DON JOHN of AUSTRIA.
JOSEF RIBERA, the Spagnoletto.
LORENZO, noble young Italian artist, pupil of Ribera.
DON TOMMASO MANZANO.
LUCA, servant to Ribera.
MARIA-ROSA, daughter to Ribera.
ANNICCA, daughter to Ribera, and wife to Don Tommaso.
FIAMETTA, servant to Maria-Rosa.
Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen, Servants.
SCENE–During the first four acts, in Naples; latter part of the
fifth act, in Palermo. Time, about 1655.
The studio of the Spagnoletto. RIBERA at work before his canvas.
MARIA seated some distance behind him; a piece of embroidery is
in her hands, but she glances up from it incessantly toward her
father with impatient movements.
(RIBERA, absorbed in his work, makes no reply; she puts by her
embroidery, goes toward him and kisses him gently. He starts,
looks up at her, and returns her caress).
Already you forget,
Oh, heedless father! Did you not promise me
To lay aside your brush to-day at noon,
And tell me the great secret?
Ah, ‘t is true,
I am to blame. But it is morning yet;
My child, wait still a little.
‘T is morning yet!
Nay, it was noon one mortal hour ago.
All patience I have sat till you should turn
And beckon me. The rosy angels breathe
Upon the canvas; I might sit till night,
And, if I spake not, you would never glance
From their celestial faces. Dear my father,
Your brow is moist, and yet your hands are ice;
Your very eyes are tired–pray, rest awhile.
The Spagnoletto need no longer toil
As in the streets of Rome for beggars’ fare;
Now princes bide his pleasure.
RIBERA (throws aside his brush and palette).
Thou speak’st in season. Let me ne’er forget
Those days of degradation, when I starved
Before the gates of palaces. The germs
Stirred then within me of the perfect fruits
Wherewith my hands have since enriched God’s world.
Vengeance I vowed for every moment’s sting–
Vengeance on wealth, rank, station, fortune, genius.
See, while I paint, all else escapes my sense,
Save this bright throng of phantasies that press
Upon my brain, each claiming from my hand
Its immortality. But thou, my child,
Remind’st me of mine oath, my sacred pride,
The eternal hatred lodged within my breast.
Philip of Spain shall wait. I will not deign
To add to-day the final touch of life
Unto this masterpiece.
So! that is well.
Put by the envious brush that separates
Father from daughter. Now you are all mine own.
And now–your secret.
Mine? ‘T is none of mine;
‘T is thine, Maria. John of Austria
Desires our presence at his ball to-night.
Ay, girl, Prince John. I looked to see
A haughty joy dance sparkling in thine eyes
And burn upon thy cheek. But what is this?
Timid and pale, thou droop’st thy head abashed
As a poor flower-girl whom a lord accosts.
Forgive me. Sure, ‘t is you Don John desires
The prince of artists–
Art! Prate not of art!
Think’st thou I move an artist ‘midst his guests?
As such I commune with a loftier race;
Angels and spirits are my ministers.
These do I part aside to grace his halls;
A Spanish gentleman–and so, his peer.
Father, I am not well; my head throbs fast,
Unwonted languor weighs upon my frame.
Anger me not, Maria. ‘T is my will,
Thou shalt obey. Hell, what these women be!
No obstacle would daunt them in the quest
Of that which, freely given, they reject.
Hold! Haply just occasion bids thee seem
Unlike thyself. Speak fearlessly child;
Confide to me thy knowledge, thy surmise.
No, father, you were right. I have no cause;
Punish me–nay, forgive, and I obey.
There spake my child; kiss me and be forgiven.
Sometimes I doubt thou playest upon my love
Willfully, knowing me as soft as clay,
Whom the world knows of marble. In such moods,
I see my spirit mirror’s first, and then
From thy large eyes thy sainted mother’s soul
Can I be like to her?
I only knew her faded, white, and grave,
And so she still floats vaguely through my dreams,
With eyes like your own angels’, and a brow
Worthy an aureole.
