The Ring And The Book - Chapter VIII - Dominus Hyacinthus de Archangelis

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AH, my Giacinto, he’s no ruddy rogue,
Is not Cinone? What, to-day we’re eight?
Seven and one’s eight, I hope, old curly-pate!
—Branches me out his verb-tree on the slate,
Amo -as -avi -atum -are -ans,
Up to -aturus, person, tense, and mood,
Quies me cum subjunctivo (I could cry)
And chews Corderius with his morning crust!
Look eight years onward, and he’s perched, he’s perched,
Dapper and deft on stool beside this chair,
Cinozzo, Cinoncello, who but he?
—Trying his milk-teeth on some crusty case
Like this, papa shall triturate full soon
To smooth Papinianian pulp!
  It trots
Already through my head, though noon be now,
Does supper-time and what belongs to eye.
Dispose, O Don, o’ the day, first work then play!
—The proverb bids. And “then” means, won’t we hold
Our little yearly lovesome frolic feast,
Cinuolo’s birth-night, Cinicello’s own,
That makes gruff January grin perforce!
For too contagious grows the mirth, the warmth
Escaping from so many hearts at once—
When the good wife, buxom and bonny yet,
Jokes the hale grandsire,—such are just the sort
To go off suddenly,—he who hides the key
O’ the box beneath his pillow every night,—
Which box may hold a parchment (some one thinks)
Will show a scribbled something like a name
“Cinino, Ciniccino,” near the end,
“To whom I give and I bequeath my lands,
“Estates, tenements, hereditaments,
“When I decease as honest grandsire ought:”
Wherefore—yet this one time again perhaps—
Shan’t my Orvieto fuddle his old nose!
Then, uncles, one or the other, well i’ the world,
May—drop in, merely?—trudge through rain and wind,
Rather! The smell-feasts rouse them at the hint
There’s cookery in a certain dwelling-place!
Gossips, too, each with keepsake in his poke,
Will pick the way, thrid lane by lantern-light,
And so find door, put galligaskin off
At entry of a decent domicile
Cornered in snug Condotti,—all for love,
All to crush cup with Cinucciatolo!
Let others climb the heights o’ the court, the camp!
How vain are chambering and wantonness,
Revel and rout and pleasures that make mad!
Commend me to home-joy, the family board,
Altar and hearth! These, with a brisk career,
A source of honest profit and good fame,
Just so much work as keeps the brain from rust,
Just so much play as lets the heart expand,
Honouring God and serving man,—I say,
These are reality, and all else,—fluff,
Nutshell and naught,—thank Flaccus for the phrase!
Suppose I had been Fisc, yet bachelor!
Why, work with a will, then! Wherefore lazy now?
Turn up the hour-glass, whence no sand-grain slips
But should have done its duty to the saint
O’ the day, the son and heir that’s eight years old!
Let law come dimple Cinoncino’s cheek,
And Latin dumple Cinarello’s chin,
The while we spread him fine and toss him flat
This pulp that makes the pancake, trim our mass
Of matter into Argument the First,
Prime Pleading in defence of our accused,
Which, once a-waft on paper wing, shall soar,
Shall signalise before applausive Rome
What study, and mayhap some mother-wit,
Can do toward making Master fop and Fisc
Old bachelor Bottinius bite his thumb.
Now, how good God is! How falls plumb to point
This murder, gives me Guido to defend
Now, of all days i’ the year, just when the boy
Verges on Virgil, reaches the right age
For some such illustration from his sire,
Stimulus to himself! One might wait years
And never find the chance which now finds me!
The fact is, there’s a blessing on the hearth,
A special providence for fatherhood!
Here’s a man, and what’s more, a noble, kills
—Not sneakingly but almost with parade—
Wife’s father and wife’s mother and wife’s self
That’s mother’s self of son and heir (like mine!)
—And here stand I, the favoured advocate,
Who pluck this flower o’ the field, no Solomon
Was ever clothed in glorious gold to match,
And set the same in Cinoncino’s cap!
I defend Guido and his comrades—I!
Pray God, I keep me humble: not to me—
Non nobis, Domine, sed tibi laus!
How the fop chuckled when they made him Fisc!
We’ll beat you, my Bottinius, all for love,
All for our tribute to Cinotto’s day!
Why, ’sbuddikins, old Innocent himself
May rub his eyes at the bustle,—ask “What’s this
“Rolling from out the rostrum, as a gust
“O’ the Pro Milone had been prisoned there,
“And rattled Rome awake?” Awaken Rome,
How can the Pope doze on in decency?
He needs must wake up also, speak his word,
Have his opinion like the rest of Rome,
About this huge, this hurly-burly case:
He wants who can excogitate the truth,
Give the result in speech, plain black and white,
To mumble in the mouth and make his own
—A little changed, good man, a little changed!
No matter, so his gratitude be moved,
By when my Giacintino gets of age,
Mindful of who thus helped him at a pinch,
Archangelus Procurator Pauperum—
And proved Hortensius Redivivus!
To earn the Est-est, merit the minced herb
That mollifies the liver’s leathery slice,
With here a goose-foot, there a cock’s-comb stuck,
Cemented in an element of cheese!
I doubt if dainties do the grandsire good:
Last June he had a sort of strangling . . . bah!
He’s his own master, and his will is made.
So, liver fizz, law flit and Latin fly
As we rub hands o’er dish by way of grace!
May I lose cause if I vent one word more
Except,—with fresh-cut quill we ink the white,—
P-r-o-pro Guidone et Sociis. There!

Count Guido married—or, in Latin due,
What? Duxit in uxorem?—commonplace!
Tædas jugales iniit, subiit,—ha!
He underwent the matrimonial torch?
Connubio stabili sibi junxit,—hum!
In stable bond of marriage bound his own?
That’s clear of any modern taint: and yet . . . 

Virgil is little help to who writes prose.
He shall attack me Terence with the dawn,
Shall Cinuccino! Mum, mind business, Sir!
Thus circumstantially evolve we facts,
Ita se habet ideo series facti:
He wedded,—ah, with owls for augury!
Nupserat, heu sinistris avibus,
One of the blood Arezzo boasts her best,
Dominus Guido, nobili genere ortus,
Pompiliæ. . . . 

  But the version afterward!
Curb we this ardour! Notes alone, to-day,
The speech to-morrow and the Latin last:
Such was the rule in Farinacci’s time.
Indeed I hitched it into verse and good.
Unluckily, law quite absorbs a man,
Or else I think I too had poetised.
“Law is the pork substratum of the fry,
“Goose-foot and cock’s-comb are Latinity,”—
And in this case, if circumstance assist,
We’ll garnish law with idiom, never fear!
Out-of-the-way events extend our scope:
For instance, when Bottini brings his charge,
“That letter which you say Pompilia wrote,
“To criminate her parents and herself
“And disengage her husband from the coil,—
“That, Guido Franceschini wrote, say we:
“Because Pompilia could nor read nor write,
“Therefore he pencilled her such letter first,
“Then made her trace in ink the same again.”
—Ha, my Bottini, have I thee on hip?
How will he turn this nor break Tully’s pate?
“Existimandum” (don’t I hear the dog!)
“Quod Guido designaverit elementa
“Dictæ epistolæ, quæ fuerint
“(Superinducto ab ea calamo)
“Notata atramento”—there’s a style!—
“Quia ipsa scribere nesciebat.” Boh!
Now, my turn! Either, Insulse!—I outburst,
Stupidly put! Inane is the response,
Inanis est responsio, or the like—
To-wit, that each of all those characters,
Quod singula elementa epistolæ,
Had first of all been traced for her by him,
Fuerant per eum prius designata,
And then, the ink applied a-top of that,
Et deinde, superinducto calamo,
The piece, she says, became her handiwork,
Per eam, efformata, ut ipsa asserit.
Inane were such response! (a second time
Her husband outlined her the whole, forsooth?
Vir ejus lineabat epistolam?
What, she confesses that she wrote the thing,
Fatetur eam scripsisse, (scorn that scathes!)
That she might pay obedience to her lord?
Ut viro obtemperaret, apices
(Here repeat charge with proper varied phrase)
Eo designante, ipsaque calamum
Super inducente? By such argument,
Ita pariter, she seeks to show the same,
(Ay, by Saint Joseph and what saints you please)
Epistolam ostendit, medius fidius,
No voluntary deed but fruit of force!
Non voluntarie sed coacte scriptam!
That’s the way to write Latin, friend my Fisc!
Bottini is a beast, one barbarous:
Look out for him when he attempts to say
“Armed with a pistol, Guido followed her!”
Will not I be beforehand with my Fisc,
Cut away phrase by phrase from underfoot!
Guido Pompiliam—Guido thus his wife
Following with igneous engine, shall I have?
Armis munitus igneis persequens—
Arma sulphurea gestans, sulphury arms,
Or, might one style a pistol—popping-piece?
Armatus breviori sclopulo?
We’ll let him have been armed so, though it make
Somewhat against us: I had thought to own—
Provided with a simple travelling-sword,
Ense solummodo viatorio
Instructus: but we’ll grant the pistol here:
Better we lost the cause than lacked the gird
At the Fisc’s Latin, lost the Judge’s laugh!
It’s Venturini that decides for style.
Tommati rather goes upon the law.
So, as to law,—

