Queen Mary


Scene V

Alfred Tennyson



So they have sent poor Courtenay over sea.

And banish’d us to Woodstock, and the fields.
The colours of our Queen are green and white,
These fields are only green, they make me gape.

There’s whitethorn, girl.

Ay, for an hour in May.
But court is always May, buds out in masques,
Breaks into feather’d merriments, and flowers
In silken pageants. Why do they keep us here?
Why still suspect your Grace?

                        Hard upon both.

[Writes on the window with a diamond.

Much suspected, of me
Nothing proven can be.
                Quoth Elizabeth, prisoner.

What hath your Highness written?

                                A true rhyme.

Cut with a diamond; so to last like truth.

Ay, if truth last.

                        But truth, they say, will out,
So it must last. It is not like a word,
That comes and goes in uttering.

                                Truth, a word!
The very Truth and very Word are one.
But truth of story, which I glanced at, girl,
Is like a word that comes from olden days,
And passes thro’ the peoples: every tongue
Alters it passing, till it spells and speaks
Quite other than at first.

                                I do not follow.

How many names in the long sweep of time
That so foreshortens greatness, may but hang
On the chance mention of some fool that once
Brake bread with us, perhaps: and my poor chronicle
Is but of glass. Sir Henry Bedingfield
May split it for a spite.

                                God grant it last,
And witness to your Grace’s innocence,
Till doomsday melt it.

                        Or a second fire,
Like that which lately crackled underfoot
And in this very chamber, fuse the glass,
And char us back again into the dust
We spring from. Never peacock against rain
Scream’d as you did for water.

                                And I got it.
I woke Sir Henry—and he’s true to you
I read his honest horror in his eyes.

Or true to you?

                                Sir Henry Bedingfield!
I will have no man true to me, your Grace,
But one that pares his nails; to me? the clown!

Out, girl! you wrong a noble gentleman.

For, like his cloak, his manners want the nap
And gloss of court; but of this fire he says.
Nay swears, it was no wicked wilfulness,
Only a natural chance.

                        A chance—perchance
One of those wicked wilfuls that men make,
Nor shame to call it nature. Nay, I know
They hunt my blood. Save for my daily range
Among the pleasant fields of Holy Writ
I might despair. But there hath some one come;
The house is all in movement. Hence, and see.

[Exit Lady.

    MILKMAID (singing without).

Shame upon you, Robin,
        Shame upon you now!
Kiss me would you? with my hands
        Milking the cow?
        Daisies grow again,
        Kingcups blow again,
And you came and kiss’d me milking the cow.

Robin came behind me,
        Kiss’d me well I vow;
Cuff him could I? with my hands
        Milking the cow?
        Swallows fly again,
        Cuckoos cry again,
And you came and kiss’d me milking the cow.

Come, Robin, Robin,
        Come and kiss me now;
Help it can I? with my hands
        Milking the cow?
        Ringdoves coo again,
        All things woo again.
Come behind and kiss me milking the cow!

Right honest and red-cheek’d; Robin was violent,
And she was crafty—a sweet violence,
And a sweet craft. I would I were a milkmaid,
To sing, love, marry, churn, brew, bake, and die,
Then have my simple headstone by the church,
And all things lived and ended honestly.
I could not if I would. I am Harry’s daughter:
Gardiner would have my head. They are not sweet,
The violence and the craft that do divide
The world of nature; what is weak must lie;
The lion needs but roar to guard his young;
The lapwing lies, says ‘here’ when they are there.
Threaten the child; ‘I’ll scourge you if you did it:’
What weapon hath the child, save his soft tongue,
To say ‘I did not?’ and my rod’s the block.
I never lay my head upon the pillow
But that I think, ‘Wilt thou lie there to-morrow?’
How oft the falling axe, that never fell,
Hath shock’d me back into the daylight truth
That it may fall to-day! Those damp, black, dead
Nights in the Tower; dead—with the fear of death
Too dead ev’n for a death-watch! Toll of a bell,
Stroke of a clock, the scurrying of a rat
Affrighted me, and then delighted me,
For there was life—And there was life in death—
The little murder’d princes, in a pale light,
Rose hand in hand, and whisper’d, ‘come away!
The civil wars are gone for evermore:
Thou last of all the Tudors, come away!
With us is peace!’ The last? It was a dream;
I must not dream, not wink, but watch. She has gone,
Maid Marian to her Robin—by and by
Both happy! a fox may filch a hen by night,
And make a morning outcry in the yard;
But there’s no Renard here to ‘catch her tripping.’
Catch me who can; yet, sometime I have wish’d
That I were caught, and kill’d away at once
Out of the flutter. The gray rogue, Gardiner,
Went on his knees, and pray’d me to confess
In Wyatt’s business, and to cast myself
Upon the good Queen’s mercy; ay, when, my Lord?
God save the Queen! My jailor—


One, whose bolts,
That jail you from free life, bar you from death.
There haunt some Papist ruffians hereabout
Would murder you.

                I thank you heartily, sir,
But I am royal, tho’ your prisoner,
And God hath blest or cursed me with a nose—
Your boots are from the horses.

                        Ay, my Lady.
When next there comes a missive from the Queen
It shall be all my study for one hour
To rose and lavender my horsiness,
Before I dare to glance upon your Grace.

A missive from the Queen: last time she wrote,
I had like to have lost my life: it takes my breath:
O God, sir, do you look upon your boots,
Are you so small a man? Help me: what think you,
Is it life or death.

                I thought not on my boots;
The devil take all boots were ever made
Since man went barefoot. See, I lay it here,
For I will come no nearer to your Grace;

[Laying down the letter.
And, whether it bring you bitter news or sweet,
And God hath given your Grace a nose, or not,
I’ll help you, if I may.

                        Your pardon, then;
It is the heat and narrowness of the cage
That makes the captive testy; with free wing
The world were all one Araby. Leave me now,
Will you, companion to myself, sir?

                                Will I?
With most exceeding willingness, I will;
You know I never come till I be call’d.


It lies there folded: is there venom in it?
A snake—and if I touch it, it may sting.
Come, come, the worst!
Best wisdom is to know the worst at once.        [Reads:

‘It is the King’s wish, that you should wed Prince Philibert of Savoy.
You are to come to Court on the instant; and think of this in your coming.

Think I have many thoughts;
I think there may be birdlime here for me;
I think they fain would have me from the realm;
I think the Queen may never bear a child;
I think that I may be some time the Queen,
Then, Queen indeed: no foreign prince or priest
Should fill my throne, myself upon the steps.
I think I will not marry anyone,
Specially not this landless Philibert
Of Savoy; but, if Philip menace me,
I think that I will play with Philibert,
As once the Holy Father did with mine,
Before my father married my good mother,—
For fear of Spain.

Enter LADY.

                O Lord! your Grace, your Grace,
I feel so happy: it seems that we shall fly
These bald, blank fields, and dance into the sun
That shines on princes.

                Yet, a moment since,
I wish’d myself the milkmaid singing here,
To kiss and cuff among the birds and flowers—
A right rough life and healthful.

                                But the wench
Hath her own troubles; she is weeping now;
For the wrong Robin took her at her word.
Then the cow kick’d, and all her milk was spilt.
Your Highness such a milkmaid?

                                I had kept
My Robins and my cows in sweeter order
Had I been such.

    LADY (slyly).
And had your Grace a Robin?

Come, come, you are chill here; you want the sun
That shines at court; make ready for the journey.
Pray God, we ’scape the sunstroke. Ready at once.


Queen Mary - Contents     |     Act III - Scene VI

Back    |    Words Home    |    Tennyson Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback