The Return of the Druses

Act V

Robert Browning

The Uninitiated Druses, filing the ball tumultuously, and speaking together.

Here flock we, obeying the summons. Lo, Hakeem hath appeared, and the Prefect is dead, and we return to Lebanon! My manufacture of goats’ fleece must, I doubt, soon fall away there. Come, old Nasif—link thine arm in mine—we fight, if needs be. Come, what is a great fight-word?—“Lebanon”? (My daughter—my daughter!)—But is Khalil to have the office of Hamza?—Nay, rather, if he be wise, the monopoly of henna and cloves. Where is Hakeem?—The only prophet I ever saw, prophesied at Cairo once, in my youth: a little black Copht, dressed all in black too, with a great stripe of yellow cloth flapping down behind him like the back-fin of a water-serpent. Is this he? Biamrallah! Biamreh! HAKEEM!

Enter the NUNCIO, with Guards.

    NUNCIO [to his Attendants].
Hold both, the sorcerer and this accomplice
Ye talk of, that accuseth him! And tell
Sir Loys he is mine, the Church’s hope:
Bid him approve himself our Knight indeed!
Lo, this black disemboguing of the Isle!
[To the Druses.] Ah children, what a sight for these old eyes
That kept themselves alive this voyage through
To smile their very last on you! I came
To gather one and all you wandering sheep
Into my fold, as though a father came . . . 
As though, in coming, a father should . . . 
                        [To his Guards.] (Ten, twelve
—Twelve guards of you, and not an outlet? None?
The wizards stop each avenue? Keep close!)
[To the Druses.] As if one came to a son’s house, I say,
So did I come—no guard with me—to find . . . 

    A DRUSE.
Who is the old man?

                                Oh, ye are to shout!
Children, he styles you.

                        Ay, the Prefect’s slain!
Glory to the Khalif, our Father!

                                        Even so
I find, (ye prompt aright) your father slain.
While most he plotted for your good, that father
(Alas, how kind, ye never knew)—lies slain.
[Aside.] (And hell’s worm gnaw the glozing knave—with me,
For being duped by his cajoleries!
Are these the Christians? These the docile crew
My bezants went to make me Bishop o’er?)

[To his Attendants, who whisper.]
What say ye does this wizard style himself?
Hakeem? Biamrallah? The third Fatemite?
What is this jargon? He—the insane Khalif,
Dead near three hundred years ago, come back
In flesh and blood again?

                        He mutters! Hear ye?
He is blaspheming Hakeem. The old man
Is our dead Prefect’s friend. Tear him!

                                                Ye dare not.
I stand here with my five-and-seventy years,
The Patriarch’s power behind me, God’s above.
Those years have witnessed sin enough; ere now
Misguided men arose against their lords,
And found excuse; but ye, to be enslaved
By sorceries, cheats—alas! the same tricks, tried
On my poor children in this nook o’ the earth,
Could triumph, that have been successively
Exploded, laughed to scorn, all nations through:
Romaioi, Ioudaioite kai proselutoi,
Cretes and Arabians”—you are duped the last.
Said I, refrain from tearing me? I pray ye
Tear me! Shall I return to tell the Patriarch
That so much love was wasted—every gift
Rejected, from his benison I brought,
Down to the galley-full of bezants, sunk
An hour since at the harbor’s mouth, by that . . . 
That . . .  never will I speak his hated name!
[To his Servants.] What was the name his fellow slip-fetter
Called their arch-wizard by? [They whisper.] Oh, Djabal was ’t?

But how a sorcerer? false wherein?

                                                (Ay, Djabal!)
How false? Ye know not, Djabal has confessed . . . 
Nay, that by tokens found on him we learn . . . 
What I sailed hither solely to divulge—
How by his spells the demons were allured
To seize you: not that these be aught save lies
And mere illusions. Is this clear? I say,
By measures such as these, he would have led you
Into a monstrous ruin: follow ye?
Say, shall ye perish for his sake, my sons?

Hark ye!