  Ah, but with law ne’er hope
To level the fellow,—don’t I know his trick!
How he draws up, ducks under, twists aside!
He’s a lean-gutted hectic rascal, fine
As pale-haired red-eyed ferret which pretends
’Tis ermine, pure soft snow from tail to snout.
He eludes law by piteous looks aloft,
Lets Latin glance off as he makes appeal
To the saint that’s somewhere in the ceiling-top,—
Do you suppose that I don’t see the beast?
Plague of the ermine-vermin! For it takes,
It takes, and here’s the fellow Fisc, you see,
And Judge, you’ll not be long in seeing next!
Confound the fop—he’s now at work like me:
Enter his study, as I seem to do,
Hear him read out his writing to himself!
I know he writes as if he spoke: I hear
The hoarse shrill throat, see shut eyes, neck shot-forth,
—I see him strain on tiptoe, soar and pour
Eloquence out, nor stay nor stint at all—
Perorate in the air, and so, to press
With the product! What abuse of type is here!
He’ll keep clear of my cast, my logic-throw,
Let argument slide, and then deliver swift
Some bowl from quite an unguessed point of stand—
Having the luck o’ the last word, the reply!
A plaguy cast, a mortifying stroke:
You face a fellow—cries “So, there you stand?
“But I discourteous jump clean o’er your head!
“You play ship-carpenter, not pilot so,—
“Stop rat-holes, while a sea sweeps through the breach,—
“Hammer and fortify at puny points!
“Do, clamp and tenon, make all tight and safe!
“’Tis here and here and here you ship a sea,
“No good of your stopped leaks and littleness!”

Yet what do I name “little and a leak?”
The main defence o’ the murder’s used to death,
By this time, dry bare bones, no scrap to pick:
Safer I worked at the new, the unforeseen,
The nice bye-stroke, the fine and improvised,
Point that can titillate the brain o’ the Bench
Torpid with over-teaching, by this time!
As if Tommati, that has heard, reheard
And heard again, first this side and then that,—
Guido and Pietro, Pietro and Guido din
And deafen, full three years, at each long ear,—
Don’t want amusement for instruction now,
Won’t rather feel a flea run o’er his ribs,
Than a daw settle heavily on his head!
Oh, I was young and had the trick of fence,
Knew subtle pass and push with careless right—
The left arm ever quietly behind back
With the dagger in ’t: not both hands to blade!
Puff and blow, put the strength out, Blunderbore!
That’s my subordinate, young Spreti, now,
Pedant and prig,—he’ll pant away at proof,
That’s his way!

  Now for mine—to rub some life
Into one’s choppy fingers this cold day!
I trust Cinuzzo ties on tippet, guards
The precious throat on which so much depends!
Guido must be all goose-flesh in his hole,
Despite the prison-straw: bad Carnival
For captives! no sliced fry for him, poor Count!

Carnival-time,—another providence!
The town a-swarm with strangers to amuse,
To edify, to give one’s name and fame
In charge of, till they find, some future day,
Cintino come and claim it, his name too,
Pledge of the pleasantness they owe papa—
Who else was it, cured Rome of her great qualms,
When she must needs have her own judgment?—ay
Since all her topping wits had set to work,
Pronounced already on the case: mere boys,
Twice Cineruggiolo’s age and half his sense,
As good as tell me, when I cross the court,
“Master Arcangeli!” (plucking at my gown)
“We can predict, we comprehend your play,
“We’ll help you save your client.” Tra-la-la!
I’ve travelled ground, from childhood till this hour,
To have the town anticipate my track!
The old fox takes the plain and velvet path,
The young hound’s predilection,—prints the dew,
Don’t he, to suit their pulpy pads of paw?
No! Burying nose deep down i’ the briery bush,
Thus I defend Count Guido.
  Where are we weak?
First, which is foremost in advantage too,
Our murder,—we call, killing,—is a fact
Confessed, defended, made a boast of: good!
To think the Fisc claimed use of torture here,
And got thereby avowal plump and plain
That gives me just the chance I wanted,—scope
Not for brute-force but ingenuity,
Explaining matters, not denying them!
One may dispute,—as I am bound to do,
And shall,—validity of process here:
Inasmuch as a noble is exempt
From torture which plebeians undergo
In such a case: for law is lenient, lax,
Remits the torture to a nobleman
Unless suspicion be of twice the strength
Attaches to a man born vulgarly:
We don’t card silk with comb that dresses wool.
Moreover, ’twas severity undue
In this case, even had the lord been lout.
What utters, on this head, our oracle,
Our Farinacci, my Gamaliel erst,
In those immortal “Questions?” What I quote:
Of all the tools at Law’s disposal, sure
“That named Vigiliarum is the best—
“That is, the worst—to whoso has to bear:
“Lasting, as it may do, from some seven hours
“To ten, (beyond ten, we’ve no precedent;
“Certain have touched their ten but, bah, they died!)
“It does so efficaciously convince
“That,—speaking by much observation here,—
“Out of each hundred cases, by my count,
“Never I knew of patients beyond four
“Withstand its taste, or less than ninety-six
“End by succumbing: only martyrs four,
“Of obstinate silence, guilty or no,—against
“Ninety-six full confessors, innocent
“Or otherwise,—so shrewd a tool have we!”
No marvel either: in unwary hands,
Death on the spot is no rare consequence:
As indeed all but happened in this case
To one of ourselves, our young tough peasant-friend
The accomplice called Baldeschi: they were rough,
Dosed him with torture as you drench a horse,
Not modify your treatment to a man:
So, two successive days he fainted dead,
And only on the third essay, gave up,
Confessed like flesh and blood. We could reclaim,—
Blockhead Bottini giving cause enough!
But no,—we’ll take it as spontaneously
Confessed: we’ll have the murder beyond doubt.
Ah, fortunate (the poet’s word reversed)
Inasmuch as we know our happiness!
Had the antagonist left dubiety,
Here were we proving murder a mere myth,
And Guido innocent, ignorant, absent,—ay,
Absent! He was—why, where should Christian be?—
Engaged in visiting his proper church,
The duty of us all at Christmas-time;
When Caponsacchi, the seducer, stung
To madness by his relegation, cast
About him and contrived a remedy:
To stave off what opprobrium broke afresh,
By the birth o’ the babe, on him the imputed sire,
He came and quietly sought to smother up
His shame and theirs together,—killed the three,
And fled—(go seek him where you please to search)—
Just at the moment, Guido, touched by grace,
Devotions ended, hastened to the spot,
Meaning to pardon his convicted wife,
“Neither do I condemn thee, go in peace!”—
Who thus arrived i’ the nick of time to catch
The charge o’ the killing, though great-heartedly
He came but to forgive and bring to life.
Doubt ye the force of Christmas on the soul?
“Is thine eye evil because mine is good?”

So, doubtless, had I needed argue here
But for the full confession round and sound!
Thus would you have some kingly alchemist,—
Whose concern should not be with proving brass
Transmutable to gold, but triumphing,
Rather, above his gold changed out of brass,
Not vulgarly to the mere sight and touch,
But in the idea, the spiritual display,
Proud apparition buoyed by winged words
Hovering above its birth-place in the brain,—
Here would you have this excellent personage
Forced, by the gross need, to gird apron round,
Plant forge, light fire, ply bellows,—in a word,
Demonstrate—when a faulty pipkin’s crack
May disconcert you his presumptive truth!
Here were I hanging to the testimony
Of one of these poor rustics—four, ye Gods!
Whom the first taste of friend the Fiscal’s cord
Might drive into undoing my whole speech,
Shaming truth so!
  I wonder, all the same,
Not so much at those peasants’ lack of heart;
But—Guido Franceschini, nobleman,
Bear pain no better! Everybody knows
It used once, when my father was a boy,
To form a proper, nay, important point
I’ the education of our well-born youth,
To take the torture handsomely at need,
Without confessing in this clownish guise,
Each noble had his rack for private use,
And would, for the diversion of a guest,
Bid it be set up in the yard of arms,
To take thereon his hour of exercise,—
Command the varletry stretch, strain their best,
While friends looked on, admired my lord could smile
’Mid tugging which had caused an ox to roar.
Men are no longer men!