An earthly crown,
My princess, might more fitly rest on thine.
Annicca hath her colors, blue-black hair,
And pale, brown flesh, and gray, untroubled eyes;
Yet thou more often bring’st her to mind,
For all the tawny gold of thy thick locks,
Thy rare white face, and brilliant Spanish orbs.
Thine is her lisping trick of voice, her laugh,
The blithest music still this side of heaven;
Thine her free, springing gait, though therewithal
A swaying, languid motion all thine own,
Recalls Valencia more than Italy.
Like and unlike thou art to her, as still
My memory loves to hold her, as she first
Beamed like the star of morning on my life.
Hot, faint, and footsore, I had paced since dawn
The sun-baked streets of Naples, seeking work,
Not alms, despite the beggar that I looked.
Now ‘t was nigh vespers, and my suit had met
With curt refusal, sharp rebuff, and gibes.
Praised be the saints! for every drop of gall
In that day’s brimming cup, I have upheld
A poisoned beaker to another’s lips.
Many a one hath the Ribera taught
To fare a vagabond through alien streets;
A god unrecognized ‘midst churls and clowns,
With kindled soul aflame, and body faint
Or lack of bread. Domenichino knows,
And Gessi, Guido, Annibal Caracci–
Dear father, calm yourself. You had begun
To tell me how you saw my mother first.
True, I forgot it not. Why, I AM calm;
The old man now can well be grave and cold,
Or laugh at his own youth’s indignities,
Past a long lifetime back. ‘T was vespers’ hour,
Or nigh it, when I reached her father’s door.
Kind was his greeting, the first cordial words
I heard in Naples; but I took small heed
Of speech or toe, for all my sense was rapt
In wonder at the angel by his side
Who smiled upon me. Large, clear eyes that held
The very soul of sunlight in their depths;
Low, pure, pale brow, with masses of black hair
Flung loosely back, and rippling unconfined
In shadowy magnificence below
The slim gold girdle o’er the snow-soft gown.
Vested and draped about her throat and waist and wrists,
A stately lily ere the dew of morn
Hath passed away–such was thy mother, child.
Would I were like her! But what said she, father?
How did she plead for you?
Ah, cunning child,
I see thy tricks; thou humorest my age,
Knowing how much I love to tell this tale,
Though thou hast heard it half a hundred times.
I find it sweet to hear as you to tell,
Believe me, father.
‘T was to pleasure her,
Signor Cortese gave me all I lacked
To prove my unfamed skill. A savage pride,
Matched oddly with my rags, the haughtiness
Wherewith I claimed rather than begged my tools,
And my quaint aspect, oft she told me since,
Won at a glance her faith. Before I left,
She guessed my need, and served me meat and wine
With her own flower-white hands. The parting grace
I craved was granted, that my work might be
The portrait of herself. Thou knowest the rest.
Why did she leave us, father? Oh, how oft
I yearn to see her face, to hear her voice,
Hushed in an endless silence! Strange that she,
Whose rich love beggared our return, should bear
Such separation! Though engirdled now
By heavenly hosts of saints and seraphim,
I cannot fancy it. What! shall her child,
Whose lightest sigh reechoed in her heart,
Have need of her and cry to her in vain?
Now, for God’s sake, Maria, speak not thus;
Let me not see such tears upon thy cheek.
Not unto us it has been given to guess
The peace of disembodied souls like hers.
The vanishing glimpses that my fancies catch
Through heaven’s half-opened gates, exalt even me,
Poor sinner that I am. And what are these,
The painted shadows that make all my life
A glory, to the splendor of that light?
For thee, my child, has not my doting love
Sufficed, at least in part, to fill the breach
Of that tremendous void? What dost thou lack?
What help, what counsel, what most dear caress?
What dost thou covet? What least whim remains
Ungratified, because not yet expressed?
None, none, dear father! Pardon me! Thy love,
Generous and wise as tender, shames my power
To merit or repay. Fie o my lips!
Look if they be not blistered. Let them smooth
With contrite kisses the last frown away.
