Whitehall. A Room in the Palace.
MARY, GARDINER, POLE, PAGET, BONNER, etc.
The King and I, my Lords, now that all traitors
Against our royal state have lost the heads
Wherewith they plotted in their treasonous malice,
Have talk’d together, and are well agreed
That those old statutes touching Lollardism
To bring the heretic to the stake, should be
No longer a dead letter, but requicken’d.
ONE OF THE COUNCIL.
Why, what hath fluster’d Gardiner? how he rubs
I have changed a word with him
In coming, and may change a word again.
Madam, your Highness is our sun, the King
And you together our two suns in one;
And so the beams of both may shine upon us,
The faith that seem’d to droop will feel your light,
Lift head, and flourish; yet not light alone,
There must be heat—there must be heat enough
To scorch and wither heresy to the root.
For what saith Christ? ‘Compel them to come in.’
And what saith Paul? ‘I would they were cut off
That trouble you.’ Let the dead letter live!
Trace it in fire, that all the louts to whom
Their A B C is darkness, clowns and grooms
May read it! so you quash rebellion too,
For heretic and traitor are all one:
Two vipers of one breed—an amphisbæna,
Each end a sting: Let the dead letter burn!
Yet there be some disloyal Catholics,
And many heretics loyal; heretic throats
Cried no God-bless-her to the Lady Jane,
But shouted in Queen Mary. So there be
Some traitor-heretic, there is axe and cord.
To take the lives of others that are loyal,
And by the churchman’s pitiless doom of fire,
Were but a thankless policy in the crown,
Ay, and against itself; for there are many.
If we could burn out heresy, my Lord Paget,
We reck not tho’ we lost this crown of England—
Ay! tho’ it were ten Englands!
Right, your Grace.
Paget, you are all for this poor life of ours,
And care but little for the life to be.
I have some time, for curiousness, my Lord
Watch’d children playing at their life to be,
And cruel at it, killing helpless flies;
Such is our time—all times for aught I know.
We kill the heretics that sting the soul—
They, with right reason, flies that prick the flesh.
They had not reach’d right reason; little children!
They kill’d but for their pleasure and the power
They felt in killing.
A spice of Satan, ha!
Why, good! what then? granted!—we are fallen creatures;
Look to your Bible, Paget! we are fallen.
I am but of the laity, my Lord Bishop,
And may not read your Bible, yet I found
One day, a wholesome scripture, ‘Little children,
Love one another.’
Did you find a scripture,
‘I come not to bring peace but a sword’? The sword
Is in her Grace’s hand to smite with. Paget,
You stand up here to fight for heresy,
You are more than guess’d at as a heretic,
And on the steep-up track of the true faith
Your lapses are far seen.
The faultless Gardiner!
You brawl beyond the question; speak, Lord Legate!
Indeed, I cannot follow with your Grace:
Rather would say—the shepherd doth not kill
The sheep that wander from his flock, but sends
His careful dog to bring them to the fold.
Look to the Netherlands, wherein have been
Such holocausts of heresy! to what end?
For yet the faith is not established there.
The end’s not come.
No—nor this way will come,
Seeing there lie two ways to every end,
A better and a worse—the worse is here
To persecute, because to persecute
Makes a faith hated, and is furthermore
No perfect witness of a perfect faith
In him who persecutes: when men are tost
On tides of strange opinion, and not sure
Of their own selves, they are wroth with their own selves,
And thence with others; then, who lights the faggot?
Not the full faith, no, but the lurking doubt.
Old Rome, that first made martyrs in the Church,
Trembled for her own gods, for these were trembling—
But when did our Rome tremble?
Did she not
In Henry’s time and Edward’s?
What, my Lord!
The Church on Peter’s rock? never! I have seen
A pine in Italy that cast its shadow
Athwart a cataract; firm stood the pine—
The cataract shook the shadow. To my mind,
The cataract typed the headlong plunge and fall
Of heresy to the pit: the pine was Rome.
You see, my Lords,
It was the shadow of the Church that trembled;
Your church was but the shadow of a church,
Wanting the Papal mitre.
Here be tropes.
And tropes are good to clothe a naked truth,
And make it look more seemly.
You are hard to please. Then without tropes, my Lord,
An overmuch severeness, I repeat,
When faith is wavering makes the waverer pass
Into more settled hatred of the doctrines
Of those who rule, which hatred by and by
Involves the ruler (thus there springs to light
That Centaur of a monstrous Commonweal,
The traitor-heretic) then tho’ some may quail,
Yet others are that dare the stake and fire,
And their strong torment bravely borne, begets
An admiration and an indignation,
And hot desire to imitate; so the plague
Of schism spreads; were there but three or four
Of these misleaders, yet I would not say
Burn! and we cannot burn whole towns; they are many,
As my Lord Paget says.
Yet my Lord Cardinal—
I am your Legate; please you let me finish.
Methinks that under our Queen’s regimen
We might go softlier than with crimson rowel
And streaming lash. When Herod-Henry first
Began to batter at your English Church,
This was the cause, and hence the judgment on her.
She seethed with such adulteries, and the lives
Of many among your churchmen were so foul
That heaven wept and earth blush’d. I would advise
That we should thoroughly cleanse the Church within
Before these bitter statutes be requicken’d.
So after that when she once more is seen
White as the light, the spotless bride of Christ,
Like Christ himself on Tabor, possibly
The Lutheran may be won to her again;
Till when, my Lords, I counsel tolerance.
What, if a mad dog bit your hand, my Lord,
Would you not chop the bitten finger off,
Lest your whole body should madden with the poison?
I would not, were I Queen, tolerate the heretic,
No, not an hour. The ruler of a land
Is bounden by his power and place to see
His people be not poison’d. Tolerate them!