  —And advocates
No longer Farinacci, let men add,
If I one more time fly from point proposed!
So, Vindicatio,—here begins the same!—
Honoris causa; so we make our stand:
Honour in us had injury, we shall prove.
Or if we fail to prove such injury
More than misprision of the fact,—what then?
It is enough, authorities declare,
If the result, the deed in question now,
Be caused by confidence that injury
Is veritable and no figment: since,
What, though proved fancy afterward, seemed fact
At the time, they argue shall excuse result.
That which we do, persuaded of good cause
For what we do, hold justifiable!—
The casuists bid: man, bound to do his best,
They would not have him leave that best undone
And mean to do the worst,—though fuller light
Show best was worst and worst would have been best.
Act by the present light, they ask of man.
Ultra quod hic non agitur, besides
It is not anyway our business here,
De probatione adulterii,
To prove what we thought crime was crime indeed,
Ad irrogandam pænam, and require
Its punishment: such nowise do we seek:
Sed ad effectum, but ’tis our concern,
Excusandi, here to simply find excuse,
Occisorem, for who did the killing-work,
Et ad illius defensionem (mark
The difference!) and defend the man, just that.
Quo casu levior probatio
Exuberaret, to which end far lighter proof
Suffices than the prior case would claim:
It should be always harder to convict,
In short, than to establish innocence,
Therefore we shall demonstrate first of all
That Honour is a gift of God to man
Precious beyond compare,—which natural sense
Of human rectitude and purity,—
Which white, man’s soul is born with, brooks no touch:
Therefore, the sensitivest spot of all,
Woundable by a wafture breathed from black,
Is,—honour within honour, like the eye
Centred i’ the ball,—the honour of our wife.
Touch us o’ the pupil of our honour, then,
Not actually,—since so you slay outright,—
But by a gesture simulating touch,
Presumable mere menace of such taint,—
This were our warrant for eruptive ire
“To whose dominion I impose no end.”

(Virgil, now, should not be too difficult
To Cinoncino,—say the early books . . .
Pen, truce to further gambols! Poscimur!)

Nor can revenge of injury done here
To the honour proved the life and soul of us,
Be too excessive, too extravagant:
Such wrong seeks and must have complete revenge.
Show we this, first, on the mere natural ground:
Begin at the beginning, and proceed
Incontrovertibly. Theodoric,
In an apt sentence Cassiodorus cites,
Propounds for basis of all household law—
I hardly recollect it, but it ends,
“Bird mates with bird, beast genders with his like,
“And brooks no interference:” bird and beast?
The very insects . . . if they wive or no,
How dare I say when Aristotle doubts?
But the presumption is they likewise wive,
At least the nobler sorts; for take the bee
As instance,—copying King Solomon,—
Why that displeasure of the bee to aught
That savours of incontinency, makes
The unchaste a very horror to the hive?
Whence comes it bees obtain the epithet
Of castæ apes? notably “the chaste?”
Because, ingeniously saith Scaliger,
(The young one—see his book of Table-talk)
“Such is their hatred of immodest act,
“They fall upon the offender, sting to death.”
I mind a passage much confirmative
I’ the Idyllist (though I read him Latinized)
“Why,” asks a shepherd, “is this bank unfit
“For celebration of our vernal loves?”
“Oh swain,” returns the wiser shepherdess,
“Bees swarm here, and would quick resent our warmth!”
Only cold-blooded fish lack instinct here,
Nor gain nor guard connubiality:
But beasts, quadrupedal, mammiferous,
Do credit to their beasthood: witness him,
That Ælian cites, the noble elephant,
(Or if not Ælian, somebody as sage)
Who seeing much offence beneath his nose,
His master’s friend exceed in courtesy
The due allowance to that master’s wife,
Taught them good manners and killed both at once,
Making his master and all men admire.
Indubitably, then, that master’s self
Favoured by circumstance, had done the same
Or else stood clear rebuked by his own beast.
Adeo, ut qui honorem spernit, thus,
Who values his own honour not a straw,—
Et non recuperare curat, nor
Labours by might and main to salve its wound,
Se ulciscendo, by revenging him,
Nil differat a belluis, is a brute,
Quinimo irrationabilior
Ipsismet belluis, nay, contrariwise,
Much more irrational than brutes themselves,
Should be considered, reputetur! How?
If a poor animal feel honour smart,
Taught by blind instinct nature plants in him,
Shall man,—confessed creation’s master-stroke,
Nay, intellectual glory, nay, a god,
Nay, of the nature of my Judges here,—
Shall man prove the insensible, the block,
The blot o’ the earth he crawls on to disgrace?
(Come, that’s both solid and poetic)—man
Derogate, live for the low tastes alone,
Mean creeping cares about the animal life?

May Gigia have remembered, nothing stings
Fried liver out of its monotony
Of richness like a root of fennel, chopped
Fine with the parsley: parsley-sprigs, I said—
Was there need I should say “and fennel too?”
But no, she cannot have been so obtuse!
To our argument! The fennel will be chopped.

From beast to man next mount we,—ay, but, mind,
Still mere man, not yet Christian,—that, in time!
Not too fast, mark you! ’Tis on Heathen grounds
We next defend our act: then, fairly urge—
If this were done of old, in a green tree,
Allowed in the Spring rawness of our kind,
What may be licensed in the Autumn dry,
And ripe, the latter harvest-tide of man?
If, with his poor and primitive half-lights,
The Pagan, whom our devils served for gods,
Could stigmatise the breach of marriage-vow
As that which blood, blood only might efface,—
Absolve the husband, outraged, whose revenge
Anticipated law, plied sword himself,—
How with the Christian in full blaze of day?
Shall not he rather double penalty,
Multiply vengeance, than, degenerate,
Let privilege be minished, droop, decay?
Therefore set forth at large the ancient law!
Superabundant the examples be
To pick and choose from. The Athenian Code,
Solon’s, the name is serviceable,—then,
The Laws of the Twelve Tables, that fifteenth,—
“Romulus” likewise rolls out round and large.
The Julian; the Cornelian; Gracchus’ Law:
So old a chime, the bells ring of themselves!
Spreti can set that going if he please,
I point you, for my part, the belfry out,
Intent to rise from dusk, diluculum,
Into the Christian day shall broaden next.

First, the fit compliment to His Holiness
Happily reigning: then sustain the point—
All that was long ago declared as law
By the early Revelation, stands confirmed
By Apostle and Evangelist and Saint,—
To-wit—that Honour is the supreme good.
Why should I baulk Saint Jerome of his phrase?
Ubi honor non est, where no honour is,
Ibi contemptus est; and where contempt,
Ibi injuria frequens; and where that,
The frequent injury, ibi et indignatio;
And where the indignation, ibi quies
Nulla; and where there is no quietude,
Why, ibi, there, the mind is often cast
Down from the heights where it proposed to dwell,
Mens a proposito sœpe dejicitur.
And naturally the mind is so cast down,
Since harder ’tis, quum difficilius sit,
Iram cohibere, to coerce one’s wrath,
Quam miracula facere, than work miracles,—
Saint Gregory smiles in his First Dialogue:
Whence we infer, the ingenuous soul, the man
Who makes esteem of honour and repute,
Whenever honour and repute are touched,
Arrives at term of fury and despair,
Loses all guidance from the reason-check:
As in delirium, or a frenzy-fit,
Nor fury nor despair he satiates,—no,
Not even if he attain the impossible,
O’erturn the hinges of the universe
To annihilate—not whose caused the smart
Solely, the author simply of his pain,
But the place, the memory, vituperii,
O’ the shame and scorn: quia,—says Solomon,
(The Holy Spirit speaking by his mouth
In Proverbs, the sixth chapter near the end)
—Because, the zeal and fury of a man,
Zelus et furor viri, will not spare,
Non parcet, in the day of his revenge,
In die vindictæ, nor will acquiesce,
Nec acquiescet, through a person’s prayers,
Cujusdam precibus,—nec suscipiet,
Nor yet take, pro redemptione, for
Redemption, dona plurium, gifts of friends,
Nor money-payment to compound for ache.
Who recognises not my client’s case?
Whereto, as strangely consentaneous here,
Adduce Saint Bernard in the Epistle writ
To Robertulus, his nephew: Too much grief.
Dolor quippe nimius non deliberat,
Does not excogitate propriety,
Non verecundatur, nor knows shame at all,
Non consulit rationem, nor consults
Reason, non dignitatis metuit
Damnum, nor dreads the loss of dignity;
Modum et ordinem, order and the mode,
Ignorat, it ignores: why, trait for trait,
Was ever portrait limned so like the life?
(By Cavalier Maratta, shall I say?
I hear he’s first in reputation now.)
Yes, that of Samson in the Sacred Text:
That’s not so much the portrait as the man
Samson in Gaza was the antetype
Of Guido at Rome: for note the Nazarite!
Blinded he was,—an easy thing to bear,
Intrepidly he took imprisonment,
Gyves, stripes, and daily labour at the mill:
But when he found himself, i’ the public place,
Destined to make the common people sport,
Disdain burned up with such an impetus
I’ the breast of him that, all of him on fire,
Moriatur, roared he, let my soul’s self die,
Anima mea, with the Philistines!
So, pulled down pillar, roof, and death and all,
Multosque plures interfecit, ay,
And many more he killed thus, moriens,
Dying, quam vivus, than in his whole life,
Occiderat, he ever killed before.
Are these things writ for no example, Sirs?
One instance more, and let me see who doubts!
Our Lord Himself, made up of mansuetude,
Sealing the sum of sufferance up, received
Opprobrium, contumely, and buffeting
Without complaint: but when He found Himself
Touched in His honour never so little for once,
Then outbroke indignation pent before—
“Honorem meum nemini dabo!” “No,
“My honour I to nobody will give!”
And certainly the example so hath wrought,
That whosoever, at the proper worth,
Apprises worldly honour and repute,
Esteems it nobler to die honoured man
Beneath Mannaia, than live centuries
Disgraced in the eye o’ the world. We find Saint Paul
No miscreant to this faith delivered once:
“Far worthier were it that I died,” cries he,
Expedit mihi magis mori, “than
“That any one should make my glory void,”
Quam ut gloriam meam quis evacuet!
See, ad Corinthienses: whereupon
Saint Ambrose makes a comment with much fruit,
Doubtless my Judges long since laid to heart,
So I desist from bringing forward here—
(I can’t quite recollect it.)