We must be young to-night–no wrinkles then!
Genius must show immortal as she is.
Thou wilt unman me with thy pretty ways.
I had forgot the ball. Yea, I grow old;
This scanty morning’s work has wearied me.
Once I had thought it play to dream all day
Before my canvas and then dance till dawn,
And now must I give o’er and rest at noon.
Enter LUCA, ushering in LORENZO, who carries a portfolio.
[LORENZO ceremoniously salutes RIBERA and MARIA. Exit LUCA.]
Master, I bring my sketch.
[Opens his portfolio and hands a sketch to RIBERA.]
Humph! the design is not so ill-conceived;
I note some progress; but your drawing’s bad–
Yes, bad, sir. Mark you how this leg hangs limp,
As though devoid of life; these hands seem clenched,
Not loosely clasped, as you intended them.
[He takes his pencil and makes a few strokes.
Thus should it stand–a single line will mend.
And here, what’s this? Why, ‘t is a sloven’s work.
You dance too many nights away, young gallant.
You shirk close labor as do all your mates.
You think to win with service frivolous,
Snatched ‘twixt your cups, or set between two kisses,
The favor of the mistress of the world.
Your pardon, master, but you do me wrong.
Mayhap I lack the gift. Alas, I fear it!
But not the patience, not the energy
Of earnest, indefatigable toil,
That help to make the artist.
‘S death! He dares
Belie me, and deny the testimony
Of his own handiwork, whose every line
Betrays a sluggard soul, an indolent will,
A brain that’s bred to idleness. So be it!
Master Lorenzo tells the Spagnoletto
His own defects and qualities! ‘T were best
He find another teacher competent
To guide so apt, so diligent a scholar.
Dear father, what hath given thee offence?
Cast but another glance upon the sketch;
Surely it hath some grace, some charm, some promise.
Daughter, stand by! I know these insolent slips
Of young nobility; they lack the stuff
That makes us artists. What! to answer me!
When next I drop a hint as to his colors,
The lengthening or the shortening of a stroke,
He’ll bandy words with me about his error,
To prove himself the master.
If my defect
Be an hereditary grain i’ the blood,
Even as you say, I must abide by it;
But if patrician habits more than birth
Beget such faults, then may I dare to hope.
Not mine, I knew, I felt, to clear new paths,
To win new kingdoms; yet were I content
With such achievement as a strenuous will,
A firm endeavor, unfaltering love,
And an unwearying spirit might attain.
Cast me not lightly back. Banish me not
From this, my home of hope, of inspiration!
What, my ungentle father! Will you hear,
And leave this worthy signor’s suit unanswered?
Well, he may bide. Sir, I will speak with you
Anon upon this work. I judged in haste.
Yea, it hath merit. I am weary now;
To-morrow I shall be in fitter mood
To give you certain hints.
[LORENZO bows his thanks and advances to address MARIA. RIBERA
silences and dismisses him with a wave of the hand. Exit LORENZO.]
Should I o’ersleep
Mine hour, Maria, thou must awaken me;
But come what may, I will be fresh to-night,
To triumph in thy triumph.
Could I have told,
Then when he bade me? Nay, what is to tell?
He had flouted me for prizing at such height
Homage so slight from John of Austria, even.
A glance exchanged, a smile, a fallen flower
Dropped from my hair, and pressed against his lips.
The Prince! my father gloats upon that name.
Were he no more than gentleman, I think
I should be glad. I cannot tell to-day
If I be sad or gay. Now could I weep
Warm, longing tears; anon, a fire of joy
Leaps in my heart and dances through my veins.
Why should I nurse such idle thoughts? Tonight
We are to meet again. Will he remember?–
Nay, how should he forget? His heart is young;
His eyes do mirror loyalty. Oh, day!
Quicken thy dull, slow round of tedious hours!
God make me beautiful this happy night!
My father’s sleeping saint rebukes my thought.
Strange he has left his work, against his wont,
Revealed before completed. I will draw
[She stands irresolute before the picture with her hand on the
Beautiful, oh, beautiful!
