First presented in 1697, The Mourning Bride is William Congreve’s only tragic drama, which includes two of his most quoted phrases, “Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,” (Act I, Scene 1), and “Heav’n has no Rage, like Love to Hatred turn’d, Nor Hell a Fury, like a Woman scorn’d.” (Act III, Scene 2).
A Prison. –
Enter OSMYN alone, with a Paper. –OSM. BUT now, and I was clos’d within the Tomb
That holds my Father’s Ashes; and but now,
Where he was Pris’ner I am too imprison’d.
Sure ’tis the Hand of Heav’n that leads me thus,
And for some Purpose points out these Remembrances.
In a dark Corner of my Cell I found
This Paper, what it is this Light will show. –
Reading. If my Alphonso- Ha!
If my Alphonso live, restore him, Heav’n;
Give me more Weight, crush my declining Years
With Bolts, with Chains, Imprisonment and Want;
But bless my Son, visit not him for me. –
It is his Hand; this was his Pray’r- yet more: –
Reading. Let ev’ry Hair, which Sorrow by the Roots
Tears from my hoary and devoted Head,
Be doubled in thy Mercies to my Son:
Not for my self, but him, hear me, all-gracious- –
‘Tis wanting what should follow- Heav’n, Heav’n shou’d follow,
But ’tis torn off- Why shou’d that Word alone
Be torn from his Petition? ‘Twas to Heav’n,
But Heav’n was deaf, Heav’n heard him not; but thus,
Thus as the Name of Heav’n from this is torn,
So did it tear the Ears of Mercy from
His Voice, shutting the Gates of Pray’r against him.
If Piety be thus debarr’d Access
On high, and of good Men, the very best
Is singled out to bleed, and bear the Scourge,
What is Reward? or, what is Punishment?
But who shall dare to tax Eternal Justice!
Yet I may think- I may? I must; for Thought
Precedes the Will to think, and Errour lives
Ere Reason can be born: Reason, the Power
To guess at Right and Wrong; the twinkling Lamp
Of wand’ring Life, that winks and wakes by turns,
Fooling the Follower, betwixt Shade and Shining.
What Noise! Who’s there? My Friend! How cam’st thou hither? –
Enter HELI. –
HEL. The Time’s too precious to be spent in telling;
The Captain influenc’d by Almeria’s Power,
Gave order to the Guards for my Admittance.
OSM. How does Almeria? But I know; she is
As I am. Tell me, may I hope to see her?
HEL. You may; anon, at Midnight, when the King
Is gone to Rest, and Garcia is retir’d,
(Who takes the Privilege to visit late,
Presuming on a Bridegroom’s Right) she’ll come.
OSM. She’ll come; ’tis what I wish, yet what I fear.
She’ll come, but whither, and to whom? O Heav’n!
To a vile Prison, and a captiv’d Wretch;
To one, whom had she never known, she had
Been happy: why, why was the Heav’nly Creature
Abandon’d o’er to love what Heav’n forsakes?
Why does she follow with unwearied Steps,
One, who has tir’d Misfortune with pursuing?
One, driv’n about the World like blasted Leaves
And Chaff, the Sport of adverse Winds; till late
At length, imprison’d in some Cleft of Rock,
Or Earth, it rests, and rots to silent Dust.
HEL. Have Hopes, and hear the Voice of better Fate.
I’ve learn’d there are Disorders ripe for Mutiny
Among the Troops, who thought to share the Plunder,
Which Manuel to his own Use and Avarice
Converts. This News has reach’d Valentia’s Frontiers;
Where many of your Subjects long oppress’d
With Tyranny and grievous Impositions,
Are risen in Arms, and call for Chiefs to head
And lead ’em, to regain their Liberty
And Native Rights.
OSM. By Heav’n thou’st rous’d me from my Lethargy.
The Spirit which was deaf to my own Wrongs,
Deaf to Revenge, and the loud Crys of my
Dead Father’s Blood; nay, which refus’d to hear
The piercing Sighs and Murmurs of my Love
Yet unenjoy’d; what not Almeria could
Revive, or raise, my Peoples Voice has wak’ned.
O my Antonio, I am all on Fire,
My Soul is up in Arms, ready to charge
And bear amidst the Foe, with conqu’ring Troops.
I hear ’em call to lead ’em on to Liberty,
To Victory; their Shouts and Clamours rend
My Ears, and reach the Heav’ns; where is the King?