  Have I proved
Satis superque, both enough and to spare,
That Revelation old and new admits
The natural man may effervesce in ire,
O’erflood earth, o’erfroth heaven with foamy rage,
At the first puncture to his self-respect?
Then, Sirs, this Christian dogma, this law-bud
Full-blown now, soon to bask the absolute flower
Of Papal doctrine in our blaze of clay,—
Bethink you, shall we miss one promise-streak,
One doubtful birth of dawn crepuscular,
One dew-drop comfort to humanity,
Now that the chalice teems with noonday wine?
Yea, argue Molinists who bar revenge—
Referring just to what makes out our case!
Under old dispensation, argue they,
The doom of the adulterous wife was death,
Stoning by Moses’ law. “Nay, stone her not,
“Put her away!” next legislates our Lord;
And last of all, “Nor yet divorce a wife!”
Ordains the Church, “she typifies ourself,
The Bride no fault shall cause to fall from Christ.”
Then, as no jot nor tittle of the Law
Has passed away—which who presumes to doubt?
As not one word of Christ is rendered vain—
Which, could it be though heaven and earth should pass?
—Where do I find my proper punishment
For my adulterous wife, I humbly ask
Of my infallible Pope,—who now remits
Even the divorce allowed by Christ in lieu
Of lapidation Moses licensed me?
The Gospel checks the Law which throws the stone,
The Church tears the divorce-bill Gospel grants,
The wife sins and enjoys impunity!
What profits me the fulness of the days,
The final dispensation, I demand,
Unless Law, Gospel, and the Church subjoin.
“But who hath barred thee primitive revenge,
“Which, like fire damped and dammed up, burns more fierce?
“Use thou thy natural privilege of man,
“Else wert thou found like those old ingrate Jews,
“Despite the manna-banquet on the board,
“A-longing after melons, cucumbers,
“And such like trash of Egypt left behind!”
(There was one melon, had improved our soup,
But did not Cinoncino need the rind
To make a boat with? So I seem to think.)

Law, Gospel, and the Church—from these we leap
To the very last revealment, easy rule
Befitting the well-born and thorough-bred
O’ the happy day we live in,—not the dark
O’ the early rude and acorn-eating race.
“Behold,” quoth James, “we bridle in a horse
“And turn his body as we would thereby!”
Yea, but we change the bit to suit the growth,
And rasp our colt’s jaw with a rugged spike
We hasten to remit our managed steed
Who wheels round at persuasion of a touch.
Civilisation bows to decency,
The acknowledged use and wont, the manners,—mild
But yet imperative law,—which make the man.
Thus do we pay the proper compliment
To rank, and that society of Rome,
Hath so obliged us by its interest,
Taken our client’s part instinctively,
As unaware defending its own cause.
What dictum doth Society lay down
I’ the case of one who hath a faithless wife?
Wherewithal should the husband cleanse his way?
Be patient and forgive? Oh, language fails—
Shrinks from depicturing his punishment!
For if wronged husband raise not hue and cry,
Quod si maritus de adulterio non
Conquereretur, he’s presumed a—foh!
Presumitur leno: so, complain he must.
But how complain? At your tribunal, lords?
Far weightier challenge suits your sense, I wot!
You sit not to have gentlemen propose
Questions gentility can itself discuss.
Did not you prove that to our brother Paul?
The Abate, quum judicialiter.
Prosequeretur, when he tried the law,
Guidonis causam, in Count Guido’s case,
Accidit ipsi, this befell himself,
Quod risum moverit et cachinnos, that
He moved to mirth and cachinnation, all
Or nearly all, fere in omnibus
Etiam sensatis et cordatis, men
Strong-sensed, sound-hearted, nay, the very Court,
Ipsismet in judicibus, I might add,
Non tamen dicam. In a cause like this,
So multiplied were reasons pro and con,
Delicate, intertwisted and obscure,
That law were shamed to lend a finger-tip
To unravel, readjust the hopeless twine,
While, half-a-dozen steps outside the court,
There stood a foolish trifler with a tool
A-dangle to no purpose by his side,
Had clearly cut the tangle in a trice.
Asserunt enim unanimiter
Doctores, for the Doctors all assert,
That husbands, quod mariti, must be held
Viles, cornuti reputantur, vile
And branching forth a florid infamy,
Si propriis manibus, if with their own hands,
Non sumunt, they take not straightway revenge,
Vindictam, but expect the deed be done
By the Court—expectant illam fieri
Per judices, qui summopere rident, which
Gives an enormous guffaw for reply,
Et cachinnantur. For he ran away,
Deliquit enim, just that he might ’scape
The censure of both counsellors and crowd,
Ut vulgi et Doctorum evitaret
Censuram, and lest so he superadd
To loss of honour ignominy too,
Et sic ne istam quoque ignominiam
Amisso honori superadderet.
My lords, my lords, the inconsiderate step
Was—we referred ourselves to law at all!
Twit me not with, “Law else had punished you!”
Each punishment of the extra-legal step,
To which the high-born preferably revert,
Is ever for some oversight, some slip
I’ the taking vengeance, not for vengeance’ self.
A good thing done unhandsomely turns ill;
And never yet lacked ill the law’s rebuke.
For pregnant instance, let us contemplate
The luck of Leonardus,—see at large
Of Sicily’s Decisions sixty-first.
This Leonard finds his wife is false: what then?
He makes her own son snare her, and entice
Out of the town-walls to a private walk,
Wherein he slays her with commodity.
They find her body half-devoured by dogs:
Leonard is tried, convicted, punished, sent
To labour in the galleys seven years long:
Why? For the murder? Nay, but for the mode!
Malus modus occidendi, ruled the Court,
An ugly mode of killing, nothing more!
Another fructuous sample,—see “De Re
“Criminali,” in Matthæus’ divine piece.
Another husband, in no better plight,
Simulates absence, thereby tempts the wife;
On whom he falls, out of sly ambuscade,
Backed by a brother of his, and both of them
Armed to the teeth with arms that law had blamed.
Nimis dolose, overwilily,
Fuisse operatum, was it worked,
Pronounced the law: had all been fairly done
Law had not found him worthy, as she did,
Of four years’ exile. Why cite more? Enough
Is good as a feast—(unless a birthday-feast
For one’s Cinuccio: so, we’ll finish here)
My lords, we rather need defend ourselves
Inasmuch as for a twinkling of an eye
We hesitatingly appealed to law,—
Rather than deny that, on mature advice,
We blushingly bethought us, bade revenge
Back to the simple proper private way
Of decent self-dealt gentlemanly death.
Judges, there is the law, and this beside,
The testimony! Look to it!

  Pause and breathe!
So far is only too plain; we must watch,
Bottini will scarce hazard an attack
Here: let’s anticipate the fellow’s play,
And guard the weaker places—warily ask,
What if considerations of a sort,
Reasons of a kind, arise from out the strange
Peculiar unforseen new circumstance
Of this our (candour owns) abnormal act,
To bar the right of us revenging so?
“Impunity were otherwise your meed:
“Go slay your wife and welcome,”—may be urged,—
“But why the innocent old couple slay,
“Pietro, Violante? You may do enough,
“Not too much, not exceed the golden mean:
“Neither brute-beast nor Pagan, Gentile, Jew,
“Nor Christian, no nor votarist of the mode,
“Were free at all to push revenge so far!”

No, indeed? Why, thou very sciolist!
The actual wrong, Pompilia seemed to do,
Was virtual wrong done by the parents here—
Imposing her upon us as their child—
Themselves allow: then, her fault was their fault,
Her punishment be theirs accordingly!
But wait a little, sneak not off so soon!
Was this cheat solely harm to Guido, pray?
The precious couple you call innocent,—
Why, they were felons that law failed to clutch,
Qui ut fraudarent, who that they might rob,
Legitime vocatos, folks law called,
Ad fidei commissum, true heirs to the Trust,
Partum supposuerunt, feigned this birth,
Immemores reos factos esse, blind
To the fact that, guilty, they incurred thereby,
Ultimi supplicii, hanging or aught worse.
Do you blame us that we turn law’s instruments
Not mere self-seekers,—mind the public weal,
Nor make the private good our sole concern?
That having—shall I say—secured a thief,
Not simply we recover from his pouch
The stolen article our property,
But also pounce upon our neighbour’s purse
We opportunely find reposing there,
And do him justice while we right ourselves?
He owes us, for our part, a drubbing say,
But owes our neighbour just a dance i’ the air
Under the gallows: so we throttle him.
The neighbour’s Law, the couple are the Thief,
We are the over-ready to help Law—
Zeal of her house hath eaten us up: for which,
Can it be, Law intends to eat up us,
Crudum Priamum, devour poor Priam raw,
(’Twas Jupiter’s own joke) with babes to boot,
Priamique pisinnos, in Homeric phrase?
Shame!—and so ends the period prettily.

