Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

Otho the Great: A Tragedy in Five Acts: Act I SCENE III

  • The Country, with the Castle in the distance.
  • Enter LUDOLPH and SIGIFRED.
  • Ludolph. You have my secret; let it not be breath’d.
  • Sigifred. Still give me leave to wonder that my Prince
  • Ludolph, and the swift Arab are the same;
  • Still to rejoice that ’twas a German arm
  • Death doing in a turban’d masquerade.
  • Ludolph. The Emperor must not know it, Sigifred.
  • Sigifred. I prythee, why? what happier hour of time
  • Could thy pleas’d star point down upon from heaven
  • With silver index, bidding thee make peace?
  • Ludolph. Still it must not be known, good Sigifred;
  • The star may point oblique.
  • Sigifred. If Otho knew
  • His son to be that unknown Mussleman
  • After whose spurring heels he sent me forth,
  • With one of his well-pleas’d Olympian oaths,
  • The charters of man’s greatness, at this hour
  • He would be watching round the castle walls,
  • And, like an anxious warder, strain his sight
  • For the first glimpse of such a son return’d —
  • Ludolph, that blast of the Hungarians,
  • That Saracenic meteor of the fight,
  • That silent fury, whose fell scymitar
  • Kept danger all aloof from Otho’s head,
  • And left him space for wonder.
  • Ludolph. Say no more.
  • Not as a swordsman would I pardon claim,
  • But as a son. The bronzed centurion,
  • Long toil’d in foreign wars, and whose high deeds
  • Are shaded in a forest of tall spears,
  • Known only to his troop, hath greater plea
  • Of favour with my sire than I can have.
  • Sigifred. My lord, forgive me that I cannot see
  • How this proud temper with clear reason squares.
  • What made you then, with such an anxious love,
  • Hover around that life, whose bitter days
  • You vext with bad revolt? Was’t opium,
  • Or the mad-fumed wine? Nay, do not frown,
  • I rather would grieve with you than upbraid.
  • Ludolph. I do believe you. No, ’twas not to make
  • A father his son’s debtor, or to heal
  • His deep heart-sickness for a rebel child.
  • ’Twas done in memory of my boyish days,
  • Poor cancel for his kindness to my youth,
  • For all his calming of my childish griefs,
  • And all his smiles upon my merriment.
  • No, not a thousand foughten fields could sponge
  • Those days paternal from my memory,
  • Though now upon my head he heaps disgrace.
  • Sigifred. My Prince, you think too harshly —
  • Ludolph. Can I so?
  • Hath he not gall’d my spirit to the quick?
  • And with a sullen rigour obstinate
  • Pour’d out a phial of wrath upon my faults?
  • Hunted me as a Tartar does the boar,
  • Driven me to the very edge of the world,
  • And almost put a price upon my head?
  • Sigifred. Remember how he spared the rebel-lords.
  • Ludolph. Yes, yes, I know he hath a noble nature
  • That cannot trample on the fall’n. But his
  • Is not the only proud heart in his realm.
  • He hath wrong’d me, and I have done him wrong;
  • He hath lov’d me, and I have shown him kindness;
  • We should be almost equal.
  • Sigifred. Yet, for all this,
  • I would you had appear’d among those lords,
  • And ta’en his favour.
  • Ludolph. Ha! till now I thought
  • My friend had held poor Ludolph’s honour dear.
  • What! would you have me sue before his throne
  • And kiss the courtier’s missal, its silk steps?
  • Or hug the golden housings of his steed,
  • Amid a camp, whose steeled swarms I dared
  • But yesterday? and, at the trumpet sound,
  • Bow like some unknown mercenary’s flag,
  • And lick the soiled grass? No, no, my friend,
  • I would not, I, be pardon’d in the heap,
  • And bless indemnity with all that scum, —
  • Those men I mean, who on my shoulders propp’d
  • Their weak rebellion, winning me with lies,
  • And pitying forsooth my many wrongs;
  • Poor self-deceived wretches, who must think
  • Each one himself a king in embryo,
  • Because some dozen vassals cry’d — my lord!
  • Cowards, who never knew their little hearts,
  • Till flurried danger held the mirror up,
  • And then they own’d themselves without a blush,
  • Curling, like spaniels, round my father’s feet.
  • Such things deserted me and are forgiven,
  • While I, least guilty, am an outcast still,
  • And will be, for I live such fair disgrace.
  • Sigifred. I know the clear truth; so would Otho see,
  • For he is just and noble. Fain would I
  • Be pleader for you —
  • Ludolph. He’ll hear none of it;
  • You know his temper, hot, proud, obstinate;
  • Endanger not yourself so uselessly.
  • I will encounter his thwart spleen myself,
  • To-day, at the Duke Conrad’s, where he keeps
  • His crowded state after the victory,
  • There will I be, a most unwelcome guest,
  • And parley with him, as a son should do,
  • Who doubly loathes a father’s tyranny;
  • Tell him how feeble is that tyranny;
  • How the relationship of father and son
  • Is no more valid than a silken leash
  • Where lions tug adverse, if love grow not
  • From interchanged love through many years.
  • Aye, and those turreted Franconian walls,
  • Like to a jealous casket, hold my pearl —
  • My fair Auranthe! Yes, I will be there.
  • Sigifred. Be not so rash; wait till his wrath shall pass,
  • Until his royal spirit softly ebbs
  • Self-influenced; then, in his morning dreams
  • He will forgive thee, and awake in grief
  • To have not thy good morrow.
  • Ludolph. Yes, to-day
  • I must be there, while her young pulses beat
  • Among the new-plum’d minions of the war.
  • Have you seen her of late? No? Auranthe,
  • Franconia’s fair Sister, ’tis I mean.
  • She should be paler for my troublous days —
  • And there it is — my father’s iron lips
  • Have sworn divorcement ’twixt me and my right.
  • Sigifred (aside). Auranthe! I had hoped this whim had pass’d.
  • Ludolph. And, Sigifred, with all his love of justice,
  • When will he take that grandchild in his arms,
  • That, by my love I swear, shall soon be his?
  • This reconcilement is impossible,
  • For see — But who are these?
  • Sigifred. They are messengers
  • From our great Emperor; to you I doubt not,
  • For couriers are abroad to seek you out.
  • Enter THEODORE and GONFRID.
  • Theodore. Seeing so many vigilant eyes explore
  • The province to invite your Highness back
  • To your high dignities, we are too happy.
  • Gonfrid. We have no eloquence to colour justly
  • The emperor’s anxious wishes —
  • Ludolph. Go. I follow you.
  • (Exeunt THEODORE and GONFRID.
  • I play the prude: it is but venturing —
  • Why should he be so earnest? Come, my friend,
  • Let us to Friedburg castle.

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Keats, John. “Otho the Great: A Tragedy in Five Acts: Act I SCENE III.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, by G. Kim Blank. Edition 3.3 , University of Victoria, 5 September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_otho_act_i_scene_iii.html.

Chicago Style: Note

John Keats, “Otho the Great: A Tragedy in Five Acts: Act I SCENE III,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_otho_act_i_scene_iii.html.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Keats, John. “Otho the Great: A Tragedy in Five Acts: Act I SCENE III.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_otho_act_i_scene_iii.html.