Where is Alphonso? ha! where? where indeed?
O I could tear and burst the Strings of Life,
To break these Chains. Off, off, ye Stains of Royalty.
Off Slavery. O curse! that I alone
Can beat and flutter in my Cage, when I
Would soar, and stoop at Victory beneath.
HEL. Our Posture of Affairs, and scanty Time,
My Lord, require you should compose your self,
And think on what we may reduce to practice.
Zara, the Cause of your Restraint, may be
The Means of Liberty restor’d. That gain’d,
Occasion will not fail to point out Ways
For your Escape. Mean time, I’ve thought already
With Speed and Safety, to convey my self
Where not far off some Male-Contents hold Counsel
Nightly; hating this Tyrant; some, who love
Anselmo’s Memory, and will, no doubt,
When they shall know you live, assist your Cause.
OSM. My Friend and Counsellour, as thou think’st fit,
So do. I will with Patience wait my Fortune.
HEL. When Zara comes, abate of your Aversion.
OSM. I hate her not, nor can dissemble Love:
But as I may, I’ll do. I have a Paper
Which I would shew thee, Friend, but that the Sight
Would hold thee here, and clog thy Expedition.
Within I found it, by my Father’s Hand
‘Twas writ; a Pray’r for me, wherein appears
Paternal Love prevailing o’er his Sorrows;
Such Sanctity, such Tenderness, so mix’d
With Grief, as wou’d draw Tears from Inhumanity.
HEL. The Care of Providence sure left it there,
To arm your Mind with Hope. Such Piety
Was never heard in vain: Heav’n has in Store
For you, those Blessings it with-held from him.
In that Assurance live; which Time, I hope,
And our next Meeting will confirm.
My Friend, the Good thou dost deserve attend thee. [Ex. HELI.]
I’ve been to blame, and question’d with Impiety
The Care of Heav’n. Not so my Father bore
More Anxious Grief. This shou’d have better taught me;
This Lesson, in some Hour of Inspiration,
By him set down; when his pure Thoughts were born,
Like Fumes of Sacred Incense, o’er the Clouds,
And wafted thence, on Angels Wings, thro’ Ways
Of Light to the bright Source of all. There, in
The Book of Prescience, he beheld this Day;
And waking to the World and mortal Sense,
Left this Example of his Resignation,
This his last Legacy to me, which I
Will treasure here; more worth than Diadems,
Or all extended Rule of Regal Pow’r. –
Enter ZARA veil’d. –
What Brightness breaks upon me, thus thro’ Shades,
And promises a Day to this dark Dwelling!
Is it my Love?-
ZARA. O that thy Heart, had taught [Lifting her Veil.]
Thy Tongue that Saying.
OSM. Zara! I’m betray’d
By my surprize.
ZARA. What, does my Face displease thee?
That having seen it, thou do’st turn thy Eyes
Away, as from Deformity and Horrour.
If so, this Sable Curtain shall again
Be drawn, and I will stand before thee seeing,
And unseen. Is it my Love? as again
That Question, speak again in that soft Voice,
And look again with Wishes in thy Eyes.
O no, thou can’st not, for thou seest me now,
As she, whose Savage Breast has been the Cause
Of these thy Wrongs; as she, whose barbarous Rage
Has loaden thee with Chains and galling Irons:
Well, dost thou scorn me, and upbraid my Falseness;
Cou’d one that lov’d thus torture what she lov’d?
No, no, it must be Hatred, dire Revenge
And Detestation, that cou’d use thee thus.
So thou dost think; then do but tell me so;
Tell me, and thou shalt see how I’ll revenge
Thee on this false one, how I’ll stab and tear
This Heart of Flint, ’till it shall bleed; and thou
Shalt weep for mine, forgetting thy own Miseries.
OSM. You wrong me, beauteous Zara, to believe
I bear my Fortunes with so low a Mind,
As still to meditate Revenge on all
Whom Chance,, or Fate working by secret Causes,
Has made perforce subservient to that End
The Heav’nly Pow’rs allot me; no, not you,
But Destiny and inauspicious Stars
Have cast me down to this low Being: Or,
Granting you had, from you I have deserv’d it.
ZARA. Can’st thou forgive me then? Wilt thou believe
So kindly of my Fault, to call it Madness?
O, give that Madness yet a milder Name,
And call it Passion; then, be still more kind,
And call that Passion Love.
OSM. Give it a Name,
Or Being as you please, such I will think it.