The far, bright, opened heavens–the dark earth,
Where the tranced pilgrim lies, with eyelids sealed,
His calm face flushed with comfortable sleep,
His weary limbs relaxed, his heavy head
Pillowed upon the stone. Oh, blessed dream
That visits his rapt sense, of airy forms,
Mounting, descending on the shining ladder,
With messages of peace. I will be true
Unto my lineage divine, and breathe
The passion of just pride that overfills
HIS soul inspired.
While she stands before the canvas, reenter, unperceived by
Oh, celestial vision!
What brush may reproduce those magic tints,
Those lines ethereal?–
MARIA (turns suddenly).
Is it not marvellous,
Signor Lorenzo? I would draw the curtain,
But, gazing, I forgot.
You are the first,
After the master and myself, to look
Upon this wonder.
LORENZO (with enthusiasm, looking for he first time at the picture).
Ah, what an answer this
For envious minds that would restrict his power
To writhing limbs and shrivelled flesh! Repose,
Beauty, and large simplicity are here.
Yes, that is art! Before such work I stand
And feel myself a dwarf.
There, you are wrong.
My father even, who knows his proper worth,
Before his best achievements I have seen
In like dejection; ‘t is the curse of genius.
Oft have I heard the master grace your name
With flattering addition.
‘T is your goodness,
And not the echo of his praise, that speaks.
My work was worthless–‘t was your generous voice
Alone secured the master’s second glance.
Nay, signor, frankly, he esteems your talent.
Because you are of well-assured means
And gentle birth, he will be rude to you.
Not without base is the deep grudge he owes
To riches and prosperity.
Why do I bear such harsh, injurious terms
As he affronts me with? Why must I seem
In mine own eyes a craven? Spiritless,
Dishonorably patient? ‘T is not his fame,
His power, his gift, his venerable years
That bind me here his willing slave. Maria,
‘T is thou, ‘t is thou alone! ‘T is that I love thee,
And exile hence is death!
[A pause. He kneels at her feet. She looks at him kindly but
makes no reply.]
At thy dear feet
I lay my life with its most loyal service,
The subject of thy pleasure.
You are too humble.
Too humble! Do you seek mine utter ruin,
With words whose very tone is a caress?
I say all. I love you!–you have known it.
Why should I tell you? Yet, to-day you seem
Other than you have been. A milder light
Beams from your eyes–a gentler grace is throned
Upon your brow–your words fall soft as dew
To melt my fixed resolve.
You find me, signor,
In an unguarded mood. I would be true
To you; and to myself; yet, know no answer.
Anon, I will be calm; pray you withdraw.
Till when? Remember what mad hopes and fears
Meantime will riot in my brain.
LORENZO (kisses her hand).
A faithful heart,
A name untainted, a fair home–yea, these
Are what I need. Oh, lily soul in heaven,
Who wast on earth my mother, guide thy child!
While MARIA sits rapt in thought, enter from behind her, ANNICCA,
who bends over her and kisses her brow.
What, sister! lost in dreams by daylight? Fie!
Who is the monarch of thy thoughts?
My thoughts are bounden to no master yet;
They fly from earth to heaven in a breath.
Now are they all of earth. Hast heard the tidings?
Yea–of the Prince’s ball? We go together.
Braid in thy hair our mother’s pearls, and wear
The amulet ingemmed with eastern stones;
‘T will bring good fortune.
Tell me, ere we go,
What manner of man is John of Austria?
Scarce man at all–a madcap, charming boy;
Well-favored–you have seen him–exquisite
In courtly compliment, of simple manners;
You may not hear a merrier laugh than his
From any boatman on the bay; well-versed
In all such arts as most become his station;
Light in the dance as winged-foot Mercury,
Eloquent on the zither, and a master
Of rapier and–
A puppet could be made
To answer in all points your praise of him.
Hath he no substance as of a man?
What may that be to us?
He is our Prince.
