Text: Edgar Allan Poe, “Scenes from ‘Politian’ [[III and IX]” (Text-02), Southern Literary Messenger, January 1836, 2:106-108


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[page 106, column 1, continued:]

SCENES FROM AN UNPUBLISHED DRAMA.

BY EDGAR A. POE.

I.

ROME. A Hall in a Palace.  Alessandra and Castiglione.

 

Alessandra.  Thou art sad, Castiglione.

 

Castiglione.  Sad! — not I.

Oh, I’m the happiest, happiest man in Rome!

A few days more, thou knowest, my Alessandra,

Will make thee mine. Oh, I am very happy!

 

Aless.  Methinks thou hast a singular way of showing

Thy happiness! — what ails thee, cousin of mine?

Why didst thou sigh so deeply?

 

Cas.  Did I sigh?

I was not conscious of it. It is a fashion,

A silly — a most silly fashion I have

When I am very happy. Did I sigh? (sighing.) [column 2:]

 

Aless.  Thou didst. Thou art not well. Thou hast indulged

Too much of late, and I am vexed to see it.

Late hours and wine, Castiglione, — these

Will ruin thee! thou art already altered —

Thy looks are haggard — nothing so wears away

The constitution as late hours and wine.

 

Cas. (musing.)   Nothing, fair cousin, nothing — not ev’n deep sorrow —

Wears it away like evil hours and wine.

I will amend.

 

Aless.  Do it. I would have thee drop

Thy riotous company[[,]] too — fellows low born!

Ill suit the like with old Di Broglio’s heir

And Alessandra’s husband.

 

Cas.  I will drop them.

 

Aless.  Thou must. Attend thou also more

To thy dress and equipage — they are over plain

For thy lofty rank and fashion — much depends

Upon appearances.

 

Cas.  I’ll see to it.

 

Aless. Then see to it! — pay more attention, sir,

To a becoming carriage — much thou wantest

In dignity.

 

Cas.  Much, much, oh much I want

In proper dignity.

 

Aless. (haughtily.)  Thou mockest me, sir!

 

Cas. (abstractedly.)  Sweet, gentle Lalage!

 

Aless.  Heard I aright?

I speak to him — he speaks of Lalage!

Sir Count! (places her hand on his shoulder) what art thou dreaming? he’s not well!

What ails thee, sir?

 

Cas. (startling.)  Cousin! fair cousin! — madam!

I crave thy pardon — indeed I am not well —

Your hand from off my shoulder, if you please.

This air is most oppressive! — Madam — the Duke!

 

Enter Di Broglio.

 

Di Broglio.  My son, I’ve news for thee! — hey? — what’s the matter? (observing Alessandra.)

I’ the pouts? Kiss her, Castiglione! kiss her,

You dog! and make it up[[,]] I say[[,]] this minute!

I’ve news for you both. Politian is expected

Hourly in Rome — Politian, Earl of Leicester!

We’ll have him at the wedding. ’Tis his first visit

To the imperial city.

 

Aless.  What! Politian

Of Britain, Earl of Leicester?

 

Di Brog.  The same, my love.

We’ll have him at the wedding. A man quite young

In years, but grey in fame. I have not seen him,

But Rumour speaks of him as of a prodigy

Pre-eminent in arts and arms, and wealth,

And high descent. We’ll have him at the wedding.

 

Aless.  I have heard much of this Politian.

Gay, volatile and giddy — is he not?

And little given to thinking.

 

Di Brog.  Far from it, love.

No branch, they say, of all philosophy

So deep abstruse he has not mastered it,

Learned as few are learned.

 

Aless.  ’Tis very strange,

I have known men have seen Politian

And sought his company. They speak of him

As of one who entered madly into life, [page 107:]

Drinking the cup of pleasure to the dregs.

 

Cas.  Ridiculous! Now I have seen Politian

And know him well — nor learned nor mirthful he.

He is a dreamer and a man shut out

From common passions.

 

Di Brog.  Children, we disagree.

Let us go forth and taste the fragrant air

Of the garden. Did I dream, or did I hear

Politian was a melancholy man? (exeunt.)

[[——]]

II.

The suburbs. Politian alone.

 

[[Politian.]]  This weakness grows upon me. I am faint[[,]]

And much I fear me ill — it will not do

To die ere I have lived! — Stay — stay thy hand[[,]]

O Azrael, yet awhile! — Prince of the Powers

Of Darkness and the Tomb, O pity me!

O pity me! let me not perish now,

In the budding of my hopes — give me to live,

Give me to live yet — yet a little while:

’Tis I who pray for life — I who so late

Demanded but to die! — what sayeth the Count?

 

Enter Baldazzar.

 

Baldazzar.  That knowing no cause of quarrel or of feud

Between the Earl Politian and himself,

He doth decline your cartel.

 

Pol.  What didst thou say?

What answer was it you brought me, good Baldazzar?