ZARA. O thou dost wound me more with this thy Goodness,
Than e’er thou cou’dst with bitterest Reproaches;
Thy Anger cou’d not pierce thus, to my Heart.
OSM. Yet I could wish-
ZARA. Hast me to know it, what?
OSM. That at this Time, I had not been this Thing.
ZARA. What Thing?
OSM. This Slave.
ZARA. O Heav’n! my Fears interpret
This thy Silence; somewhat of high Concern,
Long fashioning within thy labouring Mind,
And now just ripe for birth, my Rage has ruin’d.
Have I done this? Tell me, am I so curs’d?
OSM. Time may have still one fated Hour to come,
Which wing’d wit Liberty, might overtake
ZARA. Swift as Occasion, I
My self will flie; and earlier than the Morn
Wake thee to Freedom. Now ’tis late; and yet
Some News, few Minutes past arriv’d, which seem’d
To shake the Temper of the King- who knows
What racking Cares disease a Monarch’s Bed?
Or Love, that late at Night still lights his Lamp,
And strikes his Rays thro dusk; and folded Lids,
Forbidding rest; may stretch his Eyes awake,
And force their Balls abroad, at this dead Hour.
OSM. I have not merited this Grace;
Nor, should my secret Purpose take Effect,
Can I repay, as you require, such Benefits.
ZARA. Thou canst not owe me more, nor have I more
To give, than I’ve already lost. But as
The present Form of our Engagements rests,
Thou hast the Wrong, ’till I redeem thee hence;
That done, I leave thy Justice to return
My Love. Adieu. [Exit ZARA.]
OSM. This Woman has a Soul
Of God-like Mould, intrepid and commanding,
And challenges, in spight of me, my best
Esteem; to this she’s fair, few more can boast
Of Personal Charms, or with less Vanity
Might hope to captivate the Hearts of Kings.
But she has Passions which out-strip the Wind,
And tear her Virtues up, as Tempests root
The Sea. I fear when she shall know the Truth,
Some swift and dire event, of her blind Rage
Will make all fatal. But behold, she comes
For whom I fear, to shield me from my Fears. –
[Enter ALMERIA. –]
The Cause and Comfort of my boding Heart,
My Life, my Health, my Liberty, my All,
How shall I welcome thee to this sad Place?
How speak to thee the Words of Joy and Transport?
How run into thy Arms, with-held by Fetters;
Or take thee into mine, thus manacled
And pinion’d like a Thief or Murderer?
Shall I not hurt or bruise thy tender Body,
And stain thy Bosom with the Rust of these
Rude Irons? Must I meet thee thus, Almeria?
ALM. Thus, thus; we parted, thus to meet again.
Thou told’st me thou would’st think how we might meet
To part no more- Now we will part no more,
For these thy Chains, or Death, shall join us ever.
OSM. Hard Means to ratifie that Word!- O Cruelty!
That ever I should think beholding thee
A Torture!- Yet, such is the bleeding Anguish
Of my Heart, to see thy Sufferings- O Heav’n!
That I cou’d almost turn my Eyes away,
Or wish thee from my Sight.
ALM. O say not so;
Tho’ ’tis because thou lov’st me. Do not say,
On any Terms, that thou dost wish me from thee.
No, no, ’tis better thus, that we together
Feed on each other’s Heart, devour our Woes
With mutual Appetite; and mingling in
One Cup, the common Stream of both our Eyes,
Drink bitter Draughts, with never-slacking Thirst.
Thus better, than for any Cause to part.
What dost thou think? Look not so tenderly
Upon me- speak, and take me in thy Arms-
Thou canst not! thy poor Arms are bound and strive
In vain with the remorseless Chains, which gnaw
And eat into thy Flesh, festring thy Limbs
With rancling Rust.
OSM. Oh! O-
ALM. Give me that Sigh.
Why do’st thou heave, and stifle in thy Griefs?
Thy Heart will burst, thy Eyes look red and start;
Give thy Soul way, and tell me thy dark Thought.
OSM. For this World’s Rule, I wou’d not wound thy Breast
With such a Dagger, as then stuck my Heart.
ALM. Why? why? to know it, cannot wound me more,
Than knowing thou hast felt it. Tell it me.
-Thou giv’st me Pain, with too much Tenderness!
OSM. And thy excessive Love distracts my Sense!
O could’st thou be less killing, soft or kind,
Grief wou’d not double thus his Darts against me.