But even,—prove the pair not culpable,
Free as unborn babe from connivance at,
Participation in, their daughter’s fault:
Ours the mistake. Is that a rare event?
Non semel, it is anything but rare,
In contingentia facti, that by chance,
Impunes evaserunt, go scot-free,
Qui, such well-meaning people as ourselves,
Justo dolore moti, who aggrieved
With cause, apposuerunt manus, lay
Rough hands, in innocentes, on wrong heads.
Cite we an illustrative case in point:
Mulier Smirnea quœdam, good my lords,
A gentlewoman lived in Smyrna once,
Virum et filium ex eo conceptum, who
Both husband and her son begot by him,
Killed, interfecerat, ex quo, because,
Vir filium suum perdiderat, her spouse
Had been beforehand with her, killed her son,
Matrimonii primi, of a previous bed.
Deinde accusata, then accused,
Apud Dolabellam, before him that sat
Proconsul, nec duabus cœdibus
Comtaminatam liberare, nor
To liberate a woman doubly-dyed
With murder, voluit, made he up his mind,
Nec condemnare, nor to doom to death,
Justo dolore impulsam, one impelled
By just grief, sed remisit, but sent her up
Ad Areopagum, to the Hill of Mars,
Sapientissimorum judicum
Cœtum, to that assembly of the sage
Paralleled only by my judges here;
Ubi, cognito de causa, where, the cause
Well weighed, responsum est, they gave reply,
Ut ipsa et accusator, that both sides
O’ the suit, redirent, should come back again,
Post centum annos, after a hundred years,
For judgment; et sic, by which sage decree,
Duplici parricidio rea, one
Convicted of a double parricide,
Quamvis etiam innocentem, though in truth
Out of the pair, one innocent at least
She, occidisset, plainly had put to death,
Undequaque, yet she altogether ’scaped,
Evasit impunis. See the case at length
In Valerius, fittingly styled Maximus,
That eighth book of his Memorable Facts.
Nor Cyriacus cites beside the mark:
Similiter uxor quœ mandaverat,
Just so, a lady who had taken care,
Homicidium viri, that her lord be killed,
Ex denegatione debiti,
For denegation of a certain debt,
Matrimonialis, he was loth to pay,
Fuit pecuniaria mulcta, was
Amerced in a pecuniary mulct,
Punita, et ad pœnam, and to pains,
Temporalem, for a certain space of time,
In monasterio, in a convent.

In monasterio! How he manages
In with the ablative, the accusative!
I had hoped to have hitched the villain into verse
For a gift, this very day, a complete list
O’ the prepositions each with proper case,
Telling a story, long was in my head.
What prepositions take the accusative?
Ad to or at—who saw the cat?—down to
Ob, for, because of, keep her claws off! Ah,
Law in a man takes the whole liberty!
The muse is fettered,—just as Ovid found!

And now, sea widens and the coast is clear.
What of the dubious act you bade excuse?
Surely things brighten, brighten, till at length
Remains—so far from act that needs defence—
Apology to make for act delayed
One minute, let alone eight mortal months
Of hesitation! “Why procrastinate?”
(Out with it my Bottinius, ease thyself!)
“Right, promptly done, is twice right: right delayed
“Turns wrong. We grant you should have killed your wife,
“But on the moment, at the meeting her
“In company with the priest: then did the tongue
“O’ the Brazen Head give licence, ‘Time is now!’
“You make your mind up: ‘Time is past’ it peals.
“Friend, you are competent to mastery
“O’ the passions that confessedly explain
“An outbreak,—yet allow an interval,
“And then break out as if time’s clock still clanged.
“You have forfeited your chance, and flat you fall
“Into the commonplace category
“Of men bound to go softly all their days,
“Obeying law.”

  Now, which way make response?
What was the answer Guido gave, himself?
—That so to argue came of ignorance
How honour bears a wound: “For, wound,” said he,
“My body, and the smart is worst at first:
“While, wound my soul where honour sits and rules,
“Longer the sufferance, stronger grows the pain,
“’Tis ex incontinenti, fresh as first.”
But try another tack, calm common sense
By way of contrast: as—Too true, my lords!
We did demur, awhile did hesitate:
Yet husband sure should let a scruple speak
Ere he slay wife,—for his own safety, lords!
Carpers abound in this misjudging world.
Moreover, there’s a nicety in law
That seems to justify them should they carp:
Suppose the source of injury a son,—
Father may slay such son yet run no risk:
Why graced with such a privilege? Because
A father so incensed with his own child,
Or must have reason, or believe he has:
Quia semper, seeing that in such event,
Presumitur, the law is bound suppose,
Quod capiat pater, that the sire must take,
Bonum consilium pro filio,
The best course as to what befits his boy,
Through instinct, ex instinctu, of mere love,
Amoris, and, paterni, fatherhood;
Quam confidentiam, which confidence,
Non habet, law declines to entertain,
De viro, of the husband: where has he
An instinct that compels him love his wife?
Rather is he presumably her foe:
So, let him ponder long in this bad world
Ere do the simplest act of justice.

Again—and here we brush Bottini’s breast—
Object you, “See the danger of delay!
“Suppose a man murdered my friend last month:
“Had I come up and killed him for his pains
“In rage, I had done right, allows the law:
“I meet him now and kill him in cold blood,
“I do wrong, equally allows the law:
“Wherein do actions differ, yours and mine?”
In plenitudine intellectus es?
Hast thy wits, Fisc? To take such slayer’s life,
Returns it life to thy slain friend at all?
Had he stolen ring instead of stabbing friend,—
To-day, to-morrow or next century,
Meeting the thief, thy ring upon his thumb,
Thou justifiably hadst wrung it thence:
So, couldst thou wrench thy friend’s life back again,
Though prisoned in the bosom of his foe,
Why, law would look complacent on thy rush.
Our case is, that the thing we lost, we found:
The honour, we were robbed of eight months since,
Being recoverable at any day
By death of the delinquent. Go thy ways!
Ere thou hast learned law, will be much to do,
As said the rustic while he shod the goose.

Nay, if you urge me, interval was none!
From the inn to the villa—blank or else a bar
Of adverse and contrarious incident
Solid between us and our just revenge!
What with the priest who flourishes his blade,
The wife who like a fury flings at us,
The crowd—and then the capture, the appeal
To Rome, the journey there, the journey thence,
The shelter at the House of Convertites,
The visits to the Villa, and so forth,
Where was one minute left us all this while
To put in execution that revenge
We planned o’ the instant?—as it were, plumped down
A round sound egg, o’ the spot, some eight months since,
Rome, more propitious than our nest, should hatch!
Object not, “You reached Rome on Christmas-eve,
“And, despite liberty to act at once,
“Waited a week—indecorous delay!”
Hath so the Molinism-canker, lords,
Eaten to the bone? Is no religion left?
No care for aught held holy by the Church?
What, would you have us skip and miss those Feasts
O’ the Natal Time, must we go prosecute
Secular business on a sacred day?
Should not the merest charity expect,
Setting our poor concerns aside for once,
We hurried to the song matutinal
I’ the Sistine, and pressed forward for the Mass
The Cardinal that’s Camerlengo chaunts,
Then rushed on to the blessing of the Hat
And Rapier, which the Pope sends to what prince
Has done most detriment to the Infidel—
And thereby whet our courage if ’twere blunt?
Meantime, allow we kept the house a week,
Suppose not we were idle in our mew:
Picture Count Guido raging here and there—
“‘Money?’ I need none—‘Friends?’ The word is null.
“Match me the white was on that shield of mine
“Borne at” . . . wherever might be shield to bear;
“I see my grandsire, he who fought so well
“At” . . . here find out and put in time and place
Of what might be a fight his grandsire fought:
“I see this—I see that—”

  See to it all,
Or I shall scarce see lamb’s fry in an hour!
—Nod to the uncle, as I bid advance
The smoking dish, “This, for your tender teeth!
“Behoves us care a little for our kin—
“You, Sir,—who care so much for cousinship
“As come to your poor loving nephew’s feast!”
He has the reversion of a long lease yet—
Land to bequeath! He loves lamb’s fry, I know!