                —Be of one privilege amerced?
No! Infinite the Patriarch’s mercies are!
No! With the Patriarch’s license, still I bid
Tear him to pieces who misled you! Haste!

The old man’s beard shakes, and his eyes are white fire! After all, I know nothing of Djabal beyond what Karshook says; he knows but what Khalil says, who knows just what Djabal says himself. Now, the little Copht Prophet, I saw at Cairo in my youth, began by promising each bystander three full measures of wheat . . . 

Enter KHALIL and the initiated Druses.

Venice and her deliverance are at hand:
Their fleet stands through the harbor. Hath he slain
The Prefect yet? Is Djabal’ s change come yet?

    NUNCIO [to Attendants].
What’s this of Venice? Who’s this boy?
                [Attendants whisper.] One Khalil?
Djabal’s accomplice, Loys called, but now,
The only Druse, save Djabal’s self, to fear?
[To the Druses.] I cannot hear ye with these aged ears:
Is it so? Ye would have my troops assist?
Doth he abet him in his sorceries?
Down with the cheat, guards, as my children bid!

[They spring at KHALIL; as he beats them back,
Stay! No more bloodshed! Spare deluded youth!
Whom seek’st thou? (I will teach him)—whom, my child?
Thou know’st not what these know, what these declare.
I am an old man as thou seest—have done
With life; and what should move me but the truth?
Art thou the only fond one of thy tribe?
’T is I interpret for thy tribe.

                                            Oh, this
Is the expected Nuncio! Druses, hear—
Endure ye this? Unworthy to partake
The glory Hakeem gains you! While I speak,
The ships touch land: who makes for Lebanon?
They plant the winged lion in these halls!

    NUNCIO [aside].
If it be true! Venice? Oh, never true!
Yet Venice would so gladly thwart our Knights,
So fain get footing here, stand close by Rhodes!
Oh, to be duped this way!

                                Ere he appear
And lead you gloriously, repent, I say!

    NUNCIO [aside].
Nor any way to stretch the arch-wizard stark
Ere the Venetians come? Cut off the head,
The trunk were easily stilled. [To the Druses.] He? Bring him forth!
Since so you needs will have it, I assent.
You’d judge him, say you, on the spot—confound
The sorcerer in his very circle? Where’s
Oar short black-bearded sallow friend who swore
He’d earn the Patriarch’s guerdon by one stab?
Bring Djabal forth at once!

                                Ay, bring him forth!
The Patriarch drives a trade in oil and silk,
And we’re the Patriarch’s children—true men, we!
Where is the glory? Show us all the glory!

You dare not so insult him! What, not see . . . 
(I tell thee, Nuncio, these are uninstructed,
Untrusted: they know nothing of our Khalif!)
—Not see that if he lets a doubt arise
’T is but to give yourselves the chance of seeming
To have some influence in your own return!
That all may say ye would have trusted him
Without the all-convincing glory—ay,
And did! Embrace the occasion, friends! For, think—
What wonder when his change takes place? But now
For your sakes, he should not reveal himself.
No: could I ask and have, I would not ask
The change yet!

Enter DJABAL and LOYS.

                                Spite of all, reveal thyself!
I had said, pardon them for me—for Anael—
For our sakes pardon these besotted men
Ay, for thine own—they hurt not thee! Yet now
One thought swells in me and keeps down all else.
This Nuncio couples shame with thee, has called
Imposture thy whole course, all bitter things
Has said: he is but an old fretful man!
Hakeem—nay, I must call thee Hakeem now—
Reveal thyself! See! Where is Anael? See!

    LOYS [to DJABAL].
Here are thy people. Keep thy word to me!

Who of my people hath accused me?

So this is Djabal, Hakeem, and what not?
A fit deed, Loys, for thy first Knight’s day!
May it be augury of thy after-life!
Ever prove truncheon of the Church as now
That, Nuncio of the Patriarch, having charge
Of the Isle here, I claim thee [turning to DJABAL] as these bid me,
Forfeit for murder done thy lawful prince,
Thou conjurer that peep’st and mutterest!
Why should I hold thee from their hands? (Spells, children?
But hear how I dispose cf all his spells!)
Thou art a prophet?—wouldst entice thy tribe
From me?—thou workest miracles? (Attend!
Let him but move me with his spells!) I, Nuncio . . . 

