St. Mary’s Church.
COLE in the Pulpit, LORD WILLIAMS OF THAME presiding. LORD WILLIAM
HOWARD, LORD PAGET, and others. CRANMER enters between SOTO and
VILLA GARCIA, and the whole Choir strike up ‘Nunc Dimittis.’ CRANMER
is set upon a Scaffold before the people.
[A pause: people in the foreground.
Oh, unhappy sight!
See how the tears run down his fatherly face.
James, didst thou ever see a carrion crow
Stand watching a sick beast before he dies?
Him perch’d up there? I wish some thunderbolt
Would make this Cole a cinder, pulpit and all.
Behold him, brethren: he hath cause to weep!—
So have we all: weep with him if ye will,
It is expedient for one man to die,
Yea, for the people, lest the people die.
Yet wherefore should he die that hath return’d
To the one Catholic Universal Church,
Repentant of his errors?
Ay, tell us that.
Those of the wrong side will despise the man,
Deeming him one that thro’ the fear of death
Gave up his cause, except he seal his faith
In sight of all with flaming martyrdom.
Ye hear him, and albeit there may seem
According to the canons pardon due
To him that so repents, yet are there causes
Wherefore our Queen and Council at this time
Adjudge him to the death. He hath been a traitor,
A shaker and confounder of the realm;
And when the King’s divorce was sued at Rome,
He here, this heretic metropolitan,
As if he had been the Holy Father, sat
And judged it. Did I call him heretic?
A huge heresiarch! never was it known
That any man so writing, preaching so,
So poisoning the Church, so long continuing,
Hath found his pardon; therefore he must die,
For warning and example.
There be for this man’s ending, which our Queen
And Council at this present deem it not
Expedient to be known.
I warrant you.
Take therefore, all, example by this man,
For if our Holy Queen not pardon him,
Much less shall others in like cause escape,
That all of you, the highest as the lowest,
May learn there is no power against the Lord.
There stands a man, once of so high degree,
Chief prelate of our Church, archbishop, first
In Council, second person in the realm,
Friend for so long time of a mighty King;
And now ye see downfallen and debased
From councillor to caitiff—fallen so low,
The leprous flutterings of the byway, scum
And offal of the city would not change
Estates with him; in brief, so miserable,
There is no hope of better left for him,
No place for worse.
Yet, Cranmer, be thou glad.
This is the work of God. He is glorified
In thy conversion: lo! thou art reclaim’d;
He brings thee home: nor fear but that to-day
Thou shalt receive the penitent thief’s award,
And be with Christ the Lord in Paradise.
Remember how God made the fierce fire seem
To those three children like a pleasant dew.
The triumph of St. Andrew on his cross,
The patience of St. Lawrence in the fire.
Thus, if thou call on God and all the saints,
God will beat down the fury of the flame,
Or give thee saintly strength to undergo.
And for thy soul shall masses here be sung
By every priest in Oxford. Pray for him.
Ay, one and all, dear brothers, pray for me;
Pray with one breath, one heart, one soul for me.
And now, lest anyone among you doubt
The man’s conversion and remorse of heart,
Yourselves shall hear him speak. Speak, Master Cranmer,
Fulfil your promise made me, and proclaim
Your true undoubted faith, that all may hear.
And that I will. O God, Father of Heaven!
O Son of God, Redeemer of the world!
O Holy Ghost! proceeding from them both,
Three persons and one God, have mercy on me,
Most miserable sinner, wretched man.
I have offended against heaven and earth
More grievously than any tongue can tell.
Then whither should I flee for any help?
I am ashamed to lift my eyes to heaven,
And I can find no refuge upon earth.
Shall I despair then?—God forbid! O God,
For thou art merciful, refusing none
That come to Thee for succour, unto Thee,
Therefore, I come; humble myself to Thee;
Saying, O Lord God, although my sins be great,
For thy great mercy have mercy! O God the Son,
Not for slight faults alone, when thou becamest
Man in the Flesh, was the great mystery wrought;
O God the Father, not for little sins
Didst thou yield up thy Son to human death;
But for the greatest sin that can be sinn’d,
Yea, even such as mine, incalculable,
Unpardonable,—sin against the light,
The truth of God, which I had proven and known.
Thy mercy must be greater than all sin.
Forgive me, Father, for no merit of mine,
But that Thy name by man be glorified,
And Thy most blessed Son’s, who died for man.
Good people, every man at time of death
Would fain set forth some saying that may live
After his death and better humankind;
For death gives life’s last word a power to live,
And, like the stone-cut epitaph, remain
After the vanish’d voice, and speak to men.
