Queen Mary

Act IV

Scene II

Alfred Tennyson

Oxford. CRANMER in Prison

Last night, I dream’d the faggots were alight,
And that myself was fasten’d to the stake, I
And found it all a visionary flame,
Cool as the light in old decaying wood;
And then King Harry look’d from out a cloud,
And bad me have good courage; and I heard
An angel cry ‘There is more joy in Heaven,’—
And after that, the trumpet of the dead.

[Trumpets without.
Why, there are trumpets blowing now: what is it?


Cranmer, I come to question you again;
Have you remain’d in the true Catholic faith
I left you in?

                In the true Catholic faith,
By Heaven’s grace, I am more and more confirm’d.
Why are the trumpets blowing, Father Cole?

Cranmer, it is decided by the Council
That you to-day should read your recantation
Before the people in St. Mary’s Church.
And there be many heretics in the town,
Who loathe you for your late return to Rome,
And might assail you passing through the street,
And tear you piecemeal: so you have a guard.

Or seek to rescue me. I thank the Council.

Do you lack any money?

                        Nay, why should I?
The prison fare is good enough for me.

Ay, but to give the poor.

                        Hand it me, then!
I thank you.

                For a little space, farewell;
Until I see you in St. Mary’s Church.

[Exit Cole.

It is against all precedent to burn
One who recants; they mean to pardon me.
To give the poor—they give the poor who die.
Well, burn me or not burn me I am fixt;
It is but a communion, not a mass:
A holy supper, not a sacrifice;
No man can make his Maker—Villa Garcia.


Pray you write out this paper for me, Cranmer.

Have I not writ enough to satisfy you?

It is the last.

                        Give it me, then.

[He writes.

                                        Now sign.

I have sign’d enough, and I will sign no more.

It is no more than what you have sign’d already,
The public form thereof.

                        It may be so;
I sign it with my presence, if I read it.

But this is idle of you. Well, sir, well,
You are to beg the people to pray for you;
Exhort them to a pure and virtuous life;
Declare the Queen’s right to the throne; confess
Your faith before all hearers; and retract
That Eucharistic doctrine in your book.
Will you not sign it now?

                        No, Villa Garcia,
I sign no more. Will they have mercy on me?

Have you good hopes of mercy!
So, farewell.


Good hopes, not theirs, have I that I am fixt,
Fixt beyond fall; however, in strange hours,
After the long brain-dazing colloquies,
And thousand-times recurring argument
Of those two friars ever in my prison,
When left alone in my despondency,
Without a friend, a book, my faith would seem
Dead or half-drown’d, or else swam heavily
Against the huge corruptions of the Church,
Monsters of mistradition, old enough
To scare me into dreaming, ‘what am I,
Cranmer, against whole ages?’ was it so,
Or am I slandering my most inward friend,
To veil the fault of my most outward foe—
The soft and tremulous coward in the flesh?
O higher, holier, earlier, purer church,
I have found thee and not leave thee any more.
It is but a communion, not a mass—
No sacrifice, but a life-giving feast!
(Writes.) So, so; this will I say—thus will I pray.

[Puts up the paper.


Good day, old friend; what, you look somewhat worn;
And yet it is a day to test your health
Ev’n at the best: I scarce have spoken with you
Since when?—your degradation. At your trial
Never stood up a bolder man than you;
You would not cap the Pope’s commissioner—
Your learning, and your stoutness, and your heresy,
Dumbfounded half of us. So, after that,
We had to dis-archbishop and unlord,
And make you simple Cranmer once again.
The common barber dipt your hair, and I
Scraped from your finger-points the holy oil;
And worse than all, you had to kneel to me;
Which was not pleasant for you, Master Cranmer.
Now you, that would not recognise the Pope,
And you, that would not own the Real Presence,
Have found a real presence in the stake,
Which frights you back into the ancient faith:
And so you have recanted to the Pope.
How are the mighty fallen, Master Cranmer!

You have been more fierce against the Pope than I;
But why fling back the stone he strikes me with?

O Bonner, if I ever did you kindness—
Power hath been given you to try faith by fire—
Pray you, remembering how yourself have changed,
Be somewhat pitiful, after I have gone,
To the poor flock—to women and to children—
That when I was archbishop held with me.

Ay—gentle as they call you—live or die!
Pitiful to this pitiful heresy?
I must obey the Queen and Council, man.
Win thro’ this day with honour to yourself,
And I’ll say something for you—so—good-bye.


This hard coarse man of old hath crouch’d to me
Till I myself was half ashamed for him.

Weep not, good Thirlby.

                        Oh, my Lord, my Lord!
My heart is no such block as Bonner’s is:
Who would not weep?

                        Why do you so my—lord me,
Who am disgraced?

                On earth; but saved in heaven
By your recanting.

                Will they burn me, Thirlby?

Alas, they will; these burnings will not help
The purpose of the faith; but my poor voice
Against them is a whisper to the roar
Of a spring-tide.

                And they will surely burn me?

Ay; and besides, will have you in the church
Repeat your recantation in the ears
Of all men, to the saving of their souls,
Before your execution. May God help you
Thro’ that hard hour!

                        And may God bless you, Thirlby!
Well, they shall hear my recantation there.

[Exit Thirlby.
Disgraced, dishonour’d!—not by them, indeed,
By mine own self—by mine own hand!
O thin-skinn’d hand and jutting veins, ’twas you
That sign’d the burning of poor Joan of Kent;
But then she was a witch. You have written much,
But you were never raised to plead for Frith,
Whose dogmas I have reach’d: he was deliver’d
To the secular arm to burn; and there was Lambert;
Who can foresee himself? truly these burnings,
As Thirlby says, are profitless to the burners,
And help the other side. You shall burn too,
Burn first when I am burnt.
Fire—inch by inch to die in agony! Latimer
Had a brief end—not Ridley. Hooper burn’d
Three-quarters of an hour. Will my faggots
Be wet as his were? It is a day of rain.
I will not muse upon it.
My fancy takes the burner’s part, and makes
The fire seem even crueller than it is.
No, I not doubt that God will give me strength,
Albeit I have denied him.


                We are ready
To take you to St. Mary’s, Master Cranmer.

And I: lead on; ye loose me from my bonds.


Queen Mary - Contents     |     Act IV - Scene III

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