Here fall to be considered those same six
Qualities; what Bottini needs must call
So many aggravations of our crime,
Parasite-growth upon mere murder’s back.
We summarily might dispose of such
By some off-hand and jaunty fling, some skit—
“So, since there’s proved no crime to aggravate,
“A fico for your aggravations, Fisc!”
No,—handle mischief rather,—play with spells
Were meant to raise a spirit, and laugh the while
We show that did he rise we are his match!
Therefore, first aggravation: we made up—
Over and above our simple murdering selves—
A regular assemblage of armed men,
Coadunatio armatorum,—ay,
Unluckily it was the very judge
Who sits in judgment on our cause to-day
That passed the law as Governor of Rome:
“Four men armed,”—though for lawful purpose, mark!
Much more for an acknowledged crime,—“shall die.”
We five were armed to the teeth, meant murder too?
Why, that’s the very point that saves us, Fisc!
Let me instruct you. Crime nor done nor meant,—
You punish still who arm and congregate:
For why have used bad means to a good end?
Crime being meant not done,—you punish still
The means to crime, you haply pounce upon,
Though circumstance have baulked you of their end:
But crime not only compassed but complete,
Meant and done too? Why, since you have the end,
Be that your sole concern, nor mind those means
No longer to the purpose! Murdered we?
(—Which, that our luck was in the present case,
Quod contigisse in præsenti casu,
Is palpable, manibus palpatum est—)
Make murder out against us, nothing less!
Of many crimes committed with a view
To one main crime, you overlook the less,
Intent upon the large. Suppose a man
Having in view commission of a theft,
Climb the town-wall: ’tis for the theft he hangs,
Suppose you can convict him of such theft,
Remitted whipping due to who climbs wall
For bravery or wantonness alone,
Just to dislodge a daw’s nest and no more.
So I interpret you the manly mind
Of him the Judge shall judge both you and me,—
O’ the Governor, who, being no babe, my Fisc,
Cannot have blundered on ineptitude!
Were specially of such forbidden sort
Through shape or length or breadth, as, prompt, law plucks
From single hand of solitary man,
And makes him pay the carriage with his life:
Delatio armorum, arms against the rule,
Contra formam constitutionis, of
Pope Alexander’s blessed memory.
Such are the poignard with the double prong,
Horn-like, when tines make bold the antlered buck,
And all of brittle glass—for man to stab
And break off short and so let fragment stick
Fast in the flesh to baffle surgery:
And such the Genoese blade with hooks at edge
That did us service at the Villa here.
Sed parcat mihi tam eximius vir,
But, let so rare a personage forgive,
Fisc, thy objection is a foppery!
Thy charge runs, that we killed three innocents:
Killed, dost see? Then, if killed, what matter how?—
By stick or stone, by sword or dagger, tool
Long or tool short, round or triangular—
Poor folks, they find small comfort in a choice!
Means to an end, means to an end, my Fisc!
Nature cries out “Take the first arms you find!”
Furor ministrat arma: where’s a stone?
Unde mî lapidem, where darts for me?
Unde sagittas? But subdue the bard
And rationalise a little: eight months since,
Had we, or had we not, incurred your blame
For letting ’scape unpunished this bad pair?
I think I proved that in last paragraph!
Why did we so? Because our courage failed.
Wherefore? Through lack of arms to fight the foe:
We had no arms or merely lawful ones,
An unimportant sword and blunderbuss,
Against a foe, pollent in potency,
The amasius, and our vixen of a wife.
Well then, how culpably do we gird loin
And once more undertake the high emprise,
Unless we load ourselves this second time
With handsome superfluity of arms,
Since better say “too much” than “not enough,”
And “plus non vitiat,” too much does no harm,
Except in mathematics, sages say.
Gather instruction from the parable!
At first we are advised—“A lad hath here
“Seven barley loaves and two small fishes: what
“Is that among so many?” Aptly asked:
But put that question twice and, quite as apt
The answer is “Fragments, twelve baskets full!”
And, while we speak of superabundance, fling
A word by the way to fools that cast their flout
On Guido—“Punishment exceeds offence:
“You might be just but you were cruel too!”
If so you stigmatise the stern and strict,
Still, he is not without excuse—may plead
Transgression of his mandate, over-zeal
O’ the part of his companions: all he craved
Was, they should fray the faces of the three:
Solummodo fassus est, he owns no more,
Dedisse mandatum, than that he desired,
Ad sfrisiandum, dicam, that they hack
And hew, i’ the customary phrase, his wife,
Uxorem tantum, and no harm beside.
If his instructions then be misconceived,
Nay, disobeyed, impute you blame to him?
Cite me no Panicollus to the point,
As adverse! Oh, I quite expect his case—
How certain noble youths of Sicily
Having good reason to mistrust their wives,
Killed them and were absolved in consequence:
While others who had gone beyond the need
By mutilation of the paramour
(So Galba in the Horatian satire grieved)
—These were condemned to the galleys, as for guilt
Exceeding simple murder of a wife.
But why? Because of ugliness, and not
Cruelty, in the said revenge, I trow!
Ex causa abscissionis partium;
Quia nempe id facientes reputantur
Naturæ inimici, man revolts
Against such as the natural enemy.
Pray, grant to one who meant to slit the nose
And slash the cheek and slur the mouth, at most,
A somewhat more humane award than these!
Objectum funditus corruit, flat you fall,
My Fisc! I waste no kick on you but pass.

Third aggravation: that our act was done—
Not in the public street, where safety lies,
Not in the bye-place, caution may avoid,
Wood, cavern, desert, spots contrived for crime,—
But in the very house, home, nook and nest,
O’ the victims, murdered in their dwelling-place,
In domo ac habitatione propria,
Where all presumably is peace and joy.
The spider, crime, pronounce we twice a pest
When, creeping from congenial cottage, she
Taketh hold with her hands, to horrify
His household more, i’ the palace of the king.
All three were housed and safe and confident.
Moreover, the permission that our wife
Should have at length domum pro carcere,
Her own abode in place of prison—why,
We ourselves granted, by our other self
And proxy Paolo: did we make such grant,
Meaning a lure?—elude the vigilance
O’ the jailor, lead her to commodious death,
While we ostensibly relented?

Just so did we, nor otherwise, my Fisc!
Is vengeance lawful? We demand our right,
But find it will be questioned or refused
By jailor, turnkey, hangdog,—what know we?
Pray, how is it we should conduct ourselves?
To gain our private right—break public peace,
Do you bid us?—trouble order with our broils?
Endanger . . . shall I shrink to own . . . ourselves?—
Who want no broken head nor bloody nose
(While busied slitting noses, breaking heads)
From the first tipstaff shall please interfere!
Nam quicquid sit, for howsoever it be
An de consensu nostro, if with leave
Or not, a monasterio, from the nuns,
Educta esset, she had been led forth,
Potuimus id dissimulare, we
May well have granted leave in pure pretence,
Ut aditum habere, that thereby
An entry we might compass, a free move
Potuissemus, to her easy death,
Ad eam occidendam. Privacy
O’ the hearth, and sanctitude of home, say you?
Would you give man’s abode more privilege
Than God’s?—for in the churches where He dwells,
In quibus assistit Regum Rex, by means
Of His essence, per essentiam, all the same,
Et nihilominus, therein, in eis,
Ex justa via delinquens, whoso dares
To take a liberty on ground enough,
Is pardoned, excusatur: that’s our case—
Delinquent through befitting cause. You hold,
To punish a false wife in her own house
Is graver than, what happens every day,
To hale a debtor from his hiding-place
In church protected by the Sacrament?
To this conclusion have I brought my Fisc?
Foxes have holes, and fowls o’ the air their nests;
Praise you the impiety that follows, Fisc?
Shall false wife yet have where to lay her head?
“Contra Fiscum definitum est!” He’s done,
“Surge et scribe,” make a note of it!
—If I may dally with Aquinas’ word.
Or in the death-throe does he mutter still?
Fourth aggravation, that we changed our garb,
And rusticised ourselves with uncouth hat,
Rough vest and goatskin wrappage; murdered thus
Mutatione vestium, in disguise,
Whereby mere murder got complexed with wile,
Turned homicidium ex insidiis. Fisc,
How often must I round thee in the ears—
All means are lawful to a lawful end?
Concede he had the right to kill his wife:
The Count indulged in a travesty; why?
Deilla ut vindictam sumeret,
That on her he might lawful vengeance take,
Commodius, with more ease, et tutius,
And safelier: wants he warrant for the step?
Read to thy profit how the Apostle once
For ease and safety, when Damascus raged,
Was let down in a basket by the wall,
To ’scape the malice of the governor
(Another sort of Governor boasts Rome!)
—Many are of opinion,—covered close,
Concealed with—what except that very cloak
He left behind at Troas afterward?
I shall not add a syllable: Molinists may!
Well, have we more to manage? Ay, indeed!
Fifth aggravation, that our wife reposed
Sub potestate judicis, beneath
Protection of the judge,—her house was styled
A prison, and his power became its guard
In lieu of wall and gate and bolt and bar.
This a tough point, shrewd, redoubtable:
Because we have to supplicate the judge
Shall overlook wrong done the judgment-seat.
Now, I might suffer my own nose be pulled,
As man—but then as father . . . if the Fisc
Touched one hair of my boy who held my hand
In confidence he could not come to harm
Crossing the Corso, at my own desire,
Going to see those bodies in the church—
What would you say to that, Don Hyacinth?
This is the sole and single knotty point:
For, bid Tommati blink his interest,
You laud his magnanimity the while:
But baulk Tommati’s office,—he talks big!
“My predecessors in the place,—those sons
“O’ the prophets that may hope succeed me here,—
“Shall I diminish their prerogative?
“Count Guido Franceschini’s honour!—well,
“Has the Governor of Rome none?”

