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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Sentimentalists: An Unfinished Comedy - Scene 6
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The Sentimentalists: An Unfinished Comedy - Scene 6 Post by :ducky Category :Plays Author :George Meredith Date :May 2012 Read :2321

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The Sentimentalists: An Unfinished Comedy - Scene 6

SCENE VI

ASTRAEA, ARDEN

ASTRAEA. Pardon me if I do not hear you well.

ARDEN. I will not even think you barbarous.

ASTRAEA. I am. I am the object of the chase.

ARDEN. The huntsman draws the wood, then, and not you.


ASTRAEA.
At any instant I am forced to run,
Or turn in my defence: how can I be
Other than barbarous? You are the cause.

ARDEN. No: heaven that made you beautiful's the cause.

ASTRAEA.
Say, earth, that gave you instincts. Bring me down
To instincts! When by chance I speak awhile
With our professor, you appear in haste,
Full cry to sight again the missing hare.
Away ideas! All that's divinest flies!
I have to bear in mind how young you are.

ARDEN.
You have only to look up to me four years,
Instead of forty!

ASTRAEA. Sir?

ARDEN.
There's my misfortune!
And worse that, young, I love as a young man.
Could I but quench the fire, I might conceal
The youthfulness offending you so much.

ASTRAEA. I wish you would. I wish it earnestly.

ARDEN. Impossible. I burn.

ASTRAEA. You should not burn.

ARDEN.
'Tis more than I. 'Tis fire. It masters will.
You would not say I should not' if you knew fire.
It seizes. It devours.

ASTRAEA. Dry wood.

ARDEN.
Cold wit!
How cold you can be! But be cold, for sweet
You must be. And your eyes are mine: with them
I see myself: unworthy to usurp
The place I hold a moment. While I look
I have my happiness.

ASTRAEA. You should look higher.

ARDEN.
Through you to the highest. Only through you!
Through you
The mark I may attain is visible,
And I have strength to dream of winning it.
You are the bow that speeds the arrow: you
The glass that brings the distance nigh. My world
Is luminous through you, pure heavenly,
But hangs upon the rose's outer leaf,
Not next her heart. Astraea! my own beloved!

ASTRAEA. We may be excellent friends. And I have faults.

ARDEN. Name them: I am hungering for more to love.

ASTRAEA.
I waver very constantly: I have
No fixity of feeling or of sight.
I have no courage: I can often dream
Of daring: when I wake I am in dread.
I am inconstant as a butterfly,
And shallow as a brook with little fish!
Strange little fish, that tempt the small boy's net,
But at a touch straight dive! I am any one's,
And no one's! I am vain.
Praise of my beauty lodges in my ears.
The lark reels up with it; the nightingale
Sobs bleeding; the flowers nod; I could believe
A poet, though he praised me to my face.

ARDEN.
Never had poet so divine a fount
To drink of!

ASTRAEA.
Have I given you more to love

ARDEN.
More! You have given me your inner mind,
Where conscience in the robes of Justice shoots
Light so serenely keen that in such light
Fair infants, I newly criminal of earth,'
As your friend Osier says, might show some blot.
Seraphs might! More to love? Oh! these dear faults
Lead you to me like troops of laughing girls
With garlands. All the fear is, that you trifle,
Feigning them.

ASTRAEA.
For what purpose?

ARDEN.
Can I guess?

ASTRAEA.

I think 'tis you who have the trifler's note.
My hearing is acute, and when you speak,
Two voices ring, though you speak fervidly.
Your Osier quotation jars. Beware!
Why were you absent from our meeting-place
This morning?

 


ARDEN.
I was on the way, and met
Your uncle Homeware

ASTRAEA. Ah!

ARDEN. He loves you.

ASTRAEA.
He loves me: he has never understood.
He loves me as a creature of the flock;
A little whiter than some others.
Yes; He loves me, as men love; not to uplift;
Not to have faith in; not to spiritualize.
For him I am a woman and a widow
One of the flock, unmarked save by a brand.
He said it!--You confess it! You have learnt
To share his error, erring fatally.

ARDEN. By whose advice went I to him?

ASTRAEA.
By whose?
Pursuit that seemed incessant: persecution.
Besides, I have changed since then: I change; I change;
It is too true I change. I could esteem
You better did you change. And had you heard
The noble words this morning from the mouth
Of our professor, changed were you, or raised
Above love-thoughts, love-talk, and flame and flutter,
High as eternal snows. What said he else,
My uncle Homeware?

ARDEN.
That you were not free:
And that he counselled us to use our wits.

