would escape your just punishment! Tremble! I was your brother, I am now your judge. Crushed under your sin, bend low your head. Return to nothingness, empty Majesty! I no longer see the King, I hear the criminal: to your knees, fratricide!  46
  Louis  [falling on his knees]—I shudder.  47
  Francis—Repent!  48
  Louis  [crawling to the monk and catching hold of his garments]—I own my fault, have pity on me! I beat my breast and repent another crime. I do not excuse it.  49
  Francis  [resuming his seat]—Is this not all?  50
  Louis—Nemours!… He was a conspirator. But his death … His crime was proved. But under his scaffold his children’s tears … Thrice against his lord he had taken up arms. His life-blood spattered them. Yet his death was but just.  51
  Francis—Cruel, cruel King!  52
  Louis—Just, but severe; I confess it: I punished … but no, I have committed crimes. In mid-air the fatal knot has strangled my victims; in murderous pits they have been stabbed with steel; the waters have put an end to them, the earth has acted as their jailer. Prisoners buried beneath these towers groan forgotten in their depths.  53
  Francis—Oh! since there are wrongs which you can still repair, come!  54
  Louis—Where to?  55
  Francis—Let us set free those prisoners.  56
  Louis—Statecraft forbids.  57
  Francis  [kneeling before the King]—Charity orders: come, and save your soul.  58
  Louis—And risk my crown! As a king, I cannot.  59
  Francis—As a Christian, you must.  60
  Louis—I have repented. Let that suffice.  61
  Francis  [rising]—That avails nothing.  62
  Louis—Have I not confessed my sins?  63
  Francis—They are not condoned while you persist in them.  64
  Louis—The Church has indulgences which a king can pay for.  65
  Francis—God’s pardon is not to be bought: we must deserve it.  66
  Louis  [in despair]—I claim it by right of my anguish! O Father, if you knew my sufferings, you would shed tears of pity! The intolerable bodily pain I endure constitutes but half my troubles and my least suffering. I desire the places where I cannot be. Everywhere remorse pursues me; I avoid the living; I live among the dead. I spend dreadful days and nights more terrible. The darkness assumes visible shapes; silence disturbs me, and when I pray to my Savior I hear his voice say: “What would you with me, accursed?” When asleep, a demon sits on my chest: I drive him away, and a naked sword stabs me furiously; I rise aghast; human blood inundates my couch, and my hand, seized by a hand cold as death, is plunged in that blood and feels hideous moving débris….  67
  Francis—Ah, wretched man!  68
  Louis—You shudder. Such are my days and nights; my sleep, my life. Yet, dying, I agonize to live, and fear to drink the last drop of that bitter cup.  69
  Francis—Come then. Forgive the wrongs others have done you, and thus abate your own tortures. A deed of mercy will buy you rest, and when you awake, some voice at least will bless your name. Come. Do not tarry.  70
  Louis—Wait! Wait!  71
  Francis—Will the Lord wait?  72
  Louis—To-morrow!  73
  Francis—But to-morrow, to-night, now, perhaps, death awaits you.  74
  Louis—I am well protected.  75
  Francis—The unloved are ill protected.  [Tries to drag the King along.]  Come! Come!  76
  Louis  [pushing him aside]—Give me time, time to make up my mind.  77
  Francis—I leave you, murderer. I cannot forgive your crimes.  78
  Louis  [terrified]—What! do you condemn me?  79
  Francis—God may forgive all! When he still hesitates, how could I condemn? Take advantage of the delay he grants you; weep, pray, obtain from his mercy the softening of your heart towards those unfortunates. Forgive, and let the light of day shine for them once more. When you seized the attribute of Divine vengeance they denounced your name from the depth of their jails in their bitter anguish, and their shrieks and moans drowned your prayers. Now end those sufferings, and God shall hear your prayers.  80
 
 
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