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a scene from

by Lord Byron

MARINA : I have ventured, father, on your privacy.

DOGE: I have none from you, my child.
Command my time, when not commanded by the state.

MARINA : I wish'd to speak to you of him.

DOGE: Your husband?

MARINA : And your son.

DOGE: Proceed, my daughter!

MARINA : I had obtain'd permission from "the Ten"
To attend my husband for a limited number of hours.

DOGE: You had so.

MARINA : 'Tis revoked.

DOGE: By whom?

MARINA : "The Ten."—When we had reach'd "the Bridge of Sighs ,"
Which I prepared to pass with Foscari,
The gloomy guardian of that passage first
Demurr'd: a messenger was sent back to
"The Ten;"—but as the court no longer sate,
And no permission had been given in writing,
I was thrust back, with the assurance that
Until that high tribunal reassembled
The dungeon walls must still divide us.

DOGE: True, the form has been omitted in the haste
With which the court adjourn'd; and till it meets,
'Tis dubious.

MARINA : Till it meets! and when it meets,
They'll torture him again; and he and I
Must purchase by renewal of the rack
The interview of husband and of wife,
The holiest tie beneath the heavens!—Oh God!
Dost thou see this?

DOGE: Child—child—

MARINA : (abruptly). Call me not "child!"
You soon will have no children—you deserve none—
You, who can talk thus calmly of a son
In circumstances which would call forth tears
Of blood from Spartans! Though these did not weep
Their boys who died in battle, is it written
That they beheld them perish piecemeal, nor
Stretch'd forth a hand to save them?

DOGE: You behold me:
I cannot weep—I would I could; but if
Each white hair on this head were a young life,
This ducal cap the diadem of earth,
This ducal ring with which I wed the waves
A talisman to still them—I'd give all for him.

MARINA : With less he surely might be saved.

DOGE: That answer only shows you know not Venice .
Alas! how should you? she knows not herself,
In all her mystery. Hear me—they who aim
At Foscari, aim no less at his father;
The sire's destruction would not save the son;
They work by different means to the same end,
And that is—but they have not conquer'd yet.

MARINA : But thy have crush'd.

DOGE: Nor crush'd as yet—I live.

MARINA : And your son,—how long will he live?

DOGE: I trust, for all that yet is past, as many years
And happier than his father. The rash boy,
With womanish impatience to return,
Hath ruin'd all by that detected letter:
A high crime, which I neither can deny
Nor palliate, as parent or as Duke:
Had he but borne a little, little longer
His Candiote exile, I had hopes—he has quench'd them—
He must return.

MARINA : To exile?

DOGE: I have said it.

MARINA : And can I not go with him?

DOGE: You well know this prayer of yours was twice denied before
By the assembled "Ten," and hardly now
Will be accorded to a third request,
Since aggravated errors on the part
Of your lord renders them still more austere.

MARINA : Austere? Atrocious! The old human fiends,
With one foot in the grave, with dim eyes, strange
To tears save drops of dotage, with long white
And scanty hairs, and shaking hands, and heads
As palsied as their hearts are hard, they counsel,
Cabal, and put men's lives out, as if life
Were no more than the feelings long extinguish'd
In their accursed bosoms.

DOGE: You know not—

MARINA : I do—I do—and so should you, methinks—
That these are demons: could it be else that
Men, who have been of women born and suckled—
Who have loved, or talk'd at least of love—have given
Their hands in sacred vows—have danced their babes
Upon their knees, perhaps have mourn'd above them—
In pain, in peril, or in death—who are,
Or were at least in seeming, human, could
Do as they have done by yours, and you yourself—
You who abet them?

DOGE: I forgive this, for you know not what you say.

MARINA : You know it well,
And feel it nothing.

DOGE: I have borne so much,
That words have ceased to shake me.

MARINA : Oh, no doubt!
You have seen your son's blood flow, and your flesh shook not;
And after that, what are a woman's words?
No more than woman's tears, that they should shake you.

DOGE: Woman, this clamorous grief of thine, I tell thee,
Is no more in the balance weigh'd with that
Which—but I pity thee, my poor Marina!

MARINA : Pity my husband, or I cast it from me;
Pity thy son! Thou pity!—'tis a word
Strange to thy heart—how came it on thy lips?

DOGE: I must bear these reproaches, though they wrong me.
Couldst thou but read—

MARINA : 'Tis not upon thy brow,
Nor in thine eyes, nor in thine acts,—where then
Should I behold this sympathy? or shall?

DOGE: (pointing downwards). There.

MARINA : In the earth?

DOGE: To which I am tending: when
It lies upon this heart, far lightlier, though
Loaded with marble, than the thoughts which press it
Now, you will know me better.

MARINA : Are you, then, indeed, thus to be pitied?

DOGE: Pitied! None shall ever use that base word, with which men
Cloak their soul's hoarded triumph, as a fit one
To mingle with my name; that name shall be,
As far as I have borne it, what it was
When I received it.

MARINA : But for the poor children
Of him thou canst not, or thou wilt not save,
You were the last to bear it.

DOGE: Would it were so!
Better for him he never had been born;
Better for me.—I have seen our house dishonour'd.

MARINA : That's false! A truer, nobler, trustier heart,
More loving, or more loyal, never beat
Within a human breast. I would not change
My exiled, persecuted, mangled husband,
Oppress'd but not disgraced, crush'd, overwhelm'd,
Alive, or dead, for prince or paladin
In story or in fable, with a world
To back his suit. Dishonour'd!—he dishonour'd!
I tell thee, Doge, 'tis Venice is dishonour'd;
His name shall be her foulest, worst reproach,
For what he suffers, not for what he did.
'Tis ye who are all traitors, tyrant!—ye!
Did you but love your country like this victim
Who totters back in chains to tortures, and
Submits to all things rather than to exile,
You'd fling yourselves before him, and implore
His grace for your enormous guilt.

DOGE: He was indeed all you have said. I better bore
The deaths of the two sons Heaven took from me,
Than Jacopo's disgrace.

MARINA : That word again?

DOGE: Has he not been condemn'd?

MARINA : Is none but guilt so?

DOGE: Time may restore his memory—I would hope so.
He was my pride, my—but 'tis useless now—
I am not given to tears, but wept for joy
When he was born: those drops were ominous.

MARINA : I say he's innocent! And were he not so,
Is our own blood and kin to shrink from us
In fatal moments?

DOGE: I shrank not from him:
But I have other duties than a father's;
The state would not dispense me from those duties;
Twice I demanded it, but was refused:
They must then be fulfill'd.

* * *

Download the full text of The Two Foscari



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