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Full Online Book HomePlaysJohn Woodvil; A Tragedy - Act 5
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John Woodvil; A Tragedy - Act 5 Post by :ldjhns Category :Plays Author :Charles Lamb Date :May 2012 Read :3455

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John Woodvil; A Tragedy - Act 5




How beautiful,
(_handling his mourning_)

And comely do these mourning garments shew!
Sure Grief hath set his sacred impress here,
To claim the world's respect! they note so feelingly
By outward types the serious man within.--
Alas! what part or portion can I claim
In all the decencies of virtuous sorrow,
Which other mourners use? as namely,
This black attire, abstraction from society,
Good thoughts, and frequent sighs, and seldom smiles,
A cleaving sadness native to the brow,
All sweet condolements of like-grieved friends,

(That steal away the sense of loss almost)

Men's pity, and good offices
Which enemies themselves do for us then,
Putting their hostile disposition off,
As we put off our high thoughts and proud looks.
(_Pauses, and observes the pictures_.)
These pictures must be taken down:
The portraitures of our most antient family
For nigh three hundred years! How have I listen'd,
To hear Sir Walter, with an old man's pride,
Holding me in his arms, a prating boy,
And pointing to the pictures where they hung,
Repeat by course their worthy histories,

(As Hugh de Widville, Walter, first of the name,
And Ann the handsome, Stephen, and famous John:
Telling me, I must be his famous John.)

But that was in old times.
Now, no more
Must I grow proud upon our house's pride.
I rather, I, by most unheard of crimes,
Have backward tainted all their noble blood,
Rased out the memory of an ancient family,
And quite revers'd the honors of our house.
Who now shall sit and tell us anecdotes?
The secret history of his own times,
And fashions of the world when he was young:
How England slept out three and twenty years,
While Carr and Villiers rul'd the baby king:
The costly fancies of the pedant's reign,
Balls, feastings, huntings, shows in allegory,
And Beauties of the court of James the First.

(Margaret enters.)

Comes Margaret here to witness my disgrace?
O, lady, I have suffer'd loss,
And diminution of my honor's brightness.
You bring some images of old times, Margaret,
That should be now forgotten.

Old times should never be forgotten, John.
I came to talk about them with my friend.

I did refuse you, Margaret, in my pride.

If John rejected Margaret in his pride,
(As who does not, being splenetic, refuse
Sometimes old play-fellows,) the spleen being gone,
The offence no longer lives.
O Woodvil, those were happy days,
When we two first began to love. When first,
Under pretence of visiting my father,

(Being then a stripling nigh upon my age)

You came a wooing to his daughter, John.
Do you remember,
With what a coy reserve and seldom speech,

(Young maidens must be chary of their speech,)

I kept the honors of my maiden pride?
I was your favourite then.

O Margaret, Margaret!
These your submissions to my low estate,
And cleavings to the fates of sunken Woodvil,
Write bitter things 'gainst my unworthiness.
Thou perfect pattern of thy slander'd sex,
Whom miseries of mine could never alienate,
Nor change of fortune shake; whom injuries,
And slights (the worst of injuries) which moved
Thy nature to return scorn with like scorn,
Then when you left in virtuous pride this house,
Could not so separate, but now in this
My day of shame, when all the world forsake me,
You only visit me, love, and forgive me.

Dost yet remember the green arbour, John,
In the south gardens of my father's house,
Where we have seen the summer sun go down,
Exchanging true love's vows without restraint?
And that old wood, you call'd your wilderness,
And vow'd in sport to build a chapel in it,
There dwell

"Like hermit poor
In pensive place obscure,"

And tell your Ave Maries by the curls
(Dropping like golden beads) of Margaret's hair;
And make confession seven times a day
Of every thought that stray'd from love and Margaret;
And I your saint the penance should appoint--
Believe me, sir, I will not now be laid
Aside, like an old fashion.

O lady, poor and abject are my thoughts,
My pride is cured, my hopes are under clouds,
I have no part in any good man's love,
In all earth's pleasures portion have I none,
I fade and wither in my own esteem,
This earth holds not alive so poor a thing as I am.
I was not always thus.


Thou noble nature,
Which lion-like didst awe the inferior creatures,
Now trampled on by beasts of basest quality,
My dear heart's lord, life's pride, soul-honor'd John,
Upon her knees (regard her poor request)
Your favourite, once-beloved Margaret, kneels.

What would'st thou, lady, ever-honor'd Margaret?