The promise of his youth is to outstrip
The hero of Lepanto; bright and bold
As fire, he is the very soul, the star
Of Spanish chivalry; his last achievement
Seems still the flower of his accomplishments.
Musician, soldier, courtier, yea, and artist.
“He had been a painter, were he not a prince,”
Says Messer Zurbaran. The Calderona,
His actress-mother, hath bequeathed to him
Her spirit with her beauty, and the power
To win and hold men’s hearts.
I knew it, sister!
His eye hath a command in it; his brow
Seems garlanded with laurel.
What is this?
You kindle with his praise, your whole heart glows
In light and color on your face, your words
Take wing and fly as bold as reckless birds.
What! can so rash a thought, a dream so wild,
So hopeless an ambition, tempt your soul?
Pray you, what thought, what dream, and what ambition?
I knew not I had uttered any such.
Nor have you in your speech; your eyes now veiled,
Where the light leaped to hear me voice his fame,
Your blushes and your pallor have betrayed
That which should lie uncounted fathom deep–
The secret of a woman’s foolish heart.
And there it lies, my sibyl sister, still!
Your plummet hath not reached it. Yes, ‘t is love
Flaunts his triumphant colors in my cheek,
And quickens my lame speech–but not for him,
Not for the Prince–so may I vaunt his worth
With a free soul.
Favored of earth and heaven, true and loving,
Hath cast his heart at my imperial feet;
And if to-morrow find me as to-day,
I will e’en stoop and raise it to mine own.
Not he, indeed!
Did not I say favored of earth and heaven?
That should mean other gifts than bags of gold,
Or a straight-featured mask. Nor will it be
Any you name, though you should name him right.
Must it not lie–how many fathom deep–
The secret of a woman’s foolish heart?
Kiss me, Maria. You are still a child.
You cannot vex me, wilful as you be.
Your choice, I fear not, doubtless ‘t will prove wise,
Despite your wild wit, for your heart is pure,
And you will pause with sure deliberate judgment
Before you leave our father.
Does love steal
So gently o’er our soul? What if he come
A cloud, a fire, a whirlwind, to o’erbear
The feeble barriers wherewith we oppose him,
And blind our eyes and wrest from us our reason?
Fear not, Annicca, for in no such guise
He visits my calm breast; but yet you speak
Somewhat too sagely. Did such cautious wisdom
Guide your own fancy?
Jest no more, Maria.
Since I became a wife, is much made clear,
Which a brief year ago was dark and vague.
Tommaso loves me–we are happier
Then I had dreamed; yet matching now with then,
I see his love is not that large, rich passion
Our father bore us.
You regret your home?
No, no! I have no wish and no regret.
I speak for you. His is a sovereign soul,
And all his passions loom in huger shape
Than lesser men’s. He brooks no rivalry
With his own offspring, and toward me his love
Hath ebbed, I mark, to a more even flow,
While deeper, stronger, sets the powerful current
Toward you alone. Consider this, Maria,
Nor wantonly discrown that sacred head
Of your young love to wreathe some curled boy’s brow.
Think you his wish were that I should not wed?
Nay, that I say not, for his pride aspires
To see you nobly mated.
MARIA (after a pause).
Him will I wed
Whose name is ancient, fair, and honorable,
As the Ribera’s is illustrious–
Him who no less than I will venerate
That white, divine old head. In art his pupil,
In love his son; tender as I to watch,
And to delay the slow extinguishing
Of that great light.
There spake his darling child!
What is’t o’clock? If he should sleep too late–
He bade me rouse him–
Haste to seek him, then.
‘T is hard on sunset, and he looks for thee
With his first waking motion. Till to-night.
A hall in RIBERA’S house. Enter LUCA and FIAMETTA.
But did you see her?
Nay, I saw her sister, Donna Annicca.
Tush, man! never name her beside my lady Maria-Rosa. You have lost
the richest feast in the world for hungry eyes. Her gown of cloth
o’ silver clad her, as it were, with light; there twinkled about
her waist a girdle stiff with stones–you would have said they
breathed. Mine own hands wreathed the dropping pearls in her hair,
and pearls again were clasped around her throat. But no, I might
tell thee every ornament–her jeweled fan, her comb of pearls, her
floating veil of gauze, and still the best of all would escape us.
