Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

Otho the Great: A Tragedy in Five Acts: Act V SCENE V

  • A Banquetting Hall, brilliantly illuminated, and set forth with all costly magnificence, with supper-tables, laden with services of gold and silver. A door in the back scene, guarded by two Soldiers. Lords, Ladies, Knights, Gentleman, etc., whispering sadly, and ranging themselves; part entering and part discovered.
  • First knight. Grievously are we tantaliz’d, one and all;
  • Sway’d here and there, commanded to and fro,
  • As though we were the shadows of a dream,
  • And link’d to a sleeping fancy. What do we here?
  • Gonfrid. I am no seer; you know we must obey
  • The Prince from A to Z, though it should be
  • To set the place in flames. I pray, hast heard
  • Where the most wicked Princess is?
  • First knight. There, sir,
  • In the next room; have you remark’d those two
  • Stout soldiers posted at the door?
  • Gonfrid. For what? (They whisper)
  • First lady. How ghast a train!
  • Second lady. Sure this should be some splendid burial.
  • First lady. What fearful whispering! See, see, — Gersa there!
  • Enter GERSA.
  • Gersa. Put on your brightest looks; smile if you can;
  • Behave as all were happy; keep your eyes
  • From the least watch upon him; if he speaks
  • Without surprise, his questions, howe’er strange.
  • Do this to the utmost, — though, alas! with me
  • The remedy grows Hopeless! Here he comes, —
  • Observe what I have said, — show no surprise.
  • Enter LUDOLPH, followed by SIGIFRED and Page.
  • Ludolph. A splendid company! rare beauties here!
  • I should have Orphean lips, and Plato’s fancy,
  • Amphion’s utterance, toned with his lyre,
  • Or the deep key of Jove’s sonorous mouth,
  • To give fit salutation. Methought I heard,
  • As I came in, some whispers, — what of that?
  • ’Tis natural men should whisper; at the kiss
  • Of Psyche given by Love, there was a buzz
  • Among the gods! — and silence is as natural.
  • These draperies are fine, and, being a mortal,
  • I should desire no better; yet, in truth,
  • There must be some superior costliness,
  • Some wider-domed high magnificence!
  • I would have, as a mortal I may not,
  • Hanging of heaven’s clouds, purple and gold,
  • Slung from the spheres; gauzes of silver mist,
  • Loop’d up with cords of twisted wreathed light,
  • And tassell’d round with weeping meteors!
  • As earthly fires from dull dross can be cleansed;
  • Yet could my eyes drink up intenser beams
  • Undazzled, — this is darkness, — when I close
  • These lids, I see far fiercer brilliances, —
  • Skies full of splendid moons, and shooting stars,
  • And spouting exhalations, diamond fires,
  • And panting fountains quivering with deep glows!
  • Yes — this is dark — is it not dark?
  • Sigifred. My lord,
  • ’Tis late; the lights of festival are ever
  • Quench’d in the morn.
  • Ludolph. ’Tis not to-morrow then?
  • Sigifred. ’Tis early dawn.
  • Gersa. Indeed full time we slept;
  • Say you so, Prince?
  • Ludolph. I say I quarrell’d with you;
  • We did not tilt each other, — that’s a blessing, —
  • Good gods! no innocent blood upon my head!
  • Sigifred. Retire, Gersa!
  • Ludolph. There should be three more here
  • For two of them, they stay away perhaps,
  • Being gloomy-minded, haters of fair revels, —
  • They know their own thoughts best. As for the third,
  • We’ll have her presently; ay, you shall see her,
  • And wonder at her, friends, she is so fair;
  • Deep blue eyes, semi-shaded in white lids
  • Finish’d with lashes fine for more soft shade,
  • White temples, of exactest elegance,
  • Of even mould, felicitous and smooth;
  • Cheeks fashion’d tenderly on either side,
  • So perfect, so divine, that our poor eyes
  • Are dazzled with the sweet proportioning,
  • And wonder that ’tis so, — the magic chance!
  • Her nostrils, small, fragrant, faery-delicate;
  • Her lips — I swear no human bones e’er wore
  • So taking a disguise; — you shall behold her!
  • She is the world’s chief jewel, and, by heaven
  • She’s mine by right of marriage! — she is mine!
  • Patience, good people. In fit time I send
  • A summoner, — she will obey my call,
  • Being a wife most mild and dutiful.
  • First I would hear what music is prepared
  • To herald and receive her; let me hear!
  • Sigifred. Bid the musicians soothe him tenderly. (A soft strain of music.)
  • Ludolph. Ye have none better? no, I am content;
  • ’Tis a rich sobbing melody, with reliefs
  • Full and majestic; it is well enough,
  • And will be sweeter, when ye see her pace
  • Sweeping into this presence, glisten’d o’er
  • With emptied caskets, and her train upheld
  • Sprinkled with golden crescents, others bright
  • In silks, with spangles shower’d, and bow’d to
  • By duchesses and pearled margravines!
  • Sad, that the fairest creature of the earth —
  • I pray you mind me not — ’tis sad, I say,
  • That the extremest beauty of the world
  • Should so entrench herself away from me,
  • Behind a barrier of engender’d guilt!
  • Second lady. Ah! what a moan!
  • First knight. Most piteous indeed!
  • Ludolph. She shall be brought before this company,
  • And then — then —
  • First lady. He muses.
  • Gersa. O, Fortune, where will this end?