ASTRAEA.
But I am free I free to be ever free!
My freedom keeps me free! He counselled us?
I am not one in a conspiracy.
I scheme no discord with my present life.
Who does, I cannot look on as my friend.
Not free? You know me little. Were I chained,
For liberty I would sell liberty
To him who helped me to an hour's release.
But having perfect freedom . . .

ARDEN. No.

ASTRAEA.
Good sir,
You check me?

ARDEN. Perfect freedom?

ASTRAEA. Perfect!

ARDEN. No!

ASTRAEA. Am I awake? What blinds me?

ARDEN.
Filaments
The slenderest ever woven about a brain
From the brain's mists, by the little sprite called Fancy.
A breath would scatter them; but that one breath
Must come of animation. When the heart
Is as, a frozen sea the brain spins webs.

ASTRAEA.
'Tis very singular!
I understand.
You translate cleverly. I hear in verse
My uncle Homeware's prose. He has these notions.
Old men presume to read us.

ARDEN.
Young men may.
You gaze on an ideal reflecting you
Need I say beautiful? Yet it reflects
Less beauty than the lady whom I love
Breathes, radiates. Look on yourself in me.
What harm in gazing? You are this flower
You are that spirit. But the spirit fed
With substance of the flower takes all its bloom!
And where in spirits is the bloom of the flower?

ASTRAEA.
'Tis very singular. You have a tone
Quite changed.

ARDEN.
You wished a change. To show you, how
I read you . . .

ASTRAEA.
Oh! no, no. It means dissection.
I never heard of reading character
That did not mean dissection. Spare me that.
I am wilful, violent, capricious, weak,
Wound in a web of my own spinning-wheel,
A star-gazer, a riband in the wind . . .

ARDEN.
A banner in the wind! and me you lead,
And shall! At least, I follow till I win.

ASTRAEA.
Forbear, I do beseech you.

ARDEN.
I have had
Your hand in mine.

ASTRAEA.
Once.

ARDEN.
Once!
Once! 'twas; once, was the heart alive,
Leaping to break the ice. Oh! once, was aye
That laughed at frosty May like spring's return.
Say you are terrorized: you dare not melt.
You like me; you might love me; but to dare,
Tasks more than courage. Veneration, friends,
Self-worship, which is often self-distrust,
Bar the good way to you, and make a dream
A fortress and a prison.

ASTRAEA.
Changed! you have changed
Indeed. When you so boldly seized my hand
It seemed a boyish freak, done boyishly.
I wondered at Professor Spiral's choice
Of you for an example, and our hope.
Now you grow dangerous. You must have thought,
And some things true you speak-save 'terrorized.'
It may be flattering to sweet self-love
To deem me terrorized.--'Tis my own soul,
My heart, my mind, all that I hold most sacred,
Not fear of others, bids me walk aloof.
Who terrorizes me? Who could? Friends? Never!
The world? as little. Terrorized!

ARDEN.
Forgive me.

ASTRAEA.
I might reply, Respect me. If I loved,
If I could be so faithless as to love,
Think you I would not rather noise abroad
My shame for penitence than let friends dwell
Deluded by an image of one vowed
To superhuman, who the common mock
Of things too human has at heart become.

ARDEN.
You would declare your love?

ASTRAEA.
I said, my shame.
The woman that's the widow is ensnared,
Caught in the toils! away with widows!--Oh!
I hear men shouting it.

ARDEN.
But shame there's none
For me in loving: therefore I may take
Your friends to witness? tell them that my pride
Is in the love of you?

ASTRAEA.
'Twill soon bring
The silence that should be between us two,
And sooner give me peace.

ARDEN.
And you consent?

ASTRAEA.
For the sake of peace and silence I consent,
You should be warned that you will cruelly
Disturb them. But 'tis best. You should be warned
Your pleading will be hopeless. But 'tis best.
You have my full consent. Weigh well your acts,
You cannot rest where you have cast this bolt
Lay that to heart, and you are cherished, prized,
Among them: they are estimable ladies,
Warmest of friends; though you may think they soar
Too loftily for your measure of strict sense
(And as my uncle Homeware's pupil, sir,
In worldliness, you do), just minds they have:
Once know them, and your banishment will fret.
I would not run such risks. You will offend,
Go near to outrage them; and perturbate
As they have not deserved of you. But I,
Considering I am nothing in the scales
You balance, quite and of necessity
Consent. When you have weighed it, let me hear.
My uncle Homeware steps this way in haste.
We have been talking long, and in full view !

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