  You perceive,
The cards are all against us. Make a push,
Kick over table, as our gamesters do!
We, do you say, encroach upon the rights,
Deny the omnipotence o’ the Judge forsooth?
We, who have only been from first to last
Intent on that his purpose should prevail,
Nay, more, at times, anticipating both
At risk of a rebuke?

  But wait awhile!
Cannot we lump this with the sixth and last
Of the aggravations—that the Majesty
O’ the Sovereign here received a wound, to-wit,
Læsa Majestas, since our violence
Was out of envy to the course of law,
In odium litis? We cut short thereby
Three pending suits, promoted by ourselves
I’ the main,—which worsens crime, accedit ad
Exasperationem criminis!

Yes, here the eruptive wrath with full effect!
How—did not indignation chain my tongue—
Could I repel this last, worst charge of all!
(There is a porcupine to barbacue;
Gigia can jug a rabbit well enough,
With sour-sweet sauce and pine-pips; but, good Lord,
Suppose the devil instigate the wench
To stew, not roast him? Stew my porcupine?
If she does, I know where his quills shall stick!
Come, I must go myself and see to things:
I cannot stay much longer stewing here)
Our stomach . . . I mean, our soul—is stirred within,
And we want words. We wounded Majesty?
Fall under such a censure, we,—who yearned
So much that Majesty dispel the cloud
And shine on us with healing on its wings,
We prayed the Pope, Majestas’ very self,
To anticipate a little the tardy pack,
Bell us forth deep the authoritative bay
Should start the beagles into sudden yelp
Unisonous,—and, Gospel leading Law,
Grant there assemble in our own behoof
A Congregation, a particular Court,
A few picked friends of quality and place,
To hear the several matters in dispute,
Causes big, little and indifferent,
Bred of our marriage like a mushroom-growth,
All at once (can one brush off such too soon?)
And so with laudable dispatch decide
Whether we, in the main (to sink detail)
Were one the Church should hold fast or let go.
“What, take the credit from the Law?” you ask?
Indeed, we did! Law ducks to Gospel here:
Why should Law gain the glory and pronounce
A judgment shall immortalise the Pope?
Yes: our self-abnegating policy
Was Joab’s—we would rouse our David’s sloth,
Bid him encamp against a city, sack
A place whereto ourselves had long laid siege,
Lest, taking it at last, it take our name
And be not Innocentinopolis.
But no! The modesty was in alarm,
The temperance refused to interfere,
Returned us our petition with the word
“Ad judices suos,” “Leave him to his Judge!”
As who should say—“Why trouble my repose?
“Why consult Peter in a simple case,
“Peter’s wife’s sister in her fever-fit
“Might solve as readily as the Apostle’s self?
“Are my Tribunals posed by aught so plain?
“Hath not my Court a conscience? It is of age,
“Ask it!”

  We do ask,—but, inspire reply
To the Court thou bidst me ask, as I have asked—
Oh thou, who vigilantly dost attend
To even the few, the ineffectual words
Which rise from this our low and mundane sphere
Up to thy region out of smoke and noise,
Seeking corroboration from thy nod
Who art all justice—which means mercy too,
In a low noisy smoky world like ours
Where Adam’s sin made peccable his seed!
We venerate the father of the flock,
Whose last faint sands of life, the frittered gold,
Fall noiselessly, yet all too fast, o’ the cone
And tapering heap of those collected years,—
Never have these been hurried in their flow,
Though justice fain would jog reluctant arm,
In eagerness to take the forfeiture
Of guilty life: much less shall mercy sue
In vain that thou let innocence survive,
Precipitate no minim of the mass
O’ the all-so precious moments of thy life,
By pushing Guido into death and doom!

(Our Cardinal engages read my speech:
They say, the Pope has one half-hour, in twelve,
Of something like a moderate return
Of the intellectuals,—never much to lose!—
If I adroitly plant this passage there,
The Fisc will find himself forestalled, I think,
Though he stand, beat till the old ear-drum break!
—Ah, boy of my own bowels, Hyacinth,
Wilt ever catch the knack,—requite the pains
Of poor papa, become proficient too
I’ the how and why and when—the time to laugh,
The time to weep, the time, again, to pray,
And all the times prescribed by Holy Writ?
Well, well, we fathers can but care, but cast
Our bread upon the waters!)
  In a word,
These secondary charges go to ground,
Since secondary, so superfluous,—motes
Quite from the main point: we did all and some,
Little and much, adjunct and principal,
Causa honoris. Is there such a cause
As the sake of honour? By that sole test try
Our action, nor demand it more or less,
Because of the action’s mode, we merit blame
Or may-be deserve praise. The Court decides.
Is the end lawful? It allows the means:
What we may do we may with safety do,
And what means “safety” we ourselves must judge.
Put case a person wrongs me past dispute:
If my legitimate vengeance be a blow,
Mistrusting my bare arm can deal the same,
I claim co-operation of a stick;
Doubtful if stick be tough, I crave a sword;
Diffident of ability in fence,
I fee a friend, a swordsman to assist:
Take one—who may be coward, fool or knave—
Why not take fifty?—and if these exceed
I’ the due degree of drubbing, whom accuse
But the first author of the aforesaid wrong
Who put poor me to such a world of pains?
Surgery would have just excised a wart;
The patient made such pother, struggled so
That the sharp instrument sliced nose and all.
Taunt us not that our friends performed for pay!
For us, enough were simple honour’s sake:
Give country clowns the dirt they comprehend,
The piece of gold! Our reasons, which suffice
Ourselves, be ours alone; our piece of gold
Be, to the rustic, reason and to spare!
We must translate our motives like our speech
Into the lower phrase that suits the sense
O’ the limitedly apprehensive. Let
Each level have its language! Heaven speaks first
To the angel, then the angel tames the word
Down to the ear of Tobit: he, in turn,
Diminishes the message to his dog,
And finally that dog finds how the flea
(Which else, importunate, might check his speed)
Shall learn its hunger must have holiday,—
How many varied sorts of language here,
Each following each with pace to match the step,
Haud passibus æquis!

  Talking of which flea
Reminds me I must put in special word
For the poor humble following,—the four friends,
Sicarii, our assassins in your charge.
Ourselves are safe in your approval now:
Yet must we care for our companions, plead
The cause o’ the poor, the friends (of old-world faith)
Who are in tribulation for our sake.
Pauperum Procurator is my style:
I stand forth as the poor man’s advocate:
And when we treat of what concerns the poor,
Et cum agatur de pauperibus,
In bondage, carceratis, for their sake,
In eorum causis, natural piety,
Pietas, ever ought to win the day,
Triumphare debet, quia ipsi sunt,
Because those very paupers constitute,
Thesaurus Christi, all the wealth of Christ.
Nevertheless I shall not hold you long
With multiplicity of proofs, nor burn
Candle at noon-tide, clarify the clear.
There beams a case refulgent from our books—
Castrensis, Butringarius, everywhere
I find it burn to dissipate the dark.
’Tis this: a husband had a friend, which friend
Seemed to him over-friendly with his wife
In thought and purpose,—I pretend no more.
To justify suspicion or dispel,
He bids his wife make show of giving heed,
Semblance of sympathy—propose, in fine,
A secret meeting in a private place.
The friend, enticed thus, finds an ambuscade,
To-wit, the husband posted with a pack
Of other friends, who fall upon the first
And beat his love and life out both at once.
These friends were brought to question for their help.
Law ruled “The husband being in the right,
“Who helped him in the right can scarce be wrong”—
Opinio, an opinion every way,
Multum tenenda cordi, heart should hold!
When the inferiors follow as befits
The lead o’ the principal, they change their name,
And, non dicuntur, are no longer called
His mandatories, mandatorii,
But helpmates, sed auxiliatores; since
To that degree does honour’ sake lend aid,
Adeo honoris causa est efficax,
That not alone, non solum, does it pour
Itself out, se diffundat, on mere friends,
We bring to do our bidding of this sort,
In mandatorios simplices, but sucks
Along with it in wide and generous whirl,
Sed etiam assassinii qualitate
Qualificatos, people qualified
By the quality of assassination’s self,
Dare I make use of such neologism,
Ut utar verbo.