  • Sigifred. I guess his purpose! indeed he must not have
  • That pestilence brought in, — that cannot be,
  • There we must stop him.
  • Gersa. I am lost! Hush, hush!
  • He is about to rave again.
  • Ludolph. A barrier of guilt! I was the fool,
  • She was the cheater! Who’s the cheater now,
  • And who the fool? The entrapp’d, the caged fool,
  • The bird-limed raven? She shall croak to death
  • Secure! Methinks I have her in my fist,
  • To crush her with my heel! Wait, wait! I marvel
  • Do bring him to me, — and Erminia
  • I fain would see before I sleep — and Ethelbert
  • That he may bless me, as I know he will,
  • Though I have curs’d him.
  • Sigifred. Rather suffer me
  • To lead you to them.
  • Ludolph. No, excuse me, — no!
  • The day is not quite done. Go, bring them hither. (Exit SIGIFRED,)
  • Certes, a father’s smile should, like sun light,
  • Slant on my sheafed harvest of ripe bliss.
  • Besides, I thirst to pledge my lovely bride
  • In a deep goblet: let me see — what wine?
  • The strong Iberian juice, or mellow Greek?
  • Or pale Calabrian? or the Tuscan grape?
  • Or of old Aetna’s pulpy wine-presses,
  • Black stain’d with the fat vintage, as it were
  • The purple slaughter-house, where Bacchus’ self
  • Prick’d his own swollen veins! Where is my page?
  • Page. Here, here!
  • Ludolph. Be ready to obey me; anon thou shalt
  • Bear a soft message for me; for the hour
  • Draws near when I must make a winding up
  • Of bridal mysteries. A fine-spun vengeance!
  • Carve it on my tomb, that, when I rest beneath,
  • But from the ashes of disgrace he rose
  • More than a fiery dragon, and did burn
  • His ignominy up in purging fires!
  • Did I not send, sir, but a moment past,
  • For my father?
  • Gersa. You did.
  • Ludolph. Perhaps ’twould be
  • Much better he came not.
  • Gersa. He enters now!
  • Enter OTHO, ERMINIA, ETHELBERT, SIGIFRED, and Physician.
  • Ludolph. O! thou good man, against whose sacred head
  • I was a mad conspirator, chiefly too
  • For the sake of my fair newly wedded wife,
  • Now to be punish’d! — do not look so sad!
  • Those charitable eyes will thaw my heart,
  • Those tears will wash away a just resolve,
  • A verdict ten times sworn! Awake — awake —
  • Put on a judge’s brow, and use a tongue
  • Made iron-stern by habit! Thou shalt see
  • A deed to be applauded, ’scribed in gold!
  • Join a loud voice to mine, and so denounce
  • What I alone will execute!
  • Otho. Dear son,
  • What is it? By your father’s love, I sue
  • That it be nothing merciless!
  • Ludolph. To that demon?
  • Not so! No! She is in temple-stall
  • The priest of justice, will immolate her
  • Upon the altar of wrath! she stings me through! —
  • Even as the worm doth feed upon the nut,
  • So she, a scorpion, preys upon my brain!
  • I feel her gnawing here! Let her but vanish,
  • Then, father, I will lead your legions forth,
  • Compact in steeled squares, and speared files,
  • And bid our trumpets speak a fell rebuke
  • To nations drowsed in peace!
  • Otho. To-morrow, son,
  • Be your word law; forget to-day —
  • Ludolph. I will
  • When I have finish’d it! Now, — now, I’m pight,
  • Tight-footed for the deed!
  • Erminia. Alas! Alas!
  • Ludolph.What angel’s voice is that? erminia!
  • Ah! gentlest creature, whose sweet innocence
  • Was almost murder’d; I am penitent,
  • Wilt thou forgive me? And thou, holy man,
  • Good Ethelbert, shall I die in peace with you?
  • Erminia. Die, my lord!
  • Ludolph. I feel it possible.
  • Otho. Physician?
  • Physician. I fear me he is past my skill.
  • Otho. Not so!
  • Ludolph. Half-mad — not right here — I forget my purpose.
  • Bestir — bestir — Auranthe! Ha! ha! ha!
  • Youngster! Page! go bid them drag her to me!
  • Obey! This shall finish it! (Draws a dagger.)
  • Otho. O, my son! my son!
  • Sigifred. This must not be — stop there!
  • Ludolph. Am I obey’d?
  • A little talk with her — no harm — haste! haste! (Exit Page.)
  • Set her before me — never fear I can strike.
  • Several Voices. My lord! my lord!
  • Gersa. Good Prince!
  • Ludolph. Why do ye trouble me? out — out — out away!
  • There she is! take that! and that! no no,
  • That’s not well done. — Where is she?
  • The doors open. Enter Page. Several women are seen grouped about AURANTHE in the inner-room.
  • Page. Alas! My lord, my lord! they cannot move her!
  • Her arms are stiff, — her fingers clench’d and cold!
  • Ludolph. She’s dead! (Staggers and falls into their arms.)
  • Ethelbert. Take away the dagger.
  • Gersa. Softly; so!
  • Otho. Thank God for that!
  • Sigifred. I fear it could not harm him.
  • Gersa. No! — brief be his anguish!
  • Ludolph. She’s gone! I am content — nobles, good night!
  • We are all weary — faint — set ope the doors —
  • Where is your hand — father, what sultry air!
  • We are all weary — faint — set ope the doors —
  • I will to bed! — to-morrow — Dies.
  • THE CURTAIN FALLS.

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Keats, John. “Otho the Great: A Tragedy in Five Acts: Act V SCENE V.” 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_v_scene_v.html.

Chicago Style: Note

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

Chicago Style: Bibliography

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