That John would think more nobly of himself,
More worthily of high heaven;
And not for one misfortune, child of chance,
No crime, but unforeseen, and sent to punish
The less offence with image of the greater,
Thereby to work the soul's humility,

(Which end hath happily not been frustrate quite,)

O not for one offence mistrust heaven's mercy,
Nor quit thy hope of happy days to come--
John yet has many happy days to live;
To live and make atonement.

Excellent lady,
Whose suit hath drawn this softness from my eyes,
Not the world's scorn, nor falling off of friends
Could ever do. Will you go with me, Margaret?


Go whither, John?

Go in with me,
And pray for the peace of our unquiet minds?

That I will, John.--



(SCENE.--An inner Apartment.)

(John is discovered kneeling.--Margaret standing over him.)

JOHN (_rises_)
I cannot bear
To see you waste that youth and excellent beauty,
('Tis now the golden time of the day with you,)
In tending such a broken wretch as I am.

John will break Margaret's heart, if he speak so.
O sir, sir, sir, you are too melancholy,
And I must call it caprice. I am somewhat bold
Perhaps in this. But you are now my patient,

(You know you gave me leave to call you so,)

And I must chide these pestilent humours from you.

They are gone.--
Mark, love, how cheerfully I speak!
I can smile too, and I almost begin
To understand what kind of creature Hope is.

Now this is better, this mirth becomes you, John.

Yet tell me, if I over-act my mirth.
(Being but a novice, I may fall into that error,)
That were a sad indecency, you know.

Nay, never fear.
I will be mistress of your humours,
And you shall frown or smile by the book.
And herein I shall be most peremptory,
Cry, "this shews well, but that inclines to levity,
This frown has too much of the Woodvil in it,
But that fine sunshine has redeem'd it quite."

How sweetly Margaret robs me of myself!

To give you in your stead a better self!
Such as you were, when these eyes first beheld
You mounted on your sprightly steed, White Margery,
Sir Rowland my father's gift,
And all my maidens gave my heart for lost.
I was a young thing then, being newly come
Home from my convent education, where
Seven years I had wasted in the bosom of France:
Returning home true protestant, you call'd me
Your little heretic nun. How timid-bashful
Did John salute his love, being newly seen.
Sir Rowland term'd it a rare modesty,
And prais'd it in a youth.

Now Margaret weeps herself.

(_A noise of bells heard_.)

Hark the bells, John.

Those are the church bells of St. Mary Ottery.

I know it.

Saint Mary Ottery, my native village
In the sweet shire of Devon.
Those are the bells.

Wilt go to church, John?

I have been there already.

How canst say thou hast been there already? The bells
are only now ringing for morning service, and hast thou
been at church already?

I left my bed betimes, I could not sleep,
And when I rose, I look'd (as my custom is)
From my chamber window, where I can see the sun rise;
And the first object I discern'd
Was the glistering spire of St. Mary Ottery.

Well, John.

Then I remember'd 'twas the sabbath-day.
Immediately a wish arose in my mind,
To go to church and pray with Christian people.

And then I check'd myself, and said to myself,
"Thou hast been a heathen, John, these two years past,

(Not having been at church in all that time,)

And is it fit, that now for the first time
Thou should'st offend the eyes of Christian people
With a murderer's presence in the house of prayer?
Thou would'st but discompose their pious thoughts,
And do thyself no good: for how could'st thou pray,
With unwash'd hands, and lips unus'd to the offices?"
And then I at my own presumption smiled;
And then I wept that I should smile at all,
Having such cause of grief! I wept outright;
Tears like a river flooded all my face,
And I began to pray, and found I could pray;
And still I yearn'd to say my prayers in the church.
"Doubtless (said I) one might find comfort in it."
So stealing down the stairs, like one that fear'd detection,
Or was about to act unlawful business
At that dead time of dawn,
I flew to the church, and found the doors wide open,

(Whether by negligence I knew not,
Or some peculiar grace to me vouchsaf'd,
For all things felt like mystery).


So entering in, not without fear,
I past into the family pew,
And covering up my eyes for shame,
And deep perception of unworthiness,
Upon the little hassock knelt me down,
Where I so oft had kneel'd,
A docile infant by Sir Walter's side;
And, thinking so, I wept a second flood
More poignant than the first;
But afterwards was greatly comforted.
It seem'd, the guilt of blood was passing from me
Even in the act and agony of tears,
And all my sins forgiven.

Charles Lamb's play: John Woodvil; A Tragedy

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