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SCENE I.-An apartment in the ducal palace.


It does not please thee, then, if silence have Speech, and if thine speak true, to hear me praise Bertuccio? Has my boy deserved of thee

Ill? or what ails thee when I praise him?


How should it hurt me that you praise



My son,

Mine, more than once my brother's how, indeed?


Have I the keeping of your loves in charge

To unseal or seal their utterance up, my lord?


Again, thy lord! I am lord of all save thee.


You are sire of all this people.


Nay, by Christ,

A bitter brood were mine then, and thyself
Mismated worse than April were with snow
Or January with harvest, being his bride
Who bore so dire a charge of fatherhood.
Thou, stepmother of Venice? and this hand,
That could not curb nor guide against its will
A foot that fell but heavier than a dove's,
What power were in it to hold obedience fast,
Laid on the necks of lions?


Why, men say

The lion will stoop not save to ladies' hands,

But such as mine may lead him.


Thine? I think

The very wolf would kiss and rend it not.

The very sea-wolf?



Verily, so meseems.


For so the strong sea-lion of Venice doth.


This is a perilous beast whereof thou sayest
So sweet a thing so far from like to be-
A horrible and a fiend-faced shape, men call
The lion of the waters.


But St. Mark

Holds his in leash of love more fast, my lord,
Than ever violence may.


By heaven and him,

Thy sweet wit's flight is even too fleet for me :
No marvel though thy gentle scorn smite sore
On weaker wits of younglings: yet I would,
Being more my child than even my wife to me,
Thine heart were more a sister's toward my son.


So is it indeed-and shall be so-and more,

The more we love our father and our lord,

Shall our two loves grow full, grow fire that springs To Godward from the sacrifice it leaves

Consumed for man's burnt-offering.


What! thine eyes

Are very jewels of even such fire indeed.

I thought not so to kindle them: but yet

My heart grows great in gladness given of thine
Whose truth in such bright silence as is God's
Speaks love aloud and lies not.


No, my lord.


It is not truth nor love then, sweet my child,
That lightens from thine eyeshot?


Yea, my lord.


I grow less fond than foolish, troubling thee,
Who yet am held or yet would hold myself
Not yet unmanned with dotage. Sooth is this,
I am lighter than my daily mood today
And heedless haply lest I wrong mine age
And weary thine with words unworthy thee
Or him that would be honoured of the world
Less than beloved-with love not all unmeet--
Of one or twain he loves as old men may.
Bertuccio loves me; thou dost hate me not
That like a frost I touch thy flower, and breathe
As March breathes back the spirit of winter dead
On May that dwells where thou dost but my son
Finds no more grace of thee to comfort him
Than April wins of the east wind. Wot thou well,

The long loose tongues of Tuscan wit would cast

Ill comment on this care of mine to bring

More close my wife's heart and my son's, being young,

And I a waif of winter, left astrand

Above the soft sea's tidemark whose warm lip

Is love's, that loves not age's: but I think
We are none of those whose folly, set in shame,
Makes mirth for John of Florence.



By God's grace,


And by grace of pure Venetian pride

And blood of blameless mothers. By St. Mark, Shame, that stings sharpest of the worms in hell, Seems, if those light-souled folks sing true, to them No more a burning poison than the fly's

We brush from us, and know not: but for men

The eternal fire hath no such fang to smite

As this their jests make nought of. Life is brief— Albeit thou knowest not, nor canst well believe,

But life is long and lovesome as thine age

In vision sees it, and in heart uplift

Plays prelude clear of presage-brief and void

Where laughing lusts fulfil its length of days

And nought save pleasure born seems worth desire


But long and full of fruit in all men's sight
Whereon the wild worm feeds not, nor the sun

Strikes, nor the wind makes war, nor frost lays hold,
Is the ageless life of honour, won and worn.

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