Thou speakest more like her page than her handmaiden.
Thou knowest not woman truly, for all thy wit. I speak most like a
woman when I weigh the worth of beauty and rich apparel. Heigh-ho!
I have felt the need of this. Thou, good Luca, who might have
been my father, canst understand me? HE was poor as thou. Why
shouldst thou be his lackey, his slave? My hand were as dainty as
hers, if it could but be spared its daily labor.
Yes, poor child, I understand thee, and yet thou art wrong. He is
more slave to pride than I am to him. I know him well, Fiametta,
after so many years of service, and to-day I pity him more than I
fear him. Why, girl, my task is sport beside his toil! If my
limbs be weary, I sleep; but I have seen him sit before his canvas
with straining eyes and the big beads standing on his brow. When
at last he gave o’er, and I have smoothed his pillow, and served
and soothed him, what sleep could he snatch? His brain is haunted
with evil visions, whereof some be merely of his own imaginings,
and others the phantoms of folk who are living or have lived, and
who rouse his jealousy or mayhap his remorse, God only knows! If
that be genius–to be alive to pain at every pore, to be possessed
of a devil that robs you of your sleep and grants no space between
the hours of grinding toil–I thank the saints I am a simple man!
I grant thee thou mayst be right concerning him; he hath indeed a
strange, sour mien. I shudder when he turns suddenly, as his wont
is, and bends his evil eyes on me. The holy father tells me such
warnings come from God. No matter how slight the service he asks
of me, my flesh creeps and my limbs refuse to move, till I have
whispered an Ave. But what of Lady Maria-Rosa? Both heaven and
earth smile upon her. To-night she wears a poor girl’s dowry, a
separate fortune, on her head, her neck, her hands, yes, on her
little jeweled feet. One tiny shoe of hers would make me free to
wed my lad.
If he have but eyes, I warrant thee he finds jewels enough in thy
bright face. Tell me his name.
Nay, that is my secret.
He must be a poor-souled lad if he will wait till thou hast earned
A poor-souled lad! my good Vicenzo–ah! but no matter; thou knowest
him, Luca, my Lord Lorenzo’s page. There!–is he poor, or mean, or
plain, or dull? He claims no dowry, he–but I have my pride, as well
as the great ones.
May the saints preserve thee from such as theirs! I am heartily glad
of thy good fortune. I am not sure whether thou or Lady Marie-Rosa
be the most favored. Well, the end proves all.
Enter on one side ANNICCA and DON TOMMASO, attired for the ball;
on the other side, RIBERA.
What do ye here, my children? Haste away!
Maria waits you for the ball; folk say
‘T will be the bravest show e’er seen in Naples.
I warrant you the Spagnoletto brings
The richest jewels–what say’st thou, my son?
I who have robbed you of one gem, need scarce
Re-word, sir, how I prize it.
Why, ‘t is true.
Robbed me, thou sayst? So hast thou. She was mine–
The balanced beauty of her flesh and spirit,
That was my garland, and I was her all,
Till thou, a stranger, stole her heart’s allegiance,
Suborned–Forgive me, I am old, a father,
Whose doting passions blind. I am not jealous,
Believe me, sir. When we Riberas give,
We give without retraction or reserve,
Were it our life-blood. I rejoice with thee
That she is thine; nor am I quite bereft,
I have some treasure still. I do repent
So heartily of my discourteous speech,
That I will crave your leave before I kiss
Your wife’s soft palm.
ANNICCA (kissing him repeatedly).
Why, father, what is this?
Can Don Tommaso’s wife so soon forget
She is the Spagnoletto’s child?
I can bear praise, thou knowest, from all save thee
And my Maria. My grave son, I fear,
Will mock these transports. Pray go in with me.
No one of us but has this night a triumph.
Let us make ready.
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