 . . .  Which how thou earnest to be, I say not now,
Though I have also been at Stamboul, Luke!
Ply thee with spells, forsooth! What need of spells?
If Venice, in her Admiral’s person, stoop
To ratify thy compact with her foe,
The Hospitallers, for this Isle—withdraw
Her warrant of the deed which reinstates
My people in their freedom, tricked away
By him I slew,—refuse to convoy us
To Lebanon and keep the Isle we leave—
Then will be time to try what spells can do!
Dost thou dispute the Republic’s power?

                                                        Lo ye!
He tempts me too, the wily exorcist!
No! The renowned Republic was and is
The Patriarch’s friend: ’t is not for courting Venice
That I—that these implore thy blood of me.
Lo ye, the subtle miscreant! Ha, so subtle?
Ye, Druses, hear him. Will ye be deceived?
How he evades me! Where’s the miracle
He works? I bid him to the proof—fish up
Your galley-full of bezants that he sank!
That were a miracle! One miracle!
Enough of trifling, for it chafes my years.
I am the Nuncio, Druses! I stand forth
To save you from the good Republic’s rage
When she shall find her fleet was summoned here
To aid the mummeries of a knave like this.
        [As the Druses hesitate, his Attendants whisper.
Ah, well suggested! Why, we hold the while
One who, his close confederate till now,
Confesses Djabal at the last a cheat,
And every miracle a cheat. Who throws me
His head? I make three offers, once I offer,—
And twice . . . 

                Let who moves perish at my foot!

Thanks, Hakeem, thanks! Oh, Anael, Maani,
Why tarry they?

    DRUSES [to each other].
He can! He can! Live fire—
[To the NUNCIO.] I say he can, old man! Thou know’st him not.
Live fire like that thou seest now in his eyes,
Plays fawning round him. See! The change begins.
All the brow lightens as he lifts his arm.
Look not at me! It was not I!

                                                What Druse
Accused me, as he saith? I bid each bone
Crumble within that Druse! None, Loys, none
Of my own people, as thou said’st, have raised
A voice against me.

    NUNCIO [aside].
Venice to come! Death!

    DJABAL [continuing].
Confess and go unscathed, however false!
Seest thou my Druses, Luke? I would submit
To thy pure malice did one Druse confess!
How said I, Loys?

    NUNCIO [to his Attendants who whisper].
Ah, ye counsel so?
[Aloud.] Bring in the witness, then, who, first of all,
Disclosed the treason! Now I have thee, wizard!
Ye hear that? If one speaks, he bids you tear him
Joint after joint: well then, one does speak! One,
Befooled by Djabal, even as yourselves,
But who hath voluntarily proposed
To expiate, by confessing thus, the fault
Of having trusted him. [They bring in a veiled Druse.

                        Now, Djabal, now!

Friend, Djabal fronts thee! Make a ring, sons. Speak!
Expose this Djabal—what he was, and how:
The wiles he used, the aims he cherished: all,
Explicitly as late ’t was spoken to these
My servants: I absolve and pardon thee.

Thou hast the dagger ready, Djabal?


Stand back, fool! farther! Suddenly
You shall see some huge serpent glide from under
The empty vest, or down will thunder crash!
Back, Khalil!

I go back? Thus go I back!
[To ANAEL.] Unveil! Nay, thou shalt face the Khalif! Thus!

[He tears away ANAEL’S veil; DJABAL folds his arms and bows bis bead; the Druses fall back , LOYS springs from the side of DJABAL and the NUNCIO.

Then she was true—she only of them all!
True to her eyes—may keep those glorious eyes,
And now be mine, once again mine! Oh, Anael!
Dared I think thee a partner in his crime—
That blood could soil that hand? nay, ’t is mine Anael,
—Not mine?—who offer thee before all these
My heart, my sword, my name—so thou wilt say
That Djabal, who affirms thou art his bride,
Lies—say but that he lies!

