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But no, your house was mute, would ope no eye!
And wisely: you were plotting one thing there,
Nature, another outside. I looked up-
Rough white wood shutters, rusty iron bars,
Silent as death, blind in a flood of light.
Oh, I remember!-and the peasants laughed
And said, "The old man sleeps with the young wife."
This house was his, this chair, this window-his!

Otti. Ah, the clear morning! I can see St. Mark's; That black streak is the belfry. Stop: Vicenza Should lie . . . there's Padua, plain enough, that blue! Look o'er my shoulder, follow my finger!

Seb.

...

It seems to me a night with a sun added.

Morning?

Where's dew, where's freshness? That bruised plant, I bruised

In getting through the lattice yestereve,

Droops as it did. See, here's my elbow's mark

I' the dust o' the sill.

Otti.

Oh, shut the lattice, pray! Seb. Let me lean out! I cannot scent blood here, Foul as the morn may be.

There, shut the world out!

How do you feel now, Ottima? There, curse

The world and all outside! Let us throw off
This mask: how do you bear yourself? Let's out
With all of it!

Otti.

Best never speak of it.

Seb. Best speak again and yet again of it,

Till words cease to be more than words. "His blood,"
For instance-let those two words mean, "His blood"
And nothing more. Notice, I'll say them now,
"His blood."

Otti.

The deed

Seb.

Assuredly if I repented

Repent? Who should repent, or why?

What puts that in your head? Did I once say

That I repented?

Otti.

No, I said the deed ..

Seb. "The deed" and "the event"-just now it was "Our passion's fruit"—the devil take such cant!

Say, once and always, Luca was a wittol,

I am his cut-throat, you are

Otti.

Here's the wine;

I brought it when we left the house above,

And glasses too-wine of both sorts. Black? White

then?

Seb. But am not I his cut-throat? What are you? Otti. There trudges on his business from the Duomo Benet the Capuchin, with his brown hood

And bare feet; always in one place at church,
Close under the stone wall by the south entry.

I used to take him for a brown cold piece
Of the wall's self, as out of it he rose

To let me pass—at first, I say, I used:

Now, so has that dumb figure fastened on me,
I rather should account the plastered wall

A piece of him, so chilly does it strike.

This, Sebald?

Seb.

No, the white wine-the white wine! Well, Ottima, I promised no new year

Should rise on us the ancient shameful way;
Nor does it rise: pour on! To your black eyes!
Do you remember last damned New Year's day?
Otti. You brought those foreign prints. We looked
at them

Over the wine and fruit. I had to scheme

To get him from the fire.

Nothing but saying

His own set wants the proof-mark, roused him up

To hunt them out.

Seb.

'Faith, he is not alive

Do you

To fondle you before my face.

Otti.

Fondle me then! Who means to take your life
For that, my Sebald?

Seb.

Hark you, Ottima!

One thing to guard against. We'll not make much
One of the other-that is, not make more
Parade of warmth, childish officious coil,
Than yesterday: as if, sweet, I supposed
Proof upon proof were needed now, now first,
To show I love you-yes, still love you-love you
In spite of Luca and what's come to him
-Sure sign we had him ever in our thoughts,
White sneering old reproachful face and all!
We'll even quarrel, love, at times, as if
We still could lose each other, were not tied
By this: conceive you?

Otti.

Seb.

Love!

Not tied so sure!

Because though I was wrought upon, have struck His insolence back into him

am I

So surely yours?-therefore forever yours?

Otti. Love, to be wise, (one counsel pays another) Should we have-months ago, when first we loved, For instance that May morning we two stole

Under the green ascent of sycamores—

If we had come upon a thing like that
Suddenly.

Seb.

"A thing"-there again-"a thing!" Otti. Then, Venus' body, had we come upon My husband Luca Gaddi's murdered corpse Within there, at his couch-foot, covered closeWould you have pored upon it? Why persist In poring now upon it? For 't is here As much as there in the deserted house: You cannot rid your eyes of it. For me, Now he is dead I hate him worse: I hate . . Dare you stay here? I would go back and hold His two dead hands, and say, "I hate you worse, "Luca, than . . ."

Seb.

Off, off-take your hands off mine, 'T is the hot evening-off! oh, morning is it?

Otti. There's one thing must be done; you know what thing.

Come in and help to carry. We may sleep

Anywhere in the whole wide house to-night.

Seb. What would come, think you, if we let him lie Just as he is? Let him lie there until

The angels take him! He is turned by this
Off from his face beside, as you will see.

Otti. This dusty pane might serve for looking-glass.
Three, four-four grey hairs! Is it so you said
A plait of hair should wave across my neck?
No-this way.

Seb.

Ottima, I would give your neck, Each splendid shoulder, both those breasts of yours, That this were undone! Killing! Kill the world, So Luca lives again!-ay, lives to sputter His fulsome dotage on you—yes, and feign Surprise that I return at eve to sup,

When all the morning I was loitering here

Bid me dispatch my business and begone.
I would ...
Otti.
Seb.

See!

No, I'll finish! Do you think
I fear to speak the bare truth once for all?
All we have talked of, is, at bottom, fine
To suffer; there's a recompence in guilt;
One must be venturous and fortunate:

What is one young for, else? In age we'll sigh
O'er the wild reckless wicked days flown over;
Still, we have lived: the vice was in its place.
But to have eaten Luca's bread, have worn
His clothes, have felt his money swell my purse—
Do lovers in romances sin that way?

Why, I was starving when I used to call

And teach you music, starving while you plucked me These flowers to smell!

Otti.
Seb.

My poor lost friend!

He gave me

Life, nothing less: what if he did reproach
My perfidy, and threaten, and do more-
Had he no right? What was to wonder at?
He sat by us at table quietly:

Why must you lean across till our cheeks touched?
Could he do less than make pretence to strike?
'T is not the crime's sake-I'd commit ten crimes
Greater, to have this crime wiped out, undone!
And you-O how feel you? Feel you for me?
Otti. Well then, I love you better now than ever,
And best (look at me while I speak to you)-
Best for the crime; nor do I grieve, in truth,
This mask, this simulated ignorance,
This affectation of simplicity,

Robert Browning. III,

II

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