God grant me grace to glorify my God!
And first I say it is a grievous case,
Many so dote upon this bubble world,
Whose colours in a moment break and fly,
They care for nothing else. What saith St. John:
‘Love of this world is hatred against God.’
Again, I pray you all that, next to God,
You do unmurmuringly and willingly
Obey your King and Queen, and not for dread
Of these alone, but from the fear of Him
Whose ministers they be to govern you.
Thirdly, I pray you all to live together
Like brethren; yet what hatred Christian men
Bear to each other, seeming not as brethren,
But mortal foes! But do you good to all
As much as in you lieth. Hurt no man more
Than you would harm your loving natural brother
Of the same roof, same breast. If any do,
Albeit he think himself at home with God,
Of this be sure, he is whole worlds away.
What sort of brothers then be those that lust
To burn each other?
Peace among you, there!
Fourthly, to those that own exceeding wealth,
Remember that sore saying spoken once
By Him that was the truth, ‘How hard it is
For the rich man to enter into Heaven;’
Let all rich men remember that hard word.
I have not time for more: if ever, now
Let them flow forth in charity, seeing now
The poor so many, and all food so dear.
Long have I lain in prison, yet have heard
Of all their wretchedness. Give to the poor,
Ye give to God. He is with us in the poor.
And now, and forasmuch as I have come
To the last end of life, and thereupon
Hangs all my past, and all my life to be,
Either to live with Christ in Heaven with joy,
Or to be still in pain with devils in hell;
And, seeing in a moment, I shall find
Heaven or else hell ready to swallow me,
I shall declare to you my very faith
Without all colour.
Hear him, my good brethren.
I do believe in God, Father of all;
In every article of the Catholic faith,
And every syllable taught us by our Lord,
His prophets, and apostles, in the Testaments,
Both Old and New.
Be plainer, Master Cranmer.
And now I come to the great cause that weighs
Upon my conscience more than anything
Or said or done in all my life by me;
For there be writings I have set abroad
Against the truth I knew within my heart,
Written for fear of death, to save my life,
If that might be; the papers by my hand
Sign’d since my degradation—by this hand
[Holding out his right hand.
Written and sign’d—I here renounce them all;
And, since my hand offended, having written
Against my heart, my hand shall first be burnt,
So I may come to the fire.
I knew it would be so.
Our prayers are heard!
God bless him!
Out upon him! out upon him!
Liar! dissembler! traitor! to the fire!
WILLIAMS (raising his voice).
You know that you recanted all you said
Touching the sacrament in that same book
You wrote against my Lord of Winchester;
Dissemble not; play the plain Christian man.
Alas, my Lord,
I have been a man loved plainness all my life;
I did dissemble, but the hour has come
For utter truth and plainness; wherefore, I say,
I hold by all I wrote within that book.
As for the Pope I count him Antichrist,
With all his devil’s doctrines; and refuse,
Reject him, and abhor him. I have said.
[Cries on all sides,‘Pull him down! Away with him!’
Ay, stop the heretic’s mouth! Hale him away!
Harm him not, harm him not! have him to the fire!
[CRANMER goes out between Two Friars, smiling; hands are reached to him from the crowd. LORD WILLIAM HOWARD and LORD PAGET are left alone in the church.
The nave and aisles all empty as a fool’s jest!
No, here’s Lord William Howard. What, my Lord,
You have not gone to see the burning?
To stand at ease, and stare as at a show,
And watch a good man burn. Never again.
I saw the deaths of Latimer and Ridley.
Moreover, tho’ a Catholic, I would not,
For the pure honour of our common nature,
Hear what I might—another recantation
Of Cranmer at the stake.
You’d not hear that.
He pass’d out smiling, and he walk’d upright;
His eye was like a soldier’s, whom the general
He looks to and he leans on as his God,
Hath rated for some backwardness and bidd’n him
Charge one against a thousand, and the man
Hurls his soil’d life against the pikes and dies.
Yet that he might not after all those papers
Of recantation yield again, who knows?
Papers of recantation! Think you then
That Cranmer read all papers that he sign’d?
Or sign’d all those they tell us that he sign’d?
Nay, I trow not: and you shall see, my Lord,
That howsoever hero-like the man
Dies in the fire, this Bonner or another
Will in some lying fashion misreport
His ending to the glory of their church.
And you saw Latimer and Ridley die?
Latimer was eighty, was he not? his best
Of life was over then.