                                Thou, Anael?

Nay, Djabal, nay, one chance for me—the last!
Thou hast had every other; thou hast spoken
Days, nights, what falsehood listed thee—let me
Speak first now; I will speak now!

                                        Loys, pause!
Thou art the Duke’s son, Bretagne’s choicest stock,
Loys of Dreux, God’s sepulchre’s first sword:
This wilt thou spit on, this degrade, this trample
To earth?

    LOYS [to ANAEL].
Who had foreseen that one day Loys
Would stake these gifts against some other good
In the whole world? I give them thee! I would
My strong will might bestow real shape on them,
That I might see, with my own eyes, thy foot
Tread on their very neck! ’T is not by gifts
I put aside this Djabal: we will stand—
We do stand, see, two men! Djabal, stand forth!
Who’s worth her, I or thou? I—who for Anael
Uprightly, purely kept my way, the long
True way—left thee each by-path, boldly lived
Without the lies and blood,—or thou, or thou?
Me! love me, Anael! Leave the blood and him!
[To DJABAL.] Now speak—now, quick on this that I have said,—
Thou with the blood, speak if thou art a man!

    DJABAL [to ANAEL].
And was it thou betrayedst me? ’Tis well!
I have deserved this of thee, and submit.
Nor ’tis much evil thou inflictest: life
Ends here. The cedars shall not wave for us:
For there was crime, and must be punishment.
See fate! By thee I was seduced, by thee
I perish: yet do I—can I repent?
I with my Arab instinct, thwarted ever
By my Frank policy,—and with, in turn,
My Frank brain, thwarted by my Arab heart—
While these remained in equipoise, I lived
—Nothing; had either been predominant,
As a Frank schemer or an Arab mystic,
I had been something;—now, each has destroyed
The other—and behold, from out their crash,
A third and better nature rises up—
My mere man’s-nature! And I yield to it:
I love thee, I who did not love before!


                It seemed love, but it was not love:
How could I love while thou adoredst me?
Now thou despisest, art above me so
Immeasurably! Thou, no other, doomest
My death now; this my steel shall execute
Thy judgment; I shall feel thy hand in it.
Oh luxury to worship, to submit,
Transcended, doomed to death by thee!

                                                My Djabal!

Dost hesitate? I force thee then. Approach,
Druses! for I am out of reach of fate;
No further evil waits me. Speak the doom!
Hear, Druses, and hear, Nuncio, and hear, Loys!

HAKEEM!                        [She falls dead.

[The Druses scream, grovelling before him.
Ah Hakeem!—not on me thy wrath!
Biamrallah, pardon! never doubted I!
Ha, dog, how sayest thou?

[They surround and seize the NUNCIO and his Guards. LOYS flings himself upon the body of ANAEL, on which DJABAL continues to gaze as stupefied.

Caitiffs! Have ye eyes?
Whips, racks should teach you! What, his fools? his dupes?
Leave me! Unhand me!

    KHALIL [approaching DJABAL timidly].
Save her for my sake!
She was already thine; she would have shared
To-day thine exaltation: think, this day
Her hair was plaited thus because of thee!
Yes, feel the soft bright hair—feel!

    NUNCIO [struggling with those who have seized him].
                                        What, because
His leman dies for him? You think it hard
To die? Oh, would you were at Rhodes, and choice
Of deaths should suit you!

    KHALIL [bending over ANAEL’S body].
Just restore her life!
So little does it! there—the eyelids tremble!
’T was not my breath that made them: and the lips
Move of themselves. I could restore her life!
Hakeem, we have forgotten—have presumed
On our free converse: we are better taught.
See, I kiss—how I kiss thy garment’s hem
For her! She kisses it—Oh, take her deed
In mine! Thou dost believe now, Anael?—See,
She smiles! Were her lips open o’er the teeth
Thus, when I spoke first? She believes in thee!
Go not without her to the cedars, lord!
Or leave us both—I cannot go alone!
I have obeyed thee, if I dare so speak:
Hath Hakeem thus forgot all Djabal knew?
Thou feelest then my tears fall hot and fast
Upon thy hand, and yet thou speakest not?
Ere the Venetian trumpet sound—ere thou
Exalt thyself, O Hakeem! save thou her!

