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The bishop of Winchester, seeing his brother's party regaining some strength, deserted the opposite side, and declared again for the prisoner at Bristol ; he set up Stephen's banner on Windsor Castle, and on his episcopal residence, which he had fortified and embattled like a castle. Robert of Gloucester and the partisans of Matilda came and laid siege to it. The garrison of the castle, built in the middle of the town, set fire to the houses to annoy the besiegers ; and, at the same time, the army of London, attacking them unawares, obliged them to take refuge in the churches, which were then set fire to, in order to drive them out. Robert of Gloucester was taken prisoner, and his followers dispersed. Barons and knights, throwing away their arms, and marching on foot, in order not to be recognised, traversed the towns and villages under false names. But besides the partisans of the king, who pressed them closely, they encountered other enemies on their road, the Saxon peasants and serfs, who were as remorseless to them in their defeat as they had formerly been to the opposite faction. They arrested the progress of these proud Normans, who, in spite of their attempts at disguise, were betrayed by their language, and drove them along with whips. The bishop of Canterbury, some other bishops, and numbers of great lords were maltreated in this manner, and stripped of their clothing. Thus this war was to the English a cause both of misery and of joy, of that frantic joy which is experienced, in the midst of suffering, by rendering evil for evil. The grand-son of a man slain at Hastings would feel a moment's pleasure when he found the life of a Norman in his power, and the Englishwomen, who had plied the distaff in the service of the high Norman ladies, joyfully recounted the story of the sufferings of queen Matilda on her departure from Oxford : how she fled, accompanied only by three men-at-arms, in the night, on foot, through the snow, and how she had passed, in great alarm, close to the enemy's posts, hearing the voice of the sentinels, and the sound of the military signals.
59.-STEPHEN AND MAUD.
KEATS. “ As soon as Keats had finished Otho,' Mr. Brown suggested to him the character and reign of King Stephen, beginning with his defeat by the Empress Maud, and ending with the death of his son Eustace, as a fine subject for an English historical tragedy. This Keats undertook, assuming to himself, however, the whole conduct of the drama, and wrote some hundred and thirty lines."
Moncton Milnes's Life of Keats.
SCENE I Field of Battle.
Alarum. Enter King Stephen, Knights, and Soldiers.
Stephen. If shame can on a soldier's vein-swoll'n front
Spread deeper crimson than the battle's toil,
Blush in your casing helmets ! for see, see !
Yonder my chivalry, my pride of war,
Wrench'd with an iron hand from firm array,
Are routed loose upon the plashy meads,
Of honour forfeit. O, that my known voice
Could reach your dastard ears, and fright you more !
Fly, cowards, fly! Glocester is at your backs !
Throw your slack bridles o'er the flurried manes,
Ply well the rowel with faint trembling heels,
Scampering to death at last !
Bears his flaunt standard close upon their rear.
Second Knight. Sure of a bloody prey, seeing the fens
Will swamp them girth-deep.
Over head and ears,
No matter ! 'Tis a gallant enemy ;
How like a comet he goes streaming on.
But we must plague him in the flank,-hey, friends ?
We are well breath'd,—follow !
Enter Earl Baldwin and Soldiers, as defeated.
What is the monstrous bugbear that can fright
Baldwin. No scare-crow, but the fortunate star
Of boisterous Chester, whose fell truncheon now
Points level to the goal of victory.
way he comes, and if
you would maintain
Your person unaffronted by vile odds,
Take horse, my lord.
Stephen. And which way spur for life ?
Now I thank Heaven I am in the toils,
That soldiers may bear witness how my arm
Can burst the meshes. Not the eagle more
Loves to beat up against a tyrannous blast,
Than I to meet the torrent of my foes.
This is a brag,—be 't so,—but if I fall
Carve it upon my scutcheon'd sepulchre.
On, fellow soldiers ! Earl of Redvers, back
Not twenty Earls of Chester shall brow-beat
[Exeunt. Alarum. SCENE II. Another part of the Field. Trumpets sounding a Victory. Enter Glocester, Knights, and Forces.
Glocester. Now may we lift our bruised visors up,
And take the flattering freshness of the air,
While the wide din of battle dies away
Into times past, yet to be echoed sure
In the silent pages of our chroniclers.
First Knight. Will Stephen's death be mark'd there, my good lord,
Or that we gave him lodging in yon towers ?
Glocester. Fain would I know the great usurper's fate.
Enter two Captains severally.
First Captain. My lord !
Second Captain. Most noble earl !
First Captain. The king-
Second Captain. The empress greets-
Glocester. What of the king ?
He sole and lone maintains
A hopeless bustle 'mid our swarming arms,
And with a nimble savageness attacks,
Escapes, makes fiercer onset, then anew
Eludes death, giving death to most that dare
Trespass within the circuit of his sword !
He must by this have fallen. Baldwin is taken ;
And for the Duke of Bretagne, like a stag
He flies, for the Welsh beagles to hunt down.
God save the Empress !
Now our dreaded queen:
What message from her Highness ?
From the throng'd towers of Lincoln hath look'd down,
Like Pallas from the walls of Ilion,
And seen her enemies havock'd at her feet.
She greets most noble Glocester from her heart,
Intreating him, his captains, and brave knights,
To grace a banquet. The high city gates
Are envious which shall see your triumph pass ;
The streets are full of music.
Enter Second Knight.
Whence come you? Second Knight. From Stephen, my good prince, Stephen ! Stephen!
Glocester. Why do you made such echoing of his name?