His eighty years
Look’d somewhat crooked on him in his frieze;
But after they had stript him to his shroud,
He stood upright, a lad of twenty-one,
And gather’d with his hands the starting flame,
And wash’d his hands and all his face therein,
Until the powder suddenly blew him dead.
Ridley was longer burning; but he died
As manfully and boldly, and, ’fore God,
I know them heretics, but right English ones.
If ever, as heaven grant, we clash with Spain,
Our Ridley-soldiers and our Latimer-sailors
Will teach her something.
Your mild Legate Pole
Will tell you that the devil helpt them thro’ it.
[A murmur of the Crowd in the distance.
Hark, how those Roman wolfdogs howl and bay him!
Might it not be the other side rejoicing
In his brave end?
They are too crush’d, too broken,
They can but weep in silence.
Ay, ay, Paget,
They have brought it in large measure on themselves.
Have I not heard them mock the blessed Host
In songs so lewd, the beast might roar his claim
To being in God’s image, more than they?
Have I not seen the gamekeeper, the groom.
Gardener, and huntsman, in the parson’s place,
The parson from his own spire swung out dead,
And Ignorance crying in the streets, and all men
Regarding her? I say they have drawn the fire
On their own heads: yet, Paget, I do hold
The Catholic, if he have the greater right,
Hath been the crueller.
Action and re-action,
The miserable see-saw of our child-world,
Make us despise it at odd hours, my Lord.
Heaven help that this re-action not re-act
Yet fiercelier under Queen Elizabeth,
So that she come to rule us.
The world’s mad.
My Lord, the world is like a drunken man,
Who cannot move straight to his end—but reels
Now to the right, then as far to the left,
Push’d by the crowd beside—and underfoot
An earthquake; for since Henry for a doubt—
Which a young lust had clapt upon the back,
Crying, ‘Forward!’—set our old church rocking, men
Have hardly known what to believe, or whether
They should believe in anything; the currents
So shift and change, they see not how they are borne,
Nor whither. I conclude the King a beast;
Verily a lion if you will—the world
A most obedient beast and fool—myself
Half beast and fool as appertaining to it;
Altho’ your Lordship hath as little of each
Cleaving to your original Adam-clay,
As may be consonant with mortality.
We talk and Cranmer suffers.
The kindliest man I ever knew; see, see,
I speak of him in the past. Unhappy land!
Hard-natured Queen, half-Spanish in herself,
And grafted on the hard-grain’d stock of Spain—
Her life, since Philip left her, and she lost
Her fierce desire of bearing him a child,
Hath, like a brief and bitter winter’s day,
Gone narrowing down and darkening to a close.
There will be more conspiracies, I fear.
Ay, ay, beware of France.
O Paget, Paget!
I have seen heretics of the poorer sort,
Expectant of the rack from day to day,
To whom the fire were welcome, lying chain’d
In breathless dungeons over steaming sewers,
Fed with rank bread that crawl’d upon the tongue,
And putrid water, every drop a worm,
Until they died of rotted limbs; and then
Cast on the dunghill naked, and become
Hideously alive again from head to heel,
Made even the carrion-nosing mongrel vomit
With hate and horror.
Nay, you sicken me
To hear you.
Fancy-sick; these things are done,
Done right against the promise of this Queen
No faith with heretics, my Lord!
Hist! there be two old gossips—gospellers,
I take it; stand behind the pillar here;
I warrant you they talk about the burning.
Enter TWO OLD WOMEN. JOAN, and after her TIB.
Why, it be Tib!
I cum behind tha, gall, and couldn’t make tha hear. Eh, the wind and the wet! What a day, what a day! nigh upo’ judgement daay loike. Pwoaps be pretty things, Joan, but they wunt set i’ the Lord’s cheer o’ that daay.
I must set down myself, Tib; it be a var waay vor my owld legs up vro’ Islip. Eh, my rheumatizy be that bad howiver be I to win to the burnin’.
I should saay ’twur ower by now. I’d ha’ been here avore, but Dumble wur blow’d wi’ the wind, and Dumble’s the best milcher in Islip.
Our Daisy’s as good ’z her.
Our Daisy’s butter’s as good’z hern.
Our Daisy’s cheeses be better.
Eh, then ha’ thy waay wi’ me, Tib; ez thou hast wi’ thy owld man.