And the accursed Republic will arrive
And find me in their toils—dead, very like,
Under their feet!
                        What way—not one way yet
To foil them? None?        [Observing DJABAL’S face.
                                What ails the Khalif? Ah,
That ghastly face! A way to foil them yet!
[To the Druses.] Look to your Khalif, Druses! Is that face
God Hakeem’s? Where is triumph, where is . . . what
Said he of exaltation—hath he promised
So much to-day? Why then, exalt thyself!
Cast off that husk, thy form, set free thy soul
In splendor! Now, bear witness! here I stand—
I challenge him exalt himself, and I
Become, for that, a Druse like all of you!

Exalt thyself! Exalt thyself, O Hakeem!

    DJABAL [advances].
I can confess now all from first to last.
There is no longer shame for me. I am . . . 

[Here the Venetian trumpet sounds: the Druses shout, DJABAL’S eye catches the expression of those about him, and, as the old dream comes back, he is again confident and inspired.

—Am I not Hakeem? And ye would have crawled
But yesterday within these impure courts
Where now ye stand erect! Not grand enough?
—What more could be conceded to such beasts
As all of you, so sunk and base as you,
Than a mere man? A man among such beasts
Was miracle enough: yet him you doubt,
Him you forsake, him fain would you destroy—
With the Venetians at your gate, the Nuncio
Thus—(see the baffled hypocrite!) and, best,
The Prefect there!

                No, Hakeem, ever thine!

He lies—and twice he lies—and thrice he lies!
Exalt thyself, Mahound! Exalt thyself!

Druses! we shall henceforth be far away—
Out of mere mortal ken—above the cedars—
But we shall see ye go, hear ye return,
Repeopling the old solitudes,—through thee,
My Khalil! Thou art foil of me: I fill
Thee full—my hands thus fill thee! Yestereve,
—Nay, but this morn, I deemed thee ignorant
Of all to do, requiring word of mine
To teach it: now, thou hast all gifts in one,
With truth and purity go other gifts,
All gifts come clustering to that. Go, lead
My people home whate’er betide!
                        [Turning to the Druses.] Ye take
This Khalil for my delegate? To him
Bow as to me? He leads to Lebanon—
Ye follow?

We follow! Now exalt thyself!

    DJABAL [raises LOYS].
Then to thee, Loys! How I wronged thee, Loys!
Yet, wronged, no less thou shalt have full revenge,
Fit for thy noble self, revenge—and thus.
Thou, loaded with such wrongs, the princely soul,
The first sword of Christ’s sepulchre—thou shalt
Guard Khalil and my Druses home again!
Justice, no less, God’s justice and no more,
For those I leave! To seeking this, devote
Some few days out of thy Knight’s brilliant life:
And, this obtained them, leave their Lebanon,
My Druses’ blessing in thine ears (they shall
Bless thee with blessing sure to have its way)
—One cedar-blossom in thy ducal cap,
One thought of Anael in thy heart,—perchance,
One thought of him who thus, to bid thee speed,
His last word to the living speaks! This done,
Resume thy course, and, first amidst the first
In Europe, take my heart along with thee!
Go boldly, go serenely, go augustly—
What shall withstand thee then?
[He bends over ANAEL.]                And last to thee!
Ah, did I dream I was to have, this day,
Exalted thee? A vain dream: hast thou not
Won greater exaltation? What remains
But press to thee, exalt myself to thee?
Thus I exalt myself, set free my soul!

[He stabs himself. As he falls, supported by KHALIL and LOYS, the Venetians enter; the ADMIRAL advances.

God and St. Mark for Venice! Plant the Lion!

At the clash of the planted standard, the Druses shout and move tumultuously forward, LOYS draw ing his sword.

    DJABAL [Leading them a few steps between KHALIL and LOYS].
On to the Mountain! At the Mountain, Druses!


The Return of the Druses - Contents

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