Second Knight. Because I think, my lord, he is no man,
But a fierce demon, 'nointed safe from wounds,
And misbaptised with a Christian name.
Glocester. A mighty soldier !-Does he still hold out ?
Second Knight. He shames our victory. His valour still
Keeps elbow-room amid our eager swords,
And holds our bladed falchions all aloof
His gleaming battle-axe being slaughter-sick,
Smote on the morion of a Flemish knight,
Broke short in his hand ; upon the which he flung
The heft away with such a vengeful force,
It paunch'd the Earl of Chester's horse, who then
Spleen-hearted came in full career at him.
Glocester. Did no one take him at a vantage then ?
Second Knight. Three then with tiger leap upon him flew,
Whom, with his sword swift-drawn and nimbly held,
He stung away again, and stood to breathe,
Smiling. Anon upon him rush'd once more
A throng of foes, and in this renew'd strife,
My sword met his and snapp'd off at the hilt.
Glocester. Come, lead me to this man—and let us move
In silence, not insulting his sad doom
With clamorous trumpets. To the Empress bear
My salutation as befits the time.
Exeunt Glocester and Forces
SCENE III. The Field of Battle.
Enter Stephen unarmed.
Stephen. Another sword ! And what if I could seize
One from Bellona’s gleaming armoury,
Or choose the fairest of her sheaved spears !
Where are my enemies? Here, close at hand,
Here come the testy brood. O, for a sword !
I'm faint-a biting sword! A noble sword !
A hedge-stake-or a ponderous stone to hurl
With brawny vengeance, like the labourer Cain.
Come on! Farewell my kingdom, and all hail
Thou superb, plumed, and helmeted renown,
All hail—I would not truck this brilliant day
To rule in Pylos with a Nestor's beard—
Enter De Kaims and Knights, &c.
De Kaims. Is't madness or a hunger after death
That makes thee thus unarm'd throw taunts at us -
Yield, Stephen, or my sword's point dips in
The gloomy current of a traitor's heart.
Stephen. Do it, De Kaims, I will not budge an inch.
De Kaims. Yes, of thy madness thou shalt take the meed.
Stephen. Darest thou ?
How dare, against a man disarm'd ?
Stephen. What weapons has the lion but himself ?
Come not near me, De Kaims, or by the price
Of all the glory I have won this day,
Being a king, I will not yield alive
To any but the second man of the realm,
Robert of Glocester.
De Kaims. Thou shalt vail to me.
Stephen. Shall I, when I have sworn against it, sir ?
Thou think'st it brave to take a breathing king,
That, on a court-day bow'd to haughty Maud,
The awed presence-chamber may be bold
To whisper, there's the man who took alive
Stephen-me-prisoner. Certes, De Kaims,
The ambition is a uoble one.
And, Stephen, I must compass it.
Do not tempt me to throttle you on the gorge,
Or with my gauntlet crush your hollow breast,
Just when your knighthood is grown ripe and full
A Soldier. Is an honest yeoman's spear
Of no use at a need ? Take that.
Ah, dastard !
De Kaims. What, you are vulnerable ! my prisoner
Stephen. No, not yet. I disclaim it, and demand
Death as a sovereign right unto a king
Who 'sdains to yield to any but his peer,
If not in title, yet in noble deeds,
The Earl of Glocester. Stab to the hilt, De Kaims,
For I will never by mean hands be led
From this so famous field. Do you hear! Be quick !
Trumpets. Enter the Earl of Chester and Knights.
SCENE IV.-A Presence Chamber.
Queen Maud in a Chair of State, the Earls of Glocester and Chester, Lords, Attendants.
Maud. Glocester, no more : I will behold that Boulogne :
Set him before me. Not for the poor sake
Of regal pomp and a vain-glorious hour,
As thou with wary speech, yet near enough,
Glocester. Faithful counsel have I given ;
for your Highness' benefit.
Maud. The Heavens forbid that I should not think so.
For by thy valour have I won this realm,
Which by thy wisdom I will ever keep.
To sage advisers let me ever bend
A meek attentive ear, so that they treat
Of the wide kingdom's rule and government,
Not trenching on our actions personal.
Advis'd, not school'd, I would be; and henceforth
Spoken to in clear, plain, and open terms,
Not side-ways sermon'd at.
Then in plain terms,
Once more for the fallen king-
Your pardon, brother,
I would no more of that; for, as I said,
'Tis not for worldly pomp I wish to see
The rebel, but as dooming judge to give
A sentence something worthy of his guilt.
Glocester. If’t must be so, I'll bring him to your presence.
Maud. A meaner summoner might do as well-
My Lord of Chester, is 't true what I hear
Of Stephen of Boulogne, our prisoner,
That he, as a fit penance for his crimes,
Eats wholesome, sweet, and palatable food
Off Glocester's golden dishes—drinks pure wine,
Lodges soft ?
Chester. More than that, my gracious Queen,
Has anger'd me. The noble Earl, methinks,
Full soldier as he is, and without peer
In counsel, dreams too much among his books.
It may read well, but sure 'tis out of date
To play the Alexander with Darius.
Maud. Truth! I think so. By Heavens it shall not last
Chester. It would amaze your Highness now to mark
How Glocester overstrains his courtesy
To that crime-loving rebel, that Boulogne-
Maud. That ingrate !
For whose vast ingratitude
To our late sovereign lord, your noble sire,
The generous Earl condoles in his mishaps,
And with a sort of lackeying friendliness,
Talks off the mighty frowning from his brow,