Ay, Joan, and my owld man wur up and awaay betimes wi’ dree hard eggs for a good pleace at the burnin’; and barrin’ the wet, Hodge ’ud ha’ been a-harrowin’ o’ white peasen i’ the outfield—and barrin’ the wind, Dumble wur blow’d wi’ the wind, so ’z we was forced to stick her, but we fetched her round at last. Thank the Lord therevore. Dumble’s the best milcher in Islip.
Thou’s thy way wi’ man and beast, Tib. I wonder at tha’, it beats me! Eh, but I do know ez Pwoaps and vires be bad things; tell ’ee now, I heerd summat as summun towld summun o’ owld Bishop Gardiner’s end; there wur an owld lord a-cum to dine wi’ un, and a wur so owld a couldn’t bide vor his dinner, but a had to bide howsomiver, vor ‘I wunt dine,’ says my Lord Bishop, says he, ‘not till I hears ez Latimer and Ridley be a-vire;’ and so they bided on and on till vour o’ the clock, till his man cum in post vro’ here, and tells un ez the vire has tuk holt. ‘Now,’ says the Bishop, says he, ‘we’ll gwo to dinner;’ and the owld lord fell to ’s meat wi’ a will, God bless un! but Gardiner wur struck down like by the hand o’ God avore a could taste a mossel, and a set un all a-vire, so ’z the tongue on un cum a-lolluping out o’ ’is mouth as black as a rat. Thank the Lord, therevore.
Ay, Joan; and Queen Mary gwoes on a-burnin’ and a-burnin’, to get her baaby born; but all her burnin’s ’ill never burn out the hypocrisy that makes the water in her. There’s nought but the vire of God’s hell ez can burn out that.
Thank the Lord, therevore.
A-burnin’, and a-burnin’, and a-makin’ o’ volk madder and madder; but tek thou my word vor’t, Joan,—and I bean’t wrong not twice i’ ten year—the burnin’ o’ the owld archbishop’ll burn the Pwoap out o’ this ’ere land vor iver and iver.
Out of the church, you brace of cursed crones,
Or I will have you duck’d! (Women hurry out.) Said I not right?
For how should reverend prelate or throned prince
Brook for an hour such brute malignity?
Ah, what an acrid wine has Luther brew’d!
Pooh, pooh, my Lord! poor garrulous country-wives.
Buy you their cheeses, and they’ll side with you;
You cannot judge the liquor from the lees.
I think that in some sort we may. But see,
Peters, my gentleman, an honest Catholic,
Who follow’d with the crowd to Cranmer’s fire.
One that would neither misreport nor lie,
Not to gain paradise: no, nor if the Pope,
Charged him to do it—he is white as death.
Peters, how pale you look! you bring the smoke
Of Cranmer’s burning with you.
Twice or thrice
The smoke of Cranmer’s burning wrapt me round.
Peters, you know me Catholic, but English.
Did he die bravely? Tell me that, or leave
All else untold.
My Lord, he died most bravely.
Then tell me all.
Ay, Master Peters, tell us.
You saw him how he past among the crowd;
And ever as he walk’d the Spanish friars
Still plied him with entreaty and reproach:
But Cranmer, as the helmsman at the helm
Steers, ever looking to the happy haven
Where he shall rest at night, moved to his death;
And I could see that many silent hands
Came from the crowd and met his own; and thus
When we had come where Ridley burnt with Latimer,
He, with a cheerful smile, as one whose mind
Is all made up, in haste put off the rags
They had mock’d his misery with, and all in white,
His long white beard, which he had never shaven
Since Henry’s death, down-sweeping to the chain,
Wherewith they bound him to the stake, he stood
More like an ancient father of the Church,
Than heretic of these times; and still the friars
Plied him, but Cranmer only shook his head,
Or answer’d them in smiling negatives;
Whereat Lord Williams gave a sudden cry:—
‘Make short! make short!’ and so they lit the wood.
Then Cranmer lifted his left hand to heaven,
And thrust his right into the bitter flame;
And crying, in his deep voice, more than once,
‘This hath offended—this unworthy hand!’
So held it till it all was burn’d, before
The flame had reach’d his body; I stood near—
Mark’d him—he never uttered moan of pain:
He never stirr’d or writhed, but, like a statue,
Unmoving in the greatness of the flame,
Gave up the ghost; and so past martyr-like—
Martyr I may not call him—past—but whither?
To purgatory, man, to purgatory.
Nay, but, my Lord, he denied purgatory.
Why then to heaven, and God ha’ mercy on him.
Paget, despite his fearful heresies,
I loved the man, and needs must moan for him;
But your moan is useless now:
Come out, my Lord, it is a world of fools.