With what excessive fragrance the zephyr comes

Laden from yonder bowers! — a fairer day,

Or one more worthy Italy, methinks

No mortal eyes have seen! — what said the Count?

 

Bal.  That he, Castiglione, not being aware

Of any feud existing, or any cause

Of quarrel between your lordship and himself,

Cannot accept the challenge.

 

Pol.  It is most true —

All this is very true. When saw you, sir,

When saw you now, Baldazzar, in the frigid

Ungenial Britain which we left so lately,

A heaven so calm as this — so utterly free

From the evil taint of clouds? — and he did say?

 

Bal.  No more, my lord, than I have told you, sir,

The Count Castiglione will not fight,

Having no cause for quarrel.

 

Pol.  Now this is true —

All very true. Thou art my friend, Baldazzar,

And I have not forgotten it — thou’lt do me

A piece of service? wilt thou go back and say

Unto this man, that I, the Earl of Leicester,

Hold him a villain[[?]] — thus much, I prythee, say

Unto the Count — it is exceeding just

He should have cause for quarrel.

 

Bal.  My lord! — my friend! ———

 

Pol.  (aside.) ’Tis he! — he comes himself? (aloud.) thou reasonest well.

I know what thou wouldst say — not send the message —

Well! — I will think of it — I will not send it.

Now prythee, leave me — hither doth come a person

With whom affairs of a most private nature

I would adjust.

 

Bal.  I go — to[[-]]morrow we meet,

Do we not? — at the Vatican.

 

Pol.  At the Vatican. (exit Bal.) [column 2:]

If that we meet at all, it were as well

That I should meet him in the Vatican —

In the Vatican — within the holy walls

Of the Vatican. (Enter Castigilone.)

 

Cas.  The Earl of Leicester here!

 

Pol.  I am the Earl of Leicester, and thou seest,

Dost thou not? that I am here.

 

Cas.  My lord, some strange,

Some singular mistake — misunderstanding —

Hath without doubt arisen: thou hast been urged

Thereby, in heat of anger, to address

Some words most unaccountable, in writing,

To me, Castiglione; the bearer being

Baldazzar, Duke of Surrey. I am aware

Of nothing which might warrant thee in this thing,

Having given thee no offence. Ha! — am I right?

’Twas a mistake? — undoubtedly — we all

Do err at times.

 

Pol.  Draw, villain, and prate no more!

 

Cas.  Ha! — draw? — and villain? have at thee — have at thee then,

Proud Earl! (draws.)

 

Pol.  (drawing.)   Thus to th’ expiatory tomb,

Untimely sepulchre, I do devote thee

In the name of Lalage!

 

Cas.  (dropping his sword and recoiling to the extremity of the stage.)

Of Lalage!

Hold off — hold off thy hand! — Avaunt[[,]] I say!

Avaunt — I will not fight thee — I dare not — dare not.

 

Pol.  Thou wilt not fight with me didst say, Sir Count?

Shall I be baffled thus? — now this is well,

Exceeding well! — thou darest not fight with me?

Didst say thou darest not? Ha!

 

Cas.  I dare not — dare not —

Hold off thy hand — with that beloved name

So fresh upon thy lips I will not fight thee —

I cannot — dare not.

 

Pol.  Now by my halidom

I do believe thee! — Coward, I do believe thee!

Thou darest not!

 

Cas.  Ha! — coward! — this may not be!

(clutches his sword and staggers towards Politian, but his purpose is changed before reaching him, and he falls upon his knee at the feet of the Earl.)

 

Alas! alas!

It is — it is — most true. In such a cause

I am — I am — a coward. O pity me!

 

Pol.  (greatly softened.)   Alas! — I do — indeed I pity thee.

 

Cas.  And Lalage ———

 

Pol.  Scoundrel! — arise and die!

 

Cas.  It needeth not be — thus — thus — O let me die

Thus on my bended knee. It were most fitting

That in this deep humiliation I perish.

For in the fight I will not raise a hand

Against thee, Earl of Leicester. Strike thou home —

(baring his bosom.)

Here is no let or hindrance to thy weapon —

Strike home. I will not fight thee.

 

Pol.  Now s’Death and Hell!

Am I not — am I not sorely — grievously tempted

To take thee at thy word? But mark me, sir!

Think not to fly me thus. Do thou prepare [page 108:]

For public insult in the streets — before

The eyes of the citizens. I’ll follow thee —

Like an avenging spirit I’ll follow thee

Even unto death. Before those whom thou lovest —

Before all Rome I’ll taunt thee, villain, — I’ll taunt thee,

Dost hear? with cowardice — thou wilt not fight me?

By God! thou shalt!

(exit.)

 

Cas.  Now this — indeed is just!

Most righteous, and most just, avenging Heaven!


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Notes:

Although numbered I and II in the original printing, these scenes are actually scenes III and IX in the manuscript of the play, based on the sequence established by Mabbott.


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[S:1 - SLM, 1835] - Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore - Works - Poems - Scenes from Politian [Text-02]