Why? do they tolerate you? Nay, many of them
Would burn—have burnt each other; call they not
The one true faith, a loathsome idol-worship?
Beware, Lord Legate, of a heavier crime
Than heresy is itself; beware, I say,
Lest men accuse you of indifference
To all faiths, all religion; for you know
Right well that you yourself have been supposed
Tainted with Lutheranism in Italy.
But you, my Lord, beyond all supposition,
In clear and open day were congruent
With that vile Cranmer in the accursed lie
Of good Queen Catherine’s divorce—the spring
Of all those evils that have flow’d upon us;
For you yourself have truckled to the tyrant,
And done your best to bastardise our Queen,
For which God’s righteous judgment fell upon you
In your five years of imprisonment, my Lord,
Under young Edward. Who so bolster’d up
The gross King’s headship of the Church, or more
Denied the Holy Father!
Ha! what! eh?
But you, my Lord, a polish’d gentleman,
A bookman, flying from the heat and tussle,
You lived among your vines and oranges,
In your soft Italy yonder! You were sent for.
You were appeal’d to, but you still preferr’d
Your learned leisure. As for what I did
I suffer’d and repented. You, Lord Legate
And Cardinal-Deacon, have not now to learn
That ev’n St. Peter in his time of fear
Denied his Master, ay, and thrice, my Lord.
But not for five-and-twenty years, my Lord.
Ha! good! it seems then I was summon’d hither
But to be mock’d and baited. Speak, friend Bonner,
And tell this learned Legate he lacks zeal.
The Church’s evil is not as the King’s,
Cannot be heal’d by stroking. The mad bite
Must have the cautery—tell him—and at once.
What would’st thou do hadst thou his power, thou
That layest so long in heretic bonds with me;
Would’st thou not burn and blast them root and branch?
Ay, after you, my Lord.
Nay, God’s passion, before me! speak!
I am on fire until I see them flame.
Ay, the psalm-singing weavers, cobblers, scum—
But this most noble prince Plantagenet,
Our good Queen’s cousin—dallying over seas
Even when his brother’s, nay, his noble mother’s,
Thou stirrest up a grief thou canst not fathom.
Thou Christian Bishop, thou Lord Chancellor
Of England! no more rein upon thine anger
Than any child! Thou mak’st me much ashamed
That I was for a moment wroth at thee.
I come for counsel and ye give me feuds,
Like dogs that set to watch their master’s gate,
Fall, when the thief is ev’n within the walls,
To worrying one another. My Lord Chancellor,
You have an old trick of offending us;
And but that you are art and part with us
In purging heresy, well we might, for this
Your violence and much roughness to the Legate,
Have shut you from our counsels. Cousin Pole,
You are fresh from brighter lands. Retire with me.
His Highness and myself (so you allow us)
Will let you learn in peace and privacy
What power this cooler sun of England hath
In breeding godless vermin. And pray Heaven
That you may see according to our sight.
[Exeunt Queen and Pole, etc.
Pole has the Plantagenet face,
But not the force made them our mightiest kings.
Fine eyes—but melancholy, irresolute—
A fine beard, Bonner, a very full fine beard.
But a weak mouth, an indeterminate—ha?
Well, a weak mouth, perchance.
And not like thine
To gorge a heretic whole, roasted or raw.
I’d do my best, my Lord; but yet the Legate
Is here as Pope and Master of the Church,
And if he go not with you—
Tut, Master Bishop,
Our bashful Legate, saw’st not how he flush’d?
Touch him upon his old heretical talk,
He’ll burn a diocese to prove his orthodoxy.
And let him call me truckler. In those times,
Thou knowest we had to dodge, or duck, or die;
I kept my head for use of Holy Church;
And see you, we shall have to dodge again,
And let the Pope trample our rights, and plunge
His foreign fist into our island Church
To plump the leaner pouch of Italy.
For a time, for a time.
Why? that these statutes may be put in force,
And that his fan may thoroughly purge his floor.
So then you hold the Pope—
I hold the Pope!
What do I hold him? what do I hold the Pope?
Come, come, the morsel stuck—this Cardinal’s fault—
I have gulpt it down. I am wholly for the Pope,
Utterly and altogether for the Pope,
The Eternal Peter of the changeless chair,
Crown’d slave of slaves, and mitred king of kings,
God upon earth! what more? what would you have?
Hence, let’s be gone.
Well that you be not gone,
My Lord. The Queen, most wroth at first with you,
Is now content to grant you full forgiveness,
So that you crave full pardon of the Legate.
I am sent to fetch you.
Doth Pole yield, sir, ha!
Did you hear ’em? were you by?
I cannot tell you,
His bearing is so courtly-delicate;
And yet methinks he falters: their two Graces
Do so dear-cousin and royal-cousin him,
So press on him the duty which as Legate
He owes himself, and with such royal smiles—
Smiles that burn men. Bonner, it will be carried.
He falters, ha? ’fore God, we change and change;
Men now are bow’d and old, the doctors tell you,
At three-score years; then if we change at all
We needs must do it quickly; it is an age
Of brief life, and brief purpose, and brief patience,
As I have shown to-day. I am sorry for it
If Pole be like to turn. Our old friend Cranmer,
Your more especial love, hath turn’d so often,
He knows not where he stands, which, if this pass,
We two shall have to teach him; let ’em look to it,
Cranmer and Hooper, Ridley and Latimer,
Rogers and Ferrar, for their time is come,
Their hour is hard at hand, their ‘dies Iræ’
Their ‘dies Illa,’ which will test their sect.
I feel it but a duty—you will find in it
Pleasure as well as duty, worthy Bonner,—
To test their sect. Sir, I attend the Queen
To crave most humble pardon—of her most
Royal, Infallible, Papal Legate-cousin.