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'Two Exhortations'

SCENE VII.

 

A Shooting-box in the West of Ireland. A Bedchamber.

Laurence Raby and Melchior. Night.

 

Melchior:
Surely in the great beginning God made all things good, and still

That soul-sickness men call sinning entered not without His will.

Nay, our wisest have asserted that, as shade enhances light,

Evil is but good perverted, wrong is but the foil of right.

Banish sickness, then you banish joy for health to all that live ;

Slay all sin, all good must vanish, good being but comparative.

Sophistry, you say—yet listen : look you skyward, there ’tis known

Worlds on worlds in myriads glisten—larger, lovelier than our own—

This has been, and this still shall be, here as there, in sun or star :

These things are to be and will be, those things were to be and are.

Man in man’s imperfect nature is by imperfection taught :

Add one cubit to your stature if you can by taking thought.

 

Laurence:

Thus you would not teach that peasant, though he calls you 'father'.

 

Melchior: True,

I should magnify this present, mystify that future, too—

We adapt our conversation always to our hearer’s light.

 

Laurence:

I am not of your persuasion.

 

Melchior:

Yet the difference is but slight.

 

Laurence:

I, even I, say, 'He who barters worldly weal for heavenly worth

He does well'—your saints and martyrs were examples here on earth.

 

Melchior:

Aye, in earlier Christian ages, while the heathen empire stood,

When the war ‘twixt saints and sages cried aloud for saintly blood,

Christ was then their model truly. Now, if all were meek and pure,

Save the ungodly and the unruly, would the Christian Church endure ?

Shall the toiler or the fighter dream by day and watch by night,

Turn the left cheek to the smiter, smitten rudely on the right ?

Strong men must encounter bad men—so-called saints of latter days

Have been mostly pious madmen, lusting after righteous praise—

Or the thralls of superstition, doubtless worthy some reward,

Since they came by their condition hardly of their free accord.

’Tis but madness, sad and solemn, that these fakir-Christians feel—

Saint Stylites on his column gratified a morbid zeal.

 

Laurence:

By your showing, good is really on a par (of worth) with ill.

 

Melchior:

Nay, I said not so ; I merely tell you both some ends fulfil—

Priestly vows were my vocation, fast and vigil wait for me.

You must work and face temptation. Never should the strong man flee,

Though God wills the inclination with the soul at war to be. (Pauses.)

In the strife ‘twixt flesh and spirit, while you can the spirit aid.

Should you fall not less your merit, be not for a fall afraid.

Whatsoe’er most right, most fit is you shall do. When all is done

Chaunt the noble Nunc Dimittis—Benedicimur, my son.

[Exit MELCHIOR.

 

Laurence (alone):

Why do I provoke these wrangles ? Melchior talks (as well he may)

With the tongues of men and angels.

(Takes up a pamphlet.) What has this man got to say ?

(Reads.) Sic sacerdos fatur (ejus nomen quondam erat Burgo).

Mala mens est, caro peius, anima infirma, ergo.

I nunc, ora, sine mora—orat etiam Sancta Virgo.

(Thinks.)

(Speaks.) So it seems they mean to make her wed the usurer, Nathan Lee.

Poor Estelle ! her friends forsake her ; what has this to do with me ?

Glad I am, at least, that Helen still refuses to discard

Her, through tales false gossips tell in spite or heedlessness. —’Tis hard !—

Lee, the Levite !—some few years back Herbert horsewhipp’d him—the cur

Show’d his teeth and laid his ears back. Now his wealth has purchased her.

Must his baseness mar her brightness ? Shall the callous, cunning churl

Revel in the rosy whiteness of that golden-headed girl ?

(Thinks and smokes.)

(Reads.) Cito certe venit vitae finis (sic sacerdos fatur),

Nunc audite omnes, ite, vobis fabula narratur,

Nunc orate et laudate, laudat etiam Alma Mater.

(Muses.) Such has been, and such shall still be, here as there, in sun or star ;

These things are to be and will be, those things were to be and are.

If I thought that speech worth heeding I should—Nay, it seems to me

More like Satan’s special pleading than like Gloria Domine.

(Lies down on his couch.)

(Reads.) Et tu quoque, frater meus, facta mala quod fecisiti

Denique confundit Deus omnes res quas tetegisti.

Nunc si unquam, nunc aut nunquam, sanguine adjuro Christi.

 

Published in 'Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes' (1870).