  Haste we to conclude:
Of the other points that favour, leave some few
For Spreti; such as the delinquents’ youth:
One of them falls short, by some months, of age
Fit to be managed by the gallows; two
May plead exemption from our law’s award,
Being foreigners, subjects of the Granduke—
I spare that bone to Spreti and reserve
Myself the juicier breast of argument—
Flinging the breast-blade i’ the face o’ the Fisc,
Who furnished me the tid-bit: he must needs
Play off his armoury and rack the clowns,—
And they, at instance of the rack, confessed
All four unanimously did resolve,—
That night o’ the murder, in brief minutes snatched
Behind the back of Guido as he fled,—
That, since he had not kept his promise, paid
The money for the murder on the spot,
And, reaching home again, might even ignore
The past or pay it in improper coin,
They one and all resolved, these hopeful friends,
They would inaugurate the morrow’s light,
Having recruited strength with needful rest,
By killing Guido as he lay asleep
Pillowed by wallet which contained their fee.

I thank the Fisc for knowledge of this fact:
What fact could hope to make more manifest
Their rectitude, Guido’s integrity?
For who fails recognise apparent here,
That these poor rustics bore no envy, hate,
Malice nor yet uncharitableness
Against the people they had put to death?
In them, did such an act reward itself?
All done was to deserve their simple pay,
Obtain the bread they earned by sweat of brow:
Missing this pay, they missed of everything—
Hence claimed it, even at expense of life
To their own lord, so little warped were they
By prepossession, such the absolute
Instinct of equity in rustic souls!
While he the Count, the cultivated mind,
He, wholly rapt in his serene regard
Of honour, as who contemplates the sun
And hardly minds what tapers blink below,
He, dreaming of no argument for death
Except the vengeance worthy noble hearts,
Would be to desecrate the deed forsooth,
Vulgarise vengeance, as defray its cost
By money dug out of the dirty earth,
Mere irritant, in Maro’s phrase, to ill?
What though he lured base hinds by lucre’s hope,—
The only motive they could masticate,
Milk for babes, not stong meat which men require?
The deed done, those coarse hands were soiled enough,
He spared them the pollution of the pay.
So much for the allegement, thine, my Fisc,
Quo nil absurdius, than which nought more mad.
Excogitari potest, may be squeezed
From out the cogitative brain of thee!

And now, thou excellent the Governor!
(Push to the peroration) cæterum
Enixe supplico, I strive in prayer,
Ut dominis meis, that unto the Court,
Benigna fronte, with a gracious brow,
Et oculis serenis, and mild eyes,
Perpendere placeat, it may please them weigh,
Quod dominus Guido, that our noble Count,
Occidit, did the killing in dispute,
Ut ejus honor tumulatus, that
The honour of him buried fathom-deep
In infamy, in infamia, might arise,
Resurgeret, as ghosts break sepulchre!
Occidit, for he killed, uxorem, wife,
Quia illi fuit, since she was to him,
Opprobrio, a disgrace and nothing more!
Et genitores, killed her parents too,
Qui, who, postposita verecundia,
Having thrown off all sort of decency,
Filiam repudiarunt, had renounced
Their daughter, atque declarare non
Erubuerunt, nor felt blush tinge cheek,
Declaring, meretricis genitam
Esse, she was the offspring of a drab,
Ut ipse dehonestaretur, just
That so himself might lose his social rank!
Cujus mentem, and which daughter’s heart and soul,
They, perverterunt, turned from the right course,
Et ad illicitos amores non
Dumtaxat pellexerunt, and to love
Not simply did alluringly incite,
Sed vi obedientiæ, but by force
O’ the duty, filialis, daughters owe,
Coegerunt, forced and drove her to the deed:
Occidit, I repeat he killed the clan,
Ne scilicet amplius in dedecore,
Lest peradventure longer life might trail,
Viveret, link by link his turpitude,
Invisus consanguineis, hateful so
To kith and kindred, a nobilibus
Notatus, shunned by men of quality,
Relictus ab amicis, left i’ the lurch
By friends, ab omnibus derisus, turned
A common hack-block to try edge of jokes.
Occidit, and he killed them here in Rome,
In Urbe, the Eternal City, Sirs,
Nempe quæ alias spectata est,
The appropriate theatre which witnessed once,
Matronam nobilem, Lucretia’s self,
Abluere pudicitiæ maculas,
Wash off the spots of her pudicity,
Sanguine proprio, with her own pure blood;
Quæ vidit, and which city also saw,
Patrem, Virginius, undequaque, quite,
Impunem, with no sort of punishment,
Nor, et non illaudatum, lacking praise,
Sed polluentem parricidio,
Imbrue his hands with butchery, filiæ,
Of chaste Virginia, to avoid a rape,
Ne raperetur ad stupra; so to heart,
Tanti illi cordi fuit, did he take,
Suspicio, the mere fancy men might have,
Honoris amittendi, of fame’s loss,
Ut potius voluerit filia
Orbari, that he chose to lose his child,
Quam illa incederet, rather than she walk
The ways an, inhonesta, child disgraced,
Licet non sponte, though against her will.
Occidit—killed them, I reiterate—
In propria domo, in their own abode,
Ut adultera et parentes, that each wretch,
Conscii agnoscerent, might both see and say,
Nullum locum, there’s no place, nullumque esse
Asylum, nor yet refuge of escape,
Impenetrabilem, shall serve as bar,
Honori læso, to the wounded one
In honour; neve ibi opprobria
Continuarentur, killed them on the spot
Moreover, dreading lest within those walls
The opprobrium peradventure be prolonged,
Et domus quæ testis fuit turpium,
And that the domicile which witnessed crime,
Esset et pœnœ, might watch punishment:
Occidit, killed, I round you in the ears,
Quia alio modo, since, by other mode,
Non poterat ejus existimatio,
There was no possibility his fame,
Læsa, gashed griesly, tam enormiter,
Ducere cicatrices, might be healed:
Occidit ut exemplum præberet
Uxoribus, killed her so to lesson wives
Jura conjugii, that the marriage-oath,
Esse servanda, must be kept henceforth:
Occidit denique, killed her, in a word,
Ut pro posse honestus viveret,
That he, please God, might creditably live,
Sin minus, but if fate willed otherwise,
Proprii honoris, of his outraged fame,
Offensi, by Mannaja, if you please,
Commiseranda victima caderet,
The pitiable victim he should fall!

Done! I’ the rough, i’ the rough! But done! And, lo,
Landed and stranded lies my very own,
My miracle, my monster of defence—
Leviathan into the nose whereof
I have put fish-hook, pierced his jaw with thorn,
And given him to my maidens for a play!
I’ the rough,—to-morrow I review my piece,
Tame here and there undue floridity,—
It’s hard: you have to plead before these priests
And poke at them with Scripture, or you pass
For heathen and, what’s worse, for ignorant
O’ the quality o’ the Court and what it likes
By way of illustration of the law:
To-morrow stick in this, and throw out that,
And, having first ecclesiasticised,
Regularise the whole, next emphasise,
Then latinize and lastly Cicero-ise,
Giving my Fisc his finish. There’s my speech—
And where’s my fry, and family and friends?
Where’s that old Hyacinth I mean to hug
Till he cries out, “Jam satis! Let me breathe!”
Oh, what an evening have I earned to-day!
Hail, ye true pleasures, all the rest are false!
Oh, the old mother, oh, the fattish wife!
Rogue Hyacinth shall put on paper toque,
And wrap himself around with mamma’s veil
Done up to imitate papa’s black robe,
(I’m in the secret of the comedy,—
Part of the program leaked out long ago!)
And call himself the Advocate o’ the Poor,
Mimic Don father that defends the Count,
And for reward shall have a small full glass
Of manly red rosolio to himself,
—Always provided that he conjugate
Bibo, I drink, correctly—nor be found
Make the perfectum, bipsi, as last year!
How the ambitious do so harden heart
As lightly hold by these home-sanctitudes,
To me is matter of bewilderment—
Bewilderment! Because ambition’s range
Is nowise tethered by domestic tie:
Am I refused an outlet from my home
To the world’s stage?—whereon a man should play
The man in public, vigilant for law,
Zealous for truth, a credit to his kind,
Nay,—through the talent so employed as yield
The Lord his own again with usury,—
A satisfaction, yea, to God Himself!
Well, I have modelled me by Agur’s wish,
“Remove far from me vanity and lies,
“Feed me with food convenient for me!” What
I’ the world should a wise man require beyond?
Can I but coax the good fat little wife
To tell her fool of a father of the prank
His scapegrace nephew played this time last year
At Carnival,—he could not choose, I think,
But modify that inconsiderate gift
O’ the cup and cover (somewhere in the will
Under the pillow, someone seems to guess)
—Correct that clause in favour of a boy
The trifle ought to grace with name engraved
(Would look so well produced in years to come
To pledge a memory when poor papa
Latin and law are long since laid at rest)
Hyacintho dono dedit avus,—why,
The wife should get a necklace for her pains,
The very pearls that made Violante proud,
And Pietro pawned for half their value once,—
Redeemable by somebody—ne sit
Marita quæ rotundioribus
Onusta mammis . . . baccis ambulet,
Her bosom shall display the big round balls,
No braver should be borne by wedded wife!
With which Horatian promise I conclude.
Into the pigeon-hole with thee, my speech!
Off and away, first work then play, play, play!
Bottini, burn your books, you blazing ass!
Sing “Tra-la-la, for, lambkins, we must live!”

© Robert Browning