ALM. Thou dost me Wrong, and Grief too robs my Heart,
If there, he shoot not ev’ry other Shaft;
Thy second self shou’d feel each other Wound,
And Woe shou’d be in equal Portions dealt.
I am thy Wife-
OSM. O thou hast search’d too deep:
There, there I bleed; there pull the cruel Cords,
That strain my cracking Nerves, Engines and Wheels;
That Piece-meal grind, are Beds of Down and Balm
To that Soul-racking Thought.
ALM. Then I am curs’d
Indeed, if that be so; if I’m thy Torment
Kill me, kill me then, dash me with thy Chains,
Tread on me, spurn me: Am I the bosom Snake,
That sucks thy warm Life-Blood, and gnaws thy Heart?
O that thy Words had force to break those Bonds,
As they have strength to tear this Heart in sunder;
So should’st thou be at large from all Oppression.
Am I, am I of all thy Woes the worst?
OSM. My All of Bliss, my everlasting Life,
Soul of my Soul, and End of all my Wishes,
Why dost thou thus unman me with thy Words,
And melt me down to mingle with thy Weepings?
What dost thou ask? why dost thou talk thus piercingly?
Thy Sorrows have disturb’d thy Peace of Mind,
And thou dost speak of Miseries impossible.
ALM. Didst thou not say, that Racks and Wheels were Balm,
And Beds of Ease, to thinking me thy Wife?
OSM. No, no; nor should the subtlest Pains that Hell,
Or hell-born Malice can invent, extort
A Wish or Thought from me, to have thee other.
But thou wilt know what harrows up my Heart:
Thou art my Wife- nay, thou art yet my Bride!
The Sacred Union of Connubial Love
Yet unaccomplish’d; his mysterious Rites
Delay’d; nor has our Hymenial Torch
Yet lighted up, his last most grateful Sacrifice;
But dash’d with Rain from Eyes, and swail’d with Sighs,
Burns dim, and glimmers with expiring Light.
Is this dark Cell, a Temple for that God?
Or this vile Earth, an Altar for such Off’rings?
This Den for Slaves, this Dungeon damp’d with Woes;
Is this our Marriage-Bed! are these our Joys!
Is this to call thee mine? O hold my Heart:
To call thee mine? yes; thus, ev’n thus, to call
Thee mine, were Comfort, Joy, extremest Exstacy.
But O thou art not mine, not ev’n in misery;
And ’tis deny’d to me, to be so bless’d,
As to be wretched with thee.
ALM. No; not that
The extremest Malice of our Fate can hinder:
That still is left us, and on that we’ll feed,
As on the Leavings of Calamity.
There, we will feast, and smile on past Distress,
And hug, in scorn of it, our mutual Ruine.
OSM. O thou dost talk, my Love, as one resolv’d,
Because not knowing Danger. But look forward;
Think on to Morrow, when thou shalt be torn
From these weak, struggling, unextended Arms;
Think how my Heart will heave, and Eyes will strain,
To grasp and reach what is deny’d my Hands:
Think how the Blood will start, and Tears will gush
To follow thee my separating Soul.
Think how I am, when thou shalt wed with Garcia!
Then, will I smear these Walls with Blood, dash my
Disfigur’d Face, and rive my clotted Hair,
Break on the Ground my throbbing Breast,
And grovel with gash’d Hands to scratch a Grave,
Stripping my Nails, to tear this Pavement up,
And bury me alive; where I will bite the Ground
‘Till gorg’d with suffocating Earth.
ALM. O dismal Cruel! heart-breaking Horrour!
OSM. Then Garcia shall lie panting on thy Bosom,
Luxurious, revelling amidst thy Charms;
And thou perforce must yield, and aid his Transport.
Hell! Hell! have I not Cause to rage and rave?
What are all Racks, and Wheels, and Whips to this?
Are they not soothing Softness, sinking Ease,
And wasting Air to this? O my Almeria,
What do the Damn’d endure, but to despair,
But knowing Heav’n, to know it lost for ever?
ALM. O, I am struck; thy Words are Bolts of Ice,
Which shot into my Breast, now melt and chill me.
I chatter, shake, and faint with thrilling Fears.
No, hold me not- O, let us not support,
But sink each other, lower yet, down, down,
Where levell’d low, no more we’ll lift our Eyes,
But prone, and dumb, rot the firm Face of Earth
With Rivers of incessant scalding Rain.